Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yong Tau Fu time

This is one minor festival that I have almost forgotten about.

I was actually reminded of it during Chap Goh Meh dinner by my mother-in-law. For the Chinese Hakkas, the 20th of the first lunar month is supposed to be the day when the sky apparently has a hole which we mortals perform some rituals to "patch" it up.

In Hakka lingo, it is "bu tien chon" or "patching up the sky" day. This year, it coincides with the 17th of February, on Friday.

I don't know much of it - maybe prayers are offered and the usual feast laid out for the deities.

But what I do remember most is the "yong-tau-fu" or "stuffed tofu" meal that was always served on this day. So when my M-I-L brought up this subject at the dinner table the other day, I got all nostalgic again.

I remembered how my dad never missed celebrating this occasion by making lots of his famous "yong-tau-fu". It is true that my dad's "yong-tau-fu" was the best - heartily endorsed by all who had the good fortune to taste it and verily declared a culinary masterpiece by admirers of his cooking skills. Yes, he was such a good cook that long after he was gone, it is almost always the subject of food that invariably got his loved ones thinking about him and feeling the emptiness left behind by his absence.

I used to wonder why dad made such a big deal out of this relatively unknown festival outside of the Hakka community, until I found out some interesting trivia here.

Apparently, this day is also supposedly the birthday of Shen Tai, the distributor of wealth. Shen Tai was a devoted disciple of the Goddess of Mercy (Guan Yin).

And don't ask me why the "yong tau fu" became the symbolic food for this day. I can only guess that maybe it was the act of stuffing the meaty fillings into the pockets of "tau-fu" or "tofu", somewhat symbolic to "patching up the holes in the sky".

And since it is always good to have some blessings of wealth in the new year, maybe I will have a big meal of "yong tau fu" this Friday.

Incidentally, the 26th day of the first lunar month (23rd February this year) is the Festival of God of Money. Perhaps I should also celebrate this day by buying 4-ekor. I might just get lucky and be rewarded for remembering and celebrating the birthday of Shen Tai, the distributor of wealth.

This is another link to some Chinese festivals you never knew existed.



Blogger Maverick SM said...

I didn't know about that?

Tell us more on the legend!

16/2/06 12:45  
Blogger Anak Merdeka said...

You probably wouldn't if you ain't from the Hakka community.

But if you are, you must be such a celup not to know :D

This is about all that I can tell you ... I'm not that knowledgable either. See, when my dad was around, I was too busy with my life to ever found the time to understand the culture of my ancestors. Heck, I never even got to learn how to cook some of my dad's signature dishes.

It's funny when I recalled that for someone who loved to cook, my dad actually never encouraged me to learn the art because he once said that it would be a waste of my time to slave in the kitchen.

Ah... I miss my old man and my pampered days of old!

16/2/06 14:43  
Blogger White Coffee said...

Either I am a celup or we are just from different hakka community. But really thanks for the interesting info. Now I would have something to ask my father or grandma. Hehe.

Anyway, the hakka yong tau fu do feature among my favorite food. My mom's are the best, in my case. hehe.

26/2/06 05:05  
Blogger Anak Merdeka said...

Hi there "white coffee"!

Glad to know u enjoyed the little snippet on Hakka culture - I think this festival applies to all the different variants of the Hakka dialect. At least I know the Fui Chiew and Tai Pu clans mark this special day.

I believe all Hakkas love yong tau-fu - probably it's in the genes, eh? I'm sure your mom's Hakka yong tau fu is delicious and one-of-a-kind. I find most families have their own "secret recipe" for this dish, and take great pains to guard the secret too!

It would be a great idea to talk to your elders about the customs and culture of the Hakka community of old. At least the knowledge of it will be passed down to the next generation should your own kids or some other are curious enough to want to find out. I lost that opportunity which is a shame, really.

Oh well - hope you have a nice day today. Cheers!

28/2/06 07:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am writing a story involving the Hakka community in Malaya (as it then was) over 100 years ago. I am desperate to meet with a Hakka person who can give me information about the community and wonder if you could put me in touch with anyone you think might be able to assist me. Although I come from London, I am presently in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia whil I conduct research for my story.

My contact details are:

Home: 03 6203 5787
Mobile 016 303 8554

Thank you for any help you can offer.



12/5/06 12:57  

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