Thursday, January 10, 2008


Whenever I think of eating satay I would remember the lovely five foot way (kaki lima or ngu ka kee) which formed the playground of many young children in Sibu in the 50's and 60's.

The satay men I knew were of three types in Sibu. First, the earliest satay was sold by mobile satay men who carried their little stoves and baskets on a pian dan (bamboo pole) across their shoulders. They plied their satay from one road to another,and from one kampong to another. There were four or five satay men of this category in Sibu in the 1950's .

In the 1960's they were also more of the second type of satay men, those stationary ones, having their outlets outside the coffee shops along the five foot way. The Blacksmith Road had two satay sellers. There was one next to the Chien Feng Bookstore, and one was found in the coffee shop next to the Lido Cinema . There was one satay man selling lovely satay at Lok Huon Coffee shop, below the Palace Cinema which sold my father's favourite coffee. I think I had my first taste of satay there. I remember, if it was a holiday, after finishing his coffee, early in the morning, my father would take away a huge mug of coffee for my mother, and had some satay wrapped up for the family. This was quite a common practice then. Families were not taken out to eat in public outlets and fathers would take home food for the family instead.

In the 1970's when the wet market was flourishing between High Street and Market Street, a satay seller established himself below the staircase of the two storied market. Later,one satay stall was opened on the upper floor of the market. And there were others too as the population grew.

In my memories the original satay men of Sibu were associated with trishaw drivers, travellers, ladies of the night and the after office hours of the Colonial days.

And the third type of satay men were those who had a little stand outside their kampong houses. At night they would have those fairy lights dancing on the front part of their stand. People would cycle past them and pick up a bit of satay. Or some would just sit down in those little stools and have their satay, cucumber bits and rice cakes with the sauce. It was such a little neat kampong scene. But unfortunately this has all seemed to have disappeared.

Somehow, I have this memory to share.

My fifth aunt came back from the US to work in Sibu and my grandfather was very very happy and proud. After taking her to visit Dr. Kiu Nai Ding, the first "western" trained but China born, Foochow doctor in Sibu (Pardon me, I am not really sure about this, as I was too young to be able then to check his credentials) in the evening. Grandfather took us to this Blacksmith Road coffee shop because my aunt Grace would like to eat satay and the Indian Rojak. (Dr. Kiu Nai Ding had his clinic along Blacksmith Road until he passed away.)

(Incidentally, Dr. Kiu Nai Ding was the uncle in law of my Grand Aunt, Yuk Ging. So all of us, the grandchildren would call Dr. Kiu , Chuk Gung, and Mrs. Kiu, Ah Poh. the Kius were very educated and well respected. They were held in great esteem by all Foochows.And in my young mind, they were terribly rich, because they were the first family I knew then who had a piano at home. The other pianos I saw were at Dr. Coole's house,a nd of course, the special one at the Masland Church.)

I was , needless to say, thrilled by the thought of eating satay in a coffee shop. My grandfather ordered some satay, some rojak, kopi-o. And I ordered the very popular refrigerated home made sugared water, in the recycled small Magnolia glass bottle ,which cost 5 cents. A cup of kopi -o cost only 20 cents at that time. I was terribly proud of my pretty aunt and my good looking grand dad. Every one came up to congratulate them , lots of handshaking, lots of pat on the back, and the five foot way was crowded with people who would like to catch a glimpse of the new American graduate.

In less than a year, my aunt became the first local young lady to hold the position of Dean in the Methodist Secondary School, Sibu. I was really impressed and her presence in Sibu gave me the impetus to do well academically.

3 memories:

FrancisN said...

Satay, one of my favourite snacks. I love the smokey, spicy and sweet flavour. When eaten with the accompanying cucumbers, onions, rice cakes and satay sauce, it is heaven.

My memories take me back to my school days when my friends and I would go for satays by the stalls next to the poultry market. We would consume satays by the dozens while chatting the night away.

My favourite meal would definitely be the Sibu Foochow mee. I have yet to find a town or city which can match the taste of Sibu Foochow mee.

Whenever I am in Sibu, I always seek out the stalls which sell Sibu Foochow mee.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

We normally call Foochow mee Kampua now. Many people think that it is overrated.

But my tastebuds are still the same. No visit to Sibu is complete without a few visits to the kampua stall.

Singapore and Kuching hawkers try to imitate the taste but to no avail. Even the so called "freshly flown in kampua fromSibu" seem to be just imitation of the original!

How strange can our taste buds be.

Eumora said...

Invite you to try the new satay stall in sibu, next to Penjara Sibu, a cafe called Sri pelita.

Opened Daily from 5pm to 11pm except on mondays.

The satay is so far the best in Town.

Call me & will join you.

Bala Devan
016 888 0722


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