Processed with VSCO with fr4 preset Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

We Met and Parted

Persimmon Amazake

  • Words & Photography / Jo

下船地方不遠處有條商店街。漁港小村,連漁船也不過三三兩兩,可能有些出海未歸吧。除了岸邊一家比較大的餐廳,這地方就只有那短短一條的商店街。有一家雜貨店賣本地蔬菜水果乾貨;一家似是昭和年代的糖果店,內有木製彈珠機,店裏昏昏暗暗,就靠鑲上透明膠片的木門外打進來的陽光照明,以及那一盞玻璃罩吊燈,照亮包裝平實卻圖案花巧的糖果;街頭有間小店,門前放了大鍋甘酒,在大飯鍋裏暖着,蒸汽騰騰。我點了一杯,店主把甘酒倒在紙杯裏遞給我。剛才在船上冷風直吹,手和臉早凍僵,我雙手捧着紙杯,喝一口微燙的甘酒,雖然因為溫度太高而令味道帶酸,但那甘甜濃厚的熱飲在寒風中好比甘露,我就站在店前噓着喝。店外吊了一排風乾呼子土產魷魚,我想吃烤魷魚乾,指着魷魚,然後再指指旁邊的炭爐,以簡單英語問店主是魷魚是否賣的。店主揮揮手,示意不賣,轉身從炭爐上夾起兩尾烤魚乾遞給我,接着又拋了一條給正從閣樓走下來的三色貓。老闆把我當成貓嗎,讓我和貓店長吃一樣的魚乾。

Processed with VSCO with fr4 preset

小時候,外婆老是說我是高竇貓,不愛說話,對人老是不瞅睬。她後來帶了一隻幼小花貓給我,據說是以兩元從米舖老闆處領來的。貓咪黑白灰三色,左臉與尾巴一片黑,背上有幾幅混雜、沒紋路的斑駁毛色。我背上有一片意外留下的疤痕,我們都背負了不漂亮的自己。我們一起成長,夜夜睡在一起,她伏在我身邊,頭枕在我肩上,寧靜地陪伴彼此23 年。後來,貓說她這生是為陪伴我而來,任務已完成,不用掛念。

幾年過去,我家又來了另一隻小貓。四蹄踏雪的虎紋貓,毛色灰混啡,胸口、肚子和嘴邊都是白色,左耳被剪掉一角。從小流浪,經歷過抓捕及難過的事,牠初到埗時滿腔怒憤與惶恐,每夜關燈後,便把食器、廁盆等東西倒翻,看見人類便會發出嘶嘶聲,餵食時也會出抓。為適應新環境,小貓初時住在大籠裏。一天,她不情不願地被我抱出來,要給受傷的眼睛滴藥。人貓在沙發上掙扎了一會,終於滴好了眼藥膏。牠把小手小腳收在肚皮下,安靜地坐在沙發的絨氈上,我由牠坐着,不抱回籠裏,轉身去清潔收拾。回頭過來,牠坐在沙發靠背後方與牆身之間,定睛看着窗外。我走近一點,牠向我慢慢眨眼,然後繼續看窗外的樹或鳥。「你平生第一次安全地看這世界吧?放心看吧,有我在,不用怕。安心在這個家住下。」那刻我心裏如此說。她從此自由進出籠子,直至完全適應了新居,不再需要那個籠子。貓兒不許人碰卻又黏人,時常保持一點點距離地待在我身邊,愛討摸而又不可用手摸,我只好以竹製棒子給她搔癢搔癢。早上,我們坐在窗邊曬太陽,她看風景,我喝咖啡;天涼的晚上,我坐在沙發蓋上毛氈,喝暖甘酒看書,牠在我腳邊捲作一圈打呼嚕。

兩隻貓都在我生命最難過的時間來到,每次都不出於自己的選擇,後來再想,這些生命裏的相遇其實早已安排好。靈魂光線交錯,來的來,去的去,大家從經歷中能學懂該學的課題便算圓滿,不必掛念。老貓早就說了。

柿子糀甘酒

材料:

日本米(或其他圓粳米) 300克
水 (煮飯用) 600 毫升
乾燥米麴 300克
暖食水 (發酵用) 300 毫升
完熟甜柿 1 個

工具:食物溫度計、恆溫蒸爐或電飯鍋、棉布

做法:

  1. 米洗淨瀝乾,加水煮成稀飯質感。
  2. 稀飯煮好後加入暖水,放涼至 65°C,加入米麴拌勻。
  3. 當溫度處於 60°C 左右,器皿蓋上棉布,布不要沾到米飯,放入蒸爐,以60°C 發酵 6至 8 小時。電飯鍋做法:放入內鍋後,蓋上棉布,不用蓋上鍋蓋,以「保溫」功能發酵。留意溫度變化,若過熱,可多攪拌及掀起棉布散熱。甘酒最佳發酵溫度為55°C 至 60°C。
  4. 每一、兩小時攪拌一次。在第 6 小時試味,若甜度、味道合意,便可停止發酵。按口味延續發酵時間。(甜味取決於溫度與發酵時間。我的甘酒以 58°C 發酵了 7 小時,味道甘甜醇厚,質感溫潤濃厚。)
  5. 甘酒倒入鍋裏,以中小火快速煮至75°C,倒入已消毒器皿內。75°C可令米麴停止發酵,更好保存,同時保留甘酒裏的營養。冷藏後加熱溫度也保持在75°C或以下。
  6. 柿子洗淨去皮去籽,切成小塊後放入攪拌機打成果蓉,加入冷或暖的甘酒拌勻。甘酒甜度很高,可按口味加入水或無糖豆乳飲用。
  7. 甘酒除了飲用,亦可取代精製糖,加入其他調味料和食材,製作成冷盤調味料或拌醬。

There was a market street not far away from the dock at the small fishing village harbouring just a sparse line-up of fishing boats. The rest had yet to return, perhaps. Except for the restaurant by the shore, which was more established, the small street was the only establishment in the small town. A grocery store selling local vegetables, fruit and dried food; a candy shop, possibly established in the Showa time, displaying an array of sweets with bright yet modest packaging under a ceiling light in glass dome shade and dimly lit behind the daylight shone through clear plastics framed in a wooden sliding door; and a small shop up in the street with a large pot of steamy hot amazake at the shop front. I ordered a cup of it. The shop owner poured the liquid into a paper cup and handed it over. The cold and piercing wind during my boat ride earlier had numbed my hands and face. I held the paper cup in both hands, had a sip of the amazake that was slightly too hot. Although the overly high temperature gave the drink a sour note, nothing could beat the rich, sweet drink at that moment. I blew into the cup and kept sipping it on the spot. Outside of the store, there was a rack of local Yubuko squids being hung dried, and I could do some grilled squids. Pointing at the squids, and then the charcoal grill beside, I asked the shop owner in simple English whether that’s for sale. He shook his hands, it was a no. He then turned around and picked up two pieces of dried fish on the grill for me. Then, he threw one of the grilled fish to a calico cat walking down from the attic. Hmm, did the shop owner just see me as a feline too since the cat and I shared the same fish treat.

When I was little, grandma used to call me an “arrogant cat” since I was reserved and paid little attention to people. She brought a kitty home for me later at the cost of two dollars, as I was told, paid to the owner of a rice shop. The cat was of black, white and grey, with a dark shade over its left face and tail, and patches of mixed colours on the back. I have a strip of scar on my back from an accident. We both carried something unpleasant. We grew up together and slept together every night when she rested her head on my shoulder. We had each other’s quiet company for 23 years. Later, she told me that it was her mission to be my company in this lifetime, and now that her duty was over, I shall miss her not.

Years on, there came another kitten. She is a tabby cat with four white paws. A mix of grey and brown fur, leaving the chest, belly and the area around the mouth white, and a corner of her left ear was cut off. She was a stray cat that was caught and had been through a lot. When she first came to my home, there was a lot of anger and fear in her that she pushed her bowls and litter box over every night after the light was off. She hissed too whenever she saw human and scratched me when I fed her. One day, I took her out from the large cage, where she lived in when adapting to the new environment, for medical care to her wounded eye. We wrestled on the sofa for a while and finally the ointment was put on her eye. Quietly sitting on a fleece blanket, she tucked her tiny paws under the belly. I let her rest there instead of putting her back into the cage and went ahead with cleaning up. When I returned, she was sitting behind the sofa backrest, looking outside the window. I walked closer, she blinked at me slowly and then looked at the trees or birds again. “It is the first time that you can look at this world in a safe place, right? Go ahead. Don’t worry. You’ve got me here, fear not. Live here at ease.” I whispered in my heart. Since then, the cage was left open for her to walk in and out until she was fully adapted to her new home and the cage was no longer necessary. The cat is attaching but she doesn’t like to be touched. She always keeps a little distance while staying around. She loves petting but since no hand is allowed, I give her scratching with a bamboo-made scratching stick. In the morning, we bathe in the sun by the window when she looks outside and I drink my coffee; into the cooler nights, with a blanket on my laps, I read and have warm amazake on sofa where she lies by my feet and purrs in the shape of a fluffy ball.

The two cats came to me both in the time when my life was in a misery, neither time of it was even my choice. The more I thought about it later on, all lives we met in life are in fact planned; lives meet and part when the light of souls cross paths. If we can learn what ought to be learned in every beautiful encounter, it’s already perfect. We shall miss not. The old cat had said it.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Persimmon Amazake

Japanese rice grains (or other short-grain rice) 300g
Water (for rice cooking) 600 ml
Dried koji 300g
Warm drinking water (for fermentation) 300 ml
Ripe persimmon 1 piece

Tools: food thermometer, temperature-control steamer or rice cooker, cotton cloth

Steps:

  1. Wash and drain the rice. Add water to cook it into porridge.
  2. Add the warm drinking water to the porridge, mix well and let cool to 65°C. Add in the koji, mix well.
  3. When the mixture is at around 60°C, cover the container with a cotton cloth. Keep the cloth away from the porridge. Put the container into the steamer and let it cook at 60°C for 6 to 8 hours. If you use a rice cooker: put the inner pot inside the cooker, cover it with a cotton cloth and keep the lid off. Set the cooker to “keep warm” function. Keep an eye on the temperature. If the mixture is too hot, lift the cloth and give it a few stirs to disperse the heat. The optimal fermentation temperature for amazake is 55°C to 60°C
  4. Give it a stir every 1 to 2 hours. Taste it at the 6th hour. If the sweetness and taste are good to your liking, the fermentation is done. You can let it ferment further to extract more sweetness from the rice. (The sweetness in amazake depends on the temperature and time on fermentation. Mine was fermented at 58°C for around 7 hours, tasting rich, deep and sweet with a thick and creamy texture.)
  5. Pour the amazake into a pot, quickly cook it to 75°C over medium heat. Pour the liquid into a sterilised container. Koji stops fermenting at 75°C, allowing the amazake to be kept longer and better, while retaining the nutrients in it. Keep it under 75°C when you reheat the amazake.
  6. wash, peel and pit the persimmon. Dice it into cubes and purée it. Add it to cold or warm amazake to your liking and stir well. Since amazake is very sweet, you can thin it up with water or unsweetened soy milk.
  7. Except for drinking, amazake can replace refined sugar in cooking, great for making dressing or sauce for cold dishes.
Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Jo Liu

It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.

Instagram: foodialoguehk

w