No coincidence…

There is this superstition among the Malay and ethnic communities that if you are offered something to eat or drink and you would not want it, you would have to touch it, at least, outside on the glass or cup or plate, or you can just take a teeny-weeny bit of it or else some untoward incident would befall upon you. The Malays call it keempunan and the Melanaus call it poonek. In fact, if you can get hold of a copy of 22 Malaysian Short Stories, an anthology of literary works compiled and edited by Lloyd Fernando (1963), you will find a story on this.

When I was very much younger, probably around 1970 or somewhere then, I went to Kuching and my friends took me to this restaurant, Ang Lee, at Carpenter Street for lunch…or maybe it was dinner, I can’t exactly remember now. I did not want a drink other than the plain water that I asked for but my friends kept asking me – three times to be exact…and it probably was a  coincidence that as we were leaving the place, I slipped on the first step of the wooden staircase, got up, slipped again, got up yet again and slipped the third time. By then, I was already on the ground floor – I did not sustain any serious injury but I can clearly remember that it was very painful for me to sit for at least a week.

A more recent and definitely a lot more serious incident would be when we went to KL that time when Melissa was very small. We had just checked into the hotel and my missus was making coffee for herself. She asked me if I wanted some and I said no…and soon after, we left for the theme park in the city. It was drizzling that afternoon. I had just bought the tickets and we had just entered when I saw somebody slipping on the slippery tiled floor, so I told Melissa and the mum to walk slowly and carefully. As I approached the stairs going down to the park, I felt myself sliding even though I was just standing still – it was that slippery. I slipped over the edge of the first step on the stairs and sat down. I guess it was sheer bad luck that my elbow hit the upper step and the bone broke into two.

There followed months and months of hospitals and eventually, surgery (to join the bone with a piece of metal and six screws as it failed to heal and reconnect by itself) and physiotherapy and I had to go to a Chinese sinseh for treatment before I could get my arm back to ALMOST normal again. I did write to the theme park and they replied paying me around RM200, the initial money spent at the hospital in KL, enclosing 10 complimentary tickets to the park – of course, I just threw them away and to this day, I would not go anywhere near that place again.

So was it sheer coincidence, fact or fiction? I wouldn’t know but I would take that bit about touching the glass, cup or whatever on the outside when someone offers you a drink or something to eat as good manners, a gesture of appreciation – thank you, but no, thank you.  However, personally, I would feel that if you had drunk or eaten a bit, you might as well drink or eat it all as nobody would want it anymore after that and it would such a waste to throw it all away…and whatever it might or might not be, it wasn’t because of this, that we were here…

Zen

…at Jalan Chew Geok Lin (formerly Old street) near the Chinese temple in town last Saturday for lunch.

We had not had Japanese for a while now, not since early December when Melissa’s friend from Sg Petani, Kedah came to town. I think she was craving for it for when she came back the day before, she dropped by the place for a very late lunch at around 3 something but it was already closed and would only reopen much later for dinner. In the end, she had no choice but to have something else…and that was why the following day, I took her there again so she could enjoy what she was hoping for.

I noticed that they had a nice new menu now…

Zen - menu

…though they could have done a better job with the binding – the middle page was already coming off.

We had this fried salmon dish (RM14.90)…

Zen - fried salmon

…which everyone liked. I would say that I prefer it done this way instead of the usual grilling on a pan as the strong smell of the fish which I do not really fancy seemed to have been toned down by the coating and the deep frying.

The soft shell crab sushi with meat floss (RM15.90)…

Zen - soft shell crab with meat floss

…was very nice too and they certainly seemed very generous with the floss and virtually buried everything else with it.

The inari kizami (RM6.90 for two)…

Zen - inari kizami

…was good as well but there was a bit too much of the roe on the ebiko sushi (RM3.90 for two)…

ebiko sushi

…and that made them a bit too salty.

We also had the tempura mortawase (RM13.90)…

Zen - tempura mortawase

…and the tempura don (RM15.90)…

Tempura don

…which came with a bowl of miso soup and a couple of watermelon slices. Both were ok, pretty mild tasting – quite typical of Japanese cuisine and one would be able to savour the original flavours of whatever one is eating…though I did wish they had fried rice instead of plain rice in that don thingy.

The bill came up to slightly over RM70.00 for the food and of course, Melissa enjoyed herself a lot and was very happy and needless to say, when she’s happy, the father would be happy too… Wink! Wink!

That way…

When in KL, should I get the chance, I would love to drop by here for dinner. I was told that it was very popular as people would come for the home-cooked style dishes that they served and the star attraction would be the fried egg…

Fried eggs *Archive photo*

…done the way mama used to cook it.

I saw them doing that on tv and my goodness, they used so much oil and they could fry a few eggs at a time. They would all go swimming in the hot oil and once done, they lifted the whole thing and served. These days, one can hardly get eggs fried like that as people would usually use a non-stick pan with or without any oil but personally, never mind what they say – I would always prefer them done the good old fashioned way.

My mum used to fry eggs that way too. Whenever there was nothing much in the house to eat, like when what was left over from lunch was not quite enough for dinner, she would fry each of us an egg. To get it done like that, one would need a bit more oil than usual. Just heat up the wok, pour in the oil, wait for it to become really hot, crack the egg, and drop it into the oil…

Fried egg 1

Just let it cook for a while and you can splash some of the hot oil over the top of the egg so it would cook as well without you having to flip it over…

Fried egg 2

I do not really fancy fried egg that has been flipped over as to me, it does not look as nice…plus that was not the way my mum used to do it.

Once the edge has turned golden in colour and is nice and crispy…

Fried egg 3

…you may remove the egg from the wok already.

Move it gently to loosen it from the bottom of the wok if it is slightly stuck to it – it will come off very easily, no worries, and push it up the side of the wok and let the oil flow back down…

Fried egg 4

…before serving. If you are very particular, you may let the egg stand on some kitchen towel to soak away the oil further before you place it on the plate.

Fried eggs 5

There you have it, fried eggs done exactly that same way that my mum used to do it…

Fried eggs 6

…all those years when I was growing up. Of course, we never had them for breakfast at the time. Come to think of it, I cannot recall ever seeing a sausage then…other than the lap cheong, those Chinese ones. Folks in those days never had it so good as people today.

And talking about those reminds me of my friend, Annie-Q, who, when she came home to Sibu from KL for about a week that day, gave me some wine-infused ones made by her mother-in-law. Well, before she left, her mum gave me a HUGE tilapia, fresh from the lakes at the hydro-electricity generating Batang Ai in Sarawak…and my missus took it and steamed it…

Steamed tilapia

…using this…

Thai steamed fish sauce

…and oooooo….it was so very good!!! We certainly enjoyed it to the max! The sauce has that exotic Thai cuisine taste and fragrance and seeing that we love it so much, we certainly would want to use it again.

As a matter of fact, I have some ideas as to how I may be able to use it in ways other than this but that will have to wait till I get round to doing it. Stick around…

Conditioning…

I have two friends in the US, Opal and Jennifer, and both of them are vegans…and despite the fact that most of what I blog about are far from being vegetarian, they do drop by and comment regularly. I guess they may be able to get some ideas from my posts and create their own versions – if I’m not mistaken, I know that Opal does cook some non-vegetarian delights for her daughter and her father but she does not eat them herself.

Well, I’ve blogged about all my different versions of fried rice before and the other morning, I decided that I would like to try one that would be 100% vegetarian – no egg, no dairy products…

Vegetarian fried rice 1

These were the ingredients that I used…

Vegetarian fried rice - ingredients

- four cloves of garlic, sliced, a spoonful of my missus’ blended chili, spring onions, chopped, a bit of pumpkin, diced and also a tomato (there was only one left in the fridge), cut up as well, four shitake mushrooms, sliced, stems removed…and sweet soy sauce.

I fried the garlic in a bit of oil in a heated-up wok till lightly brown before adding the pumpkin. I fried it for a while as I guess it would take a little bit of time to cook. Then, I threw in the mushroom and the tomato…

Vegetarian fried rice - step 1

…and fried everything together for a bit.

Next, I added the rice, the blended chili and the spring onions as well as a bit of the soy sauce…

Vegetarian fried rice - step 2

…and mixed them all thoroughly.

After frying for a bit, till all the grains of rice had loosened and come apart, I dished it all out onto a plate and served…

Vegetarian fried rice 2

So, was it any good?

I would say that I liked all the flavours that I could taste from all the ingredients used…but I was not all that fond of the sweet soy sauce that I used. I think the next time, I would just use our regular mushroom soy sauce that we always use in all our cooking. You may add a pinch of msg, if you like, but I have been doing away with that in most of the things that I cook these days except perhaps, when there are not many ingredients from which the dish would derive its taste from.

I thought that was nice, a welcome change, though personally, I would prefer my usual stronger-tasting versions but I suppose where all our eating habits are concerned, it all boils down to behavioural conditioning  or in simple terms, getting used to it. In my growing-up years, whenever there was any leftover fried rice, my mum would just fry with sliced shallots (and of course, people in those days used lard in their cooking) and add an egg, salt and msg – so very simple and yet, we enjoyed that so very much…at the time but after adding all kinds of stuff to my fried rice over the years, I guess I have conditioned my taste buds to much stronger tastes than before.

I sure wouldn’t mind cooking this again…and maybe, I can experiment with other ingredients to see what may be compatible with the dish. Personally, I would very much prefer buttons to shitake…

Boiling…

This is another simple dish that my mum used to cook during my growing up years and I really liked it a lot…

Salted boiled pork

It was one of those dishes where whenever there was any left over from lunch and kept for dinner, when evening fell and it was time to sit down and eat, there would not be very much left. Don’t look at me! I’m innocent, I swear!!! Muahahahahahaha!!!

Nothing can be easier to cook than this, take my word for it! All you have to do is to put the slabs of pork in some water in a pot…

Salted boiled pork 1

…and bring it to boil. Let it simmer for as long as you can, say, around half an hour, at least, to make sure that it is cooked inside.

Pour the water into another pot…

Salted boiled pork 2

You can save that stock for soup or to cook with vegetables or whatever else.

Add around half a teaspoon of salt to the meat and sprinkle a pinch of msg all over it. You may add more, if you do not mind those things – lately, I’ve been cutting down on them so I just put a bit of each. Cover the pot and shake vigorously to mix the meat with the seasonings added…

Salted boiled pork 3

Keep the pot covered and let it stand till it is time to sit down and eat. The heat in the pot will enable the salt and the msg to seep into meat to enhance its taste. You may shake it again once or twice, if you wish.

Going back to the the stock, add some water to it to dilute it a little and bring it back to boil. Add a pinch of salt and msg to it and garnish with chopped spring onions and fried sliced shallots…

Salted boiled pork 4

…and serve it as soup.

Cut the meat into thin slices…

Salted boiled pork 5

…and serve.

Well, there is salt added and also a bit of msg but at least, there is no frying involved, no added oil and the best part, of course, would be the fact that it is so very easy to cook…and yet so delicious to eat!

P.S.
DIJAMIN SAMPAI HARI ESOK (Guaranteed to arrive the next day)…and true to their tagline/slogan, I received these from Twilight Man yesterday…

From TM

Thank you so much for all the goodies from Japan. I’ve yet to cook and try the noodles…and I guess the mask is for my missus – I don’t think it will be of any help at all in my case…hehehehehe…and what’s the red ribbon for, by the way? Ah yes!!! And thanks also for the magazine – now, now…don’t anybody ask what magazine that was. See! See! You can see the pictures of all the food in my photo. Right, Twilight Man? Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

He sent the stuff the day before and with the consignment number that he gave me via his comment on my post that same day, I was able to go online to track and trace. As soon as I saw that it had reached the Sibu office at around 2 something yesterday afternoon, I went over to claim it – no problem at all! Actually, the delivery van was about to leave when I got there and they would have sent it to my doorstep later in the day had I not caught them in time. As far as our side is concerned, I dare say that we have no problem at all with the mail delivery – maybe they are more efficient, maybe there isn’t that much mail for them to cope with, maybe Sibu is a very small town so it is easy to get around…but unless the mail is held back there (due to flight delays, cancellations and what not – the excuses they may give), once it gets here, it will be delivered promptly.

And thank you also, Twilight Man, for the lovely postcard. It also arrived yesterday – while I was out at the Sibu POSLAJU office. What a coincidence!

Healthy…

When I was small, I was told that the seeds in a chili must be removed as they could not be digested and immediately, my over-imaginative mind started conjuring pictures of the seeds germinating and chili plants growing out of my ears and nose and bearing fruit. Gee!!! What a nightmare that was!!!

They also said that the core or the centre part would be the spiciest and once removed, what one cooked would be more easily tolerated as it would not be so hot anymore. Of course, those were the days when I was still small, not into anything spicy but these days, the chilies that I get from the market can be most frustrating as they are simply not spicy hot at all. Unlike in the past, I could just use my fingers to remove the seeds and the core, no problem at all. That is why I always say that they are good mainly for colour and decoration and nothing much else.

Ever so often, we would have to resort to using cili padi or this smaller version of the chili…

Chilies

…in order that we would be able to have that much-coveted spiciness in whatever we’re cooking.

I would never use a blender to grind my chili as no matter how many times you pulsate, the seeds would still be there, unaffected. So what I usually do is to cut the chilies into small bits like these…

Sambal belacan 1

…and pound, making sure that I crush all the seeds to powder…

Sambal belacan 2

…while doing so. Once you do not see the seeds anymore…

Sambal belacan 3

…the chilies would have been sufficiently pounded already, that’s for sure.

To make sambal belacan (dried prawn paste dip), it is best to toast the pieces of belacan first…

Sambal belacan 4

…over a fire in a non-stick pan so that it will be more fragrant and much nicer. I have seen those that have already been toasted on sale at the convenience store at KLIA (arrivals) but I don’t think we can get our simply-the-best Bintulu belacan pre-toasted like that. Ah well, it’s no big matter really as it is very easy to do that and will only take a minute or two – people can be really spoilt rotten these days, it seems.

Once done, put the belacan in together with the pounded chili…

Sambal belacan 5

…and pound some more. It may be a bit too dry for a dip so you can squeeze some calamansi lime juice…

Sambal belacan 6

…into it, stirring everything together and mixing them well. Use a strainer to prevent the seeds from dropping in – it is bad enough that you may have chili plants growing out of your ears and nose, I’m sure you would not want lime trees sprouting out as well. Muahahahahaha!!!!! Add more lime juice if you prefer it more diluted and add a bit of sugar if you find that it is a little bit too sour for your liking.

The other day, I was preparing this very yummy dip for my ulam (the Malaysian version of the salad)…

Sambal belacan & steamed brinjal ulam

…for lunch and I steamed some brinjal for that. There are a host of things that can go well with the dip such as cucumber, raw and cut into bite-size chunks, ladies’ fingers or long beans, lightly boiled, four-angle beans, kangkong, lightly blanched and so on and so forth.

I would say it is relatively healthy eating stuff like this as there is no oil used, no added salt (other than what may be  in the dried prawn paste) and no msg…and the best part, of course, would be the fact that I love it…a lot! Yum! Yum!

What’s left…

I got these organic wholemeal spirals from my cousin in Brisbane, Australia and Melissa used most of that to cook her pasta dish while she was home for the mid-semester school break…and I still had some prawns in the freezer from that time when I cooked my own Sarawak laksa so I decided to use what’s left to cook something for breakfast.

These were the ingredients I used…

Char pasta - ingredients

…plus some dark soy sauce and sugar and of course, the prawns as well…

Char pasta - prawns

I boiled the fusilli till al dente and drained before adding the soy sauce and a sprinkling of sugar to counter the salty taste plus a bit of my missus’ pounded chili since the sliced ones were absolutely hopeless – not spicy at all and good only for colour and decoration…and mixing everything together well…

Char pasta - pasta, boiled

I fried the chopped garlic in a little bit of oil till golden brown…

Char pasta - step 1

…and then I threw in the prawns and the sliced chili…

Char pasta - step 2

When the crustaceans were sufficiently cooked, in went the pasta…

Char pasta - step 3

…and after mixing everything together and frying for a bit, I cracked the eggs…

Char pasta - step 4

…and added those as well. Once done, I mixed the chopped spring onions with all that was in the wok…

Char pasta - step 5

…and it was done!

I dished everything out onto a plate…

Char pasta 1

…and served.

Yes, it was something like char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles) and if I had some taugeh (bean sprouts), I would have added some too to make it a whole complete dish by itself…

Char pasta 2

Personally, I do feel that kway teow is nicer but this is also good especially when that is all there is in the house…or when you see it lying around and would like to use up what’s left once and for all.

P.S.:
Need extra protection, anybody? How about trying this?
Thank you so much, missyblurkit, for the free one-year trial pack – the courier service guy just delivered it right up to my doorstep yesterday…

Norton 360

Much obliged…

Raw…

Actually, I was here at this place…

Wan Li

…that morning with Melissa and the mum in search of something for brunch. I did glance at what the people were eating and it looked like kampua noodles with some pork soup and Melissa said she did not feel like having that so we just went past and we ended up here instead.

Now, if anyone is interested, it is among the shops to the left of Medan Mall along Wong King Huo Road, behind the three blocks of shops to the immediate left of the shopping mall. Let’s just say that if you walk through here and come out at the back, this place is in the block of shops right ahead of you. Do take note, however, that it is not open on Wednesdays…

Wan Li opening hours

I saw Huai Bin’s post on it recently and since I was in the vicinity sometime last week, I decided to give it a try.

The kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) was great (RM1.50)…

Wan Li kopi-o-peng

…and I had the set (RM5.00)…

Wan Li noodle & soup set

…which comprises a bowl of kampua noodles…

Wan Li kampua

…and this bowl of soup…

Wan Li raw meat soup 1

According to Huai Bin, sheng rou mee means raw pork noodles but the pork was definitely anything but raw…

Wan Li raw meat soup 2

He said the meat had been pounded into thin slices and cooked lightly so it was not overcooked and yes, it was very thin and very soft and tender, so much so that it almost felt like I was eating fish!…

Wan Li raw meat

Yes, the noodles were very nicely done, tasting like our original authentic kampua and the meat and the soup were nice too though I was kind of wishing they had liver and intestines as well in it – I didn’t ask if they have those and will add them to the soup upon request or not. I gather that they sell this in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah as well but since I have never had that there, I am in no position to make any comparison…but I am pretty sure that our noodles and theirs would be completely different and don’t bother asking me which one I think would be better – you know the answer! Hehehehehehehe!!!!

All in all, I do think this is something worth considering when you’re out looking for something nice for a change.