The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). They were called Ngie Nii. It was a literally a kind of slavery.
Depending on the family values, the girls might be well treated or the opposite. To make it sound nice many of these families would say that they "adopted" the girls. Because to say they these girls were bought would not really sound that Chrisitan, as many of the Foochow families were staunch Methodists.
This is the story which came from my grandmother about one of the adopted girls who wanted to learn how to make white rice cake or bah gui from scratch.
It must be noted here that one of the most important festive dishes for the Foochows is Char bah gui . We Foochows love it. It is usually presented during Duan Wu Jieh and the Moon Cake festival.
This is the story of a young woman who wanted to learn how to make Gah Gui from scratch. She was brought up as a Ngie Nii (sold to the family as maid) but she was luckier than more girls of her standing as her adoptive parents found a good man for her to marry since she was very skilled, intelligent and ever willing to learn. Her adoptive parents found her extremely capable. In fact they were a little sad to marry her off but they could let her stay unmarried all her life! Indeed she was fated to marry a man who loved her. As a newly married woman she worked hard to gain her new family's respect. One of the skills she wanted to learn was to make bah gui. In those days it was not every day that women made bah gui.
She tried to secretly learn how to make it one year by peeping through the cracks of the wall in the wooden kitchen as her neigbhour did not want to teach her. The following year, she dutifully got up very early to make the bah gui since she had already used the stone grinder to mill the rice flour.
However she did not realize that she had used the wrong type of rice to make the dough. She had used glutinous rice instead of the normal rice.
But because she wanted to learn so much, her loving sister in law helped her. They did not waste the glutinous rice flour which they used to make something else.
In the following years she became one of the best bah gui makers in the village.
Those who work hard and are willing to learn are usually rewarded.