January 30, 2012

Nang Chong and Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are usually not the favourite part of chicken for the Foochows not in the past and perhaps not even today...
Pic from http://sotongcooks.blogspot.com
These are the pieces we Foochows would distribute amongst the family members in the traditional way:
1. Drumsticks - one for the father (if he is at home) and one for the boys who would take turn to get it.
2. wings - for the girls - who would "fly away" when they get married. There are four portions here. The girls would get their drumsticks/thighs on their birthdays.
3. breasts - for those who ate later or lesser members of the family like relatives who had come to work as househelp
4. backbone and necks and legs - mother usually would have these pieces

In my family my mother(after my father passed away)would decide who should get the better pieces. Without her telling me I would always pick the backbone and I would take time to savour the flesh. On my birthday I would always get the expected drumstick which would really taste just so good. In those early formative years I felt that it was really worth waiting for the drumstick and I really felt like a princess having just that beautiful piece of chicken in my bowl of noodles.

But those were the days when frozen food was unheard of and KFC had not come to the shores of Borneo and Sarawak. And I sort knew from my girl cousins that they did not quite like the idea of getting chicken wings only.

Today time and people have changed a lot. In fact there are too many ways of cooking chicken wings to make people forget that these were not the favoured parts of the chicken. Many people are shocked and even choked by the prices of chicken wings today. They are priced at RM12.00 per kg. Drumsticks are RM9.00 per kg. I wonder now if the Foochow world has been turned upside down If my grandmother were alive today she would not be able to believe her eyes. I have lots of foochow friends who love chicken wings. Some of them would go out for BBQ chicken wings in Permyjaya or elsewhere in Miri. I think a friend can even eat 5 honeyed BBQ chicken wings at one sitting!! He would not think that he would become one of the family to "fly away".


In the 1950's a cousin of mine was married to a large family and she was given the chicken wing with her rice by her mother in law. And later she told us that marriage had short changed her "she not only had to do lots of chores but she was rewarded with a chicken wing!!" To her it was a social demotion because when at home she could have drumsticks. But later in her humourous ways of telling stories..she could have the whole chicken to herself because she was a working woman..well if her mother in law insisted on giving her the wings only  she could always buy her own chicken!! She fought a courageous fight and she brought up her sons and daughters equally...When her daughter did well in her exams my cousin double steamed one whole kampong chicken for her daughter. I thought that was very very nice of her. She did the same for her son whenever he did well in his studies. One whole chicken as a reward!!

Another cousin would always remember how my grandmother would share part of her chicken drumstick and wings with her . My aunt (Yiing Chiong ah Ging) who was always loving towards my maternal grandmother would especially rear a chicken to honour my grandmother on her birthday. This was a kind of great respect for an elder in a village. In the olden days in the village this was a great way to show respect and filial piety . The honoured elder was called to the house on his or her birthday and a chicken was slaughtered straightaway...The chicken would be fresh and very tasty..I think today some chefs all over the world would boast that their food come from within 15 km of their restaurants to measure the freshness of their food! Well in Nang Chong food came from just the backyard..within 10 meters!!

Indeed neighbours some how could always tell how good a daughter in law was when chickens were fattened in the farm yard and the children were told not to disturb one particular chicken which was "reserved" for grandmother or grandfather's birthday.

If a snake did come to do some damage there would be lots of tears in the home. I remember that well.

And I really appreciated it when my mother's sister in law reared a chicken just for my mother's birthday!! For my mother to reciprocate all the kind gestures she would buy chickens from the market in Sibu.

(Another way of remember an elder's birthday is to bring a life chicken and a tray of eggs as a birthday gift.)

I had once asked my grandmother "If you send a whole chicken for someone's birthday..and only a drumstick is given to the birthday girl...why don't people rear only drumsticks?" Perhaps I was already thinking of food re-engineering.

Back to chicken wings for girls

Well in my mother's words..."so many of you girls have flown the nest of Nang Chong!!To America..to Australia...to New Zealand and to the UK.... May be heavens had really destined you to leave...you had eaten too many chicken wings."

(Dedicated to my girl cousins who have "flown" far away....I know one of you will be reading this!! Cheers)

9 comments:

Ann said...

U forgot your Sis here in Auckland. When I was little , I actually liked the wings. But we were not given different parts, except the little ones.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann...my sis is not from Nang chong LOL..she was born and bred in Sibu (a town girl)...and well...you are a girl from Kwong Tern Pah...flown away to Canada first and then NZ...
I like the backbones...hence did not fly at all...I am holding the fort in Sarawak...LOL.

My cousin in the US is tickled by the wings story......

Sarawakiana@2 said...

(Here's a comment from a friend...I also can't help but wish to share with my readers her bit....)

I just can't resist having my say. Great article of truth. In my young days the saying goes like"younger siblings eat the meat and older ones eat the bones". I am in the "family high rank" No. 3 of 10 but ever so grateful if can even get the butt. LOL. I managed to fly off with the few wings rewarded.:-)"

Ann said...

nobody in my family likes the breast meat.

Ann said...

your sis still has roots from Nang Chong. LOL

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Breast meat is a lovely piece of good meat actually. I love it..as my mother cancook a special dish...minced chicken breast meat with egg meat balls and lovely really...very white and very creamy. with liver andkidneys soup. and lots of red wine for confinement
Or chicken chops....with nice herbs...and a red wine sauce...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...I suppose so...she has flown so far from Nang Chong!! There's a good family friend too in Auckland. She is from Nang Chong so I wonder if she had lots of chicken wings from her mother!! LOL

Anonymous said...

Hi...I am from a different ethnic group. In our society every one is free to take any food one likes on the table once they are placed for eating. Grandpa can choose what he likes. Grandma if she is late will have just what is in the bowl. Our society practises a free world...Maybe you can say no ceremonies. Unless the person is sick or we have been told to keep food for a special reason in the pot. like saving enough for the next meal because the mother is not free. Chickens are plentiful in our farm so every one is happy enough with any parts. Nothing is really special or no piece..is "more important".
Mrs.D.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Mrs.D
Thanks for the comments. It is good to know that in some societies girls are equal to boys in the social hierarchy..and this makes them definitely more confident in the real world...hope it does mean a lot of the girls any where in the world to be confident...