June 24, 2013

Cocktail Reception and Cocktails

Kie Mui Jiu (literally Chicken Tail Wine)or Cocktail reception was trendy during the Colonial days in Sibu.

Bankers, business men, government servants were often invited for Cocktails by the Resident, Hong Kong and Shanghai bank manager and others. After the formation of Malaysia, cocktail parties were all but forgotten.

The gentlemen wore lounge suits while the ladies would wear cocktail dresses for the occasion .According to an elder wearing suits, ties and all in those days was a little more present,even there was no air conditioning. Temperatures were much lower and there were more trees.. All the ladies would be seen wearing a strand or two of jewellery ,the most popularly piece being  pearls. And best of all, they wore high heeled shoes. Some wore gloves so that they could be at least at par with Mrs. Griffin (one of the most beautiful Resident's wife in those days). Well,one great image I had of those cocktail parties, was the reddest of lipsticks I have ever seen, as compared to muted colours won by women of today.

Temenggong Datuk Ting Lik Hung, lst on the left. My father, second from the right.

A cocktail party is a party at which cocktails are served. It is sometimes called a cocktail reception.
A cocktail hour is sometimes used by managers of hotels and restaurants as a means of attracting patrons between 4 pm and 6 pm.

During the colonial days in Sarawak, a cocktail party was, after all, something like the modern definition, but it was fairly political to say the least. The community leaders rubbed shoulders with the colonial officers. A dance would sometime be organised following the drinking, to the tunes played by a good local band. Kampong Nyabor and the other kampongs would have a few bands which would present themselves in their white suits for the occasions. I remember hearing the double bass being played as I passed by the Sibu Recreation Club (now part of history..gone. Where it stood is the San Yan Building).

Today in SArawak, some events, such as wedding receptions, are preceded by a cocktail hour. During the cocktail hour, guests socialize while drinking and eating appetizers. Organizers of these events use the cocktail hour to occupy guests between related events and to reduce the number of guests who arrive late.


An article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in May, 1917, credited its invention to a certain Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri.
Mrs. Walsh invited 50 guests to her house on a Sunday at high noon for a one-hour affair. "The party scored an instant hit," the newspaper declared and stated that, within weeks, cocktail parties had become "a St. Louis institution". An example of the power of the press.

Alec Waugh noted that the first cocktail party in England was hosted in 1924 by war artist Christopher Nevinson.

Cocktails named after Robert DeNiro, Daniel Day Lewis, and Hugh Jackman.

What's your favourite cocktail?

If you don't know of any cocktail..order Whisky on the Rocks or a Gin and Tonic. Vodka Lime is nice.But what about a Margarita?

Malaysians are not fond of alcoholic drinks.Hence Mocktail has been invented as a world.

However you don't get invited to a Mocktail hour in Malaysia. It will still be a Cocktail party..where you can drink mocktails.

Pina colada or Long Island IceTea would be nice..it is so nice you can have too many...Irish Coffee is not coffee. It has a lot of liquor in it. Your friendly bar tender can give you a nice guide.

June 23, 2013

Little Yams or Wo Long

The Foochows call small versions, "egg" or "long". So we have kuok long (the little curly fern tops), wo long (small yams),etc. What about waves which are also " hoong long"? The term does sound like "wind eggs".

When we were young, living in Brooke Drive in Sibu, we had a Foochow stove which used fire wood. We had a big kuali for frying and steaming. We also had two other stove tops for boiling of water and for cooking in smaller soup pots. This stove was our beautiful pride for a long time, until my father bought my mother a New World Gas Stove, at second hand, when a British officer returned home.

We were excited each time my father cooked for us using the wood stove. One of the most memorable dish he prepared was small

placed in the hot coals. This was a very traditional way of cooking yams in the fields. When Foochow farmers were working in their fields, their lunch might include a few of these small yams cooked in wood fires they built in their fields, to get rid of mosquitoes,etc.

My father loved experimenting with food and various forms of cooking.

It was good for us to bond with our taciturn dad, who told jokes once in a while, and far apart. We were of the generation when a) we spoke to Dad only when necessary,and always indirectly through mum b) when Dad spoke at meal times, it was only to reprimand or to warn us for certain misdeeds or to pass a moral story  c) when dad spoke we could never butt in  d) when adults spoke to each other, we had to leave the room and must not even think of eavesdropping.

My father never had to raise his voice or hand. A look from him good enough to make us shiver.

So when he made those small yams and took them out of the fire for us to try, dip into a soy sauce, we felt an unusual closeness to him and felt so loved.

I had wished and dreamed that he would bring us camping, and we would make charcoal cooked yams, cook Kim Guan Siang sausages over the real fire...and then have baked beans...

But then he passed away when we were still too young.

Parents should really take their children out to parks and enjoy some great times together and then these children would grow up and pass these social ways to their children.

Small yams may be a lowly food item, but it means the world to me and my father who grew up respecting his hardworking and frugal father. My father was truly a no frills kind of person. Very basic and very stoical.

He said, "Potato is a potato..you don't have to dress it up. Wo long or small yam is yam, it tastes best when it is put into a fire by itself..."

It is true..a "wo long" time together with family is such a great idea.

Have some wo long time with your children or friends...Have a good day.

June 20, 2013

Unforgettable Foochow Soup : Cucumber and Salted Eel

Salted muang ngii or salted eel is a delicacy to some people. However to others it is poor man's soup.

Muang Ngii or sea eel is huge and weighs anything between 4 kg to 20 kg. Found in the Asian seas it is popularly fished by fishermen who enjoy eating it in many different ways.

The Japanese call it unagi and eat it as a delicacy in sushi shops or special eel shops. Japanese customersare very discerning about the quality of the fish and its freshness.

The salted eel bones are sold as a specialty ingredient to Foochows who brew them for soups on hot days when appetites are not too good. Usually considered a "cooling soup",salted eel bones brewed for about two hours with old cucumbers can also be nourishing for elders who are losing appetite.

sometimes salted eel bones are cooked with winter melons and dred squids.

this photo shows salted eel sold in Miri.

This photo shows the skin side of the eel.

this whole eel measures about feet or two metres. A fish this length is usually cut into three portions. Salted fish are usually dried in the sun again and again if the fishmongers cannot sell them fast enough.

Sometimes salted eels are not available in the market because the fishermen in China orTaiwan face poor weather.

There is also rumour that fresh eels are now being used for other purposes. Once eels are canned, salted eels      
willno longer be available in the salt fish market any more.

June 19, 2013

Salty Grass Straw from China

The Foochows of Sibu depended on a simple grass straw for tying things when they arrived in Sibu in 1903.
One bundle for l ringgit. Keng Chow from Fujian Province of China sold in my cousin's shop, Ing Kong Drug Store in Miri. These are very versatile organic strings. It can be woven, it can be used as strings. Pig's heart was often hung with this kind of string at the butchers. And in the past, theFoochows would always say, "Go andcarry a kati of pork.."By that they meant you have to buy and carry home a kati of meat strung in a salty grass (string). How material culture has slipped into our dialect and then slipped away with time...

This simple grass straw was plentiful in the Fujian river Min estuarine area and the other Fujian coastal flats. Called Salty Grass Straws or strings, it is exactly what the name means. It is grown on wetlands surrounded by salty sea water.

I have always been interested in getting a photo of photos of these salty grass growing wild over there in my grandparents and great grandparents' original home.

Today, I can still buy this Keng Chow or straws used for tying rice dumplings, for making straw sandals, and for tying things together. One very significant image in my mind is how Kompian or Foochow bagels were strung together with these straws and grandpa(TiongKung Ping) would happily carry a "string of kompian" when visiting his sister Chang Yuk Ging in the Methodist Primary School, where my siblings and I were studying.

I like to think that Grandpa was very proud of his sister who was a Kindergarten teacher. Goo Poh's place was a very central point for many relatives to come together and have a great bonding time.The common living room had two rattan chairs for elders to sit and others would sit on the wooden Foochow stools.

Those were the "old days" when even the furniture were made from plain wood and rattan from the Sarawak jungle.

June 9, 2013

Zhong Zi or Chang - 10 facts you may need to know.

This is from the Foochow point of view, based on Sibu Foochow Customs.

1. Do not make zhong zi or changs and give them to any family. Only relatives  and friends of a mourning family can can bring some when visiting them.

2. Every Foochow woman would tie 10 zhong zis in one DAI. Five salty straws or geng chow would be doubled and knotted at the middle to give ten strings. Pegged to a big nail , the zhong zi maker will start tying up the zhong zi, one by one. Once ten are done, she will start another set of 10.

Photo: Zhong Zi or chang wrapping competition in Fuzhou, China last year...This is the Foochow type, Triangular and plump.

3. This photo is from Fuzhou city, taken last year for tourism advert. A competition was held and these are probably the proud winners. It is common practice to have zhong zi wrapping competition as part of the Dragon Boat Festival Competition.

4. The festival is held on 5th day of 5th month of the lunar calendar. This will fall either at the end of the month of May of the beginning of June. Usually people will know that the festival is coming in other parts of the world, when Chinatown or Asian shops start selling bamboo leaves, chestnuts and geng chow or Chinese straws.

5. In MALAYSIA, zhong zi's are as different as there are Chinese dialects in terms of fillings and styles or shapes . The most remarkable zhong zis are those made by the Nyonyas, the descendants of Princess Han Li Po and the Malacca Sultan, and other Malay-Chinese marriages in the 1500 in Malacca.

6. Zhong zis are usually boiled in a big pot or in the past, when there were huge extended families, in recycled square oil tins. Very often in the backyard, early in the morning.

7. Traditionally Zhong zis were usually hang from a bamboo pole or string, in a room and they were to be eaten until they are finished. Different types of zhong zis were colour coded as you could not really tell from the smell. My grandmother made plain zhong zis without filling, red bean paste zhong zi, red bean zhong zi, peanut zhong zi, meat zhong zi, and mushroom + meat + peanut zhong zi.

8. The matriarch of the family will usually decide when to make the zhong zi.

9. In the past, zhong zi was made only for the festival. Today in SArawak, stores can sell zhong zi every day.

10. In the past only Foochow women made zhong zi. FAmilies with single fathers have to depend on in laws to send over zhong zis. But today many Foochow men can make zhong zis.

June 3, 2013

Sighting of Crocodile in Miri River

Lots of signboards have been posted up at significant places near rivers in Miri. There are many rivers in the Miri district and most of them have crocodiles.

These two photos show a crocodile swimming pleasantly in the Miri River, which is a busy thoroughfare.

I shiver to think of the days when little boys and little girls used to sit in shallow sampans crossing the Miri River to go to school in SK Pulau Melayu from the Kampong Wireless.

Hope nothing untoward will happen in Miri.

Photos are by Steve Ling of Sibu.

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