Let me be clear from the start; growing up I simply loathed moi.
Much like chicken noodle soup is the ultimate convalescence food for Americans, throughout Asia moi/jook/congee/budur is a dish that is inextricably associated with being sick. As a child, its characteristic blandness always seemed like an additional punishment to the misery of feeling unwell – especially when it was being forced upon you by an otherwise well-meaning grandmother. The moment you announced you were feeling under the weather, my grandmother (Amah) would invariably say, “You sick, ah? OK so you must eat moi ‘eh. Good for your throat one. Make you better, fast”. There was simply no arguing with Amah on this, you were on the moi diet until you were deemed healthy enough to eat something else. Admittedly, I was an overly dramatic child, but it felt like flavour purgatory!
Now, many years on and much to my surprise, in my most fevered moments I find myself craving a wholesome bowl of chicken moi. It is an irony of a maturing palette, and the fondness of memories, that gives you a renewed appreciation for some unpalatable dishes from the our past.
I’ve always thought the force-feeding of moi was a genius Asian parenting ploy to discourage kids from dragging out their convalescence. The moment I felt better I would immediately pronounce that I was cured and that it was safe for me to once again scoff down some deliciously oily char kway teow! The Moi Diet: Machiavellian parenting at its best or a grandmother’s love? Either way, Amah was right – it DID make me better, faster.
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