March 4, 2010

Back Lanes : Chickens Sunbathing in Miri

A very interesting part of my life in Sibu was my daily cycling errands through the back lanes of the town. I would park my bicycle at a certain back lane and not on a five foot way when I went to the market. Or I would stop by a back lane to buy the first ice cream potong of Sibu. Another back lane was the Coffin Lane which frightened me but challenged many of my friends and I to cycle through the lane anyway.

Bread from one shop was also obtained from its back door. Hence we often went by that particular back lane. We could buy one day old bread at half the price. I like the ones which were baked in the round butter tins and the bottom of the bread was crispy and fragrant because of the extra butter.

And in one street there was this back lane which was " home"  to my older friend's "clothes stall". We growing girls would cycle there and get our cheap underwear from her. I remember buying my first and treasured pair of pantyhose before going to university from her. We felt comfortable buying from her and not in full view of a big and pricey Departmental store like Ngui Kee. We did not do "window" shopping then. It was more back lane shopping.

Back lanes in Sibu were pleasant where one would also find older ladies sitting on stools talking to each other.Back lanes were cool in the morning as no direct sunlight would penetrate there except the midday sun. Very huge cars could not drive through them. Today the municipal councils have made the back lanes wider and vehicles pass through them Perhaps the concept of back lanes has disappeared!

I also remember that back lanes were escape routes used by some businessmen to avoid their creditors or even their wives who would come through the front door of the shop! We used to smile at such thoughts because from the office in the belly of the shop house the businessman would be able to "sight" his adversary minutes before the latter could see him. Thus he would quickly make his exit through the backdoor leaving the secretary or accounts clerk to mind the fort.

Those were the days.

I am presenting you one set of photos featuring chickens sunbathing in a back lane in Miri during the Chinese New Year when orders were overflowing and the vendors have no more room in the shop to hang their drying chickens before roasting them in the aluminum furnace/roaster.

Chickens skirting around the furnace/roaster before they are roasted.

Every time I see chickens hanging out like this I hum this little tune to myself...."hang down your head Tom Chicken.....(Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley)

A non-Chinese helper preparing chicken feet - a great favourite of many customers.

While most people believe that our service industries are Chinese or Malay owned we have to take into consideration the great support provided by the indigenous people who chop and cut; wash and clean; and wait at the tables .

Many Chinese eateries can remain open because their indigenous staff do not take leave for the Chinese New Year holidays. We also like the friendly attitudes these helpers have. They are cheerful and have their own peculiar sense of humour. For me I would give them a high mark because they are quick in their feet and are willing to run for anything we ask for. They do not throw chopsticks and the soya sauce dish on the table.

Country Chicken Rice in Miri continues to provide very good  and reasonably priced chicken rice with a smile.

I like this : "Madam! Roasted or Poached?"Mine is always the poached chicken rice.


Free Bird said...

The chickens look like burlesque dancers in a row. And that's a very good picture of the chopping board.

Although some people may assume that putting these chickens lined up for their turns to be chopped and served might be dirty, I think only in sarawak it is safe to say, its still clean.

Backlanes here usually is associated with something of a different matter.

I'm so glad to see that most natives are given jobs. they're always ever so gentle and good hearted. I've had some servers throw my noodles and chopsticks at me before, not a very pleasant experience, my precious kampua hit the table. and luckily i managed to capture one rouge wan tan trying to escape my evil clutches of hungry.

over here in West Malaysia quite often you'll find natives from Sarawak. out of good will, I'll usually give them some extra money(not much but i see much appreciated) and tell them its from home.

Anonymous said...

wah.. i like chicken.. mkanan kat sibu memang sedap belaka.. XPP dimsum saya beli kat pasar malam 10 biji rm2.0 tapi kat sini hampir rm10.00

Anonymous said...


I've been following your blog entries and i've been waiting for one like this... well, food places like this often serves the best tasting chicken rice... and best of all generous portions. if you go to foodcourts they'd give you a miserable portion.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Freebird
Excellent/impeccable English. Must remember all your English teachers and books which you have read.

Yes it is good to be courteous to people who give us services. Tips are not really expected in Malaysia but it is indeed a good gesture to say "keep the change".

Thanks for commenting. Rogue wantan indeed!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Freebird....oho...I am not as naive as many others...I know the backlane activities of another world...hahahahah

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Thanks for visiting!! Sedap nya nasi ayam....sundried chicken and then roasted crispy.... and sun dried tomatoes are my favourite ...

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Thanks for can get a great deal of satisfaction from some unexpected corners of our environment....for me taking photos of out of the way places and extraordinary food give me a great deal of peace.....


Anonymous said...

This is a good and cheap place for my family to have a quick lunch....
My choice of chicken - roasted...and if only the soup is kasam would be nice...Still RM2.50.

the owner speaks English.


Ah Ngao said...

i came across this also,behind a restaurant and i noticed that, there's no flies flying around these chickend.why ho ? is it that of the hot sun or is it that,these chicken are wipe with seasoning or ngo hian hoon ?

nnc said...

..them creditors not too smart, they shouild come from the back too ;)

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, another great posting. Ha ha, love your back lanes....they're always interesting to look around.
And that roasting of chickens, looks hi-tech too.
But I will take a pass with 'chicken feet'....though my wife loves it.
You have fun, and keep well, best regards, Lee.

Ann said...

Hi CY,

In Cantonese, we call the back lanes, HONG ZAI, small road???

Any way, I remember it was more to the side of the block of shophouses along Channel road, my father's distant cousin's husband sold bras and female underwear and of course the Kotex. We felt embarassed, but he seemed to have earned enough money to support his family.

My friend who owns a coffee shop cum restaurant in Binatang told me by drying the chicken, they become very crispy. I went home and told my mum, she tried and the chicken was covered with flies, she got us to jaga the chicken, and my Dad vetoed her, and threw the chicken away. She never made a crispy chicken LOL

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ya hooooo. If only the soup kosong has a bit of kasam ensabi and some chicken feet. It would be value added.

Thanks for dropping by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao...
I must be observant next time...why no flies? Interesting. Must try the ngo hiang hoon.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

The creditors cannot come from the back because the towkay has the only key to the back door!!
I remember one towkay neo said she must be the one taking control of the back door key....there was a big fight after that. But she won...PEACE reigned. but I am sure he had other ideas.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Uncle Lee
Chicken feet is acquired taste!
Back lanes have plenty of stories to tell...

cheers. You have a good weekend too..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

You are right.
In Sibu there were side lanes and back lanes. The side lanes were those in between the block. The back lanes were formed by the blocks back to back. Channel road has wider back lanes so many smaller shops start to spring up from the kitchen area of the shops and extend to the lanes.
the side lanes grew when the shops opened up its wall to face the lane ..thus having two open walls..and more space.
One of the most famous Kompia shops in Sibu is a back lane enterprise.
I have often worried about flies when drying my duck and my chicken in the sun...I end drying chicken in the kitchen only and using a fan..not under the sun.
Actually my friend also became very rich. Her husband now owns a fleet of lorries!!

Sunflower said...

I have seen this before. Memories again. Crispy fried chicken and rice with chilli sauce, yum yum.

If this is in England, people will freak. The health officer will be homing on you in no time. Not just the hygiene aspect, people here are paranoid with chicken and salmonella.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Chicken drying in the sun is a large part of my childhood and girl-hood. I always admire the Hainanese who make such beautiful chicken rice. And their chili sauce is just so good that I need two portions on top of my rice!! is indeed yum yum.

May be our stomachs are stronger... but we really need to be careful where salmonella is concerned....

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