September 19, 2014

Sibu Tales : Kong Bian

Photo by Arthur Wee...Kompia or Guangbing
The Foochows in Malaysia and particularly in Sibu, are well known makers of a special dry doughnut

known as Kong Bian or Kwong Bing or Kompia.Qi Jiquan.jpg

the origin of this special snack is found in the history of the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty.

Photo by Sarawakiana - this is the way to eat kompia in a Fuzhou restaurant.
Photo taken in Fuzhou City : Fuzhou city style Kompia 

戚繼光 or Qi Jiguan (Nov 12 1528 - Jan 17 1588was a Chinese general of the Ming Dynasty. He led Ming forces against the WOKOU or Japanese sea bandits. Today there is a statue of him in Fuzhou city.

During the raids against the Wokou, he asked his soldiers to wear a string of Kong Bian around their neck so that when hungry they would just chew the bread which has a hole in the middle. This doughnut looking bread eventually helped the armed forces to win their battles against the Japanese pirates. He thus saved the coasts of Fujian and in fact the whole of China with his special tactics and strategies.

It could have been possible that if it had not been his heroic attempts, China might have come under the rule of Japan until today.

The army did not have to waste time to cook and eat their meals. They marched on and on and they were able to be quick to strike the skilful Japanese pirates.
Statue of Jiguang in Fuzhou

This hard "pancake" or doughnut is named after him using his last name Guang. guangbing (光餅, Foochow Romanized: guŏng-biāng, known as kompyang in Malaysia and Indonesia) or in Sarawak KOMPIA.

Anne Pang, the great grand daughter of Wong Nai Siong together with us..and our book, The Tastes and Flavours of the Foochows, launching in Sibu.

Note : The 2008 Chinese television series The Shaolin Warriors provided a fictional account of Qi Jiguang enlisting the help of Shaolin Monastery's warrior monks in defending China from the wokou and other invaders. Singaporean actor Christopher Lee played Qi Jiguang.

September 12, 2014

Salted Mustard Greens (Ensabi)

Ensabi is a small variety of the green mustard which is grown in Sarawak. It is slightly more bitter than the sawi we buy in town. Today there is a longer variety of the indigenous ensabi called, Ensabi Cina, or Chinese ensabi. Its leaves are very long and the stalks much bigger.

The famous wasabi sauce  comes from the horseradish rhizome, but it has an uncanny similar taste to ensabi.

Besides being eaten as a stir fried fresh vegetables, it is often salted to be kept for while, and taken out when food runs out on rainy days or when vegetables cannot be planted during a drought which happens more and more often now in Sarawak. It has not made its debut on any restaurant menu yet.

The preserved ensabi is special to many families because it is a very skilled craft. Many housewives even try to keep their procedure a well kept secret. A few competitions have also be conducted over the last 10 years to keep the skill alive.

However some housewives do find the salting of the vegetable  a delight and make freshly preserved ensabi quickly within a few days.

Preserved ensabi is used as a soup enhancer, cooked with pork bones. It is used as part of steamed fish ensemble. And stir fried with minced pork, or just anchovies, it is very nice. Eaten as part of a salad, the preserved ensabi is a very welcome dish.

You can always experiment with this vegetable.

Steps in making salted ensabi:
1) cleans and wash the ensabi.
2) Dry and wilt the vegetables over night.
3) When adequately wilted, rub coarse salt into the vegetables to extract the last juices.
4) Place the vegetables in a clean glass bottle over night.
5) Add some cold cooked rice and mix again. The rice will ferment and give the ensabi a very appetising sourish taste.
6) The salted vegetables should be ready in four or five days' time. However, the longer you keep it the better.