December 22 was winter solstice and for the Chinese this day is as important as New Year, and I remember as a young girl, this day usually meant a big family dinner. It is the equivalent of the Canadian Thanksgiving.
Normally I do not paid much attention to this date, but for some reason this year I really missed the festivity that I had experienced as a child. I recalled the dishes my mom used to make, and I could almost smell the fragrance of food and the smell of incense in the house. This trip down memory lane really made me missed my childhood years.
While my mom would celebrate this day with a 10 course dinner, my mother in law customarily makes rice ball soup for this occasion. To follow her tradition, I made this dish for tonight even though it is a day late. Funny though, for when I was back in Regina I never really appreciated this dish, but when you are away from your extended family you want to have some connection with them by following the tradition.
This dish takes the whole day to make, in the morning she would make the broth with chicken and pork bones and dried mushroom. She would stand by the sink and patiently remove the fat and the skin from the chicken. The soup would simmer for hours until it is ready to be served. Meanwhile she would use rice flour and warm water and knead it to a soft dough and then painstakingly roll it in to many tiny little rice balls. I remember one year I went back for Christmas and she had her three young grand daughters helped her with this chore. Then she would cut the daikon into tiny slivers, and fried up fish paste and Chinese sausage, and cut them up in thin slices which she adds into the broth with the rice ball. This is definitely a labor of love.
I tried to replicate this dish, but instead of homemade broth I cheated and used canned chicken broth instead. I know that this would definitely not meet her approval !! Instead of making my own little rice balls, I found some ready made ones in the frozen section in the Chinese grocery store. ( I can almost hear her gasp now !!)
It is not as good as hers, but this is the best I could do. A taste of home any ways.