March 31, 2012

Fisherman's Kitchen -a special Coffee Shop

The coffee shop nearest to where I stay in Miri is called Fisherman's Kitchen.

At this coffee shop we often meet our friends and relatives from Sibu like Paul Ling who has retired and is living in Miri.

Paul was having a good breakfsfat with his father in law...

A young lady serves all the fast food...and she stands next to a bowl of freshly deep fried fish which is well liked by Foochows and other customers.

One of my favourite dishes here - fresh fish slices cooked in a bowl of mee hoon soup with lots of vegetables.

Close-up of the little fishes...

A coffee shop in the neighbourhood always makes your life a little is convenient of course and you get into a nice conversation every now and then when business is not so hectic with the towkay's wife.....and pick up interesting local news.....

Most importantly...once the owners are familiar with you you won't be disappointed by their service and their food. It is just like being in a coffee shop run by relatives in Sibu!!

March 26, 2012

Nang Chong Stories The Merlin of Nang Chong and the Eating of Fish

The eating of fish was part of village life as many Foochows were fishermen who went to sea then using the small "kotak" boats. And many of my uncles were fishermen when the rubber prices were low ..Many even doubled up as wharf labourers when times were bad and the seas were rough literally!! So in many ways they were multi-skilled in their simple ways.

The Rajang is the sister river to the Min River of the Fujian Province of China where the original Foochows came from in 1901.

An uncle of mine (Head Master  Hii Wen Hui-..he was always called Head Master by fellow villagers.)..taught us about fish..He impacted all the students he taught and many more like his associates and his colleagues...

His home was a little inland from my grandmother's house in Nang Chong and he was a great reader besides being a good decision maker. Many would go to see him for advice. I thought he was rather like Merlin in the tales of King Arthur . If only he could cast some spell too. He was my Merlin.

The wisdom from the Merlin of Nang Chong..

He taught us well...and one of the lessons was from eating different kinds of fish.

Bakrik or terubuk is sweet and the cheaper of the fish but the soup is sweet. So don't look down upon it. In the same way...a man might look scrawny and untidy...look into his good heart. Never look down upon a poor man.

We kids loved to eat terubok. Steamed terubuk in those days were very sweet. When we had more cooking oil..we had crunchy and crispy deep fried terubuk..and even the fins tasted good..they lasted longer in our mouth when we chewed them.

The Ngo Ngii or Thread fin is a higher end fish to the Foochows. It is fleshy and round. So according to my uncle..that would be the best fish to cook for an older member of the family. Uncle Hii showed us how to love our parents by example. He loved his parents like no one else in the the Nang Chong village. He was filial and philosophical about parental care and would never cross words with his frail father especially. But what was very impactful was how he treated his mute uncle (Pang Nga Ka ka) with the greatest respect any person could give. Pang Nga Ka ka never drove a car for he cycled until the day he passed away. Uncle Hii never failed to roll out the red carpet for his most people would ignore their physically challenged relatives when they are with very important people but not my Uncle Hii. He treated his elders with great respect and especially my maternal grandmother his mother in law. He would call her " Neh " non stop - more than my own uncles!! The Foochows call " Suong nian neh ah riang neh" non -stop calling Neh...And he would buy Ngo Ngii for her when she came to town.

I would never forget how Pang Nga Ka ka cried at my maternal grandmother's coffin. He was inconsolable. He too had loved my grandmother as much as his own nephew. Such was the great bond amongst the Nang Chong Foochows in those days. Because of Uncle Hii we kids learned to accept the physically challenged members of our community with great respect and love.

Uncle Hii taught us about different fish swimming in the sea from young. He taught us another  good lesson : there are hundreds of species in the sea and they have mutual respect for each other. Schools of the same species swim together. Can we do the same? Unfortunately there are lots of sharks around. So we have to be on the look out for each other. I think few of us actually look out for others nowadays. We tend to ignore things and when situations get worse..we say..."I knew it would happen" and then..too late..matters get worst! It is a pity we have too many of such uncaring people around us.

Uncle Hii was an expert in buying of fish. And to this day I would always think of him whenever I see fresh terubok and Ngo Ngii in the market.

But most important of all if you have the skills of a strategist or a help out your fellowmen and fellow women..Find your own Merlin.....I am glad we had our Merlin...

He knew I love history of the Foochows. He gave me the whole set of books by Lau Tze Cheng before he passed away. He did say to me once only (he said things once only when I was a naughty teenager- should learn more Chinese and play less hockey ...well as a young and energetic tom boy...I played too much hockey and later too much tennis - and indeed I live to regret it... But I am trying to make it up by learning more Chinese now...)

Yes if only the Merlin of Nang Chong could live forever.

(These photos were taken in Bintulu at the wharf just as fish was being unloaded in the early morning. A very memorable photography day indeed for me)

March 25, 2012

Creative Toothpick Container

Ancient people used it. The Persians used it. The Italians used it.

The Chinese even made gold ones and wear it around their neck from a gold chain. It was for years an important gold ornament. A few of my aunts had them.

I am talking about toothpicks. Every day we use it to clean our teeth and diners ask for them constantly.

in the USA the first toothpick-manufacturing machine was developed in 1869, by Charles Forster. Another was patented in 1872, by Silas Noble and J. P. Cooley.I wonder when the Chinese started to manufacture toothpicks.

I was at Hua Loong Coffee Shop in Miri and was surprised to be given this bottle which holds toothpicks.

Mr. Lu the Foochow Mee stall owner said "You can supply the coffee shop with brand new and good looking tooth pick holders. They won't last a day because many people who come into the coffee shop ask for tooth picks and they will take home the container as well!! So I designed this tooth pick holder out of a Polleny Essence has been with me for years!!"

It is true that one of the worst losses coffee shop owners and restaurant owners make is the small item like toothpick holders and even teaspoons.

Observant waiters and waitresses have to retrieve these items before the diners leave!! But again when the outlet is so busy..."flickers who are quick in their hands" walk out with precious items....

Pity we still have people who have "strange mentality".

Mr. Lu is a genious in designing this creative toothpick holder. Functional .

Mr. Lu serves one precious item - Chow Yi Char (smelly root) mee you can come and support him every now and then. Taman Jade Manis.

March 22, 2012

Special Chinese Fried Noodles in Tomato Sauce in Bintulu Tamu

The bottled or canned tomato sauce did not come into the Chinese world of cooking until the British Colonial Officers started to train their Chinese cooks and house boys to use it.

Since then..tomato sauce has been appearing in several well known Chinese dishes especially in South East Asia especially in sweet and sour dishes. Although many have gotten to having Pizzas and spaghetti with meat balls and tomato sauce many older Chinese are still avoiding the red  fruity and tangy sauce.

The younger Chinese might not even know that in the 1950's tomato sauce was a novelty and a sauce used in Colonial clubs and homes!! Any way nowadays it is as commonplace as the soy sauce...

I was pleasantly surprised by a very delicious plate of fried noodles cooked by a Foochow lady chef in Bintulu.

This is the Fried Noodles in Tomato Sauce perhaps the best in Northern Sarawak..... The photo below shows her in action. She works single handedly without support from a "man". She has been in the occupation for more than 2 decades. She has a special system to get her noodles out in a very short time.

Stall No.79. Madam Lee is a member of the Bintulu Methodist Church.

The greens are just cooked enough to give it a sweet taste.
Fresh Bintulu prawns to add additional seafood flavour.
Beaten eggs also give a lot of goodness to the dish with some chopped oinions to give the dish a special  tang!!
A closer look at the pork and chicken slices and the sauce.
Pork liver and fresh prawns go well together....
The chef is a nice lady - very friendly and cheerful and at times she is too busy to stop for a chat. The Foochows usually like their cooks to be "mang chiew" or fast in the hand...noodles don't get over fried or burnt and every is just right.

Each time I observe a chef cooking and using his/her ingredients I would sort of guess without speaking to her that she is a Foochow because of the way she slices the liver. It seems that we Foochows have a special tendency to use liver in our cooking. So if you don't like liver you must tell her not to put this ingredient into the dish. But to me it makes a whole world of difference. I suppose it is the Foochow tastebuds. Once a month I still need my liver fix!!

I like the sauce ..not too sweet..not too sticky ..not too watery..Just right..And the tomato sauce doesn't taste as if it is from the tin. There is indeed goodness and freshness in the noodles...My grandmother would have approved!!

Whenever you visit Bintulu do try to visit this lady's stall...she has been supporting her family single handedly and now she must ensure herself of a good retirement and old age. She is closed on Sundays to keep the Sabbath holy.

(Permission obtained to photograph her stall..and to go back for more photos!!)

March 20, 2012

A Canvas Bed Found in Bintulu

I continue to a vivid memory of a canvas bed in my paternal grandfather's house. This image is still very fresh in my head. The canvas bed was found in the "Ow Kien" or a little room behind the the living room. It was for him to have his nap in the afternoons. And for about two hours I could not run freely on the wooden floors upstairs.We kids had to be absolutely quiet and still while our 80+ grandfather was taking a nap. He must have loved his canvas bed as much as I have loved memories of canvas beds.

Part of my growing up years in Sibu was associated with kind shop assistants and hardworking itinerant workers. Shop assistnats helped my uncles and aunts in their shops and itinerant workers came and went in the villages of Nang Chong and Ensurai. Besides earning wages of $30 or $60 per month they were given three meals a day and a simple sleeping place...which could be just a table in a glass cutting shop (Chieng Lee Kui) or a wooden bed made up of four planks and two benches which could be dismanted and put away in the day time (Hua Hong Ice Factory). A mattress for an employee was unheard of. And no shops actually sold mattresses in the 50's and 60's. Mattresses were actually imported(specially ordered) from Singapore as Bridal Gifts. Most home made mattresses were filled with Kapok or even coconut fibres.

For a long time (1950 -1960) I remember I slept on plain planks of wooden beds...and sometimes a very thin kapok mattress. My mother's bed was special because hers was a soft rattan bed which was very airy and comfortable - an antique which cannot be bought nowadays.

My Aunt Hung Yee had a special spring four poster brass bed which had a western mattress. But then that was a bed found in Kuching!!

As a child I was given one whenever I went to visit my grandfather in Sungei Merah and I really loved sleeping on it.

My classmate Sebastian Gaong said that he slept in one for a long time when he was a boarder. Other native students had such a bed for the first time in their lives when they came to the town to further their studies.

The last time I slept on a canvas bed was in the Lau King Howe hospital. It was because there were too many mothers being admitted. I was lucky I was not placed in the verandah!! After resting on the canvas bed for more than 5 hours and suffering from intermittent labour pains...I was wheeled into the labour room and my precious little boy was born at 7.02 p.m. on that special Friday evening!!

Today some hospitals still give canvas beds to their extra patients. It is really a very special and functional emergency bed. The army continues to use canvas beds when it is on the move. What a wonderful invention!!

A very simple foldable canvas just need a pillow and a thin blanket to have a good night's sleep.
folded up and the room is a good working room or office or TV room.
Another view of the lovely canvas bed

With my experiences of sleeping on a canvas bed as a child and as mother in labour in the Lau King Howe Hospital .....I think I would love to lie down in one any time again....It is just the right kind of bed for the tropical climate...and it is really so convenient!!

Have you ever thought of sleeping in one?

And of course not many women would like to give birth on a canvas bed in full view of 26 other expectant mothers and visitors...I almost did!! Luckily the labour room was available to welcome my baby in 1987.

(Thanks to the management of the Central Inn in Bintulu for letting me photograph this nostalgic - pung buoh chong - canvas  bed. I have been searching for one for sometime. What a coincidence!! An Indian night watch men in olden days would sleep in a jute bed or a canvas bed...)

March 19, 2012

Matang's Mushroom and Vegetable Farm

It was interesting how I got to the farm after asking for directions twice.

First direction - "It's near the TYT's new mansion"...we drove and felt quite lost. Well goodness me..we are not in the loop...we don't even know that the TYT is getting a new mansion...He lives in the Astana as far as we know...and if we may say so..our TYT is from Sibu and he should actually build his mansion in his hometown!! Well it is really not for me to say.

Second direction - "Oh it's simple - go to the Red Bridge..come to the traffic lights..and take the road on the and you won't miss it..."

We drove for about 12 miles and passing through several small and quaint Bidayuh and Chinese villages we finally found it.

Upon reflection in real life we really need good road maps. With a busy lifestyle my sister does not have a lot of time in her hands to get lost...she likes going directly from A to Z and then home in the shortest possible time.

We had driven since 8 in the morning and had lost precious time. But then again a friendly guy the day before had said.."You can't get lost on from the roundabout. and you will find it.."

Another view of the Matang Range from the farm
View of the Matang Range from the farm..lovely tree
Extremely fresh mushrooms
Sarawak farm hand clipping fresh mushrooms for packing
new vegetables growing under netting.

A visit to the farm is very interesting.

First of all the farm being quite a new kid on the block it is still "new" and developing. And the employees are very friendly and helpful.

Secondly there are not many drop in shoppers or "purchasers" at the moment so the employees are happy to have a bit of a chat session with inquisitive visitors like me.

Best of all...I was allowed to roam freely and take photos..However the sun was really too strong by that time.

We did not go further into the back as it was time to go home to cook lunch. We did not come to buy fresh chickens which were available in the farm too. My sister will definitely come again to get the chickens and ducks..

We went home with fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms...and lots of photos.

It is a nice place to visit with children who like the outdoors and especially farms. And may be it would be good to bring my mother too one day now that we know exactly how to get there in the shortest possible time ..without the fear of getting lost on the way. Mum is another person who likes to get from A to Z in the shortest and least troublesome way.

By the way older Foochows should come here because this is Foochow owned farm....and every one speaks good Foochow....So this is an extra pull factor.

And like a true Malaysian I end up saying....I can't give you the exact address because "the business is new and they do not have business cards yet..." so you just have to ask for directions..Pass the Red Bridge please...and don't take the highway.

May be it's time to travel with a GPS.

March 18, 2012

Friends and Family Outing in the 60's to Bukit Aup

Just recently Facebook helped me connect with a grand daughter of the late Rev Ling Kai Cheng. And we have started a marvellous journey of sharing our knowledge and heritage .

And I am writing this for her mother who happens to know most of the people in this photo.

Ease Chen's uncle and aunt were also best friends with my  late Third Uncle(Tiong Ta King)  and my late Aunt (Lu Kie Kee) .

In the photo is James TC Wong's (blogger) mother (furthest left)...and James himself (the little boy). The two little girls must be James Wong's sisters.

My two cousins Dr. Gracia  and Ivy are standing...The late wife of Lau Hieng Ing is third from the right sitting atop the landrover. Next to her could be Belinda Lau.

My third uncle is standing behind. And my third aunt is sitting in the front with very fashionable sunglasses.

I love the sunglasses the people in the photos are wearing.

All sunglasses must be from the International Optics owned by an uncle Tiong Dak King. There are two branches of International Optics in Miri which continue to provide excellent services with kindness from the heart!

Today the l Malaysia Cultural Village is sited in almost the same place where the photo was taken. In the 1950's Bukit Aup was a good place for picnics and outings for the whole family. A visit to the neigbhouring longhouses was a thrill for many people too. A small road connected Bukit Aup to Sibu via Sungei Merah. Or brave people would take long boat rides from Sibu by the Igan River to reach the end of the Aup Road which ended near the Igan River next to the longhouses.

Today this area is well populated and more development seems to be taking place.

March 17, 2012

Japanese Professor Visits My Grandfather's Tomb

This is a prelude to the Ching Ming Festival which is just around the corner. But Ching Ming usually coincides with very fine weather in Sarawak and in China.

My friend Meng Lei brought Professor Hiroshi to study the cemeteries of the Chinese on 11th March 2012 which happened to be the anniversary of the Earthquake in Japan.

One of the graves they visited was my Great Grandfather and Grandfather's "double grave".

The above photo taken by Meng Lei shows Prof Hiroshi taking a photo  of my grandfather's tomb.

The professor noticed:
1. This tomb is unique in size  - it is a double "faced" tomb or two in one (in fact it is a multiple tomb). One side is my Great Grandfather's who was buried with his wife. On my grandfather's lot - he had his own space. Next to him are the lots of my Second Grandmother (Wong) and my Third Grandmother (Siew). In case you might like to ask - My grandmother (Chong) predeceased my Great Grand Parents and my Grandfather. She was buried on a lovely hill opposite the MYM Cemetery. She was 38 only.

2. All words written on this special tomb were by Rev Yao Siew King - my grandfather's good friend and partner.Each tomb has 6 sets of Chinese phrases (Chen Yu) which denote the values of the Chinese. The words/phrases actually signify my grandfather's love for education.

3. The design is very Fujian of China and the coffin is placed above the land level.

4. To prevent damage this double tomb has a big fence with a small gate.

5. Mt  grandfather's headstone has the names of his seven sons ONLY following the traditions of the Foochows. So this grave is very typical of Foochow graves. It is rare to find a grave where the daughters' names are inscribed also.

All Foochows in the past in Sibu would prepare their graves ahead of their own passing. In Foochow this is called "Chok Hung Chui". They would scout for a proper lot and decide on the design. So according to what I learn from some relatives my grandfather took time to design this tomb for his parents and for himself as a very far sighted act.

Having a grave constructed is a very serious matter and many taboos have to be followed so that the younger generation is blessed. And the best person to consult is the contractor who does the construction. He would have all the advice at his finger tips...Other elders' words should also be taken into consideration. The after life house in a way is as important as our own home.....

Decisions on maintenance and upkeep of ancestral tombs are made by the members of the male line only traditionally.

My great grandfather and my grand father's double grave is found in the Mee Yee Mee (or Methodist Episcopal Mission) Cemetery which is the oldest Methodist Cemetery in Sibu and the one nearest to Sungei Merah Bazaar.


March 16, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Beijing Girl and Blue Jianzi (Chinese Shuttlecock)

When parents had limited financial means children had to find ways to entertain themselves in their play.

We used to fashion jianzi from feathers and a light cork...and twisted lots of rubber bands (lok tong tai - or jelutong bands) to form a very "kickable" base.

Watching a Beijing girl kicking her collection of jianzi brought me back to the years we spent looking at the boys playing with jianzi.

In those days boys played with marbles and anything "throwable"...and jianzi was one children's game strictly meant for boys....

How globablisation can upgrade the quality of jianzi and the styles in playing with such a simple yet intricate sport facility. And how far this Chinese Shuttlecock has gone....personally I miss watching small children enjoying themselves kicking jianzi expertly and counting up to 150 or even 200 without dropping it....

And some tom boys like me would beg..."let me try ..let me try..." and the boys would laugh..."This is not for girls...girls cannot kick..."

thinking about this I smile..I should have learned to kick well...and I really would like to go out and kick some butts these days.....

Extra information:
Jiànzi (毽子), ti jian zi (踢毽子), ti jian (踢毽) or jiànqiú (毽球) is a traditional Chinese game in which players aim to keep a heavily weighted shuttlecock in the air using their feet and other parts of the body (but not hands, unlike the similar games peteca and indiaca).

The game, which goes by many different names, may be rules-based on a court similar to badminton and Volleyball, or be played artistically, among a circle of players in a street or park, with the objective to keep the shuttle 'up' and show off skills. In Vietnam, it is known as da cau and is the national sport, played especially in Hanoi.

In recent years, the game has gained a formal following in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

In English, both the sport and the object with which it is played are referred to as "shuttlecock" or "featherball". No racquets are used.

Also called a 'Chinese hacky sack' or 'kinja', jianzi typically has four feathers fixed into a rubber sole or plastic discs. Some handmade jianzis make use of a washer or a coin with a hole in the centre.

During play, various parts of the body, but not the hands, are used to keep the shuttlecock from touching the ground. It is primarily balanced and propelled upwards using parts of the leg, especially the feet. Skilled players may employ powerful and spectacular overhead kicks.

The first known version of jianzi was in the 5th century BC in China. The name ti jian zi, means simply 'kick shuttlecock' ('ti' = kick, 'jian zi' = little shuttlecock). The game is believed to have evolved from cuju, a game similar to football that was used as military training.[4] Over the next 1000 years, this shuttlecock game spread throughout Asia, acquiring a variety names along the way.

Jianzi has been played since the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), and was popular during the Six Dynasties period and the Sui and Tang dynasties. Thus the game has a history of two thousand years.

I really think that this should be introduced to our children who would enjoy it tremedously in the beautiful parks we have.

Source : Wikipedia®
Photos : 3 by Sarawakiana in Brunei
You tube....

March 14, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : The Illegal Rice Wine Making of Sibu

(The Ching Ming Festival is coming up...and what are the memories we can share about our long departed loved ones?)

When we were young and growing up in Nang Chong my grandmother made a lot of Foochow Red Wine illegally.

One of our greatest fear was spotchecks made by the Customs and Excise Officers who would come by the long boats. Usually a tip would be sent out. A man would come riding his 22 inch high handle bar bicycle. And every one would start to keep their fragrant wines in safe places.

One day (and it was high tide) my grandmothe had just made her wine with red yeast. My third uncle had to throw the whole bag of rice and red yeast into the small stream next to our house. It was really a pity because the white sack was filled with more than 3 gantangs of glutinous rice and that was worth quite a bit of money. What was more important was the time wasted. Because rice wine brewing was always for a forth coming birth and therefore confinement.

The whole red bag was plonked into the stream and it sank into the bottom . The officers came to check. They could obviously smell the fragrance of fermenting rice and yeast but they could find no evidence. So they went in land to check on other homes. By the time they came out from the village the tide has gone down and on the banks of the stream was this huge patch of tell tale red yeast....It looked as if there was a murder and blood was splattered all over the stream's bottom too....

But luckily the uniformed men walked very quickly to their long boats and sped off.

What a relief!! My third uncle being a very timid man was truly shivering from head to toe. Grandma set on the Lang Dou...fanning herself - looking so cool like Double O 7!! She had that good face of a spy who came in from the cold. We loved our grandmother for her good senses....and of course her red wine!!

Below are jars and bottles of different kinds of wines I delighted in when I went to Yunnan....

I would like to give a toast to my grandmother and all our relatives who brewed their own wines for domestic use.

Until now wine brewing at home is still a hush hush business.......unlike in Yunnan where the local wines are well sought after tourist souvenirs!!

Kam bei Ngie Mah!! Kam Bei Sang Gui!! May your souls rest in peace..

(Thank you my friends who went to Yunnan with me...I have such lovely memories.....and I wished then I had my grandmother with me....she would have loved the wines...)

March 11, 2012

Old Foochow/Cantonese Kuali and Eating Crabs

My son's treasured fine in Perth - a 36 inch Chinese kuali

An old kuali and crabs? How are they related? Read on......

Eating of crabs would always bring back great memories of one's childhood in Sarawak.

And in the olden days our mother had used a huge kuali like the one above. Incidentally my son picked up the kuali (photo) from a roadside in Perth and he converted it into a bbq set by putting a wire mesh above the kuali which serves as a base for the charcoal fire!!

How times have changed. People in the past would never throw out a kuali as good as the one he picked up.

Several points in our history could be shared here.

My mother would scrape the bottom of the kuali  at least once a week so that the kuali heated up better and cooking was faster. The soot at the bottom of the kuali was called "Yian turn" and the black stuff is actually carbon from the wood fire. Ramin wood scraps were the best for cooking.(By the way the Yian turn guong is the glass tube of the oil lamp.) My second sister would be the one scraping the soot on my mother's behalf and I would be the one chopping the wood. Thinking about this makes me smile only.

 used on oil lamps to prevent the flame from going out)

This kind of kuali was best for steaming - a huge fish was easily steamed and chickens could also be double boiled. A casserole pot could be placed in the middle of the kuali and water poured into it. Covered up the kuali became a huge steamer!! My grandmother enjoyed steaming his Yam Kuih and dumplings. Later in life she would bemoaned the passing of the wood stove and the huge kuali.

A small fire would keep the stove warm. And food placed on the top of the stove would be warm enough  without any reheating. I remember that even the soup left near the stove would be warm enough for us when we were late coming home after school. Our kang kong soup would always taste nice and today I wonder how it was possible for my mother to keep the vegetables so green and fresh!!

Stir frying using a huge kuali like this was done in a jiffy. And I remember the fast and quick way my mother cooked her greens. So simple and so delicious!! The best dish was beansprouts which came out fresh and crunchy and in seconds.

But best of all was the infrequent times we had when our father would bring back a few crabs from the sea. Sibu is about 80 miles from the sea so in those days crabs were not sold very often. There was no road transport to the sea . A motor launch would take l day and 1 night to reach Belawai. Today it  takes only 20 minutes!

We all remember the way my mother cooked  the crabs using lots of eggs to stir fry. A few squishes of soy sauce and ginger juices would bring out the flavour of the fresh crabs !! And in the next few days we would be eating our rice with the sauce which was sweetened by the succulent flesh of the crabs!! This was really really good Foochow style of cooking crabs. To this day when we think of it...our salivary glands would work over time..(Foochow say..Lou Lang..)

Strangely I developed an allergy to crabs for a few decades after that but all of a sudden recently I found myself eating crabs quite safely.

Thus I am beginning to enjoy eating soft shelled crabs and some chili crabs (Singapore style).
But the best crab is the deep fried crabs with salted eggs which the Rainforest Restaurant of Miri does very well. (Shown in the photos above).

today people are lucky because of the ease of transport. Planes come in with boxes of crabs from Sabah and Lawas. Mini Pick Ups bring crabs from Belawai to Sibu. In Kuching crabs are obtained easily from the coast and lorries bring them to the restaurants in the city within the hour!! This is how fresh some of our Sarawak crabs can be. We are lucky indeed but we do have to pay a good price for our crabs.

Eating crabs is messy. You do have to use your fingers. And if possible always remember to wear a dark T-shirt because the crabs can give you lots of splatters. Eating crab is great with good conversation. If you do not have a good group of friends do not order crabs..because if you are the only one enjoying the crabs and cracking the hard shells with your eat...your quiet friends would be giving you the eye...after all they would find no good reason why someone could enjoy such a messy food.

You should take such friends to fine dining places where they could use knife and fork..and food which have no bones at all.....Such friends would not be amused when you find a chicken wish bone and wish to break it at the table with a friend!!

But a good crab meal is a good family event!! Whether it is at home or in a restaurant...Cracking of shells..and cracking of jokes...and of course going home with a stomach full of crabs and lots of memories for the future to treasure!!

Our generation should help our next generation build up good memories.

(By the way it is hard to find this kind of kuali now.....)

March 10, 2012

Happy Day Chicken Rice @ Permyjaya (Miri)

There are many chicken rice shops in Miri. Some are good and some are franchised outlets.

The Happy Day Chicken Rice is slightly different from so many others. Firstly it is a family business with a simple system of operation. Secondly there are three types of tables - one section is in the five foot way. The second section is near the meat section where you can see the operator work and prepare the meat in the open transparent way. Inside is the airconditioned section where customers can seat in a certain kind of serenity not found commonly in Miri.

Here I found myself sitting with my friends and enjoying the special ambience. As the eatery filled up I could feel that the atmosphere was very different. Customers sat down gently and spoken in soft tones. I did not get those hard vibes where diners shout at each other or try to show the Rolex waters they were wearing. And worst still appetite can be diminished when people start talking very loudly on their huge handphones leaving their wife or girlfriend tweedling their thumbs or perhaps texting on their own.

You will also find that you can order some special vegetable dishes here. The chef is Indonesian and he has been working in Miri for the last ten years!! The food was good especially when my Stir Fried Bean Sprouts came out crispy hot and fragrant!! That made my day.

You find five tables welcoming you at the shop front. This place is still very airy as  a huge open space  is still available. No development yet opposite this block of shops.
The proprietor provides two types of chili saurces for customers - and you can see that he is not stingy with this. Waiters continue to top up the chili sauce as soon as the bottle is half full.

Very nicely and freshly fried chicken pieces. You can choose what you like by  picking the piece and the  proprietor will personally chop it for you. If you like you can have the piece whole. You are charged according to the pieces you order.
Well cooked bbq pork done in the traditional hong Kong style.

The ever popular salad chicken rice (The rice comes in a separate plate)

The place is fabulously clean!!
Very succulent indeed. You  got to try this Honey Black Pepper Chicken..You will want to come back for more. The Honey will call you back!!
Two person can have a very quick lunch and served within minutes!!
Lovely iced three coloured tea.

You must give this outlet a try...It may give you one Happy Day!!

March 9, 2012

Chop Ching Chiong's Swivel Chair

Have you wondered where/when the swivel chair actually originate? The chair you sit on when you go to the hairdressers or the office chair that swivels when you rise to manager's post?

I love the barber's  swivel chair  as I used to watch my cousin with his scissors and razors work on his customers. ...and out of one single chair and one single pair of scissors he could feed a family in the 1960's in Sibu..

Swivel chairs have been around since 1800 when Thomas Jefferson invented one to allow the poorly treated office workers of the time a bit more comfort whilst multitasking.

Today there are many different varieties of swivel chairs.

The one that is still kept in mint condition is the one belonging  to my Seventh Aunt in Sibu. Her mother in law (Towkay Neo Sia) sat on it for many years at the cashier's desk in Chop Ching Chiong (No.7 High Street Sibu). The chair was placed in an elevated compartment called an office with a small window...And she could see every customer who came in. She stacked up coins of different values on the table  - all systematically arranged for her to give the change when the shop assistants came to her with the payments. Her accounts were never wrong.

Chop Ching Chiong was a textile shop which sold some of the best materials in town in those days. They also provided useful articles like scissors and other needlework stuff. The first bra I ever saw was in this shop when I was about 6 years old. They were simply called "women's undergarments" and were unmentionabled. Women would bashfully go to the back of the shop and ask my aunt's young sister in law  to bring the bras to them discreetly. I believe they never tried them on at all as there was no fitting room in the shop.

I  also remember the grand lady as a real Towkay Neo who had a chain with lots of keys which ja ngled as she walked around. Her position was undisputed and she had a lot of authority about her.This lady boss also wore only Sam Foo. I had never seen her wearing anything else.

But to me as a young starry eyed be able to sit on an important looking chair like that she must be ultra rich and important and to be feared!!. And only a very great lady with power could sit on a chair like that!!

Later I saw many managers' chairs. But none was as beautiful as this one. Several years ago I made a visit and photographed it....?When I looked at it I still could imagine Grandmother Sia sitting on it and turning around to look at us. And we would shiver in our shoes (slippers). But actually she did have a very sweet smile.

(This post is especially for all my friends/relatives  who grew up in High Street of Sibu...)

March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Each March 8TH  Malaysia JOINS 176 other nations to celebrate the achievements of  women.

And this year I have picked this photo to represent the patience of women of Malaysia.

My early morning photo of an acquaintance - a woman who  has been fishing in Luak Bay all her life...this is her patient pose...while waiting for the sea to give her the long awaited for tiny shrimps or bubuk to make belacan or cincaluk for 2012!!

We definitely have to celebrate the achievements of our women.....We have women who

+ brave the elements to look for food in the sea and the mountains.

+ take out boats to fish in the river when their men are away somewhere else and they have to HEAD their family.

+ fight against men to earn a living in the construction sites

+ stand all the way from the interior in rough bus rides to bring their jungle produce to the Sunday markets in the cities

+ slash and burn secondary jungles to produce rice for the nation

+ provide breast milk for their new born babies

+ collect rain water to quench the thirst of their elderly

+ wash clothes by the river banks when the wells dry up and there is no pipe water from the government at all

+ trap animals and birds to feed their hungry

+ weave baskets out of rattan they collect in the thick equatorial forests

+ walk miles to send their small children to boarding school

+ sweep the streets in the cities every day

+ empty rubbish bins in the malls

+ clean the toilets in schools and offices

the list goes on and on.....

if these are not achievements I do not know what we can call them!!

This year we should award these UNKNOWN / SILENT women for their ACHIEVEMENTS against all odds!!

March 6, 2012

Nang Chong Stories - Head Hunters and Barbarians Heads

My Third Uncle (maternal side) was a good  Christian who accepted my choice of husband . Even though my Foochow relatives feared the idea of my marrying a descendant of headhunters he (who spoke good Iban) was very humourous about the initial misgivings...

He had after all made so many barbarian heads...and we have eaten a lot of these mantou...

When growing up in Nang Chong Village we had very few imported food. We had special tinned food as usual. The refrigerator was unheard of in those days and it was not really necessary to have one because we had so much fresh food from our surroundings.

Bread was not even an every day food!!

But in the evenings during those long ago days when lots of grand children came to visit my grandmother Third Uncle would always bring out a whole bag of flour to make his huge buns or mantou!!

Third Uncle had 8 children of his own. There would be 6 "other kids" coming to visit. So the wooden house would be filled with running footsteps (going up and down the stair case and running across the huge upper floor)..That's a wonderful sound I can still remember.

But the fragrance of cooking mantou in the huge kuali is something I can never forget!! It was JUST SO GOOD!! And all of us who used to visit grandmother Lian Tie and my Third Uncle would remember the buns we had for evening supper! Mantou with Golden Churn butter dripping down our hands...while we tried to bite into the hot steaming buns...That's love...

My fellow blogger's mantou (Sunflower recipes)
My version of a "beginner's Mantou" Cut to check the quality of the dough...This is good and ready for another kneading and soon steaming....
Wikipedia photo
My friend Meng Lei (Rajang Basin Blog owner) reminded me of the origin of Mantou...the story is here to share with that you can see the connection...

A popular story in China relates that the name mantou actually originated from the identically written and pitched, but more heavily pronounced word mántóu meaning "barbarian's head".
This story originates from the Three Kingdoms Period, when the strategist Zhuge Liang led the Shu Army in an invasion of the southern lands(roughly modern-day Yunnan and northern Burma). After subduing the barbarian king Meng Huo, Zhuge Liang led the army back to Shu, but met a swift-flowing river which defied all attempts to cross it. A barbarian lord informed him, in olden days, the barbarians would sacrifice 50 men and throw their heads into the river to appease the river spirit and allow them to cross; Zhuge Liang, however, did not want to cause any more bloodshed, and instead killed the cows and horses the army brought along, and filled their meat into buns shaped roughly like human heads - round with a flat base - to be made and then thrown into the river. After a successful crossing, he named the buns "barbarian's head" (mántóu, 蠻頭, which evolved into the present day 饅頭).

So do you see this connection?

Sibu Tales : Cake Making and WI

The Women's Institute was recruiting members and our neighbours Kak and her sister joined. They persuaded my mum to join but she was ada...