February 7, 2010

Hamper Queen of Miri : Madam Lim of Chop Soon Seng

Who do you go to when you need to send a gift or a hamper* ?

In Miri if you are thinking of giving someone a hamper of good quality you would only think of Madam Lim of Chop Soon Seng. She has been the Hamper Queen of Miri for the last 30 years.

Why is she given this title? Most people said that she was the first person in Miri to start making hampers from her retail shop for Chinese New Year and Hari Raya 30 or so years ago. Those were the days before the supermarkets and Ngui Kee was only making gift sets for new born babies.

She started off making about 1000 hampers for Chinese New Year at the beginning on a trial basis. Most of them were at RM30 or RM50. Business took off and more and more requests came for her services. At the height of her hamper business she was making 3000 for Chinese New Year about ten years ago. But since the coming of the supermarkets she is down to 1000 to 2000. She still has her loyal clients because they are used to her style and the quality of her goods.

Gift giving is an art in Asia. However purchasing gifts in Asia is also a very intricate activity. Trust and honesty are two qualities people look for when they want to buy hampers for their friends to wish them Happy New Year or Selamat Hari Raya. The idea of gift giving has been extended to all races in Malaysia celebrating Gawai for example  and they too  receive hampers made by Madam Lim  from well wishers. According to Madam Lim she will never short change her customers (and the people who will receive her hampers). Thus in a way she has established a good brand in Miri.

It is customary for her to let her clients know what she is packing into the hampers. Higher end hampers would have a bottle of brandy and sharks' fin and other valued items for Chinese New Year. Middle range hampers consist of goods like tinned abalone and Pacific clams and other complementary items. Most of the hampers are below RM100 actually with very good quality stuff.

Madam Lim personally wraps up the hampers for the whole month before Chinese New Year. And as the orders come in she will improve her hampers or put more stuff into the hampers that she makes. All the items are very obvious through the transparent cellophane paper she uses.

Some of the hampers she made this year consist of auspicious blown glass or crystal and semi precious stones ornaments from China. These would be displayed for Chinese New Year Open House for visitors to admire and throughout the year these Feng Shui items would bring good luck and prosperity for the business.

Auspicious words like FU or Blessings can be found on the packets of sharks' fins to add to the joy of giving and receiving of hampers. Sharks' fin is also a symbol of prestige and health. Hence during the Reunion Dinner the Sharks' Fin Soup is a must. But if you are an environmentalist you might suggest to your family to get the mock sharks' fine which tastes just as good!!

These hampers are brightly wrapped up in cellophane and tied with the auspicious red ribbons. Every basket used by her as the base of the hamper is of good quality which Madam Lim ordered from China personally. If you are sending a hamper to a new wedded couple you can put a large packet of sunflower seeds  (kua chi) or peanuts (hua sen) to wish them "sons to be born" soon. Mushrooms would signify good blessings from all directions e.g. east and west.

This is a RM1000 hamper for you to buy for your parents or parents-in-law.there is one which cost RM1888 specially ordered by a wealthy man ! If your hamper has a nien gao it is good as it is a symbol for sweetness in life...Your life in 2010 will be smooth and sweet!

Here's a hamper with as gracious ornament of Chinese Cabbage which symbolises  Get Rich (Bao Chai - means Definitely can become rich) Good Health and Long Life for the recipient. I am really amused by this. May be as I have never received a gift of blown glass white cabbage I have never become rich...Got the hint? :) :)

Abalone and tinned clams are favourites amongst the gifts. These together with others will register up to RM300 at the least. Fish is symbolic to the Chinese. So abalone here would indicate the the recipient would have a lot of food and never ending resources throughout the year. Bao means assurance and therefore abalone will provide assurance of certain wealth or prosperity to your recipient!!

A bottle of Cordon Bleu with a gold coin or a gold frog would identify the hamper's worth of RM588. Here you have a cat/tiger  which waves in gold or wealth. Very symbolic.

With lots of goodies Madam Lim will throw in some plastic Peach Blossoms to wish the recipient ever lasting love and happiness. This hamper goes for RM300.

I believe that Madam Lim has really put in a lot of effort and careful deliberation to put together hampers for her customers.

If anything goes we have plenty to learn from her. Her perseverance and business acumen have definitely brought a lot of prosperity to her family. But I would also think that her kindness and her concern for those around her have been the traits which bring her  and her family the real blessings in life!

And for the New Year I would like to send you all my Chinese readers (and my children too) cyber hampers filled with A-Z of Chinese auspicious items :  abalone+biscuits (pineapple tarts)+cabbage + dong gui + European wines + fish + gold coins+ happiness in double portions + peach blossoms and lots of peanuts+.and long life mee sua.+...and of course Nien Kao.++++++

.....Kong Hee Fatt choy......

Chinese New Year is next Sunday....so Happy Chinese New year....May God enter your life and grant you joy.
Photos by Sarawakiana using Sony Cybershot (Sunday 7th Feb 2010)

* Hamper = originally from the UK - employers used to give their employees a wicker basket of food to take home at Christmas.  The practice later extended to giving hampers of food to friends and business associates.


Anonymous said...

Wow so many beautiful hampers and styles in Miri!!

Sweet Girl.

Ah Ngao said...

careful...some stuffs are overdue one younno - i meant i came across a hamper i received years back.i thought the fella was so that nice,instead almost 70% of the stuff inside the hamper...OVERDUE!

Sarawakiana@2 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think the pictures of the hampers you've posted are the best.
everything included in it is "something" that the recipient will be
very happy to get. I'd like to get something like that for chinese
new year.... most of what the hamper queen has wrapped up has got tons
and tons of goodies.

For past two weeks the entrance of my work place/front desk has been a
drop off spot for Chinese new year hampers and most of them are very
ummm how should i say it?... well most of them say "thank you bye
bye..." I've seen just "kams" wrapped up nicely. some miniatures of
tigers and bleh... nothing edible... and i think i saw one (a very
terrible one)... i think it must have been the latest thing " a bamboo
arrangement with red ribbons... i was thinking to myself... I have not
seen any pandas at work here...

anyhoo, good posting... should do the hamper queen a favour here...


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Pretty Girl

Thanks for dropping by...and I am sure Madam Lim would be happy to know that. Happy Chinese New Year.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao

yes yes yes to your comments. I have received hampers or won some hampers with many over due stuff....sad to say that...and many others have the same complaints too..

We just need to go to people we trust in business.

Happy Chinese New Year.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Pennylane

Hope all is well with you and that you will soon have a good CNY break.. remember.don't drink and drive boh....and never rush...at all times keep cool.

Your comments are very good.

I like that...pandas at work....Bamboo is a good and auspicious item for Chinese New Year...I like tinned bamboo shoots myself..nice in making pao fillings.

Happy Chinese New Year to you and all your loved ones.

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Sarawakiana, wow! Queen of hampers! Can see she has fun too from her smiles. And her hampers look fantastic.
Can see you sure know your town and the people. Good for you.

Reading your blog experiences and memories, I not only know you one very kind and warm hearted lady, but a lady with a heart made of 22 carat gold.
Giving hampers during CNY or X'mas more an Asian experience.
Hereat most a cake or a bottle of wine.

I used to get lots of hampers, filling up our living room old days from my contractors and business associates and ha ha, everyone knowing my love of Jack Daniels and Glenfiddisch whisky as well Lucky Strike cigarettes....every hamper had them.

Here's wishing you and family Kong hei fatt choy and the very best of the Tiger Year.
Best regards, Lee.
ps, will phone you at 3am! Ha ha ha. And I only drink iced coffee, Maxwell House Rich blend. *wink*.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee

How much cheer you can generate by writing so happily!

Makes the world wake up to songs of thrush and nightingale with blue skies and exotic fragrance.....
Overseas different ways of celebrating CNY of course. A friend goes with family to park for picnic for example and then all meditate and remember parents who passed away. Very meaningful!

You are lucky to get hampers with JD and Glenfiddisch...Lucky Strikes were my dad's cigarettes...good stuff.

I will give you blown glass cabbage and abalone and nien gao and Maxwell House Coffee (250 gm) along with a nice silver ice bucket with vintage silver tongs. At the heart of the hamper will be a bottle of JD. I think now you would not need Lucky Strike....

All those hampers in the past must have brought you loads of good blessings and wealth!!

So have a nice week in which you go around cheering people up!

Anonymous said...

My boss likes to get hampers from her too. She is really trustworthy. You are very right.

This year the hampers are more expensive...so what we give is rather confidential but we know our clients will be happy. they also understand economy ada downturn sikit...may be just annual dinner for most.....

Nice post. She is always very generous and kind.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Oh ho Justin
Nice of your to visit...and nice of you to commend Madam Lim...yeah she is a warm hearted business person ...towkayneo.

The economic downturn has led many people to tighten up and make do without a lot of things. It is always good to save more....and spend less. Save for the rainy day.

God bless.

wenn said...

well, i hv also been wrapping hampers for the cny since 3 weeks ago.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Wenn
How nice to hear from you!! You must have been very busy...busy ...busy ! weeks before CNY most ladies would be busy with 1001 things...I am sure you are wrapping up lots of goodies..

Have a great prosperous Chinese New Year!!

Take care!

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