November 13, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Bintangor Tangerines (Mintang Gik Giang)

I wonder how many people still remember the fruit sellers who sold Bintangor tangerines and other fruits at the five foot way (ngu ka kee) of Moi Sung and the alley between Ta Kiong and the sundry shop in Market Road?

The Green Tangerines or Gik Giang(Foochow) are special citrus grown in the Rajang Basin. They were originally brought over by the hardworking Foochows from the Fujian Province of Mainland China.My uncles grew more than a hundred trees of tangerines in the 1960's in Nang Chong. The fruits were really good source of vitamin C and some income.

In the Fujian province of China, tangerines have orange skins which peel off easily, whereas those in Sarawak are green. We have always wondered why they are green skinned in Sarawak. Some tangerines have no seeds at all while some have huge seeds.

Do you know that tangerines have been cultivated in China and Japan for more than 3000 years?
However they are called tangerines because they are named after Tangiers of Morocco, the  port where the fruit were first shipped to Europe from in the nineteenth century.
China produces more tangerines than any other country. Most of the tangerines produced in the United States come from Florida, California and Arizona.
Sibu is often remembered by people for the tangerines. 
For many years my grandmother's Nang Chong farm produced a lot of tangerines until one year the floods and the disease wiped out all the trees. We thus lost one our means of income. It was sad to see only trunks and empty branches of the trees for several years. No one in the Sarawak Agriculture Department could find a way to save the industry. In fact it was also in those years that the Bintangor's Green Mountain Orange Drinks went under.

Later, whenever my grandmother returned from Sibu she would bring a huge paper bag of these tangerines tied with straws. And we would enjoy eating them. We would feel sad that we no longer had our own tangerines.

Today many Nang Chong houses still have a few tangerine trees growing in their yard. The memories of fifty or a hundred tangerine trees still linger in my mind. The prosperous tangerine industry never recovered till today.


Anonymous said...

I am not too sure that the green tangerine ripening clolour is due to climate. In fact green tangerines are grown in China, Vietnam, Thailand and as far north as Japan!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes Anonymous, I have been doing a lot of reading and researching..Have not been able to find out whey my Foochow ancestors developed the GREEN gi giang..and I cannot find the green tangerines during my several trips back to China. Besdies these Bintangor green tangerines range from sour to sweet. Whereas those in Fujian tend to be sweet. May be it is due to better seed selection in China.
Thanks for your info...Really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...


From my reading, I understand that the green tangerine (Citrus nobilis) is actually a cross or hybrid between mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) and bitter or sour lime/orange (Citrus aurantium). Both of which are found in China. Possibly, the hybrid occur naturally or human-assisted and later brought to Sarawak by the Foochow. In fact I also understand that green orange/tangerine actually was first cultivated by the Teochiew at ChaoCho and then slowly introduced into Xiamen and then finally Fuzhou. Correct me if I am wrong. At least that is what I got from literature. I am still not convince that climate can cause the skin to turn into orange colour. Perhaps your research can enlighten me later.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi, Thanks for the notes which clarify all doubts about the origin of the Sibu tangerines.

Yes indeed there has been documents which attribute the origin of the gik gian to the Teochiews.

Anonymous said...

In fact the Teochew actually introduced the tangerines to Pontianak!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks. That's a great deal of info..I am sure some of my friends would be delighted to know this.

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