October 12, 2014

Sibu Tales : Soy Beans

It was often talked about amongst the older generations of the Sibu Foochows that the early Foochow pioneers faced so many tough and even unsurmountable challenges.

My grandfather's foray in the clearing of the jungles for example in Sibu included many heartbreaking stories. He was one of the fortunate Foochow men who was not beaten by poisonous snakes!! He struggled for many years and like many heroes of those days, many people came along to help him , like Rev. James Hoover, Rev Yao Siaw Khing in particular.  He lived up to age 84 and sired 20 children (from 3 consecutive wives).

In the early days of the Foochows in Sibu money was definitely scarce before rubber was produced and exported. And there was also two periods when the rubber price dipped. These two periods of Foochow history were dark days. The Foochow pioneers were not rich investors from Fujian but barefooted people from the Min River Valley, some of whom only brought 60 cents in their pockets, or may be just one changkul, from China.

Many did not make it rich and remained poor all their lives in Sibu. Some did manage to make a fortune. while others went to other parts of South East Asia to find newer opportunities. Many returned to China, poorer than before.


When my father was roughly 5 or 6 years old he was often went to see his maternal (Chong) grandfather with a little cloth bag , together with his younger brother. One would bring back a little bag of yellow beans or soy beans and the other a bag of rice , and my grandfather would promise that he would pay his father in law back!! This little amount of food would tie them over for a week or so, until Grandpa obtained enough jungle produce, or fruits for sale. With this kind of rough beginning, my grandfather was determined to do well in life.

Photo from http://ieatfood.net/2010/06/
Great Grandfather Chong had a little more money than others because he had a son JB Chong who was a teacher and Mrs.JB Chong was also an English teacher in the town.  They had also brought some wealth from Java.  My own grand dad was a struggling rubber planter and a mechanic with a fast growing family. He and my Grandmother Chong had 9 children before she was 38 years of age.

My father was a bright boy and the Hoovers loved him. His Aunt, Mrs. JB Chong also made sure that he did well in English. He was a good learner and was extremely quiet as a child according to my Chong uncle, Chung Sing. By the time my father was able to go to secondary school, my grandfather had already made some money.

Dad was to graduate from Yen Ching University, Beijing in 1937 but he would never forget his childhood days when he had to protect his sickly and overworked Java born mum and help her with household chores . Perhaps because of this background, when he married my mum he was always very helpful in the kitchen. He bought all the vegetables and meat for the family and he would not make us eat yellow beans.

Only my maternal grandmother was "allowed to make the Si Yang" or Chinese Winter dumplings with soy bean and peanut coatings using the stone mill. I personally believe that my dad was always heart broken whenever he saw the yellow beans. He would always think of how difficult life was for his mother who passed away at age 38 when he was only 16  years of age which was before my grandfather made his fortune .

Like Professor Agongcillo,who cried each time he saw kangkong, my father would sigh whenever he saw yellow beans. After he went to school in China, he made sure that he did not eat yellow beans.

It was not easy for my father to forget those early difficult days of his life. And yellow beans represented those days.

(P/s later we children loved baked beans which actually were made from yellow beans!!)


Anonymous said...

I love baked beans very much if eggs and some salt are added to it. Really love it. Didnt know they are make from yellow bean. Do you know where they grow yellow bean?

Ensurai said...

Canada is one of the biggest growers of yellow beans in the world. China too.

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