Hey brother…

I was in the vicinity of the Rejang Park shops here that day as I had to go to the mini-post office there to send some stuff and I stopped by this coffee shop…

Happy Hours

…that I’ve blogged about several times before, here and here, for instance.

Sometime ago, there used to be a stall here selling fish noodles and it was very popular. Long queues were the order of the day and after you had asked for what you wanted, you would have to stand there and wait. Once it was ready, you would have to take it yourself, self-service. The tom yam was everyone’s favourite but when I went once, I had the clear soup fish bihun and I thought it was all right – it certainly did not get me running back for more. Well, the lady has moved elsewhere and no, I have never gone to check her out at her new place but I hear the situation has remained unchanged. For one thing, she certainly is no Miss Congeniality and I certainly have no intention of patronising places with people like that. We pay them money, they make a living out of us so they should show us at least a little bit of respect. Surely it does not hurt one bit to be a little bit nice to people and I just cannot understand why people would want to keep going to such places at the risk of being scolded. Real silly, don’t you think? There are things that I can live without and I certainly can do without those things sold by this kind of people.

Well, I heard that her brother has set up his own stall at the old place selling the same things and no, he will serve you at your table – you will not have to do it yourself. Since I was around there that morning, I thought I would just check it out…

Happy Hours stall 1

…and yes, the guy was very nice and friendly. Who says the fruits from the same tree are all the same?

My missus would probably want the zhao cai – she loves that with its sourish preserved vegetable soup and somehow, I could not get myself to go for the tom yam. Boring ol’ me, I just asked for the chin tan or clear soup with hung ngang, the big bihun (RM6.00)…

Chin tan hung ngang 1

…which was nice even though I had a problem with eating the noodles using a pair of chopsticks – I’m not very good at using those. I wasn’t exactly fond of the fish either. If I’m not mistaken, it was just those frozen fish fillet, usually Dory, that isn’t my favourite. Preferably, he could  use some of the local fish fillet and he can always charge more should anyone asks for that.

Other than that, the soup was very much to my liking – light and tasty and I enjoyed the minced meat balls…

Chin tan hung ngang 2

…that came with it.

There used to be an old lady at the stall next to this one…

Happy Hours stall 2

- she used to dish out some pretty nice stuff and I remember specifically her char kway teow and her pek koi. I did not see her that morning and I was not sure if these people were related to her or they had taken over that stall.

For one thing, I think the coffee here is cheaper – my kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) was only RM1.60 compared to RM1.80 elsewhere and besides, I enjoyed the old Mandarin favourites that they played not too loudly at the place including this one…


在雨中 – 劉家昌/尤雅

…that I love a lot! Ahhhh!!! What sweet memories that song brings!!!

I’m only human…

A car is like a human being too. When it is new and flashy, it will look great and will be the envy of all. People will admire and sing its praises and everything will run smoothly. However, it will grow old too – time will take its toll and problems may crop up time and again. However, if one takes good care of oneself from young and eat the right diet and have proper nutrition, stay away from all bad habits, go for regular check-ups and keep oneself active, one should be in pretty good shape once one grows old. Many people do not take good care of their cars – as long as it runs, it’s fine. In Hokkien, they refer to this as oo cho, boh ciak (direct translation: got do/work, no eat) and of course, it would come as no surprise that trouble would come knocking on one’s door.

I drive to Selangau and beyond once a week and very often, I would see cars breaking down, stalled by the side of the road and some of them are actually very new…not to mention, those with a flat tyre! I guess they feel it is not too far, just an hour and a half away (even though there is nothing much all along the way other than a few longhouses and jungle, trees, trees and more trees), so they never bother to make sure their cars are in tip-top shape before embarking on the journey. Every week, I would make it a point to fill up the petrol tank, check the air pressure in the tyres including the spare in the boot, check the engine oil, the battery water, the water in the radiator and the storage tank for the wipers/windscreen…and of course, every 5,000 km, I would send the car to the mechanic to change the engine oil and get him to look at everything to make sure everything is in perfect running order.

Humans have the daily ritual of keeping clean and may go out once in a while to pamper oneself – go to the salon for a hair wash or go for a massage, a manicure and a pedicure or something. Likewise, cars need to be pampered too…

Wira

…like this old car of mine, already 20 years old and is in pretty good shape, I would say. Of course, it’s a manual but that is not a problem here. People tell me that it would be tough not driving an auto-gear vehicle in KL with all the horrendous jams all over and having to shift gear all the time for hours on end when they get caught in one.

Humans fall sick too once in a while and so it is with my car. There may be some problems cropping up once in a long while – a flat battery, the plugs need to be replaced, the treads are all worn out so the tyres need to be replaced…stuff like that. In fact, once I feel that something does not seem right, I would drive to the mechanic right away to have him look at it. A stitch in time saves nine, they say. If you ask me, I do think it does not look too shabby really, with its original paint and all, but of course, there will be people who will sneer, “Aiyor!!! Get rid of it lah, this old junk! Go get a new car! Don’t be so kiamsiap (stingy)! What for you save all your money? Can’t take it with you when you go!” Bla…bla…bla!!! True, how very true – that last bit especially but I do not see a need to get a new one when it is running well, no problems cropping up and no need to spend and spend on regular visits to the mechanic and it gets me from here to there and back through the sun and the rain…

Rain

…so I really have no complaint whatsoever plus an old man like me sure doesn’t need to show off and drive a flashy car, zooming down our two-minute streets (yes, it takes two minutes or less to drive from one end of our roads to the other unless you go out of town, like me…and I can’t for the dear life of me understand why they need to go so fast) and parking the beauty illegally by the road side outside the coffee shops, flaunting away for all to see.

Yes, yes, I know. Old cars have no resale value. Neither have humans. Imagine if I were to go and ask for a job now, people would just laugh it off saying, “We can’t afford you lah!!!” when deep down inside, they’re actually whispering to themselves, “Who wants to employ you, you old goat?” Just look at the recent Budget, for instance – civil servants will get a bonus, 50% of their salaries, but sorry, no 50% for pensioners. We will get RM250.00, that’s all, and even that, we will have to wait till January! It is pretty obvious, isn’t it? They think we are not actively contributing anymore, never mind what contributions we might have made during our years of service…and it does seem quite clear that they can’t wait for us to kick the bucket and join the heavenly choir so they will not have to pay us our measly pensions anymore. Tsk! Tsk!

I would want to sell off my other car…

Saga

…though – my 24-year old 1st generation Saga. No, no, there’s nothing wrong with it…just that, both my missus and I are no longer working so we do not need two cars anymore and this one is hardly ever used (since it’s parked on the inside of the car porch all the time) except when I have gone out and maybe my missus would need to go out for some reason, usually to the shops round the corner to get something. As I did say earlier, humans need to stay active, both physically and mentally or the body tissues and muscles would waste away and they will start becoming forgetful and eventually, senile…and similarly, if you do not use your car regularly, it is not good for it at all.

I had a problem with this one as like all those national cars from that time, they would rust…badly and it did not help one bit that my missus used to work shifts so it was left outside in the sun, moon and rain day in, day out. The guy at the paint shop said it was like cancer, eating you up inside out and I had to replace the top/cover of the boot as there was a hole going right through it when I got it resprayed two years ago, after my missus retired. It’s the same with humans, isn’t it? If there is a cancerous growth, you may need to go for surgery to remove that problematic part of your anatomy.

Actually, between the two, I think this one has more power and the body is much stronger, more solid…but I am more used to the other one since I’ve been driving that one all the time. I went and asked my mechanic and he too told me that I would not get much for it and since it is running well and is not causing any problem, I might as well keep it as a spare. Sigh!!! I guess I will just hang on to it…or both, actually, till they decide for whatever reason to call it a day and then I can sell it off as scrap metal or something. It’s the same with humans, isn’t it? Once the time comes, they will just send you off to your new home and it’s adios…bye bye!!! Life’s like that, I guess.

A little too late…

It was past 12 noon when we went out for lunch last Saturday and that seemed to be a little too late as I noticed that many of the stalls at many of the coffee shops in town were already closed. This seems to be the case around here these days especially on Saturdays and Sundays because probably, many would go out for breakfast or brunch in the morning and once they have sold out everything, they would just close shop and call it a day.

Melissa wanted fried noodles, Malay-style so we stopped by this coffee shop – the stall was still open but the lady said that they were already out of noodles and kway teow and all she lad left was bihun…so that would just have to do…

Yummy Kafe fried bihun, Malay-style

It was all right, I guess but from what I could observe, it really wasn’t anything that was all that great.

I cannot remember how much that was, probably RM4.00 or RM5.00 but this was RM6.00 – the beef noodles that my missus had…

Yummy Kafe beef noodles

…which I had tried before and I thought it was very nice. Melissa sampled a bit and promptly declared that she would have that the next time should we happen to drop by this place again.

I did not really have anything in mind so I just ordered myself a plate of kampua noodles…

Yummy Kafe kampua mee

…and this bowl of soup…

Yummy Kafe mixed soup

…with some pian sip, fried fish balls, meat balls and liver. If I remember correctly, the total for both came up to RM6.20…and that was lunch.

On our way home, we stopped by this bakery…

New bakery 1

…in a brand new block of shops (where this cafe is located) along Brooke Drive on the left if you’re coming from town, past Sheraton Restaurant. It has just opened not too long ago…

New bakery 2

…so we decided to check it out.

There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, I’m afraid – just the usual bread and buns and cakes. In the end, I decided to buy their “signature egg tarts” (RM1.50 each)…

Egg tarts

…to try.

They were good, despite the slightly wrinkled surface…

Egg tart

…but I can get something pretty much the same at the other bakeries in town and seeing that there is nothing here that’s special to pull in the crowd, I guess I’d probably drop by again, if at all, to pick up a loaf of bread or something out of convenience since more likely than not, I would be driving past there on my way home from town.

Incidentally, I noticed this signboard a few doors away…

Manglish

It is not very clear due to the choice of font used but I think that’s direct translation. I don’t think the Chinese characters mean the same though or it would have looked something like this – 天天好. Enlighten me, somebody, please! I can guess, however, from all that double happiness character in the sign that this place has got something to do with weddings. Ah yes! I can see that now on the glass, bottom left.

So that was our lunchtime outing last Saturday – nothing really fancy this week, I’m afraid.

Hidden away…

Sigh!!! How many of you would agree that women are very good at hiding things? Wait a minute! Let me correct myself. They’re good at putting away things but they do it so very well. More often than not, they would be so well-hidden away that they themselves cannot find them and would have to turn the whole house upside down to find them. What do the rest of you think about this? Hehehehehe!!!!

Well, that always seems to be the case with the things in our fridge. Very often, I would discover things that I can hardly remember when we had them or where they came from and some would have grown moldy already but moldy or not, I would just throw them all away. Well, that day, there were already two tubs of leftover rice in the fridge and yes, this is going to be another fried rice post again. While looking through the fridge in search of something that I could fry it with, I found another tub, “hidden” in the compartment where we would usually keep out chocolates and stuff. That being much older than the other two tubs, I decided to fry it first and save the most recent one for another day.

That morning, I decided to use the fermented/salted dabai that I had kept in a bottle in the fridge. I have blogged about that here but this time around, I decided that I would remove the skin so the end product would not have that unpleasant-looking bits of black and besides, if the skin is thick, it does not taste very nice – siap-siap, they say in Hokkien, whatever that is in English. Other than that, I thought I would use the air budu I got from my friends from Trengganu and also some leftover calamansi lime juice plus sugar and chili dip that I had made the day before for my fried fish balls…

Ingredients

…and of course, I had my usual sliced shallots and garlic and I also got some of the skinny stalks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden.

After frying the shallots and garlic in a bit of oil till brown, I added the dabai

Steps 1 & 2

…followed by the rice and after mixing everything together well, I fried that for a while before adding the air budu and the lime/sugar/chili dip…and half an ikan bilis (anchovies) stock cube…

Step 3

…and finally, I added some eggs…

Step 4

…and once I felt everything had been sufficiently fried, I dished it all out…

Dabai fried rice 1

Yes, it was very nice with the flavours of all the ingredients used and it sure looked much better than I last time I cooked this, without the bits of dabai skin…

Dabai fried rice 2

…all over but I would prefer it if I had added a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and maybe some thinly-sliced long beans or french beans to give more bite to it and perhaps, our own local stronger-smelling/more fragrant air budu aur would bring the taste to a whole new level. I think I will try that next time…

Thinking of me…

Melissa went shopping with her mum the other day – I didn’t go…and I have this feeling that the two do not like me to tag along when they go shopping as I would get bored and tired very quickly and would want to go back home. Hehehehehe!!!!

Anyway, they went to this supermarket in town that stocks up on all the imported stuff from all over the world and when they got home, she passed me these…

Korean cookies 1

I can’t only read a few words on the box but judging from the glyphs, I guess it must have been made in Korea.

Well, obviously it’s organic as stated and I guess that’s also what they mean in their reference to being green…

Korean cookies 2

I don’t think it has anything to do with being environment-friendly, what with the box plus the individual packaging of each cookie inside…

Korean cookies 3

Actually, I quite like it when they do this as it would ensure that the contents would not go limp if not kept properly in an air-tight container.

These cookies aren’t all that cheap – RM2.99 for a box and even though they’re quite big, that would work out to over 35 sen each…

Korean cookies 4

Maybe it’s because it’s supposed to be healthy so it was kind of bland to me – not sweet, not much taste…but my missus loved them and went back to grab some more! Ah well…like I always say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. To each his own.

Other than those, my girl also got me these…

Dutch biscuits 1

…and likewise, I can’t read most of what’s printed on the pack. In cases such as this, I guess all that talk about having to read labels carefully before buying anything would just come to nought.

Well, at least, I know these are made in Holland…or the Netherlands…

Dutch biscuits 2

…and I did see the word “Dutch” somewhere as well.

Between the two, I thought these…

Dutch biscuits 3

…had a bit more taste and were a little sweeter and even though they were going at over RM6.00 a pack, it would work out to around 40 sen a piece only as there were 16 altogether though comparatively, these were a bit smaller.

For one thing, I think I’ve lost my sweet tooth and these days, I am more into things savoury rather than sweet but whatever it is, even though they did not get me jumping with delight, it is always the thought that counts…and it certainly was so sweet of my girl to be thinking of me when out shopping (and having fun) and to get them for me to enjoy. Thank you so much, girl.

The old ways…

Life certainly is a lot easier these days with all kinds of appliances and gadgets that one can use but of course, easier does not necessarily mean better. Many will attest to the fact that more often than not, things are much better if done the old-fashioned way but unfortunately, not many are willing to go through the chore and would rather take the easy way out and settle for less.

In the case of cooking, for instance, everyone will admit that it is so much easier and faster just to use a blender compared to pounding everything half dead using a lesung batu (mortar and pestle) even though they know that it will not taste as great. I guess I am old and I am old-fashioned so I would go pounding everything manually as and when the need arises.

The other day, my missus came home with some tapioca (casava) leaves…

Daun Bandong

…that she had plucked in some piece of vacant land behind her mother’s house. These are very easy to grow – sometimes, people, after harvesting the tubers, will just throw the rest of the plants somewhere and lo and behold! After some time, you will see them growing all by themselves like nobody’s business. Yes, these leaves are edible but they must not be eaten raw owing to the cyanide content. This is stated very clearly in this website but they also say that you may derive a number of health benefits from eating the leaves.

We call them daun bandong here and that is probably in the local Malay dialect or in Melanau for the Ibans would call them differently. The latter refer to them as daun jabang but those around Kanowit call them daun empasa but they’re all the one and the same thing. You can buy these leaves very easily at the jungle produce section of the Sibu Central Market at only RM1.00 for one big bundle. I do wish they would sell them in smaller bundles, maybe half that much at 50 sen each for usually, I would not cook all of it and would just throw the rest away. The ladies selling these leaves would sometimes pound them for you – they would do that while sitting there, waiting for someone to buy their stuff. Then, they would display what they have pounded in plates for sale. My missus would never buy those as she insists they’re not very clean – I would not think that is a problem as we could take it home and soak in water and rinse thoroughly before cooking but I have never bought the pounded leaves from them as there did not seem to be a lot in one plate and I would need to buy at least two or three and that might cost quite a bit.

My missus would use a blender but it would be a bit too fine and would not be as nice. I, on the other hand, would pound them, paying extra attention to this part of the leaves…

Pounding daun bandong 1

- the “veins” joining the leaves to the stalks. These are rather hard and would be difficult to chew and that would spoil your eating pleasure. That is why there are places where they cook this and sell but they do not pound (nor blend) the leaves and instead, they would just rub them (like how one would scrub one’s laundry, they say) and I do not really like eating them that way.

You will have to pound the leaves till they are quite crushed…

Pounding daun bandong 2

…but there is no need to do it as fine as when using a blender and that would ensure that you will have something to chew when eating them.

Once the leaves were done that day…

Pounding daun bandong 3

…I pounded the ginger (one whole chunk of it – if you want it to have a stronger ginger taste, then you can pound more) and I also got ready the other ingredients needed – a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and some chilies, sliced…

Ingredients

…plus one-third of an ikan bilis stock cube.

First, I fried the ikan bilis till golden brown and then pushed them aside to fry the pounded ginger…

Ikan bilis & ginger

…till brown as well. As you can see, I used quite a lot of oil – that would be necessary as the ginger and the leaves would absorb the oil but still, I would not use too much and would rather resort to using water instead. More about this later.

Oops!!! I had forgotten all about the serai (lemon grass)! Actually, I grow my own in my garden but it completely slipped my mind. When I shared the photograph of this dish on Facebook, somebody also suggested adding bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) petals. Of course, adding these, the fragrance would help enhance the taste and you can also add baby corn or sweet potatoes or pumpkin to it as well. There are people who would cook it with pork skin or kasam babi hutan (preserved wild boar) even and the soupy versions of the leaves are very nice too like what I did here. In fact, if you cook it with chicken and a lot of ginger, it would come across a bit like kacang ma, minus the wine.

Anyway, to get back to my cooking that day,  in went the chilies…

Chilies

…and the pounded leaves next…

Pounded leaves

…and after mixing everything together thoroughly…

Almost done

…I added water, a little at a time, just enough to let it sizzle once in contact the hot wok, and kept repeating that till the leaves were sufficiently cooked. In the absence of a lot of oil, stir-frying it till cooked may be a bit difficult but too much water would make it soggy and it would not be very nice – neither here not there, not a soup and not fried dry either…so do remember to go slow with the water and use it sparingly. You can add salt and msg at this point but I think there was enough salt already in the ikan bilis so I just added a bit of the ikan bilis stock cube instead…and once it was done, I dished it out and served…

Fried daun bandung with ginger, ikan bilis & chilies 1

Needless to say, it was very nice…even without the serai. This website says that the leaves are bitter…but no, you will not feel it at all eating it cooked this way with the fragrance of the ginger and the saltiness and taste of the ikan bilis. Somebody asked me if it was like cangkuk manis/mani cai – well, the answer is no. The taste and texture are different, it does not have the sweetness…but it is nice in its own right. Comparing the two would be something like comparing say, kangkong and sweet potato leaves…or paku and midin. They are just…not the same, end of story.

This is the simplest version of the dish, cooked with minimal ingredients and except for the pounding part, it is very easy to come out with your own plus other than the fact that it tastes great,  it is VERY cheap too…

Fried daun bandong with ginger, ikan bilis & chilies 2

One thing’s for sure, you will not be able to find it at a lot of eating places, even here in Sarawak, except perhaps at the ethnic stalls like the ones here or here…or those special restaurants here or here.

Our very own…

Bak kut teh literally means “meat bone tea” but I would think a more accurate name for it would be meat or pork bone herbal soup. You will not find this in China as it is a Malaysian dish, claimed to have originated in (Port) Klang and believed to have been consumed by the coolies or labourers at the port to boost their strength and health.

I have cooked this many times before using those packets of spices and herbs from the peninsula but the other day, I decided to use this…

Sarawak white pepper root bkt 1

My missus must have bought it sometime ago and I had seen it lying around in the house for a while now so I thought I might as well give it a try.

This is packed in Kuching…

Sarawak white pepper root bkt 2

 …and clear instructions as to how to cook the dish are given at the back…

Instructions

Add 3 litres of water, it said but I thought that would be a little bit too much for the two of us in the house – my missus and I, so I reduced that to 2 litres. I reckoned that at worst, it would be stronger in its herbal taste and we wouldn’t mind that very much actually. I could not understand what “4 bits of garlic bulbs” meant…and since I had reduced the water, I just threw two bulbs in. Not one to follow recipes/instructions to the letter, I also put in a handful of goji or wolf berries and a few dried Shitake mushrooms together with the two pouches that came in that one packet…

Step 1

…and brought that to boil.

Nope, I did not let it boil for 30 minutes – after around 15 minutes, I decided it was time to put in the meat and I brought it back to boil once again and when the meat was cooked…

Step 2

…I lowered the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

The instructions said, “…add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, dark soya sauce and oyster sauce…” and I could not, for the dear life of me, figure out the difference between soy sauce and dark soya sauce…so I just added two tablespoons of the mushroom soy that we always use in the house plus another two tablespoons of oyster sauce…

Step 3

Finally, add salt and monosodium glutamate powder to taste,” it said. What? More msg??? No, thank you. In my opinion, there would be enough msg already in the oyster sauce and I would not want any more salt either – the soy sauce would be salty enough.

I let it simmer for a long time, 30 minutes, at least and then it was ready to be served…

Bak kut teh 1

…with a sprinkling of chopped daun sup (Chinese celery) on top.

Yes, it was just right – the meat was nice and tender…

Bak kut teh 2

…and it was not too strong in its herbal taste, not too salty and no overload of msg.

However, the next time I use this particular brand of spices and herbs, I would go ahead and add 4 bulbs of garlic instead of just 2 as I would prefer the garlicky fragrance to be a little stronger…

Bak kut teh 3

…but on the whole, it was good enough. Perhaps a dash or two or more of pepper would be nice as well seeing that, despite the name – “Sarawak wild pepper root”, it was not peppery at all, not even the slightest hint of it and I would have liked a bit of that.

We had it with rice, of course, and for our vegetable dish, I fried some Chinese cabbage with young baby corn…

Vegetable dish

…together with some sotong (squid) and sliced fish cake. I’m afraid there wasn’t much colour in it and I did not bother with the presentation since it was just for the two of us at home to eat and enjoy.

Well, the weekend’s here! Anybody thinking of cooking some bak kut teh? Perhaps you can give this brand a try. It’s available at most, if not all, of the supermarkets in town and many of the grocery stores as well.