Tuesday, January 01, 2008

" Ganja Eh"

When we were young, there was a very familiar man who sold his caramalized or sugar coated hawthorn to the cinema goers. He stuck his caramalized hawthorn lollipops onto to a soft straw centre within a nice rounded glass cabinet which he carried on his broad shoulder.

This man was very dark,scrawny and ill tempered. He always sported a crew cut for as long as I could remember. Sometimes he would wear a very good old man's hat. A mean business man, he would never give a bargain price. In fact he was just there all the time year in year out.

It was strange that I was not at all offended by his evil look .Many of my friends said that he had some kind of witchcraft knowledge. But I was not taken by these rumours. I was only too happy to catch sight of him and I would wave him towards me and I would spend my 10 cents. It was not a lot of money but the traditional sweet was enough to satiate my sweet tooth. Many of us would not want anything else after sucking the lolly. We did not know then that the hawthorn , the fruit inside the lollipop was good for our digestion. We would often throw half of the fruit away when no one was looking. The fruit was a little tart, and skin a little tough.

If I am not mistaken, his business path was very solitary as he walked from street to street and he would never be a threat to any other business people who offered their services to the same customers.

There was a lot of mystery to this man. Was he married? Where did he live? Why was he selling this product? And why was this product his monopoly in Sibu at that time? After he passed away, I heard, nobody else took up his business. And sugar coated hawthorn then died with him, so to speak. And Sibu lost a very interesting personality.

What is hawthorn actually? It is a small tree, known to the Foochows as San Char, with large lobed leaves and short branches. Cultivated for its crimson fruit in northern China. According to Chinese medicine, Hawthorne berries are used for improving circulation, digestion and promoting longevity. New scientific vidence shows exactly that. This popular fruit today in China is often coated with sugar and eaten like a lollipop. Flavor is apple like with a tart skin. Pleasant to eat fresh or can be made into jelly. The tree fruits when only 2-3 ft. tall. It can grow into a height of 20 ft.

If our San Char man has gone from the streets of Sibu, you can find many on the streets of Harbin,in Northern China. These lollipops can be as long as one meter. The candy-coated fruit looks fresh, and with colorful ribbons hung on the stick, sugarcoated hawthorns have become an aye-catching view on the street. Many people like to take photos with the sweet treats in the world of ice and snow. Now there are many variations to sugarcoated hawthorns, such as sugarcoated hawthorns, apples, bananas or Chinese dates of different lengths.

From another source of reference I have also found out that sugar coated hawthorn is one of the most popular street snacks sold all over the country from autumn to spring . And with progress and development,this snack is made from other fruits -- oranges, strawberries or kiwi, but traditional bingtang hulu is the hawthorn version. The best time to try it is Chinese New Year -- a time of widespread gastronomic indulgence -- because this fruit kebab is believed by all to improve digestion. The health-giving properties of hawthorns were, incidentally, defined centuries ago by famous Doctor Li Shizhen (1518-1593). (source : China Today)

Some how the cries of "ganja eh" seems to haunt me and I would turn around and still see him....yes, I would give a lot to lick another hawthorn lollipop. this time I would eat the whole fruit too, knowing how much it can help my digestion.

(Note: You can get a few grams of san char in any chinese medicine shop : boil it and drink as tea . It can help you reduce your cholesterol....just a tip which has helped many teachers and education officers - true ! No lies. Try and you will know...sorry about the foochow-English)

2 memories:

FrancisN said...

I remembered him and have bought his hawthorn lollipops lots of time as a youngster.

I still could remember his face, hardened dark skin from the hot sun.

I do not know much about him either. Just remembered saying to myself years later that it must have been a hard life scrapping a living from selling his ware. He was a colourful character in Sibu with his cylindrical glass cabinet on a long pole resting on his shoulder.

It is a shame that his trade and a small part of Sibu hawkers' history died with him.

The other hawkers I remembered well were at Lido cinema:
- the old woman selling kachang puteh, how sweet and tasty they were.
- the small Malay man roasting his satays, the fragrance of the satays cooking on his little tin charcoal cooker, how delicious were his satays, katupah and the satay sauce!
- the young man selling his dried sotong and don't I just loved his sweet chilli sauce.

The others were:
- the old man selling pom pian, 5 cents for 1, with sweet garlic flavoured soya sauce soaked into the middle of the pom pian. For 20 cents, he would add a small piece of fatty pork. What a snack it was!
I always marvelled at how he walked the streets balancing his pom pian box on his head and not spilling any of the sauce.
- the man selling siew mai outside the kopi tiam adjacent to Lido cinema. To this day, I have not tasted better siew mai than the ones he sold.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

It is kompian to the foochows. Just soy sauce and garlic between the bun was good enough for me. I did not dare to spend my money on the two slices of belly pork!!

Do you remember the man selling the white "wan koh" with little bits of salted vegetables and a dash of kicap? That was five cents too. He would provide a small stool for his customer to sit.

Those were my little girls innocent...nowadays children are thrown into less innocent days even before they are seven!!


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