This is me 👇
And that’s my mother! Or a representation of my mother, if you will. She’s a little camera-shy and wishes to remain anonymous, which I respect (and you guys should too!). If it helps, people who know the both of us have been commenting that I look like a carbon-copy of her, so just picture me, but older. And slightly slimmer too!
Growing up, I have never been particularly close to my mother. My mother had always seemed so busy with work, while my aunt took care of me. I only went home to stay with my mother on weekends, when she wasn’t working. But all this changed when my family moved from Ang Mo Kio to Sengkang. Instead of living with my aunt on weekdays, my grandmother took care of me in the day, and I got to see my mother in the evening, spending more time with her. Our bond deepened over time and as I grew older, my mother began allowing me to help her out in the kitchen whenever she needed an extra pair of hands.
We started making things together. I wouldn’t call it baking because we made a lot of things that didn’t need the oven. The first thing that my mother taught me to make was tang yuan (it’s a spherical Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice flour and sweet soup) during the winter solstice. Tang yuan has always been one of my favourite desserts and rolling the semi-sticky mixture of glutinous rice flour and water between my tubby hands was one of the best experiences ever!
From tang yuan, we progressed to slightly more complicated recipes like cookies! Pineapple tarts! Cakes! Come Chinese New Year every year, the house always smelled like baked goods and vanilla essence. My favourite memory of my mother is sitting with her in the kitchen late at night, rolling sticky pineapple paste into balls (as a child, I seem to have an obsessions with sweet balls of food) which my mother would then wrap with pastry to make her famous (and delicious!) pineapple tarts.
Sometimes, my mother would bake extra tarts for our relatives and that would mean more work for both of us, especially my mother. But I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind spending time with my mother at all. Especially when she allowed me to sneak a few pieces of baked goodies whenever I wanted!
Then, I left for New York. People said I would miss my family, my bed, and food from Singapore… I missed them all, of course! But what I missed most was tang yuan, cookies, pineapple tarts, warm gooey brownies, and the baking adventures I shared with my mother. So I started baking by myself in the tiny apartment I call home in New York.
I ventured into cooking, even! It started with simple soup made from pre-made stock, to meatballs baked in the oven, to making my own sauces for pasta. I also started asking my mother for her pastry recipes, trying to replicate the taste of home as best as I can.
Everything I made was but a poor replica. Edible, of course! Delicious, sometimes. But something was always missing.
After the one-year exile from my mother’s pastries and food, I flew home, bounding into my mother’s arms and my mother’s food. Heavenly food that tasted like home, warmth, and most importantly, like love.
My mother was my first love, my first teacher, and so many of my firsts.
Happy Mother’s Day, ma!
Need a little taste of love yourself? Here’s my mother’s recipe for light and fluffy pandan chiffon cake:
Makes one tall 8-inch chiffon cake!
For the egg yolks mixture:
- 9 fresh pandan leaves (Mother’s pro-tip: My mother cautions against using pandan essence because it leaves a ‘fake’ taste in the cake)
- 120g coconut milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 30g vegetable oil
- 120g cake flour (Mother’s pro-tip: Mum says all purpose flour works too!)
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the egg white mixture:
- 6 egg whites
- 120g caster sugar (Mother’s pro-tip: icing sugar works just as well)
Remember to preheat the oven to 160°C for optimum baking.
- Cut pandan leaves into small pieces and place them into a blender with 120g of coconut milk. Place the final mixture over a muslin cloth and squeeze out the green colour juice. Remember to only use 120g of the juice. (Mother’s pro-tip: if you don’t have 120g of juice, top it up with coconut milk)
- Mix the juice, egg yolks, and oil in a large mixing bowl under fully combined.
- Sift the flour and salt into the mixture until batter is smooth. Let rest.
- Using an electric mixer (Mother’s pro -tip: use the “normal-looking” one for eggs, not the swirly ones), beat egg whites while adding sugar gradually. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Do not over-beat the mixture!
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the green egg yolks mixture.
- Pour the batter into ungreased 20cm chiffon tube pan. (Mother’s pro-tip: remember to give the pan a tap to remove air bubbles from the batter)
- Bake at 160°C for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150°C and bake for another 55 minutes, or until thoroughly baked.
- After removing from oven, invert the cake immediately to cool. (Mother’s pro-tip: we don’t have a wire rack at home, so she balances the cake on a bottle of rice wine to invert it).
- To un-mould, use a think plastic spatula to run along the cake’s ages to push it out. Remember, the cake is fragile! Treat it with love and care.
Treat your mother this Mother’s Day! Psst… this is not a recipe I have mastered yet, so let me know if you have any tips and tricks to mastering the fluffy pandan chiffon cake.
Want to spoil your mother this Mother’s Day, but not sure how? Here are some of our suggestions for some wonderful mother-child bonding time! Click on the trainers’ names to find out more:
#1 For the love of food
#2 Arts and love
#1 Dyana (knitting)
#3 Learn a new skill with mummy dearest!
I know I’ll be signing up for a cooking class with my mum come Mother’s Day! Want more options? Check out Tueetor.com!