Sekinchan – padi fields, seafood and fruits
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 18 May 2012
It is said that Sekinchan is a place of padi fields, swiftlets and fishing boats. LIN ZHENYUAN swings by one evening to get re-acquainted with a town that many motorists have bypassed.
If you are wandering aimlessly for some strange reason in the district of Sabak Bernam and are seriously wondering what to do next, perhaps you may want to make a pit-stop at Sekinchan.
Before you make an impromptu statement like “what to do there-lah?”, Sekinchan is only about 28km from Kuala Selangor. If you are from Petaling Jaya, the distance is about 80km.
The historical roots of Sekinchan are 90 years deep. In the early 1920s, Sekinchan began life as a fishing village. The pulsating centre of the little village just after World War I was a place called Bagan.
Actually, there are a number of places in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia called Bagan. The Hokkien-speaking people would attest to that.
Bagan as it turned out was the crucible of today’s Sekinchan. The early settlers were from the Teow Chew clan and they were mostly fishermen.
When the Emergency started in 1948, Sekinchan was identified as one of those “black” areas that were sympathetic to the Malayan communists.
Thus in 1953, Sekinchan was isolated for strategic purposes. But Sekinchan continued to thrive because the land was fertile and its waters were teeming with fish.
The name Sekinchan apparently is known in Chinese as “land suitable for plantation”. But it also has other descriptions like “land of plenty”, “Ang Moh Gang” and “Chap Lak Gi”.
During the colonial period, the Teow Chew folks called it Ang Moh Kang because of the large presence of white residents. Later the Hokkiens named it Cha Lak Gi or 16th mile because that was the distance from Kuala Selangor.
If you can’t read the writing on the restaurant wall, you are in a spot.
Nature has somehow endowed Sekinchan with a number of natural advantages. Its fertile soil is suitable for fruits, padi and palm trees.
Today Sekinchan has an estimated 4,300 acres of padi fields and fruit plantations.
The fact that it is also a popular destination for seafood goes without saying but I am reminding others.
Sixty per cent of Sekinchan’s population are Chinese and the majority of them are Teow Chew. So if you are wondering, as I did, why they speak a different kind of “Hokkien”, it’s because they are actually conversing in Teow Chew.
Sekinchan, as records show, consists of four sectors – Site A, B, C and Bagan.
At Site A, the residents are mainly Hokkiens and there are about 200 houses. The Site A residents are mostly farmers.
Site B comprises Hakka and Cantonese folks. The total number of homes is about 400 and the core activity is business.
Site C is a fishing village of which the inhabitants are mainly padi farmers.
Today, the population of Sekinchan is fast approaching 20,000. Total area under farming is about 4,700 acres. Since it is also one of the major fishing places in Selangor, there are about 300 trawlers anchored all over the coastline.
The fishermen wake up at 4am and go out into the sea. They only return at about 5pm with their catches of fish and prawns.
The sun had yet to set when we drove into Sekinchan town looking for dinner. We quickly agreed that we needed to look for a place that was filled with customers.
That would be a good indication that it was a “good eatery”. After circling the limited number of roads twice, we spotted the SSH Seafood Restaurant around a wide corner.
It seemed to be boisterously open for business and the number of diners inside was an encouraging sign. We quickly parked our car opposite the restaurant and made a beeline for the premises.
Chinese medicine shops are common in towns like Sekinchan.
It was then that we found out that its clientele were mainly nearby residents who came for dinner. They came in casual wear like shorts, short-sleeved shirts and T-shirts. Some of them brought along children.
We were unsure about our food selections because we couldn’t read the Chinese characters either on the wall or in the menu, so we relied on experience and started naming the usual items like “wat-tan hor” (noodles in gooey egg gravy), yam/meat with fermented red beancurd, veggies and a big bowl of yong tau fu.
The Chinese tea was “cook-phor” which is a blend of chrysanthemum flower and the Lok-Phor brand of Chinese tea. It has a very pleasant fragrance when soaked in boiling water.
Refills of the pot of Chinese tea was made easy with a thermostat container of boiling water next to our table.
Overall the food was just nice for a family of four semi-starving members. My better-half mumbled that the dishes weren’t spicy enough for her. She comes from a long line of nyonyas so she was practically in the wrong town at the wrong time with the wrong kind of dishes.
It was good for me though because I am not that fastidious in my choice of food so long as the dishes were fresh from the wok and were adequately edible.
This is after all a Teow Chew town so we have to abide by their culinary choices. Earlier when we walked in there were a couple of long stares from customers at nearby tables.
They quickly came to the conclusion that we were non-hostile out-of-towners because we had the wide-eyed looks.
Our conversation was a giveaway sign because it was interspersed with Hokkien, English and a few Manglish words.
Sekinchan after dark is suited for retirees and others who will quickly retire to their living halls after dinner to watch the Wah Lai Toi channel on Astro. The town and nearby places are sedate and suitably languorous but not totally comatose as it passes twilight time.
Activity had slowed down to snail’s pace. At 8pm, we were probably the only strangers in town. Hardly any outstation motorists make impromptu stops at Sekinchan.
They would drive further down the road and adjourn at Kuala Selangor which was brighter and slightly livier.
However, it was nice to get reacquainted with Sekinchan. That was my second or third visit to the place. I had promised myself previously that I would like to take a longer look at the place.
Perhaps I will do that on my next visit.