November 6, 2014

Nang Chong Tales : Making of Patchwork by hand

My grandmother Lien Tie was a child bride,bought in China and later brought out from China by my grand uncle Lau Kah Tu.

On the day she was sold , sort of in the market of Minqing, she was a tiny little girl, sitting on the shoulders of her father, a poor farmer who needed money to feed the rest of the family. He was crying out loud, "Little girl for sale, healthy, and hardworking although very small. Feet not bound."

Grandma was one girl too many. Her feet had be bound, but because of the extreme poverty, her parents let go of the binding cloth so that she could work in the farm and do other housework. By the time she was five, they could no longer feed her and they had to sell her.

It was an opportune time that my grandfather was walking along the street and he saw this sad scene and paid the sum of Five Dollars, the amount that was asked without bargaining, since he had aleady set some money aside to go to Nanyang with Wong Nai Siong. It was 1901.

One of the activities my grandmother liked was to save all the scraps of materials her in laws and daughters could give her. She would keep them in a worn out pillow case and when she had a little bit more, she would saw the little triangles together, usually in the day time before dinner. When she was staying with us, she too would put those pieces together, usually red ones matching with floral pieces.

When she had enough of the pieces,she would ask my mother to sew the bigger pieces together. And a little blanket would be made. The Foochows call this Pui Yan or Little Blanket.

Little Blankets are nice gifts for her new born grand children. They are easy to wash and dry.

I would always remember my grandmother being given pieces of materials by her loved ones. Sometimes my mother would deliberately go an buy a quarter yard of some florals, telling her that those were scraps only. Mum would slip a few pieces of those into a plastic bag amongst the scraps from aunts or cousins who were tailors who kept a lot of scraps from their customers.

Only two of my sisters continue simple Foochow patchwork with enthusiasm.

the little ones would wear out the little blankets as they grew older.

But sometimes they would really treasure them and keep them for a long time, patching them over and over again.

I had mine which was much loved and lasted until I was long married off.

On the other hand however, adults would sleep with the thick RED Wollen Blanket bought in Singapore, a bridal gift, and it was meant to last until the final days. That red wollen blanket would go to the grave with the person owning it. A richer family would buy a new one to go with the coffin.

Somehow seeing simple patchwork blanket always reminds me of the frugal ways of my grandmother who would hand sew each piece very neatly and then waited very patiently for my mother to help her finish the small blanket.

She place the blanket on the floor and spread out the whole piece for all to see. The lines were straight and each piece would be perfectly flat against another. All the angles would merge perfectly. We did not have to iron the blanket flat at all.

November 3, 2014

Sibu Tales : Making Fish Balls

When the Foochows talk about making fish balls, they become very happy. In the olden days in China, making fish balls was a festive activity. Fish was plentiful in the Min River but it was nevertheless hard work too for every farmer, to work in the padi fields and to go fishing whenever they had the time. But in good times they had good food and of course when famine came, it was bad for every one. That was part of nature, part of life.

When the pioneering Foochow came to Sibu, they remembered their home in Min River. And they did not forget how to make fish balls.

In Foochow dialect, making fish balls is called Pak Ngii Wong, or hit fish ball.

The process of making fish ball was to scrape the fish flesh from the bones and then hit the flresh when it is a ball.

In this way the fresh of fish or the meat ball is not flaky but very solid and can bounce on the table!!

A little addition of corn starch and some times egg white may change the texture a bit by modern chefs.

When Sibu business started making fishballs we were quite happy with the products but as the years went buy we found that the standards or quality deteriorated. People do not really want to buy commercial fish balls now.

So we continue to Pak Ngii Wuong at home if we have the time.

Love making fish balls from mackerels....