October 18, 2019

Father's Lucky Strike

Image result for Sarawakiana reunion after 60 yearsMy father smoked a bit, and well controlled by frugal financial adjustments as he had 7 children to feed and a very frugal aging father who also smoked a bit. Cigarette smoking was a kind of habit for these two men. I remember them sharing time and cigarettes in the backyard as they discussed things. They had plenty to talk about.


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Though I cannot remember what brand my grandfather smoked, I suppose any brand would do for him. In those days when men met, they would extend their cigarette packets to offer a cigarette to a friend as a gesture of friendship. As a child I thought that it was a very interesting gesture.

However, my father insisted on Lucky Strike because he said that it had more tobacco. He sometimes would decline people's offer and he would take out his own...while others would not accept his Lucky Strike because they said that the cigarette was too "strong" or kau. Was it some kind of Foochow "ettiquette"? If you have your own, just don't accept another person's? Well, that was the social grace of that time.

"I have my own" became an interesting statement to my ears as I slowly became more aware of the social do's and don'ts of those days.

Later my grandfather gave up smoking because he was coughing too much.

Now that I cough a lot my mother would say, "You are like your grandfather."

I cough whenever I am with people who smoke.

Going back again to Lucky Strike, we kids learn a lot about cigarettes from the advertisements in Reader's Digest.

From Wikipedia : The Lucky Strike brand was introduced as chewing tobacco in the United States in 1871 by the company R.A. Patterson. The brand's founder was inspired by the era's rush for gold searching. Only some of the gold diggers (about four out of each 1000) were fortunate enough to find gold and this was often referred to as a "lucky strike".
By choosing this expression as the product's name, it implied consumers who were choosing the brand were lucky, as they were choosing a top-quality blend. Despite originally being a brand of chewing tobacco, by the early 1900s, Lucky Strike had evolved into a cigarette.
A well-circulated myth is that the name "Lucky Strike" refers to the fact that some cigarette packs contained marijuana, thus getting a "lucky strike" in receiving one of these. This, according to Snopes, is considered simply an urban legend, and not true.[2]

October 17, 2019

Engkabang or Illipenut

It is said that there are 7 species of engkabang or illipenut, one of the most famous exports of Sarawak during the Colonial Days, before Malaysia was formed.

The Ibans have named them thus: engkabang jantung (Shorea macrophylla), engkabang bintang (Shorea splendida), engkabang gading (Shorea helmsleyana), engkabang terendak (Shorea simins), engkabang asu (Shorea palembanica), engkabang rusa (Shorea stenoptera) and engkabang langai bukit (Shorea pinanga).

To make oil from these winged fruits, follow these steps:

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1. take off the skin from the fruits and dry for at least 48 hours.
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2. Crack the nut and take out the kernel.



3. Boil the kernels until they are soft.
4. Press or pound (using a wooden pestle and mortar)
5. Pour the oil into bamboo stems and let it solidify.


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This tree butter is excellent with hot rice. Enjoy!!

October 16, 2019

Bintangor : The Mahjong Room

In the old days in the 60's, there was a Mahjong Room on the first floor of my uncle's shoplot in Binatang.

It was run by a distant uncle, Tiong Dan Yew, a friendly and humble man who was well liked by every one, especially the Foochows.

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One of the memories his daughter had of him was the way he would give destitute men some cash for a good meal. It was well known in Bintangor when poor men needed some help, they could go up to the first floor of the corner shop house and ask Uncle Dan Yew for some cash for a meal. It was a quick fix for a poor man in need of a meal.

He would say to the man, "Go and fill your stomach. Work harder!"

Uncle Dan Yew was in charge of Mahjong room. His small income came from the revenues he obtained from the tokens given by the players and a small supervisory salary. In the 1960's and 70's there were already a few table of Mahjong kaki in Bintangor.

Uncle's wife was a dressmaker and his daughter, Nguok Hiong, also a dressmaker and embroiderer (that was very popular in those days for with good training, she was tasked with making of embroidered pillow cases and bed sheets for Chinese weddings).

They lived in the back portion of the first floor and offered their tailoring services there. My cousin, the only daughter, married a Mr. Lau, later moved to Miri.

I have always loved the clicking sound of the Mahjong tiles.

October 15, 2019

The Indian Muslim Merchants of Kuching

Yes there is an India Street in Kuching.

It is a pedestrian walkway of variety of colorful textiles, clothing, crockery and other essentials in a manner not changed much in the past decades. Jalan India is lined with shops selling all kinds of goods, particularly textiles. Mid-way down Jin India (if you can find it!) there is a narrow passageway that leads to Jin Gambier, where the fruit, vegetable and fish markets and the spice merchants are located.

What is very interesting is a small hidden gem right in the middle of this busy part of the city. If you follow this passageway you'll pass a small Mosque hidden away in the middle of the city. The Mosque's structure has undergone many changes since it was originally built by Kuching's Indian Muslim community in the mid 19th century.

The mosque is very unique and you will be able to observe closely as it is open to the public. But do show due respect when you look around.


Gambier Street is also near the waterfront


There are a number of Indian Muslim shops on Gambier Street selling spices and Muslim produce. This is an interesting place to catch the sights and smell of old Kuching.









It is a good place to spend an enjoyable afternoon.

October 14, 2019

Iban Beliefs : Healing plants and medicinal oils for New Mothers

All these plants are very relevant for the new mother in the long house. If the new mothers are residing in the town or city, they might find it difficult to get them.

Daun Mambong - for bathing. The Chinese sin seh have already packaged them for the urbanites. So you might be able to buy the leaves in Chinese medicine shops. Ask for leaves for confinement bathing.
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Pucuk Paku Uban - eating this is good for the new mothers to encourage lactation.

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Minyak entemut/kunyit



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Pound the entemut or wild kunyit and add some oil, for a refreshing massage. Good for blood circulation for new mothers.



Halia Merah - use this for cooking chicken for new mothers.

Oil infused with the wild red ginger is good for blood circulation too.


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The Indonesians also believe in the use of red ginger as a good nourishing confinement dish.

October 13, 2019

Japanese Sago Palm (cycas revoluta)


These attractive, low growing plants are not palm trees but cycades, a group of ancient tropical and sub tropical plants.
Very often they are grown as houseplants.Image may contain: plant and outdoor
they are so growing that it grows probably at 2 feet in five or six years.
Good for any one interested in having a good collection of houseplants, indoors or outdoors.

Interesting this palm, found in Southern Japan (Kyushu Island) produces sago.

October 10, 2019

My Grandmother, a Match Maker.

How my grandmother saved the life of a child bride.

1946. When a child bride arrived in Sibu by boat from China and was rejected, what could be the subsequence? The poor girl would be totally lost with no one to turn to.

There would be a kind of Foochow Association to take in the needy, but girls left alone was something the society would commisserate. A few kind words here and there and she was asked to go and see my maternal grandmother for help.

One uncle XXX   XXX  Kwong one day had said about destitute girls in this way when too many of them were in some kind of trouble...He had bluntly, said, "Jump into the Rajang River. That would solve a lot of our social troubles." He must have been joking. I was definitely not amused but he had a point being such a chauvinistic man..girls in trouble could just end their lives in the river. Indeed many women committed suicide that way.

But my Ngie mah did not allow anything bad to happen to the young 16 year old............



The Foochows continued to migrate to Sibu even after the Second World War.

Many child brides continued to arrive as they were "booked before the war". My maternal grandmother decided to adopt one girl who arrived in 1946. She was bought as a child bride for a nephew . He rejected her at first sight (most probably he had already someone in mind), saying that she was not pretty enough. My grandmother took pity on her and took her in.Image result for Sarawakianaii.blogspot.my My mother

She became a companion to my mother and her siblings, working hard and helping out. Every one loved her, she was only 16 years old, far from her homeland, and in fact living with relatives. How much rejection did she feel? It was unfathomable.

But she was a cheerful girl according to my mother. Two years later, in 1948 my mother married my father and soon, Aunty Lang Ing was bethrothed.

It was God's plan indeed for out of the blue, my grandmother found a great match for her. It was quite impulsive pf her. One day  my grandmother suddenly thought that 18 year old Sung Nung (her godson) should get married.

She approached him as he was working as a carpenter nearby.

The shy Soon Nung (not exactly a handsome man) was only too happy at the suggestion!! According to my Grandmother he did not even look at her when she mooted the idea and with head bowed he just whispered a Foochow phrase meaning, CAN.

And immediately a plain ceremony was arranged and they were married by the Methodist Pastor of Nang Chong, papers were signed and she was taken away to Sung Nung's workplace.

 Both of them were so grateful to my maternal grandmother. My grandfather engaged the couple for a year in the Hua Hung Ice Factory but Soon Nung was offered a better pay and a position in a Sg. Salim farm where both of them could work together for a living.That was the last time my mother saw the two until a miracle happened in Kuching half a century later.

Was she happy? She must have been as she travelled all over the Rajang Valley, raising her children and remaining a good wife to Soon Nung who continued to work as a carpenter with timber camps.

Stay tuned...for Part 2...Aunty Lang Ing in Kuching.





Father's Lucky Strike

My father smoked a bit, and well controlled by frugal financial adjustments as he had 7 children to feed and a very frugal aging father who ...