May 29, 2016

Crab Mee Hoon

This is one dish which tantalizes foreigners as well as local people.

Its origin is Fujian, China.

It calls for quite a good skill in cooking to get this platter on to the table...It is not only a feast for the eye, but a remarkable feast for the palate.

Photo by Sarawakiana. Restaurant in Sekinchian. Dedicated to Ari Leong and Mrs. Loo.

May 23, 2016

Sibu Tales : Restaurant Food

In the 50's and 60's there were very few restaurants in Sibu. I can name a few here : Lok Huen, Lok Tieng Yong, Hock Chu Leu, Yieng Ging, and Sing Chung Leu where wedding banquets were mainly held.

When wedding invitations went out, the names on the invitation card would mean how many should come for the banquet. But there was on Foochow practice which is not found else where was this special invitation written on the card, "Uncle Tiong and the WHOLE Family".
 張 xxx叔 叔 合 家

This also meant that the host would be prepared for the number of seats reserved for the family. How wonderful to children who seldom had banquet food at home.Image may contain: food

I personally remember how my grand aunt , a widow, would ask my mother if she could bring one of us to a banquet that she was invited ..She was a shy person and a very affectionate person in her quiet ways.A widow but a very reputable teacher and social worker, she would be invited together with her family. In those days, her grand nieces were her family. I thought it was so lovely of her to include us. Her own daughter, my aunt, was too shy to go. So there I was aged 10 or 11 following her and enjoying my sea cucumber and mushrooms and developed fine tastes and good taste buds.

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And at the end of the dinner, the host and hostess would be so kind as to give a packet of chicken or duck for me and for my grand aunt to take home. Most people would be given some share of the "remainder" if they wanted to take home.

What a double bonus. Some people would be too shy to receive such gifts.

May 22, 2016

An Old Photo of Sibu

My grand uncles, maternal grandfather and relatives. The primary school set up by my Grand Uncle, Su Lai Primary School. Now resited in Sibu. 

This could be one of the earliest Su Lai Primary School photos.

The school MOTTO.要立志做大事,不要立志做大官」

May 20, 2016

Disappearing Sibu : The Cooperatives

The Sarawak British Colonial Government encouraged the setting up of cooperatives in Sarawak in order to bring about greater economic development. It even recruited a specialist in the name of Peter Goullart who spoke excellent Cantonese and may be even Mandarin to come and help out. He actually arrived in Sarawak in 1952 (Ref: the River of White Lily).

In no time cooperatives were started amongst the Chinese in Sarikei , Bintangor (Tulai), and the Sibu areas.

While the cooperative of Paradom had long been closed down by the Sarawak Government  (Malaysian), its store banner remains and is a good memorial to an era which had disappeared in the sands of time.

Foochow in their 50's and 60's and especially 70's still remember the cooperative. Especially those who lived in this area before. Most have moved to Sibu and elsewhere and even overseas due to political, social and economic reasons.

May 19, 2016

Sibu Tales : Ship Building

May 19th 2014 by Wong Meng Lei.
The Sibu Foochows are famous for their shipbuilding skills. And this is indeed a Foochow legacy for after all the Foochows of Fujian have been famous for ship building for centuries.

Made in Sibu Express Boat Photo by Wong Meng Lei
Even Admiral Cheng Ho had his ships built by Foochows in Mawei and he set sail form their for all his seven voyages.

Today Sibu produces a special kind of boats , sea worthy too called express boats. They are found in Solomon islands, Sumatra and even Saudi ARabia.

We are really proud of our ship building industry...

May 18, 2016

Sibu Tales : Squid and Kang Kong

Squid is a special delicacy for the Fujian people. And for the Foochow of Sibu, it is an extremely valued food. It can be rehydrated from its dried form to make a wonderful jelly like squid, ready for cooking. In Chinese, squid is yiu ngee.(鱿) Most Chinese like their festivals with lots of fish dishes..because fish mean "have" or "abundance" hence prosperity.

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Although Rojak, and Yew Ngee and Kangkong are street foods in Malaysia. many Foochows have learned to prepare and eat Yew Ngee and Kangkong (In Hokkien it is jiu hu engchai).

Foochow farmers in the past grew lots of kangkong in their riverine villages along the banks of the Rajang. And for a quick meal, they could just blanch the kangkong from the farms and eat the green vegetables with a dollop of lard , some ikan bilis and hot rice.

Blanched kang kong when added to rehydrated and blanched yew ngee and slapped with a home made rajoak sauce becomes a wonderful salad.

Sometimes when the rojak sauce is not available Foochow homes would just mix the two ingredients with some chillies sauce and soy sauce. This home made dish brings back a lot of memories of our old Foochow ways of the villagers in the Sibu areas.

May 16, 2016

Miri Tales : Death of a Casuarina Tree

God’s Timing
For months we were troubled by this dying casuarina tree on our neighbour's land. Because it was beside our access road we were worried that it might just snap in a wind storm and fall right across our road making accessibility impossible because it was no small tree. The tree had been killed by an "unknown". Some one had trimmed off its bark at the base.

The tree had slowly died right in front of our eyes over the months and our absentee neighbour never appeared to consider the fate of this tree.
We had also tried to get a tree trimmer to cut down the tree but no one had been interested during the busy days before the election. They replied us by saying, "Wait till the tree falls."
And a of course a City Council, FREE service tree trimmer would not come because our road is still NOT gazetted
One day God answered our prayers and sent some of our former students who needed the firewood for their church fund raising charity BBQ. Three hours later, with three chain saws and our two former students harvested a whole truck load of fire wood!!

Photo shows : How a  tree became a whole truck of fire wood.

God has the right timing even for this poor casuarina tree.
 And it was also a very special blessing because our former students had actually come on Teachers’ Day to cut down the tree. What a wonderful Teachers’ Day Present  to us.too.
My cup runneth over. Thank you Lord.

May 13, 2016

Old Sibu Airport

To be able to fly in Sibu in the olden days was a luxury, something the rural people could not imagine.

Now Air Asia has the very apt slogan, "Now every one can fly"

Thinking back, there were so many good and bad memories associated with the Old Sibu Airport, which people in those days would say, "Beyond the Cemetery, beyond Sg. Merah" and that would mean somewhere very far far away.

For my siblings and I a drive in the evening with father was a great outing, in his company jeep, to Sg.Merah, to see Grandpa and then towards Airport for "makan angin". That would put the dates to before 1963.

The old Sibu Airport meant Ah Bee, whom my father would speak to for many minutes while we kids would see if there were planes "going to stay over night in Sibu". Usually there might be one.

Then there would be lots of taxi drivers and their taxis, sometimes their families coming to the airport. so the Airport in today's language, was a "happening place".

And another good memory of the old airport was the large field or RUNWAY which we could run and run and run. Who today could even think about running on a Run Way at the airport?  Today the tight security would not allow anyone to run on the runway.

One of my aunts, who was well trained by Yuk Ing Girls' school, and Mrs. Hoover was well dressed and very proper. She was always so well turned out. One day, on my first flight to Kuala Lumpur she gave me a very good advice, "Always dress well to avoid bad treatment from the air stewardesses." That was good advice in those days. For today people can be very casual, wearing Japanese slippers and even simple t-shirts and dirty shorts.

Times have changed but we treasure good advice, good memories, kindness and happy thoughts.

(I have already written about the old airport on other matters - )

May 11, 2016

Sibu Tales : Cracked Eggs

Photo from Google...

IN Sibu A LONG long time ago, many poor families would go up to the grocery stores to buy eggs with cracked shells. They would be sold at 10 cents each and often, the families would be 5 or 10 at a time.

However the biscuit shops would also compete against them.  I remember one Long Gor shop would buy at least 200 eggs per week to make their cakes or long gor. After a lot of rumours went around they stopped practising it.. But then we would never know what kinds of eggs they use.

May 9, 2016

Sibu Tales : Butter Milk Crabs

The people of Fujian,China, are blessed by the tremendous food resources of the coastal and deep seas off the Fujian coast. Since ancient days the Fujian province has been famous for its seafood. Today Fujian seafood dishes are world famous.

The food of the Foochows, even at humble farm tables , would often see Hoong Ngan with oysters, Seafood Tofu soup, and other seafood dishes. There is also a famous new year dish called Steamed crabs with Long Chinese Cabbage, a most memorable dish.

Over the years culinary arts have expanded and become most adventurous. Sibu Foochow chefs have started to experiment with lots of ingredients and have come up with many different recipes. In most Sibu eateries, you can order butter milk crabs when crabs are available,besides black pepper crabs, Mongolian style crabs, Salt Baked Crabs, Nestum Crabs, Chilli Crabs, Curried Crabs, Salted Black Beans Crabs,etc The list can be very long in fact.

Butter and Milk have come from British lands and when used in Malaysia, this butter and milk crab stir fry in a Foochow Seafood restaurant, is one of the wonderful fusion results. An American friend had once exclaimed that the Foochow Butter Milk Crab reminded her of her American Seafood Chowder which is prepared with butter and milk. And she was definitely delighted by the Sibu crab dish.

May 8, 2016

Disappearing Sibu : The Plank Walk

I wonder how many people would remember running on two piece plank walk?

My walk down memory lane, and this is quite near my maternal grandmother's house which had been washed away by the waves of the express boats in the late 80's..

May 7, 2016

Sibu Tales : School and Football Fields

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Very few schools have football fields today.

The Methodist Secondary SChool is one of the few having a good football field since 1949. And that is due to the Board of Directors and advisors who were far sighted and true servants of God.

May 6, 2016

Sibu Tales : Blue Splendour Restaurant

One of my loveliest memories of sibu is the Blue Splendour Restaurant.

If some one invited you to dine there, it was truly a great honour and a pleasant interaction. The owners were kind, the Foochow way. The waiters and waitresses were ever humble and pleasant.

Above all the food was good.

Each lunch or dinner was a memorable occasion.

What was nice was the fact that the restaurant was not a noisy place and often when Methodist pastors said grace for the meal, every one could hear. And it was no embarrassment at all if the group desired to sing the Doxology.

One of the partners came from a very Christian family.

The restaurant can be said to be a very friendly and family oriented. My clan and the Lau Clan would always choose it as our venue for any family occasion.

Memories of Blue Splendour linger on. There will never be another one like you!!

May 5, 2016

Sibu Tales : Father's Love

This is a story of a couple who had only one son and an adopted daughter.

The adopted daughter was never educated to a high level and she was given only six years of primary school. And to complete those six years she often skipped classes to help her mother sew clothes and cook workers' food and serve them at mid day. When she was sixteen, her parents "sold her" for 10,000 to a construction worker who liked her.

However she was never ungrateful.

When her father was elderly he suffered a stroke and she nursed him back to health without a single payment. She had to leave her own children to move back to Sibu. She did with all her heart. She prayed hard and attended fellowship with Christians to the annoyance of her only sister in law. Very often the dinner table was cleared when she came back from her fellowship.

Soon her father got well and she returned to her own children in another town.

Painting by Edgar Hunt (1878 - 1955) Farm animals
Ten years later her father, then almost 90 visited her very happily and all her children and grandchildren loved him and gathered around him every day for good meals and happy hours. He told them that he had reared a huge brood of chickens and ducks for them if they should visit him in the future.

He blessed them and told them that his bank's account was for them as that was the only thing he had in his name, and the ducks and chickens in the backyard were his only possessions.

His house was in his son's and daughter-in-law's names.

Unfortunately when he returned home, he had a fall and died almost immediately. All his grandchildren and only his daughter was by his bedside when he passed away in the big hospital. His son was no where to be seen.

As certain as the sun rises in the east, the grandchildren buried the old man with his son and daughter in law and other grandchildren who messaged,"We are busy and just carry on..."

The daughter never received her father's savings in the bank because while her father was dying, her brother and sister-in-law were busy transferring the bank account into their names.

It was only 10,000 ringgit the equivalent of the "bride price" he received from her marriage.

And as for the brood of chickens? The sister in law sold every single bird to a buyer.

She absolved all her sister-in-law's misdeeds by saying that it was out of her love for her adopted parents when she did her filial duties.

But God has his purposes, the filial adopted daughter prospered and her children are very successful in their own right. Her grand children today are residing in Malaysia and overseas as they continue to be faithful to God.

May 3, 2016

Sibu Tales : Bang Ngii Chiang

When we were \young our uncles would always use their jala to get these small fish in the evenings when they returned from work.

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A dish of enseluai . Photo by Sang Jang.

This fish is called Bang Ngii Chiang. Later I learned from the Ibans the fish is called ikan ensuluai.

It is a very tasty and sweet fish. Coated in batter they fry well and become very crispy ..But just deep fried in lots of oil, they become light and crispy, the heads and bones can all be eating.

Aunts and uncles used to joke with us girls that we must always marry a "big fish" and never a bang ngii chiang. Nevertheless not many of us had the fortune of marrying big fish. But we survive by working extremely hard as civil servants, teachers and nurses. Only a few of us became towkay neo.

May 2, 2016

Sibu Tales : Matches

My father was a smoker and so were all his friends. How they started smoking no one would know. But they smoked Lucky Strike, John Players and Three Fives. Those were the brands I remember but my father smoked only Lucky Stirke. We had a lot of souvenirs from Lucky Strike.

Ash trays were all over the place and my mother dutifully emptied them every evening.

As children we did not mind the smoke at all and any way my father, like all his friends smoked as little as they could. But I never remember my father smoking ONLY after meals. I would see him smoking when he went for a small walk outside in the garden. He would be wearing his white Pagoda T-shirt and his cotton sarong. Somehow my father loved wearing his sarong. Perhaps that was because he remembered his own mother and maternal grandparents who were from Java. But great great grandfather was from Fuqing and we can never trace that. We had a very close grand aunt whom we affectionately called Aunty Jawa and she wore sarong kebaya all her life.

Many uncles who went travelling would bring back some small souvenirs and one day we saw my father looking rather happy. He was given a RED HEAD box of matches. He was happy for days. I think like all frugal Foochows my father was very appreciative of small gifts and kind thoughts. The redheads actually refer to the red heads of the matchsticks...:)

He lost his mother at the age of 16 and had two step mothers. His father, my grand dad was always very strict with the children. And I do remember that almost all my uncles were stern people.

No " main main" or play play. And that reminded me too, of the first time I tried to light a match. I burnt my fingers and got a good scolding. We had to be so careful with matches. Because we lived in a wooden house. So fire prevention was a specific order of the family.

Sibu Tales : Cake Making and WI

The Women's Institute was recruiting members and our neighbours Kak and her sister joined. They persuaded my mum to join but she was ada...