What do you do when you have sore throat or a cough? Why, take some medical hornets and olives of course. Yes, that what my mother would get for us from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shop or Yok Choy Poe (药材铺). In Cantonese, this medicine is called chook fong yok lam (竹蜂药榄). “Chook fong” is bamboo wasp or hornet, and “lam” is olive (橄榄). Yes, it’s really ugly looking. She would boil it in hot water and make us drink the water.
Nowadays it’s difficult to buy such products. Maybe the bamboo hornet or wasp is an endangered species. Anyway, for the worthy cause of educating my younger readers, I bought a small packet to show you what it looks like. Hope my friend Siva and his fellow wildlife conservationists will not condemn me.
By the way, does anyone know why TCM shops always wrap their products in pink paper? That’s a genuine question, not a quiz question.
When we lived in the kampong, we had a TCM shop just a stone’s throw from our house. Guess what we called the shop owner? Yok Choy Poe lou (药材铺佬) of course! He was a Khek (Hakka). You may recall that our kampong was a Hokkien kampong. Practically everyone was Hokkien until when I was older. As far as I could remember, we were the only Cantonese family, and this TCM shop owner’s family was the only Hakka family. Across the road to the right, was a Hock Chew guy who ran a small coffee shop (with attap roof). Guess what we called him? Fook Chow lou of course!
In our kampong we had a lot of ‘lous’; e.g. fei fatt lou (barber), kopi char pou lou (coffee shop owner), mai yu loe (fish monger), mai arp lou (duck seller) etc. Good thing no koon choy lou (undertaker)
While I am at it, let me show you some photos of other equipment that the TCM practitioner uses. My father-in-law used to run such a shop in his younger days in Ipoh; which explains why my wife knows quite a bit about traditional Chinese herbs. When she was little, being one of the oldest children, she had to help out in the shop. Life was tough for her.
After my father-in-law passed away, a couple of years ago, we found these gadgets among his things. I will just show you the photos and you try to figure out what they are used for. That way, I don’t have to embarrass myself by giving the wrong ‘education’.
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