August 29, 2012

Photos of Mary Hoover of Sibu

Recently Velvet Douglas (Grand daughter Missionary Pykett) got in touch with me and we have been corresponded  a few times.

Praise God for the Internet.

Yesterday she sent  two lovely photos of our dearly beloved Mary Hoover and Rev James Hoover to Meng Lei and I .

Now the Methodist Archives of Sibu would have two more photos..Just to share these with you...
thanks Velvet for "discovering" me.....

Pray that one day Velvet (UK) will be visiting Sarawak.

Have a great day!!

The Four Young Sisters
Photo provided by Velvet Douglas, UK

The four girls:
            Mary Young (married Hoover) centre back, Milly Young (married Burr) standing left, Eva Young (married Keymer)seated right, Eileen Young (married MacDonald) seated front in white.   Calcutta Art Studio, 185 Bow Bazar Street, Calcutta.  (Sadly no date, but the youngest, Eileen, we worked out must have been born 1887/1888)

 Penang: Pyketts, MacDonalds, Burrs, Hoovers and Keymers. (about 1920?)
Photo provided by Velvet Douglas, UK

Each row from left to right.
Back row men: Will MacDonald, Bert Burr, James Hoover, Arthur Keymer
Standing women:  Lizzie Pykett, Eileen MacDonald, Milly Burr, Mary (May) Hoover and Eva Keymer.
Third row:   Amah, Walter K (standing), Robert K (on chair), Grandma Pykett holding Joyce Burr with May K standing in front; Grandpa Pykett, Arthur K (seated), Kenneth Burr (seated).
Four sitting on ground:  John K, Jim MacDonald, Elsie MacDonald and George K with his arms folded.

August 20, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Cock Fighting

My third uncle was a very timid man and was firmly controlled to a certain degree by his wife. He went into partnership with his brother in law in road construction after he was a little over the hill as a wharf labourer. Being an honest man he was the best site supervisor any company could have even though he only had two years of primary education interrupted by the Japanese OCCUPATION in Sarawak..

But it also meant that he had to be buddies with him in one of his favourite past times : cockfighting.

Cock fighting is definitely not a Foochow past time or hobby from the early pioneering days. The  Brooke Government had stipulated that no gambling should be allowed in the Sibu settlement. And Foochow pioneering leaders threatened newcomers that they would be shipped back to China if caught gambling..However a gambling centre was actually located in the town  for years!! Methodism had some how curbed the gambling tendencies of both men and women in Sibu. However in the 1970's the police were doing their best to eradicate this traditional native past time which some Chinese turned into a lucrative gambling hobby/business.

My uncle's brother in law reared a few champion fighting cocks and there was plenty to crow about. People came from far and wide to admire those strong fighters. Bets were increased whenever a good fighting chicken was produced. In tho1000!! Some were even wrapped in expensive Indonesian sarongs which had been blessed or jampi-ed!!

The cockfighting arena was moved from place to place to avoid police detection.and obviously the Chinese and the native friends were also very careful not to breathe any information to would be informants. It was a real cat and mouse game.

Lawyers were often employed to reduce illegal gambling charges and it was most amusing when fighting chickens were bought to the court as evidence. Lawyers were often amused by whatever statements the gamblers made in court and naturally witnesses were as different as the tribes of Sarawak....Often the judges who were amused ordered the fighting cocks to be slaughtered ..when the gamblers not only lost in their arguments but in monetary terms! All monies collected in the gambling place would be confiscated too. Losses were indeed great.

There was one occasion when my timid uncle came with a half alive fighting cock at about 8 p.m. He told us that he had walked all the way from the cock fighting arena  at about five when the police raided the party. Every one scattered into the jungle and he lost his brother in law in the skirmish but he was quick enough to capture the half dead cock and ran for his life.He lost a shoe and was thoroughly frightened.

Could his shoe if picked up by the police be part of the evidence? And he had to eat curry rice?

But mum was terrified too upon hearing the story. However our tenant was quick and he helped to dress the chicken and we cooked a huge pot of curry chicken and had a midnight feast. We had curry for a few days because the meat was so tough my mother had to stew the curry over and over again. The feathers were properly buried in the backyard.

That was the last time my third uncle went for a cock fight. But his brother in law continued to enjoy his cock fighting endeavours.
chicken coop...many handsome fighting cocks were kept in coops like this...

By the way for a long time many people in Nang Chong continued to enjoy rearing fighting cocks..some were said to be real winners.

August 18, 2012

Jewelled Rice (Javaher Polow)

We are very lucky in Malaysia and particularly in Miri for we have opportunties to meet up with people of many different nationalities.

I have a special liking for rice recipes and whenever I attend functions I pay especial attention to the rice dish. I had learned from young that the special rice dish of a people is often almost sacred..and this time..the Persian Jewelled Rice is FIT for a KING. How wonderful to be able to partake of this dish in a friendly dinner in Miri recently!! The photo I have taken will keep the memories fresh...while  the aroma of the dish lingers in the mind.

With Raya perhaps tomorrow I will think of the various rice dishes offered in Sibu and in Miri -

nasi minyak
nasi briyani
nasi tomato
nasi padang
nasi lemak
nasi ulam....etc....etc...

This dish is "a crown jewel in the thousand year old Persian cuisine"!! So aptly descirbed this rice is served at Persian weddings. It is the king of rices and the rice of kings. ou 

So if you like my photos you might want to try this at least once in your life.Persian Jeweled Rice Javaher Polow...I am going to cook this more than once in my life!!.

For 6 as a royal side dish
3 cups Basmati rice
2 organic oranges
1 large carrot
1 cup dried barberries
1/2 cup raisins
1 onion
1 cup blanched whole almonds or almonds and pistachios
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp dried rosebuds
3 tbsp green cardamom pods
pinch of saffron diluted in 1 glass water
150 gr butter
2 tbsp yoghurt

May all of you  be richly blessed - may you all have good friends and lasting relationships....and lots of gatherings with great food......

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri....

August 14, 2012

Chinese Clogs

click clock click clock
goes the young girl in her Chinese Clogs
click clock click clock
it's not the clock
It's  the click clocking of the Chinese girl
Who brings the pork
to make our chook
It's the Chinese girl wearing a pink frock
with a pony tail flying in the air....
click clock click clock
the sounds and memories  fading away

Women wear the "waisted clogs" while men wear the clogs without the waist.
Men's clogs. Photo courtesy of Dr. Madeleine Berma

Growing up in Sibu town (as a town girl) I had plenty of opportunities to observe the trades and crafts of the bustling town.

One of the crafts shops was the Char Kiak shop or the clog shop which was situated behind Hock Liong Hin just opposite the Standard Chartered Bank. In the 1950's and 1960's this little outlet owned by a non-Foochow who made chak kiak to order. He would sit on his low stool and fashion out the proper sizes of the clogs and nail the rubber top onto the wooden soles carefully. The nails I remember were very small and he would line or reinforce the top with two pieces of recycled bicycle inner tube pieces..Thus every clog would have a black strip of rubber on both sides. This would ensure the the nail would stay in place and for a long time. Repairs could be done too for when the nails fell off he would gladly get some more pieces of the rubber tubing and just nail back the top flap!! In this way a pair of clogs could last until the wood sole wore thin!!

What I liked was the sound of the click clock coming nearer and nearer. Some mothers wore them all the time and they wore them when bringing their children to school. I remember one of the most famous Ah Sams of Sibu (Mr.Chew Geok Lin's) would bring her wards to the Methodist Primary School. She was also very famous for having a dog which would carry her vegetable basket.

My Cantonese Ah Moo next door  (Brooke Drive Sibu)  wore clogs because she had to stand for long hours in a wet kitchen. Her children were very humourous about her. They would listen to her click clocks...If the steps were heavy stomp stomp tok tok tok.... clock clock...she was angry...if her steps were gentle...slish slish and gentler clocks..she was happy ...and if the click clocks were fast..she had a cane in her hand and the children would pretend to be good before the cane landed on their legs.....Dinner would be miserable with just thin porridge and a few pieces of kang kong and no meat because they had been naughty. Two of her kids never completed Primary Six. One became a carpenter and the other a mechanic. But they did well as business picked up. Her daughter married a clog wearing butcher.

Many coffee shop owners and "drink makers" wore chak kiak in their shops and would click clock their way home too in olden days Sibu..I think they were very skilful when they rode their bicycles wearing those char kiaks...

I have a good memory of a few town boys who wore char kiaks when they went to watch basketball games.
There was once when a game became very rowdy and one of them threw a char kiak at a referee. We were rather frightened by that. But then there was no bleeding and then things cooled down a bit. He later became quite wealthy because he turned out to be a good business man. I also remember many of the boys who lived in the Sibu Boys' Club (Home for problem boys) also wore char kiak. May be this was because the supervisor believed that he could hear every movement of the boys!!!!

But those were the days before the Japanese slippers made their invasion in the world!!

Today char kiaks are made in Melaka for tourists to buy for film makers who want to make period films like "Little Nyonya". Sibu my hometown no longer has any shop making char kiaks or ae kok (Foochow).

And the Ah Pek who wore  white Pagoda shirt and blue cotton pants sitting on his little stool had long disappeared from our town scene. But he did play an important role in our lives. He was budget conscious and he would always say.."Can repair...don't throw away...wear until the wood is all gone..."

How many of  business people like him are around now? Nokia parts become obsolete after perhaps only two years!! Even our national cars have parts which cannot be found after a few short years.

We have arrived at an era of " discard " times.

August 13, 2012

Indigenous Peoples from Sabah and Carey Islands

The Malaysian  National Level International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples' celebration was held in Miri from 9th to 11th August in Taman Tunku. The celebrations included a forum and a Youth Jamboree besides an exhibition and sale of Indigenous Handicrafts from all over Malaysia. Orang Asli representatives from West Malaysia were very well represented . Sabahan also made a good impression with their great costumes.

More 200 representatives from all over Malaysia came to Miri to attend this three day function.

I went with a few friends to see the exhibition and to buy a few souvenirs. The Sabah group brought their delicious pickles and cili sauces. They had a special Jeruk Ikan which is priced at RM11.00. For those who have acquired the taste for this is really delicious.

the black pulut from Sabah is a must buy. The grains are fat and  really long.....Fresh and sweet. I bought one packet and hope to buy more to make bak chang in the future.

these lovely Orang Asli ladies are from Carey Islands. and I hope one day we will meet again!!
Book marks made by the Carey Islanders. Excellent handiwork!!

More crafts from the Carey Islands.

Two good friends met up at the exhibition.

Orang Asli from Pahang and Kelantan

The theme of this year's international celebration is "Indigenous Media Empowering Indigenous Voices".

this celebration every year is in line with  with the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the world enshrined in the United Nations' Declarations on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (Undrip). I hope Mirians have made the visitors and celebrants who came from all corners of Malaysia feel at home and that they will come to visit Sarawak again as tourists...

As most newspapers in our country are along linguistic lines it has been felt by international readers and especially anthropologists that many stories of the indigenous people have not been heard . The voices of the major races or groups are naturally heard in the mainstream media. Even the stories of our now famous Bidayuh diver Pandelela Rinong  for example were not circulated until she made it to semi finals in the just completed London Olympics. Many Malaysian TV announcers were even struggling to pronounce her name!! In fact unknown to many she has been making splashes in the last five years!! would you prounounce Pamg?

August 12, 2012


My deep purple blouse....

the Purple colur is considered a royal colour. Queens and Kings have been wearing the colour for centuries to indicate their status and power.

Interesting facts about purple dye:

1. The colour purple came from the Phoecians who had a monopoly of the purple cloth trade in 12th century BC

2. The puple dye used (also known as Tyrian Purple) was obtained by crushing a local sea snail (Murex Brandaris). Some people have estimated it may have taken as many as 10,000 sea snails to dye one toga.
3. Acts 16:14 - Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. [NKJV]

4.; Chinese court officials also wore purple to indicate their positions during the Tang ; Han and Qing dynasties.
"Han Dynasty" Imperial Suit (am070705wg)
5. Purple and the Romans
Roman Toga with a Purple Sash...The Toga  had a silver lining.
6. Artists and the colour purple.
Matisse's famous Purple Robe and Anemones

7. Buildings with purple lights
the sultan Abdul Samad Building is Purple at night.
  • 8. Purple Jade. The Chinese and other ancient peoples have valued purple jade for its special properties including its ability to foster creativity, promote practicality, increase body strength and encourage tolerance, wisdom and love. It may have  "a balancing and harmonizing effect, banishing negative thoughts and rejuvenating the wearer during times of stress." Because I was born under the Zodiac sign of Virgo this purple jade I was told would be a good protector.

    9. In Iban pua weaving...the dark purple colour is derived from the TARUM plant.


today many people have come to love the purple sweet potatoes. Not only are they nice to eat but they are considered on the anti cancer foods in our diet....

Emjoy a purple day!!

August 10, 2012

Eating Kampua in Batu Niah

Batu Niah is one of the most famous towns of Sarawak because it is the place where the World Famous Niah caves are found. Hence people in other parts of the world and even Malaysia know more about the Niah Caves than the town itself.

Batu Niah was a small town which was established by the side of the Niah River as a result of small trading businesses by the Chinese and the Malays and Kedayans more than 100 years ago .Timber also contributed to the establishment of more shops in the 1960's. Actually it was the demand for rattan and Birds Nests from the Niah Caves which first contributed to the establishment of the little town in the early days. However in the last 20 years the oil palm industry has actually given a great boost to the building of more shops and modern homes in this area. Take for example Sepupok and Kuala Niah (nearby townlets) are now fast growing with a good population and a great number of Hilux and lorries.

Eateries in Batu Niah are mainly operated by the "original" Chinese settlers of Batu Niah - the Hakka people and to a small extent the Hokkiens. Some Foochows have established themselves here after the timber companies have left town when logging could no longer make money.

Although Cantonese (?)  Fried Noodles and Hakka braised noodles are popular  Hokkien Stir Fried noodles can also be found in the eateries. The Kampua seems to have taken hold of the cuisine found in Batu Niah in recent years. With a population which swells in the weekends the town's coffee shops and small hotels do a brisk business. Most of the people from the hinterland come into the town to buy supplies and even gold jewellery at the end of the month according one business man I interviewed.

According to a die hard Foochow business woman in Batu Niah..."Every one would still care to order a plate of Kampua Mee because it is so nice even in need to go to Sibu to order a plate of Kampua Mee!!"

Yes indeed we used to swear that only Moi Suong's kampua in Sibu was the best and Sarikei also produced some good kampua mee too. In Miri Wan Hin Coffee shop has one of the best kampua ....May be we don't have to find the best...just look for OK ones...

We went to this local coffee shop in the original old bazaar of Batu Niah(not the Miri /Sibu Road junction)  and ordered kampua mee...and our friends said that the kampua is "OK"...and may be that's why the business in this shop is good!!

The deep fried onions made the kampua nice and the "Sup Kosong" or Ching Tang (Clear soup) is tasty. I would say if the towkay puts into one Wonton (dumpling) into the soup for good measure with extra chopped green onions.....even more people would come and patronise the coffee shop!!

I heard from a friend that when one outlet in Miri did not give  complimentary bowls of Clear Soup some of  its customers stopped coming. Later when the soup was offered "upon request" some customers came back. Now the clear soup is given without being asked...more customers have come back and putting the business on its feet again. so I think one special Wonton or dumpling in the Clear Soup would help make the business even better.

Kampua Mee is quite a staple and it need not be made by the Foochows. Halal Kampua Mee has become quite popular every where in Sarawak.

The secret is in the sauce and the oil which gives the plain noodles a good taste. But other factors must also be taken into consideration....It is not as simple as you see it to be....

It is difficult to say who makes the best Kampua Mee ....because your taste and my taste are really different...

Have you heard of the Ministers' Kampua Mee stall in Sibu? If you have the can try to find out the Ministers' taste...

August 3, 2012

Si Bian (Kutien Dialectic Group)

The si bian is made from glutinous rice and is very pretty to look at. White and soft it has a red dot in the middle.. It is not easy to find this cake outside of the Fuzhou area in China or Sibu (Sarawak) in particular.

This a special- made -to order reciprocal gift from the Kutien (a dialectic group of the Fuzhou people) bride's family to the groom's family. this gift would not be given if the groom is not from the Kutien group. The cake will be distributed amongst his relatives and friends.The order will depend on the bridal price (in the modern sense it is only a token...but it can be quite a sum of the girl has her own assets).

It is also known as Congratulatory Biscuit or Happiness Biscuit to and is taken as heralding a forthcoming marriage..

Round in shape it can be sliced into smaller pieces and fried again and then coated with a sugary sauce. Delicious breakfast item. It should not be eaten as a whole biscuit by one person. (Which I did to the horror of my Kutien friends!! I had thought that it should be eaten like a pie or a burger!! That was a cross-dialectic error I made ...

Writing about this cake brings some memories and smiles back to me.

I too had  Great Expectations as a starry eyed young Miss Evesham...and used to look at all the bridal goods and bridal cakes in Blacksmith Road. My friends and I would dream of ordering those biscuits for our IMAGINARY weddings and  we had lots of giggles..Who would pay for them was our first question!

Then we all decided that perhaps poor people did not have to exchange such gifts. A friend got married with two tables of guests. Another got married in the village. One of my Malay friends married a guy from West Malaysia. And two of our Iban classmates got married in their kampongs too and as we were too far away none of us attended their weddings.Most got married and had simple family feasts. In those days classmates were not invited because the dinners were very small and family oriented unlike today's huge weddings. Two returned to Indonesia and got married there.

Several of my classmates remain unmarried and happily pursue their careers with great success.

The wedding biscuits in Blacksmith Road (Sibu) in particular at Wan Hin (the first and foremost wedding biscuit manufacturer of Sibu)  are no longer available. The Market Road outlets are still making them when there is an order.And orders were made in terms of One Dang (an old Foochow way of today..we order by the kilo of cakes etc...) A generation or two have gone. And this will soon be just like  faded pictures in our albums (may be the Internet)..

But faded memories are still treasures for some of us who hold them dear to our hearts. Come to think of it...did any one of my classmates marry a Kutien man?

If you like to try a piece of this bridal cake you can get it at the Borneo Cultural Festival in July every year in Sibu....It is one of the best selling items of the Foochow Association Stall.

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...