1118 Foochows led by Wong Nai Siong came in three batches in 1901 to settle in Sibu. What were their thoughts? Even though they were leaving a great land impoverished by Manchu rule and even though they had been ravaged by famine and starvation the greens and the water of the Rajang must have seemed more a paradise than a impossible unbreakable jungle.
Would they have thought that they had jumped from a frying pan to a fire?
110 years have passed. Today 1118 stars have been embedded in the Wong Nai Siong Memorial Garden in Sibu to represent each one of them. Both my paternal and maternal grandfathers had a star each. As a young but keen listener their stories and their lessons made imprints in my mind - imprints of the food and of the humble homes that they left behind in China. My parents themselves had never been to Ming Chiang to see for themselves. Now I am in my senior years I am able to go to Fuzhou alas as a mere tourist-researcher of a different nationalisty even - not to return home (or tuon Dong San). Although I still speak the fossilised version of Ming Chiang Wah (my grandparents' accent) my Mandarin is only passable as I have been like my uncles and aunts educated in English.
When meeting face to face with any mainland Fuzhou or Chinese I had that kind of stranger's fear in my eyes!! We are similar in our blood and yet we are thousands of miles apart.
Even when taken to a "wantan shop" I was surprised that their Niik Yien was not what I thought to be - its making - its texture - and its taste although we were prepared by Mr. Huong that what we were about to eat was different from the Nanyang fare.
My Foochow forefathers must have missed their Niik Yien during the early days of the Sibu settlement. Did they miss the taste as much as I would miss steamed Foochow Red Wine kampong chicken when I was in England? Did they miss hearing the pounding of the wooden mallet on the chef's block during a festival like I missed hearing my mother's Chinese cleaver chopping on her ting peng? I know my maternal grandmother used to tell us that she missed the bamboo clapper and the Foochow songs . She missed the telling of the time when the "watch man" went around striking the LOH for the "watch" or every three hours.
For those who have not read up or who have not heard stories about this dish it would be an interesting study. Eating it is another matter in Fuzhou.
You will be so surpised that this is NOT wantan or wonton or Yun Tuan or bian niik! The skin or wrapper is entirely out of this world tasty. It makes all the difference. It was like a great gastronomical discovery.
This is a bowl of Niik Yien - very different from the wantan that we have in Malaysia. So please have a few bowls of this wonderful Niik Yien in Fuzhou City....
The poster says it all in Chinese - Old brand and award winning business.
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If you are told that this is the kuih or snack that an Iban would be homesick for please believe him or her. Simply made from all ingredie...
The Foochow Wedding Banquet of yesteryears would always include a plate of Man Chiew Ko at the end. When I was young I thought that eating...