April 3, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Foochow How Diah and Exploded Chicken 葱爆鸡

How much do you remember of your childhood? Going back to Nang Chong for a visit I was thrilled to be able to trace many stories and find many aunties and cousins (yee mah ching nga koo)....we just did not have enough time to talk about old times!!

The original Foochow ladle used for cooking is called How Diah. It is made from a circular soft metal which could be tin plate or even bronze or any other non-poisonous alloy. My uncles used to fashion their how diah out of the small sized cooking oil tins. A bamboo is split in half and the round tin plate is inserted into the two halves. The round disk is then bent into shape and you have a beautiful how diah which can last for a long long time.

An old how diah in Ah Ing's house.

The kuali we Foochows used in the early days was of course the huge round wrought iron kuali which could measure 3 feet in diameter!!

A mud stove with several compartments was a must for a huge household of three generations!! I usually refer to this kind of stove as the Foochow Stove. In later years the village stoves were made from concrete and much later beautifully covered by nice tiles of good quality.

My maternal grandmother Tiong Lian Tieh did enjoy her later years when my third uncle built nice wooden house and they began to use kerosene and gas stoves.

My uncle then did not have to wait for the flood to bring in loose logs which he would dry and saw patiently into blocks and then chopped into fire wood.

How I miss the sound of wood chopping in the early morning hours!!

I also miss one special dish cooked by my grandmother - that is a chicken dish called Bok Gieh or Exploded Chicken...
Kuali with a very nice Foochow chicken dish cooking in Chung Cheng School Canteen - this dish is called - Bok  Gieh. (Exploded Chicken  葱爆鸡)

A simple recipe - cut chicken into small pieces. Heat up some oil and throw in lots of sliced onions and spring onions. Put the chicken pieces in the hot kuali and stir fry for a few minutes. Add some soy sauce of the best quality and some liquefied corn starch and sugar.Cover the kuali and let the chicken simmer until soft and tender for about 30 minutes (watch out for the drying up of the kuali !!)

Another view of how diah - this one is found in the canteen of the the Chung Cheng School.
Ah Ing's old Foochow mud stove with wooden tops

(Ah Ing is the good daughter of the famous Pang Nga Ka Ka of Nang Chong and she continues to live in her river side house with her husband Mr. Wong. Both of them are in their 80's and are very happy to keep a home in Nang Chong.....They live across the stream which divides my grandmother's house from the Cooperative. My group would like to acknowledge the wonderful hospitality and touching neighbourliness shown by Ah Ing and her husband when we visited. )

The beauty of the river
though now not so clear
The goodness of kindreds fill my presence
Memories of all those who have gone
are still fresh in the air
My cup runneth over!!


Yan said...

I thought we called it "Chang Pok Gieh"?

Ha ha, good walking down the memory lane. How I wish I can join you.

Ann said...

your uncle was very clever. I have never seen one being made.

The stove can be at a cantonese house too. What I really like was, you don't have to take the wok out to clean. I remember there was a slot with a metal sheet attached to the wall. You just need to put some water, use the bamboo brush to slosh it round, sweep it out of the metal sheet, do it again, and the wok is clean.

no detergent. I always remember my mum reminding us to clean the wok immediately after use. She said, Ah Kung said, do it when the wok is hot, it is very easy to clean. I still remember this even though sometimes I am lazy ,and leave my wok many days.

The only draw back to this kind of washing was there was do drainage . Underneath the kitchen is always wet and ducks love it.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

You are right. Churng Bok Gieh...I managed to get a friend to write the Chinese words for me...It would have been fun to have you along too...it was a hot hot day..got all sun burnt. Luckily my Foochow skin is VERY thick...heheheheh God bless.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

You can get small kids to make paper ones. Cut rounds with manila cards and use thin pieces of wood e.g. lollipop sticks to make the how diah!! It would be fun...
thanks for the lovely description of the Cantonese wok...yes definitely the ducks love the spill overs..My uncle was lucky...the river Rajang washed away the dirt and oil...living up to the role of cleaning settlers' backyards..Now this old house has been completely carried away by the river so to speak.

Ann said...

thanks, I have lots of icecream/iceblock sticks. I could get my kids and write a chinese story.

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Yes!! Indeed..that would be a nice thing to do...seeking roots and telling stories...


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