We used to have an eathern stove at home when I was young, fueled by charcoal that could be kept warm for hours, as the hardened chunks of ebony slowly wasted away to become a crumbly ivory, until all that’s left was a disintegrated heap of cinder and ash. But using it could be quite a hassle to use, especially to kickstart the burning. But me ain’t no boy scout, so it was usually my father who “did the honours” to get the fire started. Once started, it served for a myriad of purposes, i.e. toasting belachan (fermentted shrimp paste) to make sambal, maintaining a large pot of broth for steamboat refills, or simply transferring out the charcoal pieces from that stove into a longish rectangular metal trough which was used to prepare kueh belandah (nyonya egg rolls) for chinese new year . In fact, steamboats in the past where fueled by charcoal which were “preheated” using the earthern stove as well! While some of the uses of an earthen stove were somewhat ritualistic, others remained very practical, and for me, the most practical and personal favorite “use” of the earthern stove has to be cooking 煲仔鸡饭 Cantonese Claypot Chicken Rice!
如果真的要找出我最喜欢吃的，应该是一摊广东人经营的猪肠粉和芋头糕了。猪肠粉和芋头糕是两样陪我走过无数岁月的传统小吃，真可以说是从小就吃到大。无论是当作早餐还是午后稍稍用来治嘴馋的点心， 都那么适合。虽然把它们当作晚餐的确是有点“怪怪”的。但因为我们喜欢，所以爸妈还是常买来当作晚餐的“配菜”， 要不就打包回家当作宵夜或隔日的早餐。对我而言， 来牛车水而没吃到猪肠粉和芋头糕的话，就等于没来牛车水了。 真所谓入宝山而空手归啊。