January 3, 2015

Sibu Tales : The Rojak Man

When the Brooke Drive of Sibu was first constructed it was very dusty. But the resilient Chinese along the road were very good at cleaning their house every day.

One of the benefits of having a bigger road passing through their village so to speak was the arrival of cars, bicycles and motor cycles. The year 1963 saw the Brooke Drive area developing very fast. It was also the beginning of Communist insurgencies and many of the people were very much aware of what the various agencies were doing. For example we saw as kids how the Jik Kern Hui or the Cooperative Labour Association tried to gain favour and membership by moving around helping a lot of the poor people in Sibu. They banded together and work hard to show by example their leadership skills and their friendliness. They sang songs and distributed books.
They really behaved like the Red Guards of Mao. We were to realise this only many decades later. But in those days we thought that they were great youth leaders.

But the best benefit of the arrival of the Brooke Drive was the ease with which the Rojak Man could peddle his beautiful snacks. When his air horn sounded, kids would run to him with an empty bowl He would either arrive at 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. Each time would be almost meal time.

Thus buying a dish of rojak for 5o cents was adding special food to the family's menu for the day.

This special part of my childhood is held dearly by my siblings and I, for this is where we learned how to like chillies in our food.

Life after 1970's changed tremendously in Sibu. With the arrival of more cars and people having more purchasing power and affluence, the Rojak Man was phased out. Hawkers' Centre was set up and travelling hawkers could not find a good living.

Here is a simple method of preparing rojak yourself at home.

Serves: 8 

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 4 deep fried toufu
  • 1 stick of yiu tiaw or Chinese crullers
  • 1/2 medium pineapple, skinned
  • 1 large yam bean (sengkuang/jicama), peeled
  • 3 teaspoons black shrimp paste
  • 150g roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

  • For the sauce
  • 15 dried chillies, soaked and deseeded
  • 2.5 cm belacan, toasted
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) tamarind juice
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce


Anonymous said...

Do you remember the stall selling rojak at the front of Bukit Assek owned by Ah Hua? He also selled kompia with rojak sauce. Sometimes I wonder if he started using rojak sauce for kompia. Also another Sibu's institution is the kompia stall at Tion Hua Road. Wondering if they are still selling the stuff. Heard Ah Hua eventuallly relocated to the Hawker Centre above the SIbu Central Market. Maybe his business not as good now especially with kids having more choices now.

Anonymous said...

For the sauce, I think they dont use belacvan and tamarind for the Swak version. instead they use prawn paste and Nipah sugar (Apong).

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you and your family!!

Ensurai said...

Thank you for your comments. Now I am able to reply..Thanks to David Chin, my good friend.

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