July 31, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : Bamboo Shoots for the table

When I was seven years old my paternal grand father was already in his seventies. My paternal grandmother Siew was a good driver and she was probably the first woman driver in Sibu. (Pl forgive me if I have made a mistake here in claiming that).

We were always very happy when the two of them visited us in our wooden house in Kong Ping Road, in town. The road was named after him (but later, with the new government, many old roads were given new names by the Sibu Urban District Council). It was named after him because he built the largest number of houses and constructed a mud road, thus opening up the area.

One of the pleasantest memories I have of visiting grandpa was the nice food he had on the table.

As a very providing kind of elder, and an extremely enterprising Foochow man, he had bought land in Sg. Merah and planted lots of fruit trees on the land. His rambutans were the best I had ever tasted. He had five or six clumps of bamboos (Betong species), huge banana plants, langsat, wong dang, guava, star fruit, water jambu, and Malay Jambu. Below the hill were two houses he built for two families who tapped the rubber trees owned by him. I believe that estate must have been more than 20 acres.

One of the nicest food served by Grandmother Siew was fried bamboo shoots from the garden itself.

Early in the morning during the right season, grandfather would ask Aunty Ah Hiong to harvest the bamboo shoots. There would be one or two pails of these bamboo shoots. Some of them would be sold in the market.

Aunty Ah Hiong would prepare on for the family by ripping off the outer layer.

I remember Aunty Ah Hiong suffering from skin irritations because the bamboo cusps had very tiny hairs which would stick to her skin.

Then she would cut the bamboo shoots into smaller pieces and boil them in the large pot over the wood fire in the kitchen. We really enjoyed the nice aroma floating in the kitchen at about 9 in the morning.

We never knew why and how the white bamboo shoots would turn a golden yellow after boiling. Do you know why?

Grandmother Siew would then personally fry the bamboo shoots for lunch with Bombay onions. I loved the way she presented the dishes on the square table in the kitchen. Grandpa would always be the one to sit at the table first and then, the visitors would be invited to the table.

I never remember grandma Siew and Aunty Ah Hiong eating together with us. Grandma would sit at the table and "manage" all of us, picking food for Grandpa. Grandpa would have one personal "dish" which Grandma prepared for him especially. It could be a choice  braised pork or a special fried fillet of fish. The rest of us would be "blessed with one piece" when grandpa picked from his dish for us. We would then feel so loved.

Can you remember your first taste of good bamboo shoots in Sibu?


Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

The Cantonese call the fat ones, sweet bamboo. I love these ones.The Vietnamese pickle them in Chilli oil, and I love it,

Ensurai said...


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