Further north, Chinese immigrants also introduced sweet soups to Thailand. Like their Malaysian cousins, they have also added local ingredients to them over the years. This is known as man thate tom nam tan sai khing (sweet potatoes simmered in syrup with ginger) in Thai. With waning popularity among the younger generation, It is getting more difficult to come across tom nam tan vendors in the kingdom except in towns and cities with large Chinese population. When you do find one you are likely to find other popular offerings such as khao niu daeng tom nam tan (red sticky rice cooked in syrup) or luk dueay tom nam tan (job's tears cooked in syrup) among a dozen other sweet soups on offer. On the other hand the future is much brighter in Malaysia, trendy sweet soup joints are popping up all over the country thanks to the renewed enthusiasm on "foods with flavour of the past" (known as 古早味, gu cao wei in Mandarin).
My aunt who experienced the brutal Japanese occupation in Malaya rarely eats sweet potatoes when the occupation ended. She and her family survived mainly on sweet potato porridge, sweet potato vines and wild greens as food was scarce and difficult to come by. When sugar was available on the very rare occasions, a small pot of this sweet soup was sometimes prepared to cheer up the little ones in the family. Till these days she continues to remind us of the brutal living conditions of those dark years whenever she prepares this particular dish for us.
P.S It has been a rather lean month for MMM entries, remember to join us for our monthly roundup on all things Malaysian. I will put up the roundup on Monday, 1st Oct, so please send in your entries before that.
2 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
5 cm piece of ginger, sliced or bashed
2 pandan leaves, knotted
2 l of water
1/2 cup of rock sugar or brown sugar
The infamous Japanese issued ten dollars note (1942-45) popularly known as the banana money due to the banana plant motif on the front of the note. According to my aunt one would need a whole sack of this just to buy a kati (11/3 lb or 604.7g) of sugar. My late grandfather like many others kept boxes of this valueless notes after the occupation hoping one day they can be exchanged to the local currency but to no avail.... now they serve a reminder of the dark days many experienced during the brutal occupation.