September 29, 2014

Sibu Tales: Medicine

In the olden days, most people were happy with medicines over the counter from shops, which were not even pharmacies or Chinese drug stores.

We Foochows call them Bien Yeoh or Easy Medication.

A very common and easy to use medication is Cap Kaki Tiga or Sang Kah Biu.

In those days, many Foochows were illiterate and they would only be able to describe the logo or brand.

the Sang Ka Biu became a catch word amongst the Foochows.

I remember grandmas and aunts carrying packets of this medication with them every where.

This was used as a treatment for tooth ache, head aches, anxiety, stomach egg..and indeed it was a cure all. Some women who were overly exhausted claimed that three packets a day would relief them of backaches immediately.

The Foochows were frugal and time conscious. An easy cure like taking a packet of Sang Ka biu was much better, logically than seeing a private doctor which would incur time (for waiting), expense, time for travelling (boats were slow in those days) and a lot of opportunities lost (a day's good work was given up for a day in Sibu).

My own maternal grandmother would take it to relieve heatiness in her body. It makes me wonder if 100 plus also contains some of the ingredients of Cap Tiga Kaki...

So most families were never short of Sang Ka Biu packets in their medicine tin in their cupboard!!

(P/s in recent years the Ibans and other races got quite addicted to this medication. Some even think that this medication may have caused some life threatening diseases. The Penang Consumer Association has also wrote an article about consuming a large amount of this powder...)

September 26, 2014

Bukit Lan Methodist Clinic

This building was a clinic in the 1970's. A mobile clinic was manned by Miss Mona Pengelly for several years until she returned to the UK in 1972.
A church bell.
Another church building which has been renovated.
Nice recyling of tyre.

September 25, 2014

Chinese scallions...

the Chinese scallion (Allium chinese G.Don) is a vegetable that is not commonly grown. But it is now sold internationally by supermarket chains. It is also known a Jiao tou 藠头 / 藠頭 or Kui tao

Interestingly many avid gardeners can replant the bulbs and grow more scallions.
Rakkyo bulbs, Kiangsi scallions
Allium chinense bulbs and trimmed leaves. They are nice when used in meat ball making.

Chinese scallion, rakkyo
The cross section of Allium chinense leaves are angular as opposed to cylindrical in Western chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
the bulbs are often used to cover the smell of gamey meat like wild boar , deer or river turtles.

This scallion is grown in the Cameron Highlands in West Malaysia. The higher lands of Sabah and Sarawak should be good habitat for this crop. In fact many gardeners have successfully planted them in pots in their gardens. any left over bulbs from the market can planted in the pots full of loamy and fertile soil. 

Soon you will have your own Chinese scallions for your meals.

September 19, 2014

Sibu Tales : Kong Bian

Photo by Arthur Wee...Kompia or Guangbing
The Foochows in Malaysia and particularly in Sibu, are well known makers of a special dry doughnut

known as Kong Bian or Kwong Bing or Kompia.Qi Jiquan.jpg

the origin of this special snack is found in the history of the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty.

Photo by Sarawakiana - this is the way to eat kompia in a Fuzhou restaurant.
Photo taken in Fuzhou City : Fuzhou city style Kompia 

戚繼光 or Qi Jiguan (Nov 12 1528 - Jan 17 1588was a Chinese general of the Ming Dynasty. He led Ming forces against the WOKOU or Japanese sea bandits. Today there is a statue of him in Fuzhou city.

During the raids against the Wokou, he asked his soldiers to wear a string of Kong Bian around their neck so that when hungry they would just chew the bread which has a hole in the middle. This doughnut looking bread eventually helped the armed forces to win their battles against the Japanese pirates. He thus saved the coasts of Fujian and in fact the whole of China with his special tactics and strategies.

It could have been possible that if it had not been his heroic attempts, China might have come under the rule of Japan until today.

The army did not have to waste time to cook and eat their meals. They marched on and on and they were able to be quick to strike the skilful Japanese pirates.
Statue of Jiguang in Fuzhou

This hard "pancake" or doughnut is named after him using his last name Guang. guangbing (光餅, Foochow Romanized: guŏng-biāng, known as kompyang in Malaysia and Indonesia) or in Sarawak KOMPIA.

Anne Pang, the great grand daughter of Wong Nai Siong together with us..and our book, The Tastes and Flavours of the Foochows, launching in Sibu.

Note : The 2008 Chinese television series The Shaolin Warriors provided a fictional account of Qi Jiguang enlisting the help of Shaolin Monastery's warrior monks in defending China from the wokou and other invaders. Singaporean actor Christopher Lee played Qi Jiguang.

September 14, 2014

Kuih Lenggang

A green pancake is used to roll freshly grated coconut mixed with gula apong. It is a delicious Malay Kuih loved by young and old, by all races.

Today it is hygienically wrapped by another layer of plastic paper. These individually wrapped kuih are sold for 50 cents each. Very delightful as a snack and they are also popular as an item at hotel gatherings.

the green colouring comes from pounded pandan leaves which gives the lovely colour and special fragrance.

sometimes the gula apong is cooked with some cloves and cinnamon to give the filling an extra flavour.

I often wonder if we could sometimes give sambal filling, white coconut filling or even vegetable fillings to give guests more choices..

What other names have been given to this kuih?

September 13, 2014

Life in Miri : Ikan Sultan

Moving to Mir was never in my imagination. It was a fairly unexpected move.

A young Foochow woman would have just thought that after gaining a degree,found a suitable job, set up a family, she would live in her home town like her relatives. Migration was not in the minds of the young Foochows in the 70's.

However events and world views changed rapidly after the formation of Malaysia, world events like the changing of government of Great Britain, Berlin Wall, Vietnam War and Communist unrest in Malaysia.

People started moving away from Sibu.

Was Sibu such a difficult place to live in? Many young graduates especially engineers and doctors even migrated to Australia and New Zealand, apart from moving to Kuching, Miri, Bintulu, Limbang, Lawas and KK. Life was full of anxieties.

Life was definitely different from that of Sibu. But in many ways in spite of all the challenges, trials and tribulations, we learned a great deal from friends and relatives. And we also received so much blessings from God.

September 12, 2014

Salted Mustard Greens (Ensabi)

Ensabi is a small variety of the green mustard which is grown in Sarawak. It is slightly more bitter than the sawi we buy in town. Today there is a longer variety of the indigenous ensabi called, Ensabi Cina, or Chinese ensabi. Its leaves are very long and the stalks much bigger.

The famous wasabi sauce  comes from the horseradish rhizome, but it has an uncanny similar taste to ensabi.

Besides being eaten as a stir fried fresh vegetables, it is often salted to be kept for while, and taken out when food runs out on rainy days or when vegetables cannot be planted during a drought which happens more and more often now in Sarawak. It has not made its debut on any restaurant menu yet.

The preserved ensabi is special to many families because it is a very skilled craft. Many housewives even try to keep their procedure a well kept secret. A few competitions have also be conducted over the last 10 years to keep the skill alive.

However some housewives do find the salting of the vegetable  a delight and make freshly preserved ensabi quickly within a few days.

Preserved ensabi is used as a soup enhancer, cooked with pork bones. It is used as part of steamed fish ensemble. And stir fried with minced pork, or just anchovies, it is very nice. Eaten as part of a salad, the preserved ensabi is a very welcome dish.

You can always experiment with this vegetable.

Steps in making salted ensabi:
1) cleans and wash the ensabi.
2) Dry and wilt the vegetables over night.
3) When adequately wilted, rub coarse salt into the vegetables to extract the last juices.
4) Place the vegetables in a clean glass bottle over night.
5) Add some cold cooked rice and mix again. The rice will ferment and give the ensabi a very appetising sourish taste.
6) The salted vegetables should be ready in four or five days' time. However, the longer you keep it the better.

September 11, 2014


Let it be know that this is a facebook account using the name SARAWAKIANA and it has nothing to do with my blogs Sarawakiana and Sarawakiana@2.

Thank you.

September 10, 2014

Ling Check Shii /Lin Zexu

Lin Zexu 30 Aug 1785-22 Nov 1850 Photo Courtesy of Freddie Wong,
Urumqi, Red Hill Park.

Lin Zexu (Ling Chek Sii) was a Foochow (Chinese) scholar and official of the Qing Dynasty.

He was most famous for his stand against the opium trade in Guangzhou. He was highly regarded by both Chinese and foreign diplomats for his high moral standards and conduct in this fight against opium addiction.

The Qing Emperor Yongzheng had banned non medicinal consupmption of opium in 1729 but by 1830's British trade in opium had affected China's economy and society.

Many believed that Lin's stand was the catalyst for the First Opium War of 1839-42. As a result he was considered a "role model for moral governance, particularly by the Chinese."

He was born in Fuzhou and his home still stands impeccably preserved as a museum to honour his memory. He was a brilliant scholar, a JINSHI in 1811 and was appointed tothe Hanlin Academy. By 1837 he was governor general of Hunan and Hubei. ( Here he launched a suppression campaign against the trading of opium.

The foreign traders were interested in tea but the Chinese were not interested in their products. The Chinese only wanted silver for their tea. This trade imbalance caused a lot anguish to the foreigners and they hit upon the idea of narcotics, opium. Events were ugly by that time.

Lin was sent by the Empror to Guangdong in1838. "He arrested more than 1,700 Chinese opium dealers and confiscated over 70,000 pipes. It took Lin one and half months before the merchants gave up nearly1.2 million kg of opium..In June 1839, 500 workers took 23 days to destroy all the opium. Opium was mixed with liume and salt and thrown into the sea."

26th June is now the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in honour of Lin Zexu's work.

"In 1839, Lin also wrote an extraordinary memorial to Queen Victoria in the form of an open letter published in Canton, urging her to end the opium trade. The letter is filled with Confucian concepts of morality and spirituality. His primary line of argument is that China is providing Britain with valuable commodities such as tea, porcelain, spices and silk, while Britain sends only "poison" in return. He accuses the "barbarians" (a reference to the private merchants) of coveting profit and lacking morality. His memorial expressed a desire that the Queen would act "in accordance with decent feeling" and support his efforts."

He writes:
We find that your country is sixty or seventy thousand li from China. Yet there are barbarian ships that strive to come here for trade for the purpose of making a great profit. The wealth of China is used to profit the barbarians. That is to say, the great profit made by barbarians is all taken from the rightful share of China. By what right do they then in return use the poisonous drug to injure the Chinese people? Even though the barbarians may not necessarily intend to do us harm, yet in coveting profit to an extreme, they have no regard for injuring others. Let us ask, where is your conscience?
—Lin Zexu, Open letter addressed to the sovereign of England and published in Canton (1839)
The Royal Open Letter was prevented from reaching the Queen by shipping merchants, who attacked the Emperor`s forces before the Letter could have been acted on by Her Majesty. Belatedly, after the merchants had drawn Her Majesty`s forces into war, it was delivered and published in The Times.

Lin made significant preparation for war against the possible British invasion. The British sailed north to attack Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The governors of these two provinces failed to heed a warning from Lin, however, and were unprepared when the British easily landed and occupied Dinghai.
Because of this defeat, and also because of the intrinsic behaviour of Chinese imperial political structure of the Qing dynasty, Lin was popularized as a scapegoat for these losses. His position was then given to Qishan in September 1840. As punishment for his failures, Lin was exiled to the remote Ili region in Xinjiang.
The Qing government ultimately considered Lin to be an official of rare virtue, however, and in 1845 he was appointed as governor-general of Shaanxi-Gansu (Shaan-Gan). In 1847 he became governor-general of Yunnan-Guizhou (Yun-Gui). But these posts were less prestigious than his previous position in Canton, and his career did not fully recover from the failures there .[20]
While in Xinjiang, Lin was the first Chinese scholar to take note of several aspects of Muslim culture there. In 1850 he noted in a poem that the Muslims in Ili did not worship idols, but bowed and prayed to tombs decorated with poles that had the tails of cows and horses attached to them. This was the widespread shamanic practice of erecting a tugh, but this was its first recorded appearance in Chinese writings. He also recorded several Kazakh oral tales, such as one concerning a green goat spirit of the lake whose appearance is a harbinger of hail or rain.[21]

Fuzhou Memorial Hall of Lin Zexu

Lin died in 1850 while on his way to Guangzi, where the Qing government was sending him to help put down the Taiping Rebellion. His documents were given to Wei Yuan who published the Illustrated Treatise on the Maritim Kingdoms in 1943.

A wax statue of Lin also appeared in Madame Tussauds wax museum in London.

A statue of Lin stands in Chatham Square (Kimlau Square) in Chinatown, New York City, United States. The base of the statue is inscribed with "Don't do drugs" in English and Chinese. The statue faces what has been dubbed "Fuzhou Street" which means his back is turned to the Manhattan Detention Complex and the city's main police station.

If you do visit Fuzhou City, do spend half a day in the Museum or Memorial Hall which honours Lin Zexu.

September 8, 2014

Sibu Tales : Taiping Eggs in a Cup

Cooks can be very creative. We normally have taiping eggs whenver we Foochows go on a journey. My mum would always cook mee sua and chicken soup for me before I left for the new university year. And I would be given a hard boiled egg to go with the noodles and the chicken soup. The egg would be so special.

Yi Chang's photo.
This Taiping egg has a special symbolic meaning. Egg sounds like waves hence meaning troubles in our life. So my mother would make sure that I have the "power" to overcome the waves in my journey.

The Mid Autumn Festival this year is remarkable for me because my newly found 77 year old cousin Tiong Nguok Siong, who has been a wonderful cook in several restaurants (BEFORE she retired) decided to make this dish for her family and for me.

This is her 21st century twist to to the normal hard boiled egg.

She cracks an egg into a slightly oiled cup cake mould and then places a teaspoon of thinly sliced mushrooms, seasoned minced pork, a few slices of chillies and some chopped onions and some pepper in the egg white. Place the moulds in the steaming kuali and steam for 5 minutes. Make a Taiping Egg Cup Cake for each guest. Serve on a Chinese Spoon.

The steamed egg white is like jade!! What a special treat. Thanks Cousin Nguok Siong.


Sibu Tales : Headman Lau Kah Tii and Lau Sing Chiong

Headman Lau Kah Tii, after he cut of his pig tail. Photo taken around 1930

Lau Sing Chiong, father of Lau Tze Cheng

Translated adapted from "The Lau Kah Tii 127th Anniversary Memorial Anthology" Compiled by Lau Pang Hun  P 174-175

The Beginning:

To understand the history of the Lau Kah Tii clan of Sibu, one must go back to the life story of my maternal great grandfather Lau Kek Chung of Chieng San Yiong, Ming Chiang, Fujian.

Great GRandfather married a Miss Hii and had three sons, and a daughter : Kah Tung, Kah Tii and Kah Chui.

His eldest son, Kah Tung was born in 1869 on April 11th. Grand Uncle Kah Tii was born in 1878 in April 25th, while the youngest, my maternal grandfather Kah Chui was born in 1882. When my great grandmother passed away in 1881 at the young age of 40, my grand uncle Kah Tii was 3 years old, and my grandfather l year old!! Grand Uncle Kah Tung was 12 years old.

Thus my great grandfather became a single father of three sons and a daughter. He had only 4 points of land (to be verified later) to cultivate rice to raise his children. During the late Qing Dynasty this was considered just below poverty level.

He raised ducks and chickens, planted vegetables and was a subsistence farmer in the modern sense.  How did he manage to raise his family.

My only grand aunty was soon married off and  Grand Uncle Kah Tung married Miss Hii who passed away early and he later married a Miss Wong who gave birth to daughter, Nee Mui and then a son Sing Chiong.

Life must have been quite a struggle. It was the end of the Qing Dynasty and politically China was unstable, bandits were every where, murders were common, people were kidnapped, women were taken and sold and there were a lot of civil unrest.

But God's providence came in the person of Wong Nai Siong, a Methodist Evangelist ,who encouraged young and able Foochows to follow him to Sibu, Sarawak. Grand Uncle Lau Kah Tii decided that he and his younger brother, my grandfather, should take the opportunity to find a new life in Sarawak.

In 1901 the two Lau brothers left China, to form the Second Batch of Foochow pioneers to arrive in Sibu. Soon Grand Uncle Lau Kah Tii was able to send money back to China and life was better for the family.

My great grandfather Kek  Chung passed away in 1912 and in the following year Grand Uncle Kah Tung passed away because of jaundice, at a young age of 44. Uncle Sing Chiong was only 3years old at that time and Aunty Nee Mui was only 5 years old. Grand Uncle Kah Tii went to China to bury both his father and his eldest brother. It was a very sad occasion.

 The Education of Lau Sing Chiong

The whole family after the death of Grand Uncle Kah Tung, was supported by Grand Uncle Kah Tii, who sent money regularly from Sarawak.  Uncle Sing Chiong went to Chieng San Primary School in Ming Chiang, and a secondary school in San Du's King San School and then moved to Luk Du's Woon Chuong Secondary school to complete his education. In 1931 he became a teacher in his own primary school, Chieng San.
Marriage and Migration to Sarawak

When Uncle Sing Chiong reached the age of 18 he married the daughter of Mr. Wong Meu Jie. Her name was Wong Hung Kiew. In 1929, Lau Kung Hui was born and the following year Lau Kung Huong aka Lau Tze Cheng. A third son, Lau Kung Yew was born but unfortunately he succumbed to polio three years later.

In 1935 Grand Uncle Lau Kah Tii decided that Uncle Sing Chiong was not faring well in China as a teacher. So he was brought to Sibu and was made a rubber plantation supervisor, looking after 400 acres of rubber trees. On top of that Grand Uncle also gave him 15 acres of land on the river bank of Ensurai and 40 acres of land at the back of Ensurai so that he could have a fairly good income. What a wonderful gift!!

The family home in China continues to be maintained by a family member and Sarawak relatives visit the ancestral home from time to time.

He and his family members have always been thankful for this opportunity to migrate to Sarawak and to his uncle Lau Kah Tii for his generosity and love.

Note : In the Qing Dynasty, a family looked out for each other and made sure that the siblings and the siblings' children were all considered as one family. I remember my mother calling all her grand uncles in consecutive number. Thus my maternal grandfather may be the third son within the family, he was placed No.5 within the whole family after their grandfather, which means my great great grandfather. Now we are lost in the counting....

September 6, 2014

Sibu Tales : "Kesan"

The Malays have a belief that when a pregnant woman gets frightened by a man, or a scene, her new born will either look like the man or have a mark from the scene. This is known as "kesan".

An example of a real story here. Three Malay ladies were sitting on a bench in a garden. An English man came in and suddenly tried to frighten the ladies. They were so frightened that they screamed non stop. Why did the English men do that, no one knew. But months later, the three ladies all gave birth to albinoes, who had yellow hair but pink eyes.

The Foochows have a vague explanation that "a shadow may fall over a pregnant lady, and disturb the foetus, resulting in changes in appearance of the child. Hence during pregnancy a woman should not go out of the house at all to safe guard the health of the baby."

This is a sad story from Sibu.

A high ranking man brought his new wife to live in Sibu. She soon became pregnant and the couple was over the moon. One day the wife was frightened by an Indian man who purported jumped over the fence as she was drying her laundry. She was stunned for a while she said but then she did not tell her husband about the fright. The Indian man left as suddenly as he came.

A few months later when the child was born, both the husband and wife were stunned by the baby who hard dark skin like century egg.

The high ranking official asked the wife for a divorce and she sadly left Sibu with the baby. We never knew what happened after that to mother and baby. In those days there was no DNA. The baby should be as old as I am now.

I am sure the Indian man must have no knowledge of what he did had caused so much heart aches in Sibu.

September 5, 2014

Sibu Tales : Khiaw Hin Coffee Shop

In the earlier days, this shop was a furniture shop owned by the Ngie Sing Company which later expanded and bought a bigger shop lot in Lanang Road. Ngie Sing became the biggest furniture business in Sibu selling expensive furniture to the rich and famous and making fairly good local furniture.

The shop was then taken over by Kiaw Hin Cafe which remains to this day a nice little coffee shop serving teachers,parents, and students and tourists of course. The first floor is used by the Methodist Church for its Indigenous Evangelical Missions Office. The stair case must be more than 100 years old - solid red belian wood.

Image may contain: house and outdoor

The coffee shop, like all others in Sibu, has a coffee/drinks section, a Fry Food Section, an Economy Fast Food counter, and a Noddle counter. On the five foot way, the proprietor sells Baos and other steamed items. Pulut Panggang and Zhangs (zhongzi) are sold from a small table.

this is a peculiar kind of coffee shop or kopitiam found in Malaysia.

However even more peculiar is the fact that there are two tables filled by Iban mothers who arrive early in the morning and they would sit and chat, while doing their knitting or cross stitch. When their kindergarten children are out they would go home in their vehicles to as far away as Durin or Ulu Bintangor.

Times are changing and lives are getting more interesting every where.

September 4, 2014

Sibu Tales : First Drowning

This is one of the many stories I can write about my famous cousin Lau Tze Cheng. May his soul rest in peace.

When my late uncle Lau Sing Chiong came to Sibu to help with my grand uncle's business in 1935, he left his wife and young son in Fujian. He would send for them when his matters were more settled, of if he changed his mind, he would return to Fujian. He had married Tze Cheng's mother in 1928 when he was 18 years old. In 1929, his first son Kung Hui was born. In 1931 Kung Huong, or Tze Cheng was born. In 1933, his third son, Kung Hui was born. Unfortunately Kung Hui passed away when he was three years old because of Polio.

Events went smoothly for my uncle and he soon sent for his young family, wife Madam Wong(she had bound feet ) and his young son, Lau Tze Cheng to come to Sibu in 1937 in April. She left her older son Kung Hui in China.

Life could not be more wonderful in Ensurai. Food was plentiful, rubber price was good and children even had schools to go to. He was the supervisor of 400 acres of rubber plantation owned by the Second Uncle, Lau Kah Tii.

But alas, one week after their arrival, a tragedy happened.

Photo of my Uncle Lau Sing Chiong with his sons, and relatives at the cemetery of the parents of his first wife, and  grandparents of Lau Tze Cheng. 1986 Fujian, China.(Photo courtesy of Timothy Lau Kung Ong)

My aunt, Tze Cheng's mother, tripped as she climbed out of the motor launch and fell into the river . It happened so suddenly that no one could help in the situation as the water was furious and the boat engine was still running. That was how she was drowned, the first Foochow drowning case in Sibu. It was a very sad year for the family.

My aunt also"  brought out" her younger brother, Wong Seng Tieng, who later worked in the famous Foochow restaurant, Hock Chu Leu. He stayed with my uncle until he remarried. However, my uncle's new wife, Madam Ung, Tim Lau's mother, "recognised" Seng Tieng as her "brother". She would bring her young children, including Tze Cheng, to "see Uncle Seng Tieng" at the restaurant. That is the Foochow way.

My late uncle Lau Sing Chiong continued to manage the sundry shop at Ensurai until the 1970's, By then Lau Tze Cheng was already a famous writer, his other sons are prospering in different professional fields. 

In 1986 my late uncle Lau Sing Chiong brought his wife and family to visit the grave of his parents-in-law in Fuzhou, Fujian, thus fulfilling one of the most important duties of a Foochow. Before 1986, Malaysian laws restricted Malaysian Chinese below the age of 55 to visit China. This restriction was lifted only recently.

Today Seng Tieng's descendants are prospering because they adhere to God's Commandments and so are Sing Chiong's descendants.

May God bless the souls of all my departed relatives.

September 3, 2014

Sibu Tales : Making Siew Muai and telling stories

Mid Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival. What would most mothers prepare for this festival?

Moon cakes are usually bought in the shops.Very few mothers know how to make moon cakes, although many have attended courses on moon cake making.

  A Chinese Festival usually has some special delicacies like Shiau Mai(Mandarin), or Sio Bee(Hokkien) or Siu Muai(Foochow), fried noodles, mee sua, chicken soup, steamed fish, meat balls, spring rolls, bah kui, etc.

Most Chinese women can make Siew muai from scratch.

There is a story about its origin. In China two sisters were married off. One married a rich man and one married a poor man. One day it was time for the girls' father to celebrate his 7oth birthday. The poor girl thought of how great gifts her wealthy sister would bring to her father. And she felt very sad about the situation. What could she bring?  However upon thinking for a long time, she realised that some of the best things in the world could be wrapped up nicely and be presented as a kind of flower.

So she decided to put the best food together, like minced meat, a bit of minced prawns and fish, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. She created a wrapper to bundle the precious food in a lovely parcel. That was the birth of the Shiau Mai which every Chinese knows.

When her father received a platter of shiau mai from his lovely younger daughter, who also presented him with a poem to commemorate his birthday, he realised how smart his daughter was. The culinary innovation has now spread all over the world as a precious legacy of China: a lovely gift of the best food in the world wrapped in a small parcel, like a precious jewel.

The lovely parcels are usually the first dim sum food served in any dim sum outlet.

Finely grated carrot or fish roe can be used to colour the top of the Shiau Mai to bring gold to the diner.

The finely fashioned Shiau Mai is a delight to behold. Each mouthful reminds the diner of all the precious elements in our lives.

We are thankful we have such a wonderful legacy from a smart woman.

A good way of celebrating the MAF is to have a table outside in the garden lighted by lovely and romantic lanterns. Delicacies like Siew Muai, and other finger food can be placed on the table. Moon cakes of course will be the dessert. And it would be story time after all the good food.

I will always remember how my Uncle Pang Sing and my Grandma Lien Tie swap stories, sitting on the Lan Doh, with the cool breeze blowing at our faces. We would not know whether it was the moonlight which was brighter or the pressure lamp.

Good Chinese tea can be free flow...and as the evening unfolds, light music can be played as every one looks up to the sky and enjoy the moon shining just for this special  night.

Peace be to the world.

Happy Mid Autumn Festival.

(Ref :
1. Yong Gien Huong (See Hua Daily News)
2.Foochow Folk Lore Expert is Huong Ping Kui of Fuzhou City)

September 2, 2014

Sibu Tales : Hot Water Flask or Thermos Flask

There are lots of stories involving the Thermos Flask made in China. They are also known as Hot Water Flask, a literal translation from the Chinese.

When we were young, before the days of electricity and gas, wood was chopped to make a fire in our Chinese stove. It was used to cook three meals a day. Besides cooking meals, the fire would be used to boil enough.water for the use the whole day through.

My maternal grandmother would have a flask in the kitchen, and bottles of boiled water for every one to drink. She had her own flask of hot water to be taken upstairs for her to drink in case she need a glass of warm water at night. Mothers would also have a flask of hot water to make milk in the night for their children.

My mother would boil two kettles of water in the morning, besides cooking the rice in her pot. The hot water would fill up two flasks for the day use. The next day, any left over water would be poured into bottles . This cooled water would be our drinkig water. This kind of daily home practice was really environmentally friendly. Very sustainable economic practice too. It was a kind of waste not and want not kind of lifestyle whereby housewives made sure that they did not even waste their firewood or fuel!!

I would always remember the happy sounds the hot water make when pouring out of the kettle into the thermos flask. It is always associated with the carefulness my mother had when she carried out the duty early in the morning. It was like the day was starting well and everything was right.

Flasks bought in Sibu found in the house of a Kelabit chieftain in Bario...with White Penang Noodles too...

It was a mark of filial piety for the daughter in law to prepare hot water to fill up the thermos flasks and send them upstairs to the mother-in-law's room.

My great grandmother had her own flask to make her Horlicks and Ovaltine in her own room. We the great grandchildren would get a treat whenever we visited and she did not have to call out to any one to make the drinks. We felt like VIPs!!

Foochow Brides, the past, before the time of attached bathroom and piped water, were given these flasks as part of their dowry. In the first morning, she would pour out warm water for her husband , a cup, for him to brush his teeth, and a basin of warm water for him to wash his face.  You can still see such scenes in Chinese movies.

From Penang...Double Happinese Flasks for weddings. What a lovely collection.

At the Lau King Howe Hospital Sibu, I saw a lot of these flasks. You would know immediately the ethnicity of the patients by looking at the flasks they had by their bedside. Orderlies of the hospital would come from time to time to fill up the flasks with hot water. It was such an essential duty. I found it a very caring duty carried out by the orderlies. I would always remember the "water cart" of those days. Today, hot water is available in the kitchenette of some hospitals. A very much self service thingy.

Elders were often seen carrying a basket in which you find a tingkap (cheng Ark) and a flask. They would be relatives who were visiting someone in the hospital. Today it is a rare sight.

Although the flask is a iconic and convenient item in the past, it is still in use and lots of memories are associated with it.

September 1, 2014

Coarse Rice Vermicelli or Hoong Ngang

During the ancient times, in Ming Chiang's 5th District, there lived a rich landlord with his large family. Their wealthy life style often led to their servants throwing  away uneaten rice into the stream which flowed past their house.

This village was called Char Kow because the underground water there was very sweet.

A poor man who lived further down the stream picked up the rice floating in the stream and recycled them.

Miri's Hung Yung's Char Hoong Ngang, Mosjaya.

He sun dried the softened rice and kept it in a jar. Every now and the he would take out the rice cakes and cut them into fine strips for re-cooking.
Photo from Criz Bon Appetite..Enjoy!!

One day a relative who was a cook came to visit this poor man. The poor man had nothing to offer except the rice cakes to serve his guest. The guest thought that the rice cake was very tasty and the poor man was delighted. Comments from a cook like his relative, a cook in a rich man's home,was really good.

The cook went back to the rich man's house and tried his best to develop the recipe from purposefully milled rice flour. Thus he inadvertently discovered the famous Foochow Hoong Ngnag.

And it is the pride of the Foochows today when we read the accounts of how Admiral Cheng Ho(He started all his maritime journeys from Ma Wui, a part of Fuzhou) brought Char Kow Hoong Ngang to
to entertained his new overseas friends. Perhaps that was also how the Malays learned to cook Asam Laksa  and Mee Hoon Pedas. Well we never know the influence of Admiral Cheng Ho unless some one starts doing this culinary research...I am just making a good guess.

Today wherever you find Foochows, you will find Foochow Hoong Ngang . There are several dishes you can enjoy made from Hoong Ngang:
1. Chow Chai Hoong Ngang (Sour Sweet Preserved Vegetables and Fish Hoong Ngang)
2. Hoong Ngang Long  (Red Wine and Egg Hoong Ngang)
3. Fish Hoong Ngang
4. Char Hoong Ngang
5. Poor Man's Hoong Ngang which is Hoong Ngang with soup made from black fungi, dried squid, golden needles with a bit of minced pork. This was a favourite Tuck Shop Hoong Ngang made by Jacob Wong's family of the Methodist Secondary School.
6. Foochow Curry Hoong Ngang.
7. Crab Curry Hoong Ngang

You will never regret preparing hoong ngang for your guests.....

(Reference :" TASTES AND FLAVOURS OF THE FOOCHOWS"    World Fuzhou Heritage Gallery Publication. 2010 . Available in Sibu especially Methodist Message Office.

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