August 31, 2011

Beans and Seeds at a Sunday DRY Market in Mengzi ofYunnan

Shops in Yunnan are opened everyday. But the farmers of dry beans and vegetables come to Mengzi only on Sunday.

There is a unique street in Mengzi where farmers sell their products directly to their customers. Their products are seeds and grains. It is so amazingly tantalising  and educational to people who appreciate these dry foods.

I do not think that our farmers in Malaysia ever thought of selling their own products in this unique street style . Some of the products are even sold from the pulled carts. These photos show how the farmers come from their farms to sell their good on a Sunday. Definitely they are paid directly and there is no chance for middlemen to pocket a profit. So prices remain very very reasonable and every one has a good bargain.

Different kinds of peanuts and beans are sold from sacks like these along the road side. Peanuts form the main ingredient of many popular dishes in Yunnan. A nice wild vegetable and toufoo can be  beefed up by the ground milky peanut milk and a nice  soup is presented to the guests as the centre dish. Perhaps this is the reason why in this agrarian society both men and women are particularly sturdy and living long lives.
These are precious black sesame seeds which is often made into an important health giving porridge.
Floral teas are offered to customers who may need cooling drinks.
Two women are sorting out giving each other companionship while waiting for their customers.

Free range (kampong chicken) eggs are usually sold in this way to show their identity. Factory chicken eggs are sold in egg trays.The kampong chickens in Yunnan are called Tu Chi or Soil chicken.

Another set of 10 free range duck eggs.
Here's a strategic corner where men ply their products - peanuts( still in their shells )and beans and garlic.

To Malaysians this is indeed a real tamu which means meeting place for farmers. At the end of the day these Yunnan farmers would cart their seasonal products home leaving the streets very clean and dry. And life goes on until the next Sunday.

August 30, 2011

A House Warming Feast in a Yunnan Village

It is a good time to visit Yunnan any time of the year. The saying goes " It is spring in Yunnan the whole year round". And Yunnan has the reputation of being the Paradise of China.

It cannot be more true in my own experience. I had the best God given ten days of my life there. In the mountains you can only feel the warm love of friends and strangers ( Strangers are friends you have not met) and the presence of God. I would rather think that's my definition of paradise on earth!!

We were invited to a friend's housewarming in the mountains. The journey took just about a hour from where we were staying. Along the way we saw the beautiful and fascinating rice terraces and crops growing even on top of the hills!!

The Yi tribe and the Miao tribe can walk hours from one place to another. Cultivating the hills is part of their century old culture.

the Yi minority people are now enjoying a very high standard of life with the government compensating them for the use of their land for road construction and urban development. Many of them live in three storeyed mansions and continue to grow cash crops using the latest technology . While many continue to enjoy continuing their modernised but traditional farming as their occupations many have gone for tertiary studies to better equip themselves for the 21 st century China. A Yi minority man has a PhD in modern agriculture while another man we met has developed his own fertilizers based on very sustainable methods.

 However the magical part of this area lies in their deep rooted culture and traditions. The women still turn up for parties in their traditional costumes. That day I was wearing their colour - orange and they were extremely warm towards their guests but remain very camera shy.

There costumes look good both front and back....And the women are very very close to each other. These ladies are waiting to place their gifts of an Angpow on the reception table.

Their tables are small and low and here we were seated eight to a table. (Eight is a prosperity number or a Blessing Number to Christians and non Christians).

Happy Blessed Eight people eating a meal together ...Each house is protected by a good stone wall.
Young and old came to help a relative to celebrate the thanksgiving  and dedication of her new mansion.
"Refilling" the serving bowls on the table is part of their culture . A guest's full stomach is a host's pleasure.
Twelve Dishes (our dish of water melon is under the table and Lisa is putting the dried meats away) A Good Feast is a Table Laden with Food . All the food on the table is from their own farm. 
A few hundreds came for the house warming. The space between the new house and other houses were used up as venue for the low table (al fresco) feasting. Here is another table of happy guests. There were more than 12 dishes and "refilling" came several times. Two extra dishes of fruits and dried meats made a total of 14.

My friends and I felt so blessed - an unexpected invitation and an experience in paradise.

August 29, 2011

Maswings in Marudi

Lovely and bird like - just nice for Rural Sarawak
Very light weight and fit....
Luggage is taken out by an old four wheeled trolley.
You can carry plastic bags of goodies and even a life chicken in the olden days
You get a bit worried when the pilot starts to read his manual.

The rural flying service of Sarawak has been documented by many people in the last 50 years. Many articles have appeared in the Borneo Bulletin and the New Straits Times and more recently in The Star. The flying service is very essential in the largest state of Malaysia which still lacks good roads.

Twin Otters have always been a household name amongst Civil Servants and politicians who often have to travel for their official duties. And in fact many people have become familiar with is special engine sounds. In Bintulu a friend would always run into her house to cook her lunch when she hears the Twin Otter coming at mid-day....and leave the gossip at the fence for the next day!!

I still remember some long ago days that if the Twin Otter did not arrive we would not get our post!!

That was life in Sarawak in the old days.

Today in places like Marudi or Claude Town (a town initiated by the Brooke Government in the Barama) the legends live on and individuals would build memories of their own.

On a flight  to Marudi or from Marudi you can meet a newly wedded couple still fresh from the mid day wedding feast...with the bride still wearing her thick makeup and the groom reeking with XO Brandy!!

Or you could be sitting next to a local longhouse headman who has a jar of preserved fish in his hands.

I once sat next to a lady with a new born baby on a flight to Marudi. She had tears in her eyes because her daughter died at the baby's birth in Miri  She had been made grandmother but she lost a daughter on the same day. She was unconsolable and she was so alone in the world!! I believe that the droning of the Twin Otter in the future would always remind her of that day and her great loss.

Marudi is still the same after 20 years of my travelling up and down the Baram.....It is the Twin Otter which makes my day...for I can go home after a good day's work ...running for the last flight...and missing that...I would have to stay a night in one of the small Marudi hotels.

That's another story for me tell you in the future.

August 19, 2011

Fried Bread @ Ramadan Bazaar

In recent years I have noticed that many Bumiputra businesses have embarked on a quest for new recipes. With so many synthesis going on it is not surprising that they have put the old bun (bread) wrapped in store bought popiah skin and deep fried it resulting in an interesting "ARAB" fried bread!!

The fried bread has minced meat filling which is Arab in origin - lots of coriander and cumin and other spices. And I think if dates are not really that expensive here a nice minced meat and date filling would just be fantastic!!

Bread frying in deep oil in a Sarawak kuali - these kualis are very useful when there is a wedding in the kampungs. You can cook a large amount of food over an open fire in the garden!! Very portable indeed!!
Very nice looking and attractive fried bread
The freshly made buns wrapped in popiah skin ready for frying.....
Fried bread!! Hot and fragrant....

August 18, 2011

Old Friend (Lou Peng Yiu)

Where can you get a plate of Beautiful Chicken Rice  BUT from good Old Friend in Miri?
Tucked in a little corner near the Bintang Plaza of Miri is this little shop serving breakfast and lunch.

It is called "Old Friend" - and the proprietor is really friendly and an old friend to every one who comes. His most attractive points are his smile and understanding nod. Besides customers from diverse races come here enjoy a fresh and free bowl of soup which is very tasty. Sometimes the soup has beaten egg. He has made efforts to make his soup better than other "Sup Kosong". This is a coffee shop where you won't feel threatened because you are slightly older...or different in race and colour...or even different in language.

And I can tell you he is not making empty promises where his soup is concerned!!

Past the High Court in Miri and the Melanau Association Building you will find a small road which leads to the Bintang Plaza. And along the road you can see this nice looking corner shop. The three Chinese words are Lou Peng Yiu..or Old Friend.

The tables are very clean and the stools very solid and strong. Somehow people my age are very afraid of sitting on  the usual plastic chairs.
Mixed vegetables from the Fast and Economy Food section.
One of the stall owners taking a break...
Lovely braised (pak loh) pork and eggs.
Steamed white chicken...very tender and juicy..and tasty of course.
Fresh and free bowl of curry for customers who like it.
Sweet and sour fish and you get  some veg and  rice..all for RM4.00.
The not so clear and kosong soup. Some winter melon slices in this free soup
People walk from as far as North School and Dewan Suarah to get a very reasonable lunch at RM4.00. You also get extra curry topping for your rice. I normally like a lot of Tzi or sauce with my the proprietor gives me double portion.....I still remember when I was a  uni student I bought only 30 cents rice  per plate and was grateful to the shop keeper who doused my rice with the free sauce from the chicken. I only had that kind of lunch just to save money to buy books or pay for bus fares. But that was enough as lunch. I am always very partial to shop keepers who are happy and generous in giving free sauce to customers.

Nope...for writing this I did not get a free meal...But I think the owner deserves some appreciation for his humble efforts and heartfelt kindness - the true essence of the hospitality industry.

August 17, 2011

Choco Kingdom in Miri

If you enjoy shopping in Bintang Mall in Miri you can be tempted by many new food and snack. In keeping up the global standards Miss Hani and Miss Olivia operate a very Japanese like stall offering strawberries and other fruits coated with chocolate!!

How is this done? You have to go and see for yourself. The food is freshly prepared and sometimes on the spot for you.

The idea of the business is very refreshing. And with a small fridge hidden under the counters you can be assured that the seasonal fruits are all very clean and fresh.

The one person operated stall with a choco fondue fountain is the only one in town!!

chocolate lovers would love the products of Choco Kingdom. And parents should really introduce this product because it is a good way of getting their children to love fruits more.

Marshmallows which could be given a chocolate dressing.
Pretty gift packaging...
Weekends you can buy home made cup cakes of the best quality.
Fresh strawberries coated with chocolate are the main attractions during the right season!!
If you want some fun food and wish to make your children happy....give them lots of fruits with some chocolate coating....Go also to see the chocolate fondue fountain...your kids would love to look at it too.....

Love is a chocolate coated strawberry......or a marshmallow coated with chocolate!!

August 16, 2011

Manuel Rodrigues - Guitars which take my heart away......

I have always been impressed by people who play the guitar well.

The guitar is afterall a simple musical instrument which can be carried around easily. It has really been an instrument which has been "instrumental" in getting many of my girl friends to fall in love with the musicians!!

Perhaps it is the age old part of our culture - the guitar playing guy gets the girl...A good friend of mine recently told me that it is true in her case . In fact I have many other testimonies. So guys out there if you haven't found a girl friend yet...pick up guitar playhing...

However today I am bringing your attention to a fairly higher end of guitars which may cost up to Bru$6000!! "Using only the finest woods, and hand-forming each to precise tolerances, Manuel Rodriguez developed distinctive guitars fit for the world’s preeminent artists. Each instrument is as unique and individual as the musician who plays it." 

Manuel Rodrigues is a company that makes really good Spanish guitars. But the most interesting and iconic sign on the guitar is not the wood (which you cannot really t ell) but the design on it. The hole in the guitar is always decorated by Spanish embroidery design. What can be more Spanish than their embroidery?

This is such a great tribute to women's hardwork and traditions....I wonder how many men would design or invent an instrument and put their mother's or wife's embroidery design on it.

Some one thought that it would be a wonderful idea to give a guitar to the Sultan of Brunei for his birthday. He would have chosen a Manuel Rodrigues guitar for His Royal Highness.

Athough the guitars are fascinating and famous the high prices make them unreachable for most of us and we just look - or go window shopping. Every guitar made by MR has an intriguing needlework  design. And I think that it is this delicate Spanish art which makes the MR guitar a distinctive instrument above all the others.

Manuel Rodriguez has paid the greatest tribute to his wife in his life long endeavour of making good guitars. What a great mind! What love !!

Visit a shop selling MR guitars and look at the needlework patterns on them.....Cheers. Ole!

August 15, 2011

"I got wheels!!!"

Different women have different fates. Some are born with silver spoons in their mouth. Some have to eek out a living under the hot sun. Some have the overhead bridge as their roof and others live in rubbish dumps.

Most women have to eek out a living on their own and bring home food for their children.

Here's one who peddles food along the main street of Serikin. She has a very unusual "recycled" vehicle.

Two back tyres are bicycle tyres and the front tyre is a recycled wheel barrow tyre. The roof is made from vinyl sheet which is a common material for lining floors and table tops in Malaysia.

Lunch from her can be as cheap as RM1.50 (rice and egg and one veg). She does not cry out but quietly pushes her cart along the road and rests. While waiting people will come up to buy her food which is well protected from flies. Her conical hat is different from those worn in Sarawak as the weaving is different. The material is keropok a swamp plant which is also common in Sarawak. It is interesting to note that most Asian vegetative hats are conical in shapes.
The harsh sun and weather have not taken her inner beauty away. Praise God!!

I do wonder during the 4 weekends of the Fasting Month how she could make a living with her food cart. As I am so far away from Serikin now...I am wondering whether she would be selling her food only for a few hours before Buka Puasa at 6.40p.m. But then most people would be busy getting ready to go home from their temporary sheds and also shopping.

If it rains her business would definitely be washed out....

But life has definitely been much easier since she got her wheels!!

August 14, 2011

Kenyah Lady at the Central Market

Sayur Rambai Rambai - Swaying vegetables
You seldom see a lovely Kenyah lady like her in any part of Sarawak ....
this is Kenyah styled hat...made by her. RM35 only.
A gorgeous Kenyah lady in Marudi

Rice Field Mushroom and Vegetable and Rice Plate

Mandai leaves are very popular in Northern Sarawak and you can buy them in most pasar tani (or farmers' market).

Recently I had some with my friends in their home.

she had just come back from her rice field and she brought back the organic vegetable and some white mushrooms.

Very soft and sweet leaves - jungle greens. I think this is as good as Cangkok Manis.

A whole bundle of the leaves and their stems.

Freshly cooked leaves with the white mushrooms from the padi fields.
Rice is also home grown and milled in a nearby milling station. Payment is in kind. One " kong"
or one tin of freshly milled rice for one gunny of unhusked rice.....That's very reasonable. 

In this way the women in this farming community actually put food on the table and they labour long and hard for their rice. As a bonus (from my point of view) God places free vegetables along the way for them to pick when they are on their way home from the farm......

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