September 30, 2010

Even traditional kuih moulds can become tourist attractions!!

To all who love Ang Koo Kueh!!

Here's a quiz....where do you think this photo was taken?

Prize : 10 Ang Koos from Sibu.

Answer : Three beautiful ang koo kuih moulds - bigger than men!! standing tall in a pedestrian mall in Xiamen...along the Chong Shan Road.....

September 29, 2010

Crispy Pork Skin

When you are having your day off what would you do?

chuck's day off - a show which I enjoy - shows us what we can do to help terms of cooking great food.

this guy who owns a stall in the Central Market of Miri brings in pork fat from his butcher friends and deep fry get these crispy pork skin and fat...they are called Yiu Char...and when chopped into small little pieces or crumbles they give the special umph to Hokkien Mee and other noodles...and added to the top of char kueh tiau the plate of the CKT becomes ultra fragrant....

In Manchester I once bought a few packets of these...manufactured in England and full of Aji no moto and salt!! But tasty and crunchy.

More crunchy goodness.....

Today fewer people make their own at home because lard is no longer a preferred cooking oil. Perhaps people are getting really more health conscious...but where street and hawker food is concerned these little pieces of goodness are still very welcome...once in a while...

Crispy pork skin is also an important ingredient for soup making and for steam boat dinners.

September 28, 2010


Flash back 1974.

This cinema was a favourite place for secondary school students to go to. Some students wanted to watch two movies in a day and they would come out with a great headache because of the cigarette smoke. At that time they did not know the term "pollution" very well. Nor did they know about lung cancer. Life was terrific in Limbang - a cinema - some shops and a coffee shop which sold wonderful tou sa buns and peanut butter buns - those were our luxuries as hardworking teachers.

And the main transport for teachers was Honda Motor Bikes. Students walked three miles to catch a movie. And the Principal could literally ride next to them slowly...either to protect them or to threaten them. This was how a caring principal was....Today..students disappear to don't know where...and principals might not care much....after all they are adults until they are in trouble and they will then be punished as naughty naughty children....

Cinemas always bring back a lot of memories to me and I am sure to many other people too. This is actually quite remarkable because the cinema is still there in Limbang after all these years. In other places the cinemas have been converted to other uses.

A good movie then would be the topic of conversation for days.

Bruce Lee was the real hero. Every kid walked like Bruce Lee and they even tried to smile like him. And of course every now and then they bared their tops and showed their skinny chests. I thought that was quite amusing!!

And Jacky Chan and Jet Li were not in the scene yet. There was no Korean Wave...and the TV was still black and white.

The radio was still a very impressive gift and possession.

Those were the days. 1974.

September 27, 2010

Giant Fern

There are lots of these ferns along the coast from Miri to Brunei....and they are more prevalent on the inland side or further away from the sea and around the kampong houses. I was told by some people that during the Japanese Occupation many people had little to eat and they even took the young shoots of this fern to cook and eat with their potatoes. Those who could make sugar from nipah they had sweeter food!!

Others who did not live quite near these plants and were too timid to try anything new they were rather malnourished. Nipah palm sugar is still a popular ingredient today for kampong cooking. I am glad that God has given us this food as well as nipah palm.

A little wild looking plant....

The fern leaf is about 2 -3  feet long and each frond is at least 10 inches in length.

The"  bottom " of the fronds are already full of spores...Too old to be eaten.

Lovely shape against the brilliant morning blue sky.

another angle of the ferns.

Looking for younger fronds....and newer shoots....

I did try to find some of the younger shoots to cook....but did not find anything really good though...So thus ended my food gatherer's outing...and my morning walk....Good day's photographing too.


September 25, 2010

Two Bruneian Salad Vegetables

Can you get what these two new tropical greens are? You can find them at the Kianggeh Wet Market in Bandar Seri Begawan.

They are edible and interesting salad leaves from trees found in Brunei.

This is very popular and the Bruneians eat them as greens or ulam with sambal belacan or Thai style or fried with ikan bilis....

Threse leaves are used by grandmothers and  young mothers ( pound ed) to dispel wind from babies' stomachs...just pound and wrap the poultice on the stomach area and the babies will stop crying.

The leaves can be eaten too...ulam or Thai style...All these are $1.00 per bundle. I call them health in a bundle...and very organic too because they are wild plants.

Let me know if you can identify them!!

September 24, 2010

Mid Autumn Joy - Foochow Family in Miri

When family members get together it is JOY.

A cousin's wife was back from Australia and I was interested in meeting up with Aunt Ling again to make Mi Turn Kui or Rice Layered Cake.

A 2-in-1 event became a great reunion of sorts and it coincided with Mid Autumn.

the Making of Mi Turn Kui was easy and my Ling Koo was so sporting...You will note that she walks with the help of a "friend".
Method : Take one packet of rice flour - Three Elephants Brand.

Meanwhile get the kuali steaming hot with the cake pan in it. Add one spoon of Soda (from Chinese Medicine shop or sundry shop) to the mixing bowl.  Add a bit of salt and 2 cups of water until the batter is like a pan cake batter. Try a little in a little dish. Steam....and this is really good way of not spoiling the whole batter. If the consistency is good then you can start making the first layer of the Mi Turn Kui.

Mix well until no solids can be found. Colouring comes with a drop or two of light soy sauce. Some flavorings can come from a bit of Vitsin. (My version would include some cummin and fennel powder)

A simple kuali with a lid like this will do. Gas supply in Miri is great and economical all these years if you have it piped to the house. Most old houses in Miri have piped gas.

Use a Chinese bowl as a measuring cup for each layer. The pan must be oiled first with cooking oil.

We started making the kuih at 12 and each layer takes about 20 minutes and is firm to the touch. By two we had 9 layers made.....

The final product would have some wrinkles on your forehead.

Four Generations of the extended Tiongs -Ah Ling Koo is a very good teacher traditional Foochow Cuisine. My great grandfather and Ah Ling Koo's grandfather were brothers.

When Foochows serve Hong Ngang and Egg - it is a big deal!! or great honour. This is from Chong and Law a famous restaurant in Miri. Rosie bought a huge pot of it and it is really nice with lots of Foochow Red Wine.

Pork Leg Steamed  or double boiled in Red Wine - a festive dish. (The Foochows usually say that it is so delicious you have to tie your tongue....)

This is the layer cake I gave a helping hand in making!! Hurray! After three generations of time passing by I can make it all by myself now. (WE normally fry the sliced cakes the next day for breakfast.)

The family together again...the glasses are mine....and thanks to Ah Ling Koo we can be together very often...Together again Foochow Style. The Moon is very Round here!!

Watch for another explorative culinary escapade of mine in the near future!!

Cheers...preserve our traditions but also be innovative...Hope Han Sen of Sibu is reading this...(or Mr. Bean)...

September 23, 2010

Eating Kampua Mee in Miri with a young visitor from Gutien of China

Xiao Chiang is a young visiting student from Gutian of Fujian Province. He is here to have a look-see on education possibilities like learning of English or gaining a diploma in Business Studies.

I had the opportunity of sharing some kampua (dried noodles) with him since he is a Foochow of Gutien descent. Nowadays in Miri you can get both the Halal Kampua or the Non Halal Kampua. A Muslim friend can make very good kampua with chicken and his beef soup is very nice with lots of spring onions but you have to go to his shop to enjoy his dishes.

Xiao Chiang had some kampua with us a few days ago...ala "ta pao" ...We had fun having noodles together in an office.

Xiao Chiang : In Gutien we don't have this type of dry  noodles or Kang Puang Mien or just kampua. We do have yellow noodles which we fry for festive season with lots of ingredients especially seafood. Most of our noodles are made from rice e.g. hoong ngang.

Xiao Chiang : We do ta pao but we use "bowls" and not plastic paper like this.

Xiao Chiang : No....No chilies for me...I cannot eat chillies like you can...too hot. This is another difference. Our tongues are different. You can really eat very hot food.

Xiao Chiang : The noodles are a bit dry but they are not bad. We eat mantou and soya bean milk for breakfast. Yellow Noodles are fried for Chinese New Year. We actually do not have dry noodles like these. A favourite breakfast dish is Ting Bian Hoo. We also eat lots of Yiu tiao  or bao. And also we don't drink coffee in the morning like you do.....

Xiao Chiang has given me a good understanding of what breakfast is like in  Gutien...and he confirms what many of us have believe.....that kampua was born in Sibu. What do you think?

September 22, 2010

Puchong Road of Miri

Today is the Moon Cake Festival for the people of Chinese ethnic origin. And hopefully the weather will be good enough for a full moon for all to appreciate. Moon cakes would be eaten throughout the day and those who adhere to ancestral worship would burn joss sticks . And in the evening lanterns would be carried around by children from house to house to mark the occasion. Some temples even stage an opera to entertain their followers. In most Chinese areas there will be lots of noise and celebration.

As we commemorate one of the four great Chinese festivals my mind goes back to the days when Miri was just a fishing village with the ingredients of first trading just beginning to firm up. It was told that gongs were beaten to announce the arrival of this first Chinese trader each time he arrived at the village.

Who was this first Chinese trader who arrived in Miri and started business? How did he trade? Did he use barter trading? Did he use cash of some kind? Did he prosper and settle down in Miri and marry and have children? Who are his descendants today?

An old Malay elder who was also the old Tua Kampong of Miri in the 50's used to tell this story:

Before the Oil Men came to Miri in 1910 the first Chinese Trader in Miri was called Ah Chong.

He was very much welcome by the Miriek villagers who lived in the village at the mouth of river Miri which was safe from the monsoon winds and further protected by a treacherous sand bar at the mouth of the river. Big ships could not sail up the Miri River as a result. The Rajah Brooke had his eyes on Claudetown (Marudi) and perhaps was planning to make it a big town as he did with Sibu. (London is also further up River Thames and not at its mouth)

Ah Chong seized the trading opportunity and took risks to establish his own niche here. He came by his own little rowing boat as the village was not on the trade route of the bigger boats which sailed from Kuala Baram to Marudi (then called Claudetown) which was the main trading centre in the northern region of Brooke Sarawak.

This first trader supplied all the necessary and daily necessities. Whenever he arrived bringing these goods and wishing to trade with the fishermen the villagers would beat their gongs to inform the others of his arrival.

Caption for the photo above :The Pelita Tunku viewed from Angsana Road. Puchong or Padang Road is between the Pelita Tunku and the Old Court Houses and runs next to the MMC Padang right up to Malay Street or Centre Point Area.

On entering the Miri River he carried out his business on a small stream by the road which was later named Malay Street (Now the Centre Point of Miri). This area shown in the photo above could be the area where Ah Chong used to trade.

As the years went by the population of the fishing village increased with some inflow of Chinese and Arab traders . Several brought their families  and settled down  in this area.

A few shops sprang up including a pawn shop and an Arab shop. A gambling den was also part and parcel of the growing town ship.

More and more immigrants arrived having been attracted by the discovery of oil on Canada Hill. By the time the Oil Company was fully established there was already a bazaar consisting of a row of shops. the Oil Company Headquarters definitely enlarged the little town .

The stream has now disappeared due to urban development but the spot where Ah Chong first traded must have been the little space between the Angsana Road (the road is still there) and the Tamu Muhibbah  .

According to a source "To commemorate the first trader who came to trade with the fishermen the Government named a street in Miri Town Puchong Road after Ah Chong. Puchong Road runs parallel with the stream where Ah Chong carried out his business..."

As we look up to the moon tonight let us remember how lonely Ah Chong must have been when he came along to Miri to eek out a living and having hopes of having a prosperous life.

Today the Puchong Road is no longer there. It has been renamed Padang Road (source: I contacted a good friend ). Thanks to him I have part of the story here for you.

Nowadays this area is the ever popular bus terminus for Miri. And where did Ah Chong actually live? Did he live in Claudetown? or somewhere else? How big was his rowing boat? Did he have a bigger boat and came on shore with a smaller boat?

Some mooncakes for Ah Chong!!

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