NGAI Wai Heng, a Cantonese, learnt to prepare sumptuous Hakka meals when she married Yee Yon Fah, the eldest son of a Hakka family.
Ngai, still living with her 90-year-old mother-in-law Thye Mooi Ying, explained that it is normal for the wife to follow and adopt the culture of the husband’s family.
The traditional Hakka reunion dishes that Ngai showcased when met in the presence of her still-discerning mother-in-law were ju geok chu (vinegar pork trotters), son pan ji (yam abacus seeds) and kao ngiuk (sliced pork belly pot roast).
Both the meat dishes that Ngai prepared are meant to symbolise abundance and prosperity.
“There is a saying, ‘yao yu, yao yuk’, which means that there must be fish and meat on the table. That is what abundance is about,” she told Business Times in Petaling Jaya recently.
“There are many popular Hakka dishes served during reunion dinners and the selection is very much each family’s taste,” said Ngai’s husband Yee.
In his family, Yee said the son pan ji is a requisite Hakka dish eaten during major festivals, especially during Chinese New Year, because of its auspicious connotation that means wealth.