March 28, 2013

Bishop's Soup and Canned Peaches

Quoting from Rev David MacDonald,

"The Bishop's Soup in  Sibu has a long history and connection with the Methodist Church and Missionaries. One of the missionaries visiting Sibu was told of an old Chinese joke. The end of a Chinese feast would be marked  by the presentation of a bowl of hot water  for guests to wash their  spoons for the final dish - the dessert which was usually canned peaches and longans. A certain Bishop, on one occasion, dipped into this washing bowl and drank from it. No one dared to say anything His host, however, not wishing to embarrass him, said, "Guests, taste with me the Bishop's soup," and all drank with him.

Note : The Bishop's Soup, completely went off the menu once restaurants started to have pretty waitresses to serve food at the table, and the use of common serving spoons.

canned peaches

Most children would eat only the first two dishes in a banquest. They would then play amongst themselves in the corridors, or wherever they could find a spot. They would peer into the room to inquire if the dessert was ready to be served. The ice in the bowl of peaches and longans full of syrup was what we as children actually liked. Even too day, icy drinks seem to be just the right item for a hot sweaty day.

The Foochows however continue to enjoy 8 good dishes for a banquet or feast, complete with two desserts, longans and peaces, sometime with almond pudding and another rich dish of Sweet Yam Pudding.

Peaches are symbols of longevity, whereas Yams are symbols of success, leadership and brilliance. However yam actually help with digestion according to old wives' tales.

March 27, 2013

Good bye Angsana Tree

Miri has many angsana trees which were originally planted by the colonial government before the Second World War. Together with angsana, rain trees (which make Taiping so famous), are also found dotted all over the pretty roads of Miri.

Perhaps it is now time to widen roads, and to put up more electric and telephone poles, the trees have to be cut down. In the last few days VERTICAL Mowers have been pretty busy in Miri.

Sri Mawar students will remember their classes were called Primary Five Angsana or Primary Five Rhu.

Other students would remember Angsana trees as beautiful trees which give good shades and pretty yellow flowers with a faint perfume.

So just in case many ( students ) forget what an angsana tree is all about here is just some info for you.

The hardwood, which is purplish, is termite resistant and rose-scented. The wood known in Indonesia as amboyna is the burl of the tree, named after Ambon, where much of this material was originally found. Often amboyna is finely sliced to produce an extremely decorative veneer, used for decoration and in making of furniture and keys on a marimba.
 Amboyna Burl wood
















    pen by Rodney Neep
Exotic Amboyna burl wood is one of the most sought after woods. For obvious reasons!  This exotic pen is made from Amboyna burl.

The flower is used as a honey source while leaf infusions are used as shampoos. Both flowers and leaves were said to be eaten. The leaves are supposedly good for waxing and polishing brass and copper. It is also a source of kino or resin.[6]
In folk medicine, it is used to combat tumors.[6] This property might be due to an acidic polypeptide found in its leaves that inhibited growth of Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells by disruption of cell and nuclear membranes.[citation needed] It was also one of the sources of lignum nephriticum, a diuretic in Europe during the 16th to 18th centuries. Its reputation is due to its wood infusions, which are fluorescent.[4]
The tree is recommended as an ornamental tree for avenues and is sometimes planted  as a shade and ornament. The tall, dome-shaped crown, with long, drooping branches is very attractive and the flowers are spectacular in areas with a dry season. It is very easily propagated from seed or large stem cuttings, but suffers from disease problems. It is widely planted as a roadside, park, and parking lot tree. (wikipedia)

March 25, 2013

Their Three Years and Eight Months

"Their 3 Years and 8 Months", oral stories of 14 women during the Japanese occupation of Sibu during the 2nd World War has been published. The launching of the book is forthcoming.

(Thanks to Steve Ling for forwarding the picture of the cover and the Chinese news)

It is not easy for women who have suffered so much to relate their life experiences. It is not easy for women or any one to open their hearts to strangers or even friends and to tell of their deepest secrets or deepest pains. It is not easy for  many Chinese women in general to talk about injustices done to them because of their Confucianist upbringing. It is not easy for any one to share a deeply kept and almost long forgotten story. Sometimes memories are not clear and they would say, "I cannot tell now, I might be wrong. So why should I say then?" These are the obstacles to oral history.And we have to appreciate their reluctance.

But I am so glad that these 14 women are courageous, frank enough, succinct enough, to break barriers. 

The Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association has done it again!!

Another worthwhile publication has just been released last week in Sibu. This is the result of painstaking recording of Japanese Occupation stories using Oral History methodology
 to collect stories and to publish them.

The stories under the title of "Their Three Years and Eight Months" is the first book based on Oral History.

Fourteen Chinese women were interviewed on their life experiences during the Japanese Occupation.

There amazing stories bring to the fore many unheard of experiences of those dark days and also reveal the realities and lives of the unknown and unsung heroines of the day. Where were just stories "we heard" are now being published as "Stories which have been recorded" with proofs of telling and recording.

It is a remarkable publication. 

 "Oral history provides depth, texture, flavor, nuance, and color to mission history and analysis. As social history, it fills in gaps, gives voice to otherwise hidden people, enriches or embellishes, substantiates or contradicts and potentially corrects the official record. 

 Oral history can also provide an older generation with a way of connecting to the younger, as when, for instances, third generation believers (students in a seminary) interviewed first generation believers in rural Latin America, wrote up the stories, and then returned to the churches to re-tell the stories. This generated mutual appreciation and understanding, and ensured that the early roots of the church were neither ignored nor despised.

Oral history can bring to light hidden aspects of a story, facilitating a sense of closure to issues not adequately remembered or dealt with by giving a voice to those who remember only too well, but who have never been listened to. It can supplements diaries, encouraging and ensuring a collective sense of family.

Furthermore, oral history has the virtue of being efficient, immediate, and eyewitness. It allows for divergent points of view, for the perspective of the voiceless (illiterate, low status), recovering forgotten knowledge. Most human beings are illiterate and have no voice in the stories mission typically historians tell." (
Resources for Evangelical Mission Archives)

The chief editor of this non-fiction book based on oral history is Chua Jen Chong蔡增聰, and researcher-writer Yong Gien Feng楊詒 is the chief interviewer and author. The publication is sponsored by the Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association and Dr. Lu Toh Ming 

Congratulations to the author, publisher,sponsors and the whole publication team.

Only 600 copies were printed.
本書是砂華文協所推行口述歷史訪談計畫的一項成果,內容收錄了14 年長婦女的訪談紀錄,主要追述她們在三年零八個月日據時期的生活經歷,以及受訪者個人對當時事物的觀點。
婦女在日據時期的經歷,過去在本地所出版的相關歷史書籍中,甚少有被提提及;她們對史事所持有的觀點,也經常為歷史研究者所忽視。本書希望借著對這些 女性的訪談,能夠提供讀者更多有關這段時期的歷史事實;同時讓經常在歷史書上“缺席”的女性,亦能透過個人的陳述及觀點的提出,間接參于這段慘痛歷史的論 述。

March 23, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Raising Pigs during the Japanese Occupation

It is not all true that during the Japanese Occupation in Sarawak, that the Foochows were starving and they were destitute. It was true to a certain extent they  had sweet potatoes instead of rice to eat. It all really depended on whether they worked hard or not, or whether the Japanese came around to carry away their livestock.

Domestic animals were reared and the Japanese soldiers did occasionally, when they were in luck, ransacked the pig sties or chicken coops to pick and take away their prizes, to the loss of the families in Nang Chong Village. Another reason why they did not, or could not rear a lot of livestock was because they could not feed their animals . Food was scarce every where! And they plainly did not have enough scraps for the animals. What would you have fed the dogs with,in those days if you did not have even enough food for the children?
Photo courtesy of my mother's favourite English Chef, Hugh Fearnley Whittingtall. Mum likes him a lot because she too used to rear her own pigs. Mum says he is better and more proper.....

My mother, just in her teens, was already cooking hot meals for her pigs (usually 3 or 4 per batch) every day. Pigs got hot meals twice a day and food was the usual Water lettuce and wild yams. There was hardly any table scraps for them. Mum said that she could not rear more pigs because there was not enough food for people and she was rearing the pigs in the quiet. Too many pigs after all would make too much noise which would attract the Japanese soldiers.

She did have a mother pig during the Japanese Occupation and the animal gave birth to several batches of piglets which she sold.

Once a pig was old enough, the whole village would turn up to get their share. The meat was shared on a cooperative manner. Each family would take turn to slaughter their pig and the sharing was recorded and remembered. Money was not exchanged.

 So in that way, this sharing of pork was quite unique and it was really quite fair. No one could be "lee hai" or aggressive in their attitude and get a lion's share. I suppose this kind of sharing could only be practised by the foochows of those days. May be not today, unless one is really rich and give away for free the best portions of the animal.

My mother actually said that on the day a pig was slaughtered it was like a wedding was going to be conducted. The sharing families would gather around expectantly. Even those who wanted to have a look was welcome to witness the event.

 Food was scarce but thanks to God, there were light moments like a day for slaughtering of a pig. Mum's older brother and sister in law would be so proud on the day of the slaughter and mum and her younger siblings would have better food for a few weeks. The pork would be salted, the fat would be made into lard, and the pig skin would be dried in the sun or smoked over the stove to make more soup at a later date.

March 19, 2013

Foochow Wedding Biscuits - Leh Bian

 When a Foochow girl is engaged, her family will ask the groom's family to provide a sum of money to pay for what we call Leh Bian. Not every modern Foochow family will do this.

But there are still biscuit companies in Sibu which will make these cakes.

These cakes will be made into different sizes. Closest relatives like uncles and aunties will receive the biggest sized leh bian ( No.5) and the next level of kin will receive #3. The smallest are given to neighbours and friends.

Actually these cakes are symbols of an impending marriage.

and they are usually happily distributed and joyously and graciously received. The recipients will then accordingly prepare a gift to reciprocate. Those receiving #5 leh bian may have to make a bee line to their favourite goldsmith to prepare a gift of gold ring or even a bracelet.

The girl's grandmother usually prepares a gold chain,if she is very generous because she is top of the list to receive a #5 leh bian. But the family will also reciprocate with an angpow called "Ma Dang" or Grandmother's Share. Sometimes you can make to order a special size like my friend Ivy who ordered a special "2 ft" diameter leh bian for her daughter in law's grandmother. That must be a Foochow Record.

Gone are the days when we practise all these Foochow traditions. But every now and then, people do adhere to a few of our wedding traditions. Whether you are marrying a daughter or receiving a daughter in law, there are some memorable "things" you can do to make the wedding a happy one.

Double Happiness is the best policy for any tradition. But one must not break the bank to hold a happy event.

God bless all marriages on earth!!

March 16, 2013

Mackerel II - From Nang Chong to Luak Bay

the Bubuk Season is ongoing in Miri at the moment and Luak Bay is full of men and women and children moving along the water edges with their PAKA.

The fishermen and fisherwomen who go to sea with their motorised boats continue with their daily work and come home with large trays of MACKEREL or ma ka.

Here Wahid and his family netted some huge mackerels this morning.

This mackerel is 6 kg.

With customers asking only for slices,or steaks Mrs. Wahid kindly cut the fish....

I like the parts below the stomach. This is a MALE mackerel.

My lunch this afternoon. I wish my children are here to share the fresh fish.

You see I am far away from Nang Chong Village now where my grandmother used to live. She would love to have a bit of this. Foochow way of eating the mackerel would be cutting up the fish into small pieces and deep fried. In those days, the mackerels she bought were small, around 1 kg. and nothing like the 6 kg monsters we get today.

Foochow fishermen with their old wooden boats without the help of ice in those days, could not go very far into the sea. Most of the time, they would make salted fish straight away. Wet salted fish or dry salted fish.

Life for those Foochow fishermen were tough, they had no handphones, no wireless radios, no radar. A few men were lost at sea. When life became too tough and the Communists over ran the state, they gave up their boats and took up rough work in Sibu as labourers.

In actual fact, according to one Foochow uncle, some of our Foochow pioneers were fishermen to start with in China and when they came to Sibu, they started padi farmer and pepper farming. Rubber planting was an entire new kind of work for them.

So you can imagine the cultural shock they had and how amazing it was for them to survive the changes in life.

And in the same way, our tastes have also slowly changed and evolved. We have learned to use belacan, chillies, pepper. We have learned to smoke our fish, grill our fish, and bake. Times are changing and we have to learn to adopt, adapt. And be adept.

March 10, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Mackerel : fresh and salted

During the holidays we would visit my grandmother in Ah Nang Chong. Her house would be filled with happy grandchildren and their boisterous  running noise and shrieks of joy from one end to the other end of the huge wooden house, which was in fact made up of four "terraced houses". Sometimes when we ran upstairs and downstairs, Grandma would exclaim, " Get the ax and chop the naughty kids. Don't run so hard..." After that , we would remember to tip toe around. But then, when we forgot her warning, we ran as hard as we could and played again and again hide and seek.

After playing hard  and after having our usual swim in the gigantic Rajang River, we enjoyed the food prepared for us at the two tables by Third Uncle, Pang Sing, if he was at home, or by Third Aunt or Grandma.  Sometimes my uncle would take out another Foochow table for all the other children. Sometimes we just took turn at the table. Our Foochow table could be dismantled The top could be taken off and allowed to reclined at a wall, and the legs could be folded easily and allowed to stand. It is an ingenious engineering contraption.

Grandma had a favourite fish : Ma Ka or fresh mackerel which she would buy from Sibu so that we could have fish on the first day and the second day. It was not easy in the days of no electricity. We could not chill our sea fish.

So on the first day, we would have mackerel with nice sweet and sour sauce.  All the fish bought would be deep fried and kept in the food safe. On the second day, Grand ma or uncle would refry another mackerel and add lots of onions and thick soy sauce. If there was any left over, we would have the left over fish steamed. I really like the steamed soy sauced mackerel. It is like double cooked fish.
We Foochows call this Ma ka Long (which means wet salted mackerel). They are often used in the stir frying of bean sprouts and steamed minced pork.

Mackerels which were salted were also favourite offerings on our Nang Chong tables. Grandmother loved to buy the two different types of salted mackerel :  the dry ones and the wet ones. The dried salted mackerel was nice to eat with porridge and grandma loved it.


But the wet ones are the best because we could eat them with minced pork and minced toufoo. Or just steamed toufoo with a few slices of the wet salted macherel on top. The wet salted mackerel was always kept in a glass bottle with the brine.

Jocelyn Ling's Sweet and Sour Mackerel

Recently my Foochow friend Jocelyn posted a photo of her fresh mackerel in sweet sour sauce. And the photo brought back a stream of memories to me. I even discussed with my mother and my sisters how we enjoyed the mackerel in Nang Chong.

We all promise each other that we are going to buy and eat more fresh mackerel.

How wonderful it is to remember our childhood with our grandmother and uncles and aunties in Ah Nang Chong.

March 9, 2013

Mantis Prawns or Ketak

My friends have been having a real ball in Batu Satu or Lutong Beach. The Bubuk season is a great financial opportunity for most of the part time fishermen. Full time fishermen usually run to the bank laughing.

So it is indeed a real happy atmosphere in Batu Satu for almost a month...And then in April another period of bubuk fishing will come on again.

Often during the bubuk season the mantis shrimps also appear. Most Chinese would make soup out of them to help alleviate asthma. In good times, these mantis shrimps which may be more than 8 inches long fetch a good price.

But then the small ones do make a good soup.

Photo: Udang Lipan or ketak is popularly used as a medicine soup for curing lung ailments according to the Chinese. These can be deep fried, cooked in simple Sup Terjun or the biggest ones can be cooked in Curry with lots of kunyit.

From Wikipedia we learn that :

In Japanese cuisine, the mantis shrimp is eaten boiled as a sushi topping, and occasionally, raw as sashimi; and is called shako (蝦蛄).
Mantis shrimp is abundant in the coastal regions of south Vietnam, known in Vietnamese as tôm tít or tôm tích. The shrimp can be steamed, boiled, grilled or dried; used with pepper + salt + lime, fish sauce + tamarind or fennel.[23]
In Cantonese cuisine, the mantis shrimp is known as "pissing shrimp" (攋尿蝦, Mandarin pinyin: lài niào xiā, modern Cantonese: laaih niu hā) because of their tendency to shoot a jet of water when picked up. After cooking, their flesh is closer to that of lobsters than that of shrimp, and like lobsters, their shells are quite hard and require some pressure to crack. Usually they are deep fried with garlic and chili peppers.
In the Mediterranean countries the mantis shrimp Squilla mantis is a common seafood, especially on the Adriatic coasts (canocchia) and the Gulf of Cádiz (galera).
In the Philippines, the mantis shrimp is known as tatampal, hipong-dapa or alupihang-dagat and is cooked and eaten like shrimp.
The usual concerns associated with consuming seafood are an issue with mantis shrimp, as they may dwell in contaminated waters. This is especially true in Hawaii, particularly the Grand Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki, where some have grown unnaturally large.[2]

This is how they look like after I have boiled them in a soup.

It is really quite refreshing and delicious.

And at about RM5.00 to RM 8.00 a kg for small ones, you can really enjoy a good warm soup during a rainy evening. Some flesh can be dug out with a small pincer. But do be warned, the shells are very sharp edged.

Bon Ape tit.

March 8, 2013

Xiao Hong/ Zhang Naiying (张乃莹)

Today is March 8 2013 - International Women's Day.

How far have women travelled in the last 100 years?
How far have women writers progressed in the last 100 years?

Here is one story of a great Chinese woman writer born before the First World War 1911 and died during the Second World War in 1942.  

Alas, from her life story  the majority of women today still face the same fates : 

Too poor? Sold to a brothel,
 Too defenceless? Get raped. 
Pregnant? Abandoned by the man who planted the seed.
Sick? Wrongly diagnosed and die under the scapel.
Married? Left by husband or abused by in laws.
Fatherless? Pushed to the brim of society.
Struggling at work? Suppressed by bullies.

Can we change to make women's fate better? (Chang Yi. 2013)


Text completely taken from Wikipedia :

Xiao Hong (simplified Chinese: 萧红; traditional Chinese: 蕭紅; pinyin: Xiāo Hóng, June 2, 1911 – January 22, 1942), also spelled Hsiao Hung, was a Chinese writer. Her real name was Zhang Naiying (张乃莹); she also used the pen name Qiao Yin.
Xiao Hong was born in Hulan county, Heilongjiang Province, on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival to a landowning family. Her mother died when Xiao Hong was young, and she had a difficult relationship with her conservative father growing up. The only family member she was close to was her grandfather, who was a humane and kind man. Otherwise she had a generally unhappy and lonely childhood. She attended a girls school in Harbin in 1927, where she encountered the progressive ideas of the May Fourth movement as well as Chinese and foreign literature. The literature of Lu Xun, Mao Dun, and Upton Sinclair had a particular impact on her. In 1930 she ran away to Beijing to avoid a planned marriage, though was eventually followed by her fiance Wang Dianjia. In 1932, after she became pregnant her fiance abandoned her at a hotel in Harbin. She narrowly avoided being sold to a brothel by the hotel’s owner by scraping together over six hundred yuan in room and board expenses.
Wretched, alone, and pregnant, Xiao Hong looked to the local newspaper publisher for help. The newspaper’s editor, Xiao Jun saved Xiao Hong during a flood of the Songhua river. They began to live together, during which time Xiao Hong started writing. In 1933 she wrote short stories "Trek" and "Tornado", and in the same year she and Xiao Jun self-published a joint collection of short stories, Bashe (Arduous Journey).
In June 1934, the couple moved to Qingdao, where after three months Xiao Hong wrote a long novel entitled Sheng si Chang (The Field of Life and Death). The book was a gripping account of the tortured lives of several peasant women, and one of the first literary works to reflect life under Japanese rule. In its foreword, Lu Xun declared the work “a female writer’s meticulous observation and extraordinary writing.” In October, the couple again moved, this time to Shanghai’s French concession. With Lu Xun’s help, Sheng si Chang was published 1935 by Shanghai’s Rongguang Publishing House, bringing Xiao Hong fame among Shanghai’s modernist literary circle. At the time, Lu Xun declared that Xiao Hong would one day surpass Ding Ling as China’s most celebrated female writer.
 Time tells

The same year, Xiao Hong and Xiao Jun completed a collection of autobiographical essays entitled Market Street, named after the street on which the couple lived in Harbin, and from 1935-36 Xiao Hong wrote short stories and essays, later collected in Shangshi Jie, Qiao, and Niuche Shang. In 1936, in order to shake off her past, Xiao Hong moved to Tokyo, where she wrote a collection of essays entitled "the Solitary Life", a long set of poems entitled "Sand Grains", a short story entitled "On the Ox Cart", and others.
In 1938, while living in Xi’an as part of the Northwestern Combat Zone’s Service Group, she broke up with Xiao Jun, and married Duanwu Hongliang in Wuhan. In January 1940, the newly-married couple made their way from Chongqing to Hong Kong, and took residence in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. Her remembrance of Lu Xun, Huiyi Lu Xun Xiansheng, was published that same year, along with the first volume of a planned trilogy, Ma Bole, satirizing the war and the era's patriotism. While in Hong Kong, Xiao Hong wrote her most successful long novel, Hulanhe zhuan (Tales of the Hulan River), based on her childhood memories, along with a number of short stories based on her childhood, such as "Spring in a Small Town".

A monument of Xiao Hong in her original home in Hulan (heilongjiang)

She died during the chaos of wartime Hong Kong in a temporary hospital on January 22, 1942. She was misdiagnosed and died painfully after undergoing unnecessary throat surgery that left her speechless, without either of her life’s two loves at her side. She was buried at dusk on January 25, 1942 in Hong Kong’s Repulse Bay.

These are her works:
  • Bashe (跋涉, Arduous Journey), with Xiao Jun, 1933.
  • Sheng si chang (生死场, The Field of Life and Death), 1935.
  • Huiyi Lu Xun Xiansheng (回忆鲁迅先生, Memories of Lu Xun Xiansheng), 1940.
  • Ma Bole (马伯乐), 1940.
  • Hulanhe zhuan (呼兰河传, Tales of Hulan River), 1942.

Let's Celebrate International Women's Day EVERYDAY.

March 6, 2013

Yeo Hiap Seng and His Blessings

Yeo Hiap Seng and my trip of 2 nights and three days in Ulu Belaga.

MENTION “YEO HIAP SENG” to people in Singapore, and most would rightly associate it with soy sauce, beverages and canned curry chicken. But little is known about the person who built up one of Singapore’s most well-known brands – Mr Yeo Thian In, a first-generation Chinese immigrant from Fujian Province, China who arrived on our shores in 1938 with his wife and young sons in tow.

More significantly, through the hardships he endured – the gruelling challenges of the world war, personal tragedies, political and business cycles – Yeo Thian In’s story is one of a deep abiding faith in the Lord and inspiring Christian witness.

It is now told for the first time in a recently published book, The Soy Sauce Towkay, commissioned by his youngest son, the Rev Alfred Yeo, to mark the 25th anniversary of Yeo Thian In’s death in 1985. The book testifies to God’s hand of protection, grace and mercy right through Thian In’s life and legacy.

As I carried out my work in Ulu Belaga and enjoyed the protein supplied by the Church, two tins of curried chicken and two tins of sardines, I praise God for Yeo Hiap Seng who initiated the canning industry in Singapore.

Because of him and his work, we who work in the remotest village  of the Belaga/Kapit Division can enjoy good food!! We appreciate the nourishment provided by the Church group and the legacy of Yeo Hiap Seng.

How provident is our God!!

Yeo Hiap Seng's Curry Chicken is very delicious. Just open the can and heat up the contents. 9 people can easily enjoy the dish and feel good!! When there is very little water to do cleaning etc. canned food is the best resort.

This is our dinner table for the 9 of us from Miri. Two vegetables, fried rice (from over night rice we could not finish the day before) and a bit of freshly cooked rice. We are thankful that we can use the electricity generator to cook our rice. We also brought along this Japanese rice cooker.

This is a wonderful dish made up of big onions and Yeo's sardines.

It is so easy to break into praise when you are in the Ulu and experiencing a wonderful connection with God and His wonderful earth.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Thank you Yeo Thian In and your canned foods which gave us sustenance throughout the days of our work in the ulu parts of Sarawak.

March 3, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Hii Wen Hui and Haji the Beef Stall Owner at SCM

Who is the most famous beef vendor of Sibu Central Market? Who is the faithful halal beef supplier who started working for his father and uncle since he was just 12 years old?

Haji as we always call him speaks very good English. His stall is the "saviour" of everyone in Sibu because he opens 7 days a week. 24/7 unless local fresh cows supply is zero. His brother is his assistant who helps him sell beef and curry paste.And in many ways, his curry paste has had a very steady price for the last ten years.

And how did he learn English? He attributed his good English to his English teacher and Principal, the late Mr. Hii Wen Hui who came from Nang Chong Village. And how did a Foochow from Nang Chong learn such good English?

The late Hii Wen Hui was one of the earliest students of the Senior Cambridge Class in the Methodist Secondary School, Sibu. Most of his peers ended up as English teachers like Lau Kieng Sing and Wong Teck Moh. Mr. Hii taught in Chung Cheng School, Kwang Hua School and finally became Principal of the Rajang Secondary School before he retired and went into business.

Visiting Sibu's central market means I would buy a small packet of curry paste, mixed by Haji. He and I are about the same age. I think he gave me extra curry paste. This is the practice of most vendors in the Sibu Central Market where the vendors are always very generous to nice people.

Haji : "Mr. Hii was a marvellous teacher. He explained very carefully and very clearly. We learned verbs, tenses, adjectives, adverbs from him. And I can still remember how he talked in the class. We were never shamed when we made mistakes. We laughed sometimes because learning was really fun."





Haji : "Mr. Hii knew that I was working at my father's stall since I was in Primary Six. So when I joined Form One in Rejang Secondary School, after I failed my Primary Six Entrance Exam, I was very happy to have such good teachers in the private school, which was sited near Sacred Heart School. I learned a lot even though I was tired from working part time."

Haji : "After my secondary school I continued working as a beef  and curry paste stall owner. That has been my life for the last sixty over years......In most places it is an Indian man who owns the curry stall. But in Sibu, it has been just my family. This is our history."

jintan putih



"Mr. Hii was really a nice man. Very good man. He was so humble and kind. His Mrs. was a small lady who was very quiet. I think today we cannot find teachers like those old teachers of the older style. They were really special. And also, their salary was very small. They drove simple cars, wore simple clothes....Really miss those days...."

I know that Haji is a very sincere man and I am so touched by his words and his memory of my kind uncle, the late Mr. Hii Wen Hui. Many people of Nang Chong continue to remember him with great fondness and admiration.

Tuan Haji is a typical Sibu Malay man who is humble and full of compassion for his fellow men and women. I am glad I know this Sibu man.

March 2, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Long Bao & Char Chii Mieng

In Nang Chong, the Foochow villagers lived together as a community. They had lived there since 1928 when my maternal grandfather started to plant rubber trees with money from the main family fund (Lau Kah Tii and Co). It was not very much but according to my mum it was good enough and every one was able to struggle hard.

Grand Uncle Kah Tii arranged for new families to come from China to tap rubber and these new migrants lived in the Coolie Houses. There were 4 coolie houses and all the families lived cosily and in harmony.

One of the dishes the Foochows cooked in those days was Char Chii Mien - translated into Bahasa it is Mee Goreng Basah.

This how a bowl of char chii mien look like when you put your chop sticks into the bowl and dig up the various ingredients ..the fragrance is unbelieveable. And you go into a nostalgic trance. You almost imagine that your maternal grandmother is sitting in front of you and you would be picking up the poached egg with your Chinese spoon for her. Here Grandma let me show you my filial piety...have the soft egg. I know you will like it very much. My maternal grandmother's love for poached eggs was well known from one end of the village to the other.

In English it is Fried Noodle Soup. It has a good taste , a fusion of noodles which have been fried and a nice soup which comes from stir fried meat, prawns, fish, pig stomach and fish with some vegetables. It is indeed a meal by itself.
Another favourite addition of the dish is a poached egg. This is like the creme de la creme of a dish.

A short cut to the Char Chii Mieng is to boil the noodles quickly in a large pot and then add them into a boiled soup of nice ingredients. But nothing can beat the original recipe of Char Chii Mien my Third Uncle Lau Pang Sing made for my Maternal Grandmother Tiong Lian Tie and all of us nieces and nephews when we went visiting Nang Chong Village in the 60's.

March 1, 2013

Buddha's Hand Lime

A new miniature citrus has come to town during the recent Chinese New Year.

Limes and oranges are auspicious plants to have in Chinese homes during the Chinese New Year. And this Buddha's hand lime is even more auspicious. Furthermore the fragrance from the fruit can perfume the living room.

Some recipes for the rind of the fruit can be found on line. Many supermarkets in the US andAustralia are now selling the fruits for the rind. The fruit does not have any juice.

To many Buddhists, this decorative plant is spiritual and auspicious at the same time. 2 in 1 !! But at a price of RM`150, it is indeed quite an expensive plant. But it is definitely cheaper than a bonzai. However if it brings peace and harmony to the family, why not?

Think of not having too rich a meal and you can instead bring this plant home.

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). ...