Thanks for the contribution, George!

In an age of pre-mixes, instant foods, fast foods, junk foods and unjustifiably hyped-up five-star food, it is tragically poignant to hear from someone with such tremendous insight into the craft of making the best from the freshest of ingredients, that all one can do is weep over the loss of this craft. Many talk about 'making the best from the freshest ingredients'. Few actually know what it means. It is tragic because when the lady goes, the craft goes with her. The work is far too physically demanding for her children to want to continue. Poignant because at this late stage of her life, the enthusiasm for producing an excellent product remains unabated. Absolutely no compromise on the storing of, the selection and the preparation of the item. She has this breadth and depth of experience having been there from the catch to the eating of it.

What are we talking about? Fish balls. She eats only what she makes and avoids all the other varieties, whether from shops or sold "fresh" at wet markets or pasar malams. She avoids the commercial ones like the black death because they are all filled with "medicine water", to use her words. And let's have her tell her own story. Please forgive the stilted translation.

"Fish balls? Make yourself. Very good to eat. No medicine water. Make good ones must be from fresh fish. Fish take out of net, still jumping must put in ice straight away. No sun shine on fish, fish balls very soft, no bounce. Come back, cut quickly. If have to keep, each piece [fillet] put one layer fish, one layer ice. No put fish on fish. That one also make fish ball soft. When cut and knife cannot go through flesh in one cut, that one also fish ball soft. I don't use. "

Now that the lady does not go out with the boats, I asked where she bought her raw materials from. She shook her head with such sadness and continued......."One time I go Selayang Market. Before 5 o'clock [5 a.m.]. My heart pain when I see people put medicine water on loose fish. Big, big fish also got put medicine water. Only the big box pack with ice and fish they no put medicine water. That one twenty eight kilo. How to buy? Fish ball make with medicine water fish got smell."

And the lady (with no chemistry knowledge whatsoever) goes on to say that to store fish balls already made but uncooked, they have to be kept in very, very salted water so the flavout does not "run out". Quite a remarkable woman.

What about stock for the fish balls? Well.....that's another story for another day.

George the Kilt.
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