It’s somebody’s birthday…

Yes, it was somebody’s birthday again and this time, it was my sister-in-law’s so that called for another get-together to celebrate. We all went out for dinner at this restaurant and as always, there was a birthday cake…

Marcus' birthday cake 1

…from none other than Marcus who runs his business from his home at Delta Estate here. My niece, working in Singapore, loves his cakes so much that whenever there is anybody’s birthday, she would order one for the celebrant and another to take back to Singapore to enjoy.

Don’t expect to see anything fancy though – you will see the same old-school butter cream icing…

Marcus' birthday cake 2

…more or less like what he has been producing all these years ever since he first started. Even the taste is also the same (though he does make a few other varieties now) but that is what keeps everyone coming back for more – yes, it is that good!

So what did we have for dinner that night?

My brother-in-law would always want to order his favourite, never mind where we go for our dinner and that would be the sweet and sour fish…

Fat Mum sweet and sour fish

…and yes, they did a pretty good job with it but I think I liked their claypot pork belly with salted fish and dried chilies…

Fat Mum pork belly salted fish & dried chili

…most of all. Their honey spare ribs were good too but the photo was a little bit blur so I decided not to include it in this post.

There were also these kiam sor hay (salty crispy prawns)…

Fat Mum kiam sor hay

…but even though they used the much-coveted udang galah (freshwater prawns), I did not think it was all that great as the crustaceans seemed to lack the sweetness that the fresh ones would have and would have been kind of bland if not for the other ingredients used to cook this dish.

There was also the Sabah eyew chai

Fat Mum Sabah eyew chai

…which I am never fond of and we ordered ching chao so I expected it to come out dry with lots of garlic and maybe just a bit of sauce. However, what they dished out had so much gravy, so starchy from the cornflour used to thicken it…and even though, everyone seemed to enjoy it and finished all that was on the plate, I didn’t bother to give it a try especially when there were all the other nicer things to enjoy.

We had the Foochow-style tofu soup with canned oysters…

Fat Mum Foochow tofu soup

…and though I did not get any oysters in my serving, I thought it was very good and everybody else shared that exact same sentiment.

Service was good and everything came out very fast but gosh!!! The place was packed! It was so crowded and people kept coming and going all the time we were there…and I think I can guess why. The food was not bad (though I would not say it  was so good that I would be dying to go back for more)…and so very cheap. For the 8 of us and the six dishes, the bill came up to only RM110.00 inclusive of rice and drinks.

It certainly was great, getting together once again plus the cake was good and the dinner was not too bad either and after we had finished everything and everyone had had his or her fill, we left quickly…so somebody else could take our table.

Gifts…

I received these gifts…

From Huai Bin

…from Huai Bin when he came home and had just reached Sibu that day – the limited edition Tim Tam by Adriano Zumbo and lots of goodies, if I understood correctly, from a place in Kl that specialises in these Taiwan delights. I thought the sun biscuit (red label) was all right but it was different from what I had before. Somehow, it seemed to me that the filling was something like that in the pineapple cakes while what I had before would be more like the buttery filling in other one (chocolate label). My daughter loved the lemon cake while I loved that matcha cake, though I am usually not fond of anything green tea. This one was very mild, not strong on the green tea smell and taste and on the whole, the cake was not sweet – just right for me.

I was saving the Tim Tam for my girl when she came home for the weekend and I did try one myself. It was nice, sweet…and I did take some photographs of it, outside and inside but they turned out blur owing to the insufficient lighting in the room and when I wanted to snap some more, there wasn’t any left. My girl truly enjoyed it tremendously – I only had one and the mum had one as well while she finished all the rest in the pack in no time at all which, of course, made me very happy. Thank you so much, Huai Bin – it is so sweet of you to always bring something back for me to enjoy and a special thank you for saving me that pack of Tim Tam despite there being others who were waiting to lay their paws on them. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

Talking about gifts, my friend, Richard, here in Sibu gave me some of the nyonya changs that he made himself and of course, I enjoyed them very much but this time around, I did not finish them all at one go. I just savoured a few and kept the rest in the freezer and ate them one by one as and when I felt like having any. Well, I had just finished the last one…

Richard's nyonya chang

…and I thought that was it for the year when I got an sms from my cousin in Kuching telling me that she would be sending me some…

Green Road nyonya chang

…and good grief! She sent me so many – this was just half of the lot that I received. I left the other half at my parents’ place for them to enjoy and only took these home for myself.

These…

Green Road nyonya chang

…came from the roadside stall in front of the shops at Green Road in Kuching and they were very very nice, as nice as I remember them to be. They’ve been doing this for a long time now and in the past, they would only be setting up their stall/table by mid-afternoon around 3 or 4.00 p.m. selling these dumplings and also some really awesome nyonya kuihs like serimuka and the rest…but on some days, they might not appear for some reason or other.

Thank you so very much to her too for those and also for these panggang

Sambal panggang 1

…with sambal inside…

Sambal panggang 2

…but at best, I thought they were just ok…

Sambal panggang 3

This type of panggang would be as good as the sambal inside unlike the kosong (empty) ones which would depend heavily on how lemak (rich with santan/coconut milk) and how perfectly-panggang-ed (cooked over hot charcoal fire) they are and personally, I would prefer the latter, best enjoyed with condensed milk or kaya (coconut jam). However, as far as this type is concerned, I do think that the ones from this fat girl that I had before were much nicer.

In the meantime, I received another sms – this time from Annie-Q asking me to go to her brother’s house to get these dumplings…

Dumplings from Annie-Q's brother 1

…that he made himself.

I was not sure how to cook them but I followed his instructions – to boil some water and once boiling, to drop in the dumplings…and bring the water back to boil and then, add some more water and bring it to boil once again. Once the dumplings started floating up to the surface, they would be cooked…and I guess I did a pretty good job at that…

Dumplings from Annie-Q's brother 2

I made some black vinegar plus ginger dip, the way they would serve these at the shops and tried some. They were so very good and my missus and Melissa loved them very much too. In fact, I did not tell my missus when I went to get them and after eating, she asked where I had bought them from. When I told her, she said, “No wonder they were so very nice!” Indeed, they were a lot nicer than any I had had at the shops here or anywhere else. I understand he was making them at home for sale but only upon  orders from friends. I am not sure how much he’s selling them though – I didn’t ask.

Thanks, Annie and thanks to your brother too for these dumplings. I certainly would want to order more but not at the moment – I still have one of the two packs in the freezer, keeping them to cook over the weekend when Melissa’s home.

Off day…

I went out for breakfast with my ex-student, Xavier, one morning last week and we thought of dropping by here for the very nice dim sum. Unfortunately, it  was closed and no, it was not their off day. In fact, they had taken the whole week off to go on a holiday or something. It seems that this is the general practice these days – most of the restaurants would take sometime off to take their employees on a holiday some place and it is usually during the 7th Month in the Chinese Lunar calendar when business would be slower, this being the Hungry Ghost month and some people would avoid getting married around this time every year.

In the end, we settled for this place though I would not say I am all that fond of what they have in store but I love their sambals (dips) and anything would taste good when eaten with those. I ordered their mushroom fish ball noodles to try…

Fish Culture mushroom fishball noodles

…and when it was served, I thought it looked something like the Seremban Hakka mee but no, it had its own taste, not the same at all. It was rather strong on the mushroom taste, Shitake, of which I am not really a fan so initially, I did not think it was all that great but like I said earlier, once I had added the sambal hay bee (dried prawn dip), it turned out to be pretty nice after all.

We also had the specialty of the house, the Foochow fish balls…

Fish Culture Foochow fish balls

…which have meat filling inside…

Fish Culture Foochow fish ball, inside

…but I always feel they’re at best, just all right but they do seem to be mighty popular among the locals. Once you bite into it, the ginger soup inside will squirt out so in a way, this is a bit like the celebrated and much coveted xiao long pao (little dragon buns) which I am not too crazy about either.

We also tried these…

Fish Culture glutinous rice balls with meat filling

…and I quite enjoyed them. I thought they were pretty good with the glutinous rice exterior and the meat filling had a very nice, something like the texture of luncheon meat…

Fish Cultue glutinous rice ball with meat filling

…and not the usual minced meat that one would find in most of what they have here. I always tell people not to order too many of those as once you’ve tried one, you’ve tried them all – they’re all pretty much the same.

I think I’ve tried these before…

Fish culture salted egg fish paste rolls

…and anything with salted egg inside…

Fish Culture salted egg fish paste roll

…I would love, no question about it.

The steamed pumpkin chicken buns…

Steamed pumpkin chicken buns

…had a unique taste…

Steamed pumpkin chicken bun

…which we thought was kind of peculiar and did not go down too well with the both of us but at least, we’ve given it a try and now, we know it would be something we would not want to order again.

All in all, it was a pretty good breakfast. The place was crowded and despite that, service was very good and really prompt…and I had a great time chatting and catching up with things going on in our lives. Thank you so much, Xavier, for the breakfast treat. Hopefully, we can do it again sometime and the next time around, it will be on me…

Bun in the oven…

No, it may look like I’m pregnant but I definitely am not, by any chance, in the family way and that is exactly what this English expression means. A little learning is a dangerous thing, so they say and imagine some sweet young thing wearing a t-shirt that cries out loud in front, “I’ve a bun in the oven!” or worse, “So many men…so little time!”

Anyway, that aside, actually, I would like to highlight in today’s post some so-called Korean buns that I got to try recently. A friend of mine shared on Facebook this photograph of the ones that she bought…

Korean buns 1
*Friend’s photo on Facebook*

…and I wasted no time in asking her where she bought them. She told me that they were sold at a cake accessories shop among those in the Apollo area here, opposite the primary school (Su Lai). Well, that should not be too difficult to find, I thought, considering that there are only a few blocks of shops in that not very big area.

However, when I went around lunchtime one fine day, I was told that they were all sold out and I would have to go back another day if I wanted any. The girl said that they would bake them on the first floor above the shop and every hour, they would send a tray of the buns down, piping hot from the oven, for sale but only till around 11 something in the morning. I wouldn’t know but I guess probably, they only had one small oven so they could not bake a lot at one go, just one tray at a time.

The very next day, I made it a point to go a bit earlier and I managed to get some to try…

Korean buns 2

On the outside, I thought they looked like those artisan breads but no, they were not anything like those.

They had a very fragrant and thin crust on the outside…

Korean buns 3

…and with the toasted sesame seeds, initially, I thought it tasted something like our Sibu Foochow kompia. However, as I continued eating, it became quite clear that this was quite different and as a matter of fact, I would say that I liked this a lot more.

I googled and found out that these were supposed to be Korean mochi buns so it was supposed to be slightly chewy on the inside,  just that I did not think it was all that sticky and rubbery like mochi

Korean buns 4

…and the texture actually gave some bite to the bun and made it different from normal bread or buns and with a very slight hint of sweetness that complemented its fragrance and taste, I would say that I enjoyed it…very much!

My missus said that she did buy some once at a local bakery but theirs were bigger and more expensive but she did not think they were any good and that was why she never bought anymore after that. Like me, she also enjoyed these a lot and at RM1.00 each, we thought it was quite reasonably priced and we would definitely go back there again to get some more time and again.

Another friend commented on the photos of these that I uploaded onto my Facebook page that he had had those from this bakery so I went over to buy some to try…

Uncle Bakery Korean buns

They were much cheaper – only 70 sen each and you can get 3 for RM2.00. To me, they did seem slightly smaller and did not look as nice on the outside. The taste was exactly the same except that they did not have that nice and crunchy outer crust that the ones aforementioned have so they were completely kind of tough and rubbery.

Given a choice, I certainly would buy the ones that I like more even though they may cost a little bit more.

Honey lemon…

The previous Saturday (not the one that had just gone past), we stopped by here

HL1

…for lunch. It was under a different name before, run by some other people, but they closed down the place not long after and now, it has resumed business, it seems, under a brand new name and a different management…and this was where I got the nice and relatively cheaper made-in-Lahad-Datu mooncakes that I featured in my previous post.

Everything was pretty much the same and the zakka part of the shop wasn’t anything to get excited about either, just a few odds and ends on sale and none that would be of interest of me. I know these cactus plants…

HL2

…were going for RM15.00 each and no, I was not keen on buying those either.

One thing that caught my eye though was this old F & N orange bottle…

HL3

When we were small, for festivals like Chinese New Year, my father would buy crates of Coca Cola and these from a shop in town, Kim Guan Siang, but no, they were not for us. Those special drinks would be reserved for specials guests dropping by (though I might have sneaked away a bottle or two to enjoy) and we could only help ourselves to the made-in-Sibu Ngo Kian aerated drinks which to us in those days, were like heaven on earth as well, not like young people today who can have everything they want so much so that these aren’t in any way regarded as special treats that we, in our time, would give an arm or a leg for.

I had the iced red bean (RM4.90) while my missus had the cendol (also RM4.90)…

HL4

…which did not look much different except for the cincau (grass jelly) at the top and I did not take note of what happened to all the ang tao in the end. She claims that for whatever reason, eating those and even red bean paste would make her head spin and she would feel giddy after that. Melissa did not order anything fancy that day and stuck loyally to her 100 Plus (RM2.50).

To start off, we shared this mushroom soup with garlic bread (RM4.90)…

HL5

…which we found to be rather diluted, not rich and creamy and not something that we would want to order again.

Melissa had their chicken-lamb-beef platter (RM16.90)…

HL6

…which was all right, this much I would say, and they sure were very generous with the meat…

HL7

…so much so that Melissa was not able to finish everything on the plate.

I had their sup tulang (bone soup) with rice (RM8.90)…

HL8

…and I would say that I loved their version of that. It wasn’t as diluted as those at the Malay stalls here and not as oily as the Indian ones that I had had before plus it  was not that strong on the spices as well. There were a few chunks of beef along with the bone in it…

HL9

…but I would prefer it served with noodles rather than rice and I found their rice a bit on the hard side, not really to my  liking.

My missus had their chao chai hung ngang, prawn (RM7.90)…

HL10

…and she said it was good but she said what she had here not too long ago was a lot nicer.

Our orders were served pretty quickly and service was great and prompt but they were speaking Mandarin the whole time so I would not be able to say whether they were conversant in any other language or dialect or not. All in all, I would say this would be a great place to hang out with friends to chat and have something decent enough to eat in the meantime but unless they have something else better on their menu that we have not tried yet, if it is solely for the food, like a number of similar places that we have around here all over town these days, perhaps it would be better to go some place else.

Full moon…

The Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival (中秋节 ) falls on Monday, 8th September this year, the 15th Day of the 8th Month in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

As in previous years, I have bought our local Foochow pek quek ting chiew pia (8th Month Festival biscuits) to enjoy and at the same time, commemorate this auspicious occasion in the year to uphold the age-old tradition…and as always, I would steer clear of those lovely mooncakes from the peninsula as they are mighty expensive and the very nice ones made locally aren’t all that cheap either and what’s worse would be the fact that the prices would keep going up every year.

I was still stalling for time, torn between buying or not buying, when I chanced upon these…

Lahad Datu mooncakes 1

…made in Lahad Datu in Sabah…

Lahad Datu mooncakes 2

…at a café here the previous weekend when we dropped by for lunch. I saw the big price tag beside the displays and it  was only RM7.75 but when I asked, the girl told me that it was only for the green bean flavour and I am not too fond of that. Still at RM9.75 for lotus paste and RM10.75 for single yolk, I thought they were cheaper than the rest so I bought one each to try.

They turned out to be really good…

Lahad Datu mooncake 3

- the lotus filling was fine and smooth and not sweet, just slightly and I really liked that a lot. Most of the mooncakes are simply too sweet for my liking even though they claim to be “low sugar” or “reduced sugar” and I really wonder why these would be even more expensive when in fact, they would be using less of one ingredient.

The skin may be a bit thicker than some…

Lahad Datu mooncake 4

…but I am o.k. with that as I do enjoy eating the pastry, not just the paste in the mooncake.

They had around 8 different flavours on the counter, one mooncake of each and I am not sure whether those were the samples and they had more put away some place. I certainly hope they have more as I would be making my way there again one of these days to grab more for myself and to give away before the festival comes around.

In the meantime, my daughter’s friend/coursemate from Bintangor contacted her and passed her these homemade ones…

Mooncakes from Christina

I’ve seen some people calling these “Shanghai mooncakes” and I do enjoy these as well.

The ones we got were really good, much nicer than those from the local bakeries here or here as far as the pastry was concerned. The pink ones had red bean paste inside…

Red bean paste

…while the green ones were pandan-flavoured…

Pandan filling

I thought both flavours were nice – a bit sweeter than the made-in-Lahad-Datu ones that I bought but not too sweet, thankfully. I did think, however, that I would very much prefer the original colour of the pastry and they could have just dotted the mooncakes with a pink or green dot on top instead of colouring them completely like that. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers and as they say, the best things in life are free…and we should never look at a gift horse in its mouth.

It certainly was so sweet and thoughtful of you, Christina, to get us some to try – thank you so very much. It is indeed very much appreciated.

All the best…

My friend invited us to his father’s birthday bash here…

MingZiang Court, Kingwood Hotel, Sibu

…at a leading hotel in town last Friday evening. Though I’ve been attending dinner functions at the banquet halls in this hotel quite often, I can recall probably just two other occasions when I had had a dinner in their Chinese restaurant proper including that one time quite long ago upon the invitation of that same friend’s younger brother.

So there we were, Melissa, my missus and I, at the venue to join in the celebration of the very auspicious and happy occasion and of course, there were the longevity noodles…

Mingziang Court birthday mee sua

…with the”golden” egg served in the very nice wine-rich chicken soup in big individual bowls. Personally, I prefer the noodles done this way instead of having them fried as I enjoy them more and in fact, I remember fried mee sua making its appearance only sometime in the 90’s, pretty recent so I would say, so as far as traditions go, that is not really the accepted way of eating these longevity noodles.

I’ve always loved this course, be it served hot like this…

MingZiang Court hot plate

…or “cold”. I enjoyed the beef tendons and also the slices of what I guessed was ham, next to the steamed chicken and had more than my fair share of those. Hehehehehe!!!!

The fish…

MingZiang Court steamed/fried fish

…was very good too. White/silver pomfret (ikan bawal putih) this size would cost a bomb at the market here if at all, they’re available – they say the restaurants have preferred customer status and they would get all the nice big ones and not many would make it to the stalls at the wet  market. That night, what they did was to cut the top half of the fish to fry and serve as fish fritters and fillet and steam the bottom half in the usual manner. Of course, for people like my daughter who would enjoy deep-fried stuff and really good fish and chips overseas, there would be no question at all that she enjoyed it very much.

The creamy butter prawns…

MingZiang Court creamy butter prawns

…were excellent and needless to say, they were all gone in no time at all…and likewise, the braised sea cucumber…

MingZiang Court braised mushrooms

…with assorted mushrooms.

Dessert was the usual fruit platter and these delightful sweets…

MingZiang Court dessert

I don’t know exactly what they were but they had that sticky skin like mochi and red and green bean paste inside.

We certainly enjoyed the dinner and I, for one, had a great time meeting and catching up with old friends among all the invited guests that night…and I really must thank my friend once again for the invitation and wish his dad a very Happy Birthday and all the best in the year ahead, and may God shower His abundant Blessings upon him and all in the family always.