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20/02/2021 - 09:13

Sweetened sour star-fruit made by granny

When it was sunny, my granny displayed the sweetened sour star-fruit on a tray and dried it under the sun. Each piece of brown star-fruit shone in the sunlight. The sour star-fruit becoming a special kind of sweet was the result of my granny’s hard work through time of the sunny summer and rainy winter.

Piece of preserved brown star-fruit shone with the transparent cover

When it came to the end of winter, plants were fruitless. The garden was wet. The cocks jumped up the trees, brushed the soaked tails and crowed. I heard them peck at the root of the star-fruit tree and try to call each other: they had found something to eat.

There were some star-fruits and some insects living on them. Seeing bunches of star-fruits, I remembered the warm kitchen of the old days, where my granny made sweetened sour star-fruit, a kind of sweet common to the poor for Tet!

In the house gardens in Hue, there are many kinds of fruit trees such as mangosteen, longan, mangos, rose apples, guavas and star-fruits. The sweet star-fruit trees have brownish young leaves and purple blossoms. The sour star-fruit trees have dark green leaves and crimson blossoms.

The children loved to climb the star-fruit trees and pick the fruits. To adults, the sweet star-fruits are the gift from Nature. Fruits were picked in baskets and sold at the market to partly cover the cost of living.

Meanwhile, the sour star-fruits are valueless. The fallen fruits fill the garden. Sometimes, the fruits can be used to make sour soup for meals, and the leaves boiled with water to bathe children with heat rashes.

In addition, housewives can pickle sour star-fruits in salt water to serve as ingredients for sour soup or stewed with fish during the days of heavy rain or flood.

When the last month of lunar year comes, every household get their houses renovated and the women often make different sweets for Tet. My granny and my mom used to make sugar-crystalized ginger to worship the ancestors. Then they made sugar-crystalized coconut, winter melon and ginseng-sized carrots.

It was sure that my granny asked us to pick some sour star-fruits to make the special sweet: sweeten star-fruits. In my memory, the sweeten star-fruit my granny made stays forever.

She carefully selected and washed the star-fruits, then cut them vertically into five pieces. She put some spoon of salt into a basin of water and added some lime water to soak the star-fruit overnight.

In the next morning, she washed the star-fruit again. She then put each piece on a board and used a bottle to roll over to squash it. It needs skills and patience; otherwise, it easily crushed.

When she sweetened it, she mixed two bowls of cut star-fruit with one bowl of sugar. When the sugar dissolved and was absorbed into the pieces of star-fruit, she began to cook on the oven. When it boiled, she reduced the fire and gently moved the pieces around. The sugar dissolved completely and turned brownish. The flavor of the sweetened sour star-fruit started to spread all over the kitchen, alluringly!

The children got around the pot, feeling appetite. They kept asking: Granny, has the sweetened star-fruit done?” “Granny, I helped you crush the betel this morning, will you let me try some?” Someone quietly got round behind the granny, trying to do some massage for her so that she would give some sweet later.

She also washed some ginger, grilled and cut it into thin pieces. When the sugar liquid was getting thicker and the star-fruit pieces turned brown and transparent, she put the ginger in, gently stirred and turned off the oven. The heat from the oven was still enough to make the star-fruit pieces dry.

When the sweet got cool, she dried it over a charcoal oven. When it was sunny, she displayed it on a tray and dried under the sun. Each piece of brown star-fruit shone in the sunlight. The sour star-fruit becoming a special kind of sweet was the result of my granny’s hard work through time of the sunny summer and rainy winter.

When the star-fruit pieces turned brown and was no longer sticky, it was done. She put them in layers on a broad sheet of paper, sprinkled some sugar and chilly powder before wrapped them up for Tet servings. She never forgot to share some with the children.

The sweet had a special combining flavor of star-fruit, ginger and smoke, and there seemed to be the smelling of granny’s betel and her love for the children. The taste was something sweet, something sour, something salty and something spicy. How special!

My mom sent me a basket of gifts from my home village this afternoon. There was a package of childhood sweetened star-fruit. To me, it was a treasure as it was a family traditional sweet although there were so many kinds of sweet for Tet.

I will try to make sweetened star-fruit and tell my children the stories about this special sweet and the memorable days I had with my granny in the kitchen waiting for the sweet to get done.

Story: Mong Huong – Photo: Tue Hien

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