Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Then and Now - William Chen finds life has changed

William Chen

Posted: 24 Jul 2013

APAI WAS ON THE HUNT for fresh fish for a dinner party. He said they were going to the coast via Batu Kawa. I jumped at the opportunity to re-visit childhood places. You drive to Batu Kawa without having to cross Sungai Sarawak by ferry. The more I move around Sarawak on my trips home, villages that used to be accessable by boat are only a drive away. But then you bemoan the loss of lush primary forest to oil palm plantations. The scourge of so called development, without environmental and social conscience.
   The shophouses at Batu Kawa are your typical terraced rows. Apai of course knows the best stall for lunch. This is a Hakka community and I was well pleased. My father is Hakka and I'm the only one of my siblings who can speak Hakka well as I used to converse in Hakka with Dad. I have noticed lately that if I speak Hakka to him, he would reply in Hokkien or as a surprise, add a fast quip in English!


Hakka cuisine is rather robust, a throwback to days when the Hakka worked hard and had to be nourished with food that does not have time for niceties. They cook a lot of pork (usually fatty), used a lot of carbohydrates like yams and sweet potato. Sugar and soya sauce were used liberally. 5 spice is the seasoning of choice. Leafy vegetables and mustard greens were preserved in times of plenty. Yong Tau Foo is a popular Hakka dish. Kiu Nyuk (fatty pork like pork belly) is cooked with soya sauce. Everything seemed to come in chunks.

   But not today at Batu Kawa. This stall specialised in Kolo Mee and soups with sliced lean pork, offal and other spare parts. The stock was made with pork bones and presrved mustard greens. The Kolo Mee was made with great care, the char siew sliced thin and fine and the noodles curly and al dente. Perfect! I digress, not a typical Hakka selection.

   After a chinwag in Hakka (the louder the better), we departed on our drive to Kampung Telaga Air. The trip was fast, the road well sealed. The Lundu District Council has built a food and drink complex (inspired Malay architecture) at Kampung Telaga and the outlook across the Sungai Sibu to Sibu Laut was as serene as the pace of life. We had drinks as temperature was nudging 34°C. Nothing better than ABC of shaved iced or Limau Kasturi with ice.

William's full post at his always interesting blog.




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