June 30, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Kapayang

The Kapayang is a fruit tree found in the jungles of Sarawak, although today many have been purposely planted.

It is actually quite famous as a poisonous fruit if not properly processed.
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The seeds are first cut and cleaned and then soaked in running river water for at least three days. They will turn creamy or white in colour , with an outer layer of brown. This will get rid of the hydrogen cyanide which can be easily washed off.

Besides, the Ibans often salt the seeds and then us them to flavour meat, especially wild boar.
Freshly processed kepayang slices can be added as a stir fry with salted mustard greens. It is one of the most Iban culinary delights in Sarawak.
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The trees can grow very tall, often over 40 m.

Google photo : showing a large kapayang fruit.
The fruits are quite large.

June 24, 2017

Seeds of Cangkok Manis

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The loveliest of pinks...these are seeds of a favourite Sarawakian vegetable, Cangkok Manis.

Cangkok is an Iban word. When the Foochows first came to Sibu they watched the Ibans foraging for vegetables. And soon they learned to eat this vegetable.Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

More than 100 years later, we the younger generations continue to enjoy this vegetable which is now a popular restaurant dish.

June 22, 2017

Sibu Tales. Hair cuts for the Girls 1930's

The Sibu born Foochow girls were all disciplined well by their parents who were mostly born in Fujian.

Firstly while their mothers had straight hair styles, with no perming allowed, the young girls kept their hair short. This way of cutting hair was called "as high as the ears".

Secondly, short hair was preferred because it was easier to maintain, wash and dried in the hot climate. Mothers did not have to comb their hair too often. Long hair needed a lot of maintenance, combing and plaiting.

Thirdly, short hair also meant that lice would not develop so easily. The best treatment for lice was kerosene. And most of the girls did not like that.Image result for Sibu foochow girls

Fourthly - girls could only have their hair cut at home by either their own father or by an older brother who was named "barber of the family".

Fifthly, the style of hair cut was also called Coconut hair style, because the front part covered the forehead , just above the eye brows. When the girls grew older, many would part the hair at the side or in the middle and clip with some hair clips . According to my aunts they did not like their coconut hair style. In Bintangor, my aunts went to the Chinese primary school and later when they were older they went to Yuk Ing Girls school, Sibu as boarders. Two of them were in the same class, in the photo above.

My father's second brother thus became the family's barber and hair stylist for years from the time he was able to cut hair until almost all the sisters could go off to boarding school. He was strict with all the girls and he made sure that their hair was always short.

June 20, 2017

Sungei Merah Stories : Brinjal Soup

My grandmother Siew and Aunty Hiong used to plant a few plots of brinjals and ladies' fingers.

Grandma loved to cook these two vegetables for grandpa Tiong Kung Ping as they were his favourites.

However one dish that was truly memorable was her brinjal soup. Plain cut brinjals in a soup of garlic and perhaps a bit of ikan bilis or a bit of ern chow. But as children we could eat almost anything. She was glad that I learned to eat vegetables and especially her brinjals.

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Today, we all love brinjals or egg plants, cooked in any way. Each time I see people growing brinjals I would think of Grandfather and the backyard garden that he started when he moved to the big house on the hill in Sg. Merah.Image may contain: food

I will try to re-create the Tiong Kung Ping Brinjal Soup soon.....

Mashed Brinjal Soup with Ern Chow

(Steam the brinjals and then mash well, use a bit of oil to stir fry some garlic until aromatic, add a small spoon of ern chow..and add the mashed brinjal...add water. A fragrant Ming Chiang Soup from Fujian)

June 17, 2017

Sibu Tales : Headman Kang Hing Yu

Chinese was still used by the Sarawak Government in 1959.

It is very interesting to look at how Chinese headmen were selected, appointed and "certified".

Here is one example of Headman Kang Hing Yu of Tanjong Kunyit where many of my relatives lived.

When he was appointed Headman, Area No. 9 or Tanjong Kunyit in 1959, he was given the decree, with an official stamp, written in Chinese. He also had the right to have a rubber stamp for official work.


the Headman's wife, I remember was a very polite, soft spoken lady. She was considered an excellent partner of a very busy man.

A certificate like this and any other documents are of great interests to the new generation, researchers, scholars and the general public.

Reference :
1. Alan Kang (NZ)

2. http://sarawakiana.blogspot.my/2008/04/short-history-of-management-of-foochow.html

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...