October 31, 2011

A Tandoor Oven along a Five Foot Way!!

You cannot have it better than this...and I go superlative when I saw this!! And I do want to take home the tandoori oven.

A tandoor (Azerbaijani: Təndir, Turkish: Tandır, Arabic: تنور‎, Punjabi: ਤੰਦੂਰ, Georgian: თონე, Persian: تنور, Hindi: तन्दूर, Urdu: تندور, Armenian: Թոնիր) is a cylindrical clay oven used in cooking and baking. The tandoor is used for cooking in Azerbaijan, India, Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia, as well as Burma and Bangladesh. (Wikipedia) AND SARAWAK.

the owner of this outlet worked in Miri for several years. If you can remember there was a Northern Indian outlet in Piasau Miri Daily News Cafe he was the one who did the mee goreng etc.

Special gas for the tandoor - this young man is originally from Pakistan.

This is an all important cushion. Place the dough on top and it will help the chef to place the naan dough on to the wall of the tandoor oven. It is not a PIN CUSHION.
Chef here is giving me a demo....

The dough goes on top of the cusion
Come on Baby..you will like the heat...In you go...
Now the dough is stuck on the wall of the oven...and the cover goes on..

Here you are...the wonderful Naan...so tasty and full of aroma.....
Properly wrapped up in this shape with a rubber band the naan bread is ready for me to take home. I  love the young man's performance...My own AFC ..or rather Sarawak Food Channel...

Can I take away the Tandoor Oven please?

October 30, 2011

The Tou Foo Fah Man @ Pertanak Market (Kuching)

My first Tou Foo man was the guy who sold tou foo near Chung Cheng School Sibu. It was so long ago that I cannot remember his name or even his face. My mother cannot recall his name either.

I continue to remember the man who sold tou foo on a three wheeler but with traffic becoming very thick in Sibu I supposed he gave up doing that business and upgraded to a van. So he disappeared from the scene.

In Sibu we had a few tou foo makers who were famous in the Central Market of the olden days. Mr. Lee for example was fairly special because he was tall and he rode a bicycle with his two tins hanging from the sides of his tall 22" bicycle!! His son was naturally nicknamed Tou Hoo Chiong. Siew Chiong is now a big tycoon in KL.

Now that mum and my sisters have moved to Kuching they have their own tou foo man ...this is the guy! And I do love his special wooden tub for his toufoo fah....

A good morning here is better than the greeting+ buying+ goodbye. It is the nice smile and the nice conversation of a few minutes which really add value to the tou foo fah! This is what I call a gentleman hawker at its best.

And you do not have to guess - his tou foo fah sells like well hot tou foo fah!!
He is very clean as you can see how he covers his famous wooden tub with a lovely and soft piece of enviable muslin. This is a precious piece of family heirloom. And I think the wealth brought by this tub must be equivalent to a few houses in Kuching!!

October 29, 2011

ChuBBy Baba (Sama Jaya of Kuching)

We like to try different restaurants in Kuching as an outing to entertain my mother. Sometimes we hit the jack pot and she is happy. Sometimes we choose a lemon...and she would remind us again and again not to go there. She is a real foodie. I believe she has extra taste buds.

ChuBBy Baba is new in town having been opened in June this year. So it was good that we took her there for the first time after my sister passed by the restaurant several times to look for certain indicators that it is popular like lots of cars parked in front of the outlet in the evenings etc. We found the restaurant exquisitely clean. Point No.! checked!!

The entrance is beautifully decorated in the Straits Chinese or Peranakan style. So we felt very good coming here.
The Captain is a good girl from Dong Bei (China). Our friend has come from a far away land and she is very pleasant and answered all our questions with the best of manners!! Great point there. She knows the menu very well and guided us in our choice. Another good point. And you can practice speaking Mandarin with her. It is always pleasant to learn from people who are very cheerful.

The decor is also good - and very very pleasant. I would actually like to have a sip of the Four Doctors...I wonder if it is still available in our part of the world now.

The Cashier's desk is a great surprise!! Do you know what it is made up of?

This is the best pork dish on the menu - the Straits Babi Dish in Kicap
Straits Chinese Soup with Ngor Hiong and Cabbage. Very nicely cooked.
Beef Rendang...a bit chewy. May be the beef from Sarawak is not that tender.
Very nice way of cooking brinjal..deep fried with minced pork and lots of eggs and some sambal. Excellent in taste.
We ordered some nice Nyonya kuih - just sweet enough and santany to give that silky texture. You can tell the maker  has put a lot of effort into the making of the kuih. Good point.
My mum's smile says it all....Can come back here to eat again...ASAP..and the daughter who recommended the place gets a merit point...LOL.

October 28, 2011

Gifts to bring for Visitations in 50's - 60's Sibu

This post today is from my heart.

Slightly more than sixty years ago a young illiterate Foochow girl arrived in Sibu as a mail order bride after almost two months of sea voyage. Upon arrival she was rejected by the young man(Mum's cousin) who found her not pretty enough. This  kind of rejection is the greatest scar any young girl can bear in any century!

My kind and big hearted grandmother received the lost looking and unwanted girl as her "daughter". Mum and she became good friends. A few years later she became the bride of my grandmother's illiterate god- son who said "If no one wants her I don't mind having her..." in his humble ways. Mum married in the same year. My uncle could not have been a better husband! And she the best wife any one could have.

Mum gave birth to me in September the following year and Aunty was heavily pregnant too (she gave birth in March the next year). This sister closeness was broken because my mum moved away to the town and Aunty "followed" our uncle faithfully to five different interior places for more than 40 years (Kapit and Bintulu). The last link was lost when Uncle died . When she finally moved to Kuching Aunt tried in vain to look for my mother. Mum had given up looking for her in the meantime. But there was no lead because aunt can not read or write.

Finally two years ago her son read the orbituary of mum's cousin and the two sisters finally found each other after a few phone calls....

Two weeks ago I went to visit my long lost aunt as she repeatedly requested to see that baby girl born in the Ice Factory . She had seen me for the first time when I was newly born. It must have been quite a vision for her to see me all "grown up and mature!!" How did she feel? Where did all the days go? Where was that little squirmy baby girl?  And indeed it was a touching tale. And her own life story is even more amazing!!

In the early morning when rain was falling heavily outside her Matang house the grey haired ladies talked non stopped as if they had to quickly to collapse all the 60 years into a few hours again. Their stories are just like new songs in my ears. Mum is hard of hearing but they can still chat for hours on the phone now. Both have to be driven by their children whenever they want to meet up.

From their reminisces I give you this article...

Two sisters from Lower Nan Chong - one is China born and illiterate and the other Sibu born is educated and a primary school teacher before she married.

I loved it when relatives came to visit my family in the olden days in Sibu. The company was often better than "good" . As there was no TV  visitors would bring tales to fire our imagination and seeing them was like seeing a famous speaker from a supreme level.

But they would often bear gifts for the Foochows believed then in "Ming Neng" or "Face Front" or "Chien Mien Li" if I can translate the term in this way. Bearing of the gifts before the arrival sort of.

My aunt has her own organic and free range chickens in Matang. Males for birthdays. Females for herbal soups and good health.
She also rears a few ducks in her yard. Very typically Foochow she rears my favourite - a red faced Serati or Chuong Nguang. It is a dandy gift to give and receive - a real life duck!!

I love this statement from a dear relative..."Here..these are eggs I have laid myself...ngui chiar sung di long" In those days most housewives would raise lots of chickens and have layers..they would collect the eggs  save them and give away to relatives on visits. What a wonderful gift!! So you won't be surprised her egg laying hens give her and her family enough eggs every day. She can collect enough to be given away as gifts too.
For birthdays and for the sick( this is the very special item  you can give to your elders). 

Milk Chocolate (Fry) - We did not like the nuts then. Today we have changed. We love nuts and raisins.

Erng Tzi Ngu Neng - 6 tins tied together in a pyramid shape.
Sii Kerk Bian (Square Biscuits) - 1 tin - you need to paste a piece of red  paper on the top for luck!!

We Foochows gave each other so much of these goodies in the past it is no wonder that the next generation developed such sweet tooth ...

Thanks to all the wonderful relatives who made my childhood so rich!!

Cheers to all the good times of the past!!

But don't get me wrong..My mum would say " Your coming is good enough. You do not have to bring anything!" I do agree with her as our culture and life style have changed over the years so relatives do not have to continue this tradition of bearing gifts. The custom was more practical during the agro-based economy of olden days.

so Nern li chiu hor loh...meh re mah huang.. "Ren Lai Jiu How le...bu yong mah fun..." or Make it simple..come empty handed. I really think our elders love visitors today as much as we kids did in the past!!

Well if I have mangoes and coconuts growing on my trees you can have some to bring home!!

October 27, 2011

Bamboo Charcoal Noodles

Food today comes in different colours. Some are normal colours and some are absolutely unbelieveable!! We love red in our food - chillies and tomatoes. We don't mind deep purple cabbages. Yellow and green are natural colours of our vegetables.

But when it comes to black food many of us would think twice before picking up the food. I have tried the Spanish black squid dish. Black naturally - but it is an acquired exquisite taste. Not many outside Spain may like it.

What about the Nynonya's black keluak chicken?

Or the Foochow's black chicken soup?

Now there's the black bamboo charcoal bread which has become quite popular. Kuching's black bamboo charcoal noodles are selling are hot stuff nowadays!!

The Japanese were the first people to start producing bamboo charcoal noodles. Today Taiwan is also one of the biggest producers of bamboo charcoal products.
Bamboo charcoal is known to have many health benefits.
I was happy to find some bamboo charcoal noodles in Kuching's Pertanak Market. My mum (being quite adventurous in cooking ) found these noodles tasty.
Prepare the noodles in the kolo method. Add blanched vegetables and fresh mushrooms with some sesame oil and deep fried onions and garlic. Add a bit of Foochow red wine and you have a great bowl of healthy noodles.
These noodles can also be prepared like spaghetti and a nice seafood sauce!! Yummy.

October 26, 2011

5 kg of stones in plastic bags waiting for you!!

This is not a rubbish tip!!

These plastic bags contain 5 kg of stones for Roman Catholic pilgrims and other well wishers to carry up to the top of Mt. Singai.

And that was my introduction to this fantastic place called MCPC - a place managed by the Roman Catholic Church of Kuching.

It was a wet and misty Sunday morning. Against our better judgment we trudged ahead. My friend Hoo Neo had come all the way from Malacca to see this place and we did not want to disappoint her.

It took us about an hour to find the place because the signboard was a little obscure and the statue of Jesus Christ was not what and where we expected. So we missed them at first and had to retracked back when we almost reached Bau. A waste of good time. It is actually more or less about 12KM from Batu Kawah.

Before climbing the stairs I also took a proactive step to book a Bidayuh lunch for our part of four (yes I did insist on local pork if they have)after parking a little too far away. We could have driven in but there was not indication we could do so.

Next to a gurgling stream where reflections on the water jumped around caused by the leaves trembling in the wind were steps up the mountain. We knew we were in some kind of Garden of Eden. Father Westerwoudt who initiated this place could not have chosen better. The Dutch Catholic priest lived in this place for 12 years and died from typhoid at the young age of 37. The Roman Catholic Mission built a school for the local Bidayuhs converting many. Their initial work was not in vain for in 1981  - 94 years after the work of the Dutch priest  - Mt. Singgai was renewed and revived as a place of worship and a centre for pilgrimage.

God worked in mysterious ways and funds flooded in. The local people helped and a massive transformation too place. A stair way to the peak was built with 14 stops each bearing a Station of the Cross. (Chairman is Vincent Eddy). Today it is a place for many to pay their homage and also a very healthy and spiritual nature's garden.

This is from a Catholic Bulletin.

Hoo Neo meeting a local(Daniel) who served in the Army in Malacca!!  They shared some moments together.
The banner prepared by the committee led by Vincent Eddy calling for support.
Young Catholics carrying the plastic bags of stones up the stair case to the top.
A Sibu relative carrying 40 kg as his "offering" to the Centre. He makes  two or three trips each week. Yes indeed he is a Foochow from Sibu.....ask him why he is doing this!!
One of the Stations of the Cross. God miraculously "repaired" my left knee and the horrible poor muscles of my right thigh on two occasions. For that I am eternally grateful. "Fall upon your knees!!" a hymn resounded in my mind...Indeed we should fall upon our knees and pray for healing.
Our lunch. God's providence is sufficient for us!! Look at the bamboo strips  fashioned into a table.
Indeed it was an unexpected lunch of local vegetables and meat prepared by a lovely Bidayuh Catholic.  Catering is available. I forgot all about the pain I was suffering because I had slipped and fell on my butt. Did I break my tail bone? It did not matter because the fellowship was good and the morning had been a truly spiritual outing.

It was a beautiful morning...in my next trip I promise myself I will carry 10 kg of stones up to the top.

 May God bless all those who come here and all who help to maintain this place as a holy and pilgrimage centre. There will certainly be times for me to do my reflections and pay my homage.

October 23, 2011

Lemang Making

Cooking chickens or other meats in a bamboo stem(which is a larger sized and different species of bamboo actually) is nearly almost easier. It is like putting prepared and marinated meat in a small pot. But cooking rice in a long and narrow bamboo stem is entirely a different kettle of fish if the phrase is appropriate here.

Some tips on making lemang. Lemang is glutinous rice or ordinary non-glutinous cooked in smaller and narrower bamboo stems.

Banana stem - get ready one stem of bananas for the bamboos so that they won't slip. Place this on the ground to get the correct angle for the bamboo stems against the fire.

A good metal plate like the one in the photo will keep the temperature even

Make sure that you fill the bamboo up till only 2/3rds and then top up with enough santan until the top like this: Note that banana leaves are not used when I cook the glutinous rice in this way. I have been told that this method will keep the rice fresh for a longer period.

The bamboos should be "stopped" at the top by crushed tapioca leaves or banana leaves which will add more fragrance to the lemang.

These are the smaller bamboos to make your lemang. Stand them neatly on the metal plate. The banana stem should help prevent  burning of the bamboo ends and keep the bamboo stems at a correct angle. A slow fire is always better than a hot one because it would mean that the bamboo would burn and the rice would be uncooked.

The best lemang can last a few days. Use a sharp parang to peel/slice off the bamboo's outer skin until the inner whiter skin is seen. This is indeed a tricky skill. However after this peeling  it is easier to split the skin of the bamboo. They also look nicer on the table. Or you can crack open the bamboo and serve the rice on half of the bamboo.

Making lemang is quite a soul searching process. One does not do it every day. When cooking lemang for family and friends you have time to reflect on the goodness of the earth and the blessings of God. The cooking is natural over a simple fire which can even be started by two stones and a little bit of tinder from the aping tree.

Yes...you continue to sing (never whistle) in your mind about how green is your valley and how bountiful is your land.
When people can feel this close to their farms they are entirely together with their mother earth. How tragic it is if they have to lose their land on which they have been living for hundreds or thousands of years.

(P/s . The best place to make lemang like these is Rh Aling in Ulu Medamit where my children's paternal ancestors have already planted the different species of bamboo and prepared land for both glutinous rice and non glutinous rice for an abundant life. Coconuts have been grown here for more than 6 generations. Now the 36 families living together in a harmonious longhouse community can just reach out at any time to cut down a bamboo stem and pluck a few coconuts for easy rainforest cooking at its best. Unseen Asia!! Not on TLC or AFC)

October 22, 2011

Petai or Smelly Beans

My petai dish of fresh coconut juice and sambal belacan stir fry.....

Petai seeds already taken out of their pods.

For easier cooking half the seeds

Add dried prawns ...pounded finely in mortar....with onions and garlic

Stir fry with sambal belacan....with just a bit of oil

Add juice from half or all of a coconut taken fresh from a tree. Continue to boil until slightly more than half of soup is left. The stew is excellent. The petai will absorb the sweetness of the coconut water.

Parkia speciosa (petaibitter bean, Thai: sataw (สะตอ), twisted cluster beanyongchaayongchaak or kampaizawngṭah or stink bean) is a plant of the genus Parkia in the family Fabaceae. It bears long, flat edible beans with bright green seeds the size and shape of plump almonds which have a rather peculiar smell, characterised by some as being similar to that added to methane gas.
The beans are truly an acquired taste and many people in Sarawak turn their nose up on them. But actually they  are popular in Laos, southern ThailandBurmaSingaporeIndonesia, and northeastern India, and are sold in bunches, still in the pod, or the seeds are sold in plastic bags. Pods are gathered from the wild, or from cultivated trees: they are exported in jars or cans, pickled in brine, or frozen. In Miri petai are sold in the native markets in little plates for RM2 each or still in their pods. some are sold as salted petai in bottles.

 They are best when combined with other strongly flavoured foods such as garlicchile peppers, and dried shrimp, as in "sambal petai", or added to a Thai curry such as Thai Duck Green Curry. When young the pods are flat because the seeds have not yet developed, and they hang like a bunch of slightly twisted ribbons, pale green, almost translucent. At this stage they may be eaten raw, fried or pickled. Young tender pods with undeveloped beans can be used whole in stir-fried dishes.  In Indonesia, petai is very popular in the highlands of JavaSumatra, especially among BatakMinangkabau and many other people in different cultures of the island.
Petai beans or seeds look like broad beans. Like mature broad beans, they may have to be peeled before cooking. Petai has earned its nickname 'stink bean' because its strong smell is very pervasive. It lingers in the mouth and body. Like asparagus, it contains certain amino acids that give a strong smell to one's urine, an effect that can be noticed up to two days after consumption. Like other beans, their complexcarbohydrates can also cause strong-smelling flatulence.

A local doctor has told me that it is indeed good to eat petai if one is keen to "flush" one's kidneys every now and then. I find it an excellent dish myself and have been eating petai whenever I can.

My favourite way of cooking petai is the usual sambal belacan stir fry but I add half a coconut's juice instead of water. Some tumeric will also give the sauce a nice colouring. Give this organic dish a try.

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...