The Foochows have always been expert cooks of seafood. Min Cuisine is acknowledged for several world famous dishes made from fresh oysters and sea eels (muang ngii) and fresh water eels (lou chiang).
This post is dedicated to my mother who has always been thrifty in her cooking. We do not necessarily remember the sharks' fin we occasionaly had but we remember the tasty home cooked soups and stir fries using very simple traditional ingredients like salted eel bones and old cucumber especially.
Growing up in Sibu in particular my siblings and I loved salted muang ngii (eel) and we would buy them from our very own relatives (Clement Tiong Tung Ung's father) who were salt fishmongers - this helped to keep our family budget down and we saved for our education. How grateful we are to our self sacrificing mother who was already a widow at 40 years of age.
Salted muang ngii and especially the bones make a very good stock for old cucumber soup amongst others. During the wet season we would have lots of old cucumber and muang ngii bone soup. It was often just that one dish with rice for our family and it was a really feel good dinner. Today this soup is almost forgotten by the Foochows of Sarawak but not by me.
It was in Pingnan that I came face to face with the fish traps my maternal grandmother used to talk about. These are small rattan (now plastic) fish traps very similar to the Sarawak Iban's bubu. The small fresh water eels (lou chiang) will swim into the traps and won't be able to come out again.
This is Min Cuisine (fujian cuisine). This sea eel(or muang ngii) is filleted and all the bones taken out. Marinated in red wine lees (ang chow) for many hours the eel is then fried crispy . At home we also do it this style. Sea eels are easily available in Miri and Sibu.
Smoked unagi - is the Japanese way of preparing eels. I like Japanese unagi too. The Foochows call them muang ngii (if caught in the sea) or lou chiang (if caught in the padi fields) Lou chiang are slippery and hard to clean. It takes a good cook to prepare it well. A real delicacy!! I understand from some sources that today one can buy tinned lou chiang from Fujian.
These are ugly looking eels still in their rattan traps.
Fresh water eels are sliced and cooked quickly in a bowl of soup with noodles. Many Foochows in Sarawak have forgotten this dish.
The Taiwanese also love eels. Steamed herbal eels are very delicious and delicate. They are considered medicinal to many Chinese not only the Foochows.
(P/s when my children come home next I will cook the old cucumber with muang ngii bones so that we would all remember our grandmothers....stay tuned!!)