Small Beautiful Moments
- Words & Photography / Jo
I bought a small bunch of Japanese scallions the other day to make a dipping sauce with shio koji for grilled pork. Cutting off the roots and some of the white part, and finely chopping the rest, I added shio koji, black pepper, sesame oil and some other seasonings to the scallion. Mixed well and let sit for a while for the flavours to melt into each other. The pork belly was roasted to golden, cut into slices, not too thick, and to be enjoyed with the scallion sauce and steamy rice. In the steam, the fat, fragrance of rice and spiciness of the scallion came together to become a medley of deliciousness.
The white parts of the scallions were still held in a rubber band. I casually put the white bunch into a measuring cup, filled it with water and put it aside on the countertop. And I forgot about it. A few days later, while brewing tea in the kitchen, I caught a glimpse of fresh green popping up from the white part of the scallion – it was almost two inches tall. It would have been entirely forgotten in the corner if not for the bright colour of the green. The vegetable is never the lead in most dishes and used to be neglected, and something good to have in cooking. Vegetable stalls always treat it as a gift-with-purchase, “Hey girl, do you want some scallions?” “Sure.” The monger then turned around to grab a handful of it from a bamboo basket under the table and put it into my shopping bag.
I drained the cloudy water in the measuring cup, filled it with clean water again, and hung it on the concrete planter housing parsley, rosemary, dill and mint, alongside a miniature Japanese maple in the transition from red to green. They could all enjoy the Spring breeze and mellow sun on the balcony. About a week later, the scallion bits grew into full size already, long and plumped. I trimmed some of it and made two crispy scallion pancakes. For the remaining white parts of the scallion, I potted them in hope of further growth.
I never had green fingers. Plants wouldn’t live long under my care, but this time, they have been healthy and strong. Dill has grown into a small tree taller than the balcony fences. We said it might be the magic beanstalk in《Jack and the Beanstalk》and would take me up to the clouds and sky one day. The water lily I brought home from the flower market was sold in a small plastic pot. Carefully removing the mud that held the roots and leaves together, I placed it into a basin, slowly filling it with water. It was all murky at first. Intertwined leaves and roots, every crevice of the flower buds and leaves were smeared with mud. I thought it couldn’t survive. In a few days, the water turned clear after the mud sedimented, dark purple leaves uncurled to reveal their green faces, and the flower buds, one by one, quietly turned into an elegant piece of flower overnight. Around the bright yellow pistil grew delicate ombré petals of flawless white and purple in the hue of setting sun. The water lilies opened to the sun and closed at sunset over the course of about ten days before it started to wilt. On the water floated dainty duckweeds, under it grew young leaves and buds in silence. Bloom and wilt, a life in cycle. In my eyes, this flower on my balcony was just as beautiful as the pond of Nymphéas by Claude Monet. They touched my heart. On the balcony, there were also two pots of small osmanthus trees of different species, geranium in orange and scarlet, trailing abutilon resembling red lanterns, and some more shrubs and vines. One day when I was watering, I spotted on the soil of my Madagascar jasmine, well covered under the leaves, grew a few tiny flowers in lilac. They, to my surprise, revealed to be dandelions after a few days. The green lives indoors were also in very good shape. Orchids, miniature bonsai, snake plants and so on have made a scene of beauty of their own in different corners, while the cat, with its eyes closed into narrow slits, liked sunbathing by the swaddling flower in the morning. Shadows of the flower fell on her fur, looking motley but pretty.
Watering or fertilising, loosening the soil or repotting. I believe the brief moments I spend with the plants is more than a one-way communication. At its own pace, following the seasons, each green life performs its growth, transition, resilience and the inevitable death in a circle of life. Quiet and remarkable, each stage has a beauty of its own. And this beauty and gift from nature shall not be looked for but can only be caught in a glimpse in a life of mindfulness and stillness, and between frailty and perseverance, touching your heart in unexpected moments.
中筋麵粉 1 ¼ 杯
熱水 1/3 杯
室溫水 ¼ 杯
海鹽 ½ 茶匙
蔥花 1杯 （約50克）
中筋麵粉 ¼ 杯
海鹽 ½ 茶匙
1 除蔥花外，將麵餅用材料放入大碗裡拌勻。拌勻後，將麵糰揉至表面光滑及不黏手，大概5分鐘。麵糰放在碗內，蓋上布，休息 1 小時。
3 麵糰抹油，分成兩半，檊開成大約 A4 大小，抹上油酥、撒上蔥花後，在長的一邊開始捲，捲成腸粉般，然後捲成蝸牛形，尾部收在麵餅下。麵餅檊薄至1cm 左右。
Ingredients (Make two pancakes):
For the pancake dough
All purpose flour 1 ¼ cups
Hot water 1/3 cup
Room temperature water ¼ cup
Sea salt ½ teaspoon
Diced scallion s 1 cup (About 50g)
For the roux
All purpose flour ¼ cup
Sea salt ½ teaspoon
Cooking oil 2 tablespoons
Flakey sea salt To taste
Cooking To taste
1 Except for the scallions, mix the dough ingredients in a large bowl. Knead the shaggy dough for around 5 minutes till the dough is smooth and not sticking to hands. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and rest it for an hour.
2 For the roux, mix well the ingredients and set aside.
3 Rub the dough with some oil, cut it into half and roll out each dough into roughly A4 size. Brush the roux on the sheet dough, sprinkle the scallion on it and roll it up lengthwise. Then, roll it into a swirl shape. Tuck the tail under the swirl and flatten the pancake into about 1cm thick with a rolling pin.
4 Add oil to a pan and heat it up over medium heat. Slide in the pancake and move it around occasionally for even cooking. Once the down side turns golden brown, flip the pancake. Add some more oil if the pan is dry. Take the pancake out from the pan when both sides are fry to golden brown. Sprinkle some flakey sea salt for an extra crunch.
5 Thoroughly dry the scallion after rinsing before dicing it up and remove the fibrous skin of the white part of the scallion. Feel free to replace cooking oil with lard or goose fat in the roux for a more scrumptious flavour. Be generous with the oil when frying the dough for light and crispy pancakes.
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.
- Up next — Happy Meal Happy Cook
- Previously — As Forgiving As Apple Crumble