Tuesday, 9 August 2011


I think the key to general well being is undisrupted sleep.

Soon after my dad's 80th birthday, he seem to sleep a great deal. He would return home from his daily morning coffee with friends, slouch comfortably in his favourite couch and before long he’ll be snoring away until lunch time. After lunch, he’ll promptly fall asleep again in front of the TV. If something happens to take him away from this routine he becomes spaced out. His incoherent speech  and strange behaviour would scare the living daylights out of my mother and me.

A few weeks ago, dad became sleepless after waking up with a cough in the middle of the night. Then a friend dropped by and he missed his afternoon nap. The tiredness led to a running nose, then fever and then a full blown ‘flu. Medication from the doctor at the polyclinic made him drowsy and as he put it - “heavy in the head”. He could hardly walk to the bathroom without help.  Already a pessimist by nature, depression began to set in. He gave up his walk to the coffee shop to chat with his friends in the mornings. He lost his appetite. He wanted to make a will!  Good thing my aunt suggested a trip to the Chinese physician.

TCM really did the trick! Three days after he visited the physician at Eu Yan Sang, he showed signs of progress. He coughed less during the night, slept better and as genki slowly returned, he started to smile again.

Last Sunday, we were able stroll to a coffee shop across the street from our apartment where he wolfed down 2 half-boiled eggs, a slice of kaya toast and half a cup of black coffee.

When one of us in the family is unwell, we eat simply.  For lunch today my mother cooked some Dried Vegetable & Pork Rib Congee.  It may not look like much but it contains tons of flavour and goodness.  My dad polished off an entire bowl!  Yup, he is definitely on the road to recovery.

My mother doesn't believe in jotting down recipes. “Observe and learn” is her motto. “That was how I learnt how to cook,” she told me time and again. When I asked her how much rice she needed for the congee she answered, "大概七分满杯." (Huh?) So I forcefully place everything on a weighing scale, much to her disbelief.

Dried Vegetable & Pork Rib Congee

100 grams rice
25 grams dried vegetable
250 grams pork ribs (about 6 pieces)
About 2.5 litres water
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and drain the rice. Mix in a little salt and oil. Set aside.

In another bowl, soak the dried vegetable in water. A small amount of dried vegetable will go a long way.

Prepare the pork ribs my mother’s way: First exfoliate the ribs with a generous amount of salt. Then rinse off under the tap. Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Put the pork ribs into the boiling water, stir around for about 30 seconds and remove. This ensures that the dirt and grime hanging on the ribs are thoroughly removed. Drain.

In a large pot, bring the 2.5 litres of water to a boil.

Wring dry and finely chop the dried vegetable. Add the dried vegetable and pork ribs into the boiling water. Cover and leave to cook over medium flame for 1 hour.

Add the rice and continue to cook further for about 1 hour. Once the rice softens, the congee is ready.

Scoop into individual bowls and serve hot.

In case you are wondering, the Chinese Dried Vegetable is actually bak choy that has been dried under the sun for months. The dried vegetable is tasteless on its own but it will take on the flavours of accompanying ingredients such as meat or stock.  Rich in vitamins A, B, C and fibre - dried vegetable can prevent scurvy and dry skin. It also eliminates access heat from our inner body. Great for general good health.

1 comment:

emy said...

Hi Siewfun,

Thanks for sharing the recipe! I have to go try it out someday -- bet my parents should like it.

Send my regards to your dad!