September 29, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Terong Iban and Salt

A dear cousin of mine was shocked recently when he went to buy some Terong Iban to prepare for his favourite dish - Asam Fish Head Curry. His wife had told him to buy four for their evening meal. They were 12 ringgit per kg. 4 terong cost him 16 ringgit.

He had the following tale to share.

The Ensurai and Nang Chong Villages were set up by the pioneering  Foochows who arrived in the early1900's. Land was allocated to them by the Brooke Government, which expected these agriculturalists from China to grow rice and form a rice bowl in the Rajang Delta , and grow enough food for the whole kingdom of Sarawak.

 After the Second World War, food was scarce and so was cash.

My cousin grew up in Nang Chong village, tapped rubber part time as a primary school student and caught fish in the evenings.

Staying in Nang Chong, many Foochows could walk to Tulai via the rubber gardens to visit relatives or to look for herbs and "loi ling", a kind of poisonous plant which was fairly valueable and could be exchanged for cash.  There were many longhouses towards the Tulai area.

According to my cousin, very often the Ibans would bring their vegetables in large baskets to the Foochow villages. He remembers that  he saw many Ibans would make trips just for barter trading right until Malaysia was formed..

A photo from Google.

A pot of boiled terong in Ulu Medamit. Terong is a favourite dish and can be eaten wih rice and nothing else.

According to my cousin,he had a special and memorable incident related to Terong Iban. He was still a little boy and most Chinese did not know how to "eat" terong Iban in those early days. Actually there were limited cross cultural exchanges with the Dayaks, Malays and Melanaus due to linguistic and social barriers.

 "We co-existed in the Delta, and actually we had very necessity to inter act. We were like different moons revolving around the earth in our own orbits" my mother used to say.

 In fact my grandmother Lien Tie ,born in the era of the Qing Dynasty in Fujian, China, used to say that "the Rajah was very careful to ensure that the different races were separated, the Malays worked in the town, the Ibans were kept or placed in the rural areas and the Chinese were asked to grow rice. This was similar to the Qing dynasty and the dynasties before. We Chinese were used to being classed socially as traders, scholars and servants, and even soldiers" Marriages were mainly within the classes.

She had never entered a classroom in her life, having learned only to memorize Bible verses, Chinese sayings by "listening and memorising". She was sold to my grand uncle for Five Silver Dollars as a child bride for my grandfather, many years her senior. But then she grew up to be a very wise woman in her own right.

To my cousin and many of his Foochow relatives the Terong ban as a vegetable was just a wild fruit, sourish in taste and even hard because the skin was very thick.

One day an Iban family came to my cousin's house. They wanted to barter trade with his parents who could not speak Iban or Malay. There were rather frightened because just two years previously, they had heard tales of head hunting during the Japanese war.

In order to quickly get the Iban family out of the area, his father used hand signs to wave them away. But the Ibans who also tried to communicate with sign language looked fairly ferocious to the timid farmers.

The Ibans wanted salt (garam) in exchange for the terong Iban. His father,my uncle, nodded his head and went to get a packet of white salt. Salt in those days were rough sea salt. When the Ibans saw the large packet of salt, they were very happy. and they shook hands with my uncle and left.

After the salt was passed over to them, the Ibans left the terong and the basket on the plank walk and went away as peacefully as they came. For days and weeks the whole family was terrified by the basket that was left behind. Perhaps they did not know how much the Iban family had appreciated the salt packet.

My uncle was dumbfunded because there was so much terong in the basket!! He did not know what to do with the terong. My aunt , according to my cousin, did not cook the terong but instead gave the terong to the pigs , ducks and chickens to eat.

Soon many terong plants grew near the pig sties. And more and more terong Iban could be seen. No one harvested the fruits.

But my cousin remembers until today that when a fruit was unknown to a people it was fairly worthless, but worth a packet of rough salt only.

Today,more than 60 years later, with inflation and better knowledge, he has to pay through the nose for a kilo of terong Iban.

The Chinese have learned to eat terong Iban because restaurants and celebrity chefs have promoted the vegetable. Malaysian Food Festivals, cross cultural exchanges and Inter marraiges have also given the vegetable more publicity.

Terong Iban has been sold in Harrods in London, served during Open Days at Universities and embassies for example,all over the world as a special Borneon Delicacy/

But more importantly at home in Sarawak more people from different racial backgrounds are planting Terong Iban in their own backyard alongside kangkong, ensabi, mustard greens and tomoatoes (Terong Orang Putih or Ang Moh Gior)

But I am quite sure that my grandmother would love the soup that I make from Terong Iban. My cousin agrees with me too. 

September 24, 2013

A Monument to Bamboo (Pontianak)

Monumen Digulis (Bamboo Monument) is not located in the city center of Pontianak but is situated in the roundabout just outside the University of Tanjuongpura. 

This monument has a history related to West Kalimantan youth's struggle (Sarekat Islam)  to achieve independence.
Photo by Sarawakiana 7th Sept 2013

This monument has 11 stakes towering into the sky, every one a different size.  The monument was unveiled on 10 November 1987 by the then Governor of West Kalimantan, H Soedjiman. At one time it was painted white and red and many thought that it looked like lipsticks. In 2011 the colours were changed to the original bamboo colours of yellow with stripes of green.

There is a dark story behind the establishment of this monument. It all started in 1914, when the formation of the SI Party (SI) in Ngabang (aka City of Hedgehogs). Faith-based organizations received a lot of sympathy from the public, until the Dutch government finally issued an order to freeze all activities of the SI.

There was rampant insurgency of SI members in Java and Sumatra. The Dutch East Indies government arrested 11 leaders of West Kalimantan movement. Three of the 11 characters died while exiled to Digoel in West Irian, while 5  died in the incident in the Porcupine District Overseer.

The 11 Bamboo Digulists symbolizes each hero: Achmad Marzuki, Ahmad Bilal Ahmad bin Su'ud, Gusti Djohan Idrus, Gusti Hamzah, Gusti Moehammad Situt Machmud, Gusti Soeloeng Lelanang, Sawang Amasundin Jeranding Sari, H Hj Rais bin Abdurahman, alias Bung Patch Moehammad Hanbal, Moehammad Sohor and Yes 'Moehammad Sabran.

Their names are also enshrined in the street names of Pontianak.  Armed struggle in Indonesia involving the use of tapered bamboo was recorded throughout the history of the county.

After the Declaration of Independence, the general population continued to fight against the Japanese, the Dutch and the Allies. The "tapered bamboo became the weapons of the masses." The Indonesians were able to get hold of the guns of the Japanese when they surrendered. 
Other Bamboo Monuments are found in Surabaya and Genteng.

September 16, 2013

Carton King (Taiwan)

Carton King is a creative park where almost everything is made of corrugated cardboard. The ceilings, the floor, the furniture, the pens and paper, everything!

It was a hot day for the 13 of us in the team. Our first two days were rather damp and extremely wet because of the Typhoon Trami. But when the sun came out, it was really glaring and hot.

There were many exciting sections to visit .There's also a restaurant there where you can sit and have a good meal in the cardboard land but when we were there it was not open, rather unfortunate as we had planned to have a nice lunch there. All the tables and shelves were made of corrugated cardboard.

I did not fancy any of the souvenirs made from paper so I was thrilled to find a Post Shop. The post cards sold there were just what I wanted.

I bought a post card and sent it to my son. I thought it was a tourist kind of gimmick. The postcard did not cost much and the stamp was only 10 Taiwan Dollars. Today, after about 20 days, my son received the card.

That's a real treat for my heart!! i.e. it is heartening to hear from him, that he is happy to receive a card in the mail.



 There's a zoo, where the animals are all made from paper (carton) and when a child presses a button, the animal will make its noise. Just a small area but very creative and refreshing. (At least there is no smell of foul dung!!) camera could not function, so I lost a whole day of photograph...I have to grab photos from Goggle)

This place is also known as 纸箱王.

I am thinking of my children as I write this. Wish I can still travel with them all every where I go.

September 6, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : Grandfather's Dustpan

My paternal grandfather Tiong Kung Ping was very handy with his tools. He made a lot of things for the home throughout his life time, being innovative, creative and frugal.

I was told that he ever worked as a contractor in his younger days, but being the entrepreneur he was, he only wished to earn money by providing services and good, so he had boats, rice mills and sawmills. He had some smoke houses for rubber. However, he was best with machines of all sorts.

He was a very careful and meticulous worker, and would spend hours in the workshop in the Ice Factory and the Mee Ang Sawmill. Later when he started Kiong Ang Brickyard, he was fond of every piece of machinery in Aup. In fact he was the one who decided to buy the best machinery for making bricks and he was already past 65. Indeed his brick making machinery was the first imported one in Sarawak before 1960.

One of the things he made for his house in Sungei Merah was the recycle tin dust pan, as shown in the photo below. Well in those days, every Wong, Tiong, and Ting made them for their home use. No good Foochow man would go to town to buy a dust pan for his wife. What he could make, he did not have to buy. I believe the only thing he did not make was a basket. But he did make wreath frames from bamboo. Someone told me that Rev James Hoover taught the Foochow pioneers this American skill. As a result most Foochow Christian funerals have been seeing lots of floral wreaths, American style.

Being a very frugal man, he treasured everything he had. He  also collected many useable, re-useable stuff and fashioned them into useful items.  I remember him sitting on a small stool and cutting away the cooking oil tin. He had a metal cutter which he used very deftly. He would draw a good line with a pencil and ruler. He also had a special tool to cut harder metals. I remember it was not easy for him to fold the edges over so that we kids would not cut ourselves when using the dust pan. He would hammer the edges with careful strokes, and of course, try to make as little noise as possible.

 When he finished his work, he would put everything back into his tool basket and then sweep the floor. And carefully, he would place two new dust pans against the wall. Today he would have been a great member of the local Recycle, Reuse, Reduce Committee!!

When I saw this dust pan in Taiwan (Chang Yung High School) I was moved to tears that people continue to use this idea from  mainland China, where my grandfather was born. I heard from many people that Taiwanese if possible do not plastic items if they have a choice. They prefer natural materials..

We should indeed be thinking of using less plastic in our lives and recycle more. Plastics are made from petroleum. The more we demand  plastics the higher the price of petroleum will be.

So let us start tinkering in our backyard!!

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). ...