Sunday, August 26, 2007

Stone Grinder Mill

From the time the Foochows landed in Sibu, each family would have a stone grinder. It could be operated by hand or pulled with the help of a long wrought iron lever fixed into the handle.

This particular domestic tool has indeed served the families very well right into these days. Most of us could still work on one if we have it. Many people though in recent years, have redesignated the role of this grinder to the garden, to spout water to bring in good luck!!

The stone grinder mill or " Siok Moh" has been in my family for a long time. According to my mother, this particular one is from our Great Grandmother, or Tui Mah. She had left it in the house in Hua Hong Ice Factory and my mother had brought it to the wooden house in Kung Ping Road, now known as Brooke Drive. My Grandfather, when he moved to his mansion in Sg. Merah, somehow acquired a new one for the new house.

In those days, we children saw our elders making every cake from scratch.

This stone mill, an invention of ancient China was a kitchen item or home appliance to help womenfolk grind grains by hand into fine flour. Almost all the women in the early days of Sibu right up to 1960's (before the arrival of the electrical appliances) used it to make dessert pastes of rice (glutinous and plain), beans, sesame or peanut flour. Usually the mill is some kind of granite and is very heavy. So it is usually put on a three legged or four legged belian stand. The stand would be ergonomically made so that it would suit the height of the lady of the house. (Any thing that was too tall would make grinding difficult. ) It has a grey-green stone cylinder and a base with grooved grinding surface, wooden hand-crank( or a long wrought iron pulling rod) and spout.

As kids we would happily take turns to pull the long wrought iron rod to move the mill round and round and my grandmother would patiently pour in the rice with a little bit of water into the spout. Soon we would see the nice white rice mixture flowing into the groove.

There would be a bucket lined with a white muslin bag to collect the milkish solution . When all the rice had been ground, grandmother would pick up the muslin bag and drain out the water by putting the top portion of mill on the bag. This pressure would squeeze out the water and eventually we will have a paste only. In Foochow this process is called "da" or press. It took some time, some times it was even an overnight process. And we could hear the comforting sound of tik,tik,tik...throughout the night, when the water dropped into the bucket below.

The use of the stone mill would be activated before Chinese New Year, and the four festivals. However, because my grandmother Tiong Lian Tie was a good kuih or cake maker, she could use it almost any time of the year. So with that appliance, she actually made a lot of things for us to eat . From her we had yam cake,the Chinese New year sticky cake, soya bean drink,mee tuiing kui, nine layer kuih,sii yang (or tong yuan) and even rice cakes (bah kuih).

Whenever I see a picture of the stone mill I would yearn for those days when we as a family would gather around grandmother, waiting expectantly for something good to come out of the mill. It would mean, the soonest, that we would have some dumplings for dinner that evening.

1 memories:

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