A kind of plague also spread in the new colony. So many died in just days that the Foochows were saying to each other,"I may bring a dead relative to the grave today, tomorrow could be my turn to go."
Food was also a big problem as fresh vegetables could be easily eaten up by locusts, worms and birds which the pioneers were unfamiliar with. In comparison, life in Fujian, although extremely poor, was still less harsh in terms of temperatures and seasonal changes.
Wild animals were hunted with arrows and some very primitive guns. The Foochows were not familiar with the soft peat soil and the thick undergrowth. Compared to the Fujian physical nature of the land which was very hilly and not so thickly forested, Sibu was too massive and threatening a jungle for the Foochows to handle. Many Foochows were beaten by poisonous snakes and several were lost in the jungle and never to be found again. Hunting was difficult.
Fishing was even more difficult because the Rajang River is a huge river. At some points the width of the river was almost a "mile" wide!! So many early Foochow pioneers actually drowned and met their watery death.
Therefore when fresh animals were slaughtered they were shared and eaten quickly, Salting was the only form of food preservation until ice was made in Sibu in 1927 by the Hua Hong Ice Factory and even then there were no refrigerators owned by the local people. (Sarawak Gazette 1927). Home refrigerators only arrived after the Second World War.
So in Nang Chong, after it was established as a village in 1926, the Foochow families mainly salted their meat whenever they slaughtered pigs. Chickens and ducks, being the more readily domestic animal for the table, were eaten fresh.
My grandmother, Tiong Lien Tie, had a special way of salting pork. It was quite simple really.
My grandmother's recipe :
Just bring the water to the boil first and then add the pork slices for a short while until cooked. Lower the fire and let the water simmer for about half an hour. And then take out the meat to let it cool in a tray. When the meat is totally cooled, it is covered with coarse salt and placed in a air tight clay jar for about a few days. If you are worried about your own result, you can put the meat in the salt into your fridge, one day after you make the salted meat.
During our Nang Chong days, her salted meat was often sliced and steamed together with tofu .
Other portions were made into soup.
While some portions could be stir fried with vegetables, thus becoming twice cook meat with vegetables.
We loved to eat the salted belly pork with a special crab sauce called Pang Ngi Cheong. Whenever my grandmother did not have appetite, especially when she was very old, she would think of this particular dish and "wished to have some for her lunch or dinner". By then it was already quite hard to find pang ngi cheong.
|kamat photo, courtesy of Daniel Yiek. Thanks Sarikei Tim Capsule|
Today we can still prepare our salted belly pork. But pang ngi cheong is going out of fashion because the pang ngi is an endangered species of small crabs in the deltaic region of the Rajang.