Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cinchau - the refreshing Grass Jelly drink

On a hot afternoon in the tropics like Sarawak, a glass of iced cold grass jelly or cinchau would be ideal to cool one down.

What exactly is the grass jelly or cinchau?

Grass jelly is made by mixing and boiling the extract (gum) obtained from aged and the slightly oxidized stalks and leaves of Mesona chinensis which is grown in China and Taiwan (member of the mint family or labiatae) for several hours with a little starch (usually tapoica starch but wheat and corn starch can produce better gelation effect) (if heated to a certain temperature and then cooling the liquid will produce a gelatin-like jelly). Potassium Carbonate or Sodium Carbonate (baking soda) is added to give it a high pH or alkaline condition which is optimum for the formation of the gelatin-like condition. The jelly itself has a slight bitter taste and is a translucent black. Different species of Mesona are found in South China and throughout Southeast Asia. In Indonesia Mesona palustris is cultivated and used in place of Mesona chinensis.

Cinchau are cut into small pieces and mixed with sugared water or more often with coconut or soya bean milk to make into a drink. Sometimes, cinchau are mixed with other ingredients such as cordial sarsi (sarsaparilla), sago pearl, chendol, agar-agar, etc. In Kuching, you have such desserts with fanciful names that include cinchau and shaved ice as one of the ingredients like white lady, materhorn, red spot and so forth.

Metroxylon sagu - The Sago Palm

Sago palm or scientifically known as Metroxylon sagu is native to eastern Indonesia (Moluccas and Irian Jaya), Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. It was introduced to other parts of Southeast Asia.

Perhaps Sarawak has a large peat swamp area that is also infertile that sago replaces rice as the staple food for the coastal Melanaus who inhabit the swamp area. It is well to remember that attempt to plant rice in peat swamp on a large scale (one million hectare at a cost of US$500 million in The Central Kalimantan Mega Rice Project and known locally as PLG) in Kalimantan during the Suharto era in 1995 was a failure.

This controversial project planned to move more than 300,000 families from Java to central Kalimantan to help make Indonesia self-sufficient in rice. Indigenous Dayak communities were displaced as forests were cleared and canals dug to drain the land, but transmigrant farmers soon found that rice would not grow there. The combination of dry peat and dead timber led to further disaster when fires followed the long dry season in 1997. Weeks of thick smoke affected people's health and the burning peat contributed significantly to increased global carbon emissions. The project was officially abandoned in 1999, but the whole area remains devastated and local people have been deprived of their livelihoods.The drainage canals have made it easier for illegal loggers to remove any remaining timber from the area (source: Down to Earth No.76/77- International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia).”

Apart from the Melanau in Sarawak and the local population in its native habitat, sago is also the staple food for the indigenous people of the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean.

Sago palm flowers only once and ended its life after gregarious flowering and fruiting. During its flowering, swarms of bees (pollinators) can be found surrounding the flowers during certain times of the day, especially around noon time.

There is another form of Metroxylon sagu which is spiny and some botanists considered it as a separate species, Metroxylon rumphii.

Sago can be made into numerous products such as tabaloi, sago balls, sago pearls, etc.

And sago pearls can be used as dessert – sago and rhubarb, for instance.

Apart from Metroxylon sagu, another palm Eugeissona utilis (or pantu) is extracted for its sago by some of the indigenous groups in Sarawak such as the Penans but is inferior to that of Metroxylon sagu. Pantu grows in the inland and hill forests away from the swamp.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

MOBILEFUN: Everything mobile

If you are looking for mobile phone or its accessories for whatever reasons, Mobile fun is definitely a place to surf. It has everything about mobile phone with all kinds of accessories and add-ons under one site. If you know what you want, this is the right place for you. And if you don't know what you want, this is also the first place to look for.

Mobile fun meets the varying levels of expectation from each buyer, from those who simply want to choose a mobile for making or taking calls at their convenience or in case of an emergency, to those who expect a mobile phone to be almost a micro version of their business or to match their lifestyle.
There is an array of mobile phones to choose from whether it is the "flip phone" style or others like “slide phone”. You will also be spoilt for choice when it comes to brand too.

If you are looking for a touchscreen smartphone, then Nokia N97, the current flagship model of the Finnish manufacturer is for you. It is geared towards people looking for a state-of-the-art phone packing in some distinctive abilities. It also sports a 3.5-inch display, stereo speaker and an impressive 32GB of storage (expandable to 48GB).

If you are into buying Nokia N97 or already have one, then you will need the Nokia N97 Cases to keep it secure and free from scratches and finger prints. There are a wide range of Nokia N97 cases to choose from depending on your taste, preference and requirements.

There is a varieties of Nokia Spare Parts on offer. If you need any replacement housing, keypad, keypad cover, battery cover, display window, etc then click Nokia Spare Parts.

When you are driving between work meetings or long distance, you don't want to find your mobile with a dead battery. You might consider to keep it powered with the Nokia Car Charger, which simply charges the phone like a normal mains charger by plugging into your car's cigarette lighter. You should have enough power to make it through the entire day and this device will keep your mind at rest!

Finally, a sound advice on buying a mobile. Choose the phone with the features that you can really use and don’t waste money on a phone with functions that you will seldom use or with functions that duplicate your other electronic gadgets.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Feathers from a Thousand li Away

There are not many books or movies which I will read or watch over and over again and "The Joy Luck Club" is but one of them.

I like the prologue which was beautifully written using simple yet meaningful English and epitomizes all about the stories in the entire book.

"The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum. This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look! - it is too beautiful to eat. Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of li wide, stretching their necks toward America. On her journey she cooed to the swan: "In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband's belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English. And over there she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow! She will know my meaning, because I will give her this swan - a creature that became more than what was hoped for." But when she arrived in the new country, the immigration officials pulled her swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. And then she had to fill out so many forms she forgot why she had come and what she had left behind. Now the woman was old. And she had a daughter who grew up speaking only English and swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow. For a long time now the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her, "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions." And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her daughter this in perfect American English."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Childhood delights

Yeah, it would have been the most desired treat in my childhood. As they say simple things make everyone happy and such childhood delights have the power to make most kids happy. Sometimes on the way back from school, I would buy a packet or two . They were usually heavily stocked in penny candy stalls near schools and sometimes in the school canteens/tuckshops. They were some of my favorite treats at school and were the cheapest treats then. I am glad that such childhood delights are still around for the younger ones to savour. Such childhood delights of old are still new.

Spicy biscuit/Biskut rempah

<Icing biscuit/Roti Hua/Flower biscuit

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Westerner vs Asian

I received the following in my email and would like to share it with fellow surfers/bloggers. How much of a Westerner or Asian are you? Or are you a mixture of both?

Westerner (Blue) vs Asian (Red)

(1) Opinion

Westerners: Talk to the point
Asians: Talk around the circle, especially if opinions are different

(2) Way of Life

Westerners: individualism, think of himself or herself.
Asians: enjoy gathering with family and friends, solving their problems, and know each other's business.

(3) Punctuality

Westerners: on time.
Asians: in time.

(4) Contacts

Westerners: Contact to related person only.
Asians: Contact everyone everywhere, business very successful.

(5) Anger

Westerners: Show that I am angry.
Asians: I am angry, but still smiling... (Beware!)

(6) Queue when Waiting

Westerners: Queuing in an orderly manner.
Asians: Queuing?! What's that?

(7) Sundays on the Road

Westerners: Enjoy weekend relaxing peacefully.
Asians: Enjoy weekend in crowded places, like going to the mall.

(8) Party

Westerners: Only gather with their own group.
Asians: All focus on the one activity that is hosted by the CEO.

(9) In the restaurant

Westerners: Talk softly and gently in the restaurant.
Asians: Talk and laugh loudly like they own the restaurant.

(10) Travelling

Westerners: Love sightseeing and enjoy the scenery.
Asians: Taking picture is the most important; scenery is just for the background.

(11) Handling of Problems

Westerners: Take any steps to solve the problems.
Asians: Try to avoid conflicts, and if can, don't leave any trail.

(12) Three meals a day

Westerners: Good meal for once a day is sufficed.
Asians: At least 3 good meals a day.

(13) Transportation

Westerners: Before drove cars, now cycling for environmental protection.
Asians: Before no money and rode a bike, now got money and drive a car

(14) Elderly in day-to-day life

Westerners: When old, there is snoopy for companionship.
Asians: When old, guarantee will not be lonely, as long as willing to babysit grandkids.

(15) Moods and Weather

Westerners: The logic is: rain is pain.
Asians: More rain, more prosperity

(16) The Boss

Westerners: The boss is part of the team.
Asians: The boss is a fierce god.

(17) What's Trendy

Westerners: Eat healthy Asian cuisine.
Asians: Eat expensive Western cuisine.

(18) The Child

Westerners: The kid is going to be independent and make his/her own living.
Slog whole life for the kids, the centre of your life.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Belian - Borneo Ironwood

In Borneo and Sarawak, Belian or Borneo ironwood is liken to what teak is to other subtropical countries in Southeast Asia.

There are actually two species of belian in Sarawak - Eusideroxylon zwageri and E. melagangai (the later has also been elevated to a genus status -Potoxylon melagangai). The two species or rather two genera (Eusideroxylon and Potoxylon) differ from each other by the shape of the fruits and twigs and the density of the wood. P. melagangai has an angular twigs and lighter wood which is also less durable. E. zwageri is found throughout Sarawak and used to be locally frequent and abundant in areas between Serian and Sri Aman as well as pockets of the Rejang and Suai while P. melagangai is common in northern Sarawak such as Mulu area. In Sarawak, locals recognised at least three varieties of belian while in West Kalimantan, at least four varieties have been documented.

The growth of belian is extremely slow and will take up to 120 years to reach 30cm diameter. So is the decay of belian wood which is equally slow and therefore very much sought afterfor construction and outdoor use. Stumps of logged belian trees are still around decades after they were felled. You can find such stumps at Matang near Kuching or Sepilok in Sandakan, Sabah. Using carbon dating method on wood samples taken from such stumps of logged trees at Matang, Sarawak, Japanese researchers estimated the age of the belian trees to be well over 1000 years old. Indeed, belian trees are the oldest member in any rain forests in Sarawak.

Young Sapling of belian

Belian are used for a variety of purposes in Sarawak. The wood is reputed to last for a few hundred years and has been used for construction of bridges to being used as survey pegs to electric poles.

During the early days of Rajah Brookes' reign, forts played an important role in the security of towns in Sarawak and with the exception of Fort Magherita in Kuching, the rest of the forts were constructed with belian timber. Fort Brooke in Sibu was built of belian although it does not exist any longer and provided much needed security for trade and other commercial activities at that time. In the past, almost the entire Sibu town was built of belian including the rows of shophouses along Channel Road until they were destroyed by fire in 1928.

I have been to an Iban longhouse in Betong as well as traditional Melanau houses in Matu where the main pillars of the longhouse/houses are derived from a huge single belian tree trunk each. When I was young, I stayed in the old part of Sibu whereby houses were built on stilts on the bank of the mighty Rejang River. The house was built entirely of belian. The houses were linked to one another by belian plank catwalk. I remember two things about staying in such belian house: One, occasionally one can get very small belian splinters accidentally lodged onto the sole of one's foot if one is not careful such as while walking on the belian floor (especially when the floor is not varnished). Hokkien refers to such very small splinters as "chuah". Two, the belian plank catwalk can be extremely hot on a very sunny day, especially around noon time and one (especially children) can get blisters on the sole if one walked bare footed on them for a long time. My mother used to warm water in pails by leaving them on the catwalk.

Belian Electric Pole

Buildings have also incorporated belian shingles roofing into its architecture such as the world famous Sarawak Museum and the Khatulistiwa Restaurant at the Kuching waterfront. In the old days, small holes were punched in each shingle which were then used to tie one shingle to the next with rattan strings. Nowadays, nails are used in place of rattan strings.

The Khatulistiwa Restaurant styled after a traditional Bidayuh "baruk" and with belian shingles roofing.

One of the wings of the world famous old Sarawak Museum.