Sunday, October 08, 2017


His daughter-in-law told me that his brother (her uncle-in-law) had returned to Macau, so he was playing far less mahjong. Yet the other night the sound of tiles could clearly be heard on the street outside his digs; one might suspect that he shares his brother's passion in equal measure.

Years ago I learned how to play mahjong, as one of my friends was married to a Filipina, and there would occasionally be a need for a spare player during the forty or fifty hour mahjong parties with lots of nice food.
Cigars, lumpia, pancit, sisig? What's not to like?
Indeed I shall play with you folks.


I think only his wife was capable of playing for fifty hours at a stretch. But including myself there were usually at least two stand-ins. Perhaps you can understand why I haven't played since leaving Southern California.

The rackety sound of tiles being shuffled always reminds me of tasty things to eat, and the place where I lived in North Beach when I came back from SoCal. There were at least three mahjong parlours on that alley, the clickitty clack clack clack was constant.

Other than in Chinatown, I had not heard it in this city.
Now it comes from an apartment building nearby.
Soon, perhaps, delicious smells.

Pato à cabidela, for instance, or galinha à Portuguesa. Capella, fry crab, or bacalhau. Minchi and eggs. But these would be exceptional. Probably just standard Hong Kong snackipoos, because unlike the Filipinos, Cantonese don't see serious mahjong as a time for equally serious noshing.
Still, the sound of moving tiles.
Life at a tilt.

Bafassa: a hunk of pork (shoulder or belly), simmered with stock, turmeric, and vinegar, till tender, then bunged into the oven to crust. After resting, the meat is sliced thick, and served with potatoes cooked in the simmering liquid left in the pan.

Arroz gordo: more or less a baked Portuguese-Chinese paella; broth-cooked rice with marinated pork and chicken cooked along with (on top), sometimes duck. With tomate e cebola, sliced chouriço cozido, plus peppers, raisins, croutons, and wedges of hard boiled egg.

Diabo: a brilliant red chicken or pork curry with soy eggs, simmered in a chili and nut-paste sauce with a touch of vinegar, and some oily mango achar added. Salty, sweet, spicy, tangy, flamingly hot.

I may want to re-learn the game.
At least to talk intelligently.

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