April 8, 2012

Nang Chong Stories :Dian Bi and Dian Cheng

I wonder how many Foochow cooks ever wonder how our ancestors learned to steam their food!!

Steaming is indeed a marvellous way of cooking. And we have lots of recipes for steamed dishes.

Today we have good racks for steaming ranging from stainless steel cookware to some simple ways of just using two chopsticks to hold a plate up in a wok!!

One of my best memories of cooking was the making of steamed buns in Nang Chong and all the other simple dishes my third uncle Pang Sing came up with. My grandmother's wonderful dish of meat balls would always be the top dish in my family's Chinese New Year menu (which by the way has spread to Perth by my son) and the meat dumplings all lovingly wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed in the early morning and ready for the table by mid afternoon!! Some of the best Foochow dishes are indeed the steamed ones.

And an essential item of course is the Dian Bi which we cannot do without...and what a marvellous the original China made Dian Bi it was...My mother said that after my grandmolther's dian bi "fell to pieces" they never could get a better one. Uncle fashioned some wooden dian bi and they were never good replacements.

In a recent visit last week to Nang Chong my friends and I were delighted to find this bamboo rack called Dian Bi (Kuali rack made of bamboo) in a relatives' home. The shape is that of the Star of David.



normal Malaysian dian bi


If you cannot find a traditional foochow dian bi...two pairs of chopsticks would do.





here you are...the Bamboo rack used by our Foochow elders...all the way from China and continued to be found in Nang Chong's Wong Hieng Kiu's home. Those over 60 would know that it is an excellent household item for the kitchen...



this is a bamboo stand for the huge kuali



 the bamboo rack hanging from wooden wall 

May be if I could get my Iban friends to make this from bamboo...I could learn to make some too...

what an excellent idea!!

Full steam ahead!!

And to add to the story...at the end of the cooking..cleaning of the kuali is done with a bamboo brush (which is still available in some shops today) by a brisk swishing of the brush in a kuali that still has some hot water. This is a very environmentally friendly brush and would also not damage the kuali... It is called a dian cheng by the Foochows!!
A kuali brush (owned by Mr. Wong Hieng Kiu)
a modern nyonya dian bi or bamboo brush from google...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should show us the 'dian cheng' as well. The thing used to clean the 'dian' after finished cooking.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks...I did take a photo of the dian cheng!! ok ok..will do so...

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I think Mr Wong's house should be designated as a museum. For years, I have been trying to find one that still have the old oven, but could not. I believe it is made of earth. I always saw the cockroaches hiding in between the planks of the oven. I believe it is the best location for them to find food at night

Yan said...

Now, I have forgotten that's called dian bi!! Dian cheng I remember!

Uncle Lee said...

Hi, love this posting...now I know.
My wife does this when she steaming whatever. I must ask her where she learn this, ha ha.
Best regards.
Lee.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
I must go and tickle Mr. Wong about the idea of transforming his house into a museum. In the UK his house would be a tourist spot. Yes his stove is made of yellow earth "smeared" onto a wooden frame....cockroaches are every where..especially in places which are damp in the tropics...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Yan.....time for a review of historical and traditional culinary tools!! heheheheh. My pleasure...I almost forgot what a how diah was..but when I saw it in Chung Cheng School canteen...every thing came back naturally...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Uncle Lee...may be your wife had a Foochow ancestor? It is in our genes....