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.


Anonymous said...

i am foochow, but i never heard about the term bian wei. i heard about bah ak (white duck) that is for piegon. not sure if i missed something

Ensurai said...

My mother said Bian Wei, it is a pigeon or punai kind of bird which feed in clusters. I will have to ask my older relatives again. Will go to Old Men's street in Miri to hunt for Foochow vocabulary and write down the words...Hope you can help look for the name of the bird too.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

ten to eleven with just one shot from my father's gun.
how did he do it? must be a big feast. My Poor Ah Kung traps the SUI JIANG KAI , one at a time, I didn't have the heart to eat his birds, ( he waits he has 2 before he kills them.)

Ensurai said...

Shotguns send out a single shot but there are many pellets in the cartridge. These pellets spread and kill several birds...hard to explain to you. May be you can find a youtube to see how a shotgun with different kinds of cartridges, and a buck shot etc...These are terms used by hunters which I pick up.

Anonymous said...

鸨鶐 ,是野白鸽,you can cook whatever you like.B.B.O or make soup.(LC Ling)

Ensurai said...


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