June 23, 2016
In the olden days blow torches like these would have been imported from the UK and made of brass.
The "fire" from the torch would make a nice comforting sound when the blacksmith fired it up. Considered quite light in his hand the blow torch would help him carry out his work every day.
I remember seeing the rattan basket and chair maker in Blacksmith Road having one and would hang around watching him make his creations. The blow torch is something which I can always remember well.
Another sight created by the blow torch was at a neighbour's blacksmith workshop. He had rented a room in Kong Ping Road or Brooke Drive. He was a Cantonese man, who looked very stern but I believed he was really a good blacksmith because so many people would leave their equipment with him. Because I was still fairly young at that time, today I can only remember that he was quite taciturn and very slow in his movements.
He worked slowly at his workshop and Malays and Chinese came around at certain times to collect their repaired equipment, he would make some items like small propellers or weld some metal sheets together.
However his loud blow torch always frightened me because I thought he could use it to burn down the house!! And furthermore, he was one of the most sun burnt men I had ever seen. Coming from a family which had very fair skinned men, I was quite scared of the blacksmith. And any way, we were all told not to go to his workshop for no reason at all, even to look!!
But I am sure he looked after his family who lived next door, in those days very well. However tragically he died fairly young due to over work.
The children, especially the girls,went to school and one of them went overseas to study.
I wonder why until today, whenever I see a man with a blow torch be it old fashion one, or a modern one, I would always see an unsmiling face. Perhaps when you carry a blow torch you have to be very serious.
June 19, 2016
After about 115 years of settling down in Sibu, the Foochows have started to use many of the local vegetables and fruits as part of their food.
According to my grandfather who came in 1903 to settle down in Sg Merah, he saw many Ibans and Malays having cangkok manis in their backyard garden and he also saw them harvesting the vegetables. He told us that he first learnt to cook cangkok manis as a soup. He later learnt also from the Malays and the Ibans how to forage for paku and meedin.
Today these three vegetables are restaurant dishes in the Foochow dominated town of Sibu. One of the best dishes created from cangkok manis is the hand made and sun dried Mee Sua fried with changkok manis, garlic and ikan bilis.
We often order this dish in the restaurants instead of the chicken soup mee sua.
It is also a dish that most Foochow women have learnt to cook at home.