March 24, 2018

Sibu Tales : Liver in the Noodles and other stories

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I grew up in Sibu where the butchers' corner was the most significant "part" of the old market. It was where many people would gather to buy pork and share a good conversation. Probably for many it was the place to be seen and heard. So in between the ten or more stalls, Foochow would be heard as Sibu then was dominantly Foochow.

There was only ONE Cantonese butcher if I can remember correctly. The son, a former student of the Methodist School, whom we called Ang Ngian, later married the pretty Ah Mek (little sister) daughter of our Cantonese neighbour, whom we called Guong Tern Moo (Cantonese Ah Moo). When we were young, we used very endearing terms like that.

Because of a close relationship between Guong Tern Moo and my mum, one of her sons became my mother's god son (Buong Kuok). We never squirmed or felt uncomfortable when we called him by his childhood name.

For a superstitious reason, Guong Tern Moo and her family called Buong Kuok, since infancy, Ngong Tii or Silly Pig. Silly Pig has been like a brother to us and a son to my mother since then . But we all became politically correct later in life and we decided to call him by his proper name. that was when he was almost in his forties!! Believe you me! And sometimes we still have a slip of tongue and say...Ngong Tii. Now in his 60's he is still making his own fresh noodles for sale and has a good laksa stall operated by his wife (the main chef) and his family. You can say that they have a roaring business. Their day starts at 2 a.m. in the morning.

Another memory of the butcher corner is the fact that every body would know what every body bought. A favourite memory is related to the buying of liver. It was rather bitter sweet for a young girl like me to hear, from adult conversation. It really proved that what grandmothers said was true : when adults talk, children should not listen..Stay away.

It involved the buying of liver. Foochows would use the term "Guan dii gang" or carry some liver.

This Foochow man went to the family butcher to buy some liver every day. And the butcher's wife was very impressed . "Wah for your wife?" This uncle did not say anything.

One day his wife went to the same butcher to get some liver for herself. The butcher's wife was perplexed to say the least.

She carelessly asked, "Wah your husband buys liver every day. Not enough ka?"

Well the man was hauled in by the wife's family, there was an "open" trial in front of the butcher's tall and the truth surfaced.

Ugly it might have been but was quite a dramatic episode in Olde Sibu then.

We Foochows continue to love having slices of liver in our Char Chii Mien which is a very popular dish in most Foochow coffee shops.

I can easily say that no matter what the medical reports say, Foochows still get some iron supply from slices of fresh liver every now and then.

I still love buying fresh pork, hanging from huge hooks, from a local butcher in the traditional way. But times may change and butchers will have to sell their meat from an air con shop.


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