August 18, 2014

Sibu Tales : Hock Leong Hin

Two Stories in this blog POST.

My father's story associated with Hock Leong Hin.

My father was a good photographer. He had a great love for nature and for faces of people. Sometimes he would even draw faces using pencils on his art block. He was self taught in art.

And he left behind some great black and white photos of friends, relatives, scenery and historic occasions. He did think about writing books but he never got around to doing that as he died rather young. Many people said that he wasted his life's education, a degree in journalism, by working first for his father, my paternal grandfather, making bricks and then later for himself as a quarry man exploding rocks to make stones with a simple machinery he purchased from Singapore. He personally believed that making a living was just doing something simple and earning enough honestly to raise a family. He spent a lot of his time reading books and reflecting on what he had read. He read Bertrand Russel and he loved to read Lin Yutang's books. He was a voracious reader of magazines, which he subscribed . One of them was Spring Autumn, a Chinese literary magazine.

He was no entrepreneur although he had a lot of ideas. Some people asked him to get  licenses for them from the then colonial government because my father was on very friendly and speaking (my father was English educated) terms with the British officers. They brought a huge chicken as a gift. He asked them to bring the chicken home. That was the end of their business with my father.

But one thing most relatives thought he was good at, and that was looking for names for new born babies. He helped name many children of his brothers, relatives and friends. And of course his children. Mum used to say that my father found it very amusing to have babies named after flowers or animals. He would think of incredibly beautiful Chinese words and then have their pinyin written on paper for those who came to ask him for advice. In that way, these fathers would not make a mistake in applying for birth certificates for their children.

My father's best friend was a Mr. Wong, who married the pretty daughter of Hock Leong Hin towkay. He was , like my father, a graduate from China. My father was horrified that he named his two daughters Khing (gas) and Tern (copper)

Dad told my mother that he was not very happy with his best friend and the way he named his daughters. But then my mother and Mrs. Wong were fairly sporting. Khing could sound like  musical instrument, and Tern could mean precious.

In relation to this, I am sharing an amazing Naming story as told by Dr. Tang Sie Hin which he shared on FACEBOOK recently.

Dr. Tang Sie Hing was a former student of the Methodist Secondary School and he is now a Senior Consultant Interventaional Cardiologist, Physician at Timberland Medical Centre, Kuching. He is Director and Cardiologist at S.H.Tang Heart and Arrhythmia Centre and at Premier Heartcare Sdn Bhd.

An old photo of Sibu inspired him to tell how he at the age of 8 only helped his mother name his new born baby brother.
Dr. Tang wrote on Facebook :
"This photo (with added labels by me) showed the shop "Hock Leong Hin" "福隆興“ in Sibu Blacksmith Road (opposite the Standard Chartered Bank) during the old days.

My eldest brother Sie Hock (世福) was born in 1966 then came my sister in 1967 and then I, Sie Hing (世興)was born in 1969. My youngest brother was born in 1977, thus making him 8 years younger than I.

In those days, there was no ultrasound to check the gender of the foetus. So parents did not know for sure what names to prepare for their new child. We only knew that we had a new baby brother when my gave birth at 劉鳳妃 Maternity Home. 

Immediately we started searching for a boy's name. Some how I remembered the shop called "福隆興“,  I reasoned with my mother saying that my elder brother's name is 福 (Hock), I am  興 (Hing) ; so I asked my mum to name our  little brother 世“隆”(Sie Lung). It was just as simple as that  and that's how his name came about. 

Recently I went back to Sibu during the Hari Raya  break but I noticed the shop with this name was no longer there.

But  fondly remember the name of the shop which inspired me to name my youngest sibling."

What a marvellous naming story.

August 13, 2014

Ikan Toman

Ikan Toman or Ikan Haruan, a type of fresh water snakehead fish is highly valued for medicinal benefits.

Many Malaysian companies are producing Pati Ikan Haruan or Fish Essence, similar to Brand's Essence of Chicken to help people who after surgery require a speedy recovery. Wounds seem to heal faster when the patients drink soup made from this fish. At one time the price of this fish soared up to RM40 a kg in Miri. Today the price has stablished a little, hovering around 18 a kg for the larger species.

Ikan Toman actually can be found in fresh water streams all over Sarawak. The most popular streams being the drains of the rubber gardens and the padi fields.

During padi planting seasons the farmers often trap this fish for their dinner. According to an Iban legend, ikan toman can even be found in a hollow of trees which can trap water for a long time!! This is to tell the Ibans that nature has a wonderful way of rewarding the good people.

There are many ways of cooking it. Steamed, or even double steamed  with ginger and a bit of good wine, would give one the purest nourishing clear soup for healing of wounds. Deep fried, the toman is tasty. Toman can be salted or kesamed. It can also be cooked in bamboo with ginger, lemon grass and wild bamboo shoots. It can be roasted over a fire, occasionally wrapped in any kind of leaves, especially banana leaves. It can also be curried. A very versatile ULU fish. One day it will become an endangered species.

So I have been wondering if hunters, fishermen and farmers have ever found ikan toman in the hollows of trees.