Monday, June 18, 2007

A Brief History of Sibu

The history of Sibu is rather unique.

The Foochow Settlement of Sibu was most importantly attributed to the keen business enterprise of Mr. Wong Nai Siong who came to Singapore in September 1899. From there, he proceeded to West Malaysia, Sumatra and the Dutch East Indies. For six months he explored the places but failed to find a suitable place for the immigration and settlement of his folks in China. In April 1900, Mr. Wong Nai Siong came to Sarawak and got the approval of the Sarawak Rajah to look for a suitable site for Chinese immigrants.

Mr. Wong explored the lower valley and upper reaches of the Rejang River. He soon discovered that the Rejang Delta was very fertile and particularly suitable for cultivation. So he decided to choose the area for opening up for cultivation.With that decision, Mr. Wong went to see the second Rajah of Sarawak, Rajah Charles Brooke, for discussions regarding the matter of opening up of land for cultivation. In those days of the Rajahs, Sarawak was sparsely populated with vast land yet to be developed, Mr. Wong's plan was timely and very much appreciated.

So, when Mr. Wong Nai Siong went to see Sir Charles Brooke and explained to him his plan to lead large groups of Foochows to open up Sibu for cultivation, the Rajah immediately agreed. Both parties signed an agreement. Below are the first 4 of the 17 terms of the agreement signed and sealed on 9th July, 1900 in Kuching.

Thus the special transmigration of the Foochow from Fujian Province was deliberately organised by the deliberate politically and economically negotiations of the Second Rajah Brooke with Wong Nai Siong. They had also apparently met in Singapore prior to this and the Rajah having heard of the industrious character of the Foochows and Wong Nai Siong having heard of a possible economic development in the Rejang Delta of Sarawak believed that their idea would work. Wong being the more enterprising and far sighted of the two, immediately believed that he could pull of the project in no time.

Before 1st June 1873, Sibu was known as "Maling", named after the winding portion, "Tanjung Maling", on the other side of Rejang River. Maling was a small village with a few small and simple shophouses consisted of atap roof and wooden walls and floors. Main population was Malay and Chinese was minority. In 1841 "Sarawak" (the present Kuching - Sarawak Capital) was ruled by 'White Rajah', James Brooke. On 1st June 1873, the third division was created and the division was named after the native rambutan because of the fact that the division had a lot of native rambutan known as "Buah Sibau" in Iban language. Native rambutan was small and sour unlike the improved varieties currently sold in the market which are big and sweet with fruit easily removed from the seed. Prior to 1900, the businessmen in the towns of Sarawak were mostly Kekhs or Ming-nam people of Chinese origin. Business in those days was mainly barter trade.

In 1901 Mr. Wong Nai Siong led the first batch of Foochows from China to Sibu to open up the fertile lands of Sibu for cultivation, a massive opening up of Sibu. Therefore, it was a landmark year or a milestone in the history of the development of Sibu. Mr. Wong Nai Siong originated from Ming Ching District, Foochow City, China. According to records, his objectives in opening up Sibu were:

(a) to escape from the sufferings of the totalitarian government of the Ching Dynasty

(b) to search for new avenues of livelihood for the poor in his village in China.

Both parties signed an agreement. Below are the first 4 of the 17 terms of the agreement signed and sealed on 9th July, 1900 in Kuching.

Memo of Agreement was made in duplicate between the Sarawak Government, hereinafter mentioned as the Government, on the first part and Messrs. Wong Nai Siong and Lek Chiong of Chop Siin Hock Chaw Kang, hereinafter mentioned as the Contractors on the other part.

1. The Contractors agree to introduce into the Rejang River one thousand adult Chinese agriculturalists,men & women and about three children and to establish them in that river for the purpose of cultivating rice, vegetables, fruits, etc., but of these immigrants not more than one half are to be introduced during the first year, that is to say before June 30, 1901, and the rest the Contractors undertake to introduce during the following year, that is to say between June 30, 1901 and June 30, 1902.

2. The Government undertakes to advance the Contractors the sum of thirty dollars (RM 30.00) for each adult and ten dollars (RM 10.00) for each child so introduced, and of these advances two thirds shall be paid to the Contractors in Singapore, and the balance to Kuching on the arrival of the immigrants, there and the Contractors undertake that moiety of the immigrants to be introduced during the first year as mentioned in Paragraph 1 shall be brought to their destination in the Rejang within 4 calendar months from the date they receive the advances in Singapore as above mentioned.

3. The Contractors undertake to repay all such advances to the Government within six years from the date of this Agreement as follows: Nothing to be paid by the Contractors during the first year, during each of the subsequent years one fifth of the advances to be paid each year, that is to say RM 6.00, for each adult and RM 2.00 for each child in respect to the advances paid on their amount in accordance with Section 2.

4. The Government undertakes to provide for the passage of the above mentioned immigrants from Singapore to the Rejang, or, in the event of the Contractors bringing these immigrants direct from China to the Rejang basin, the Government will pay the Contractors RM 5.00 for each immigrant as passage money.

The Chinese immigrants came in three batches. The first batch consisted of 72 people, the second batch 535, and the third batch 511, totalling 1118 people. Of the total, 130 brought their spouses and families, while the others were bachelors. After working in Sibu, nearly all the immigrants chose to settle down and made Sibu their new home. Some bachelors asked their parents back in China to "Marry Girls" on their behalf and send them to Sibu. Although many of those new brides who came to Sibu had never seen their partners before, they were happy to settle down. They raised families and toiled with their husbands for a brighter future in Sibu.

When news of the efforts of the initial batches of the immigrants bearing abundant fruits of their toiling and labouring in Sibu reached the villages in China, more and more Chinese couples migrated to Sibu to join in the search for greener pastures. Because of the fact that the majority of the Chinese immigrants who came to Sibu were Foochows, and because the Foochows played a major role in the opening up of the plantation area, Sibu has been called New Foochow or Small Foochow, a tribute to the Foochows for their contributions to the development of the land in Sibu. The term "New Foochow" or "Small Foochow" is not only locally used. It is clearly stated in the April 1901 issue of Sarawak Gazette: "The settlers are from Foochow and style their place the New Foochow".

Regarding the other dialect groups, according to records, the Chiang-Chuan and Amoy people had come to Sibu earlier than the Foochows. But they did not come in large groups and were mainly concerned with commercial activities. Also, between 1902 and 1917 six hundred seventy six Cantonese came to Sibu to join in the opening up of Sibu. We are indeed indebted to our forefathers for having laboured and suffered tremendously in their pioneering endeavours to open up Sibu as a new area for the settlement of the immigrants. We should also not forget their concerted efforts to open up school and Christian organizations. Let us, as descendants of the pioneers, strive for further development and progress of our hometown, Sibu.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


What was dessert like then? There were very few refrigerators in the whole of Sibu and not many families had them either. So ice had to come in large blocks from the ice factory, Hua Hong, across river from Sibu or from some of the coffee shops and restuarants.

Whenever a family had a banquet, the men would take a boat and buy ice blocks from Hua Hong.

Hua Hong was owned by my grandfather, Tiong Kung Ping, who later sold it to his friend in early 60's so that he could set up Kiong Ang Brickyard (KAB) in Sg. Aup. That also explained why my early childhood was by the river and later, we moved to Sibu town.

Desserts were simple. At the end of the banquet, the guests were served peaches and longans from the tins!!

The huge bowls would come out to the waiting children, who were ready with their spoons to dig into the ice, peaches and longans. To this day, a great dessert to my siblings and I, would be one tin of Australian peaces, and two tins of longans, with all the syrup, and lots and lots of ice.


And that was really a good way to end a beautiful home cooked banquet!!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Shark's Fin Soup

In those long ago days, environmentalists were almost non-existent. Hence eating of shark's fins was very popular. It was available and so it was eaten!

My apologies to all who are not in favour of eating shark's fin then. This posting is a personal history and the recipe is a record of how shark's fin was cooked in those by gone days.


l packet of shark's fin (250 gm or 300 gm) soaked overnight
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3 cm piece of fresh ginger
1 stalk of spring onion , finely chopped
8 pieces of good dried mushrooms, soaked, drained and sliced
4 Tbsp Foochow red wine
2 to 3 bowls chicken stock
1 Tbsp soy sauce
200 gm well shredded cooked boned chicken breast meat
2 Tbsp cornflour blended with 1 Tbsp chicken stock
2 tsp finely ground pepper
3 tsp black vinegar (optional)
200 gm crab meat (tinned)


1. Heat the oil in a large pot, add the spring onion, ginger, mushrooms and fry for 3 minutes.
Add the wine.
2. Pour over half thechicken stock and add the shark's fin and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Add the chicken, crab meat and soy sauce.
4. Pour in the remaining chicken stock and the cornflour mixture, and bring to the boil, sitrring constantly.
5. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a further 10 minutes, sitrring occasionally. Serve at once in a deep bowl.

Note : Prepare 10 little Chinese soup bowls and ladle out skilfully the soup into each bowl.
Serves 10.

This dish seems difficult but with some practice it is quite simple really. But if you are avoiding shark's fins, then go for the Szechuan hot pot, which some people use as a substitute for Shark's Fins as an environmental friendly move.

Char Mien (Fried Noodles)

A banquet would not be complete without a plate of noodles. The Foochows consider this as a dish to help you go on your homeward journey with a truly full stomach. It is called the TIEN PAH dish.

This is Foochow etiquette. While the host tends to be extremely gracious, giving a very generous spread, he may feel bad if the guests are still hungry by the 8th course. So he will send out a Tien Pah, which can be a rice, a noodle or mee hoon dish. If the guests are still hungry, they would eat some of the noodles. If they are very very full, they would not touch the dish. So this is very subtle communication.

However, if it happens that all the guests at the table love noodles, then they might miscommunicate with their gracious host and finish the whole plate! What if the noodles is so out of this world delicious? The guests could clean the plate too. But normally, the fine Foochow guests would just not touch the noodles out of courtesy. A lot thus can be said about the practice of Tien Pah. (literal meaning : add to make stomach more full)

Char Mien Foochow Style

10 large river prawns
250 gm pork (sliced into very thin slivers)
a few pieces of finely chopped pork fat (optional)
100 gm minced chicken
100 gm fish slices
750 gm fresh yellow noodles (yew mien)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp black soy sauce
2 Tbsp light soy sauce (mixed with 2 tsp of cornflour)
1 Tbsp fish sauce

l/2 bowl chicken stock
l packet of green mustards (yew chai), sliced
4-5 spring onions finely sliced
1/2 bowl finely chopped coriander (for garnish)
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper


1. Clean and devein prawns, marinade with a little salt. Leave aside for half an hour.
2. Slice all pork and fish and marinade with a little salt. Leave aside for half an hour.
3. Fry the noodles, bit by bit, in a wok with a bit of oil to create a "slightly burnt" smell.
4. Heat oil in wok, fry the pork fat until crispy. Dish up and set aside.
5. Reuse the wok and the oil to fry the garlic until pale gold. Add the pork, fish slices and the prawns, stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the noodles to the wok and stir fry over a high heat until well mixed. Add the sauces, pepper and vegetables and stock. Stir fry over a high heat until the mixture has heated through and the sauce has been absorbed.
6. Finally add the spring onions and cook 1 minute. Plasce in a serving dish;garnish with coriander.

This is enough for ten people. For a small family, half the recipe would be enough.

And you are cooking a one dish meal then just use 200 gm noodles and a 1/4 of the other ingredients.

Frying of noodles need a lot of practice and so be patient and keep on trying before you perfect your style.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Crispy,Deep Fried Chicken

The 50's and 60's were the days before Colonel Saunders introduced his KFC to Asia and even the term fast food was unheard of.

In the Foochow villages along the Rejang River, chicken was cooked in a variety of ways. However a wedding banquet would call for a crispy,deep fried chicken.

Chickens were reared in a fairly large number at the backyard of the riverine homes of the Foochows. Although snakes and alligators were the main predators, not many chickens would be lost in this way. Chickens were reared naturally, as they were fed on rice and corn and they were free range. Chicks would be hatched and lovingly brought back to the homestead by the hens. It was a joy to hear the chirping of little chicks whenever the mother hens brought them proudly back. Each Foochow home would not be short of a few cockerels to welcome the morning. In this way, even a clock which did not function would hang happily in the living room and no body would bother to correct the time or find out what was wrong with the clock!

Each sunrise would be welcomed by the crowing of the proud cocks and the day would pass with simple tasks of washing, cooking,eating,resting and the normal labour of simple folks.

Crispy Deep Fried Chicken

l fully matured chicken(cleaned and dressed)
2 Tbsp coarse salt
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp red food colouring
l Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp of cinnamon

enough cooking oil for deep frying

Dipping sauce of Salt and lime

1. Stir fry a tablespoonful of fine salt in a dry wok.
2. Add a bit of cinnamon powder and pepper.
3. Dish into a nice Chinese sauce dish.
4. place two or three slices of cut limes on the dish.


1. Clean the chicken well and marinate with the seasoning. Let the chicken dry in the wind for one hour.
2. Heat up the wok and add the oil.
3. When the oil is really hot, place the chicken gently in the wok. Deep fry for 20 minutes on each side or until a chop stick comes out dry from one of the drumsticks.
4. Dish out the chicken. Flatten the chicken with a Chinese chopper and chop into pieces Chinese style.

Chinese way of cutting the chicken

1. Flatten the chicken with a Chinese chopper which is well sharpened.
2. Take out the back bone of the chicken.
3. Take the two wings out of their joins and the thighs too in the same way.
4. In this way you will have two parts of the breast, two wings, two thighs. Cut the breasts into 4 neat slices each, the wings into 4 pieces and the thighs into 4 or 5 pieces. A fairly large chicken would therefore give you about 20 or 22 pieces.

If you are still not confident about cutting a chicken into pieces with a Chinese chopper, always observe a chicken rice stall owner. He would be the best person to help you with cutting of a chicken. (He can usually get more pieces out of a chicken than any one else and he is as quick as a magician.)

Note: When eating with Chinese elders, remember to allow the oldest to raise the chopsticks and dig into a good piece of chicken. Or allow the person sitting next to the elder to do the honour to pick the best piece, i.e. a thigh, and place it on his/her plate. Everyone would beam at such considerate good manners.

Happy eating!

Foochow style Steamed Pomfret

To have and to eat fresh pomfret was a joy to the Foochows in the 50's and 60's. Digging into the white fresh flesh of the fish would be heavenly. And this fish when steamed tantalised the tongue and quickened the heart. To taste this fish would mean satiating almost all the five senses of a human being. And I for one, would not forego a chance to eat the fish , especially when it was a fresh one.

How fresh could a fresh pomfret be? It would be less than a day old from the sea if your uncle happened to be a fisherman. And that was how fresh my mother's family would get their fish. An uncle was a fisherman-boat owner who went to sea at least three weeks a month.

My father was a good gentleman fisherman too but that was because the Rejang River was very promising and at a throw of the net (jala) he could easily catch a bucket of huge river prawns. But those days were gone when the population exploded and the timber industry killed the spawning grounds of tenggadak, empurau, tapah, red eyes, baong, prawns, river eels and patin.

Foochow style Steamed Pomfret

1 1 1/2 kg pomfret
2 tsp salt
2 tsp finely ground white pepper
100 gm kim chiam (dried golden needles available in Chinese Medicine shops)
2 preserved plums
2 small chillies (sliced finely)
5 dried black mushrooms (sliced finely)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp Foochow red wine
2 stalks spring onions, chopped finely
a few slices of preserved salty vegetables (kiam chai)
a few fine slices of ginger


1. Clean the pomfret well and season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinade for about an hour.
2. prepare all the other ingredients e.g. tie the kim chiam into knots,etc.
3. Heat the sesame oil in a wok and fry the sliced mushrooms, ginger and chillies,
4. Place the fish in a nice dish, place all the ingredients on top and steam the fish in a hot steamer for about 40 minutes.
5. Before serving pour two tablespoons of red wine on to the fish, and garnishwith spring onions.

Angchow Duck

A favourite village scene would be a small pond with hundreds of white ducks (serati) pecking on the soft mud and making a lot of noise.

And when a loud,long,melodious,call of "Di, di, di, di...." comes out as if of no where, I would have that tug in my heart. Home coming was just so full of these very homely calls. Abd all the ducks would rush to my aunt, knowing that chopped vegetables mixed with left over rice would be thrown on the cemented drier grounds for their feeding time!!

A great Foochow dish then was the angchow duck. Ducks were plentiful in the lower reaches of the Rejang River. And that was because Foochows loved to eat ducks before the western doctors advised against eating of red meat.

My uncle would have about 20 to 40 ducks each batch. And every year he could have three batches of ducks. So the income from these ducks would be quite good, as ducks do grow to enormous sizes of 4 kg!!

Thus at a banquet, when ducks were served they were usually very filling indeed. It was a very much appreciated dish because of the value of ducks at that time.

Angchow is the lees or the sediments from the making of Foochow red wine.


1 3 - 4 kg whole duck
6 Tbsp red wine residue (angchow)
salt to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
l knob of ginger (to taste),sliced finely
2 Tbsp cooking oil

1. Clean the duck well. Cut open the stomach side of the duck and flatten the bird with a Chinese chopper.
2. Marinade the duck with 2 Tbsp of the red wine residue, and salt for about one hour.
3. Heat the oil in the wok and place the duck skin side down first. Shallow fry the duck for about 5 minutes and turn over for another five minutes. Dish up.
3. Use the oil to fry the ginger until brown. Add the red wine residue and sugar. Stir well until heated through and oil floats on top.
4. Use the fried angchow sauce to cover the duck and steam the duck in a steamer for about 40 minutes to 1 hour.

This is one of the most traditional Foochow recipes. It is feared that this dish may one day disappear from community as the Foochows become more trendy and sophisticated.

Stir Fried Mustard Greens with Pork and Liver

A ten course Foochow Wedding feast would not miss out the vegetable dish. And it would be a delightful change from having so much meat.

If I remember correctly, at that time, cauliflower and brocoli were not on the list of imported vegetables yet. The round cabbage and the Chinese long cabbage, carrots , leeks and different kinds of potatoes were imported. And furthermore, most of the restaurants would serve locally produced vegetables and tinned vegetables like bamboo shoots. I remember an excellent Foochow banquet would cost around 80 Straits Dollars at the Lok Huen Restaurant on the ground floor of the Palace Cinema. That included sharks' fin soup of the best quality, fried noodles, steamed white pomfret,mixed vegetables,steamed kampong chicken, bamboo and mushroom with pork, stir fried beef!!!! And a beautiful dessert of ice cold tinned peaches.

Fresh from the garden would come the mustard green or Kua Chai for this dish. Today, supermarkets sell only the stalks of this wonderful vegetable, imported mainly from China.


2 stalks of greens, cleaned and cut
6 pips of garlic, sliced finely
l Tbsp cornflour mixed with 2 Tbsp of water
1/2 Tbsp white pepper
salt to taste
100 gm liver sliced thinly
100 gm pork sliced thinly
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Foochow red wine

1. Marinade the liver and pork with a little salt and pepper, separately. Leave aside for half an hour.
2. Clean and cut the vegetables and par boil them with some salted water.
3. Dish up.
4. Heat up the wok and pour in the rest of the cooking oil and sesame oil. Stir fry the garlic, add the liver and pork slices. Cook until well done. Add cornflour mixture and stir well. Add the wine if you like. Bring to the boil
5. Finally add the vegetables and cover the wok quickly. Allow steam to come up. This takes about 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook the vegetables.
6. Serve immediately.

Chinese stir fried vegetables are usually difficult to cook. The oil has to be hot, the fire just nice and the hand fast. Sometimes a good nose helps. And watch out for the steam which comes out when the cover of the wok is on.

Be observant at all times. Our five senses help us in our cooking.

Pork Leg Foochow style

If the wedding feast was to have twelve tables, then the host would prepare 3 pigs to be slaughtered. Normally a year or two before the marriage took place, the host would make a selection of the pigs from his pig farm. A hardworking Foochow man would keep about ten pigs with one or two main mother pigs as starters. His wife and daughters would be the main personnel in charge of feeding and cleaning the pigs besides helping him out with rubber tapping.

I have very good memories of feeding pigs and helping my cousins carry latex from the rubber gardens. The smells of the pigs and rubber were especially unique. However the smell I love most until today is the smell of the rubber smoke house. It conjured good wealth and happiness. Sometimes I imagine that I can smell a wisp of that nostalgic smell of smoking rubber.

Steamed Pork Leg Foochow Style


l leg of pork (enough for 10)
4 Tbsp pounded white or black pepper
4 Tbsp black soy sauce
10 large black dried mushrooms (soaked and cleaned)
10 dried water chestnuts (soaked)
2 Bombay onions (quartered)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 stalks spring onions ( sliced for garnishing)
half a bottle of Amoy Can pickled vegetables (optional)
2 Tbsp vinegar
4 Tbsp cooking oil
salt to taste

1. Rub down the leg of pork with 2 Tbsp black soy sauce and salt and pepper. Leave to marinade for an hour
2. Heat oil in a wok and put the leg of pork in. Cook each side for about 5 to 8 minutes to get the skin to blister a little. Avoid burning the skin. Take the leg out and place in a big dish or deep bowl.
3. Preparation of the sauce : Heat up the oil in the wok again. Stir fry the onions till soft and a littlebrown . Add the mushrooms and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add sugar and stir until it caramelizes. Add the rest of the soy sauce and half of the pickled vegetables (chilli,carrot,etc) including the vinegar,water chestnuts. Bring to the boil.
4. Pour the sauce over the pork leg.
5. Steam the leg in a steamer for about 1- 1 1/2 hours. By then the pork leg would be tender and could be cut by a chop stick.
6. Decorate with spring onions.

This dish is a little sweet and a little sour. So do not use so much vinegar if you like it to be just sweet . Different soy sauce brand would make a difference in the taste. The best thick soy sauce to me is the Pearl River Brand, Mushroom Soy, made in China. I might be prejudiced. But that depends on what is available in our life.

This dish looks a bit complicated but it is quite simple actually.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sweet and Sour Pork

When a wedding feast was to be held at home, it would be a busy time for every one.

And the family would call up everyone who was related to help out. This gang of willing hands was called "Helping Hands" or puang (help) chew (hand). The helping hands go around helping everyone and in return,when it was their turn to hold a feast, the others would come and help. So it was all happiness and merry making. I can still remember how warm and helpful every one was from the youngest to the oldest. There was not an angry word at all.

Now how many pigs would be slaughtered for the occasion? According to my third uncle two or three pigs of a good size could be slaughtered for 120 guests and this could be for 12 round tables of adults. Small children was not budgetted for, as there would be plenty of food so to speak. Now the pig legs were important so if there were 12 tables, 12 pig legs would be required and this meant 3 pigs had to be slaughtered. This was the basis of calculation.

In another post I will give you the recipe for pork leg for a 1950's Foochow wedding feast.

Sweet and Sour Pork

750 gm good pork loin (pork chop quality)
2 tablespoon corn starch or tapioca flour
3 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3Tbsp cooking oil
2 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 bottle tomato sauce
salt to taste
2 bowls of cooking oil
3 bombay onions , chopped coarsely
2 green capsicum, cut into squares
some water


1. Slice the pork into twenty equal pieces
2. Marinade the pork slices with oil and cornstarch, salt and pepper for about an hour.
3. Heat wok and add the cooking oil. Fry the pieces of pork until half done. Dish out and keep warm
4. Leave a bit of the oil in the wok. Add sesame oil. Fry the onions, and put back the pork slices stir to mix well for about 8 minutes. Add the capsicum stir for about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar and a little water if the sauce is too thick.
5. Serve the dish hot.

Note : you can go slow with the vinegar if you don't like the taste. A little red wine would make this dish even better.

Home is a bowl of Tai Ping Egg Soup - Harmony Soup

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would say to me that an egg was a wholesome food and one egg a day would keep me well nourished.

She taught me about freshly laid eggs and how some men would crack the eggs and swallow them whole upon catching hold the eggs right from the backside of the hens!! Yes. Even before they touched the floor of the chicken hut.

Foochow folk lore has it that such freshly laid eggs would provide all the Yang a man would need and he would be blessed with sexual prowess until the end of his days.
So sometimes when hens made a lot of noise in the backyard, we knew some men were trying to find their powers. Grandma would shake her head and we older grandchildren would giggle and say, "How silly." Somehow for as long as I remember, we girls liked to call these men "Silly".

Fresh eggs were just for any body and my grandmother was not particular about who ate the most. However she was sure that she could have hers every day with a cup of milo. Or when we had chicken soup, she would put her egg in her mee sua and chicken soup.

My favourite egg delicacy was the Tai Ping Egg Soup made by my third uncle and we could only have it on feast days or wedding days. So it was a rare treat for me and I would always look forward to having it.

Here is some background note on this delicacy.

In the 50's and 60's Sibu had a booming economy both from the high rubber prices and the new industry of timber extracting. Money was made in piles and many families grew rich almost overnight, some grew so rich that they bought homes in the United States, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. There was so much jubilation ! And probably that was the birth of migration of the Foochows to Australia, New Zealand and even England.

However those who remained in the villages and the outskirts of Sibu continued to live simply. In the midst of all the expansionist ideals, the undercurrent of communism was brewing. This political change was the impetus which caused the rural-urban migration of the 60's in Sarawak. And this also caused the Foochows who were rubber holdings owners and padi planters to move to other parts of Sarawak as well, like Bintulu, Marudi, Miri and Limbang, and later even Kota Kinabalu. And every where they went, the Foochows made money, sometimes to the annoyance of the local populace.

Any way, here is the second dish of a Foochow banquet that one could enjoy at home.


10 hard boiled eggs
2 small bowls of oil
2 stalks of spring onions - finely chopped
4 small Chinese bowls chicken stock(about 500 mls)
2 good slices of ginger
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
salt to taste
1 tsp of finely pounded black or white pepper
a dash of Foochow home made red wine

1. Heat up the oil in a wok and deep fry the hard boil eggs, probably two by two, if you are not skilled. The careful deep frying will help the egg have a nice golden rough and bubbly skin. Remove all the oil from the wok.
2. Leave the fried hard boiled eggs to one side.
3. Now for the soup base - heat up the sesame oil in the wok. Fry ginger until fragrant and add the chicken stock . Bring to a boil.
4. Add the eggs to the soup and bring the soup to boil again to allow the fragrance of fried boiled eggs appear. Add the chopped spring onions, dash of red wine and salt and pepper.
5. Serve the soup piping hot.

This dish appears simple at a feast but it has a great deal of meaning to the elders. Eggs represent wealth but this particular soup is called Harmony Soup or Peace Soup. Every one in the family having taken one egg each would be blessed with peace and harmony. The family thus lives in peace and harmony, which is the most important ingredient in family life according to not only the Foochows but all the other races.

Perhaps many people today would not eat egg soups in this way but to me the metaphorical significance of this soup is enough to make me once in a while think of having this soup at home.

Any way, deep frying a hard boil egg until is it golden and beautiful is quite a skill. Give it a try. If you can't fry 10 hard boiled eggs, try frying two to start with.

Peace! Shalom!

Introduction of Tomato Sauce to the Foochows

One of my best memories of my childhood was going to my grandmother's village during the school holidays. I would rush to grandmother's house from the first day of the school holidays and stay until the last day. It was holiday without books, pencils or exercise books as in the morning it was helping out in the rubber gardens or pig sty, and in the afternoon it was washing of clothes at the jetty and probably fishing by the river bank and evenings we slept quite early after we enjoyed the pleasurable story telling at the balcony, cooled by the river breeze.

The village house was a huge one, and in fact by present day reckoning, it was a double storied bungalow housing four units of terrace units. We used to run our 100 metres on the upper floor as the space was really huge. So the red wood house was actually more than 150 feet wide and 90 feet deep. I love the kitchen area which was a separate house joined to the mainhouse by a n open walkway cum sitting area. There was an open balcony that fanned out from the walk way where my uncle would put drums to catch the rainwater. We took our baths both at the jetty or at this open space. Bathing was a wonderful experience. We kids would just jump into the Rejang river without any fear of crocodiles or hidden logs. Those were innocent days

The kids would be shrieking with joy and time would just pass by. Sometimes we would not realise that we had been in the water for three to four hours. It was only the sun which could tell us that it was time to go home, be sensible and especially for the older children, time to collect the rubber sheets which were drying in the sun (the only crimes at the time would be the theft of rubber sheets, piglets, chickens or vegetables committed by small thieves who would soon be caught by the owners but this kind of bad behaviour was rather rare. Sometimes "outside" thieves would come by small paddling boats to make a small collection. Otherwise, things were very safe indeed . We seldom had to report any theft to the police in Sibu. Hence in the whole stretch of the Foochow villages along both banks of the River Rejang from Sibu to Sarikei which would be almost 100 miles, there was no police station at that time.

What would add as an exotic and grand experience to our childhood was the great wedding feasts that my relatives had. In the 1950's and early 60's marriages were celebrated by home catered feasts of 10 to 20 tables and every inch of the house of the bride or bridegroom would be covered by make shift tables. (To this day, the Chinese foldable or collapsible table legs are still an architectural marvel)

But first, my favourite dish, when I was a child: I don't remember meeting my first European until we moved to Sibu town in 1956. And that was just an encounter on a road in the town. My first close encounter was Dr. Coole who was our primary school supervisor. And what was amazing was that he spoke very good Foochow. My grandmother and I went to Sunday worship at Masland Church where he preached. I did not consider him anything but Foochow! He was Dr. Kiu Ung Kwong.

It was also at this time that my uncle Lau Pang Sing bought the first bottle of Tomato Sauce, Heinz brand. He had learned how to cook with it.

In one of my earliest wedding banquets in Ah Nang Chong, we were served this dish:

(before this, the red colouring was used to cook red chicken - for a good dash of auspiciousness)

Tomato Chicken with Peas (serves 10)

l chicken (cleaned and cut into bite sizes)
3 bombay onions(chopped finely)
4 pips of garlic (sliced finely)
half a bottle of tomato sauce
2 bowls of water
salt to taste
black pepper (pounded finely)
3 Tbsp oil
1 tin of peas (drained)
1 Tbsp corn flour
2 bombay onions (quartered)


1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and coat them well with corn flour
2. Heat oil on medium fire. Put in the chopped onions and fry until fragrant.
3. Add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes when the chicken is fairly well cooked on all sides.
4. Add the tomato saurce and water. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add salt. Stir often to prevent the sauce from burning.
5. Just before serving, add the drained peas and Bombay onions. Heat up a little. Do not over cook or the peas will turn mashy.
6. Place the chicken on a nice dish and garnish as you like.

Note : in the 1950's refrigeration was not yet introduced to the Chinese villages in Sarawak and most banquets had to use fresh meat and vegetables. The tomato was a wonderful innovation and I continue to remember the first few times we had tomato sauce on our table. Some of the older Chinese never got used to the taste. It was "foreign" and "too green" (referring to uncooked, or raw).

So watch out for more on banquet far of the 50's.....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reunion Steamboat

Whenever one of my aunts came home from the United States or Australia, my father would take out our small charcoal steamboat and call all of them for a good dinner at our house. We had a special long table for eight made for his fiftieth birthday. Our aunts had also sewn a special table cloth as birthday present for him.

My father loved all his brothers and sisters very much, he being the eldest and he saw to it that all of them received a good education. He was most proud of 8th aunt, 9th aunt,10th aunt and llth aunt. You will be surprised to know that I have 13 aunts. My grandfather had named them well. Each had a name of a flower or a precious stone followed by the word, fairy. Thus being so well named, they were indeed beautiful like fairies.

( watch out for another post on my aunts)

As children we were very envious of our aunts who were well educated, well dressed and sparkling. Somehow that image got stuck in my head for a long time. As we grew up,my cousins and I were often told that the new generation of Tiong girls were not as "glamourous " as the previous generation's girls (my aunts). Although I am now in my 50's I do admit that I have not yet acquired that sparkle!

A family gathering would focus on wonderful food. What did my father put on the table (for eight or more) ?

It would be his steamboat.

l kg fresh beef (A1 Topside Beef from Kim Guan Siang Cold Storage, Sibu of the 50's and 60's)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 litres of chicken stock (from l whole local kampong chicken)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
300 gm abalone mushrooms, rinsed
300 gm black mushrooms, soaked and cut and rinsed
500 gm bok choi, washed and cut in half
500 gm chai sim (mustard green), washed and cut in half
1 chinese long cabbage washed and cut into 6 cm pieces
2 ringgit worth of white toufoo, cut into cubes
20 river prawns, cleaned and deveined
1 large pak cheong or white pomfret (sliced into 20 pieces)
and l tin of ham (from Denmark)optional - use fresh ham if available
l large packet of tan hoon (rice vermicelli) - soaked


1. Place beef, garlic, ginger and soy sauce in a bowl and marinate for an hour
2. Place chicken stock in a pot and bring to a boil Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour a portion of the stock into the steamboat and reheat just before serving.
3. When the stock starts to boil, place a portion of the beef, mushrooms, vegetables,tofu and prawns, fish and slices of ham into the steam boat. Add the rice vermicelli last.
4. Serve in individual bowls.
4. Do not over boil the ingredients.

A steamboat gathering is something warm, fun and when everyone wishes everyone to eat well, there is a lot of bonding. Chopsticks would swing around, cups would be raised to wish another good health and good wealth and lots of noise would be made. In the warmth of this reunion, parting would not be so painful and thoughts of loneliness and alienation would banish.

Fish Cakes

This fish cake recipe comes from my neighbour who runs a mee stall just at the junction of Brooke Drive and Kampong Nyabour Road in Sibu.

She cooks the best Fried mee soup, Foochow style. According to her, the secret is in the soup which is so fragrant because of a few generous slices of pig stomach and of course, black pepper.


750 gm fish fillet
2 Tbsp ground black pepper
l egg
2 Bombay onions, finely sliced
l long red chili, seeded and finely chopped
l tsp sugar
l Tbsp coriander (use more if you like)
2 Tbsp cooking oil

Homemade chili sauce

Blend 10 chillies with 2 Tbsp gula melaka or gula apong,add juices of 6 limes, 4 to 5 pips of garlic, 3 cm slice of ginger and a little bit of fish gravy.


1. Place fish, pepper in a big mortar and pound until smooth.
2. Transfer to a bowl and add egg and beat until smooth. (We don't use food processor)
3. Stir in onions,chili and coriander. Shape into 15 -20 evenly sized flattened patties.
4. Preheat frying pan on a medium fire. Brush it lightly with oil. Cook fish cakes for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.
5. Drain on paper towels.
6. Serve hot with our young mango salad and our homemade chili sauce.

(If you do not have a blender, a mortar and pestle will do to make the chili sauce.)

Peppery Young Mango Salad

In those days Foochows grew/reared almost everything in their house compound. Most families would have only one wage earner and the mother and grandmother, if it was an extended family would be very resourceful in gardening, animal rearing and even rearing of hens for eggs.

We had two mango trees ,one lime tree , several pineapple plants and three papaya trees at our house in 21 Brooke Drive, Sibu. My grandfather bought this piece of land from Abang Koh, the Ketua Kampong of Kampong Nyabour. It was only 28 points. This piece of land was later developed to make way for a two lot shop house, Bangunan Takang, (named after my father). When my mother grew too old to manage the five storied building, she sold it to the Tings who then converted it to Orchid Hotel, behind which is the huge Ngui Kee Departmental Store.

On that piece of land, we also had a pigeon house, a rabbit house, some chicken coops and a wood shed. When we first move there in 1955, we had a semi detached outhouse at the back corner of the land for at that time in Sibu it was still not mandatory to have flush toilets. The night soil man continued to visit us in the early morning to clear the outhouse until I believe right into the early 60's.

Our main house was an eight room double storied wooden building with a huge kitchen area at the back. As it was a common feature then, we had a downstairs living room and an upstairs living room. We had a nice front door and two back doors. One back door open right into the garage. Although our house was not fenced in like most houses today, we felt very secure then. The 50's and early 60's had very few cases of public nuisance and crimes. I believe my father had a very flimsy gate fixed only in 1963. And our fence was just a hedge of bamboo! Not many people believed in using barbed wires then. Barbed wires were only for prisons.

In 1966,at the back of our garage we instaslled our new flush toilet, something that my mother was very proud of. This was important to us because we would not go out to the outhouse at night anymore due to to the threatening presence and activities led by the Underground Communist Organisation during the Emergency period (1958-1972).

So having a flush toilet, inside the house, was a real security to all of us girls.

Any way, during those days of Emergency and curfew times, my mother was very creative and when two of my aunts came back from overseas to show us new cuisine my parents were delighted. As we had plenty of mangoes and papayas, we did not have to risk going out to the market and even better than that, we did not have to spend much money.

Here I would to share one recipe with you.

Spicy Mango Salad

l small unripe papaya, peeled , seeded and shredded
l unripe mango,peeled and shredded
l large Bombay onions, finely sliced
5 small red onions, chopped,chopped finely
4 pips garlic, chopped finely
a bundle of lettuce

1 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (toasted in a dry frying pan)
2 Tbsp fried pounded dried prawns
1 Tbsp pounded fresh chillies
1 Tbsp fish gravy
1 Tbsp pounded black pepper

2 packets of peanut crunchies or (kwong tong in Foochow)- pounded


1. Combine fruits and vegetabloes in a bowl. Pour dressing over and toss.
2. Prepare a flat dish and place a layer of lettuce on it. Pour the salad on top.
2. Before serving, spinkle topping over the salad.

A walk along the beach

Living in Sibu in those days was a very enclosed existence. Children in the 50's did not go for picnics or parties. We went to school and then we went home. We could only go the cinema during the new year. I remember my father and mother brought us to" eat big feasts" in restaurants like Lok Tien Yong, Yieng Ching, Hock Chu Leu, Lok Huong.

Perhaps it was financial management of that time that children lived without much, three meals, school (no uniform then, and not even many school books). And for entertainment, just the radio. This was before TV era and we enjoyed our radio lessons, radio song requests and of course the Chinese radio plays. So much happened in front of our small Philip radio. We were truly informed. We could not ask for more.

Then one day, my father told us that he was to go to Belawai and we were envious that he could see the South China Sea, play in the sand and have picnics! He took home loads of black and white pictures. He had plenty of fun with the group of people who were teachers, photographers and mainly from the Foochow Association. One thing that struck me now is that all of them were fashionably wearing very dark shades (sunglasses) and very cottony blouses ,shirts and probably linen trousers. This is be due to the colonial influence of that time. Some of the ladies had sun hats on. Very sensible.

For souvenirs he brought back some seashells (for us to hear the sounds of the sea), some pepples, and a few star fishes, and of course they were all dead and stinking.

A little while later, he told us a story that I would never forget and I would retell that story to my students and then later, my own children.

A father and son were walking along the beach one day and they saw a little boy throwing starfish back into the ocean. The son asked the father why the little boy would be doing that. The father asked the son,"Why don't you go and ask him?"

The son replied,"Why don't you ask him dad?"

So the father walked to the little boy and asked him.

The little boy replied, "Sir, I cannot do much in my life, you see. I am a cripple. But when I throw one starfish back into the ocean, and he lives. I do make a difference to the starfish."

And silently, the father and son walked away, hand in hand, having learnt a great lesson that day.

My father must have read this story from all the books and magazines he subscribed to. I remember that he was an avid reader of Life, The Washington Morning Post, Chiun Chiew (Spring and Autumn, Chinese Magazine), Reader's Digest, National Geographic,etc)

And coming back from Belawai, he brought back the umai recipe for us to try. I have posted that on this blog some time ago.

Besides learning how to eat umai, we also learnt the wonderful way of eating bananas with sago. 45 years later, I teach my children to enjoy bananas with sago. It is a delectable snack indeed.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Father Brought Back a Recipe

My father travelled a great deal. He had spent his youth in China as an overseas student and graduated in 1937 with a degree in Economics and Journalism from the Yen Ching University in Beijing. He had worked in Singapore and Kuching and had travelled all over Sarawak including some of the most remote areas. He probably had a lot of curiosity in life as could be seen from the doodles and sketchings he made while he was travelling, and the loads of black and white pictures he took with his great Roliflex camera (which is still kept by my mother). That camera is little over 67 years old now as he bought it when he was in Singapore before the Japanese dropped their first bombs in Sarawak.

One day he taught my mother a new way of cooking beef after he returned from Singapore. Naturally we children were delighted. Here is the recipe

Black Pepper Beef Steak


4 pieces of 400 gm beef steaks(Most food outlets give 200 gram beef steaks)
4 Tbsp black pepper,nicely pounded
2 tsp corn starch
1 Bombay Onion sliced finely
2 Tbsp black soy sauce
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp of good wine or Port


1. Pound the beef slightly with the back of a Chinese chopper.
2. Marinade the beef with butter,black pepper, corn starch and black soy sauce for about an hour.
3. Drain the marinade from the beef.
4. Heat up a thick pan and add the cooking oil. Slowly cook the beef slices, one at a time for best effect.
5. Place the beef steaks in a warm dish.
6. When all four pieces are done, put the marinade back into the pan with the onions and cook slowly until it thickens.
7. Pour the sauce over the beef steaks.

Serve beef steaks with mashed potatoes, a salad and a nice soup.

Note: if you prefer less beef as the main dish, just slice half of the beef thinly. Follow the rest of the recipe and you will have a nice Chinese stir fry.

Three Things Come Not Back - Father's Day thoughts

My father was very learned and his classroom was our dinner table. When we were young we enjoyed having dinner with him, even though he was stern and rather unsmiling. We thought he did not like to smile because he was getting on in his years. He had married our mother late so as a father, he was very much older than other dads who lived in our neighbourhood.

During dinner,he would tell us stories with moral lessons. And sometimes we had to guess the lessons we could learn from his stories. In that way, he made us think really hard. Sometimes it was painful because his story that day would teach us a lesson which made us feel really guilty. He did not beat us like other fathers would do and for that we were very grateful. His recounts were good enough to bring us up properly.

He was as great reader in both Chinese and English. One of the things which offended the Japanese Occupation Army in Sibu between 1941 and 1946 was English reading matter. My father had a lot of English books in his study, and that was found out by the Japanese army when they went around checking the homes of the Chinese. My father was thus arrested and jailed for about three months. He was quite badly beaten and perhaps that was one of the reasons why he died a rather premature death.

I have a lot of good memories of my father and have also piled up a lot of "treasures" from his library, besides the dishes he taught my mother to cook.

Here is one of the treasures taken from one of his books:

Three Things Come Not Back

Remember three things come not back
The arrow sent upon its track-
It will not swerve, it willnot stay
Its speed;it flies to wound, or slay.
The spoken word so soon forgot
By thee;but it has perished not;
In other hearts 'tis living still
And doing work for good or ill.
And the lost opportunity
That comethback no more to thee,
In vain thou weepest,in vain dost yearn
Those three will nevermore return.

author unknown...

Sarawak Claypot Black Pepper Chicken Rice

My mother was not very adventurous in cooking or even eating. She was often quite afraid to try new things when she was younger. Perhaps this was because she was brought up in a very frugal Foochow family. Everything was home cooked, and every ingredient almost home grown.

When she married into my father's family, many things were new to her. Even though she was educated at a fairly good level of Junior Middle Three (which at that time was considered a good education , especially after the interruption and aftermath of the Japanese War, she was not as well exposed as those who furthered their education in Singapore, like my aunts. So iced cakes, brandies, whiskeys, and even a whole tea set were all very new to her. She thought these to be extremely western and "unnecessary" even.

So when the claypot dishes were introduced to our family, we were very thrilled that she was willing to give it a try. This kind of break through in the kitchen was very impressive to children. I cannot who had the first clay pot in our large extended family. But all of a sudden, we were given some dishes cooked in a claypot....And those were years and years ago. And it was in the 90's that claypot chicken rice, claypot mixed vegetables became common fare in Chinese restaurants in Sarawak.


1 Tbsp cooking oil
l small chicken chopped into medium sized or bite sized pieces
4 cm ginger, sliced finely
4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 star anise seeds
1 Tbsp sugar
l small stick of cinnamon
1 Chinese bowl rice wine
4 Tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp ground Sarawak black pepper
4 stalks spring onions, thinly sliced, for garnishing


1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high fire. Saute chicken in batches.
2. Transfer chicken into a claypot. Add ginger,star anise,cinnamon and garlic. Add sugar. Pour wine,black pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil over. Mix well.
3. Cover the claypot and simmer over low fire for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot with white rice.

(You don't have a clay pot? You don't have much time? Don't worry. A simple way of cooking this recipe is to put all the ingredients into a slow cooker and switch on. When you reach home from your day's work, a great dish of chicken is waiting for you.)

The claypot is an extra touch to cooking style. Some of the ingredients can be left out too. Have a go.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sand Pit Black Pepper Chicken


l 2 kg chicken
2 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp coarse salt
1 Tbsp sesame oil


1. aluminium foil
2. a big pot filled with sand


1. Clean the chicken and rub the chicken with the pepper, coarse salt and sesame oil.
2. wrap the chicken with 2 to 3 layers of aluminium foil.
3. let the chicken marinate for about an hour.

4. Bury the chicken (which is well wrapped in several layers of aluminium foil) in the sand and heat up the pot over a fire. Cook for 40 minutes to an hour. Do not have an exceptionally big fire.

5. The sand acts as a heating element.

6. An innovative and exploratory method of cooking.

7. Before serving, remove the first two layers of foil to get rid of the sand. Make sure the sauce is retained. Excellent aroma!
You can always have a beach party and use this method of cooking! Have fun.

Sarawak Black Pepper Raw Fish Salad (Umai)


250 gram freshly caught fish (sliced finely)
l tsp salt
8 limes = take the juice
2 stalks of lemon grass (sliced finely)
2 Tbsp finely ground Sarawak Black Pepper

10 small red onions (very finely sliced)
2 stalks of spring onions (sliced)
2 pips of garlic (finely pounded)
1 inch fresh ginger, finely sliced
a bunch of lettuce


1. More lime juice from about 4 limes
2. Lemon juice from l lemon
3. a few drops of fish gravy
4. l Tbsp sesame oil/olive oil
5. more black pepper to taste


1. Clean and finely slice the fish in matchstick size and make sure there is no bone left.
2. Marinade in a little salt, pepper and juice of limes for about an hour in the fridge. Give the fish slice a few squeezes.
3. Before serving, drain away the marinade.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Add the dressing. Add a bit of sugar if desired.
5. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

This dish is an acquired taste as the fish is raw but well marinated with lime juice. It is a bit like shasimi.

Umai is a part of normal buffet lunch in any hotel in Malaysia and especially in Sarawak. The favourite fish used would be Malaysian mackeral (tenggiri), white pomfret (ikan duai) and occasionally marlin. Fresh water fish is not used for this dish. Cod can be used but many Asians would find cod oily.

This recipe is good enough for 4 people.

Try it to find out!

Every Family Must Have a Favourite Dish

There was a Chinese lady who was very kind to me and my friend, who was her neighbour. This lady was a very good cook and whenever I visited my friend, both of us would catch the fragrance of good food coming form her kitchen. She was a good looking and cheerful person. On could tell that she was a very happy person - happy wife,happy mother and most of all, happy daughter in law.

One day, because my friend was a non-Chinese, this lady commented that if we could learn some Chinese cooking from her, we could make our children very happy. Since she was getting a group of people together on a Saturday afternoon, we could join them. My friend was very shy because of her ethnic background. Of course when we went to the cooking class, we had all the stares. We could not break the ice . Every one watched my friend's knife skills,chopstick skills and cleanliness. Well she passed all the evaluation and was evaluated a good "kitchen person".

So on that afternoon I learned a great social lesson that women have their own values and expectations and not every woman would be friendly like the missionaries. The term "politically correct" was not in use yet. My friend kept on saying "never mind, they are like is ok with me" whenever I heard the term "ang moh K..."

So it was a good thing my friend did not understand Foochow or Mandarin at all.

It was in this cooking class that I learned that classroom environment was very important in helping learning to take place. A nervous , marginalised learner would not get much out of what the teacher teaches.

Any way, we both learned the method of cooking pork leg with onions in thick soy sauce. Both of us were only too happy to pay the fees for our lessons. It was very sad when we learned that this lady was moving away and could no longer teach any more cooking. So that ended our cooking course. We were just about to be interested when fate took away our cooking teacher. It is often said that the best of meetings happen like lightning. Short . And disappears fast before you can catch your breath.

As the years went by, I develop my dish which became increasingly and I started offering this dish whenever I was called for pot bless. My children like this dish too. And when my mother gave me her multi purpose Dutch Oven (wang neng woh) I was over the moon because this Chinese Dutch Oven is the most effective kitchen appliance in the world and it can really cook my favourite dish well.


l - 2 kg belly pork or pork leg (with skin on)
4 bombay onions, sliced
4 tbsp black soy sauce
4 tbsp black pepper (optional)
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cooking oil
4 small bowls of water

1 bundle of lettuce

1. Marinade the belly pork or pork leg with l tbsp of black pepper and l tbsp of black soy sauce for an hour.
2. In a heavy pan, heat oil and stir fry the onions until fragrant.
3. Add sugar and let it caramelize. Add the soy sauce. Let the thick sauce bubble.
4. Add the belly pork, with the skin side down first. Simmer until the skin is shiny and nicely browned and soft.
5. turn over and let the pork simmer in the pan slowly. when the sauce dries up a little, add water, one bowl at a time.
6. This dish takes about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours of slow cooking. Do not let it burn.

Before serving, take out the pork and slice . Arrange according to your desire over a layer of lettuce.

The dish is sweet, oniony and peppery. But your loved ones will ask for more. The sauce should be thick, not watery, like thick cream. Enjoy!!!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Salad Days

Prawn and Lettuce Salad


20 fairly large fresh prawns ( cleaned and rinsed)
2 stalks lemon grass,trimmed and thinly sliced
4 Tbsp Sarawak black pepper sauce
l Tbsp fish gravy
6 fresh limes (for the juice)
l cup french beans, trimed, sliced and blanched
4 stalks celery, trimmed cut into matchsticks and blanched
1 cucumber, trimmed,cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, trimmed, cut into matchsticks

l packet sesame seeds (toasted in a dry pan)

l bundle of lettuce leaves


1. grill the prawns which have been marinated in the black pepper sauce for about 5 minutes
2. Stir all the prepared vegetables ,add the fish gravy, lime juice and sesame seeds. Add a bit of the pepper sauce.
3. Scatter the lettuce over the vegetables, stir in the prawns.

(You can also divide the vegetables into four and put five prawns in each portion. Serve in nice wooden or glass bowls)

Your own Black pepper sauce

Blend together 1Tbsp black pepper,4 tomatoes,1 Tbsp sugar, juice of 2 limes,and 1 Tbsp black soy sauce and a bit of sesame oil

This salad goes well with fried rice and a meat stir fry and/ or a mixed vegetable soup.

Chinese Style Oyster Omelette

Nothing exciting to do? Bored with the ordinary fare? Try this recipe.

Fresh oysters or tinned oysters

2 eggs lightly beaten
2 stalks spring onions chopped
1Tbsp cornflour mixed with l Tbsp water & 1 tsp rice flour
Salt and lots of Sarawak Pepper


1. Add chopped spring onion into batter
2. heat oil in a frying pan and pour in the egg, cornflour, rice flour mixture and oysters.
3. Heat through until one side is cooked and turn over like pan cake.
4. Serve garnished with lettuce leaves and finely sliced chillies.

Black Pepper Chicken Wings

You only have three hours' notice? And your in laws and a bunch of kids are coming for dinner? That's good news. Embrace it and put your best foot forward.....Chicken wings to your rescue.


10 pieces chicken wings ( I am sure your next door supermarket has them)
2Tbsp cooking oil

Thai chicken chili sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar or gula apong
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ginger juice
2 Tbsp finely ground black pepper


1. Marinade the chicken wings for at least an hour.
2. Bake the chicken wings in the oven at 180 degrees until brown and cooked
3. Remove and set aside.
4. Pour the remaining marinade into a frying pan and reduce it over medium heat until it thickens. Add the cooked wings, turn up the heat and stir them until evenly glazed with the sauce.

Chicken wings are always a winner with friends and children... And Sarawak Black pepper is excellent with is a wow!! and the fragrance lingers on for a long time.

hOt and spIcy SArAwAk Recipes - Greek Moussaka with a Sarawak Twist

Greek Moussaka with a Sarawak Twist

2 medium sized brinjals (cut length wise or any way you like)
2 big bombay onions
l big clove garlic chopped
2 Tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp cinnamon powder
l Tbsp spring onions, chopped
Sarawak black pepper (as much as you like)

75 gm margarine
75 gm plain flour
570 ml milk
50 gm grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
100 gram grated parmesan cheese.

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Centigrade
2. Soak sliced brinjal in salt water for 1/2 hour and then later press the moisture out.
3. Stir fry onions and garlic in 2 tbsp of oil until fragrant. Add in minced beer, fry till slightly brown and mix in cinnamon powder, fresh spring onions, salt and pepper.
4. Let it simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionaly. Remove and leave aside.
5. In a pan, stir fry the brinjals until fairly soft. Drain on kitchen paper.

6. Topping : 1. melt margarine in a pan and add in the flour and cook for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk gradually until the mixture is smooth.
2. Stir inthe grated cheese, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Allow to cool. Whiskegg yolks and stir into the cooled mixture.

7. Layer the brinjal with the meat sauce laternately in an oblong glass dish. Finally top with the topping and bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and fluffy.

This dish goes well with children and seniors who love brinjals, a popular vegetable in Ssarawak. It is elegant and easy to bring to a pot luck.

And besides, it does not have to be eaten with rice. It goes well with bread, roti canai and even noodles.

And of course you can add as much black pepper as you wish!!

Give it a try.

(Hint : If you do not like the white sauce....just use mashed potatoes... You can get your children to do the mashed potatoes and you will have lots of fun...never mind the mess, think of all the good memories.....)

I l0vE EvErythInG SArAwAk.

I am a post colonial,pre Malaysia mederka child.
I claim I am a Sarawakian, a second generation Sarawak born Chinese.
Where should i let down my roots?
If I can trace my bloodline to Genghis Khan,
Should I stay only on the Yellow River Plains?

If my wok is a wok and not a tandoori oven,
Am I less a Malaysian? or a Sarawakian?

If my feet are shod with Japanese slippers,
Am I less a Malaysian? or a Sarawakian?

If my tongue loves well candlenut,
coconut, and well fried spicy peanuts,
Am I less anything? or less anybody?

and if I enjoy more Ernest Hemingway,
And sing along with Frank, "My Way",
Would I be less Malaysian and Sarawakian?
or Considered just a free Flower child without kin and kith?

And if I love the smell and taste of Sarawak,
Am I less Sarawakian
than all who trace their bloodline amongst the
Temenggongs and Pengirans?


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