August 22, 2015

Sibu Tales : Kidney Soup

My grandmother Tiong Lien Tie was a very careful eater and very knowledgeable about new mother's health. When my mother had her confinements for her 7 children, my grandmother was always there for her, to give her all the moral support she needed during the difficult first month, which was also a "confinement month" for Chinese women.

One of the most important soups prepared for new mothers was the kidney soup, spiked with almost half a bottle of Chinese red wine.

She herself said that that was one dish she liked most and she taught several confinement women (those who took over household work and cooking on behalf of the new mothers for a month) how to prepare this dish. My mother learned from her too to make the best of the kidney soups.

In fact, even when no one was having a new baby, my mother would cook the dish - because it was known as a nourishing dish, to help strengthen the kidneys and also the backbones.

During my own confinement I would have kidney soup twice or three times a week. I love the soup actually and would not mind having it every day.

This soup would still be prepared by many Foochow women in the future for the confinement month for new mothers if they know how to prepare it. And especially if the new mothers believe that the soup is good for them.

August 20, 2015

Rattan Business

The rattan business started as early as 1890's when the Chinese came to Sarawak to trade.

Many articles were written about the collecting of rattan in Sarawak from 1824, the time James Brooke founded Sarawak.

The Sarawak Gazette carefully recorded trade in rattan , timber and other natural resources. It also mentioned a lot of other interesting business dealings.

The Penans for example were described as people who harvested "rattan and sold them at tamus, allocated by the government officers."

By 1950, rattan was already exported to Singapore and further afield, perhaps even the UK.

Throughout the 1950's and 1960's rattan was transported from the upper reaches of rivers of Sarawak to the lower parts of the rivers and then exported by selected Chinese middlemen. This photo shows rattan bundles atop a big express boat.

This photo is from Mahmud Yussop of Bintulu.