All in the mind…

Last week, before she came home for the one-week school break, my girl was reading the book  “The Hundred-Foot Journey“, one of the two that I had bought for her for her birthday and all that time, she was craving for this – the mutton bryani (RM18.00)…

Mutton bryani

…so when she came back last weekend, we went for the nice one at this cafe with the authentic chef from Northern India.

For the uninitiated, the book is an international bestseller that has now been made into a movie, a Steven Speilberg-Oprah Winfrey production, of the same name…

At the same time, I, on the other hand, actually had that intention to drop by this place already as I saw this post in a friend’s blog and that triggered a yearning in me for some naan (RM4.50)…

Naan

…and this time around, I specifically gave instructions that I did not want it glazed with oil like what I had on my previous visit as that would give the impression that it was rather oily even though it wasn’t really so and I enjoyed it a lot more than the garlic butter naan that I had prior to that last one. It was very well done that day – there were layers in the bread, baked to perfection in the tandoori oven till flaky and crispy and I truly enjoyed it to the max!

And talking about tandoori, I had the tandoori chicken too served with their special Indian basmati rice (RM16.00)…

tandoori

…with raita and dhall dip by the side. Needless to say, that was very well-done as well and absolutely satisfying. The meat was so juicy and tender unlike some that I had had at some places elsewhere.

My missus, however, did not want anything Indian and so she opted for something from their Indonesian menu…and she ordered this nasi balado, beef (RM16.00),,,

beef

…to try. She seemed to have forgotten that I had that before and it was not at all nice as the beef was overcooked and extremely hard but thankfully, it was very well-done this time around and the best part was that it  was spicy – just the way she liked it!

No, it certainly was not cheap – the total came up RM62.50 but the boss decided to waive the 50 sen and rounded it all up to RM62.00. However, what mattered most was that we left the place feeling really happy and satisfied that we had had a delightful meal that we enjoyed a lot and actually, after that rather heavy lunch, we were still full come dinner time so we just had something light that evening.

Two worlds…

When I was in Miri sometime ago, I got to try the Filipino dish, the Tortang Talong

Tortang Talong
*Archive photo*

…which is actually an eggplant/brinjal omelette.

Well, it so happened that there were two of the vegetable/fruit in the fridge that day so I decided to create my own version of it…

TT + CO 1

I saw how my friend, Kelly, did it in her blog when she cooked this dish…but instead of doing it her way, I just put the brinjals into the oven till they were all wrinkled a bit like this…

Brinjal

Then, I could remove the skin quite easily…

Peeling the brinjal

…after which I cut what was left of it into strips like this…

Stripped

In the meantime, I broke the eggs into a bowl, added a spoonful of cincaluk (fermented shrimps) and a spoonful of my missus’ pounded chili and some curry leaves, cut into thin strips and chopped daun sup

For the omelette

…and beat everything together well. Of course, you may choose to add whatever you want – sliced Bombay onions and fresh chilies, tomato wedges, chopped carrot, spring onions…whatever you may fancy. The world is your oyster!

I heated a bit of oil in a pan and poured half of the egg batter into it and spread thinly before putting in one of the brinjals that I had…

Cooking the first one

Once, it had tuned into a nice golden colour on one side, I flipped the whole thing over to get the same on the other side.

I repeated this same process for the second one…

Second one

…and it certainly looked like the cincaluk had sunk to the bottom of the batter so there was a lot more in this piece.

Once each was done, I dished it out on to some kitchen towels and  let it stand for a while to soak whatever excess oil they might be before serving it in a plate…

TT-CO 2

So, there you have it – my combination of two worlds, the union of the Filipino Tortang Talong and the Peranakan/nyonya cincaluk omelette.

For one thing, I thought they looked like two kiwis sleeping under a blanket…

TT-CO 3

What do you think? LOL!!!

So red…

When we cook our own mee sua and serve it with traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup at home, it would look something like this…

Birthday mee sua
*Archive photo*

…and despite the red wine used, it is not really red in colour.

I noticed that those that I had had in town seemed so very red…

Red mee sua 1
*Archive photo*

…right down to the colour of the meat served with it…

Red mee sua 2
*Archive photo*

…but when I asked around, I was told that this was because they used the cheaper low-grade ang chiew (traditional Foochow red wine), the not-very-well-filtered ones selling at around RM4.00-5.00 a bottle. We usually use the best available, RM8.00-RM10.00, that is usually very clear. No wonder when I ate at the shops, most seemed to lack the very nice fragrance and taste of the wine.

I also noticed in some blogs that the ones at Sitiawan, Perak and elsewhere in the peninsula are also very red in colour including this one that my friend, Claire, had when she was there not too long ago…and even the one my sister-in-law’s gave us once was of this darker shade of red.

Well, I felt like having some mee sua that day and instead of just marinating the chicken in the red wine we had in the house, I added a pinch of ang chao – the residue from the red yeast rice left over from making the wine…

Marinating the meat

I cut a few slices of ginger…

Ginger slices

…and fried them in a bit of sesame oil till golden brown before adding the meat…

Add the meat

You can add more ginger if you like or just bruise one whole chunk of it for use or if you love ginger a lot, like my missus, you can pound it and use in your cooking. I am not all that fond of a lot of it as it is very heaty and I would feel somewhat unwell after eating too much of it.

After cooking the meat thoroughly, I let it simmer till the juices had come out before I added some water…

Add water & wolfberries

…and a handful of Chinese wolfberries (枸杞 or kei tze) which people say are good for one’s eyesight. For one thing, they’re sweet and will subsequently complement the taste of the soup. I would have added some dried shitake mushrooms (soaked and softened, stalks removed) as well but there wasn’t any in the house so I had to do without those.

After simmering for some time, I transferred everything from the wok into a pot…

Into the pot

…and continued simmering for a while longer. There! I could see that the meat was red and so was the soup, just the way I wanted it to be. I tasted the soup and it was nice enough so I did not add anything else to it. You may want to add some seasoning – salt and msg or chicken stock granules, if you are thus inclined.

For one thing, the longer you simmer, the tastier the soup will be but you have to be careful as the chicken these days may not be able to withstand all that heat and may disintegrate and fall into tiny bits and pieces. The best would be corn-fed or kampung (village) chicken and not the ones fed and fattened with those factory-produced chicken feed and hormone injections so that they would be ready for sale in a jiffy!

After I had cooked the mee sua, I poured the soup over the noodles and served them with a piece of the meat…

Mee sua in ang chiew ginger chicken soup 1

It was very nice but it became even nicer after I had added a spoonful or two of the red wine straight from the bottle…

Mee sua in ang chiew ginger chicken soup

They say that alcohol evaporates in the process of cooking so for that extra kick, it is best to add a bit more prior to eating. Brandy would be nice too for this purpose, if you have any in the house. I did not have any hard-boiled eggs with it as those would usually be served in conjunction with somebody’s birthday…plus I was thinking that I already had quite a few over those days leading to this one.

There you have it! My very delectable bowl of mee sua served in traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup in the desired darker shade of red and if you are thinking that it is so easy too cook, you are absolutely right. That’s the beauty of Foochow cuisine – so simple and yet so very very nice!

From the other side…

Bakso is quintessentially a dish from our neighbouring country on the other side, Indonesia.

The name intrigued me as bak in Chinese (Hokkien) is meat…as in the name bak kua (barbecued pork slices) so I googled it up and this was what I found on Wikepedia:  “…The name Bakso originated from bak-so (肉酥, bah-so), the Hokkien pronunciation for “shredded meat”. This suggests that bakso has Indonesian Chinese cuisine origin…” Well, I don’t know whether it is due to the territorial differences or what but here, we call minced meat bak chor and that’s pretty close, I guess. Of course, in Indonesia, being predominantly a Muslim country, they use beef and at times, chicken as well.

The first time I tried it was at a cousin’s Hari Raya open house…

Cousin's bakso
*Archive photo*

…though I would not say that it swept me off my feet.

Sometime later, I spotted a stall selling it

Bandong bakso stall
*Archive photo*

…right beside the ayam penyet place at Bandong that we do frequent quite a lot. I wouldn’t know whether it was because we already had our dinner earlier that evening but I thought it wasn’t all that great either…

Bandong bakso
*Archive photo*

…plus I felt there was a bit too much msg for comfort.

Not too long ago, I was invited to this food tasting session at the food court beside the Sibu Bowling Centre and I had the bakso from one of the stalls there…

BBCCafe bakso
*Archive photo*

…and I really enjoyed this one. However, somehow or other, I have not had the opportunity to go back there since to have more of it.

Anyway, recently, my niece, working in Singapore, went to Bali and when she came home, she gave us a packet of instant bakso. I did not take a photograph of the packet as it did not look all that attractive and I was feeling somewhat skeptical – I did not think it would be all that nice and at best, it was going to be something like all the rest, the multitude of instant noodles on the shelves in the shops and supermarkets here, there and everywhere. Nonetheless, one morning, I thought I would just cook and have it for breakfast.

I had some udang galah (freshwater prawns) in the freezer and I threw two of those in…

Instant bakso noodles 1

…and I did garnish it with some chopped spring onions from my garden before I started eating it.

Everything else came from inside the packet – the little meatballs and the garnishing, the bumbu (seasoning) and the chili powder and even a bit of fried onion oil…

Instant bakso noodles 2

I tried it and good golly, it was VERY nice!

Unfortunately, my niece only gave me one solitary packet and that was all that I had…and I don’t think anybody else is hopping over to the other side anytime in the near future. I don’t know if it will be the same or not but I suppose I can always cook my own…or be happy with those that I can get at the stalls around here.

STOP PRESS:
Well, I’ve tried cooking my own but I did not really go full swing as I was afraid that it would not turn out nice. I used these beef balls…

Marina beef balls

…that we enjoyed a lot but I only used a few of them, just in case! They turned out to be a whole lot nicer than those fishball-like ones that they use in the shop as they still have that texture of minced meat in them.

Well, since what I managed to dish out was really good and was well-received by all, I certainly would want to go all the way the next time around – the complete works. No holds barred! Watch out for my blogpost on that!

This is our song…

Did you have that special song at your wedding, the one where you and your spouse had your very first dance as man and wife? No, I did not have one but I did have a videotape (Yes! That’s right! It was so long ago already!) recording of the church ceremony and what I did was to take excerpts from the whole thing to compile one short clip and then I dubbed the audio track with this song that I sang myself with one of those minus-one recordings that I had on cassette tapes.

It has been the general practice for sometime now to show a special video clip featuring the bride and the groom and so far, those that I’ve seen, the most popular songs used for the purpose are Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and at one time, it was Shania Twain’s “From this moment on”. These days, it is not uncommon to have a band in attendance at wedding receptions and they will play all the beautiful love songs that are most suitable for the occasion but if I were to engage one, I certainly would want to double check their playlist as at one wedding in Penang, I was wondering why they chose to play Trisha Yearwood’s “How do I live” which, I feel, is a rather inappropriate song with lines that go:
Without you,there’d be no sun in my sky.
There would be no love in my life
There’d be no world left for me.
And I, baby, I don’t know what I would do,
I’d be lost if I lost you if you ever leave,
Baby, you would take away everything real in my life…
Gosh!!! I wouldn’t think it is a good idea to think such depressing thoughts, not at one’s wedding. What do you all think?

Generally, the people here are more into Chinese songs and one song that I’ve heard being sung quite a lot would be this one…

As a matter of fact, I’ve sung at weddings a few times myself and those that I’ve presented included Elvis Presley’s “Can’t help fallin’ in love”, this version of Nat King Cole’s “When I fall in love”, Olivia Newton John’s “Let me be there” and this one…

In fact,  a blogger friend sang this very song at his own wedding for the grand entrance of his bride and according to him, he changed the lyrics a bit. I guess he didn’t quite like this line:
“…I know you haven’t made your mind up yet…”
…but other than that, I would think the rest would be perfectly all right and it certainly is such a beautiful song.

Among the more contemporary ones, I think I love this one the most…

…though I can’t imagine dancing to it, considering that it does not have that kind of melody that would make you wanna sway and sweep one off one’s feet, so to speak.

So what song did you have at your wedding? Or if you have yet to tie the knot, which one would you choose to be your song?

Salty…

Sometime ago, I got this pack of made-in-Johore mee teow from my friend, Pete, in KL

Mee teow & grilled clams

…and the other day, I decided to cook it.

It looked like our hung ngang (big bihun) but that would not be salty.  Our mee sua (longevity noodles) is salty and that is why when we cook the chicken soup to serve it with, we do not add salt…or I will use a lot of water when boiling it, the same as what I did with these noodles from Pete…

Boiling

The salt would be dissolved and go into the water and after cooking, I would rinse in water some more…

Rinsing

…a few times, to get rid of whatever saltiness that may be left and also to remove any excess starch so the noodles would not be sticky and would not stick together when tossed or fried.

My cousin in Australia told me that she liked the grilled clams, this particular brand, so I decided to give it a try and other than those, I also had these ingredients…

Ingredients

- some shallots and garlic, peeled and sliced…and what was left of some fish cakes that we had in the freezer.

I tossed the noodles with a bit of mushroom soy to give it a little bit of colour…

Tossed with mushroom soy

…not too much in case it was still too salty.

Then, I fried the shallots and garlic in a bit of oil, added the clams and the fish cake slices…before putting in the noodles and after frying everything together thoroughly, I added some eggs and a pinch of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) stock and when I was satisfied that it was done, I dished it all out and served…

Fried mee teow 1

…garnished with a bit of chopped spring onions. It was very nice, the noodles…

Fried mee teow 2

…nothing like bihun or kway teow or mee sua – I think it is in a completely different category of its own. I did not think the clams were very nice though – they lacked the taste and fragrance of the Amoy ones that I would usually use even though the clams in the latter would be so small you would need a magnifying glass to be able to see them.

We all enjoyed that and even though the pack did not look all that big, there was so much that we had that for breakfast and also for lunch that day.

The day before the day…

It’s my mum’s birthday today. She’s 84.

We had dinner earlier at home last Saturday night when Melissa was back for the weekend from her jungle school…and that was simultaneously our Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival dinner in advance, the whole family together.

Of course, we had the fried mee sua (longevity noodles) with the golden eggs…

Ming Mei Shi birthday mee sua with eggs

- a tradition we would observe for all birthdays and other special occasions.

Other than that, I ordered the same dishes that I had at this restaurant with Huai Bin that day and enjoyed a lot so there were these creamy butter prawns…

Ming Mei Shi creamy butter prawns

I don’t know whether it was because we brought the dish home and did not have it piping hot from the wok but there did seem to be a lot more gravy than when we had this same dish there so much so that they came across more like the butter scotch prawns that we would usually have here. Perhaps it was a different chef/cook doing it but nonetheless, it was very nice so it did not matter one bit.

We also had the claypot venison…

Ming Mei Shi claypot venison

…which did not come in a claypot, probably because we were not dining in…and the asparagus…

Ming Mei Shi fried asparagus

…and also the chao chai (preserved vegetable) fish (tapah) soup…

Ming Mei Shi chao chai tapah soup

In addition to all the above, I asked for another vegetable dish – the broccoli…

Ming Mei Shi fried broccoli

…and for six persons, the bill came up to RM110.00 which I thought was very reasonable.

For dessert, in keeping with the tradition of the auspicious annual festival, we had the lovely Lavender mooncakes

Lavender mooncakes from Annie 1

…from my friend, Annie, who sent them…

Lavender mooncakes from Annie 2

…all the way from KL. Thanks again, Annie – everyone loved them so much – not too sweet, very fine and smooth…very nice.

It wasn’t really a grand celebration nor was it on the actual days but most importantly, the family gets to sit down and have dinner together – that, of course, would be what mattered most.