August 22, 2013

Yams : Big ones, Small Ones, Good ones, not so good ones...

Yam or taro are very healthy food.

There is a yam soup which is enjoyed by the Foochows after the Chinese New Year and it is called Chak Hui. It is actually a mixture of all the good left overs from the Reunion Dinner and to make the soup thick, a big yam is cut and placed in the soup. The resultant soup is creamy and sweet. This dish also helps digestion.

Years ago in Hock Cheu Leu Restaurant in Sibu, the Chak Hui Tong was very popular. And my grandmother would always order that particular soup. Later, corn soup, fish ball soup, salty vegetable soup , bean curd soup became the order of the day.

This is my son showing a huge taro in the Canningvale market in Perth. He loves to cook like his grandmother and great grandmother. In fact the Lau side of my family are good cooks.

Photo: Yam. Haven't bought one to try yet. One day.

More on yams later.

August 20, 2013

Moon Cakes : Beautiful Gift

In one month's time, it will be the Chinese Moon Cake Festival or Mid Autumn Festival .

Happy Mid Autumn Festival to you my dear readers........

Moon Cake festival is the most beautiful Chinese Festival to many Chinese and Overseas Chinese.

I love the MCF too because I love the cakes and biscuits prepared for this festival since I developed an extremely  sweet tooth in my younger days.

Moon cakes which are sold are usually prettily packed as gifts for well wishers, friends and bosses. According to one newspaper article from mainland China "  A presentable box of moon cakes these days comes with a French bottle of red wine or top-quality root of ginseng or even a diamond ring."

In Malaysia, some office personnel in Chinese based companies seem to be" less" may even spend hundreds if not thousands to present their bosses with the best of the moon cakes. But I am sure there will be many cases of Kiasu people who will do their outmost to outdo their competitors in giving the best of moon cakes.

At the normal social levels,Clan associations prepare a special budget for moon cakes for their annual MCF.

Actually different dialectic groups have their own kinds of moon cakes. Quoting from a Chinese source," Moon cakes, the traditional delicacy of the mid-autumn festival, were once regarded as symbols of family reunion and represented the round harvest moon. But in recent years as Chinese palates have become more fastidious and customers grown richer, the cakes have morphed into an ostentatious show of wealth."

These photos represent commercial mooncakes. By and by, I will display Foochow Moon Cakes in other posts.

New trend - green tea moon cake with strawberry filling if I am not mistaken.

August 19, 2013

Fish Fillet, Foochow Style

My maternal grandmother Lau Lian Tie  and my mother love a special Foochow way of cooking fish and they love Ngoh Ngii or Threadfin Cod. This Foochow style of cooking is called "Pee:

First the fresh fish (cod) is gently fried (either in shallow oil or deep fired). Once done, the fish is left to dry in the wind so that the skin is crispy.

A sauce is then prepared. The sauce can be any sauce that you like. I love mine Hock Chu Leu style like in the photo

Fried fish cooked in sauce at Hock Chu Leu in Sibu. Best Fish Dish in my opinion.

The sauce is made from a bit of lemon juice, some vinegar, lots of onions, some chillies, some carrots, some corn kernels,a bit of tomatoes and a bit of wine and sugar.

The fresh threadfin cod is lovely and there is not fishy taste at all.....

No wonder three generations love this dish so far.

Rubber Tapping in Brooke Drive/Kong Ping Road

Abang Koh who owned a fair bit of the land in Kampong Nyabor, behind the Malay Union Club, was actually one of the largest owners of rubber gardens in Sibu, in the eyes of 7 year old Tiong Sisters who moved to the land next to him. Actually my grandfather bought a few pieces of lots from him,  on which he built the wooden house for himself, and later gave to my father. That piece of land educated the whole brood of my siblings and later helped us financially when my youngest brother turned 18.  God was very kind to a widow and 7 children, through a grandfather who was very enterprising.

Kak was very hardworking. She was the sister of Abang Koh and she was our "washerwoman" for many years. She was also "comforter" and good friend of my mother after my father passed away. Kak remained a spinster all her life.

Kak also introduced us to Raya kuihs, and dodol (which she made outside her house during her fasting month). She also showed us her "baju" for praying and her "baju" for going to town. Kak was already in her forties when we moved to Sibu and she was now a town lady at all. She never went to the movies like the others.

And even though the Bangsawan was staged next to her house, she would not buy a ticket to go into the MUC compound. She would just stand outside for a while. She got work to do she told my mum, who would also leave the road and go home with all the children. My father stayed and one evening he came home with a gift of glasses and pitcher (which we kept for many decades) which he won from a game of "tikam".

Kak would tap all the rubber trees behind our wooden house (today, this piece of land is the Ngui Kee and Library building). My sisters would follow her to the trees, watch her collect the latex and then watch her make the solidified rubber in a shed fairly near our house. There were three houses between Kak's house and our house, a small lane, with planks to keep feet dry connected all these five houses.

this road became the Kai Peng Road when my sister and I were in Secondary School. By then Kak and her family had moved to Kampong Bandung and Abang Koh had passed away. We heard Kak was sick and passed away before we could visit her. This was also because we had no car and my mother was also not well. Although we have lost touch with Kak's nieces and nephews, we remember her very well.

AZoM - Metals, ceramics, polymers and composites - Rolling the latex into thin sheets.
Kak had a rubber mangler which she used with a strong force. We thought she was a very strong woman. After she had done her chores, cleaned herself up, she would come to our house and wash the two buckets of clothes.

Kak's toes were all wide spread and we also noticed how red her toes were. Her skin peeled off and some of her toe nails were really damaged by formic acid. I suppose she did not bother about pedicure in those days.

Life was hard for unmarried ladies and one day I remember she told my mother that she would never have a chance to make it to the Haj even though she was getting money from her rubber sheets. Each time she bought a new sarong, she would tell my mother about it. She dried her sarong with two poles, one to hang the sarong  with, attached the wires and one to pull the sarong straight and flat with its weight. I have not seen that for a long time .
Photo from Flcker..These look like the rubber trees between my house and Methodist Secondary School. I could ride my bicycle between the trees to the school.
We enjoyed the chat my mother and Kak had. Mum would be cooking at the stove and Kak would be washing by the cement well, with the rain water flowing out. After she left us, my mother slowly lost her ability to speak good Bahasa Melayu. Her little knoweldge of Bahasa Melayu helped her to communicate with my father's Iban friends, amongst them was Swan or Mangang (from Sungei Teku) who remained our family friend until he passed away in the 2000's.

It is not easy for people to remember that this part of Sibu's town edge of the 1960's have become part of the Mist Garden of Sibu (now also gone) and the Sibu Art Friend's Photo Complex. The adjoining land parcels where now stand  See Hua and Borneo Post Building and the Orchid Hotel were all part of what we called "Kampong Head Area". Our original Sibu home was where Orchid Hotel is today.

 Whenever I sit down at Payung Makhota, I would think of Kak, my mum and the Cantonese Ah Moo having a good conversation all those long years ago.

Another blog where you can find some history of rubber tapping

August 15, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Getting Husband to Quit Smoking

My uncle Lau Yung Chiong was a primary school headmaster and he first served in Kai Nang, Nang Chong and later Yung Nang, Twenty Four Acres. After he retired, the whole family moved to live in a lovely proerty in Oya Road in Sibu.

As a young boy he was brought to Sibu where he gew up. Later, because he was very bright he was educated in Fuzhou (China) and passed  with Senior Middle School Certificate. My grandmother Lian Tie was the closest aunt he and his wife recognised while in Sibu as his parents did not come to Sarawak from China with the other Sibu Foochow pioneers.

 His wife had been a "child bride" brought out to Sibu to marry him in Ensurai in the late 30's.  While they were young and raising their children they did not have a chance to return to China to visit their own families. My grandmother thus became a "second mother" to my aunt, who had the most gracious personality. On my grandmother's birthday every year, she would always get a chicken from her own backyard and some mien sien ready and make a special birthday soup for her. It was a reamarkable birthday gift. In the times when there was no handphone, Aunt would shout across (literally) the padi field and call grandma to her kitchen for a nice birthday treat.

When my uncle first served as a Headmaster in Nang Chong, my mother and young Aunt Lau Hung Yung, amongst many other relatives, were his students in Kai Nang Primary School.

So we all regarded him as an Educator. And his wife would always try to maintain his image. She did not think that smoking should be a habit of his.

We had a very amusing story about how he stopped smoking.

In Nang Chong there was a Cooperative Society shop and men would make that a very "happening" place in the 1960's and 1970's. It was like the local pub in the village. Men who came back from Sibu would stop there and by word of mouth spread the latest news and gossips, there being no newspapers in the early days. (However due to the the communist Insurgency most of the villagers moved to Sibu for safety. A few young people were actually killed by either the Police field force or the Underground Communists.)

My uncle and his family lived just about a stone throw from the Cooperative or Hak Chok Sia. Whenever he came home from his school in 24 Acres, during the weekends, he would spend some down time with his fellow village people at the Hak Chok Sia, perhaps buying some drinks like Ta Fong Aerated Drinks. The cooperative had an ice box, so the drinks would be cold.

Now another interesting "thing" which the men would do was to smoke when playing chess.

The moment my cousin who followed him to the Cooperative saw his father smoking, he would immediately cycle home to report to his mother. And Aunt would send two kids out to "recall" uncle.

Yung Chiong Ah Ging.

Yung Chiong Ah Kiew

After a few months of constant "recalling" of husband by wife, my uncle gave up smoking.

End of Story.

Today my cousins still remember this event, how their father stopped smoking. In fact all the aunts and uncles living in Nang Chong would regale in laughter whenever they were reminded of this. Addiction to cigarettes was a great fear of the village people. Many men would hide their smoking habits, some more successful than others.

But what was very significant to me in those days was how kind and loving my uncle was to aunty and their children. My cousins were really blessed. Today, they are very upright and religious and a blessing to the society.

Here's an aside on Foochow wedding practices both in restaurants and self catered banquets at home. During wedding banquets, two packets of cigarettes would be part of the "table" set together with a bottle of brandy, half dozen of soft drinks and a few bottles of beer alongside the peanuts and oranges. The women who ruled the table would say quickly to the host, :"Take the cigarettes away, no body smokes in this table..." It was part Foochow courtesy, and part method of stopping the guys from stealing a few smokes....I still smile whenever I remember this kind of scenario. The men at the table would roll their eyes naturally and humourously.

The frugal Foochow wives would not tolerate smoking where their husbands were concerned. Most of them somehow managed to stop them from smoking, one way or the other.

May my uncle's soul rest in peace. He was really a very educated and good man.

August 13, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : long koh and pong bian

1956-1963 - These were the last years of my grandfather's life and he lived in the big house in Sungei Merah. We visited him often.

My aunts remember most of all his special siesta - his tea time.He would want his Kuih from Sungei Merah. One of the aunts would cycle to the pastry shops to get either the long koh Both long koh and pong bian originated from Fuzhou, Fujian in China.  Long Koh actually means egg cake and is a soft cake which is actually a kind of cup cake. In the olden days, these were the only cakes availabe and loved by Sibu people. This is a breakfast snack found in Fuzhou too. However in Malaysia it is not a breakfast food,but a snack, for in between meals, or for an occasion.

or the pong bian for him.

Pong bian is a very crispy,pastry with a filling. Normally whenever we eat pong pian we will leave a lot of crumbs on the table and even on the flow. In Chinese pong bian means biscuit which crash, or just crash biscuit. Well at least it is very crumbly. My grandfather would eat his pong bian very slowly. It really showed that he was a very careful and purposeful person. Very very neat in his way of eating, with very good table manners. He must have had tea with Rev James Hoover very often.

ThisSungei Merah scenario now and those long ago days is not too different. Mr. Chieng was a young man forty years ago. Mr. Chieng said he was just a small boy in the late 50's and early 60's. He remembers my grandfather being a very tall and serious man. Mr. Chieng learned to make all these biscuits and cakes from a relative.

Whenever Grandfather had his eat, all of us had to be very quiet elsewhere. Aunty Ah Hiong must remember to put a pot of tea and a glass on the table, a small saucer for his choice of cake or biscuit. The rest of the biscuit or cake must be kept in an air tight tin, placed in the middle of the table.

Aunty Ah Hiong's favourite place was behind the stove, sitting on a low wooden stool.

I still remember the kitchen in my grandfather's house. It looked exactly like this. (This is the kitchen of  the Ting Villa in Sungei Merah)

Time has passed very quickly and many stories are slowly disappearing into the recesses of our minds.

August 11, 2013

Hua Hong Ice Factory : Seven years of gentle living

These are snippets from my mother's memories of Hua Hong period of her life .

Kitchen and Cook of the Factory .King Luk the Nan Nern (Ming Nan or Ar Muong Nern) was the chief cook for the employees of the Hua Hong Ice Factory. According to my mother he was a very good cook. Usually in those days, the employees would all eat together, the food being part of their terms of contract. Some had families, although most were bachelors.

The Kind Clerk of the Factory . Lee Ting Huong, the father of Lee Kuok Leong, and the father in law of my cousin Betty Lau, was the chief clerk or Chai Koo (Chai Fu) of the company. He was the man who held the petty cash and would cross the river (Rajang) to buy the supplies every day for every one.

Every day family life. My mother was thus saved from having to go to the town market for which she had to cross the Rajang River in either a speed boat or a small sampan. The Ice Boat ( a fairly big boat powered by an engine) would also take her and others across but it would very early. My great grandmother who was staying with us was a very caring person. She was not fussy about the food my mother and Yew Ping placed on the table. She did not have those special personal dishes the Foochow partriach would have. Mum having three small children was already quite run down in health. Mum was glad that the kind clerk was good as a "purchasing officer". In later years she was glad that the Lee family remained close friends.

Cousin Yew Ping was already a very good cook by then.

Food at home however was simple and my dad would sometimes introduce a new dish to the delight of every one. In the evenings our father would often go fishing with either his net (jala) or his spear. He was quite good in trapping fish, a method he learned from the Malays who lived around Kerto. I can remember one pail of huge prawns he brought back at night, and he shone his torch light on their eyes . He told us to look at them, and those red eyes stared back at us. We shrieked with fear but we innocently also looked forward to eating the big claws. Dad told us that the prawns would turn from blue to red when cooked and that we would learn about it in school. That night the family had an extra meal.
Sing, my brother Hsiung and myself. Mum made all our clothes using her Singer sewing machine.

Mother was glad that GGM and Yew Ping  lived with us for seven years and life was good for the three generations. There were three of us young children, my brother Hsiung was just new born when Cousin Yew Ping was promised to a Mr. Lau Kung Keng as a bride. She was hardly out of childhood herself. Mum said she was probably only 16 or 17. Great grandma was quite heart broken to part with her. But this match making was good because the Lau family was known to Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping and they had property in Mang Kwong in Bintangor.

Visitors and Relatives. Life was fairly normal for every one in Hua Hong Ice Factory.  besides the aunties coming home for their school holidays, my Mother and Great Grandmother looked forward to Goo Poh's weekly visits.

My Goo Poh with her nieces and nephew -from left to right, Goo Poh, Aunt Greta and Aunt Pick . Uncle Pan King on the right. Uncle Pan King went to visit Uncle Siew King in Bintangor more often.Those were the days.
Goo Poh, who was by then a widow (Her beloved husband died in China during the WW11) would come over from Sibu town by the "morning Ice Boat", the boat which sent ice blocks to Sibu as the factory was the chief supplier of ice blocks in Sibu then . She and my father were about the same age and they were best of friends. She would stay for the whole day and return in the evening. Sometimes my father would send her back with the family's speed boat. Sometimes, she would take the sampan, rowed by a Malay man across the river. Each parting was very painful for her and for Great Grandmother as she was the only child, the only daughter.

Trip to Sibu. Sometimes we would cross the river and visit Goo Poh but there was another reason for a town visit. My mum suffering from thyroid problems and bad dental problems needed medical attention fairly often. Besides my brother and sister needed all the triple antigen injections called Yu Huong Jeng in Foochow. Goo Poh would look after me while my mum saw a doctor, or brought my siblings for innoculations in the Maternity and Child Care clinic, which the Foochows call Wo Lek Hui.
Left to the care of my two Goo Poh's  in the Maria Hoover Kindergarten. I also joined their graduation photo. No one today would be able to have such a photo taken. This is called Stealing the limelight in Chinese. That's me in the front with my two cheong sam clad Grand Aunts.

According to my mother, the seven years in the compound of the Hua Hong Ice Factory passed very quickly. Those were really peaceful and memorable family days. She was glad that great grandmother was such a refined gentlewoman, with good values and a certain quiet discipline. Goo Poh was a very quiet and soft spoken lady, just like Great GRandmother.

My mother remembers their gentle character most of all. "No fuss. No temper, no quick words. Just so gentle and so soft spoken."

(N.b. It must be part of our genes. I am glad I am soft spoken too, and not loud by nature. However by training I often do not need to microphone.)

August 10, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Grandmother Lian Tie's Clam and Chien Mien or Dried Noodles

One of my mother's fondest memories of her own mother's cooking was the noodles cooked with tinned clams. In the 1950's , freshly made noodles were only available in Sibu town and perhaps only during the festive seasons. There were no stalls specially meant for selling of fresh yellow noodles, or yew mien or even kampua.

So most people depended on the sun dried noodles which they would buy in katis and then keep in tins until their stock ran out.

Amoy Canned Food or Amofood was a famous brand in Sibu in bygone days. The Fujian people, including the Ming Chiang dialect group of Foochow people, my people, love the taste of clams in their soupy noodles. Families usually bought Dao Da (Amoy Food) tinned food as a standby for occasions or guests who dropped by without notice especially when we did not have only own farm animals. We Foochows are very hospitable. And normally we would cook something for our visitors before they leave, so that they would not be hungry on their way home. Perhaps this kind of hospitality was due to the fact that in Ming Chiang District in China, our ancestors used to walk for hours before they reached their home if they went to visit some relatives in another area.

This is a special memory in my mother's life, after her third sister passed away in the early 50's.

Whenever my mother brought us to visit grandmother Lian Tie, who for many years looked after Penghulu Chang Chung Ching's children after his wife, my mother's third sister, passed away, we would have the Dian Sin (snack) before going home to Kerto by the evening boat.

Trying to make this memorable photo pretty by adding sunflower. Will do better next time..
The daughters are standing left to right..Hung Hee, Hung Ding, Hung Toh, Hung Chuo and Hung Yung. Grandmother Lian Tie is very small and she only wears Chinese Samfoo, which she stitched herself. My maternal grandfather was a good tailor.

Grandmother Lian Tie was a good cook but she did not have much to offer especially when our uncle Chung Ching was a government officer, and there were many motherless children to look after. She had to stretch the proverbial dollar . Food was simple on the table most of the days: cangkok manis soup, a bit of fried eggs. Chicken was rare unless it was pay day. So when guests came, the sun dried yellow noodles with tinned clams were just fabulous.

My mother said, all eight children (5 of them and 3 of us) and the two adults, mother and daughter, would partake of their bowl of noodles with gratitude . God was kind to provide for the children and for the adults.

When my Third Aunt passed away in 1954, it was a terrible blow to my grandmother and all the sisters. Grandmother had to change her role of a retired grandmother, to an active nanny and housekeeper. For many years she took care of my cousins in Race Course Road, government quarters or Ching Hoo Chuoh until my uncle, remarried. They were aged from 1 to 8!!

Grandmother Lian Tie had to be very resourceful as carer of a large brood of young grandchildren.

The Clam Soup Noodles thus replaced the Chicken Soup Mien Sien when times were not good. My mother said it did not really matter. What was important was that my grandmother was able to enjoy a good meal with a daughter and lots of grand children around her.

Recipe :

Ingredients : one cake of dried noodles for two persons;2 cans of clams enough for 10 people, sawi (2 bundles), some ikan bilis, pounded, lots of Bombay onions.
 Preparation of noodles : boil the noodles in a large pot of water, until soft. Drain and cool.

1. Fry all the sliced onions, add clams and fry for a while
2. Add water and bring to the boil
3. Add the softened noodles, then add the sawi/yew chair
4. Add some soy sauce. Serve.

We loved the soupy noodles. Mum still thinks about this noodle every now and then. I have to make a great effort to find the Amofood canned clams for her.

My grandmother would have been amazed by a photo of this bowl of fresh clams from Oman (Photo courtesy of Norina )

Modern twist of the noodles with clams

Praise God!!

(I will cook this dish one of these days and take photographs..on condition that I can find a can of Amofood Clams, which are not so easily available nowadays)

August 9, 2013

Hua Hong Ice Factory Tales : Shooting Bian Chui (Punai)

My father Chang Ta Kang, and my mother lived in No.1 bungalow of the Ice Factory from 1948 to 1956. I was born a year after they got married. My sister and brother were soon born after me. In 1956, my father got a new job and we all moved to Sibu town, where I too started studying in the Methodist Primary School.

One of the happiest memories of my mother living in Hua Hong Factory was the occasions my father showed her how sharp a shooter he was.

There was a wild fruit tree in front of the bungalow where birds like Punai( a kind of local dove or pigeons) would fly in huge flocks to feed in the evenings. There were other birds too in those days and they would sit on all the branches of the whole tree and making a racket!!

According to my mother, the evenings were often happy hours for the family because only three families lived  in the three different bungalows, and the other employees lived in the barracks nearer the engine room of the factory on the other side of the compound. A long road led from the factory, leading down to the three houses and then end up at the other end of the island. Electricity was supplied from my grandfather's generator for every one. By six thirty every bulb in Hua Hong was lit up. Grandfather would give the order to  the engine technician to kill the generator when it was time. It could be nine or later.

When the fruit season was at its height, my dad would take out his shotgun and aim at the birds. Birds have different behaviors in those days of plenty. My mum said she never saw lots of birds on trees nowadays, except those in Sibu. But those are really not edible. Some birds flocked to trees to feed and they perched in clusters. Thus with a shotgun, a hunter could get 10 or 12 of them at one time. "The shot pellets from a shotgun spread upon leaving the barrel, and the power of the burning charge is divided among the pellets, which means that the energy of any one ball of shot is fairly low. In a hunting context, this makes shotguns useful primarily for hunting birds and other small game." (wikipedia) 

Most Chinese and Malays owned shotguns in those days in Sibu. My father's shotgun was surrendered to the Resident's office before Malaysia was formed,because Chinese were not allowed to own guns by the new Emergency Law.

The birds would fall often ten to eleven with just one shot from my father's gun. He was a sharp shooter. I believe he would have made a good sniper today because of his concentration and sure of hands.

The Punai in particular, or Bian Chui(Foochow Dialect), is very tasty. Yew Ping Chia would run to collect the dead birds using a basin. According to  my mother , she and Yew Ping would pluck the feathers of the birds. It was a good meal for every one. The bird gave two pieces of thick breast meat for a good stir fry with soy sauce and sugar. . The other parts of the meat were deep fried for snacking. The bones were too fine and not so good for small children.
Punai Goreng
Photo of deep fried Punai or bian wei from
Today according to my mother, to get a taste of Burong Punai, we have to go to Sungei Merah in Sibu and buy the punai from the Ibans in their market there.

My father's cousin, Uncle Wong Hung Kwong, who was not so handy with a gun, used to admire my father's shooting skill. Father took good aim, he had good eye sight and I believe truly that my father was very single minded when he carried out a task. I can still vaguely remember him putting the gun away in a tall cupboard when I was older. But I cannot remember him shooting the birds.

My father shot birds often for the family. It was one of his better living skills, my mum said. Itt was very entertaining too because many people would stand by the roadside to watch my father fire his guns, and waited for the birds to drop....

Today in the US especially,one need not take a shotgun out to find their dinners. Cavendish sells quails in the supermarkets...
Home cooks love Cavendish Game Birds’ quail!

Kids love Quail!
I could have been this little girl, enjoying the puani cooked by my mother!!

My father was a very quiet man who did not want to stir any trouble in the community.

August 7, 2013

Sibu People Series: Brother Albinus

It would be wrong if I do not write about Brother Albinus, a fellow English Teacher, a Sibu "nern" of many years, beloved figure of the Catholics,a "feared" Rugby team manager of SHS, a thinker, a reader, model social worker. This list is so long that it will fill a page.

I have spoken to my former Principal/boss of SMKLimbang who wrote an excellent article about Brother Albinus for Borneo Post. The photographs are all from Mr. Phang Chung Shin.

From what I gleaned in the article, Brother Albinus' life has a correlation with the number 3.

Brother Albinus was born Michael O’Flaherty into a farming family in a village called Ballyhoneen in County Kerry, 

Ireland, on May 23 1930.

He passed away at age 83, in 2013.

Read more:

Brother Alinus'  family home was one of only three farmhouses in Ballyhoneen

14-year old Michael O'Flaherty  left for Castletown where he continued his education before attending religious training in the Novitiate. He was given the religious name Albinus.

He attend teacher training in London's St. Mary's Training college. His dream to "go East " came true after 1950.

He took a three year degree course in English Literature in England and in 1960, he started teaching in St. Joseph's School, Kuching.

In 1967, Brother Albinus was transferred to Sibu's Sacred Heart School, where he was to serve for 17 years, first as a teacher and then as a Principal.

As students we remembered Brother Albinus as an energetic teacher who rode to Sibu town in his tall bicycle. Students who were naughty had to make sure they watch out for their backs if found loafing in the streets. "His boys had to be at home doing their homework, not wondering in the streets!!"

A favourite phrase of his to his naughty students was "Be serious". and he would walk away clapping his hands. It was like some kind of ritual for him, to clap his hands. Was it a kind of hand exercise? In fact I have seen him doing that when I supervised examinations in his school.

My school, the Methodist Secondary School and Sacred Heart School were the best of rivals. SHS would lead in rugby and most of the boys' games. But for several years our school did manage to beat his school. Our relay team for a few years were formidable too but SHS led by him finally won most of the trophies. He was so serious on the grand stand during the Inter School Meet. On many occasions he was with his students in the field, getting all sun burnt. Every one would recognise him or see where he was because he would be the tallest  and the whitest man in the field.

I have several personal encounters with him in his SHS. But then " Abai " as most local teachers and students would refer to him affectionately,  isn't here to hooom hooom hooom me as I write this about him. Whenever people mention his name, I would  remember the way he "hummed" to himself whenever he walked along the "corridors of Knowledge", the corridors of Sacred Heart School, Sibu. Not that I followed him every day, but I did walk behind him on many occasions when I was the Chief Supervisor of Form Five Examinations in his beloved school. I suppose that was his way of showing that he was "on top of the world" seeing that everything was running smoothly in the school.

He showed great humility. Most Principals would  send the school cleaner to unlock the gates of the school blocks during the quiet exam weeks. But he would be there even before Seven!! He would be there with that huge bunch of keys. chose the right one and opened the lock, draw the accordion, collapsible gates for me and I would go upstairs to the exam rooms. Teachers just can't help it. They just had to be on their toes with him around. He truly walked the talk.

He was a man of few words. His students used to tell me that the school blocks in Sacred Heart were aligned in such a way that he could see across, and through the windows and doors. And he could nail a misbehaving student with his "hawk  like " eyes. Teachers really appreciated his "walk around the school" and he did it several times a day. He would be at the verandah of one block and he could point at a misbehaving child a block or two away. The boy would be called immediately (in sign language and no shouting necessary) in his office,and he would repentant and chastised within minutes. Boys were always attentive in class because they knew that , like a guardian angel, he would just be behind them, absolutely, quietly.

No one would like to be boxed in the ears by him because legend has it that he was a boxer of some repute!!

He was a Sibu man.  BICYLE MAN - for all the games rugby, tennis, football, sports he would watch them sometimes, standing next to his bicycle. He later took driving lessons and passed his test in Sibu. I wonder how many people remember that. We were happy for him but many of the naughty students said,"Now that he has a car, we must behave even better. He can come after us faster!!".

Getting a medal for his service to Sarawak - PBB.

From Sibu he got to know many Foochows especially and understood the work culture of the Foochows. When he went to work in Fuzhou for a year in 1997, he was quite at home there. The Fuzhou students are hardworking and also preparing to go overseas, just like his students in Sibu.

Brother Albinus in my pastor Law Hui Seng's words, " is a man of mission". Rev Law Hui Seng is also a former student of Brother Albinus.

For a man who has a heart for mission, he truly followed the  Holy Trinity. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Brother Albinus more than full filled his mission. The young boy of 14 who hailed from Ballyhooneen, in County Kerry, served God whole heartedly for 52 years in Sarawak. He achieved so much for his schools but he had achieved a remarkable record for himself too.

(This is a personal write up for Brother Albinus for people who might not know of his work in Sibu. And I thank him for many of the salient pointers he made during English Teachers' meetings, examination assessment briefings and casual conversations with teachers. These I remember. I left Sibu in 1987, not long after he retired.  Thank you.)

(All photos courtesy of Phang Chung Shin)

August 6, 2013

Green Papaya Recipe : Tinolang Manok

My beloved neighbour, Mrs. Ling Kai Sui, gave me a green papaya and I just wanted to cook tinolang Manok. But unfortunately, the papaya, though all green outside, is rather red inside.

And, on top of that, although I have all the other ingredients, I do not have water cress or spinach. But any way, I cook it and it is lovely.

I love to mention that when a dish has a literary reference, I am very excited to share this bit of information. This dish was featured in Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere. Rizal is the founding father of the Philippines and a national hero.
A food critic wrote, "However, that is not only the reason why Tinolang Manok is popular. It is a healthy and hearty soup that is boiled with chicken, green papaya and spinach or water cress leaves. You may substitute the papaya with chayote or zucchini and the soup will taste just as good."
My not so green papaya chicken dish or Tinolang Manok
My dish turns out quite colourful, although the chicken (from the supermarket, and not free range) is a bit over done.

The next time I see a green, really green papaya, I must cook this dish again.

And if the cooked green papaya and chicken are mashed together for a baby it will really be a nice evening meal.

All you need is half a chicken, cut into bite sizes, ten slices of green papaya, a few drops of fish sauce, some chilies, one or two pieces of serai, pepper, salt and may be a squeeze of calamansi (small limes)...and you have a Philipino Manok (Chicken ) Dish with a literary reference!!

I think we should promote this dish more in Sarawak where papayas are so readily available.

But then would our Foochow Chicken Soh Mien make it into a novel about Foochow diaspora?  Or would Ayam Pansoh make into a novel about Iban Struggle for Equality?

The extremely simplified synopsis of the novel is this: Ibarra comes home to the Philippines from studying in Europe, and sees the love of his life Maria Clara (Kapitan Tiyago’s daughter) again. He also finds out that his father was wrongly accused as a reformist by none other than Pari Damaso, and that the same priest has been insulting him and in modern terms, “talking behind his back to Maria Clara’s father”. All these Ibarra ignored until one day Damaso insulted Ibarra’s father which precipitated Ibarra to almost killing Damaso. Ibarra was excommunicated from Maria Clara, who was in turn betrothed to marry a Spaniard Linares.
But there’s always a twist to the story, eh?
Maria Clara soon found out her father is not Kapitan Tiyago as she initially thought, but is actually Damaso. In the meantime, Ibarra was wrongly accused again and was imprisoned, but was helped to escape by a mysterious character Elias. In a bid to escape the Spanish soldiers, both went in a boat but was tracked down. Elias told Ibarra to hide inside the boat while he jumped out in the water, and was consequently rained down with gunshots. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, it was Elias that they were shooting and not Ibarra. News travelled back to Maria Clara that Ibarra has perished, and thus begged Damaso that she be put in a nunnery.
This is where the story ends, and Rizal’s second book El Filibusterismo begins. But… that’s another story for another day.

August 5, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : Boarding School and Holiday Home Visits 1930's-1950's

Grandfather Kung Ping was a man who valued education and especially good education for his daughters. He was thus very advance and visionary for a Foochow man of his time.

Primary School kids with their teacher in their wooden school house 1930's

Children and education in those days:
Children could go to primary schools set up by the Methodist Church/Mission but when they were older, only those with some money could go to secondary school in Kuching or Sibu. Very much like today, these older children had to be in boarding schools.

From Aunty Lily (Lee Sieng) to Aunty Cheng Sieng, all the girls were sent to Kai Boon  Primary School in Bintangor and later Yuk Ing Girls school in Sibu Town when they were old enough and were accepted by Mrs. Hoover. My aunts remember them going to school in Bintangor when they were very young. In the 1920's my grandfather and his friends, especially Rev Yao Siew King, pioneered the opening of land in Bintangor for the Foochows. Rev Yao was the first Principal of Kai Ung Primary School.

My aunts therefore experienced the best of the education given by the Methodist Mission.

Aunty Chiew Sieng said that it was good to be in school and it was pleasant to be able to go from one grade to another. It was a kind of achievement for a young girl and Grandfather was most proud of his "girls" where were bright and hardworking.

Aunty Pick once remarked that she had to run an errand for Mrs. Hoover and because she did not really manage to complete her errand she sat by the steps of the school until Mrs. Hoover appeared. But Mrs. Hoover did not punish her to her great relief. She somehow remembers that incident until today. Mrs. Hoover was a very punctual person and she was very careful with her time management.

Beloved photos from family album. Courtesy of Irene T. Yeo and William Chinois. Aunts and nieces and nephews get together for souvenir photos during the holidays. I love the bottom photo where my aunts all wore the same material for their holidays. Christmas family reunion I think. (I often wonder who took those photos, and if two of these were studio photos, did they go to Nan Kwong Photo Studio?)
Aunty Pearl used to remark that Mrs. Hoover as a supervisor of girls' hostel insisted that the girls must fold their clothes very properly and neatly. Every child must be neat and tidy. And they were always reminded of good behaviour at the dining table. On Sundays they wore their best white suits, properly ironed to go to worship in the Masland Church. They were lined line neatly and they walked smartly to the church.

The girls went home for the holidays to stay with our Great Grand parents in Hua Hong Ice Factory.. My aunties were happy to go home. In this way they did enjoy three generation family in Hua Hong Ice Factory in Pulau Kerto. My great grandfather passed away in 1942, but the family continued to live in the Hua Hong home until 1956, when Grandfather moved to Sungei Merah, and we moved to Sibu.

Great grandmother moved to stay with grandfather in Sungei Merah and not with us in Sibu. Grandfather Kung Ping made a very decisive  statement which my mother remembers all her life, " Tui Mah (Great Grandmother) must live in the Sungei Merah house because, Tui Soh (my mother) has very young children and she cannot cope without a maid." Once Grandfather made a statement it was law in my family and no one could oppose him. Tui Mah needed a maid to help her because of her bound feet.  My mother is a very quiet person and she never wants to say much. However she did mention that Tui Mah and she got along very well in Hua Hong Factory. And Tui Mah loved having every one to come to visit her.

 By then Aunty Ah Hiong had come to live with them in the Sungei Merah House . Aunty Ah Hiong is the third from right at the bottom photo above. She is a very cheerful aunt, very energetic and the best thing I remember her is about her laughter when she washed clothes by hand, by the side of the "cement well" which was a common household utility built into an enclosed room which had a sky light, next to the kitchen. She kept the floor absolutely white from brushing with a steel brush so that Tui Mah would not slip accidentally.

 My younger aunts continued with their boarding school life but came home to visit their grand mother . By that time I also remember how happy it was to have Aunty Carrie studying in St.Elizabeth School and she was a basketballer too.

However by that  time , most of them were getting ready to go to Kuching and Singapore for their further studies.

Going away from Sibu:
It was interesting to note how some of my aunts and uncles left home for their further studies. My Fourth Aunt, Maggie, took the last boat out of Sibu before the Japanese arrived and at the same escaped from a match making arrangement. She became a nursing student throughout the Japanese Occupation in Singapore. My first and second Aunts were already in Singapore in those day.

Fifth Aunt left for Singapore to further her studies, teach for a while in Singapore and then left for the USA by freight boat. Seventh Aunt also graduated from the Methodist Secondary School (first batch) and also left for Singapore to follow Fifth Aunt. Aunt Greta, Aunt Pick and Aunt Hong studied in St. Mary's Kuching. Soon after that Sibu has more secondary schools and the other younger aunts completed Form Five in Sibu. By then Great Grandma had already passed away, which saddened all my aunts and uncles.

It has become quite tradition amongst Sibu Foochows actually to visit grand parents during the school holidays. I remember myself that visiting grandparents would mean very good food at the table. Kids all grew plump and happy with grandparents.

August 4, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : Great Grand Mother''s Fermented Soy Beans

My cousin Yew Ping told us that great grandmother used to make her own fermented soy beans. So when Yew Ping got married and moved away, she made her own. "It is easy, not difficult," she said.

In fact we can make it any time, any day and any season in Sarawak. Unlike in olden days China, there was a season to make the tou cheong.

When I visited my great grand ma and grandfather in Sungei Merah, we would often have their homemade soy  beans on the table as a condiment. Grand father (Kung Ping) loved the condiments and I remember my great grandma also enjoyed eating her rice with the fermented soy beans. Many old people towards the later part of their lives found it hard to crank up an appetite. And one of the Foochow appetisers in those days was this homemade fermented soy beans. Perhaps it reminded them of old China, and their old village in Fujian (14th district in Fuzhou).

I personally did not quite like it because I did not like the sticky bits in those early days, not that I was snobbish. It was my young and untested taste buds. So instead I would eat lots of the sweet, fried cabbage and poured a large portion of soup into my bowl of rice. My Grandmother Siew used to tell my mum that I was a "Rice girl" or buong loi , an archaic Foochow term meaning "having good appetite for rice".

Photo from Goggle

According to Yew Ping, most of my Bintangor cousins who knew Great Grandma's fermented soy beans or tou cheong continue to remember her special preparation. That would include David Tiong especially.

Great Grandma was always pleased whenever one of us said that he or she loved fermented soy bean and that he/she loved only what she made. I think most people cannot reach her standard of making fermented soy beans. Beans were only a few cents a kati in those days and I remember the jar used for storing the fermented soy beans in the Sungei Merah house. Being able to make one's tou cheong in those days was a "must have skill". And that was considered "Nuong Nii" very capable.

Social judgments were painful to the sensitive child in me. I used to empathise with  poor students in my school who were shy to eat in public. What did they bring to school? It was not because I had ham in my sandwich, or something great. I could have a bao, or sometimes just biscuits. I thought ikan bilis and some sambal was the best food in the world. But my friends were shy and they would sit somewhere quietly. So we did not pry. Were they having only tou cheong and a bit of salted fish with their broken rice?

When I heard " bad" statements from adults, I felt sad too." Poor people only have fermented brown beans on their table with porridge" and that was a common, discriminating statement to describe how poor people were. Today, I smile when my Malay friends say, "Orang miskin makan sardin sahaja."( poor people eat tinned food.) To me nowadays, tinned food can be too pricey.Tou cheong from Korea is RM18.00!! I will pay a good price if any one can make tou cheong like my great grandmother!!

This preparation of fermented soy beans is probably on its way to extinction in Sarawak as more and more people can get good factory made imports from China and Korea. Even the Japanese products are now being sold in selected stores all over Malaysia.

 We Foochows do not say "Make Tou Cheong", we say, " hik tou cheong" because the beans have to be cooked, wrapped up and fermented in its own "heat" for three nights. By the fourth morning, the fine, delicate aroma of the tou cheong will fill the whole kitchen!!

Cheers to Tui Mah...we remember your tou cheong!!

August 3, 2013

Hua Hong Ice Factory : Serving a Bound Feet Grandmother

My cousin Yew Ping was adopted by my grandfather with the objective of "serving his bound feet mother". Yew Ping was probably only 4 years old when her parents came to the Ice Factory offering the child to the towkay for a "mouthful of rice". That was the way the old Foochows exclaimed when they were destitute and willing to part with their daughters because they hardly had enough to eat. If a kindly rich man could give the child just one mouthful of rice, they were satisfied to give away the child. Usually an angpow was also given to the parents "confinement expenses". In those days, $500 or even $800, was a big sum of money to be given as ang pow.

Thus during the Japanese period (1941-1944), Yew Ping was taken care of by my Great Grandmother and she was able to run some errands and did small tasks at home.

She remembered having to hide from dangers of being raped by the Japanese soldiers. She remembers with fear the motor engine sounds of the military boats. And she remembers my grandfather moving his elderly mother to Sungei Merah and Bintangor, just to be away from the Japanese for a while....

When they were in Bintangor Yew Ping was responsible for bringing the food from the main house as she and Great Grandmother lived in the smaller house away from the main rice mill house. She was a little clumsy she said and took small portions of the food for Great Grandmother. Yew Ping said that my grandfather was always very concerned that his mother should have enough to eat and that the small house was safe from an danger. Rice was never an issue with my grandfather's family because they owned the Mee Ang Rice Mill in Bintangor. Even though the war was raging, people did plant rice and needed hulling and milling services from my grandfather.

After the Japanese left Sarawak the family  moved back home to Hua Hong Ice Factory, and they had more food from the town. The Ice Factory was in production of ice. The "Ice Boat" would cross the Rajang River to send the ice blocks over and fresh food like meat would be brought home by the chief cook, the Nang Nern (Ming Nan Ah Pek) called King Luk Ah Pek. When it was too early, Yew Ping remembers that the fresh food supplies were left on top of the diesel oil tank for her to collect. Great Grandmother would always task her to be careful when bringing up the food supplies.

Yew Ping loved the cats in the house and she would give away her own rice to the cats. Great GRandmother would scold her for being so generous with the cats. Yew Ping said that if the cats were well fed they would catch the rats which actually frightened her at night.

She also remembers helping Mrs. Wong, the wife of Wong Hung Kwong, whenever Mrs. Wong asked her to pluck chicken feathers. Mrs. Wong was a pretty wife but Mr. Wong was quite a rough man who had a loud voice and a hot temper to match. Any way Mr. Wong was a close relative of the family and every one would think that many towkays behaved in that way . Perhaps it was very acceptable. There were three big bungalows owned by the Foochow towkays here. Mr. Wong owned the last one on the road, ours was the first one.

Because she was a very innocent girl, Great Grandmother would always call out for her, the moment she was out of sight. Great Grandmother did not like Yew Ping to wonder out of the house for more than a few minutes. This was the way she disciplined the young maid and to keep her safe from outsiders.

Yew Ping remembers that she had to immediately run to Great Grandma the moment her name was called out. When she was busy with a task, all she had to do was answer, "Yes!! I am here doing something." But it was better to run to Great Grandma.

My great grand mother's feet looked like this. When going upstairs, I remember Aunty Ah Hiong having to lead her up stairs. She need a walking stick to help her walk when she was very very old.

This picture from Goggle shows how her bones were damaged by the binding of her feet.

My great grandmother owned a shoe stand like this to make her own cloth shoes for her tiny feet. She was quite good with a hammer. I had seen her repairing her shoes with a big needle and thread.

Yew Ping said that she would never dare to think about hiding from Great Grandma or play hide and seek with her as all small children would be only too happy to do. She realised how difficult it was to walk when one's feet were so small.

My great grandmother would have worn clothes like these if she had stayed on in China and did not "come out to Nangyang to marry my Great grandfather.

Yew Ping was given a nice wedding in Bintangor by the family. She wore a white gown and carried crepe paper flowers for her bouquet. She continues to be very much a part of our family and is closest to Second Uncle's family.

Tales from Sungei Merah : Cheng Gie for Grandfather

Cheng Gie or Burong Engkeruak are very tasty birds. They are known as White Breasted Water Hen which are found all over South East Asia.

During the Japanese Occupation, my Grandmother Siew, would set up traps to catch them. Each time she would catch three or four. Because she was a very meticulous worker, she would really pluck the feathers very well and my grandfather would savour the steamed Cheng Gie.

Photo of Cheng Gie, from Sarikeians. Thanks.

In another family story, my sixth uncle, Uncle Yu King found it quite hard to catch burong engkeruak in the muddy river banks of the Rajang River at the Hua Hong Ice Factory. The plank walk  from the office and coolie quarters to the toilets was quite high up when the tide was low. He remembered how interested he was in catching the Cheng Gie for dinner. As a young boy he was enthusiastic about helping out with the family food supply. He caught one one day. Thinking that the bird had fainted, he placed the bird on the plank walk. By the time he climbed up to the plank walk, the bird had flown off!! Why didn't he think of tying the bird to his waist? He was too young to have the foresight, his sisters laughed!! It was not easy to catch birds for dinner, especially in the mud.

Today young boys and girls would no longer care to plunge themselves into a muddy walk to catch birds for dinner.

A civil servant I met recently has lots of tales to tell about Burong Engkeruak nowadays. He traps them fairly easily using his own methods. Each weekend he could get about 10 which he can sell in the market. If he has more, he will have some for himself. BBQ engkeruak is very very tasty he said.

Each time I see a Cheng Gie in my garden I would think of the hardships of my uncles and aunties during the Japanese Occupation. And remember the stories my Grandmother Siew told me about her own diligence in catching the small birds, just to give Grandfather some extra nourishment.

I think today, not many wives would go out in the jungle or mud flats to trap birds for their husbands.

Personally I have not ever eaten a roasted Cheng Gie in my life. Would you like to try one?

August 2, 2013

Great Grandfather's Special Ginseng Porridge

As a herbalist my great grandfather loved to nourish himself with a bit of ginseng. There are many types of ginseng in Asia. But the Foochows call them differently : yong seng, pow seng, koh leh seng, tong seng and seng di.

Pow seng is sold sliced from a root of ginseng :

In my family, we would laughingly call the ginseng porridge which my great grandfather loved as the Imperial Porridge which was Pow Seng (Ginseng) Porridge. My mother herself would not take ginseng for some very personal reasons.

Slices of pow seng would be double boiled (doooong) and added to very very well cooked,double boiled porridge. In our younger days, we loved listening to the small bowl of goodness steaming/double boiling in a blue enamal pot....koorook, koorook, koooroooook. Mum would always make us listen to the pot making that wonderful noise over the wood fire. We must never let the water in the pot get dried. Double boiling herbs was so much part of our childhood.

Great grandmother and her adopted grand daughter, Yew Ping, would prepare the porridge patiently which may be hours on the wood stove.

According to a friend, the eating of ginseng also has a certain timing and a herbalist would be able to prescribe that. Some folks normally will take ginseng in the evenings around 10 p.m...An aunt would take ginseng first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

Yew Ping and her luscious hair...wonderful!!(I would like to thank her for being my baby sitter in Hua Hong Ice Factory from the day I was born, until I moved to Sibu town at age 6)
According to Yew Ping, she was given the remants of the pow seng to chew,( in Chinese the remnant herb is called Char oe por por), after Great grandpa scooped up all the porridge. In Yew Ping's words,"That is why I have so much hair now...."
Instant Korean ginseng chicken porridge.

Ginseng Porridge is vitality giving and many old people can enjoy greater longevity.  However one of the best relief for exhaustion and over tiredness, and back breaking work, is ginseng. You will need to approach a trusted herbalist who will prescribe the correct one to suit your bodily needs.

Today the Koreans, 100 years later from the Sibu days, are most famous for Ginseng Porridge.

If you are very tired from your work, or from your holidays, you can make a bowl of ginseng porridge to help you recover your strength. Cheers.

(Oral History Dialogue with Tiong Yew Ping August 2nd 2013, Miri)

August 1, 2013

Great Grandfather : Tiong King Kee

My great grandfather Tiong King Kee came to Sibu with the second batch of Foochow pioneers in 1901, led by Wong Nai Siong.

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Photo taken in 1937 in Hua Hong Ice Factory House. Great Grandparents sitting in front (Rattan Chairs), three aunties at the back . They came home for their holidays.

He and his two sons, Tiong Kung Ping and Tiong Kung Eng quickly got to work and being enterprising, they were soon  well established in the community. All three were baptised Methodists. Great Grandfather was a barefoot herbalist who was able to read patients' pulses and practised a little acupunture. He was good in recommending herbs for basic cures.

As a result, he was able to earn slightly more than others. He also ventured into construction work, and  he was able to do contract work together with his eldest son, who became our grandfather.

My grandfather was a very filial son and by 1910 my great grand father, my grandfather and grand uncle were able to build their first home and establish an Ice Factory across the Rajang River, opposite Sibu town. This was made possible because Rev James Hoover believed in putting as many Foochow men on their financial feet as soon as possible.

By then, my great grandfather who had been widowed since his early days in China,had married our step great grandmother who was a Chinese lady with bound feet. Great Grandmother was considered a very good match for great grandfather because she came from the educated class,had bound feet, and was a genteel lady.

Great grandfather and my grandfather believed in helping the poor and destitute families . One of the ways my grandfather did for poor people was to "buy"  or "boh" which actually meant adopted, their daughters who would otherwise be drowned. My grandparents thus "adopted " several daughters, including Tiong Yew Ping, who was raised by my Great Grandmother. Yew Ping later married into a good family in Bintangor. She is now a grandmother and a great grandmother herself!!

Now in her 80's she continues the Tiong family tradition of going to the Methodist Church and bringing up her children as God fearing and good and honest Christians. Yew Ping learned to read basic words during the Japanese Occupation. She was married into the Lau family in 1954, in Bintangor through a match maker.

According to her, she wore a white gown, had flower girls for her wedding. Her bridegroom wore a western suit and it was all very impressive and proper in the Methodist tradition. The flower girls carried paper roses which were patterned from designs brought from the US by Mrs. Hoover.
crepe paper roses carried by bride's maid and flower girls. We used to make these in primary school. According to an elder these flowers were made and sold to raise funds for China War Fund before the Japanese Occupation. Madam Luk Soon Ping in her book wrote an account of the girls making these flowers.

One of her best memories of my great grandfather was the Bible he owned. And because he was quite wealthy already, his Bible had "gold letters". Many Chinese Bibles had red letters (for words Jesus spoke) and black letters. But having gold letters, that Bible must have been very unique. She said that later after she was married, she came back several times after Great Grandpa passed away, she did not see that Bible any more.

Another great memory she had of our great grandparents was the little tin of goodies Great Grandpa kept in his bed room. When the kids came visiting him , he would pull the rope and pulley system and the tin would come down. Every child would be given a Manga Sweet or a biscuit. That was really a good treat from him. Although he was very stern and not so chatty, the grandchildren loved him. John, and  Richard were very young then, and together with Aunties Pick Sieng, Greta and Hong Sieng, during school holidays, they had a good time with their grand parents.

As we cousins conversed, we shared our Horlicks, the favourite drink of Great Grand father and Great Grand mother. In Foochow we call the Horlicks - Hor Lik Kek. That reminded me too, when later I visited Great Grandmother in Sg. Merah (probably 1956), she would always made a special cup of Horlicks for me, in her upstairs room.

Because Great Grandmother was a bound feet lady, she could not walk far. During the Japanese Occupation, the family had to find refuge in Bintangor and Sg. Merah. When the family moved to Bintangor, Yew Ping was the "maid" who had to bring food to Great Grandmother. When they hid in Sg. Merah , below the hills in the rubber tapper's house, Yew Ping had to make sure that Great Grandmother was safe and food was delivered to her. Life was hard then because Yew Ping was only 14 years old and she was a small sized girl too. She was quite terrified that she had to carry Great Grandmother, but fortunately my Grandfather was often at hand, and he was the one who carried his own step mother when the sirens sounded and they had to hide from bombs.

(Snippets are from the conversations shared by Yew Ping, Rosie and Changyi on 2nd August 2013 in Miri)

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). ...