August 31, 2016

Sarawakian Local Delights : Rambing







Rambing or perhaps by other names can be found easily in the jungles and is already a cultivated vegetable in many backyard gardens.

It is commonly found in native markets in Sarawak and especially in Miri.

In the longhouses and kampongs, housewives often just go out and cut a few stalks for their evening meals, or they bring back a basket of it from their farms.

The vegetable is very tender and easily cooked as a stir fry.

You can also add prawns or even meat to it.

Usually it is fried with ikan bilis and onions. It is a very sweet vegetable.

August 26, 2016

Miri Tales : Selling by the Kong/Tin



The tamu or trading places for local people in Miri and else use some amazing measures.

The Glucose tin for example for dabai, the famous black fruit of Sarawak, measures exactly half kilogramme of the fruit.

so instead of having to use a scale (which some jungle produce vendors do not have), this tin is used and the fruit will be sold according to the seasonal price.

At the moment of writing, the dabai is 20 ringgit per glucose tin. This is the highest price I have come across in Miri.

Dabai is like gold or oil...the price keeps going up.

August 24, 2016

Sarawakian Local Delights : Pumpkin Leaves


A simple way of cooking pumpkin leaves - boil some onions, garlic and ikan bilis in two cups of water, When boiling add the crushed pumpkin leaves to the soup base.

This method of cooking amongst the indigenous people of Sarawak is called sup terjun. For vegetables, this oil-less cooking requires less water and the resulting vegetables taste sweet, and awesome.

For soup, one has to add more water, or as desired.

This healthy way of food preparing is getting more and more popular in Sarawak.

When visitors arrive at any longhouse for an occasion, they would find pumpkin leaves as one of their dishes.

 If the people are more endowed, they would have another more elaborate dish, by adding pumpkin flowers, cubes of pumpkin, cubes of cucumber and even sweet young corn.

Photo by Mary H Ting.

August 21, 2016

Sarawakian Local Delights : Edible Rubber Seeds

(Photo by Sarawakiana taken in Bintulu tamu 2009)

The kernels of the rubber seeds can be eaten especially after they have been soaked for about 24 hours according to a scientific research conducted in Java way back in 1987.

In fact the Indonesians have been eating preserved rubber seed kernels for ages.

In Sarawak the seeds are preserved by soaking in salt water over night. The "kesam" kernels can be stir fried with Ikan Bilis and make quite a good side dish for a hot evening meal with rice and other main dishes.

Rubber seed kernels taste just like any kernel. They are almost almond like actually. But almond is crunchy and has a good after taste. May be some people will say that the rubber kernels are like chestnuts or even kepayang (a favourite preserved seed in Sarawak). A friend has said that they actually taste like kepayang, a common long house kernel which is called keruak in Indonesia.

According to a Bernama report "rubber seed rum" or preserved rubber seed is available as a condiment in several restaurants in Jerantut Pahang. It seems that the people of Jerantut have had this recipe for generations! It is served with curries during fasting month in fact.


Bernama Photo


Photo by William Ting

Not long ago my Foochow friend William Ting went to Rh Rendang in Ulu Balingian with a team of 20 for a short mission trip. They were served salted(kesam) rubber seed kernels with  small fried  fish. William said, "They were very tasty indeed!"

But more importantly rubber seed kernels have been roasted and used as fish bait, placed in the locally made, rattan fish traps called bubu. My late father used them a lot and we caught many ikan keli and ikan haruan in the streams in the rubber garden behind our Sibu house in Kampong Nyabor more than 50 years ago..
Soaked fresh rubber seed kernels at E Mart, Miri


A friend told me that when he was young and still living in the longhouse his father would let their pigs salvage the rubber seeds in the garden. The pigs really knew how to look for the rubber seeds. According to him sometimes his father and other adults would collect the seeds and crack them to take the kernels out for their own food and what they could not consume they would boil for the pigs. However this is not done today any more.

Rubber seeds are always easy to find. Go to a rubber garden. When you hear small gun shot sounds you will know that some rubber seeds are being dispersed and ready for your picking. It is always nice to hear the sounds of seeds bursting from their cases.

August 18, 2016

Fruits of Sarawak : Terap or Lumoh

Quite often, during the fruit season, the long house communities will happily offer their guests an afternoon snack made up of fruits and tea. Normally it would be Osborne biscuits or Cream Crackers and tea or coffee, a normal longhouse way of showing warm hospitality to any stranger or friend.

The fruit can be the terap which is served on its skin. Terap is a fruit made up of small fruitlets and hence a large number of guests can enjoy eating the small fruitlets by plucking them from the core with their hands.

The use of hands (after washing properly ) is polite eating etiquette in the longhouse and every one does it. So just a kind reminder that one should just enjoy using the hand when eating this fruit, and of course durians, chempedak and any cousin of the jackfruit can best be enjoyed by using our hands.

the fruitlets are like sweet longans. The seeds can be fried and eaten like nuts.
The terap and its cousins are  found in South East Asia and especially enjoyed by all indigenous people. During a glut season the terap is left to drop and birds will also get a share of the seeds. A wise , longhouse Iban man told me once, "Don't worry, God provides for us and for the birds and animals too. Perhaps that is why He allows a glut season."

Its scientific name is Artocarpus odoratissimus


Soup of Terap - a healthy fibrous soup.
Furthermore, an unripe terap can be dissected and cooked as a soup in the longhouse, making a very delicious and savoury side dish. It is very tasty and well loved. This is also a natural way of controlling the number of fruits on a tree. God is the ever God of Wisdom.

And we therefore must never waste what God has given us. 

Give praise and enjoy God's feast at the table.

August 16, 2016

Miri Tales : Mung Bean Soup




Years ago a sudden outbreak of a mystery disease causing a few deaths led to a scramble for mung beans. Men and women rushed to the supermarkets and retail shops and bought every single mung bean.

Some women who did not get any mung beans even sat down on the road side and cried. There was this great fear that children would die from a fearsome fever as a result of catching the mystery disease.

While many started wearing face masks and trying to send their young to Singapore and as far as Australia, most humble people of the lower income group braved the elements and went on their life as normally as possible.

I gave my children soy bean milk.

And a friend did give me a few hundred grams of mung beans which we all ate that evening, almost mid night. We were told that we had to have mung bean soup that day before MIDNIGHT or else we would all die. The rumours spread like wild fire and that was the reason why not even one bean was left on the shelves of the supermarkets and even all the tiny little sundry shops. Was it a marketing scheme to sell mung beans. If so, it was very effective. Furthermore the price skyrocketted to 15 ringgit per kg on that day.


It was an unforgettable experience.

I was not even aware of the scramble for mung beans as I was busy teaching, tucked away in the college. .

The next day I read in the Chinese newspapers all about the mad rush for mung beans. NO one had died from not eating mung bean soup.

Was  it a relief for the gullible, or did the naive feel cheated?





Nowadays I continue to cook mung bean soup but instead of using dairy milk, I use Soy Bean Milk (less sugar).

It is a very cooling dessert.

August 14, 2016

Sibu Tales : Pig Stomachs

Giowing up in a small town like Sibu was a thrilling experience. I grew to know almost every street, back street and shop in the town. I went marketing with my father, went to church with my maternal grandmother whenever she was in town and I went to an English Mission school.

I learned about Foochow cuisine from my mother who made everything from scratch, like all her contemporaries.

One memorable skill was the preparation of pig stomach or pork trip or pig maw from scratch. My father would " carry a pig stomach from the market". That was the way Foochows speak. It was not "buying a pork maw" it was "going to the market to carry home a pork maw"..Dii Du guan suoh jia.

For some health reasons, the eating of pig stomach soup was very nourishing. My parents believed that (especially my maternal grandmother) eating the pig stomach soup would give one a good appetite and that it would help nourish back one's health.

So my mother would often request my father to buy one or two for the whole family once or twice a month. After all a pig stomach was not a very expensive food item.

Later when the cold storages started to open up in Sibu, frozen beef and pig stomachs were sold very cheaply and most housewives enjoyed purchaing these items.

In fact later I found out that pig stomachs form a very important ingredient in most restaurant dishes e.g. soups, fried noodles, soup noodles and even vegetables. It is in fact one of the favourite ingredients of Foochow cooks.

However frozen pig stomach became a hot item as it really helped the frugal housewife to stretch the proverbial dollar.

August 13, 2016

Sibu Tales : Coconut Bao




the making of bread and steamed buns is a common hobby of many Foochow housewives. The fillings would always be a matter of choice. My mother  makes neither bread nor steamed buns because making the dough is a very tedious process and she would rather steam a chicken any time. She has always been time conscious. Anything which takes a long time to make would not be her choice.

However my sister Yin loves making kuihs and cakes. she bakes and steams well so to speak.

One day after I learned to make ONDE ONDE, I wanted to eat some at home. so I went out to town to buy some grated coconut. And to my horror and my mother's horror, I had bought the wrong grated coconut. I did not ask the vendor to give me the white grated coconut. He had given me the "black one" ie. the one with still some of the black husk sticking to the grated coconut.

This black grated coconut would not look good at all on Onde Onde.

Later whenever I see steamed buns with grated coconut filling and onde onde I would always remember my original "sin" of being very forgetful..and not fastidious enough to tell the vendor to give me the white grated coconot...Just one of those stories I can share with you.

Until today I don't make onde onde or steamed buns with grated coconut filling.

Fruits of Sarawak : Pedalai



The pedalai is a large tree quite common in the lowland dipterocarp forest of Sarawak.
The fruit is a moderately large in size and has rigid and coarse hair. The hair is rather long like rambutan's.
 When ripe the furit is soft and the skin can be easily peeled open by hand. That is, you don't need a knife. And it is the same way to open up a very soft chempedak or terap, as they are related.

The many fruitlets have soft, pearly white flesh that is aromatically very sweet. Many elders love this fruit, especially when they travel by long boat. They would stop their long boat and pick the wild fruits by the river bank. With so much development going on in Sarawak, I am afraid, many of the pedalai trees would be gone within this generation unless some people start planting them.

The pedalai is considered a sweet dessert and may be even lunch when one is travelling in the upper reaches of Sarawak rivers when it is the fruiting season. Many can still remember how nice it was to eat this fruit. I have only come across this fruit once before in Lingga, Sarawak.

The small brown seeds are delicious with nutty crunchy flavour. They can be dry fried, or deep fried.

It used to be quite common in the second division of Sarawak.

August 10, 2016

Miri : Tall Thai Yam Species



Visiting a physically disadvanted aunty, Rose, my friends pose with Rose's tall Thai Yams...they are more than 5 foot tall...Aunty Rose is a vegetable grower and seller.

She receives minimal support from the Welfare Department. Most of the days she crawls around in the house and in her garden. Friends take turns to help her get medication or attend to some chores in Miri.

May God bless Aunty Rose.

August 4, 2016

Sibu Tales : Protecting Seeds



This was how my relatives in Ah Nang Chong prepare their vegetable beds. Once the seeds were sown, they would cut grass like lalang especially and spread them on top of the seeds in the bed . This was basically for two reasons - to prevent birds from eating the seeds, and to cool down the soil (ie. to prevent the soil from drying up under the hot tropical sun).

Hope this helps you to remember how our elders provided us with organic vegetables in those long ago days.