April 14, 2011

Green Tangerines from Bintangor (Gi Kiang in Foochow)

While a political battle is being fought  between a pretty and dynamic young lady and a strong Foochow millionaire in Bintangor let us look at the small tangerine called Binatang Gi Kiang...or the small Bintangor tangerine.

In the olden days most people would buy tangerines as gifts for their relatives when they came to Sibu to visit. The hawkers would be selling their Bintangor tangerines from the wooden crates as they sat by the Five Foot Way near Mui Sung Coffee Shop or even at the wharves in front of the Chinese Temple.

My grandmother would definitely buy some. And in fact many of us would also rememeber we often bought a few KATIS and have them all wrapped up and tied up in brown paper bags (recycled from cement parchment bags) to take to places as far as Kuching!! These were our "see face gifts" or jian mian li...or in Foochow "Ming Nen". Today our children with all their BM training would know it as "buah tangan"...how apt!!

Some tangerines in those days were very sweet. (Of course there were some sour ones). You could choose the sizes you preferred. "Big or small...up to you to choose" according to the hawkers ...Actually my favourite tangerine seller (ki kiang ah moo was my aunt who sold her fruits at the side of Ta Kiong). She followed  the Biblical teachings of "measuring the fruits until they overflow with extras".

The Foochows most probably introduced the green tangerines to the Rajang Basin.

\My friends and I  have been wondering actually about the exact origin of the tangerines in Sarawak and how they came to be grown so successfully in Bintangor and many parts of the Rajang Valley. The tangerine has become the Town Symbol of Bintangor which not only produces this well liked fruit but a once famous drink similar to Sun Drop called Green Mountain.
Aomikan Marmalade 青みかんマーマレード
May be you would like to know that there are many famous green tangerines in Japan and in China.


Aomikan is a green tangerine that are available in Japan from around the end of August though September. There are simply tangerines that have been harvested a few weeks early. They are tart and tangy. I love peeling them, surprisingly the green peel gives way to juicy orange fruit. Aomikan are one of my two favorite citrus for eating and this year I made marmalade with them!

Green Tangerines also come from Thailand which many people fall in love with the fruit at first bite.

What made it difficult to ascertain the origin of our green Bintangor tangerine is the lack of documentation. Probably the Foochows brought the tangerines and their seeds to Sungei Merah in 1901. And from my readings I have found that "in tropical regions with no winter at all, citrus fruits remain green until maturity, hence the tropical "green oranges". The Persian Lime in particular is extremely sensitive to cool conditions, thus it is not usually exposed to cool enough conditions to develop a mature colour. If they are left in a cool place over winter, the fruits will change colour to yellow." so did our ancestors hybrid the oranges with local limes so that they can grow better here? Who amongst the Foochows or Chinese could do that? And there should be tribute given to him .....







Photo above by Sarikei Time Capsule : Tangerine trees in Bintangor and Sarikei area.


In the 1970's the whole Rajang Valley was crippled by a special plant disease which wiped out the tangerine industry. Today only a few farmers grow them successfully. These green tangerines are usually transported in rough wooden cases by boat and pickups and sold in Sibu and the surrounding areas. Sungei Merah is also one of the places where you can buy the ki kian..

The mystery of the origin of the green tangerines of Bintangor remains. Can someone enlighten us? We will appreciate it very much.

16 comments:

向日葵啊伯 said...

Ki-kian...
In olden days...you get one only you were sick.
We had Popogee, kion-huon, dwai-nie-ko, Goloi-kian, Malanbei, Malansha, Malaowan, Angmodan..etc. Of course we were told never touch the "putao", they look so delicious!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes..Peter...Sunkists were bought for Grand Uncles and Grandfathers. Bo lo (Grapes) or putao were for the sick and the rich...Imported fruits are still very treasured. I love the green pears with the soft skin especially and give myself a treat when I get my pension nowadays.....
You did not mention wong lai (pineapples)...we had some in our garden which my father planted.

Anonymous said...

perhaps someone should do an experiment by planting bintang oranges in country with cold climate. Will the orange skin turn colour? The changing of colour is most probably trigger by cold weather which cause it to ripen. A series of biochemical processes happend during ripeniong in fuit including the destruction of chrolophyll (changes in coulours similar to leaves in autumn), changes in texture, changes in sugar level (why is why ripen fruit tend to be sweet), etc

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...I think you have a great idea!! Ripening process indeed includes changes in the different kinds of sugars present in a fruit. And the fruit skin all changes. Bananas develop sugar spots on their yellow skins for example.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, I love these tangerines. And surprisingly we get them here too, green ones, from US as well I believe China, Thailand. And they're very succulent and sweet too. Not very expensive considering they're imported.

Enjoyed being enlightened by your introduction and history lesson here, as always.
Thru your postings, I sure learning my geography and about the FooChow peoples.

I love the last bottom pic. When much younger almost bought a similar piece of land, undulating as in the pic, with lots of durians, mangos etc
and those days was cheap too.

And my contractor owing me a big favour wanted to sell to me cheap...but it was my nonstop travelling on business then, I changed my mind...never had the foresight it will bring dividends in the future. Price then for 5 acres?
Rgt 30,000!

Last I heard land that area for an acre about Rgt 1 million or higher for an acre! Talk about missing one! Ha ha.

Good posting....always interested in things, people from Land below the wind, or land of the Hornbills.
You have a nice day, stay young and keep a song in your heart.
Lee.

Anonymous said...

Ripening in fruits like bananas are trigger by ethylene gas (the same Shell tank gas we using for cooking) produce by banana. That is the reason if you wrap the banana tp avoid the gas escaping then you will see the banana ripening fast!

Ann said...

I miss my friends and Ge Jiang from Binatang. i even miss the way they call Binatang. lol

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Uncle Lee...that was a big fortune you passed up on a silver tray!! Yes if I had some cash available in those days I would be a landlady now...with two security guards patrolling my gated property!! LOL...Many of us had the opportunity and wisdom to buy but we had not cash in the pocket as civil servants.

Thanks for liking the post...and for visiting....

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...thanks for the info about speeding up of ripening bananas!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...I always call my grandfather's place Mintang...or Mina Dang...Tonight and tomorrow many rich foochows will be pouring money into the town and rural areas to wrestle the seat from the pretty lady member from DAP......Miss Ting Little Chili. She is a great girl...

WinnieT said...

i love min-dang gi kian! haven't had this fruit for so long. Gee! ....and Mui Sung's cafe my cousin's. :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi..WinnieT...sure we all love this ming dang di kian....I saw some in Miri a few days ago..but usually we get the Matu Gan or the Mi Gan...a bit different but still juicy and something from home.

Mui Sung is your cousin's!! what a great historic coffee shop. It must never be closed down!! Cheers.

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