April 23, 2014

How to make your own lard Foochow style

Many years ago, when my grandmother Tiong Lien Tie, came to visit us, sometimes staying as long as a month, she would help my mother cook wonderful meals and prepare lard for us. She thought that good Foochow food must be prepared with lard.

She was a very meticulous cook and would slice the pork fat early in the morning. And then when all the breakfast was cleared and we kids were in school, she and my mother would cook the fat in a kuali slowly. It was a kind of safety at home, to prepare lard when the kids were not in the house. She did not want any one of us to be scalded by hot oil.
As the fat was cooking in the kuali, my mother and my grandmother would prepare lunch, which could be two vegetables and a soup, and another dish of fish or meat. We often had black pomfret when my grandmother was around. Mother would buy the best food for her. We loved her coming, because as my brother would say,"If grandmother is with us, we have better food."
The lard will harden and my grandmother would keep it in an enamel cup which has a lid. (It was called Nga Kii Bui, because that kind of cup was mainly used to hold the water when we brushed our teeth. If the lard was a large amount, my grandmother would keep the lard in a big enamal pot, either a green or blue one, made in China.  When placed over the Foochow Stove,this lard would keep for a long time. Somehow lard never seems to go rancid. Today of course we keep our lard in the fridge.
The best part of the lard making was the crispy residual ...which we call Yiu Char in Foochow. Today, many chefs use this to add fragrance to Hokkien Noodles, or Dian Bian Hu or even Mee Sua.

Whenever grandma made lard, she would "harvest" a lot of the yiu char which she would store in a large glass receptacle like Horlicks or Nescafe bottle. She was very good in recycling .  The bottles will keep the yiu char very crispy and they were eaten like condiments, dipped in soy bean sauce. As children we loved watching her carefully picking some of the yiu char for us from her bottle or stock!! And we were also so disciplined that we would never "steal the yiu char from the bottle". Today I would be more cheeky and pick some from the bottle, which would be very bad for my health!!

April 22, 2014

Sibu Stories : PIneapples at Bridge Road

Living in Sibu in the 1960's meant that we had many opportunities to eat plenty freshest of fruits from Kapit, Sarikei, Kanowit and even Matu Daro, as the riverine boats could bring them in, fresh from the farms within the day of harvest.

The Sarikei Pineapple, the special variety of  yellow skinned pineapples which have a conical shape, with varying sweetness, has been an iconic fruit for us in Sibu since then. Another pineapple known as Nenas Paun is a favourite amongst the Malay community. It is heavier, dark green in colour and rounder in shape. It is also good for cooking. Nowadays, a new pineapple, called the Nenas Sawit , has taken the state of Sarawak by storm.

However, Pineapple has lent its name to Sarikei where there is a  bright yellow and golden statue in the middle of the town. Sarikei  is known as Pineapple Town of Sarawak. The claim is very correct because it is still producing a lot of this pineapple. And Sibu continues to enjoy the fruit.
Photo from Sarikei Time Capsule (Thanks to Daniel Yiek)

This special fruit, the Sarikei Pineapple, today is grown in Miri at Saba Orchard amongst many other pineapple gardens in Miri and its outlying areas. But the pineapples grown here are very sweet, probably due to the alluvial soil. Those grown in peat soils are less sweet according to a pineapple expert. Hence the Saba Orchard calls it the Lambir Pines, as the soil in Lambir area is different from the soils of Sarikei, thereby creating its unique taste and texture.

The Sarikei Pineapples like all other pineapples have little flowers when they first grow.. In fact not many people have seen the pineapple flowers. Most flowers from the Sarikei/Lambir pines are lavender or purple in colour. I have to find an orange flower with my lenses.

The Sarikei/Lambir Pines have slender leaves and have more thorns than the Nenas Paun, which is a different variety.

A third variety Sarawak people enjoy in Miri are the special Nenas Sawit.

And finally, the most expenive pineapples are the Bario Pineapples which cost RM8.00 at present market price, because they air flown from Bario. This special pineapple looks like the Nenas Paun but being grown specially in the hilly soils of Bario, and is a different variety because of its texture and sweetness, it is known famously as Bario Pineapples.

But I would always remember how we had those pineapples from Sarikei at RM5 ringgit for SIX!! And the boat men would even skin and give them to us with the stump still one....those healthy teenagers with good teeth would eat them like a huge lollipop after a good game of hockey in the evening.

Pineapples are cold fruits which can even encourage miscarriage according to Chinese beliefs. Those young and newly married women a long time ago were not encouraged to eat pineapples.When menstruating Chinese girls are not allowed to eat pineapples.

The  fruit may be eaten after surgery to reduce inflammation. In fact there is some research on bromelain, purified from pineapple stem or fresh juice.." provided in the diet over six months, decreased the severity of colonic inflammation in mice with experimental colitis.[..... has some potential against cancer mechanisms "(Wikipedia)

But today, it is considered one of the best fruits in the world and is often used  as part of salads, rojak and cooking of fish and meat. Eaten on its own pineapples are awesome. When cooked, I love it in curries and even stir fried with tumeric and lots of onions!!