June 28, 2012

"Curry Rice" in Sibu

In the 1960's and  early 70's Sibu was in some kind of political turmoil so to speak. The Chinese Communist Organisation had gone underground and gunshots were often heard....this frightened many people of Sibu. In fact when curfew was em-placed most  people were terrified.

What were those days like?

If I remember correctly....

"Don't listen to rumours" became the catch phrase of the day...Of course there were lots of stories...from the Government side..and from the people's side. The newspapers published the views of the day..and rumours spread...The Rascom (The Rajang Security Command) was set up to fight a psychological war against the communists besides maintaining peace and security.  AND We were told NOT to listen to rumours.

"Are you not scared to eat curry rice?"  What a strange question but it was a real situation. We were "threatened" by statements from certain quarters "ai ya..don't say this...you afraid of eating curry rice or not?" Alright..to eat curry rice in those  days meant that we would go to prison..and eat the prison food which was mainly curry and rice...hence the term of the time "curry rice"...It was true not many people in those days really liked the spicy curry and rice. It was "rumoured" that the spice came from India and would harm the intestines of the Chinese. And the rice used was all full of beetles and had become sour.. But we actually never met any prisoner coming out to tell us the TRUTH. Indeed as children we were as terrified as our adults!!

"Free stay at Hotel"....people were arrested and re-arrested. Some notorious gangsters were even "buang " or thrown away to another district. Police and soldiers were every where. the Swimming Pool in Bukit Lima was full of white soldiers sunbathing around. We dared not look at them when we were taken there for swimming lessons. Soldiers and police walked along the streets of Sibu..and we the civilians were scared. It was like another world altogether. We were petrified of people in uniforms as a result for years. At one time I saw some police at a traffic light which was GREEN. I stepped on my brakes and my children had to get me going shouting GREEN GREEN at my ears..I have not lost that fear from the curfew days. Hence another interesting term also cropped up..." Free Hotel"...which referred to the Sibu prison...As an extra note in Sibu today  a drunk man may come home from a night's stay at a police station...and he would sheepishly tell his wife..."I had a free hotel stay last night..." that explains a lot..



Sibu Prison (PHoto by Borneo Tip)
Photo from Google

"Missing children". Many parents were worried about the behaviour of their children in those days. Mothers often screamed at their children. Fathers would even beat up their children in public!! These were tell tale signs of frustration. Many kids were locked up in their homes...Luckily their wooden houses were not burnt down. But in spite of all the cautious steps these parents took many "escaped" into the jungle and  alas not many survived to tell their tales. Their parents mourned their disappearance until today. It is like a shroud hanging over them and they will bring this "uncertainty" to their graves. But perhaps these children had their ideals to live for. It is something many cannot understand..even today. I am glad that my cousins and I were all too young then to make the choice of either to go underground or to wait at tables in the coffee shops. Besides my mother did not have to lock my siblings and I up. But I did wonder then and even now why were there no school counsellors then?

"Eat the Bullet". But then whatever worries parents had  theirs could not be compared to the worries some teachers and headmasters had...Very often teachers and headmasters were threatened by night messages from some quarters "Bite  or eat the Bullet"..a paper message with a bullet wrapped in it could be sent to a Head master...and that was meant as a death threat. One of the local headmasters suffered so much that he actually had to hide for sometime. But he died an early death because his heart could not hold it any more. ..he was such a brilliant scholar. If only he had left some documents behind.He was doing his best to teach his students well...

"I don't know"...It was the safest thing to say. And every one was cautioned to say that whenever a stranger asked questions. .In those days...most adults would just cycle and do their daily work. If asked about anything they would just say..."I don't know"...I think those were the years when rural and urban school teachers also did not teach very much..they just read from the books for fear if they said more they would be arrested. When the students asked them questions they often answered "I don't know."  There were "ears" every where.

"Interrupted education and crashed dreams"...The interrupted years of education then led to repercussions of course which only anthropologists and sociologists would fathom.Many of my cousins had only Form Two education and no certificates in their life. Some had wanted to be nurses but never qualified. So they married young and of course some had terrible marriages while others prospered beyond any one's imagination.  A generation has passed on and we can only sigh..and many would just say..WHAT TO DO? that's the politics of the day. We had sacrifical lambs..we had heroes...and we had the bad guys of course. Perhaps that was the "I don't know generation"....now we are in the "Generation Why?" Times have really changed.

"Be like the lalang"...I like the moral lesson given by one pastor from those days..."Be like the lalang..let yourself be trampled..cut...burnt...but your roots would still be strong..and grow again...Do not allow any one  kill your spirit ... continue to believe in the truth..never sell your soul for pieces of silver. God is omnipresent. He is there if you look for Him...." He passed away some time ago..surrounded by  lots of books which he read and re-read in his elderly years.

40 years later people have forgotten many events and stories....and times have changed...but are there still hidden dangers which may threaten the delicate milieu of our new society?

Whenever I cook curry and rice...I would smile that knowing smile...If I had been born slightly earlier and had been in a rural Chinese school ..I might have be arrested too for asking WHY?

Why?......must I eat the apple? (Adam)
Why did the apple fall? (Newton)
Apple. Why not? (Steve Jobs)







June 26, 2012

Mrs. Hoover's Gift of Education

In 1903 Mrs. Mary Hoover and her husband Rev James Hoover had a very good plan to develop the little Methodist Foochow enclave of Sibu.




this photo shows a 1956 kindergarten graduation class. My little cousin Chiong Whye is standing next to my Goo Poh (left)

One of the principal objectives of the couple was to build schools and especially a girls' school which would help bring about Christian mothers for the new society.

Indeed their objectives were full filled. But one of the most most remarkable schools they established was undoubtedly the Kindergarten which was then a new concept. By 1950 (Rev. Hoover died in 1935) and Mrs. Hoover left Sarawak in 1946 the Mary Hoover Kindergarten was the best known kindergarten in Sarawak!! Two angelic teachers were in charge Madam Chang Yuk Ging and Madam Tiong Ai Lan (the Principal). And every year a small batch of cute little children would "graudate" from kindergarten.


Children from the kindergarten would study in the Methodist Primary School and then later at the Methodist Secondary School. The early childhood education provided focussed especially on socialisation and wholesome growth.

I especially appreciated how my aunts helped my own children learn how to eat together with other children in the kindergarten. How they learned to share food and be courteous to others when sitting down at a table. I remember my daughter coming home and explaining to me how she had learn to drink from her cup slowly and not spill. She also told me that little children should not fight over food. She was only 4 1/2 years old then. From that day on she would want to wash her own cup and place it on the rack. Probably she cannot remember that any more now that she is so busy with her career.

Children were really trained to sing and become musical. One of the requirements of staff was that they must be able to play the piano in those days. My aunt Madam Tiong Ing Lang was a piano teacher of good repute . Besides she was a great disciplinarian - a style she learned from Mrs. Mary Hoover who was a very strict and stern person who insisted that every Foochow should pay great attention to punctuality and speaking of the truth.


1963 Former Principal of Methodist Secondary School Mr. William Hsu visited Mrs. Mary Hoover in Perth (Australia) The education provided by the Methodist Church and School impacted many Sibu Foochows. Apart from gaining a basic education in the local schools the missionaries sourced for help from America and Australia to help intelligent students to futher their studies. One of the smartest students is Dr. Fan Siao Wen who topped his Australian class in his first year thus gaining a very respected place in medical school. Mr. William Hsu was not only a top student in school and at university he was a literary genius in Chinese. He was also extremely fluent in English and Bahasa Malaysia.  Former students of Mrs. Hoover continued to visit her until she passed away in Perth. This photo was taken by the late Peter Chong Chung Ping and is one of the last photos taken of Mrs. Hoover.

Although Mrs. Hoover did not have children of her own she had some adopted children. In fact she loved all her students tremendously and they loved her back. After they had set up homes of their own the Yuk Ing girls (as they were called) would pay respects to her and send her gifts . And they would even ask their own children to visit Hoo Shu Moo (Mrs. Hoover) they felt that they really owed their good life to her and her gift of education.

Today many of these ladies have grandchildren and great grandchildren but they would still tell stories about Mrs. Hoover.

What  an education from Mrs. Mary Hoover!!

June 22, 2012

Hand Carried Gifts e.g. Corica's Apple Strudels

What is the Foochow or Asian way of showing love? Hand carry a most precious package of cakes or baos home to the children. My father once did that when he came back from Singapore and that memory left a deep imprint in my soul

Father's love or mother's love often comes in the form of a "Hand carried gift".

And I think that is why many many Malaysian and Singaporean tourists visiting Perth would put Apple Strudels on top of their must buy list and it must be Corica's Apple Strudels. ...and hand carry sometimes THREE "back home".

But do not be overwrought if you cannot get to buy them in Perth..

Check with their operating times.....if you can get to buy..buy and eat and it's Aus $19.00 and above each. If you  cannot hand carry it...well don't have to buy . It is really too much trouble to bring back to Malaysia or Singapore.

So what's that? What's a strudel? It's just some pastry baked with nice custard

This is the logo of Corica of Perth - good pastry shop to visit if you enjoy pastries etc.
apple strudels on their way out of Perth!!


I got this recipe from a friend and perhaps you can make it at home (note: the recipe is not Corica's and many   people really can make their strudels at home)


Apple Filling

4 Granny Smith or Fuji Apples

35g butter

90g castor sugar

1/2 tbsp cinnamon powder

50g raisins

Juice and zest from half a lemon

7g corn flour



Slice the apples in thin wedges or cubes to your preference

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add in the butter and let it melt. Add in the apples and stir such that all the apples are coated with the butter. Allow the apples to be cooked thoroughly , this will take about - 10 minutes. Sir the apples occasionally to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, mix the corn flour, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl and save for use later.

Once the apples are cooked, stir in the sugar and continue stirring till all the sugar has melted.

Add in the raisins and cinnamon and continue stirring for a few minutes.

Add in the corn flour and juice mixture and stir. Allow the sauce to thicken and remove from heat. Allow the apple filling to cool.





Custard Cream



2 egg yolk

1/3 cup + 1/2 tbsp castor sugar

2 tbsp plain flour

1 cup milk or 1/2 cup milk+ 1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 vanilla bean pod or 1/2 teasp vanilla

1 tbsp melted butter



Mix the egg yolks and sugar in a pot till it becomes creamy

Sift in the flour and mix well.

Add warm milk into the mixture slowly and mix well.

Now place the pot on low heat and stir the mixture constantly. Add in vanilla and continue stirring until it thickens.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the melted butter.

Cool the custard cream in the refrigerator to let it thicken somemore.



Puff Pastry



1 package Butter Puff Pastry(or make your own from scratch)

70g castor sugar

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tbsp butter (melted)



Combine castor sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

Cut the puff pastry according to how big you want it. I made rather small ones, 2 layers with each sheet of puff pastry cut into 3. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 3 equal rectangles. Place it on a well greased baking tray, apply melted butter on the puff pastry. Sprinkle the mixture of sugar and cinnamon over the puff pastry. Repeat this step with the other 2 sheets of puff pastry.

Bake in the oven at 180 deg C for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.



How do you assemble it?

Lay one puff pastry baked on your work surface.

Spread the chilled custard cream over the layer of puff pastry.

Spread a portion of apple filling on top of the custard cream and puff pastry.

Place another layer of puff pastry on top.

Make sure you divide your apple filling and custard cream well to ensure that there is enough for all your strudels.

Repeat for the rest of your strudels.

Enjoy!!

You can make mini ones if you like. These Corica apple strudels are  about 16 inches long!!


Carrying strudels from Perth and other gift boxes reminded me of the paper boxes we used to carry when we left home to study. Mothers would pack fried salted fish and home made cookies for us to bring to our hostels away from home. And indeed one MAS airline personnel even said..."Ha..you must be from Sibu" when I picked up my luggage at the airport...

If you have not experienced carrying a hand gift...you should try doing it one day....It could be a very bad experience mind you...but may be it could be an extra-ordinary act of love!!

June 20, 2012

Malakilin and Mani bian

I wonder if many of the Foochow relatives and friends still remember one kind of biscuits we used to eat in Sibu - Malakilin...

Of course we were not enlightened until many years later what we ate were actually BUTTER CREAM biscuits. If you check some of the biscuits now sold as assorted biscuits by Thye Hong or Danone..you could still see the words on the biscuits. Two layers of biscuit with a butter cream sandwich. Having a sweet tooth my siblings and I would always lick the cream off first and then pretend to drop the biscuits..and let the cats eat them up!!

Another favorite biscuit is the gem biscuits which we called BU SAI Bian or belly button biscuits.

The tin below is the genuine product...we bought the Made in Sibu ones by the katis. These biscuits went with us to the school as we did not have any pocket money. We brought along water in a bottle (usually a tomato sauce bottle and later when we were older we brought a Sun Valley bottle in our baskets). We had 15 cents if we had afternoon classes.



.

In those days we heard of Jacob and Co...and looked at the tins of biscuits in the shops like Kim Guan Siang....
These were contemporary biscuits of the day but the Foochows of Sibu had their own  "imitation" biscuits made by the Sibu bakeries...

Another biscuit we could buy by the katis was the MARIE biscuits...and indeed they were sold in this way....from a tin which had a glass "window"......we Foochows call them Mani Bian...

One of my future photo hunts would be to discover this kind of tins in some old style sundry shops in Miri.

Hope I can still find them and photograph them....my mother would be happy to see the photos..and say...yes..that's what childhood is all about...buying biscuits with hard earned and hard saved money...to live one day at a time..and not worry too much that money would not go beyond the 23rd of each month....God has indeed kept a good watchful eye over  the fatherless children of Brooke Drive and kept the spirit of the widow strong. Mum would always have a few biscuits at the bottom of the tin .....

23rd of every month? Now that is the Pension Collection day ...and bills must be paid between 23rd and 30th of each month in Malaysia.

This morning I am going to buy some Mani bian..some malakilin bian and some busai bian....I think we can get them by the 100 grams now in some outlets....

June 18, 2012

Padungan's Spiral Staircases & various memories

The Spiral Staircases at the back of the Padungan Road (Kuching) the sunshine and the white paint (new) just make it such an interest scene to shoot...must go back to shoot more photos in the future....Hope to catch the morning sun there and enjoy a well deserved coffee again.....
An old photo (Google)

Ever given a thought to spiral cases? Sibu has a  few spiral cases  especially in the Raminway-Pulau Road- Jalan Tuanku Osman Triangle.. When growing up we used to be amused by tales of how kids brought upstairs their bicycles or how housewives found it difficult to bring home their huge baskets of vegetables...and how kids could run out from their homes faster than than their mothers could catch them with the feather dusters.....
 spiral stairs have been introduced in the medieval times. The original stone stairs would typically wound in a clockwise direction (from the ascender's point of view). An attacking right handed swordsman would be at a disadvantagee.g. Muchalls Castle. However the stairs at Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo winds up counter clockwise.




The famous Trajan's Column in Rome has a spiral staircase. It was constructed in AD113.

But in later years I read about the Loretto Staircase and the story gets stuck in my mind..some things just don't disappear so easily in the recesses of our brains!! And a sight in Padungan just trigger off a lot of thoughts.

The Sisters of St. Loretto . This spiral stair case has a legend.

June 16, 2012

Labour of Love

This is indeed a Labour of Love...Every reader who has been a student should read this book....it brings to life what being a poor student in Tanjong Lobang School in the 50's and 60's was like... You might just read about a dear uncle of yours struggling to get his school certificate. You might just be amused by a relative who crept into the school kitchen just to get an extra piece of biscuit!! And you will definitely read about how hard the students work  and mature to be the leaders of Sarawak......Stories from the heart!!

Congratulations to Dr. HH Chong and his friends for bringing the stories in print for all to read and enjoy!! And remember those long ago days...and to share with loved ones....

Tanjong Lobang Stories

Tanjong Lobang Stories

Paperback, 161 Pages 
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This book is about the early years of Tanjong Lobang School / College, which is situated at the top of a promontory in Miri Sarawak overlooking the South China Sea. The institution holds fond memories for its students and teachers. Some 50 years later, some of them have come together to tell the stories about how it has made a great difference to their lives, enabling them in turn to have contributed to the wellbeing of their people and the making of the nation. They record in this book their gratitude to the institution and its people, their love for them and their friendship that has endured over the decades. Reading this book will also give you a glimpse of how life in Sarawak was 50 years ago and how difficult and yet important it was to offer the young urchins a chance for an education. This book is a labour of love.



June 14, 2012

Setengah Lunsin

Not many can remember how our parents used to buy soy sauce or vinegar from the sundry shops in Sibu or any part of Sarawak. With big families many parents would come home from the town with half a dozen of soy sauce and half a dozen of vinegar tied in this remarkable way. Have you ever thought how mathematical all these typing up of bottles can be? The bottles fit well  into each other side by side and  save a lot of space. They can be stacked up easily and breakage is almost impossible unless an accident happens.

The person tying up all these bottles together can be so skilful.
Alas it is a dying art now.


Setengah lunsin is the local Iban or Malay word for half a dozen. Lunsin is  the corrupted version of dozen. A dozen is 12 in numbers and that was why when we were kids we had to memorize the important timetable 1x12=12..up to 12x12=144.
Photo taken in a Padungan Road(Kuching) retail shop which still sells bottles of soy sauce tied together in  six-es.

this is a really interesting old  retail style of selling goods in large numbers.  The scene really brought back a  lot of memories.




Tied in this way the bottles can be easily stacked in the motor launches which plied between Sibu and the villages and perhaps Kuching and other parts of the coastal villages. Somehow these hardy bottles do not get broken easily. paper boxes or cartons were not yet invented so we could see whatever people bought.

the loveliest sight was the tying up of POP or aereated drinks like Cream Soda or Cherry or Orange made by Ngo Kiang or Ta Fong of Sibu. The bottles tied together in SIX are easier to carry than a whole wooden box of 36 or even 24...

The strings used in the 1940's - 1960's were originally jute strings. These knots were so secure that it was not easy for any "thief" to take away a bottle or two from the shipment. A tiny ribbon with the name of the purchaser would be very secure and the set would reach the village home right on time....Talk about good delivery system!! And a really secure system too!!

 Honesty is the best policy in any business...and especially in the society.

June 13, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Loy Ling Jing (tuba) or Barefoot Pest Controllers

Many people in Sarawak believe that the Japanese (garden) snails were brought into the land by the Japanese. But snails and pests were already very damaging to crops of the Foochows long before the Japanese arrived on our shores from the first few weeks of their arrival in 1901.

And ever since the "agriculturists" were brought to Sibu by the Brookes the land had given forth both  pests and food  and the farmers have been fighting battles against these creatures. And it was also very probable that the Foochows and the Reverend James Hoover had observed the Iban use of the poison roots.

How the Foochows learned to use loy ling jing  or tuba juices in Sibu was not documented but James Hoover having had an excellent education would have learned from all the reference books available in those days to help the farmers learn how to use those roots and even grow them. Tulai was a source of Foochow-planted tuba roots.
therootofthetuba.JPG
My mother remembered her first experiences with Loy Ling (roots) as a child when her father in his anger kicked two bundles of roots out of the door of their house in Nang Chong which they had built in 1938. My maternal grandfather had moved away from his brother's mansion in Ensurai in 1938 when my mother was 12 years old.

 It must have been 1939 or 1940 when a barefooted man from Tulai carried on a "bian dan" (carrying pole)  two huge bundles of the foul smelling and dirt covered roots . He had missed the boat and had to stay over night at Grandfather's house. the rough and tough foochow man did not have any idea of fine living and plonked his bundles in the living room of the big house. Grandfather Lau Kah Chui (Family Water)  was a hot tempered man and could stand no such nonsense. For once my mother saw him being rude to the "visitor". He kicked the two bundles of foul smelling  roots right through the front door and swore loudly!! (My grandfather was quite well known for his swear words!!) The man quietly picked up his bundles and placed them under the smoke house and made peace with my grandfather.

Following that incident no one dared to bring any of their  farm belongings to the living room if they needed over night board and lodging which came free!!

Loy ling is the Foochow term for tuba or derris elliptica and during the days before the government ban on tuba fishing the Foochows actually cultivated lots of loy ling in the Tulai area which was accessible by footpath from my grandfather's house/jetty. Our jetty was the "export" point for the farmers of Tulai which was almost  6 to 8 hours' walk. Most farmers would stay overnight at the Nang Chong house together with their ducks or chickens or even wild boar meat. From time to time vegetables and other crops like loy ling jing would be brought to the Smoke house next door.

the young tuba plant (West Malaysia)



Derris is a climbing leguminous plant of Southeast Asia and the southwest Pacific islands and Borneo. Its roots contain rotenone, a strong insecticide and fish poison.
Deriis powder due to studies revealing its extreme toxicity, as well as due to the concentration level of rotenone to which the powder is often refined, experts in ecological and organic growing no longer consider it ecologically sound. Rotenone is still sold in the U.S., however.(Wikipedia)

The Ibans have been using tuba since time immemorial. So indeed many of the old Iban men are the custodians of botanical knowledge which should be tapped by modern scientists and antropologists.




My cousin's school teacher Sibu Foochow husband re-confirmed the present day use of the Loy Ling Jing or tuba juices recently. He related that when he was teaching in the rural schools he saw both Chinese and Iban farmers using the crushed roots and juices to spray on the sides of their gardens to kill pests and snails. He confirmed that the roots were very smelly.  The juices from the roots are also used to stun fish in the river from time to time. 

Personally I have never been to a tuba-fishing occasion in the rural Iban areas. But the idea of Foochows growing derris elliptica only excites me. How hard life must have been for my forefathers who needed to study the local culture in order to adapt to the environment!! There was indeed a great demand for Loy Ling Jing in the past..and some farmers were astute enough to grow the plant!! It must have been a hard hard life..

They were really the barefoot "Pest Control" experts.





File:Starr 010425-0043 Derris elliptica.jpg

Today tuba fishing is no longer encouraged and tuba roots are not openly sold any where in the state.

If this story is not written I am afraid my children and other younger Foochows may not know it at all as Oral History can disappear as soon as memories fade.

(I am sure there are many wild loy ling or tuba in Tulai now and Tulai is accessible by road from nang Chong and Sibu. within minutes of driving. Gone are the days when Tulai people had to stay overnight in my Grandfather's house ...Those were the days of old free Foochow B and B!!)


Photo of Tuba Fishing in Long Jegan (Sarawak Museum)

References:

Sarawak Museum

http://dqfarm.blogspirit.com/archive/2009/04/04/useful-plants-at-the-farm-derris-elliptica-or-tuba.html

 http://www.sabrizain.org/malaya/library/jsbras/jsbras73.pdf
 http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/plants/mangrove/derris/trifoliata.htm

June 12, 2012

on the West Bank of the Igan (Sg. Bidut)

Tang Kee Restaurant across Sibu serves up great Foochow delicacies.
The dish is roasted chicken with lots of sesame seeds. A speciality of this restaurant. Very succulent and tasty...

Cangkok manis fried with eggs done in a very nice way...not too dry and not too wet...
This is a bitter gourd dish with eggs (you can request three eggs recipe)
Hot siew mai from the steamer
You can even order a freshly fried Black Pomfret fried in the way your mother would...do not request for the sweet and sour source....eat the fish like this and it is really very home cooked and traditional. The skin will be crunchy and fragrant..and a little oil or collagen will seep from the underside...Black pomfret cooked this way is usually not frish...and you know you are getting a REALly good fish....

when in Sibu all the friends would like to be the first one to take out the wallet....

"I don't mind to wash all the dishes to pay for the meal!!" So very often when you have been to the counter you will tell your friends that "all the dishes have been washed.." bill paid....that's a good expression from Sibu.

Have a great day....with Foochow Cuisine in Sibu....

June 11, 2012

Wash Basins created from Kuali - Sg. Bidut's Tang Kee

I hope my blogger friend Sarawak Lens will read this before he goes to Sibu....one of the nicer and more interesting restaurants in Sibu is Tang Kee of Sungei Bidut...Order their Fern Tops (Mee din) and their special chicken amongst other dishes. If you still like Siew Mai...they make big ones too...I usually like my siew mai full of sengkuang which gives them a nice crunchy and vegetarian bite.

The sweetness from sengkuang also gives the siew mai a natural sweetness..and no aji no moto is required.
Two wash basins add a creative ambience to the nice Tang Kee restaurant in Sungei Bidut in Sibu....


We had a good lunch thjere recently.
Interesting indeed!! Kudos to the designer!!

June 9, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Express Boats and the river bank erosion


The history of motor launches in the Rajang River started with the first motor launch introduced by  Reverend James Hoover in the early 1900's. In  a few years my grandfather Tiong Kung Ping himself owned three of the wooden motor launches. However in the 1980's the engines for boats and even the shapes of the motor launches. Thus entered the era of the Express Boats which changed river travelling dramatically. Time taken was only about 2 hours between Sibu and
B intangor which had taken almost a day in the 1960's.

Gone are the motor launches we were once waiting impatiently for in the early hours of the morning when the river mists hanged low over the river Rajang. Sing Hai Huong (New Sea Emperor), Wong Doon (Far East),etc. Those were also the boats which brought our smoked rubber sheets to Sibu to be exported to Singapore directly. Today no direct exports could be sent out of Sibu by sea going ships any more. Gone are also the Soon Bee, the Ang Bee and the Rajah Brooke,etc.
The change in the use of powerful express boats has caused tremendous river bank erosion.
Most of the homes lost their jetties and that included the jetty owned by my uncle Lau Pang Sing. For a while many people continued to repair  their own jetties while  most gave up and just let their jetties fall into disrepair or allow them to "float away".\
\

Today this scenery of boats or motor launches tied to small home made jetties is just a part of our memory.



This is an express boat from Kuching travelling towards Sibu on the Rajang as seen from our Nang Chong ferry (Photo by Sarawakiana)
A lovely express boat going towards the mouth of the Rajang River.(Photo by Sarawakiana)
Looking at the fast express boat after it has passed us..within minutes.
Waves created by express boats are very very powerful and can even wash away houses along the river banks like my own grandmother's house in Nang Chong. Today there is a speed limit for these express boats.(Photo by Sarawakiana)

The Sarawak River Board is responsible for the safety and control of river traffic.

June 7, 2012

Mudskipper Soup


The drawing above (from Google) reminds me of my days living in Nang Chong where mangrove swamps teemed with wonderful life!! Mud skippers stared at us and we teased them with rubber bands.


In the days of my childhood I would use rubber bands to hit mudskippers. We would compete by counting how many hits we made. This was a game for both boys and girls.  This game is similar to hitting marbles or pop caps (pop chui gai) . Today I would think that we children in those days were quite cruel to animals.

And in later years many young men in Sibu liked to use their "air guns" to shoot birds. One such young man was careless and he almost killed a neighbour's old mother.

 Our village life in Nang Chong was made merrier then when we could use our catapults to shot at little things (alive or dead) and train ourselves as marksmen/women.

How life has changed over the years. Children no longer make pot shots at mud skippers. While we did not eat mud skippers many of us have travelled miles across the seas to go to China to enjoy some special dishes we have never heard of.

Have you ever eaten mud skippers? Yes they are very edible indeed.



this is a photo from google showing mudskipper hot pot .





this is my own photo taken in Putien China in April when I had my own real experience of eating mudskipper soup.
Mud skipper soup is an exotic dish many visitors to Fujian Province of China and especially Xiamen would like to try.
I have tried the soup which is delicious. But the mud skipper is a little nasty looking when examined closely. So I only ate part of it to show my politeness.

Sarawakian Local Delights: Ikan Buntal

Photo of Yellow Puffer fish , taken in Lingga. These are yellow ikan buntal or the yellow buntal. According to the locals, they are ver...