Samsui Labour

It’s Labour Day and the Samsui Women of historical Singapore came to mind. Here’s a little explanation from Wikipedia:

“The term Samsui Women broadly refers to a group of Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore between the 1920s and the 1940s in search of construction and industrial jobs. Their hard work contributed to Singapore’s development, both as a colony and as a nation.

Photo Courtesy of Wan Oligarchy

The Samsui Women came from Sanshui of Guangdong (Canton) Province in China, in addition to Shunde and Dongguan. Most Samsui Women are Cantonese (90%) but there are Hakka (10%) as well.

In Chinese, these women are referred to as 紅頭巾 (红头巾 in Simplified Chinese), which translates as “red bandana”, a reference to the trademark red cloth hats that they wore.

Coming to Singapore as cheap labourers, Samsui Women worked mainly in the construction industry and other industries that required hard labour. They also worked as domestic servants. They had a reputation of rejecting jobs involving drug (particularly opium) peddling, prostitution, or other vices, even if that meant they sometimes had to live in poverty.”

According to Soup Restaurant, Singapore, the Samsui Ginger Chicken is a ‘traditional Samsui dish consumed by the Samsui Women in Chinatown. Due to their low income, the Samsui Ginger Chicken was only consumed once a year, during the Chinese New Year. Chicken, steamed without much seasoning is dipped in fragrant ginger sauce before consumption.’

Here’s how make your own Samsui Ginger Chicken:

Salt the chicken slightly two hours before steaming. And once thoroughly cooked, submerge completely and immediately in ice cold water. This stops the cooking process and keeps the meat taut.

For the ginger sauce, it’s a mixture of old and young ginger, chicken or vegetable oil, sesame oil, and salt, (plus a bit of garlic too). I can’t list the proportions of ingredients because I’m not sure myself. Trial and error is the way to go till you get it right.

Serve with lettuce and cucumber. Remember our Samsui Women.

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About skinnynigel

If this recipe works for you, let me know below! View all posts by skinnynigel

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