July 14, 2017

Sibu Tales : Tong Ngii (Labi labi)

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Photo of river tortoise meat from Inggol Ranggong. Murum.

Soft shelled river tortoise is a delicacy for the Foochows and other ethnic groups who lived in Sibu. Before the laws were passed to protect endangered specieis, it was sold in the open market like any other fresh meat. In those long ago days, most Foochows would buy whatever wild meat that was available in the market. My mother also has told us that during that era most families were daring and would eat porcupine, anteaters, deer, snakes, monitor lizards and another other meats made available by hunters who came to sell. The hunters did not even need a licence to sell their meat!!

My late father enjoyed eating Tong Ngii and he would always buy a fresh leg when he saw some fresh soft shelled tortoise being sold .

Some fishermen who caught the soft shelled tortoise would also approach him to buy. But he would only buy a portion and let other take some too.

He liked the leg to be cut up and cooked in a plain soup with lots of ginger. According to my mother he like the soup because it was a delicacy fit for a king!! Besides tortoise meat was really health giving and tasty. He believed that Traditional Chinese Medicine had records of soft shelled tortoises for food and medicine for hundreds of years. Besides it is also known by our elders that the soup would enrich one's kidneys, and blood.

Interesting it is cooling for our bodies and has been recommended by Chinese sinseh for menopausal women!!

Definitely most people believe that tortoise meat will give one longevity.

Each time we had some soft tortoise soup on the table my late father would remind us not to tease a tortoise or a turtle. He told us that we we got bitten by a tortoise or a turtle, it would not let go of our little finger until a thunder sounded. That would be the time when the tortoise would open its mouth to release our fingers or hand!! We were terrified !!

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