Wednesday, August 26, 2009

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mud on My Shoes

This is the a LIFE magazine photo of a Chinese man wearing straw sandals. My grandfather and his father must have won this kind of straw sandals. In the Foochow Association Museum in Sibu one can see an exhibit of one such straw sandals.

A photo of a bamboo basket and straw sandals. These straw sandals were worn by the Foochow pioneers when they came to Sibu. It was many many years later that the Foochow men and women learned to wear leather shoes when rubber prices shot up and there was plenty of money for every one. I still remember my grandmother used to tell us that when many of the men started wearing leather shoes they made noises which went like this "bok bok bok" because they could not walk properly with the heavier shoes. They also suffered from blisters for the first time in their life!!

Jesus sandals modelled in Jerusalem.

I go walking quite a lot and so muddy shoes really do not both me or my friends.

One Sunday I went to Church with mud on my sandals after a short term mission trip. I had not checked if those comfortable sandals were clean or not. Furthermore they were a little aged but they were comfortable throughout my journey.

The church was full. Ladies were well dressed and the guys were wearing their Sunday best. A few were even wearing their suits!

When it was time to receive communion I went with the others and knelt down in front of the altar. Most of the ladies were wearing glistening high heels and most of the guys were wearing polished leather shoes. Because they were town people and were driving cars naturally they had clean shoes. But unknown to me my sandals had marks of mud. I did not have time to wash the sandals before the service. Actually they were not too muddy in my opinion.

Later a lady whispered "There's mud on your sandals."

I was surprised someone noticed. But I am sure many saw that my sandals were muddy and a little tattered and they did not give a second look. But as an afterthought I could also have won a pair of Japanese slippers and no one would really bother about what shoes we were all wearing in front of God!

For many days I reflected on mud on my shoes. As I meditated I realised that it really does not matter. I remember the man with the tattered coat who went to have a feast in the story of long ago and he was not allowed into the room.

But the feast of God is open to all - mud on the shoes or not!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blind Masseurs in the Streets vs Foreign Reflexologists in 5 star establishments

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blind masseurs are found in the streets of Kota Kinabalu doing a good service to lots of customers in broad daylight and the charges are reasonable.

On the other hand beautiful girls from foreign countries are hidden on third floors doing a flourishing business (in the darkness of the night may be) and charging great fees.

Is this one of the unfair things in life?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ear Biscuits today and yesteryears

Hunting for the illusive hat or ear biscuit in KL is not easy unless we have local knowledge about local biscuits.

And to find this delectable biscuit in Sarawak isn't easy either.

This is to say either the biscuit is out of favour or no factory is making it now for the local market in Sarawak.

This was indeed a very popular biscuit a few decades ago in Sibu. Most mothers knew how to make them from scratch. And on top of that we could buy them in little packets in the sundry shops or even in the little stalls set up along the five foot way. They were often packed in small packets of five for the price of 10 cents. School children would bring them to school to munch and mess up their desks. Or if by accident they dropped the biscuits on the floor they would be scolded by their teacheres. These biscuits were very easy to carry and easy to eat. With very little choice then no one actually called them poor man's food.

They were crunchy and tasty as probably a lot of ajinomoto or Vitsin was used in its making. But nevertheless we loved to eat them. Perhaps they were the forerunners of today's crunchies and munchies which are not exactly healthy.

Sometimes we called them "bra biscuits" too.

A search on the net reaped two pictures.

(source :


I also discovered that some of my friends still remember them and still like them. According to one of my friends she still can buy from some shops in West Malaysia. But many Sarawakians have forgotten about this biscuit.

I am wondering if some shops in Pandungan Road in Kuching still make them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eating Crabs in Sibu

Crabs have always been a favourite food of the people of the world!

Sibu people are no different! And in fact in the past it was quite easy to get one's own crabs from the banks of the Mighty Rajang in the evenings.

Crabs were always a dish for the table whenever there was something to celebrate especially in the 60's. It was common to stir fry crabs with just thick soy sauce and eggs.When Rajang Park was started many families would go to the two open air restaurants there to enjoy a Saturday night of open air eating. Crabs would always be one of the dishes ordered. The crabs shells would be strewn all over the place and dogs would come by to sniff at them. I sort of remember that whenver we went to the open air market in the morning the smell from the rubbish bins would be horrendous. Restaurant mess was absolutely challenging.

Later on as cooks became more versatile they started cooking crabs in fancy ways like with butter and milk and fermented soy beans for example. Today Sibu has probably as many styles of cooking crabs as there are restaurants. Tastes keep on changing actually.

I often think about what the world is doing regarding crabs. Will global warming remove the delectable crab from our table?

And as everyone is thinking of a Christmas wish list mine would be to have a book about crabs on the list. It is not that I love eating crabs. It is because crabs remain the most challenging food to cook well in my opinion. It is hard to get at the flesh and there is just so much work involved before we sit down to eat it.

I will always associate crabs with this story: a father went out to the Sibu market to buy crabs to win his children's hearts. It was very sad that at the table he was told that his children were allergic to crabs. And as he sat eating the crabs he realised that he had never been part of the family and he did not know his children. He had forgotten so much about his children! It could be too late for him to win over his children who watched him eat his solitary meal.

Here are some interesting points about crabs:

Singapore's Chili Crab - well known favourite

Baked Mud Crab - a Sarawakian favourite

May be the tastiest crab in the world

The biggest crab in the world in 2008

The Blue Crab - unique and pricey (ONLY FOR THE VERY PRIVILEGED)

According to the Encyclopedia Americana [1995 edition] there are approximately 4,500 different species of crabs living on Earth. They are distributed throughout the world. It is probably impossible to tell for sure who (much less where!) ate the first crabs. Food historians tell us crabs were known to ancient Greeks and Romans.

"Renaissance...Lobster, crayfish and crab were greatly enjoyed, though they seldom reach the inland eater. At formal meals they presented difficulties. 'Crab is a slut to carve and a wrawde wight [perverse creature]. By the the the carver in a noble household had finished picking the meat out of ever claw with a knife-point, had piled it all into the 'broadshell', and had added vinegar and mixed spices, the tepid crab had to be sent back again to the kitchen to be reheated before he could offer it to his lord. Crab and lobster were also boiled and eaten cold with vinegar, as were shrimps."---ibid (p. 43-4)

Who are eating the best crabs in the world? Those who hold political power and own vast financial empires.

Those lowly ones like ourselves might just enjoy a family day out and catch some crabs in Bekenu! The best crabs are shared crab meals.


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