October 30, 2009

Kadok - wild betel leaves


Top photo: Miang Kham in a Thai restaurant.
Middle photo: This is my potted kadok with its luxuriant leaves.
Another serving of mian kham. Always order a platter of this when you visit a Thai restaurant.

Daun Kadok
Some time ago I discovered a small plant growing rather happily in my garden. At first I thought (very happily) that it was a sireh growing. I had thought of growing a garden full of kampong plants and lots of herbs too would be a good hobby but with six dogs it would be an impossible task.

However at a closer look and also checking with a friend the quick growing and quick spreading plant  is Daun Kadok. Now I have two good pots of it growing. One day I must organise a Thai Dinner for my friends starting with Miang Kham which requires daun kadok. My son who was then studying in KL first introduced me to this tasty snack when he took me to a lovely Thai restaurant in KL.

This plant, known as Daun Kadok in Malaysia, is often mistaken for its cousin Piper betel leaf plant. Daun Kadok is very popular and more widely used. Piper sarmentosum is often made into drink to relieve the symptoms of malaria. The roots could be chewed to stop toothaches. A portion made from its roots is said to be diuretic. The drink has also been known to be effective in treating coughs, flu, rheumatism, pleurosy and lumbago. daun kadok.jpg (10667 bytes)

Source: Malaysian Timber Council, Various Issues

Kadok is part of Miang Kham a tasty appetizer or snack from Northern Thailand.

Miang kam consists of fresh Piper sarmentosum or cha plu (ช้าพลู) leaves that are filled with some roasted coconut shavings and few small pieces of the following ingredients:

* Purple onion
* Fresh red or green chilli pepper
* Ginger
* Garlic
* Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) with its peel

Also one or two of the following items are added in each leaf:

* Roasted peanuts
* Dry small shrimp

After filling the leaf, a little coconut palm syrup containing Thai fish sauce (naam plaa) is poured on top. Then the leaf is folded and eaten whole. The origin of the name is in "eating many things in one bite"; from "miang" (เมี่ยง), meaning "food wrapped in leaves", and "kham" (คำ), "a bite".


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

October 29, 2009

Wild Yellow Flowers (daun long)



the leaves can be used for wrapping food. These flowers are pretty and come out in a very nice yellow shade.

found in secondary jungles where moisture is plentiful this plant has become quite a good garden plant today.

Perhaps someone has already been researching on its medicinal properties.

October 28, 2009

Yellow and White Flowers


This shrub is growing just outside my yard. I asked one gardener about this plant and he told me that the leaves can be used as part of a very delicious soup made by the local people.

I find the flowers very lovely and they bloom very often. The flowers are yellow and white which is unusual where blooms are concerned. And you can see it very obviously in the photos.

The Ibans also claim that the small fruits are very edible. Again these little fruits are used in stir fry with other vegetables like sweet young corn.

I haven't tried them myself.

October 27, 2009

Making my own Cat's Ears (Mao Er Duo)

Shanxi's stir fried cat's ears.                                              Neil Perry's Cat's Ears (Sydney)

The week end saw my cousin visiting me. My cousin received her tertiary education in Taiwan and I thought I would like to impress her with my own home made Cat's Ears - a popular homemade pasta usually made by Taiwanese housewives.

Well I did have some flour and one egg. So I took one egg and about 6 tablespoons of good flour and mixed the dough well with a little salt and water.

I left the dough to prove for a while and then together my cousin and I rolled out the dough and made little rectangles and then pinched them into little cat's ear shaped pasta.

We made enough of the pasta and then prepared a soup with dried mushrooms and some minced pork and onions. To give the soup the best taste possible I added my mother's Singapore bought Foochow Fishballs!!

Well - you can guess right - the Cat's Ears tasted really good. My cousin decided that she would go back and impress her mother with the newly learnt recipe.

(Secret: always keep real pepper and chicken stock in the freezer for good soup dishes!!)

Looked up the Internet for a more sophisticated recipe and look what I have found for you!

Neil Perry: Cat’s ear noodles with peppers and chilli sauce


Serves 4

Cooking Time Prep time 15 mins, cook 35 mins


50 ml peanut oil
180 gm pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and sinew, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce
¼ each red and green capsicum, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed in a mortar and pestle
10 ml Shaoxing wine/Foochow red wine
50 ml chicken stock
10 ml light soy sauce
5 ml each sesame oil and chilli oil
Cat’s ear noodles
140 gm (about 1 small) desiree ( or any type)  potato, scrubbed
80 gm plain flour


1 For cat’s ear noodles, steam potato until very tender (20-25 minutes), then when cool enough to handle, peel. Mash until smooth, add flour, mix to a soft dough, then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Using a pasta machine with rollers at widest setting, feed dough through rollers, folding and reducing settings notch by notch until dough is 2mm thick, then cut into 1cm x 4cm lengths. Blanch in boiling salted water until glossy (30 seconds-1 minute), drain and refresh. Drain again, drizzle with a little peanut oil, stir to coat and set aside.
2 Heat a wok over high heat until smoking, add peanut oil, then pork, and stir-fry until pork starts to brown (3-5 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add chilli bean sauce to wok, stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds-1 minute), add capsicum and garlic and toss for 30 seconds. Deglaze with Shaoxing wine, add chicken stock, soy sauce and oils and bring quickly to the boil. Add noodles and warm through, add reserved pork and simmer until sauce is reduced to a glaze (1-2 minutes). Serve immediately.


RECIPE Neil Perry and Andy Evans PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Chen STYLING Emma Knowles

October 26, 2009

Sibu News : TV programme on Sibu






Great news to those who are interested in Sibu : Sibu will be featured in an ASTRO- TV programme. A TV company from West Malaysia has just completed their project filming on Sibu and its people. This is different from the TV programme which was made sometime ago on Foochow dialect (as spoken in Sibu).

The programme will be aired in November . Starting 29/11 and ending just before Chinese New Year the programme called Story of East Malaysia has been timed at 9 p.m. on AEC. Hope my readers will take note of it and enjoy the unique programme.

Sibu wharves (third photo) are very interesting places to watch. Here different races work together and a smattering of languages can be heard: local Malay- Iban- Foochow- Hokkien - all mixed up but the people all lend a hand. Here you see pure muscles of mixed races trying to move a tank of gasoline unto a "River Supermarket".




The group (including my friend Meng Lei) were treated to a seafood lunch at Blue Splendour Sibu by Datuk Tiong Kiong King a local business man.



Look out at this space if you are interested in the details....Coming Soon.

News and Photos by Wong Meng Lei (Rajang Basin).

October 25, 2009

Sibu News : Rev Dr. Su Chii Ann Receives Datu-ship

Rev.Dr. Su Chii Ann the President of the Methodist  Chinese Churches of Sarawak was conferred a Datu-ship by the TYT of Sarawak in conjunction with his 88th birthday held recently in Bintulu Sarawak.
This is indeed a recognition of the work contributed by Rev Dr. Su to Sarawak in general and to the Methodist community in particular.
Congatulations again Rev. Dr. Su!!

October 23, 2009

Buah Ma or Pulasan




A small tree but it is producing good number of fruits for the family. Three of these trees are fruiting in the garden. Just nice for family consumption.



The fruits turn out to be crunchy . Really easy to bite - and nothing will stick between the teeth so to speak. Ny watch is there. Unfortunately the photo is over exposed because of the midday sun.



Very sweet and big buah ma is a favourite fruit amongst the Ibans. Most of the buah ma sold in towns like Sibu are on the sour and softer side. They also do not peel off easily from the seed. The seeds of these buah ma happen to be very small. So the people who sold the seedlings were actually truthful and honest.

A favourite of wild boars this fruit when in season can attract a whole bunch of these wild animals from as far as Indonesida. Some wild boars have been known to swim across a river as big as the Rajang to eat the fruits.

But with wild fruits diminishing together with the thick equatorial rainforest due to over lumbering the migration of wild boars has become a thing of the past.

Today most buah ma are grown in small family plots and are from grafted seedlings. To me they taste better than the wild jungle fruit of yesteryears.

October 22, 2009

Lemba - Sweet Desserts for the Indigenous Children of Yesteryears








Indigenous children look for these little fruitlets when they need to sweet break - the little budlets or fruitlets are similar to the popular dragon fruit. But it is really tiny.

Many people our age did not know manufactured sweets when they were young. Sugar came to their lives only when the Chinese businessmen opened shop in the Ulu )rural areas) of Sarawak.

Can you remember your first sweet?

The Lemba was the first sweet many of our older Iban and Orang Ulu friends.

October 20, 2009

Former Principal of Rajang Teachers' College visiting Miri


Pastor Lau was one of the earliest local- born and American trained teacher educators. He was to become the first local born Chinese Principal of Rajang Teachers' College and then Batu Lintang College. He thus holds many "firsts" as a Foochow teacher trainer in Malaysia. But being the humble man that he is he says that he cannot remember many of his records. In this photo he is with Margaret Lee one of his earliest teacher trainees from Rajang in 1965. Also in the photo is Goh Kwong Ging from Methodist School Sibu.




Mrs. Lau knows Dr. Rita from the time she was a child in Kapit. They have provided a second home for Rita when she was working in Kuching and they been communicating with each other even when the Laus moved over to the US. Dr. Rita is the daughter of one of the first Indonesian missionaries to Sarawak Rev. Manurung who served for many years in Kapit.



Pastor and Mrs. Lau.


A few weeks ago I was asked if I could remember Pastor and Mrs. Lau Kuoh Ding who would be coming to Miri for a Senior Citizens' Retreat.

I not only remember them as our new teachers in the early sixties but how can any one forget the trained voice of beautiful young American educated bride from Penang? They did not teach my class to our great disappointment but the younger ones. However the young couple stayed only for a few months and left. But from time to time through the grapevine I heard of them. And that has been like forty or so years.

We emailed each other and then I waited for their arrival in Miri.

Pastor Lau is the son of the late Pastor Lau Hung Ang who was ministering to many churches all over the Rajang Valley in the early 50's and 60's and who spent the whole of his life serving God in Sarawak. Pastor Lau and his siblings were born in "24 acres"(a rubber tapping community or kampong) where they knew poverty and how to get by with the little they had but they were rich in faith. His father took care of six children with a meagre salary of $280.00. And today all his children are doing extremely well . Pastor Lau and his wife attributed all these to God's blessings.

Pastor Lau had in fact to earn his own pocket money while a secondary school student in Kai Chung before the Second World War. He became the assistant cook in the hostel at a very tender age but it was the only way for him to earn some pocket money and perhaps even pay his way through school. While there he came to know many people including my aunts and many of the leading personalities of Sibu community. After the war Pastor took up English education in Methodist School Sibu. Upon completion of his education he went to the US to take up his degree course.

It was in the US that he met his future bride Miss Lilik Lee. Lilick's sister was to meet and marry the future Bishop Hwa Yung of Malaysia.

In many ways the history of these two wonderful people read like a novel.

How their fates twisted and turned. How the political changes and situation of the state of Sarawak turned their uncomfortable positions in the Education Department to great personal fortune. How the events in their lives finally led them to settle in the US(Atlanta) where they brought up three sons (two pilots and one doctor) and where they spent the best of their years contributing to world music and Methodism.

Forty years later they could fly from Atlanta USA to be with senior citizens:the senior citizen retreat was short of one speaker. They had no plans. Their son a pilot (Northwestern Airlines)has family benefits for them to travel almost free to Sarawak which is almost half a world away. Their son was about to have a school reunion with his Primary Six classmates in Kuching. Would the parents like to travel too? The Unseen Hands at work?

They have personally testified to the senior citizens at the senior retreat  that God has provided them more than abundantly and their prayer life has brought them to where they are today. As one of three speakers besides Rev. Dr. Su Chii Ann and Rev Hii at the retreat. He shared with the other senior citizens how to live abundantly during their Golden Years and how as senior citizens he and his wife are still serving the world stage in different capacities as short term missionaries and "teachers".

On Sunday they visited and worshipped at my church - Grace Methodist Church Miri. It was an honour for the church to receive a second generation pastor with surname Lau. In fact it is now the call of the Methodist Church of Malaysia for more pastors in one's family.

Trust in God for God knows the end even from the beginning.

We hope that they will be here for another retreat next year.

October 19, 2009

Serai Wangi

Serai wangi has been around for a long time.


But not many people until very recently know that it can be a good mosquito repellent. Planted in masny of my friends' tropical gardens serai wangi can give out an exotic fragrance which I really like . It is not intoxicating to me as it is gentle and soft and in fact it can be really subtle if you don't pay too much attention to it.

A friend claims that it gives her a big headache. But she can wear POISON and doesn't teel the scent overwhelming. I use a teeny drop of lavender scented water just to feel fresh and absolutely feminine. But again once a friend did say that I remind her of her mother's nyonya clothes. Well well...there is no rationale in one's liking for smells. Mark and Spencer's China Blue talcum powder can make feel as confident as if I were wearing Estee Lauder's White Linen.

I know for myself that I only have to smell lavender and I would just be so happy with everything around me.

Serai wangi is like lavender. It has that natural scent that is around you all the time to a strange haunting degree. And then you can bring the scent in your head away.

You can pull a few stems up clean them and cut them into small pieces and place them in your kitchen to enjoy the scent. This was what I did last weekend.




Most of my friends are now growing their own serai wangi in their gardens now.....

More notes:

Serai Wangi Products may now be available throughout Malaysia.

Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) is like our local lemon grass but instead it has red base stems. Its citronella oil is used in soaps, as an insect repellent in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy, which is famous in Bintan, Indonesia. The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, in tea and as a flavoring.

Lemon Grass Oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts found in India as a preservative. It is used at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage in Kerala and many other manuscript collections in India. The lemon grass oil also injects natural fluidity into the brittle palm leaves and the hydrophobic nature of the oil keeps the manuscripts dry so that the text is not lost to decay due to humidity.

Sources :
a. Lam Peng Sam
New Straits Times
05-01-2004
b. wikipedia

October 18, 2009

Methodist Book Room in Miri

The Methodist Book Room has a long history - and it can claim to be the oldest bookshop in Sibu as it was established more than 60 years ago by Rev. Ling Kai Cheng. The Book Room stood at a very prominent site at that time and today it is even more "distinguished" in its refurbished new look. It is a not to be missed building on Island Road.

To many of us this Book Room would bring a lot of good memories. Recently the Book Room travelled from Sibu to Miri for the Senior Citizen Retreat. Three young people from Sibu set up a stall in Mega Hotel to sell some of its best products.

Here is one plaque that is very meaningful and treasured:



Translation "Chist is the Head of my Family"

This is a plaque that hangs over many living rooms of Methodist homes. I strongly believe that it is this guiding principle that helps many of the Methodist families to do exceedingly well in life. Today you can see hundreds of Methodists leading in local and international industries and other professions. So many of them can testify to the belief that they let God take the lead.


How would a man earning RM280 in 1962 with 6 children become so successful today? How would a man who was only a rubber tapper become a man of great wealth today? And how would a man who had just stepped off the boat from China become one of the largest land owners in Sibu?





I used to spend time going through the various items in the Book Room in Sibu when I was young. My grand aunt Yuk Ging lived in a Church flat behind this Book Room. She was a young widow and a kindergarten teacher but she was really the one who helped me take the first steps towards reading. She and I would spend time in the Book Room while we waited for my father to pick me up. And she always encouraged me to pick up their free Bible tracts to read. Perhaps that was how I became so attached to words and beautiful pictures.

Holy words get imprinted on our hearts and would never be easily removed.

Three Former Methodist School Teachers



In 1963-64 Mr. Wong Liong Do was teaching science in Methodist School Sibu before he left for further studies. It was at that time that he met new fellow teachers Rev. Lau Kuoh Ding and Mrs. Lilick Lau (music teacher)who had just arrived from the United States. I think Rev Lau was the first Chinese who had an American crew cut in Sibu at that time. It was quite a sight to behold.

I was in Form Three then. Mr. Wong took many of us swimming at the Lanang Road Swimming Pool. The pool was also full of Gurkha and British soldiers at that time. But many of our school swimmers became good swimmers and represented Sibu . I think ever since then Sibu swimmers became a formidable team in Sarawak if not in Malaysia.

Even though Pastor Lau and Mrs. lau did not teach me (new teachers did not teach graduating classes I suppose) I was terribly impressed by them. My classmates were also vey impressed by Mrs. Lau's fantastic voice.

In later years I was not able to study in the United States like them and many of my schoolmates. It is to be one of my life's disapointment. I went to MU on scholarship and how my life was changed by it.

These three teachers met so surprisingly at Mega Hotel on 16th Oct 2009. Pastor Lau was one of the main speakers of the conference and Mr.Wong Liong Do - one of the committee members and participants.

A lovely senior citizens gathering.

(As students we never drop the Mr. and Mrs. for our teachers for life!)

Mrs. Lau Pang Huai and Mrs.Lau Pang Sing



I met two ladies who became brides of Nang Chong Foochow men after the Second World War.

First story - the lady on the left in the photo:

Mrs. Lau Pang Huai is a retired primary school teacher and she has taught in Kapit and Kanowit Chinese Primary Schools. She married my mother's cousin Lau Pang Huai who was also a Chinese Primary School teacher.

They have an extra ordinary life as primary school teachers having lived through colonial system and pre-Malaysian period and post Malaysia period. Both of them had to be comfortable with a little English they acquired almost by force and the Chinese they learned before and after the Japanese Occupation. How they managed was a miracle indeed. It was their love for teaching and their love for the next generation that they continued to serve as teachers even during the turbulent communist days.

With Chinese school salary as small as 60 dollars they toiled every day.

While serving under the Malaysian government after 1963 the husband and wife managed to be retrained by the government and they continued to teach until they retire with a slightly higher salary from the government.

During the recent senior citizen conference Mrs. Lau Pang Huai gave a harmonica presentation.

Second story : lady on the right:

On the other hand my third aunt (married to my mother's brother Lau Pang Sing) was a town girl (born in Bukit Assek in Ka Koh Chuo) who moved downstream so to speak to marry a rubber tapping pig rearing and wharf labourer who lost out in education because his fate was dealt with a rough blow at a young age by war. Under occupied Sarawak my young uncle did not have a chance to go to school and his education was barely three years of school before the war. Almost traumatised by the Japanese my uncle became very timid and shy and was not a man of strong opinions. He was fortunate to have my aunt as wife as she shouldered most of the decision making and management of the family. Under her capable hands she managed the large household while my uncle brought back the proverbial bacon.

My aunt Wong Nguk Ling worked very hard as a housewife and together with my uncle saved what they could while supporting my grandmother as they had become quite impoverished due to the fall in rubber prices and land value (communist impact). They planted padi and oranges and limes tapped rubber and reared pigs like every one else in the Rajang River basin after the war.

Then all of a sudden the political situation began to change. The Nang Chong villages were too unsafe for rubber tapping and rice farming was even a thing of the past. Animal rearing was getting more difficult because of transportation costs . The final crunch came when the land started to be washed away by the powerful expresses running along the Rajang River.

Finally my aunt and uncle had to abandon their piece of land which my grandfather pioneered in the 1910's and left Nang Chong for good. They moved to Lucky Road Sibu and establish once more a household. Today her children are successful beyond their own dreams. Lau Bui is a wealthy road building contractor.

Their Rural urban migration is only one of the thousands of stories from Nang Chong and the Rajang: interrupted lives- interrupted education - short changed businesses and enterprises - adversities - poor water supply - no electricity supply and so many trials and tribulations.

But these two ladies have kept their faith and are now enjoying their golden years worshipping together and enjoying fellowship.

I am glad I shared some part my youth with them.

Uncles and Cousins have similar physical features!



Uncle Lau Pang Hung (son of Kang Chu Lau Kah Tii) and Aunt (Meng Lei's aunt)


Cousin Lau Kiing Mew - organising chairman of the Methodist Senior Citizen Conference 2009

Two cousins : Tang Chok Ming (Maternal grandson of Lau Kah Tii) and Lau Kiing Mew (first cousin to Chok Ming )


Tang Chok Ming (cousin) a who sacrificed his whole life as a humble Chinese school teacher.

Don't you think they have similar looks? Furthermore when they speak they actually sound exactly the same. Sometimes I have to double check when they call me up. And I ask in Foochow " Turng nerng oh...siang yin suoh hor li...." And of course there would be a loud Foochow laugh on the other side of the line.


They have the same strong faith in God laid down by the pioneering Foochow fathers. With lots of life long experience they also display great management skills which I think come quite naturally from this group of close knit community.

100 years after the first landing of the Foochows in Sg. Merah the third and fourth generations have gathered together for a senior citizen conference in Miri. Every year for the last ten years there has been such a Senior Citizen Conference which aims to gather together as many of the Methodist descendants and new faithfuls as possible The conference participants were dressed up - the organising committee members were smart and glamorous in their blink bow ties and name tags and suits.

Although fashion trends have changed the outward looks of the Foochows this group of people are in many ways the same : warm hearted-generous-helpful - and God fearing.

Sarawakian Local Delights : Tapioca (Ubi Kayu)

Ubi kayu or tapioca used to be one of the cheapest snacks Sarawakians could have. Tapioca is easily grown wherever farmers grow their p...