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?)


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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...)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

our rights, our custom. we should be allowed to practice our custom

wenn said...

wow..awesome

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous
I am not sure what are the real reasons behind the banning of rice wine making in Malaysia and in Sarawak in particular. So few licences are given out also.
to me really the brewing of rice wine at home is just part of our customs and can be well controlled. We don't really have to sneak behind the law like this...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Wenn
Thanks. May be your knowledge of business etc. could shed some light on the legalisation of wine making in Malaysia!!

Anonymous said...

This red rice wine is great with hung gan and chow chai.....red and sourish.....so appetizing....my favourite.

Anonymous said...

I think once in a while, there were people who got poisoned by the red wine. But the Ibans are making tuak, right?

Several years back, red wine was a political issue. Now SUPP is too weak to fight for the Chinese. I hope the red wine may become an issue again.

14-doo boy

Anonymous said...

If Ibans can make tuak, why cant CHinese make red wine???? Maybe some outdated law? That need to be changed?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
Yes..the "sourness" in the wine whets the appetite...and the wine gives the hung ngang and chow chai a special taste...soooo good!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

14 Do Boy...Actually I have not heard of foochows getting poisoned by the Red Wine..I don't think the SUPP has the cutting edge to champion the few causes of the Foochows...Red wine making after all is too "ikan bilis" for them to fight for..Not like land for the Chinese Education.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous..I was told that any home made alcholic drinks cannot be sold as a trade item..hence illegal. Tuak is home made too..and many producers actually do not have the licence...

It is difficult to get licence for tuak or red wine making...and I think no one really wants to make a decision on this issue in the DUN....the politicians always know best in the last 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Sarawakiana..actually the Chinese are allowed to make their own wines for domestic purposes..it is when they sell their wines or are known to sell their wine over the counter..they get into trouble..or when their neighbours tip off the customs....well you know the rest. But I am not sure about Sarawak.

West Malaysian Guy

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
Thanks for the input...I will have to do some investigation now...I think there are varying opinions on this matter ...

May be it is really hard to get a licence...and set up a factory over here.

Ann said...

botulism! botulism! the govt is protecting you. (heheheh) I made some edible plum, kept them too long, and the juice (2 litres) turned to wine. I tried a little, offered to Ang Mo friends, they say, gone off. So I don't dare to drink the rest. Botulism, my husband a Dr ..... warns me.

My poor stomach very sensitive because I over protect it too much.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahaha..street kids and san ba kids grow up eating anything...and we have "iron clad" stomachs...heheheheh Now you are the spoilt kid. LOL

But seriously..we have to be careful really...about what we put into our mouth..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hope you get over it quick!!