Jan 082018

Today is International Typing Day or World Typing Day or, simply, Typing Day, an annual event that originated in Malaysia, co-organized by the STC (Speed Typing Contest) Team from JCI (Junior Chamber International), and Team TAC (Typo Auto Corrector) to promote speed, accuracy and efficiency in written communication among the public. Typing Day was first celebrated in 2011 and aims to encourage people to express themselves via written communication, but also commemorates the Malaysian Speed Typing Contest 2011, which broke two records in the Malaysian Book of Records (MBR), that is, the Fastest Typist and the Largest Participation for a Typing Event. The individual winner of the 2011 tournament was Shaun Low Foo Shern, with a speed of 146 words per minute (wpm). In the Malaysian event, typists have to meet a minimum standard to qualify for the live event. During the live competition, they may compete several times, one minute at a time, choosing their best performance for submission for final judgment. Typists must not only be fast, but must also maintain a set level of accuracy.

Typing at 146 wpm is actually pretty slow by world record standards, although certainly fast enough by professional standards. Guinness World Records gives the fastest ever typing speed on an alphanumeric keyboard as 216 words in one minute achieved by Stella Pajunas in 1946 on an IBM electric. As of 2005, writer Barbara Blackburn was the fastest alphanumerical English language typist in the world, according to Guinness World Records. Using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, she maintained 150 wpm for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. Her top speed was 212 wpm.

All of these speeds are completely beyond me, of course. Apart from anything else, these are copy typing speeds, and I don’t copy type. In fact, I doubt that in this day and age anyone does. Back before personal computers and word processing applications were the norm, there was a perpetual need for copy typists. When I was in secondary school in the 1960s, a substantial percentage of girls (boys were never involved), took courses in shorthand and typing as an avenue to secure jobs when they left school at 16. The trick to being an employable copy typist was being able to touch type (that is, type accurately, without looking at the keyboard), at a decent rate. Trainees took exams to check speed and accuracy, with somewhere between 50 to 80 wpm being acceptable. If you could touch type 60 wpm accurately, you were pretty much guaranteed a job. That was the case until the late 1980s.

When I wrote my MA thesis and my Ph.D. dissertation in the 1970s, I wrote them first by hand on a ruled notepad. Then I typed them up for submission to my advisers. When they had been approved, I handed them over to a copy typist to turn them into professional-quality typescripts that would be stored in the university’s library. In those days I could “hunt and peck” type with 2 fingers, and turn out reasonable typescripts for general work. But I could not type accurately, and my pages were spattered all over with white-out where I had made errors. I could not produce work of a professional quality. Computers changed all that.  Now I compose on my laptop, and generally submit my work to publishers in digital form. Speed is not really an issue because I can now type as fast as I compose. I can touch type and I use 8 fingers (using my right thumb for the space bar).  This ability comes about by having composed my writing on a computer keyboard since 1983. I write no less than 6 hours per day, 6 days per week. You can’t help but get facile under those circumstances.

The objective of the Malaysian Typing Day is a little bit strange, I feel.  It is meant to encourage people to write more as their method of communication, and, is supposed to encourage accuracy in composition. Typing Day was originally conceived by Team TAC (Typo Auto Corrector), made up of Jay Chong Yen Jye, Nicholas Koay Zhen Lin and Edwin Khong Wai Howe, the winner of the MSC Malaysia-IHL Business Plan Competition (MIBPC) in 2010. The stated goal was to encourage ordinary people, especially the younger generation, to type more, and to be more accurate in spelling in their communications. Team TAC designed and developed SecondKey, a computer application that automatically corrects spelling errors and typos in English in virtually any online and offline type-written interface (i.e. social network sites, word processing programs, etc.).

I’m all for people writing more, and for being accurate in their spelling. Badly spelled posts on social media sites always make me cringe. Auto-correct applications are not the answer, however. I have auto-correct options on my phone and on my word processor, and I have them turned off. I don’t want an application deciding what is correct, or what I meant. Many of my friends do use auto-correct, though, and quite often they post ridiculous things because auto-correct has made unwarranted changes. Afterwards, they complain that the ridiculous statement was auto-correct’s fault. NO IT WAS NOT. It was their fault. Even if you use auto-correct, you should read what you have written before sending it off to make sure that what is written is what you intended.

Most of my writing applications have a spell-check option, which I find useful occasionally. For example, the word processor I am composing on now will underscore a word with a squiggly red line if it thinks it is spelled wrong. About 90% of the time, spell-check is in error. My vocabulary is bigger than its database of words. On the other side of the coin, spell-check will not mark words as incorrectly spelled if it has a word in its database that matches, even if you are using the wrong word. So, for example, my spell-check has no problem with, “It’s leg was broken” or “Their leaving tomorrow.” There’s a big difference between, “He’s coming too” and “He’s coming to” but spell check doesn’t care.

In simple terms, I am not a fan of auto-correct or spell-check software. I am a fan of proof-reading, good grammar habits, and good spelling. So, on Typing Day I certainly recommend that you write to someone. Write to me, right here. I do not recommend using software to aid your writing. You become a better writer by writing more often – end of story.

For your recipe today, I am going to give you an ingredient list for a soup I make quite often.  All you have to do is combine the ingredients and simmer for an hour. My ingredient list was written using my auto-correct, however. Figuring out what the ingredients are may be a challenge. There is not a single entry that my spell-checker thinks is incorrect.

© Tío Juan’s Auto-Correct Soup  

1 cup lent ills
1 on yon, pearled and chirped
1 pint char ken broth
2 tsp come on
8 card or mom pods
1 tsp term or Rick
1 tsp Oregon oh
jobbed parse Lee
sold and paper

Enjoy !!

Aug 312015


On this date in 1963 Sabah (North Borneo) became self governing as a prelude to becoming part of the Malaysian federation. Although only 12 years old at the time I remember it well. In fact I gave a morning talk on it in my class in Australia. The formation of Malaysia was big news in that part of the world – even though I, as a youngster, was not especially politically aware. I remember one of my teachers pointing to a map of the world, first to China and then to Australia, saying “here’s an overcrowded country (China), and here’s an empty country (Australia); we could easily be overrun – we need a buffer.” It seemed to make sense at the time. True, Oz had only 10 million people back then (and over 12 million sheep!), was rich in minerals, and prosperous. BUT . . . most of the vast land mass was, and is, inhospitable desert. Yet, we need to remember the fearful political climate of the depths of the Cold War, the era I came of age in, and the irrational scare stories that easily spread. Australia was feeling more and more abandoned by Britain, toying with entrance to the European Economic Community and fearing its exports might have no markets. Malaysia was a blessing


The history of Sabah can be traced back about 23–30,000 years when evidence suggests the earliest human settlement in the region began. This history is interwoven with the history of Brunei and the history of Malaysia. The earliest recorded history of Sabah dates to the early 15th century during the thriving era of the Sultanate of Brunei. Prior to this, early inhabitants of the land lived in predominantly tribal societies, and such tribal societies continued to exist well into the 20th century. The eastern part of Sabah was ceded to the Sultan of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei in 1658 for helping in a victory over Brunei enemies, (although some historians dispute this). By the late 19th century, both territories previously owned by Sultan of Brunei and Sultan of Sulu had been granted to a British syndicate. Sabah became a protectorate of the United Kingdom in 1888 and subsequently became a crown colony until 1963, during which time it was known as North Borneo. On 16 September 1963, Sabah merged with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form the Federation of Malaysia.

During the Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago, Sabah and the rest of Borneo island was connected to mainland Asia in a landmass known as the Sundaland. Subsequent deglaciation, which caused global sea levels to rise, resulted in parts of Sundaland being submerged, separating Borneo from the rest of Asia.


Earliest human settlement in the region is believed to date back about 20,000–30,000 years. These early humans are believed to be Australoid or Negrito people. Stone tools and artifacts have been found in Madai and Baturong caves and in the archaeological site in Lake Tingkayu near the district of Kunak which were estimated to date back roughly 28,000–17,000 years. There is evidence of human cave-dwellings around 15,000–6,000 years ago. An ongoing 2012 study by Universiti Sains Malaysia and Sabah Museum revealed stone tools in Mansuli Valley near Lahad Datu believed to be 235,000 years old and in another site in Kampung Lipasu, Bingkor believed to be at least 200,000 years old. These recent findings suggests that human settlement in Sabah and Malaysia existed much earlier than previously thought.

The earliest ascertained wave of human migration, believed to be Austronesian peoples, occurred around 3000 BCE. This wave of migration is believed to represent the time when the indigenous hill people of present-day Sabah first arrived, namely the Murut and the Kadazan-Dusun, while Brunei Malays appeared somewhat later. It is believed that some Australoid people mixed with later Asian immigrants and remained in Borneo, while other indigenous people migrated to Melanesia, the Lesser Sunda Islands and Australia.

The theory that Austronesians in Southeast Asia arrived from China through Taiwan has been challenged by Stephen Oppenheimer who suggested that many cultures including the people of China and India might have actually originated from Sundaland. A new finding based on DNA research in 2008 supported Oppenheimer’s theory that migration flow might have been radiated out from Sundaland some time around 15,000 to 7,000 years ago following the submergence of Sundaland due to rise in sea level.

Prior to the expansion of the Sultanate of Brunei, most of the coastal region of Borneo has been either ruled or claimed as part of various Hindu communities or kingdoms from around Southeast Asia. However it is uncertain whether the influence of these kingdoms had ever reached the coasts of present-day Sabah.

During the 7th century CE, a settled community known as Vijayapura, a tributary to the Srivijaya empire, was thought to have been the earliest beneficiary to the Bruneian Empire existing around the northeast coast of Borneo. Another kingdom which was suspected to have existed according to Chinese records beginning in the 9th century was P’o-ni. It was believed that P’o-ni existed at the mouth of Brunei River and was the predecessor to the Sultanate of Brunei.


The Brunei Annals in 1410 mentioned about a Chinese settlement or province centering on the Kinabatangan Valley in the east coast surrounding Kinabatangan River founded by a Huang Senping. This is consistent with the recent discovery of timber coffins in the Agop Batu Tulug cave in the Kinabatangan Valley. The coffins, adorned with carvings believed to resemble cultural practices in China and Vietnam, are believed to date back to around 700 to 1,000 years ago.

From the 14th to the 16th century, the Majapahit empire expanded its influence to Brunei and most of the coastal region of Borneo. Some time around the late 15th to 18th century, the seafaring Bajau-Suluk people arrived from the Sulu archipelago and settled on the coasts of Sabah. It is believed that they were fleeing from the oppression of the Spanish colonists in that region.

The Sultanate of Brunei began after the ruler of Brunei embraced Islam. Some sources indicate that this had occurred around 1365 after the ruler, Awang Alak Betatar, converted to Islam and became known as Muhammad Shah. Other sources suggests that the conversion occurred much later around 1514 to 1521. In this period, trade relations flourished, and intermarriages between the indigenous peoples and Chinese, Japanese, Arab, and Hindu peoples became commonplace. The intermixing resulted in the distinctive Palaweños.


During the reign of the fifth sultan, Bolkiah between 1485–1524, the Sultanate’s rule extended over Sabah, the Sulu Archipelago and Manila in the north, and Sarawak to Banjarmasin in the south. This was the so-called ‘golden era’ of the sultante. In 1658, the Sultan of Brunei ceded the northern and eastern portion of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu in compensation for the latter’s help in settling the Brunei Civil War in the Brunei Sultanate, although the Sultan of Brunei continued to loosely govern the west coast of Sabah. Many Brunei Malays migrated to this region during this period, although the migration had begun as early as the 15th century after the Brunei conquest of the territory. While the Brunei and Sulu sultanates controlled the western and eastern coasts of Sabah respectively, the interior region remained largely independent from either kingdoms.

In 1761, Alexander Dalrymple, an officer of the British East India Company, signed an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu to allow him to set up a trading post in the region. This plan, together with other attempts to build a settlement and a military station centering on Pulau Balambangan, proved to be a failure. A map by Dalrymple of North Borneo is exhibited in the National Museum of Scotland. There was minimal foreign interest in this region afterward and control over most parts of north Borneo seems to have remained loosely under the Sultanate of Brunei.


In 1846, the island of Labuan on the west coast of Sabah was ceded to Britain by the Sultan of Brunei and in 1848 it became a British Crown Colony. Labuan became a base for British operations against piracy in the region.

In 1865 the U.S. Consul General of Brunei, Charles Lee Moses, obtained a 10-year lease over North Borneo from the Sultan of Brunei, Abdul Momin. Ownership was then passed to a U.S. trading company owned by Joseph William Torrey, Thomas Bradley Harris, and some Chinese merchants. They set up a base and settlement in Kimanis and the Sultan of Brunei appointed Torrey as “The Rajah of Ambong and Marudu”. His fortress “Ellena” was located in Kimanis with hundreds of Iban trackers led by Lingkanad. Torrey returned to the U.S. in 1877 and died near Boston, Massachusetts, in March 1884. The rights of the trading company were then sold to Gustav Baron Von Overbeck, the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Hong Kong (though he was actually a German national), and he later obtained another 10-year renewal of the lease. The lease was subsequently converted into a cession via a treaty which was signed by the Sultan of Brunei Abdul Momin. In the treaty, the Sultan appointed Overbeck as “Maharajah of Sabah and Rajah of Gaya and Sandakan.” The treaty granted Overbeck the right over the whole region of Sabah, including parts purporting to be the dominion of the Sulu Sultanate including Sandakan and Tawau. The treaty was signed on 29 December 1877 at the Brunei Palace.


On the east coast of North Borneo near Sandakan, William Cowie, on behalf of Dent’s company, negotiated and obtained a lease in perpetuity from the Sultan of Sulu over its holdings in this region in 1878. This lease was signed on 22 January 1878 in the palace of the Sultan of Sulu. The lease would later be the subject of dispute by the modern republic of Philippines regarding the sovereignty of the state of Sabah. The rights were subsequently transferred to Alfred Dent, who in 1881 formed the British North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd. In 1881, the British government granted the British North Borneo Company a royal charter. William Hood Treacher was appointed the first British Governor of North Borneo.

In the following year, the British North Borneo Company was formed and Kudat was made its capital. Beginning 1882, the Company brought in Chinese people mainly Hakkas from Guangdong province to work as laborers in plantation farms. Most of the migrants settled in Kudat and Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu).


In 1883 the capital was moved to Sandakan to capitalize on its potential of vast timber resources. In 1885, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany signed the Madrid Protocol of 1885. The purpose of the protocol was to recognize the sovereignty of Spain in the Sulu Archipelago and also for Spain to relinquish all claims it might have had over North Borneo.

In 1888 North Borneo became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. Administration and control over North Borneo remained in the hands of the Company despite being a protectorate and they effectively ruled until 1942. Their rule had been generally peaceful except for some rebellions, including one led by the Bajau-Suluk leader Mat Salleh from 1894 to 1900, and another led by Antanum of the Muruts known as the Rundum resistance in 1915. Many Suluk people had moved to North Borneo during this period due to the Spanish invasion of the Sulu Sultanate. Beginning in 1920, more Chinese immigrants arrived from the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian and even Hebei after the British changed its immigration policy to stimulate the stagnant economy during that period. There was also Javanese migration into Sabah beginning in 1891 and subsequent recruitment of laborers by the British from 1907 onwards. Other significant immigrants from present-day Indonesia into Sabah include the Bugis people beginning in the 1890s and the Florenese people from Flores beginning in the early 1950s.

The First Natives Paramount Leader was Pehin Orang Kaya-Kaya Koroh bin Santulan of Keningau “The father of former Sabah State Minister Tan Sri Stephen (Suffian) Koroh, and Sabah’s fifth State Governor Tun Thomas (Ahmad) Koroh (the elder brother of Suffian)”. Santulan which also a Pengeran, the father to Pehin Orang Kaya-Kaya Koroh was a Murut descendant of Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin, the 25th Sultan of Brunei.

United States Japan Apology

As part of the Second World War Japanese forces landed in Labuan on 1 January 1942, and continued to invade the rest of North Borneo. From 1942 to 1945, Japanese forces occupied North Borneo, along with most of the island. Bombings by the allied forces devastated most towns including Sandakan, which was razed to the ground. Resistance against Japanese occupation was concentrated in the west and north coasts of North Borneo. The resistance in Jesselton was led by Albert Kwok and Jules Stephens of the Kinabalu Guerillas. Another resistance was led by Panglima Alli from Sulug Island, off the coast of Jesselton. In Kudat, there was also some resistance led by Tun Datu Mustapha. On 10 October 1943, the Kinabalu Guerrillas together with followers of Panglima Alli staged a surprise attack on the Japanese. The attack however was foiled. The 324 local residents who participated in the attacks, including Albert Kwok and Panglima Alli, were detained in Petagas and later executed on 21 January 1944. The site of the execution is today known as the Petagas War Memorial.

In Sandakan there was once a brutal POW camp run by the Japanese for British and Australian POWs from North Borneo. The prisoners suffered under notoriously inhumane conditions, with worse was to come through the forced marches of January, March and June 1945. Allied bombardments caused the Japanese to relocate the POW camp to inland Ranau, 260 km away. All the prisoners, who by then were reduced to 2,504 in number, were to be moved, but instead of transport, were forced to march the infamous Sandakan Death March. Sickness, disease, exhaustion, thirst, hunger, whipping, and shooting killed most of the prisoners, except for six Australians who successfully escaped, were never caught, and survived to tell the horrific story of the death march. The fallen of this march are commemorated each year on Anzac Day (Memorial Day) in Australia and in Sandakan, at the original POW campsite where a POW hut style museum and a black marble memorial obelisk monument are nestled in a peaceful park setting with a lily pond.

The war ended with the official surrender by Lieutenant-General Baba Masao of the 37th Japanese Army in Labuan on 10 September 1945. After the surrender, North Borneo was administered by the British Military Administration and in 1946 it became a British Crown Colony. Jesselton replaced Sandakan as the capital and the Crown continued to rule North Borneo until 1963.

On 31 August 1963, North Borneo attained self-government. The idea for the formation of a union of the former British colonies, namely, Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo was mooted as early as the late 19th century, but it was Tunku Abdul Rahman who officially announced the proposal of wider federation in May 1961. In general this idea was supported by the British. There was a call for complete independence at this time but it was denied by the British Governor. In 1962, the Cobbold Commission was set up to determine whether the people of Sabah and Sarawak favored the proposed union. The Commission had found that the union was generally favored by the people but they wanted certain terms and conditions incorporated to safeguard the interests of the various peoples. The Commission had also noted some opposition but decided that such opposition was minor. The Commission published its report on 1 August 1962 and made several recommendations. Unlike in Singapore, however, no referendum was ever conducted in Sabah.

Most ethnic community leaders of Sabah, namely, Tun Mustapha representing the Muslims, Tun Fuad Stephens representing the non-Muslim natives, and Khoo Siak Chew representing the Chinese, would eventually support the formation. An agreement was signed by Tunku Abdul Rahman, Harold MacMillan, the British Prime Minister, and William Goode, the last Governor of North Borneo, signed on behalf of the territory on 1 August 1962 putting on paper the agreement to form the union. It went into effect on 31 August 1963. The intention had been to form Malaysia on that date, but due to objections from the Philippines and Indonesia, the formation had to be postponed to 16 September 1963. At that point North Borneo, as Sabah, was united with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore, to form the independent the Federation of Malaysia.To safeguard the interests of North Borneo in the new federation, a 20-point agreement was entered into between the federal and the state government.


Sabah cuisine is, as you might expect a mix of indigenous, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese (and other) foods. I have chosen a raw fish salad, Hinava, akin to ceviche, as the dish of the day because it has its roots in the long history of Sabah and is very popular. Mackerel is the preferred fish but you can use tuna or any firm fish.




600g raw tuna or mackerel, cut into strips
120 ml lime juice (or vinegar)
3 to 4 small red shallots, sliced or chopped finely
2 inches young ginger, finely julienned
2 large chiles, cut into fine strips
5 bird’s eye chiles, cut finely (both green & red)
1 small bitter gourd, cut into strips and doused in salt for a few minutes
salt and sugar to taste


After a generous coating with salt to reduce the bitterness of the gourd, rinse it well in cold water.

Marinate the fish in the lime juice for 10 minutes.

Mix all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Jul 222015


Sarawak Self-government Day is an Independence Day celebrated on 22 July every year by the state of Sarawak in Malaysia. The holiday has been celebrated widely by the Sarawak state government and citizens only since 2012, after public discontent about Merdeka Day (Malaysia Independence Day) being too Malaya-centric.


Originally, the Kingdom of Sarawak was granted independence by the Sultanate of Brunei in 1841, but came under British “protection” from 1888 onwards. At this time, Sarawak was not fully granted independence although it had some autonomy. After the end of World War II, the territory was administered by the British Military Administration, then became a Crown Colony in 1946. The transferring of the territory to colonial administration sparked a major protest by Sarawakian citizens who wanted full independence. This led to the assassination of Duncan Stewart, the second governor of the Colony, by Rosli Dhobi, who was captured and subsequently hanged for murder. The position of the Governor was taken up by Anthony Abell, who also became one of the members for the Cobbold Commission which brought Sarawak and North Borneo into the Federation of Malaysia.


Sarawak was granted self-government on 22 July 1963, on the condition that it join with the newly forming Federation of Malaysia on 16 September the same year. Before the Independence Day ceremony on 16 September 1963, Alexander Waddell, the last Governor of the Colony, left the Astana (governor’s house) and boarded a white sampan to cross the Sarawak River, then handed the administration of Sarawak to the Sarawakian citizens, with the Colonial flag lowered and the Sarawak flag raised. Before he left, the Governor appointed Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the first Chief Minister of Sarawak.


Sarawak is one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. It is also one of the founding members of the Malaysian federation alongside North Borneo (Sabah), Singapore (expelled in 1965) and the Federation of Malaya (Peninsula Malaysia or West Malaysia). Like Sabah, this territory has autonomous law especially concerning immigration, which differentiates it from the rest of the Malaysian Peninsula states. Today, the state is known as Bumi Kenyalang (“Land of the Hornbills”).


Sarawak is situated on the northwest of Borneo, bordering the state of Sabah to the northeast, Indonesia to the south, and surrounding the independent state of Brunei. The administrative capital is Kuching, which has a population of 700,000. Major cities and towns include Miri (pop. 350,000), Sibu (pop. 257,000) and Bintulu (pop. 200,000). As of the last census (2010), the state population was 2,420,009. Sarawak has six major ethnic groups: Iban, Chinese, Malay, Bidayuh, Melanau, and Orang Ulu. Several minor ethnic groups include Kedayan, Javanese, Bugis, Murut, and Indian.


The Iban comprise the largest percentage (almost 30%) of Sarawak’s population. The Iban are native to Sarawak, and Sarawak has the highest number of Iban in Borneo. The great majority of Iban are Christians. However, like most other ethnic groups in Sarawak, they still observe many of their traditional rituals and beliefs. Sarawak celebrates colorful festivals such as the generic Gawai Dayak (Harvest Festival), Gawai Kenyalang (Hornbill Festival), Gawai Burong (Bird Festival), Gawai Tuah (Luck Festival), Gawai Pangkong Tiang (House Post Banging Festival), Gawai Tajau (Jar Festival), Gawai Sakit (Healing Festival) and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead).


Sarawakian Chinese are said to be Han Chinese because 99.99% are classified as ethnic Han (which is a matter of statistical convenience more than reality). All 55 recognized ethnic groups of the People’s Republic of China are represented. Chinese pioneers are believed to have first arrived in Sarawak as traders and explorers in the 6th century. Today, they make up 24% of the population, and consist of communities descended from the economic migrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are classified as a non-Bumiputera (non-indigenous) ethnic group.

The Sarawak Chinese belong to a wide range of dialect groups, the most significant being Cantonese, Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese, and Puxian Min. The Chinese maintain their ethnic heritage and culture and celebrate all the major cultural festivals, most notably the Chinese New Year and the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Sarawak Chinese are predominantly Buddhists.

Fuzhou people came to Sarawak in 1901 from Fuzhou, Fujian due to numerous violent incidents such as the Boxer Rebellion that occurred in the Qing Dynasty in 1899. During the Boxer Rebellion many Chinese Christians were brutally murdered. Wong Nai Siong a Christian leader, led them to Sarawak to live and to create a community by agreeing with terms and conditions set by Charles Brooke, then Rajah of Sarawak, and later allocated them a nearby town called Sibu and decided to name it the New Foochow Settlement. However, due to the sizeable presence of other Chinese sub-ethnic groups such as the Hokkiens, Hakka, and the Cantonese they ultimately retained the original name of the area.


Malays make up 23% of the population in Sarawak. They mostly populate the southern region and urban areas of Sarawak. Despite being Malays, Sarawak Malay has a distinct culture and language from that of other Malays in Peninsular Malaysia. They speak a local variant of Bahasa Melayu Sarawak (or Sarawak Malay), and have been classified as Bumiputera Sarawak.

saramelan1  saramelan2

The Melanaus are thought to be amongst the original settlers of Sarawak; they make up 6% of the population. Today most of the Melanaus community are either Muslim or Christian, though they still celebrate traditional animist festivals such as the annual Kaul festival.

sarabid1 sarabid2

Concentrated mainly on the West end of Borneo, the Bidayuh make up 8% of the population in Sarawak. The Bidayuh speak a number of different but related dialects. Some Bidayuh speak either English or Sarawak Malay as their main language. While some of them still practice traditional religions, the majority of modern-day Bidayuh have adopted the Christian faith.

saraorang1 saraorang2

Orang Ulu is a multi-ethnic group in Sarawak. The various Orang Ulu together make up roughly 6% of Sarawak’s population. The phrase Orang Ulu means up-river people and is a term used to collectively describe the numerous tribes that live up river in Sarawak’s vast interior. Such groups include the major Kenyah and Kayan people, and the smaller neighboring groups of the Kajang, Kejaman, Punan, Ukit, and Penan. Nowadays, the definition also includes the down-river peoples of the Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh, Berawan, Saban as well as the plateau-dwelling Kelabit.

Orang Ulu is an ethnic designation politically coined to group together roughly 27 very small but ethnically diverse tribal groups in Sarawak, with a population ranging from less than 300 persons to over 25,000 persons. Orang Ulu is not a legal term and no such ethnic group exists or is listed in the Malaysian Constitution. The term was popularized by a minority association known as “Orang Ulu National Association” (OUNA) that was formed in 1969. The Orang Ulu typically live in longhouses elaborately decorated with murals and woodcarvings. They are also well known for their intricate beadwork and detailed tattoos. The vast majority of the Orang Ulu groups are Christians but old traditional religions are still practiced in some areas.

Sarawak cuisine is a mix, of course, with heavy influences from Malaya and China. But the dishes all have a Sarawak twist – mostly in the combinations of flavors and the raw ingredients. Hard to replicate if you are not there (as ever). This is a good site http://www.huntersfood.com/ For today I’ve chosen laksa which is popular throughout the country and comes in many styles. This one is rice noodles with chicken and shrimp in a very complex sauce/soup. Most of the ingredients for the sauce can be found in the West with a little digging. The noodles may be a challenge but you can substitute any thin rice noodles.


Sarawak Laksa


300g medium prawns
1 lemongrass bulb, bruised
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small chicken (about 1 kg)
500 ml coconut milk
100 g dry roasted peanuts, ground
30 g roasted sesame seeds, ground
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and sugar to taste
oil for cooking
500 g beehoon or yellow noodles, blanched in hot water before serving

Spice Paste

15 shallots, peeled
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cm galangal, peeled
15 dried chiles, deseeded and soaked in water
4 candlenuts
3 lemongrass bulbs, chopped
2 cm toasted belacan (dried, fermented shrimp paste)


1 whole cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into matchsticks
2 fresh red chiles, sliced
3 spring onions, chopped
8 calamansi limes, halved
2 eggs
soy sauce


Simmer the chicken in light chicken stock for about 1 hour. Remove the chicken and let cool a little before stripping the meat from the bones and cutting in bite-sized pieces.

Peel the shrimp and put the heads and shells into the chicken stock along with the with the chopped onion and lemongrass. Simmer for about 30 minutes, strain the liquid and reserve.

Put all the spice paste ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Heat a little oil in a pot and fry the spice paste for a few minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook over low heat for another few minutes. Pour in about .5 liters of chicken/prawn stock, chopped cilantro and coconut milk. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the ground peanuts, sesame seeds, and lime juice, and season with salt and sugar to taste. Stir well and add the prawns. Continue cooking over low heat until the prawns are done.

In the gaps, beat the eggs with a little water and soy sauce to that they are a little thin. In a small frying pan make thin, dry omelets. Cut them into thin strips and put in bowls.

Put the noodles in the bottom of deep bowls, divide up the prawns and chicken, and pour the sauce over the top.

Set out the garnishes in bowls for guests to help themselves.

Aug 092013


On this date in 1965 Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and in consequence became the first and only country to this day to gain independence unwillingly (although I will qualify this at the end). Just to remind everyone that this is supposed to be a recipe blog, all the images today are of Singapore dishes. Singapore is foodie paradise. As a tourist the main challenge is to find something to do between meals.


The earliest known settlement on Singapore was in the second century. It was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire, named Temasek (‘sea town’). Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, it was part of the Johor Sultanate. In 1613, Portuguese raiders burnt down the settlement and the island sank into international obscurity for the next two centuries.


In 1819, Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived and signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor on behalf of the British East India Company to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. In 1824, the entire island became a British possession under a further treaty with the Sultan and the Temenggong (local head of police and army). In 1826, it became part of the Straits Settlements, under the jurisdiction of British India. Singapore became the capital of the Straits Settlements in 1836. Before Raffles arrived, there were around 1,000 people living in Singapore, mostly indigenous Malay, and 20-30 Chinese. By 1860, the population exceeded 80,000, with over half of the population being Chinese. Many immigrants came to work at rubber plantations; and, after the 1870s, the island became a global center for rubber exports.


During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The British were defeated, and surrendered on 15 February 1942. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” The Sook Ching massacre of ethnic Chinese after the fall of Singapore claimed between 5,000 and 25,000 lives. The Japanese occupied Singapore until the British repossessed it in September 1945 after the surrender of Japan.


Singapore’s first general election in 1955 was won by the pro-independence David Marshall, leader of the Labour Front. Demanding complete self-rule he led a delegation to London but was turned down by the British. He resigned when he returned and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock, whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defense and foreign affairs.


During the May 1959 elections, the People’s Action Party won a landslide victory. Singapore had become an internally self-governing state within the Commonwealth, with Lee Kuan Yew as the first Prime Minister. Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (“Head of State”), and was succeeded by Yusof bin Ishak who in 1965 became the first President of Singapore. During the 1950’s Communists, mostly supported by the Chinese majority, with strong ties to the trade unions and Chinese schools, carried out an armed struggle against the state, resulting in the Malayan Emergency and later, the Communist Insurgency War. The 1954 National Service Riots, Chinese middle schools riots and Hock Lee bus riots in Singapore were all linked to the Communists.


On 31 August 1963, Singapore declared independence from Britain and joined with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form the new Federation of Malaysia as the result of the 1962 Merger Referendum. Singaporean leaders joined Malaysia for various reasons. First, as a small country, they did not believe that the British would find it viable for Singapore to become independent by itself. Second, they also did not believe that Singapore could survive on its own, due to scarcity of land, water, markets and natural resources. Third, the Singapore government wanted the help of the Malaysian government to assist in opposing the Communists. However, the two years that Singapore spent as part of Malaysia were filled with strife and bitter disagreements.


The Malaysians insisted that Singapore be a pro-Bumiputera (Malay rights) nation, where indigenous Malays and tribes were given special rights to compensate for the decades in which they had been left behind in terms of their share of the wealth of the country compared to the ethnic Chinese, and also to maintain harmony within a multiethnic society. In addition, the Malaysians were suspicious of Singapore’s Chinese majority and worried that Singapore’s economic clout would shift the centre of power from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. There were also linguistic and religious issues. The Singaporeans, on the other hand, wanted an equal and meritocratic society (without special rights for one ethnic group): a Malaysian Malaysia where all citizens were given equal rights.


As part of Malaysia, Singapore’s economic and social development stagnated because the Malaysian parliament blocked many bills. Race riots broke out in Singapore in 1964. After much heated ideological conflict between the two governments, in 1965, the Malaysian parliament voted 126 to 0 to expel Singapore from Malaysia. Subsequently Singapore has prospered as an independent nation.

Here’s the qualification I promised at the beginning.

Singapore (as did Sarawak, https://www.bookofdaystales.com/sarawak-independence/ ), joined Malaysia under pressure from the British government. Singapore had not been happy with the situation from the start, in many quarters, and was quite happy to be expelled (hence the lopsided vote).  But they were expelled.


As you can see, Singapore’s cuisine is indicative of the ethnic diversity of the culture of Singapore, a product of centuries of cultural interaction owing to Singapore’s strategic location. The food is influenced by the native Malay, the majority Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan, and Western traditions (particularly English and some Portuguese-influenced Eurasian, known as Kristang). Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines, and the Middle East  have also influenced local food culture. Singapore is fusion-central. For example, at Singapore hawker stalls chefs of Chinese background, influenced by Indian culture, might experiment with condiments and ingredients such as tamarind, turmeric, and ghee, while an Indian chef might serve a fried noodle dish. This multiethnic nature of Singapore cuisine is a significant tourist attraction.


Most prepared food is eaten outside the home at hawker centers (large food courts), famous examples of which include Lau Pa Sat and Newton Food Centre. This is because such Singaporean hawker stalls are almost universally excellent and include a huge variety of cuisines, ranging across the board. A group of diners can share a table and each can pick from a different ethnic style of cooking. These hawker centers are abundant and cheap, hence encouraging a large consumer base. Chicken rice is unrivalled in popularity at hawker centers and is considered the national dish.


In Singapore, food is viewed as crucial to national identity and a unifying cultural thread; Singaporean literature declares eating as a national pastime and food, a national obsession. Food is a frequent topic of conversation among Singaporeans. Religious principles can complicate matters with Muslims not eating pork, and Hindus not eating beef. But people from different communities often eat together, and being mindful of each other’s cultures, choose dishes that are acceptable to all at the table.


Here is a favorite from the hawker chefs: oyster omelet with chile sauce.  It’s not an omelet in the Western sense; more like thickened scrambled eggs with oysters.


Singapore Oyster Omelet

10 large fresh oysters shucked
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp rice flour
8 tbsps water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 eggs
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
1 pinch white pepper
fresh cilantro chopped
spring onion chopped fine


Whisk both the cornflour and rice flour together with the water to make a fairly thin batter.

Mix the soy sauce, sake, and pepper in a cup. Set aside.

Heat a large heavy frying pan until very hot and add the oil. Pour in the batter and cook until the batter is lightly set, 2-3 minutes.

Crack the eggs whole over the cooked batter and smash them down with a spatula to spread them evenly but not so as to completely mix yolks and whites.

When the eggs start to set, break up the omelet into chunks and toss them around the cooking surface as you would with scrambled eggs adding in the garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes tossing constantly.

Make a shallow mound of the omelet in the center of the pan. Pour the soy/sake mix over the omelet and then add the oysters on top.  Let everything steam for about 20 seconds, then quickly stir everything together to blend the ingredients and ensure everything is heated through.  It is vital not to overcook the oysters.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and spring onions, and serve immediately with bowls of chile sauce.

Serves 3-4

Chile Sauce:

3 whole large red chiles
1 slice fresh ginger (young ginger is best)
1 clove garlic peeled
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
½ tsp sugar
Salt to taste