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!!

20 comments:

wenn said...

It would be nice to take home-make tou cheong.

Ensurai said...

Yes it is. I understand many of my Korean and Japanese friends like to go back to their grandma's villages just to eat their home made tou cheong. We should not let this art die!! It is in our culture. Give it a try.

Anonymous said...

tou jeon that i know of was sold as canned product from China. it was salty?? i am not aware of any home made one in sibu.

the Japanese made fermented bean and call it nattou. i think it is without any taste (not salty or whatsoever). Your photo seems to be from the same source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natt%C5%8D

Anonymous said...

Sarawakiana,

It is with great sadness that Brother Albinus was called to the Lord at 11:25am this morning. Former Sacred Heart Students are trying to arrange for his body to be flown back to Kuching tomorrow morning. Please pray for him.

SHS Alumni

Anonymous said...

Latest news - his will be flown back and estimated to arrive kuching Airport ard 9am tomorrow. May hissoul rest in peace!!

Ensurai said...

Yes thanks. The photo is from Natto goggle search. I am waiting for my cousin to make her Foochow tou cheong. It is very salty because it has to be kept for a long time.

Ensurai said...

Thanks. I have received the sad news from various sources. May we all pray for his soul . He will be amongst angels!!

Ensurai said...

May his soul rest in peace. As I cannot be in Kuching, I hope to see some photos...I had wanted so much to interview him for BP..from a woman's point of view..but now it is too late.

Anonymous said...

A lesson learnt. Dont procrastinate!! We are all mortal being.

Anonymous said...

The Passing Of Brother Albinus O'Flaherty, RIP

Brother Albinus, F.S.C. (Michael O'Flaherty) was called to the Lord at 11.28 am on 4th August 2013 Sunday in a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur. Those who wish to pay the last respect can do so at Tan Sri William Tan Auditorium, SMK St Joseph from 1 pm to 10pm on 5th AugustMonday, from 9am to 10pm on 6 - 7 Aug 2013. Wake prayers on 5 - 7 Aug 2013 are from 8pm onwards. Funeral arrangements will be announced later. For more

details, please contact Helen @ +60 19 2882929 / helenwpc@gmail.com / William @ +60 12 888 4527 / wrsc28@gmail.com

Ensurai said...

I helped put up the notice on my facebook a.c. thanks.

Ensurai said...

Yes Indeed. Lesson noted..learned. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks and the funeral service will be held at St Joseph's Cathedral, Kuching on 8th Aug at 9 am..

Ensurai said...

You are most welcome. Glad to be of service. My condolences again...

Anonymous said...

Sarawakiana,

You can still write about Brother Albinus without interviewing him. Maybe you can write and publish an article in BP about him on the day he is buried (8th August 2013).

Ensurai said...

I will see ...

Anonymous said...

Dont procrastinate again!!!

Anonymous said...

Brother Albinus had wanted to go back to Ireland this Oct but he procrastinate and something happened and he rest is history... So, dont u procrastibate!!

Ensurai said...

That's a mighty lesson!! Thanks..otw.

Ensurai said...

OK...it will be in my blog, not for BP. I interviewed one person and she said, too many people writing about him in the papers now..but enjoy reading my article in my blog tomorrow. It is written for just my friends.

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