Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Plain Rice Soup and Hard Boiled Salted Duck Eggs (serves 1-2)

Teochew mue & kiam nung
My 95 year old grandmother tells me that growing up in China back when she was in her teens everyone around her was poor including her family. Many people were not able to afford steamed rice, only plain rice soup called mue (in Teochew). Basically you make this by using just a tiny portion of rice and lots of water. You cook this down until the rice becomes very soft, each grain has expanded to about double the original size and the liquid becomes somewhat opaque. As a result even a small amount of rice can then feed a whole family or multiple meals. Once cooked you can eat this with a number of small salty dishes such as hard boiled salted duck egg (kiam nung in Teochew). In China my grandmother ate mue with a few choices of salted greens or olive-like berries. The salted items were cheap and could be kept for months at room temperature. She said meat and fish were scarce to non-existent. This morning for breakfast my grandmother and I ate mue that I made from left over steamed rice and water with the boiled salted duck eggs that I bought at my last market outing. I don't believe there are many nutrients in this breakfast but we ate it because it is our comfort food and it is something we don't get tired from eating.

my grandmother enjoys her
mue, kiam nung,
and an ensure-hot cocoa drink
Last night coincidentally I had mue with my cousins and nephews in Soctrang. We went out for drinks and the little kids were hungry so their parents wanted to give them something light before bedtime. So, you guessed it, we went to a place where mue is a specialty and we ate this with a variety of small and different salted items (braised pork, salty little fish, salted greens) including the salted duck eggs. The eggs were everyone's favorite. The eggs were cut in half and then we scooped out a small portion with a spoon and ate this with a huge spoonful of mue.

--eating mue with a variety of salty dishes (Soctrang, 2014)
--photo taken by my cousin, Khiem
Plain Rice Soup (Teochew Mue)

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked rice
3 cups water

Method:

Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is very soft.

*There is really no recipe for mue. The best way to cook it is just add a little cooked or uncooked rice and lots of water. If you use cooked rice then it will be faster to cook. Cook this down until the rice is very soft then it is ready. Add more water if needed.

--my aunt on right buying eggs from a
Teochew-speaking relative (by marriage) selling eggs
--if you want to practice Teochew conversation
you can start at the market with this lady
--some people at this market speak 3 languages
(Vietnamese, Teochew, Khmer)
--the blue container on the bottom left is
full of salted duck eggs
salted duck eggs
salted duck eggs
These salted duck eggs are made from a mixture of ash, a lot of salt and water to bind onto the outer eggshell. After about 2 weeks of this coating with salted ash the egg is salty and ready to eat according to a relative who sells the eggs. With proper preparation the eggs last up to 2 months. When you buy these eggs they are black. The black is the ash. The ash is a byproduct of burned rice husks. If people do not have ash they can make them using salted water. My grandmother used to make the salted duck eggs using salted ash. I have seen my mother make the salted eggs in the United States years ago with salted water. In the last few decades she has not made any since the rest of my family in the US is not so fond of these.

Hard Boiled Salted Duck Eggs (Kiam Nung)

Ingredients:

2 salted duck eggs
Water

Method:

1) Remove the ash gently from the eggs and rinse well.
2) Add enough water to cover the eggs in a pot.
3) Let the eggs gently boil for about 20 minutes.

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