April 12, 2015

Sungei Merah Tales : Bamboo Shoots

During the Japanese Occupation 1941-1944 (3 years and 8 months) the Rajang Basin was short of food. But meedin, bamboo shoots, fish, paku, and other fruits were available depending on seasonal availabity.

Because of the fear of marauding Japanese soldiers many Chinese did not tend their gardens and even rice was not properly cultivated.

Sungei Merah was one of the focus points of the Japanese as they wanted to built the airport and complete construction of Queensway. Many Chinese were conscripted for the work of digging, flattening, and carrying of soils. Since the able bodied men were taken to do the hard labour, women were afraid to go far in search of natural food.

However the bamboo groves which grew near their homes were able to provide some food, but bamboo shoots were not all year round food.

Bamboo shoots appeared in June, July and August.

Vegetarians valued bamboo shoots the most. Being a cooling vegetable, it was not really offered to the elders with athritis.

the Chinese in those days also did not pickle their bamboo shoots like the Ibans or the Malays so a glut would mean the bamboo shoots were wasted.

I still remember a grand aunt who was given some Kasam Tubu or pickled bamboo shoots by passing Ibans during the Japanese occupation. And she said, "I felt that I was eating rotting bamboo shoot. After that time, I just ate salt, and potatoes..forget about bamboo shoots most of the year!!" She never learned to pickle bamboo shoots she said.

But after the war, she and her family thrived in tapping or rubber and she never had to eat "rotten bamboo shoots" anymore.

She would make baos with bamboo shoots from tins and she would laugh with us.

It was a matter of cultural shock for her.

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