My father comes from a Hing Hwa family – one of the Chinese dialects and a subgroup of the much bigger Hokkien dialect. I am proud to be half Hing Hwa (my mother’s Teo Chew) because we’re a minority group, which makes us rather unique. This people group was well known to be operators of bicycle shops when they migrated down to Malaysia from the province of Pu Tien in China – my grandfather being one of them.
One of the things which I love being Hing Hwa is the special dish which is traditionally served on the first day of Chinese New Year… I don’t quite know what it’s called exactly, but we call it the Hing Hwa noodles. This was the one thing I really looked forward to as a child when the whole family would gather at my grandmother’s for a time of reunion during Chinese New Year and we would always have the noodle dish. Now that she’s passed on, we go to my dad’s older brother’s house and my aunts would cook it in big bulks for all of us and the other guests who would visit them. I wished I had taken a good picture of it yesterday, and so I will have to resort to borrowing someone else’s. 🙂 Here’s a very similar picture of how our dish looks like (except that we lay our ingredients in a neater fashion than the one seen below).
The thing that makes this dish so special, really, I think is its noodles. It’s completely different from the other kinds you’d find in the store, as it’s only found (according to my aunt) in one store in Chow Kit Road. Even if you’ve ordered 10 packets, you’d probably only be able to receive 3 when going to collect your orders. The demand for it is that great and the productivity of it that little – simply because the process of making the noodles is rather tedious, apparently even involving days of drying under the sun and things like that. The taste and texture of the noodle is incomparable to the other types available out there.
Not only is the noodle difficult to buy, preparing and cooking it is another long meticulous process on its own – having to buy many other various ingredients and soaking them, boiling the soup and cooking the noodles isn’t as easy as making instant noodles. This Saturday, my mother’s attempting to cook it on her own for the first time, and just hearing the instructions and tips she’s received on preparing the dish clearly shows me how much of effort my grandmother had put herself through to cook for her big family (15 children) every Chinese New Year. But the delicious taste of the noodle dish is definitely worth the much work and effort.
I am proud to have Hing Hwa blood running in my veins because of this – that we have a really tasty dish secret which is not widely known and the ingredients so precious that it’s difficult to find and cook. I am proud that my Hing Hwa family continues the tradition of serving and eating this noodle dish, despite the passing of our grandparents and that my uncles and aunts still do whatever it takes to keep the tradition alive. However, it is a shame that very very few of my cousins understand and can barely speak the Hing Hwa dialect and that the most of us can’t. It is a little frightening to think that when my father’s generation passes on, the Hing Hwa dialect dies with them and it disappears from our Lee family. Right now, I am a little bit too old to start learning a dialect and even if I do learn it, who am I going to speak it with? (My dad agrees. haha). I suppose the little bit I can do is to learn how to make this dish with my mom this Saturday, and hopefully passing it on to my children too, at least to keep some part of the Hing Hwa legacy going strong.