NO SIDE trips or stories now, today is the official start of the Chinese New Year of the Rat’s reign.
My cousin Dona said we could have tikoy, biko and pancit as a way of greeting the new year along with our Chinese-Filipino brothers. The pancit will be placed at the center of the dinner table. We usually plate it with sliced salted eggs and shelled shrimps on top.
TICKLE ME TIKOY. I want you to know that every year, some friends give us tikoy. And no one was complaining.
My Aunt Tita Blitte volunteered to make fried tikoy: Slice tikoy into fingers, dip in beaten egg and deep-fry. We serve this plain or dusted with powdered sugar. This year Dona said she and my aunt will dust it with powdered sugar and roll it in crushed walnuts and cashews.
“It must be sweet enough to tickle us pink,” said Peetong, Dona’s husband.
Uncle Gustave said, “Start the year on a sweet note to keep our whole year sweet.”
”And stick together as a family like the sticky rice cake,” my niece Krystalle said.
My other niece Ellen said: “We need to have sticky food on the table. According to Chinese belief, the kitchen god’s mouth will be stuck together when he eats a piece of tikoy. He will not be able to tell the new kitchen god about the nasty secrets and bad behaviors of family members in the household.”
Uncle Gustave and Peetong said in unison, “So let’s have a thousand tikoys on the table!”
FAMILY’S FILLED BIKO. Another sticky food we like is biko. The family has a recipe passed down from our great great grandmother Ysabelle. My aunt has in turn passed down the recipe to Dona.
It is no different from regular biko but it has a twist. It has a filling of coconut candy. Sometimes we also fill the tray of biko with mixed nuts and raisins. One year, my aunt prepared a less sweet biko that she filled with chicken hamonado. (Hamonado: Fry chicken drumsticks just to brown it a little. Then put it in a pot filled with dark cola, oyster sauce, chopped red onions, minced garlic, green onions and black pepper. Simmer until you achieve a sticky sauce and the chicken is tender.)
There was a feast of flavors and textures in our mouth. The sweet, sticky and salty ended up being a unique way of greeting that particular Chinese New Year.
With stories and ideas getting passed from person to person like a basketball, I have a feeling that someone will pick up this idea.
“That’s OK,” my aunt said. “It will perpetuate the memory of our GGG Ysabelle. They can use it for business. I just hope they will mention you, Ober, as the guy who shared the idea.”
“Yes, that’d be a truly happy new year for me,” I said.