July 31, 2014

Sibu Tales : My Father and Beef Recipes

My late father was keen on food from diverse cultures. Each time he travelled, he would bring back a recipe or two, and taught my mother how to cook them. He was especially good with beef dishes.

One of the beef dishes he presented to us was beef dish cooked in a tin plate over fire. This was before 1960 and way before the sizzling plates came into our Sibu world.

The other dish he was able to prepare with tips from his Malay brother Abang Koh, was the rendang which we would get from our neighbours every Hari Raya.

My father was one of the least prejudiced person I have ever met when it comes to food. He loved trying out food given by friends and often he would go to the kampong (Nangka and Hilir) to find out for himself how his Malay and Melanau friends cooked their curries. Hence he and my mother would often come up with curries cooked to their tastes.

I will try to create my own recipe after eating this fantastic dish in Bintulu.


This Hari Raya I had a chance to taste a fantastic Beef dish, with a Kelantanese origin. AND like him I like to try out the dish, creating the taste but now with the help of the Internet I can look for similar recipes or get a friend to email me a similar recipe.

A friend kindly sent me another recipe called Beef Kuzi and here it is..It might not be the same as Mrs. Kip's dish...and she also alerted me to the Kuzi paste below:

 

Kuzi Daging

Ingredients for 5 pax
1/2 kg good cut of beef
4 tbsp remaph kerutuk
1/2 bombay onion
2 tbsp pounded chillies
3 cups of thick coconut milk
2 tbsp kerisik
some gula melaka
some soy sauce

 
 pounded ingredients:
1/2 bombay onion
2 pips of garlic
1/2 inch of ginger
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
3 cloves
3 candlenut
and
3 tbsp of cooking oil (blend with some ghee,some butter too)++


Method:
 1. Slice beef into cubes
2. Pound onions, garlic and ginger and mix with rempah kerutuk
3. Heat up the oil in the pot
4. Add (2) to the hot oil, stir fry until the ingredients are fragrant
5. Add the beef and the coconut milk. Cook until the sauce is thickened.
6. Add soy sauce, gula melaka, kerisik. Cook a further 15 minutes.


May be you would like to try out this recipe....or you can think of a story related to the times when your father taught your mother how to prepare a new dish!!




Sibu Haze and Face Masks

A photo by Steve Ling
Sibu has for many years (since 1997) been suffering from an annual haze. Some areas after the Bukit Lima Forest Reserve was destroyed by a huge fire suffered terribly for a few days.

Thus ,this  year 2014 has been particularly bad. It has saddened so many citizens, and while some of them are heart broken, the politicians and those involved in the severe burning of jungles,etc remain rather quiet on the issue. The chainsaw and natives who practised some slash and burn method in the past were often the target of condemnation by politicians who probably never visited them. But now with the extended incidences of burning, the blame is on foreign lands which cause all the global warming. If only the Polar Bears and Penguins can talk!! If only the sea lions and seals can protest!!
Niosh certified N95 (mouth) masks
 
Various young writers have been writing about their concerns and here is one, plus a comment from one of his learned friends.

Just finished reading a press report advising the public to wear face mask in hazy condition. The paper published a photo showing a box of common face masks in blue/green colours.
This is a misleading info for the public (Johnny Hii)
If the air quality has reached an unpleasant figure of over 100, or the more professional term PM2.5, regardless whatever weather condition(wet/dry) we have, the public need to put on N95 face masks, not those face masks as shown in the photo.
The paper made face masks are called surgical masks, their sole function is to prevent/block the mucus or saliva from the wearers to their surroundings. For the toxic micro-particles in the polluted atmosphere, it is powerless to carry out any filtering effect. Furthermore, those face masks will give a false sense of confidence to the wearer, thinking that one is safe to be exposed to the pollutants by staying outdoor for long hours.

The only functionable face masks in hazy conditions is N95. It has been certified by some American professional bodies to prevent and filter out micro particles in the air.
Nevertheless, it is still not 100% airtight, and since it has to be wore as tight as possible to the face, people with beards may find it difficult to wear it appropriately.

There is no child version of the N95 face mask, so the only way to prevent your children's exposure to the hazy environment is to stay indoors with air filter devices full-blown.


This is a translation of the Chinese article above, by a young man, Johnny Hii.

And a comment from his friend...


Loikk Loi N95 means it is certified by NIOSH to filter 95% of airborne particles. There are many different model of N95 certified face mask, each with different fastening harness and some model comes with relief valve for exhaling. I feel that most of the N95 in the local market do not provide a good seal on the face (this basic design is only good for construction or factory workers in dusty environment). This design renders it useless in haze situation. What we need is N95 respirator or N95 mask with a seal on the face. I used some of these while in Beijing. Unfortunately, these are not readily available.

FYI my dear readers...Let us continue to play our citizens' role of keeping our environment safe from fire, from deterioration, etc,etc.

July 30, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : Logs for firewood

When we were young we were actually trained to watch out for stray logs floating down the Rajang River. They were important to us for several reasons.

Logs then were used in many ways.

they were used to build our pontoons or  floating dor tou.

In 1948 some one took a photo of how logs were used for boats to berth in Kanowit. Until today, logs are used by the people of Sarawak to tie their boats to, or to build pontoons. Even toilets are built on logs.


























A pontoon in Bekenu still using big logs,complimented with diesel drums



One important use was to build bridges. The nang Chong area was very muddy and in fact my cousins once remarked that no one should actually plant rubber in that kind of soil. But my grandfather did and the family survived pretty well.

Even in other parts of Sarawak, until today, one of the best and most important uses of logs is still the building of rough improvised bridges. This photo is from Taja Enjok (Lio Mato area)



In the 1950's and 1960's, runaway logs were often "caught" by my relatives in the Nang Chong villages along the Rajang to be sewn up for precious firewood, both for smoking of rubber sheets and for the wood fire stove.


Today, with the arrival of kerosene stoves, cooking gas tanks and electricity, and the fact that wood is very scarce now, people no longer use firewood. Men would not have to paddle right into the middle of the Rajang to "hook" a log and bring it home like a precious trophy.

Those were precious memories that many of my cousins would have of our uncles and their paddle power.
Believe it or not, this is the wood fire stove used by my Second Uncle, the late Lau Pang Kui and Aunty in Tien Chin School in Bukit Lan. I had the opportunity to photograph it during a recent trip to Bukit Lan. They were transferred to Sibu in the 1970's.

Firewood stove is a thing of the past now. Do you have any memory of sawing logs and chopping up wood for your grandmother's stove?




July 29, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : Bless the Hands

My mother was barely seventeen (born 1926) when the Japanese started to bomb Sibu (Christmas Day 1941) and turned the peaceful Sibu and Nang Chong village into a nightmarish settlement. A few thousand souls were in peril as the Japanese soldiers tried to find every reason to punish them and even execute them. Fear reigned.

Because she refused to be married off, for three reasons, the guy was very ugly, she felt that she was too young, and there were three younger siblings to protect as her father was ailing. She took the burden to take up three roles : provider/supporter, protector and housekeeper. My mother started to plant rice, continued with her pig rearing and stopped her secondary school education. Her teachers, amongst them Mr and Mrs. Chen had managed to return to China by the last boat. Their whereabouts are still unknown to this day.

She washed, she cooked, she cleaned out the pig sties, but she sang to help her young brothers to sleep while her mother, my maternal grandmother and second uncle were stranded in China. Mother did not know if they were dead or alive. Communication was cut off completely.

Photo: Good morning. Have you ever looked at your mother's hands? My mother's loving hands and <3  brought up three generations (maternal grandma was stranded in China for more than 4 years during the WW2  leaving her to take care of her younger siblings,she herself was barely 16 -fed pigs, planted padi, washed and cleaned her siblings and did the laundry), her  own 4 younger siblings and her sick father, her own 7  children and her grandchildren with love, and a heart that is huge. today think of people who have helped you in your life and praise God for such a blessing. I am learning to photograph hands today...So take a closer look at the human hands.....The last baby she looked after in 1987 has received his post grad diploma....That's her 14th "baby"...and we often say this prayer which is even more meaningful today..."Thank you Lord for the food on the table, BLESS the hands which prepare the food......."
70 years after planting so much rice during the Japanese Occupation.
While Japanese planes flew above the skies, mum went on collecting meedin to supplement their daily food, pulling out from the soils, sweet potatoes, and trapping fish too. Her greatest joy was in planting padi which would put white rice on the table. She was able to harvest, single-handedly, 38 TANG or piculs of rice every year, for three years. She became as dark as a "Ma Ga Li" she laughed, telling us the stories. Mum is very very fair in fact. She was not at all worried that her hands were roughened by the hard work and her feet cracked from so much soaking in the soggy mud or walking barefoot on the hot dried up roads. Her feet were stabbed by sharp thorns and once in a while, her toes lost their hold on the rubber roots and she fell in the mud. But to her, she was fighting a war to save her family.

Because she worked so hard, her eldest sister in law often rewarded her with two pieces of chicken on festival days. These she would pass under the table for her two young brothers so that they would grow stronger. Mum always denied herself of good food and thought of others first.

She married in 1948, after having been matched to a handsome and wealthy son of a businessman. She was tall, pretty, patient, kind and strong according to my father who thought well of my mum.  Mum was very much in love with him and we often teased her. (Her love helps her undergo again all the suffering she had to undergo when my father passed away pre maturely.)They had 7 children.

Mum again made another sacrifice in life. She had to give up her teaching position so that her newly arrived (from Fuzhou city) sister in law could have a job, since she was a college graduate and the school's headmaster was a cousin to mum. Also my mother after her marriage lived in Kerto, Sibu, too far away from the school. Second Aunt used to tell us that it was 40 minutes walking to the school and it was very hard on her because she was heavily pregnant with her eldest. Life must have been tough for her, a great difference from her comfortable Fuzhou city girl's life.

Mum was widowed at the age of 40 and overnight her hair turned white and her blood pressure went up. We were aged ll months to 15. Over night she lost an income my father was bringing in. In those days , insurance was new and my father never gave it a thought.

My maternal grandmother came to help us out from time to time, some times for a few days, sometimes a few weeks,to give mum moral support until she lost her eye sight completely. My uncle Pang Sing would drop by too to chat and to see the three of them reunited in that comfortable way at the dining table was so good and touching. Mum would take out a well reserved bottle of beer for uncle, as a token of love. He would only drink a small bottle,nothing more, nothing less and then he would cycle away again to Bukit Assek where he temporarily lived. He was a wharf labourer,road construction worker and an all purpose (or general ) worker.

Her hands rocked many children to sleep.
Borrowed this from Melissa...until I have the chance to eat my mother's mee sua again.....this will have to make do...



Her hands also cooked for many people who lived with us, who visited us and who need a place to stay for a few nights. Her most famous dish is the Foochow Mee Sua. I was very touched that one of my aunts, Mrs. (Prof) Chong Chung Hien or Aunty Julia, told me that when she first came to Sibu and had the first bowl of mee sua, she remembered that it was prepared by my mum, in Kerto at the Hua Hong Ice Factory. The late Professor Chong was best man in my parents' wedding. Aunt Julia was from Penang and it was really a compliment from her which touched our hearts. It was just so aromatic and delicious she said. Mum continues to prepare the best of chickens for any one who visits her and a special sized drumstick, a Grade A hard boiled egg, and two huge mushrooms would be in the bowl for the VIP guest who arrives at Kasuma Resort in Kuching where she calls home now.

Mum said she moved houses (Ensurai, Chien Nang Chong, Ah Nang Chong,Kerto,Kung Ping Road(Sibu,) Lanang Road Lane One, Brooke Drive, Airport Road Lane 7 and finally Kasuma, Kuching) 9 times in the almost 90 years of her remarkable life.

I see in my mother with different "foreign eyes" being educated in English. She has the traits of a good leader. Not only has she practised POLC, she is also a good mentor, because she sees the potentials in a person and gives her support. That is why she said that all those who have lived with her and rented rooms from her have become very useful people. I can mention, Mr. Lau Nguong Ting,or Ah Hang's father, who is now a multi millionaire. She is particularly fond of Ah Kuok, who is a self made entrepreneur in KL. She is always fond of her nephews and nieces (who came to stay with us in order to study in Sibu), particularly Siew Sieng who is now in New Zealand. She is definitely an "encourager". But she has a "dark side" for she avoids difficult and negative people, whom she dismisses with a phrase "no word to say" and she keeps mum after that. She refuses to tell us her secrets.

So whenever we say our grace at the table, we will ask God especially to BLESS THE HANDS which prepared the food. Please bless our mother's hands for the love, care and food she prepares.

And in the same way, she too says the same Methodist Grace, please BLESS the Hands which prepared the Food (her own mother's hands..)

And I hope our new generation and future generations will say the same grace before we have our meals. Praise God!!






July 28, 2014

Unique Pineapple : Superstitions of Yonder Years

When we were kids we were exposed to Old Wives' Tales. One of them concerned our habits of eating and selection of food.

Some aunties would tell us not to eat bananas which are joined together. We girls must choose bananas which are whole, as one. Otherwise in the future we would give birth to deformed babies, like Siamese twins.

Displaying 20140727_113105.jpg

We were also told tales of unusual foods which we must never eat like a duck with a strange web feet, or a chicken egg with two egg yolks.

Recently a friend Aminah Wong gave me a photo of this strange pineapple...We had a good laugh. Shall we tell our young unmarried friends they must not eat this pineapple? They may have kids with  6 legs!! Or may be SIX toes?

 Chrysalids first edition 1955.jpg

Now this brings me back to my English Literature book called " The Chrysalids". Lots of interesting tales there too.

Of course my aunts never read the book, but they were similar to those characters in the book, but the punishment was never dealt to us or to them.

What kinds of superstitions did you grow up with?













July 27, 2014

Sungei Kut



The first time I travelled to Mukah was the year Three Rivers School organised the Soft Ball tournament for schools. Our school team under Miss Fries got very excited as we were to travel by river boat and we would be away for more than four days. And for that, many of us were to be away from home for the first time with school mates and staying in a school in the rural area. Many parents were not too willing to let us go.

And furthermore we were to sleep in classrooms, and not in homes. There were not hotels in Mukah for any one in those days.

To travel to Mukah by river boat , we had to sail down the Igan from Sibu and then take the small man made canal called Kut to Dalat. And from Dalat we sailed down the Oya River for about 20 km, to the river mouth and then we sailed fairly near to the sea coast for another 20 km to reach Mukah. It was quite a long journey. Luckily none of us were sea sick and we did not even ask Miss Fries if she felt comfortable or not. We as kids just thought that adults fared better than us!!

Actually the Sungei Kut is just a very short canal and it is just about 50 feet wide.

But in those going to Mukah by river motor launch was like going to the other side of the world. We girls in the Softball team will never forget our trip to Three Rivers School.

  Map showing The Igan, and the Oya Rivers.

Today, almost 50 years later, the journey may still be the same, but we have several choices : by boat, by road and even by air, from Sibu to Mukah. There is a good road from Sibu to Daro, then Matu, and from Matu one can drive up to Igan, Oya and finally Mukah. It will take less than a day to reach Mukah. In those long ago days, it took one whole day from Sibu to Mukah. If the tide was low, a bigger motor launch would have to wait for the water level in Sungei Kut to rise and passengers might even reach Mukah about midnight!!

Today Sungei Kut is lined with small wooden houses or huts and they are all so pretty to photographers.

The distance between Kampong Kut and Sibu is only 90 km, while the Igan will reach the South China after it has meandered around for 130 km from Sibu!!


Today, Kampung Kut has a Chinese primary school called Pai Yuk founded in 1957. The two rows of 15 shops are all Chinese owned. These Chinese are Hokkien, Foochow and Teo Chiew dialect speaking people. The primary school has a population of 100+ and it has only one pure Chinese student!!The rest are Malay, Melanau and children of mixed Chinese Malay or Melanau backgrounds. (Ref : Steve Ling)


 


 




Photo by Steve Ling. This is a Hainanese man who has been operating the only coffee shop in Sungei Kut for over 40 years.


Today there is a new road and it is on the other side of the kampong.
Passengers from Sibu, using speedboat will stop at the jetty in front of the shops. those who wish to come over to this side of the stream, have to jump into a long boat, and drive over, which is just a few meters away!!

this is Sungei Kut's lifestyle!!

July 26, 2014

Special Ketupat


The long and square or even round, a good Malay girl or boy has been taught to make ketupat since young for the puasa month especially. Mothers would be busy cooking for visitors who come to have a buka puasa meal together to celebrate solidarity, family unity and their strong faith.
God is wonderful to provide the earth with the coconut, which is a life giving plant.
The ketupat is a symbol of celebration and is a great iconic item in Sarawak Malay social history.




Praise God for special Ketupat.


My special story associated with ketupat is related to my family. One Christmas our dinner was well prepared and as we gathered to say our grace, the head of the family, being a rice eater, suddenly pointed out to our Western Dinner and asked for rice!!

I had not really wanted to cook rice since we had mashed potatoes, two salads,and a few other side dishes  and  a fantastic stuffed turkey.

And furthermore we already had a nice platter of mee hoon,a Just In Case dish (if an unexpected guest appeared) bought from a restaurant.

So for the man of the house, rice it must be!!

But God was provident. Just as I was about to go and cook rice, there was a knock at our door, which also made us realise that we had not closed our gate!!

Who but our faithful former amah Aminah (who had not been working for a while as she was ill). She came with 10 ketupat and a pot of curry for our Christmas!!

Bless her good heart. We also knew that she would not stay for dinner as we were not having a halal meal.We had been exchanging gifts from the time she started working for us. But that Christmas her gift was very memorable and very special.

From that day onwards, we believe strongly that God answers prayers in many special ways. And we had enough food for several days.











July 25, 2014

Ikan Terubok Masin - made in Miri

A Foochow Salted Fishmonger today makes salted ikan terubok herself in the market, instead of just waiting for the customers to come, she sits by the stall and prepares the fish with the help of her primary school age daughter.


I often visit her and exchanges greetings and bits and pieces of Foochow ideas with her. She would always respond happily, telling me a bit about herself and her six children.

This season she is into making her own salted terubok.



Her hard working hands are beyond saving by any skilled pediurist.

Just a sharp knife, three plastic chairs and a piece of wooden board and she is in business.

With her bare hands she can clean the fish in just one or two minutes. She is showing me how fresh her fish is.





Here her daughter cleans out the guts and the what nots...

Mother and daughter working hard together for a better future.

July 23, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : Kneeling and Kowtowing

1944

My cousin Chok Ming (Tang) born in 1935 remembers my grandfather's special coffin - two ends sticking out, reaching the sky. It was such a horrifying sight to him, making him feel that death was a ghastly event.
 


 He was only 9 years old and his mother, my Aunt, held his hands very tightly. In those days, it was very "proper" for close relatives to pay their greatest respects by kneeling and kowtowing.

 

This photo was taken in 1933, two years before my cousin Chok Ming was born. My maternal grandfather is second, standing last row, from the left. He looks so much older than his older brother, Lau Kah Tii, standing second from the right, last row.




Aunt Hung Ing, brought her sons to pay their final respects to their youngest uncle, Moh Moh Chui Gah Gah (UNcle Moh Moh Chui), or Mui Gah (Last Uncle). Aunt Hung Ing in those days of Foochow Pioneering era was one of the educated girls. Her father, the headman of the Foochows ensured that all his daughters went to school alongside the boys. Her hand was also given to Mr. Tang Yew Tung, a Fujian born schoolar who taught for many years in the schools established by Rev Hoover.  Aunt Hung Ing brought up her children to value education and respect their elders. Three of her sons have been teachers (one, Cousin Chok Lik was a headmaster in Sri Aman until he retired) and the others are businessmen.

My Cousins of the Tang family and their mother, my Aunt Hung Ing.
Cousin Chok Ming remembers to this day how he and his brothers had to kneel three times and kowtow 9 times. Kneel, kowtow three times, second round of kneel, kowtow three times, and third round of kneel, and kowtow three times. He also said that even though he was only 9 years old, having to kneel and kowtow in that way made him feel really good because my maternal grandfather left a very deep impression on him. He thought that my grandfather was a kind gentleman who had led an examplary life and had shown him the greatest of Chinese values.

According to him, when I met up with him recently, that was the last time he did it as a Foochow ritual of paying respect to an uncle during the funeral. He said that he never knelt and kowtow-ed again in his life. His mother did not ask him and his brothers to show that kind of respect to any one else. I really felt good that his late mother and he and his brothers regarded my grand father so highly.

This was because his mother truly loved his Youngest Uncle, the beloved youngest brother of her father, the Capitan, Lau Kah Tii. According to my mother, her father had loved all of them very very much.

My maternal grandfather was truly blessed because he was so well loved.

July 22, 2014

Flora of Miri : Simpor

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The Simpor is a very common plant in Sarawak jungles and different races use the leaves and the trunks for many purposes.

When we were young we used to earned a few cents by collecting the fresh leaves in the morning and selling them to the local butcher. Most of my school mates did this once or twice a week. Or they would be collecting them for their mothers for wrapping kuih.

The stems of the simpor can be cut and used as temporary walking sticks whenever you go to the jungle. It is good to beat the brains out of snakes!!

Simpor stems are also useful when you need a rod for your vegetables to climb.  Long beans, and other beans can be trained to climb up the stems. I often find raffia strings very messy and not environmentally friendly for our local gardening.

A simpor tree in your garden can also provide you with many leaves for wrapping, and an occasionally salad of its fine, young leaves.

The flowers can make a very pleasant floral arrangement with other local flowers.

Also, you can always get a few senior citizens together and wrap some tasty snacks together. It is a wonderful method to spread goodwill and good cheer.

Interestingly it is also the national flower of Brunei, our neighbouring state.

If you want to get fresh simpor leaves, you can call me, and make an order. My friend said the two of us can have a micro business in this!!






July 20, 2014

Nang Chong Tales : Grandmother's Visual Disabilities

While warmed by a bowl of lovingly prepared black chicken soup laced with wolfberries or goji berries I have written this posting for you dear readers. Goji berry or wolfberry is the furit of Lycium barbarum  (Chinese ninxia gouqi) and lucium chinense.(Chinese: 寧夏枸杞 pinyin: níngxià gǒuqǐ) (Chinese: 枸杞 pinyin: gǒuqǐ).

Whenever I see Goji, I would be thinking of my maternal grandmother Lien Tie  who was afflicted with cataracts when she was 74 years old. By then she was very weakend by a slightly unhealthy heart although she did not suffer the usual modern sicknesses like diabetes or oesteoporosis.

Her sons, my uncles, were not in favour of having her cataracts removed and she too thought that two operations would not be good for her. In those days, most villagers were petrified even by the word OPERATION. And furthermore, she had to go to Kuching for the eye operation, which was still a very touch and go kind of surgery.

She , together with my third aunt or San Ging, started making a lot of dishes out of goji. Friends and relatives also started to bring her gifts of chickens and goji whenever they came to visit her, either at our home in Sibu or in the big house in Nang Chong. However all the gojis in the world could not help her because she became totally blind when she turned 80. Those were the saddest years of my life.

She was unconsoleable when she learned that my young brother Hsiung had passed away in 1981. She only knew about it in 1983 as we had kept the pre mature demise from her for two years. It was so sad to listen to her "Foochow wailing" (chiun kuoh) or the singing of funeral verses.Many people also said that she had cried so much that she became blind as she had lost her husband, her youngest son, three sons-in-law and a favourite daughter and then a grandson (my brother). In her wailing she mentioned all their names and memories of them.

On the lighter side of life today, as I look at goji, I also think of the wonderful recipes we have developed over the years.

One of my favourite soups in Chinese restaurants and at home is soup laced with wolfberries.


Steam fish with lots of wolf berries
Bitter Gourd with Wolfberries
The simple Kang Kong with wolfberries becoming a welcomed higher end vegetable in restuarants today.


Photo by LC Ling. Goji planted by her in her garden.



Thank you LC Ling for the photo of fresh goji. My grandmother would have loved seeing the real goji, which she had seen in China during her childhood.

Goji will help strengthen your vision.







July 19, 2014

MH 17 and Vodka

Some people in Malaysia have suggested that we boycott Russian products, put up a protest at the Russian Embassy, etc. after news of MH17 reached us on Thursday night (17th July) What can we do? After such a tragedy, we must do what we have to do, bury the dead, give them an honorable send off and then tackle the aftermath.

There will be lots to do by the bereaved and most unfortunately some houses in Holland, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, would be empty.

I pray that the spirits of the victims would look upon us the living with kind eyes and may they rest in peace.




I must say anything Russian, and also especially vodka, always remind me of Tolstoy. If he were alive today, he would not approve of all those missile firing anti peace soldiers.

Did the Russians make the first Vodka? No one really knows.
However the first production might have been in Poland in the 8th Century, or in the area of today's Russia in the 9th century according to different sources.

According to the Gin and Vodka Association, the first distillery was documented over three hudnred years laterat Khlynovsk (Vyatka Chronicle 1174)

sOME interesting Vodka quotes:

“This drink has a magical power. It strengthens the weak, and revives those who have fainted. Those tired after work and physical activity can return their life forces by this drink much sooner than by nourishment. … It works as a diuretic, an appetizer, an antitoxin.” – Carolus Linnaeus (18th-century physician documenting the effects of the drink)

“I would rather live in Russia on black bread and vodka than in the United States at the best hotels.” – Isadora Duncan

“I only drink to make other people seem more interesting.” – George Jean Nathan


“There are only two absolutes in life: friends and vodka. And the best times usually involve both” – Unknown

Having written all that, I must touch on Tolstoy, again, a pacifist and also a non alcoholic , who  had something to say about kindness.

"Nothing,' wrote Tolstoy, 'can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”  ― Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

mutton recipes   http://benodonoghue.com/recipes/meat/slow-roasted-mutton-with-vodka/

 pork recipes      http://www.yummly.com/recipes/pork-chops-with-vodka-sauce

steak      http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/vodka-marinated-steak-111

July 18, 2014

Sibu : Brush Orchid

This is quite a common wild orchid found in the suburban areas of Sibu,usually on older trees like rain tree along Aman Road.





The local Foochows call it "Sosook" or brush orchid. It has a beautiful colour - lilac.


seeds in the making...the flowers bloom for a few days..












July 17, 2014

Stories from Miri : Looking for KACIP FATIMAH?

For many years in Miri, women, young and old went around school compounds, public gardens looking for kacip fatimah.

I was really curious about it when I was still in the teaching service, how some of our school staff actually picked them and made some money.

However the interest has dwindled  now as more and more of the manufactured products have become more readily available. But I have not taken any of it yet.

According to wikipedia, Labisia pumila (kacip fatimah) is a flowering plant in the Primulaceae family native to Malaysia. It is a small woody and leafy plant that grows and can be found widely in the shade of forest floors. It is considered to be the female version of Tongkat Ali. The leaves are about 20 cm (7.9 in) long.

While the men in most parts of Malaysia are fond of taking Tongkat Ali, many women are interested in consuming kacip fatimah after child birth to regain strength. The tea is also used to enhance vitality, overcome tiredness and help tone vaginal walls after childbirth.
 A word of caution thought, as the plant contains phytoestrogens, it is not to be taken by pregnant woemn or during periods of menstruation.

Some references:
  1. Singh GD, Ganjoo M, Youssouf MS, Koul A, Sharma R, Singh S, Sangwan PL, Koul S, Ahamad DB, Johri RK. Sub-acute toxicity evaluation of an aqueous extract of Labisia pumila, a Malaysian herb. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2009 Oct;47(10):2661-5. PMID 19654032
  2. Karimi E, Jaafar HZ, Ahmad S. Phytochemical analysis and antimicrobial activities of methanolic extracts of leaf, stem and root from different varieties of Labisa pumila Benth. Molecules. 2011 May 27;16(6):4438-50. PMID 21623314
  3. Ali Z, Khan IA. Alkyl phenols and saponins from the roots of Labisia pumila (Kacip Fatimah). Phytochemistry. 2011 Nov;72(16):2075-80. PMID 21784496

July 16, 2014

Sibu Tales : The Dragon Crosses the River

Also called Pineapple Grass, because it looks like a tiny pineapple with lovely small white lilac flowers at the top, this is a small plant which many people think of as a weed. But in fact it is a good herb.  Its lance shaped pale green leaves have a strong lemon scent. In Sibu it is grown in the garden , and seldom in pots. It originally comes from South America.

Most Chinese elders know it as a useful herb for treating nervousness A concoction can be easily prepared by boiling all the parts of the plant and adding some brown sugar to make a very tasty tea. A friend claimed that after drinking this tea for a few days she does not feel so tired from her daily hectic life.





the leaves taste nice in a cup of tea. However the Chinese use it to cure feet which are suffering from skin scaling and bad wounds.A Chinese sinseh also said that this herb is also helpful in easing diabetic problems. Wounds in the feet can clear up after taking this tea.

Caution : However do consult your Chinese sinseh if you are a diabetic and interested in using this herb.

July 15, 2014

Foochow Delights : Salted Radish Omelette

My mother was excellent in home economics. After my father passed away untimely at the age of 56, she had to learn to make ends meet and make sure that we had enough.

Eggs were delivered by Mr. Cheng Kuok Kwong's two sons, they were at a special rate for us, Mr. Cheng being my late father's best friend. Mr. Chong raised hens for his egg business in Queensway. We were given an extremely low price at 15 cents for two. It was almost like buy one free one. As we did not own a car then, the Cheng brothers would deliver the eggs to us on their bicycles.

As far as my memories can bring me, we had eggs very often. One of the best protein dish mum would prepare was the evening omelette made with salted radish.








Soup was kangkong or cangkok manis, or even the white gourd. We ate rice with these two dishes. Mum would enjoy her bits of salted fish and quietly we all knew that it was hard for her . She hardly had any appetite. But she had to go on and raise all 7 of us, aged 11 months to 16 years of age.

Each month mum would receive a loving letter from Aunt Lily, dad's sister in Singapore. Enclosed in the letter was a 50 dollar note. That monthly gift kept my mother going until I earned my first salary, as a graduate teacher. My aunt never failed my mother. She was like a beacon in our family.

And my mother truly tried her best. Whenever I cook her dishes, I would remember her and my aunt especially and all those who gave encouragement to us. Live! Carry on!!

July 14, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : The Death of My Maternal Grandfather

translated from Uncle Lau Pang Hung's Article published in "Kapitan Lau Kah Tii's Memorial Book"
 


"My late uncle Lau Kah Chui was born in 1882,on the 8th day of the Sixth Month of the Lunar Calendar. He passed away in 1944, 23rd day of the Fifth Month, at 8 a.m. He was only 63.

I can specifically remember a lot about him because he was such a loving uncle.

When I got to know him as an uncle he was already 50_. He kept an unshaven chin and as a kid with the others we were most scared of his rough chin. He would tease us by rubbing his chin on our faces. We used to hide from him when he approached us.

He loved his water pipe. Using a rolled up piece of paper he would light his pipe. We loved listening to the  bubbling sounds of the water in his pipe, forgetting our fear of his beard!!

My "young" uncle was a man with a good heart and very mild nature. He loved all of us, his nephews especially from his older brother. I remember lazing around in the hot afternoons, using his lap as my pillow. And when he carried us around playfully we would begged him now to tickle us with his beard.

There were about 10 of us children, of about the same age in the big home, and we enjoyed listening to him singing Foochow folk songs. As a adult who had almost no education at all, he had a very good memory for folk lore and moral stories. Here is a folk poem I learned from ...we recited this every time he was with us and that was how we learn to memorize all the words

 (This is my Foochow Pinyin)

Hui nang nging
kWONG nang nang
pah tieh peng
pek loh pan
loh peng ah oo lung kung
au muong kuoh tii chong
chong mo wui

kuo jik buoh,
buoh mui wong
sien tii lan lak beh dui wong
Dui Wong hui tung sieh
bien kii siek
kii siek meh kii ong
bien hu liong
hoo lion meh nieng ging'
bien tiek ding
tiek ding meh ding char
bien yah mah
yeh mah meh siek chou
bien tongtou
tong tou meh tang soon
bien liong soon
lion soon eh ar moh being tie su
tie su meh jok erh
bien chow eh
chow eh meh gak tang
bien sing nang
sing nang meh gah chu
bien tu duh
tu duh meh giek wan
bien mi guong
mi guong meh liong me
bien la li
la li meh tuk too
bien wong ngu.
wong ngo meh song gek
bien gie gek
....(to be continued)

IN 1934 my uncle decided to build his separate house in Ah Nang Chong because his 200 acres of rubber land was helping him gain quite a fortune. His large house was in fact by today's reckoning as large as five double storeyed terrace houses  on stilts.

We were very reluctant to see him move away from Ensurai. The Rajang was a big river then. It would take an adult one hour to pedal a boat to see him if the tide was not in his favour.

When he moved away he was still a very strong man, able to carry a bag of rice weighing 180 katis. He could haul the bag onto his shoulders without any one helping him!! What a strong man!!
 However not long after he was afflicted with small intestine problems. He was operated on and he lost a lot of his original strength. In fact he had to wear a brace made by the doctor to stablize his stomach area, especially when he walked. In fact the doctor also placed a metal ball, the size of a small fist in this brace to uphold his small intestine. This internal ailment of his weakened his entire body until his dying days.

My uncle loved to sip a bit of his wine or brandy every evening. He liked glutinous rice wine, Ngu Ga Pui, Xiao Xin Wine, Ax brand Brandy, Martell, XO, Mou Tai, Napoleon Brandy etc.

The most unfortunate happened towards the end of the the 1930's. Our Foochow settlers faced once again another misfortune - the falling prices of rubber, our cash crop. Life became very harsh for everyone. The padi fields were not giving forth enough food for my uncle's family and he was ill, too weak to do much. The Japanese occupied Sarawak and medical services were not available at all, especially in the rural areas. Besides, my aunt, his wife and their second son were stranded in China due to the war.

Towards the end of the Japanese Occupation, his illness worsened and he called my father to his bed side, "My Second Older brother, I have to go first in this world." Every relative who was by the bedside started crying.

We all believed that he was going to live longer. However after returning from his A Nang Chong house we felt a discomfort. The next day, early in the morning, we decided to pedal our small boat across the river again to see him. However half way across the river, we heard the fire crackers and my father realised that it was too late to see his younger brother for the last time.

The solemnity of the firecrackers thus announced the end of the life of a remarkable but humble younger brother of the Foochow Headman."

Translated by Chang Yi.
Originally written in Chinese by Uncle Lau Pang Hung,1990.



Sarawakian Local Delights : Tapioca (Ubi Kayu)

Ubi kayu or tapioca used to be one of the cheapest snacks Sarawakians could have. Tapioca is easily grown wherever farmers grow their p...