April 30, 2010

Fuzhou : Special Niik Yien (wantan) in Three Lanes and Seven Alleys

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.

Famous chef who is very charismatic and talented. The wantan skin is actually minced meat pounded to micro thin film with a wooden mallet. It is a very long and tedious process and it is no wonder that he has won many awards both in China and abroad!! He came to the front of the shop to welcome our group from Sibu. He is a personal friend of Mr. Huong who took us around this tourist area. Bless their hearts.

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.


M-Knight said...

look yummy... must try the wantan the next time I go to FuZhou

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi M-Knight
Nice of you to visit! Yes...visit this shop too..My photos on that day were not good and perhaps in the near future I can get the whole shop frontage photo for this posting from my friends.
Wonderful testure and taste...it is what I call Food of Loving Home.

Anonymous said...

Which 'do' of Ming Chiang did they come from? like 6, 10, or...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I am 14th Do of Ming Chiang. Are you a Foochow too?
At the present moment my relatives would be from Ging Sa or Golden Sand together with the RH Tiongs.


Anonymous said...

My grandparents were from 14 do too. But we are not Tiong. I went there in November las year. 14 do is a very nice place with nice mountains. My first question was why the grandpa left such a nice place?

We abandoned the relatives there for almost a century (probably less than 100 in our case because an old lady (wife of grandpa's cousin) of 96 years old said she knew my grandpa who left when she was around 6, and it was quite interesting when meeting up with two of the grandsons of grandpa's brother.

The next problem is I being asked to fix the grave. Indeed, the words on one of them could no longer be recognised. But I didn't really know if they were grandpa's father and grandpa or not. They could not tell me the whole family tree. May be they paid less attention to this kind of thing, although the family history book must have existed. For such an old grave, I prefer it to be kept intact.

Bengbeng said...

wow.. u went back. i dont even know where i am from. when my father passed, so did the last link with the mainland

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
Grandpa must have left because of the Manchu rule+ famine+ hopelessness+ a chance for something better in the wider world + new religion?
I have not been to 14 Do.

Yes...fixing the grave seems to be the usual "thing" to do...but the feng shui must be correct otherwise the next few generations will be in trouble....the original "place" is usually a good one. Moving it costs more money and may be more troublesome too.

We usually get requests to fix the graves...and some payments for houses etc...but now the folks are getting wealthier than us there are less requests. We also get further apart. After 7 generations we are no longer relatives so they say.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

It really depends if you want to find out....some people go tracing their relatives and find joy. Some don't wish to know.


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