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 ordering..like 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.