A stroll through George Town and you will see it everywhere -
At Beach Street, where Chinese aunties dry blue pea flowers (bunga telang) along the five-foot-walkways, and then bundle them up to sell at Chowrasta & Campbell Street morning markets for the blue coloring in Nyonya kuih. At China Street, where chilis and other spices are ground into a fine powder before being packed and sold to local restaurants in Little India. At Queen Street, where Mr Kok engraves wooden signboards that adorn Chinese homes and businesses throughout the city.
It's everywhere. Cultural interconnections. Heritage value chains.
But are they interdependent? Kuih makers could easily buy blue food coloring to make kuih. Restaurants in Little India could shop at Giant Supermarket to buy imported spices. All the Chinese residents and business owners could purchase electronic signboards.
And the uncle in George Town, who fries up the best char koay teow could switch from the sweet, fragrant, homemade soy sauce he has been using for decades, to a bland, generic sauce that was fermented in steel drums in a factory.
Maybe the uncle didn't have a choice.
|Thin Seng Soy Sauce for sale at the outdoor factory|
Thin Seng Sauce Factory on Kampug Malabar 天成號 is the last traditional soy sauce maker in George Town.
Started in 1912, the factory may not reach its 100th birthday.
|Soya beans fermenting for months in traditional barrels from China|
|Soya bean cooker|
|Bean paste (tau chiau 豆瓣酱) - an essential ingredient in dishes such as steam fish and Teochew porridge|
Like many traditional businesses within the UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town, the family running Thin Seng does not own the property. And now with tourism booming, they were recently informed by the owner of the property that they are being evicted, so he can sell the land to a developer.
The family would like to continue their business if they can find a suitable location. But with the skyrocketing price of land in George Town, and almost everywhere in Penang, that might not be possible.
When Thin Seng Sauce Factory empties the last bottles of soy sauce at the end of 2011, many people living in Penang, and visiting, may not see the difference in George Town, but they will taste it.
|Crystals forming on top of the fermenting soya beans|