My elder son wrote the above Chinese phrase when he took part in a Chinese calligraphy competition earlier this year. After the competition, he showed me his work. He wrote a few sheets and submitted the best. While he was fishing out the crumbled sheets of rice papers, he grumbled that the words were something so kiddish...he was expecting something more profound, like those in past competitions. When I saw what he had written, I felt in love with the lines right away.
I told him those few simple words were my exact sentiments, every day.
Loosely translated it means:
"开开心心上学去" - going to school with a happy mood
"平平安安回家来" - coming back home safe and sound
Now, this is what a Stay-at-Home-Mum like me expects on every school day. Every morning, I will wave to them in the semi darkness while the school bus starts pulling away from the curb. In my heart, I am sure they are going to have a great day in school. Every afternoon, I will keep a look out for their footsteps at the doorway. I will start to get anxious if they were just a couple of minutes late.
Once they step into the house, they will always ask me this question: 'What are we having for lunch today?'. Then they will start taking exaggerated deep breathings...trying to make a guess what would be on the dining table that afternoon. I will then leave them to negotiate among themselves...who will be taking the shower first?...base on...who has got the most homework that day; while I head back to kitchen to dish up their lunch. Only when I am in a super good mood, I will start picking up their socks, pants, shirts...that they left all over the floor as they start stripping away (^^').
Yesterday, we had Heng Hwa noodles for lunch. This is a regular home cooked food I grow up eating. We call it "Pah Mee" (pronounced as 'pa-ah' 'mee'), based on the Chinese form, 打面, in our dialect, heng hwa (兴化). Heng Hwa cuisine started to gain its popularity recently. In the past, whenever anyone asked me which dialect group I am from, I am always met with a confused look. This is not surprising since heng hwa still remains as a minority dialect group here. But by now, I am sure when I mention Pu Tien (莆田) many locals would have heard about it.
I grow up calling this dish 'Pah Mee', but for those who are from different dialect groups, you may find this name Heng Hwa Lor Mee (兴化卤面), more familiar. No, I don't regard this as lor mee, never, ever.
My feelings for this dish is so strong that I really feel like hammering whoever who came up with this absurb alternative name. It is pah mee, not lor mee, ok.
The ingredients, the noodles, the way it is being cooked has got nothing to do with lor mee.
I followed the way how my mum used to cook this dish. The noodle is cooked in a pot of soup together with some pork slices, dried bean curbs, vegetables, dried mushrooms, clams and fish balls. A special type of dried clams is usually used to prepare the stock, which makes the dish so delicious and gives the umami taste. An authentic bowl of pah mee is served with deep fried seaweed (a special type too, see pic here
) and peanuts as garnish. Just like the other dish Heng Hwa mee suah, this noodle is very well-liked by the adults and children in my extended family, including my husband and brothers/sisters-in-laws who are from different dialect groups. I am nowhere near my mum's standard. Even though I know they could tell the difference between a good bowl of pah mee from a sub-standard one, my lovely kids were all thumbs up and happily slurping away ;) Even my husband could only lick away from his screen when I sent him a picture of it, commented 'ma chiam from putien' (almost like the one served at the pu tien restaurant we frequent).
My kids have came up with many different versions of the Chinese phrase above, eg: 伤伤心心上学去,快快乐乐回家来, or 开开心心上学去,哭哭涕涕回家来, 哭哭涕涕上学去,开开心心回家来, etc. However, I am glad to say, most of the phrases they came up with, always end with looking forward to come back home or at least coming back home to seek consolation :D