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.


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