Much as we equate travel with new discoveries and foreign lands, it is also about the people and places we leave behind.
My first brush with homesickness came while I was in Sweden on an exchange programme. The year was 2010, and it was the first time I had ever ventured so far away from home.
It started as an inexplicable pang I had never felt before. I found myself longing to be back home, spending a lazy Sunday in the tiny flat where my grandparents lived. I would sit at the table in their kitchen, watching them dance around each other with practiced ease as Grandma sautéed the Ang Chow and the chicken while Grandpa busied himself with hand-pulled noodles. Before long, the flat would be filled with the heady aroma of the chicken simmering in rice wine on the stove. If I asked nicely, Grandma would let me sneak a taste. Dinner would be a simple affair of Ang Chow Kway and hand-pulled noodles, but the tender chunks of chicken mixed with the earthiness of the mushrooms and sweet tang of the rice wine left me content to slurp down bowl after bowl of the crimson coloured soup.
The recipe for Ang Chow Kway is somewhat of a family heirloom passed from my ancestors back in China, down to my grandparents who brought it with them when they came to Singapore in the 50s, and subsequently, my parents. Complacent with the knowledge that I could get Ang Chow Kway whenever I wanted, I never felt the need to learn it – until I found myself combing the Asian restaurants and supermarkets in Gothenburg for anything that was close to the real thing.
In desperation, I begged my mother to send me some of her Ang Chow. And so, 8000 miles away from home with my mother yelling instructions over Skype, I finally cooked my first pot of Ang Chow Kway.
The consistency wasn’t quite right, but I’m pretty sure the smile that crossed my face on that first sip was the same smile that my grandparents wore whenever they whipped up this pot of soup that reminded them so much of their home.