February 27, 2011

The Foochow Connections

In 1901 which was almost the end of the Ching Dynasty Mr. Wong Nai Siong brought 1118 Foochows (in three batches)  to settle in Sg. Ensurai and Sg. Seduan designated by the Rajah Brooke at that time. One of the pioneers was Lau Kah Tii who subsequently  had several sons and daughters. One of the sons is Lau Pang Hung - who became a famous and dedicated teacher in Sibu and Sarikei. Pang Hung is my uncle (my mother's first cousin)

Pang Hung married Ting Ping Yii the daughter of one of the first Foochow Methodist Ministers who came later to Sibu. My aunt Ping Yii's sister is Wong Meng Lei's mother.

In the first  photo below is also Ling Huong Yian who was my Sixth Form student in Methodist Secondary School  of Sibu in 1985-86. Ever since her Sixth Form days she has been a very keen scholar of history. She is now researching on Foochow Pioneering Spirit for her PhD thesis (University of Malaya).

(From Left : Aunt Ping Yii - Ling Huong Yian - Uncle Pang Hung and Wong Meng Lei)

Huong Yian 's family also originated in the Sg. Ensurai (Ah Poh or  Lower River Ensurai) area although she and her family are now based in Bintulu at the moment..

It is NORMAL for traditional and older Foochows to ask about each other's origins whenever they meet for the first time. My Uncle Pang Hung by his cultural upbringing for example would ask "Where was your father born?" or "Where did your mother live?" By asking these social questions our elders can make the "Foochow Connections". Even I do that often whenever I meet up with some nice young Foochows. However not all Foochows would communicate in this way. Because it would all depend on their upbringing. Some may be so distant that they do not ask any question at all upon being introduced.

Any way young Foochows should not be embarrassed when they are asked these questions. And please feel alright because it is the way most of the older generation behave. And I am not ill at ease at all if my Foochow elders ask where my grandparents come from ...or even where my mother came from. After getting the answers we will then learn how to address each other properly too. By answering these questions properly we are also showing great respect to our Foochow elders. I do understand that some people do not wish to reveal their origins but perhaps a carefully worded " I don't know or I am not so sure" could suffice with a nice smile too? The ability to communicate socially well and properly without being politically incorrect is still one of the most complicated skills so highly demanded by some global organisations that they spend millions each year to provide the right guru (e.g. Alan Pease).

Interestingly after some conversation with Foochow elders you might even find out that you are the grand aunty one of these days!!

And for that matter in the past it was this kind of FOOCHOW CONNECTION that many bright young Foochows were helped  by their elders to succeed and become famous. This page is too small for me to mention all the successful Foochows who have been helped (led to the shore...keng shuorn ngiang) by their helpful relatives or friends. Basically in the Chinese culture according to Confucian teachings elders are expected to be "ren" and "jun tze" meaning kind and gentlemanly which will lead to a society that is proper (li) and without strife.

Wong Meng Lei as a Foochow who has great spirit to help others has been aiding a lot of scholars in their field studies and research. Any one who is interested in Sibu history can find some resources in the Methodist Message Office . Meng Lei is the Chief Administrative Officer (Kang Shu) of MM in Sibu.

As part of her research Huong Yian went to visit my uncle Pang Hung recently. She was presented with a book on Lau Kah Tii the man who was considered the second headman of Foochow Settlement after Wong Nai Siong left Sibu to continue his own work in China. This book is a compilation of the Lau Family's history and achievement from 1901 until now. It is one of the earliest "Family" books in Sibu.

When the Foochow pioneers came to Sibu actually not many of them could read and write. Hence the dirth of books in those days. But 110 years later more than 50 schools and churches have been established  all over Sarawak  and Sabah by the Methodist Church and the Foochows to benefit the second and third generations and subsequent descendants.  My grand uncle Kah Tii for example established Su Lai Primary School in the 1940's. Recently the Su Lai Primary School was moved to Sibu.

Several  books have been written about the lives and work of the Foochow Pionners and other leading community characters - thanks to writers like Wong Meng Lei in the new age and others. A lot of writings have also been left behind by Rev Ling Kai Cheng and Rev. Ling Wen Choon. Lau Tze Cheng has been recognised as a  Sibu Foochow historian and he had written more than 10 books in his life time. Most of these works have been self financed. Fortunately today some Foundations have been set up  in order to encourage more historical studies and writing efforts.Scholars from other countries have also written books about Sibu and the Foochow pioneers.

Hopefully this interest in social - economic history of Sibu will continue and an increasing number of books will be published not only about the Foochows but about the other races and dialects  to give a more complete picture of the Rajang Valley in general and Sibu in particular.

We are looking forward to a book by the new generation scholar Ling Huong Yian!!

February 26, 2011

Rubber Prices in the 21st Century

March 14th 16th 2011 the Foochows of Sibu will be celebrating the 110th Anniversary of their arrival in Sibu and the founding of their settlements in Sg. Seduan and Sg. Ensurai.

This event makes me think of one very important crop that "accidentally" made so many of the Foochows rich beyond their dreams at the turn of the 20th century.

However like many cash crops there had been ups and downs. Upheavals and downturns. But towards the end of the twentieth century the crop became once again more important than ever. Prices reached new heights and a new wave of people are now enjoying the cash!! However the obstacles are there yet again for the new tappers to over come. It would not be new and difficult swamps or snake bites or sudden illnesses.

It would be the play of the elements of supply and demand and other unseen elements which harm their production.

According to all national newspapers Rubber is getting to price.

But according to many people in Sarawak they are getting a variety of prices from 5 ringgit to 10 ringgit a kg.

Here's a quick survey - Miri - at various collectors' centres = 6 ringgit per kg.

Lubok Antu - Rm 10 ....

Sri Aman - RM 10

Sibu - from 8 to 10 ringgit

Kuching - 12 ringgit....

It is good to hear that people are going back to their rubber gardens to tap their own rubber instead of working for daily pay in the towns and cities. In fact one minister even cried out stating that Government projects are delayed because rubber prices are good!!

From a reliable source I heard that many temporary teachers are now part time rubber tappers in the afternoon after school. This is really a good sign that we are benefitting from our natural environment and creating a niche out of our own social background. Back to basics is the common cry today.

A collecting centre in Marudi in the Baram Valley.

Small lorry sending off well packed rubber sheets to the boats for export.

Rubber sheets which are properly smoked...many today do not sell smoked rubber sheets anymore. Most are just sun dried sheets whereas in Indonesia the rubber tappers sell raw hardened rubber tubes (collected in bamboo canisters).

Why the vast differences in prices?

In Kalimantan Barat where many rubber tappers do not have lorries the collectors come to collect and pay COD roughly 12 ringgit per kg.

West Malaysians are better off and they get top prices! Well done!! Perhaps our merchants and politicians should take a look at the variety in prices of rubber in Sarawak.

February 25, 2011

Edible Reeds or Kumpai from the Peat Marshes

Travelling along roads in Sarawak and especially in the peat swamp areas one can see these beautiful heads of tall reeds. Whenever one drives to Brunei along the road to the Asean Bridge one can see the graceful long reeds standing tall and swaying in the wind. They do add much beauty to the vast green (some times brown and burnt) countryside scenery.

They are marsh reeds called KUMPAI by the Ibans.

In days of poverty and when food is scarce the indigenous people can still depend on these wild reeds for food supply. When any one is down to his last sen he can have a good lunch made from the soft peeled reeds. But it is hard work and also mind you - you might meet a snake or two in the swamp.

These tall reeds are a pretty sight. And when the wind blows you just have to look at them and feel good ......We can be tossed by the wind too and breathe well ....if we are harsh and hard and go against nature we will just break our backs without realising it......These reeds seem to tell us not to go against nature!!

they always look very nice along the road side......

The young stems can be cut off easily and peeled. Stir fry them with some pounded ikan bilis and chilies and you can get a nice vegetable dish - indeed free food is available if you know where to collect them.....Unfortunately this reed is too bushy and unruly to be planted as house plants.

 But who knows in the future?

February 23, 2011

Indigenous Farmers on the Highway of Sarawak

Travelling along the roads of Sarawak we can still see many Indigenous people walking along the roadsides . They are still carrying their back pack (baskets or bakul)...and occasionally they still carry their hunting guns.

Typical man or woman walking by the road side...walking stick in hand with parang and a basket at the back. A neat hat would complete the attire.

Many continue to be barefooted.

Sometimes these families are accompanied by their children.....would this girl have great aspirations in life and be the next Oprah Winfrey?

February 21, 2011

SEDAYA in the old days

To all my friends and students from SEDAYA days!!

Remember how the students had to queue up for their food at meal times?

Food was freshly cooked from supplies sent from Sibu (Sarawak Cold Storage) and the school Students' Food Committee would be controlling the quantity and quality. They were really excellent!
However I remember how easy it was also for the cooks to open up tins of sardines and other types of tinned food at meal times. Often I marvelled at the opened tin cans at the back of the kitchen.

It was nice to know that many girls who had small appetite would pass their surplus food to their fellow boys students who were sitting at the next table.
And most important of all it warms my heart to have met a few good cooks who would pass extra fried ikan bilis to the boarding students who had very little appetite because they were homesick and still not used to Boarding School Food!!

Work party....this made MEN of our boys.....and how often they have come back to me and say that work parties were really good training ground for them.

One YB said that the parang holding has helped him develop a good golf swing!!

And I am sure he is not the only one thinking of that!!

Till today I still love having some vegetables growing in a pot or a box although I have never become a really good farmer or gardener myself.....

\(These photos are from my black and white collection taken in the 1970's)

February 19, 2011

Overhead Bridge in Miri

Those of us who frequent the markets of Mosjaya would know how dangerous it is to arrive by bus from Lambir and cross the road to the shops or to cross over to the Army Camp at Batu 2 1/2. School students have always been told not the cross the road by their parents. But many fatal accidents have occurred in the last ten years. One or two indigenous people have given their lives away. The hit and run crivers never owned up.

So the overhead bridge joining the Merdeka Mall and the Mosjaya Complex is a truly welcome structure.

This will provide safety for many. Mothers would be happy to bring their children shopping without fear.

Apparently at any one time this bridge can hold up 300 people. I hope old people will also enjoy crossing the bridge and getting help along the way - without being pushed aside!! I wish that the construction companies would provide harnesses and helmets for their workers. These foreign and local workers are not following the International Safety rules for building construction. Perhaps some people well versed in OHSA can comment on this. Visitors to construction sites should also wear safety helmets and even safety boots.

Definitely the people who frequent this area will bless the people behind the idea and construction!! The bridge is almost complete when this photo was taken. Urban sprawl is definitely a social and geographical phenomenon here in Miri. With urbanisation all of us are aware of the costs we have to pay - more cost for security and welfare - more spending on amenities and utilities. But it should NOT all be paid or borne by the tax payers.

I know I will feel safe walking across using this bridge....and old folks especially will be so happy with the people behind this overhead bridge....Cheers.

February 18, 2011

Papaya Flowers as a dish for good health!!

I wonder when people started eating papaya flowers! But I do know from quite a young age that durian flowers and banana flowers are delectable dishes cooked by several indigenous groups of people in Sarawak. My friend Zaharah cooks the best durian flowers to my knowledge.Each time I see durian flowers being sold in the bazaar(pasar tani ) I would surely be thinking of her lovely recipe....

Banana flowers are often sold as a vegetable in Miri. It is again a lovely "vegetable" to eat. Usually we cook it in a thin santan and spiced up with chili and belacan.

But nowadays papaya flowers have become quite a rage in Miri. They are frequently found in E Mart and are sold at 2 ringgit a plate (see photo).

After blanching the flowers to get rid of any sap you can fry them like kangkong or any beans.

They are known to have brought down high blood pressure for many people. Try it if you like.

February 17, 2011

Foochow Descendants visiting Ancestors' Home in Fuzhou

 I am inspired to write because I grew up in the Rajang Valley with exceptional people who embraced poverty but lived with ethics all their lives. These are the folks who have lots of stories to share. And their stories must be written lest they will be forever forgotten in the dust of development and progress.

I am writing this particular posting for my mother's side of the family - my maternal uncles who gave us chickens and ducks when we lost our father (the sole breadwinner of the family) and my aunts who gave moral support to my widowed mother. I write for my cousins who jumped into the Rajang river with me and taught me how to swim - and I learned to swim with the "modern sharks". I was "eaten by the CHIK CHAR" - a species of the mangrove which gave rashes when touched. I was taken to see Dr. Xavier who gave me a one of a kind injection and I was never allergic to the latex any more. I write for my cousins who advised me how to marry a "man with property expecially some one whose family has a shophouse". That advice was ignored because I was not pretty enough to be chosen by any one.

This posting is about one of the loveliest cousins I have -Cousin Hsiung Kwo Ing who has been married to Lau Kiing Hiing for more than 40 years! Both are very humble teachers residing in Kuching since the 50's.

Both of them are keen on history and the Chinese language. And both of them have remarkable stories to tell.

Both of them love travelling a lot now that they are retired. Cousin Lau Kiing Hiing not long ago brought my cousin Kuo Ing to visit Fuzhou China. In the above photo they are at the Lau Kah Tii Memorial building. Remarkably Cousin Kuo Ing was pre maturely born in China and was brought as a new born to Sibu where the goverment was able to register her as a Sarawak born Foochow (to simplify matters)for her dear parents.She grew up in my grandmother's house in Nang Chong in Sg. Maaw during the Japanese Occupation. So visiting this place was like going to the village of her birth.

The couple are standing outside the room where our maternal grandfather (Lau Kah Chui) and maternal grand uncle (Lau Kah Tii) stayed. Renovation and some reconstruction have been made over the years. Today a cousin (son of Aunt Hua Hua - famous as a gingseng seller in Sibu) is staying here. My maternal grandmother and her second son (the late Lau Pang Kui) and his new bride lived here throughout the Second World War alongside the family of the first born i.e. eldest brother of Lau Kah Tii and Lau Kah Chui.

The happy couple out in the sunshine in Fuzhou.

The three sisters who are daughters of Lau Kah Chui and Tiong Lian Tie...from left - my mother - her eldest sister (mother of Kuo Ing) and my youngest aunt (Lau Hung Yun) - the mother of Maggie Hii, Hii Mee Ping , Hii Mee Yii and Hii Mee Chiong. In fact all these ladies have the looks of my maternal grandmother especially my eldest aunt. Fair skin is in our family.

One of the most loving couples I know of in my life....They were the earliest trainees of Sarawak Teacher's Training College which was set up to train Chinese educated graduates to be recognised teachers in Sarawak in Sibu. They are always happy together. Kiing Hiing is an avid reader and collector of books whereas my cousin Kuo Ing loves gardening. Her pomelo and lemon trees bear fruits throughout the year!!

More stories will be coming from them!! So watch out in this blog!!

February 16, 2011

Two stories related to Philips Radio

(This radio belongs to my friend Judy Wong - Principal of MPI -and it seats beautifully in her living room in Sibu)
When the Japanese overran Sibu most of the Chinese were living in fear. The Japanese Army was very cruel to the Chinese settlers for after all the Japanese had already taken China and there were many old scores to settle. And even in the new colony of Sarawak the Japanese soldiers were ordered to treat "their enemies" cruelly. I was told that the local Malays and Ibans were not as badly treated.

My father was then in his late twenties and just beginning to establish himself in a career as a publisher and journalist. He owned many lovely "personal effects" from the west like vinyl records and a record player. He owned a Philips radio and he loved listening to the news after all he was a trained journalist.

Here's a Youtube of the famous speech through radio broadcast by the English King - King George VI . (You can see him making this speech in the movie The King's Speech.). Listening to the speech via radio you can capture the atmosphere of the War days in Sibu.

When the Japanese soldiers came to search my grandfather's house my father was arrested and tortured for several days. I believe the beatings he took led to his premature death. His crime? "Listening to English news....." My father was only released after my grandfather begged with the Commandant . A Chinese teacher (Mr. Lu) who could write in Japanese wrote a letter to vouch for my father stating that he was Sarawak born and was educated. But never a spy for any country!! According to family stories my grandfather even knelt down before the commandant to get my father released. This was what the Japanese expected of the Chinese when they came to "beg" for the lives of their children. One night my grandfather came home with blood on his face after being struck by a Japanese soldier. Finally after a few long days my father was released.

When we were born on the Kerto Island in the Hua Hong Ice Factory (across the river from Sibu) my father continued to listen to his radio. I remember very clearly how we kids would gather around to listen to "English news" and the classical music which was played in the evenings.

What do I remember best about my mother and her radio "time"? She was one of  my earliest memories of a lady who could sing well. She sang along with the radio!

When the Sarawak Radio became very well organised (I will do another post on this) my father would lovingly tune the radio to the Chinese station so that my mother and maternal grandmother could listen to the news and Chinese songs. It was through Radio that my mother kept up her interest in Chinese songs sung by famous singers like Chou Suan and Grace Chang Ger Lang. Bai Kwong featured big in her life too. Mum has always been a good singer as she taught singing in the primary school my maternal grandfather founded in Sg. Maaw or Nang Chong. When my father kept up with these new songs he would go to Sibu to buy the new records (78 rpm) and he would play them on his old record player which had to be wound up by hand.

By the time we were quite big noticed that he had become very quiet and fairly reclusive. Perhaps he was then nursing a very "painful" heart damaged by the beatings in the Japanese prison.

I cannot remember my paternal great grandfather listening to the news as he moved to Sungei Merah to stay in the new house my paternal grandfather built. My paternal grandfather however was a keen newspaper reader and he did not love the radio as much as we did.

My last memory of my father listening to his Philips Radio (a green one) was when Radio Sarawak broadcast the powerful speech of  the President of Indonesia declaring Confrontation against Malaysia. He was very distraught by the news and of the possibilities that the Indonesians would march from Kalimantan to Sarawak. He just told us his children that we did not understand. He and mum talked very gently to each other and often in whispers after they heard the news of possible war. My parents always believed that we children should not listen to adult talk.

And I too believe that because my father had great fears of "invading" armies his heart finally gave way. He passed away not long after that from a heart attack.

Pictures of  radio of almost the same vintage found in Google - above and below
What are your memories related to this old fashioned and antiquated radio?

Forty or more years later our technology has improved so much that I can get a Youtube of Ger Lang singing for my mother. If my father were alive today he would be so amazed. Ger Lang in this Youtube performance is still "fantastic"...she has Broadway style!!

February 14, 2011

Homemade Crispy Skin Duck

Duck is actually quite a favourite dish for the Foochows. Ever since young I have heard stories of how my grand uncle and grand father were duck farmers in China. My maternal grandmother used to tell me when she was a child bride she often looked forward to a special duck egg lunch when she behaved well and did her housework.

As I grew older I realised how wonderful mee sua would taste when ever the soup was made from a big fat and good breed of duck. When my sister and I went down with measles my mother quickly booked a "vegetable" duck or mixed breed to steam for our quick recuperation. Young children could even die from measles.

Amongst many of my friends who have long memories....sharing a duck at home with mum cooking it is a "love you day". I like that. When mum shows you love she shows you through a duck soup....or any whole duck dish. One of my aunts slaughtered one of her own ducks and steamed the duck to make 500 ml of duck essence. She then took the trouble to send the whole bottle of Duck Soup in the 70's through an in-law who travelled by MAS to Miri. The delays in the flight caused a lot of anxiety on both ends. But the son did finally get the duck essence. He is one lucky son! It would be nice to have a promotional movie with this for MAS - MAS can deliver love in a bottle :) :)

Traditional Asian mothers and in particular Foochow mothers are well known for "sending" /"kirim" things for their children.

Mind you many Foochow mothers are so stern that they would never say "I love you". But take it from me...if there is a duck on the table your mum is saying "I love you...." Each time my children come home I would do a Pak Lo duck or a simple steamed duck (for essence only). For these occuasions freshly killed duck would be more suitable. But prices have really gone up these days.

It is lovely to learn that lots of frozen ducks are now available in Miri and it is less than half the price of a freshly killed duck in the wet market.. Thanks to West Malaysian duck farmers!

So if you can cook ducks using a simple method and make the best use of the opportunity to eat a duck and celebrate a lovely day like Valentine's Day......why not?

1 duck (frozen or fresh)
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 tablespoon five spice (optional)
Some pepper
* I do not use Aji-no-moto or vitsin.
1. Defrost a duck 12 hours before cooking if you are using a frozen duck) and drain all the liquid.
2. cut off the legs and head and the bishop's nose if you wish.
3. Flatten the duck on a roasting dish - use a Chinese cleaver to do this. Break the backbone if you can to make it really flat and easier to chop later) pat dry the duck skin .Apply first layer of salt on the skin and the cavity. You can lavishly splash a mixture of salt and pepper and five spice on the cavity. Rest for half an hour.
4. Apply another layer of salt. Rest for 15 minutes.
5. Dry the duck skin again with a kitchen towel or thick tissue.
6. Pop the duck into a pre- heated oven at 200 degrees and bake until the skin is crispy. That would take about 30 minutes depending on the size of your oven.By then the skin would be fragrant and shiny. Some blisters would also form. A golden sheen could be seen too. ( If you have a bigger duck (e.g. Serati ) you may need 45 mins to 1 hour. of slow cooking and lower heat later.)
7. Lower the heat and cook slowly for another 15 minutes. A small 2 kg duck should be done by then.
8. Use a Chinese cleaver and cut the duck into 2inx3in slices or any size you like (see picture)
9. Do not cover the duck when hot because the skin would not remain crispy once moisture is introduced.

You can if you like debone the whole duck and use the same recipe. It's easy!

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you.....I wish I can cook lots of this for you or send you a bottle of duck essence.....

Note: crispy whole duck costs RM48 or more in the market but my duck above cost me RM24.00 only...So you can save the money and buy flowers for your loved ones or buy another duck...Fresh ducks in Miri cost RM20 -24 a kg.....)

February 11, 2011

The Special Tapang Tree of Serian

It is always a great challenge to take good pictures of this unique tapang tree in Serian.(Tapang is Koompassia excelsa- - -
see more images like this: South East Asia, Trees)

Here are some personal anecdotes of photographing the tapang tree in Serian over the years.

Once I was in a car and was ahead of a long convoy of cars going back to Sibu so the driver was worried about the cars behind. I took only the trunk as the car flashed by.

Another year the driver was driving too fast because he was in a hurry to go to a rest room.

And another year a huge car was ahead and blocking the remarkable scene.

I remember one year my camera was jammed at that significant moment.

Other years it rained. 

Some years I just forgot to photograph the great tapang tree.

And so  I really have been trying to photograph this tree for years. It has really been amusingly frustrating.

May be one day I just need to spend a day in Serian and do a round- the -clock -photography of this tree....This year however I got my camera ready half an hour before and the morning sun was good. The mist was still low - so it was a really blessing. I made three shots - from a fast car and through the windshield too.

The tapang tree is a revered tree for the indigenous people of Sarawak. There is a taboo in Sarawak against cutting down the tapang treee. Only naturally felled tapang trees (usually by an unusal storm or a  landside which might be natural or even unnatural) can be used. Furthermore Ibans do not cut their tapang tree in their temuda (farm) because it is a valueable source of honey and a home for the Great Kenyalang or Hornbill. Hornbills on the other hand control the snake population in Sarawak and Borneo. Without the hornbills our habitat may become dangerous actually..

The Ibans use the wood in a very discreet way as they continue to respect their traditional taboo against cutting  tapang trees. . A small piece may be cut off from the buttress root (this won't kill the tree) for the handle of a parang or axe. Another piece may be used as the pestle for their mortar to pound belacan or other ingredients. Tapang wood is hard to cut by an ordinary axe. A special axe called the Beliung is used. So we can dare say that it is not really a honest thing to accuse the Iban farmers of destroying the forest of Sarawak. Usually tapang trees are removed by bulldozers or chainsaws.

The tree starts to have branches only from 30 meters upwards. The silvery and slippery tree trunk is a remarkable natural protection for the tree. Only the best tree climbers can harvest the honey from the tapang trees.  Amazing isn't it? 

Most of the tapang trees which can grow up to 80 metres in Sarawak have been felled recklessly by the timber companies without kind regard to the spirituality of this particularly tree. According to local beliefs men who used chainsaw to fell the tapang would have their own retribution e.g. a son may die or the family fortune wiped out. Hence with this naturalistic belief tied to the environment the ancestors of the Dayaks were natural environmentalists who were at peace with Mother Nature.

The Serian Tapang Tree is the pride of the Ibans and Bidayuhs of the area. And I am glad that it is considered a natural treasure of the people in this locality.

Extra notes from FAO

Here's a list of what the tapang wood can be used for:
Agricultural implements, Boat building (general), Building construction, Building materials, Cabin construction, Cabinetmaking, Canoes, Chairs, Charcoal, Chests, Concealed parts (Furniture), Construction, Crossties, Desks, Factory construction, Factory flooring, Flooring, Flooring: commercial heavy traffic, Flooring: industrial heavy traffic, Fuelwood, Furniture , Furniture components, Furniture squares or stock, Furniture, Heavy construction, Mine timbers, Musical instruments, Musical instruments: strings, Paneling, Poles, Posts, Railroad ties, Rustic furniture, Shipbuilding, Sporting Goods, Stools, Structural work, Tables , Tables, Turnery, Utility furniture, Utility poles, Vehicle parts, Veneer: decorative, Walking sticks, Wardrobes

Distribution Overview
Southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, north-eastern Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan. Grows in primary tropical rainforest usually along rivers, in valleys and lower slopes of hills, locally abundant. A common but usually not very abundant species. Solitary trees standing alone in the open are encountered comparatively often because they are difficult to cut and because local people harvest honey from the tree crowns.

February 9, 2011

Pre Chinese New Year Feasting: Suckling Pig 乳豬

My late father had a special liking for Cantonese cuisine. He loved amongst others the Cantonese style suckling pig and roasted pig heads. Perhaps not many people know that traditional Foochows do not roast  meat the way Cantonese do. My father however also loved to cook one special dish on occasions like birthdays and the various festivals - the soft  and slowly boiled knuckle with ginger and wine (and a dash of soy sauce). This dish is called "Chin Niik/Pork" and is indeed a fantastic dish which my family loves since all those long ago days. The skin and the meat can become so tender during the slow cooking that a chopstick can slice the flesh!! Today's posting however is about the suckling pig ....and I do have Ann(a Cantonese) and her family in mind ...

A good side dish to go with the suckling pig is pounded and stir fried Tapioca leaves fried with some ikan bilis and ginger - Some cucumber pickles would also be a good accompaniment. Another side dish is brinjal tempura. So this meal we had with the suckling pig is actually quite a cultural fusion of cuisine!!

(My son pounded the tapioca leaves which I gathered early in the morning from the nearby border land. Tapioca grows wild in most places and indigenous food gatherers are often seen picking the tops in the morning in the ulu. I often get mine whenever I go for a walk in the nearby river banks.)

(My brother taking the warm  and freshly cooked suckling pig into the house....the sight of the nice box makes us all smile with great expectations.)

A suckling pig (or sucking pig, according to the OED) is a piglet fed on its mother's milk and slaughtered between the ages of two and six weeks. Suckling pig is traditionally cooked whole, often roasted, in various cuisines. It is usually prepared for special occasions and gatherings.

The term derives from the word "suckling", which refers to a young mammal still being suckled.

The meat from suckling pig is pale and tender and the cooked skin is crisp and can be used for pork rinds. The texture of the meat can be somewhat gelatinous due to the amount of collagen in a young pig.

(The suckling pig we ordered as take away is already chopped up nicely - almost exact rectangle pieces ready for the chopsticks)

(The head cut into two and arranged nicely on the plastic platter.)

The suckling pig is also known in other cultures by other names.

Lechón is a pork dish in several regions of the world, most specifically Spain and its former colonial possessions throughout the world. The word lechón originated from the Spanish term leche (milk); thus lechón refers to a suckling pig that is roasted. Lechón is a popular cuisine in Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America and considered as the National Dish of the Philippines. The dish features a whole roasted pig cooked over charcoal.

In most regions, lechón is prepared throughout the year for any special occasion, during festivals, and the holidays. After seasoning, the pig is cooked by skewering the entire animal, entrails removed, on a large stick and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal. The pig is placed over the charcoal, and the stick or rod it is attached to is turned in a rotisserie action.

Balinese cooking has a type of suckling pig called Babi Guling.

Presenting a suckling pig to a welcomed guest is a good gesture but bringing home one to mother is an act of filial piety. The soft flesh is easily eaten when mum does not have enough good teeth to chew. And the crunchy and crispy skin melts in the mouth.

A well roasted suckling pig at Chinese any dinner is a cultural feather in the cap worn not only by a good chef but by the gracious host.

To my family eating a good suckling pig  once a year is a joy in itself....and a celebration of life!!

February 7, 2011

Chinese Children's Magazine of my childhood

 (picture is down loaded from Google)

兒童樂園was first published in 1953. I was then just a toddler (smile...keeping my real age a secret)

It was a coloured children's magazine from the beginning when many other magazines were still in black and white. I remember my father's Spring and Autumn Magazine was very simple without any colour at all. And I asked him if magazines  printed in black and white showed their "level of difficulty". LIFE magazine was in colours and I could understand most of the captions!!

It was amazing as my siblings and I reminisced during the Chinese New Year we spoke for a long time about the magazines we read and Er Tung Le Yuen in particular. We loved the serial stories and the games. And even at that time we were particularly interested in the riddles and world legends for children. I suppose that was how we learned to read our Hang Yu (Chinese) from young - from this magnificent publication.

But most important of all Siaw Chiang the little hero and his episodes shared with us the important values of playing fair...of sharing things with others and being kind. May be the bullies in the schools never read Er Tung Le Yuen.

I did not realise that this magazine stopped publication in 1994 actually. In total for 41 years it published 1006 issues. Thus on record it was really one of the longest running publications for children from Hong Kong for children of Chinese speaking communities world wide. My siblings and I are glad that we were part of its readership.

What was more important was how my father would go to the bookshop in Sibu to collect the magazines for us and all of us would read the pages eagerly. My father did not read Benjamin Spock nor did he attend classes for parenting. But he had very enlightened ideas about getting his children to love learning as he was a voracious reader himself and trained by Mrs. Mary Hoover and perhaps even Rev James Hoover. Amongst his teachers were also our grand uncle and aunt Mr and Mrs. Chong Jin Bok.

For a long time my siblings and I kept the magazines very well. However when we grew older  and we "outgrew" the magazine we gave most of them away to our cousins and friends who wanted to read them. Each copy was only about 30 cents. But may be to some families it was a large sum of money.

It never crossed our mind in those days to keep a few copies as souvenirs. But it is too late now.

It was good of my parents to "subscribe" to this magazine. (It did not come in the mail but from the local bookshop. The proprietor would roll the magazine up with a rubber band and put a name tag along with it.) We learned a great deal from the pages and very often we still talk about Siao Yuen Yuen and the other characters. Later when we "graduated" to Charlie Brown and Archie we continued to value what the comics in English taught us and remember the lessons from Er Tung Le Yuen.

All of us in a way thank these magazines for helping us become bi-lingual. Thinking about our daily reading of this square shaped magazine from Hong Kong I just feel so good inside...and feel so grateful to my father who saw the importance of reading from an early age. I just never have the opportunity of thanking him as he died too suddenly and too prematurely and we were all too young then to be expressive.

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