Survival of the fittest…

My friend, who is currently working in the peninsula, stopped by in Sibu on his way home to Sarikei. He was a blogger a long time ago and I only met him once when he and a number of other bloggers, including peteformation, dropped by the hotel to see me when I was in KL and we all went for brunch together. Nope, all of them are no longer active – I am the sole survivor since that time in May, 2009. We still keep in touch via Facebook though and when he said he would be here in transit, I offered to pick him up upon arrival at the airport in Sibu and no prize for guessing where I took him

RTM Cafe kampua noodles

…for that special kampua welcome home!

Look at that gleam of delight on his face…

AT RTM Cafe

…just as he was about to dig into his much-longed-for bowl of kampua noodles! LOL!!!

I decided to try their fried hung ngang – the bigger version of the bihun (rice vermicelli)…

RTM Cafe friend hung ngang

- without meat so as you can see in the photo, they added those tiny shrimps and egg instead. It was nice but I think it would be nicer if I had that with belacan (dried prawn paste) like the noodles I had there not too long ago.

It sure was nice seeing an old friend again after all this time – we certainly had a lot of catching up to do and after that brief brunch stop, I dropped him off at the Sibu Bus Terminal to catch his bus back to Sarikei.

And talking about survivors, we have all kinds of things growing in our garden, some planted by my missus and some simply sprouted by themselves. We do water them quite regularly and once in a while, we would do a bit of weeding…and despite the state of neglect, many have managed to survive. One of them would be this potted plant of leaves with a sharp spiky end…

Seed or fruit

It flowers sometimes – not very nice flowers, white with some thin long petals but pure and white as snow…

Flower

The other day, however, I spotted this…for the first time ever! Now, was it a seed or a fruit? I wouldn’t know but it looked like a miniature peach. Somebody was saying that occasions when something like this would appear would be very very rare and insisted that it was an indication of a forthcoming windfall…but unfortunately, to date, that is all it is – forthcoming! Sobssss!!!!

Anyway, back to my friend, thanks for stopping by and do come again. Perhaps the next time around, you can stay a little longer so that I would be able to take you around to enjoy the best that this little town has to offer. Cheers!

Coconut…

When I went with my friend, Philip, from the US to Sarikei to eat the prawn noodles there…

Sarikei Glory Cafe's prawn noodles
*Archive photo*

…I saw a banner promoting the coconut pudding at that particular shop…

Coconut pudding at Sarikei Glory Cafe
*Archive photo*

It was only after I had left that somebody asked me if I had that and said that they made it themselves and it was very nice. Well, I wouldn’t know when I would be heading back there so I would not know either whether I would ever get to try theirs.

However, we do have our own here now (RM8.00)…

Coconut pudding 1

…from a local farm that produces goat’s milk, if I’m not mistaken. These are sold at selected coffee shops all over town and I am pretty sure I saw their base among the shops (next to a bakery, Joy, I think the name is) opposite/across the road from the POSLAJU office before the turning into Sg Merah.

I happened to drop by one of those coffee shops round the corner not far from my house so I grabbed hold of one to see what it was all about. I opened it and peered inside…

Coconut pudding 2

…and I would not say it got me all excited.

I scooped a bit out…

Coconut pudding 3

…and tried. It turned out to be something with the coconut flesh and the coconut juice/water used to make some kind of jelly to hold it all together…

Coconut pudding 4

I’m not really a fan of young coconut nor am I a fan of the drink even though I hear that it has a lot of health benefits so I would not say that it was love at first gulp.

I am pretty sure that this would be a lot nicer…

Sangkaya ice cream 1

This is some kind of coconut ice cream, so I’ve been told…and they’ve outlets/stalls all over parts of KL and the surrounding areas. I think there is one at Jalan Alor in the Bukit Bintang vicinity.

Sangkaya ice cream 2

Well, there can be no denying that it sure looks really good, right?

I don’t know if any of you have tried it or not but if you have, do share your feedback. Come, tell everybody whether it is as nice as it seems.

Thin line…

This has been out for quite a while now, the fettuccine-like mee pok version of the Sibu instant kampua (RM6.90, 40 sen more than the usual)…

Sibu instant kampua, mee pok 1

…from the original maker or the pioneer, the one who first started making this stuff for sale and to be sent here, there and everywhere. Mee means noodles and pok means thin as in paper thin…

Sibu instant kampua, mee pok 2

Recently, I went and got myself a pack to give it a try and for the uninitiated, to cook this, you need to bring a pot of water to boil and put the noodles in…

Step 1

Loosen the strands and let it boil for around 3 minutes…

Step 2

After that, you drain away the water…

Step 3

At this stage, you can toss the noodles with the ingredients and eat already but usually, I would go a little bit further. I would put them in cold water and rinse well to remove any excess starch so that the noodles would not be sticky and clump together.

Step 4

Then I drained away the water and poured in some boiling water and put the pot back on the fire to heat the noodles up a bit. I am sure it isn’t all that nice to eat them cold. Lastly, I drained away the water and tossed the noodles with the ingredients provided in little sachets – one of the lard plus onion oil and the other, the light soy sauce.

Finally, garnish with thinly-sliced boiled pork and fried shallots and chopped spring onions and serve…or perhaps, you may want to have it with roast pork belly instead…

Sibu instant kampua mee pok with pork belly

…or slices of roast chicken…

Sibu instant kampua mee pok with roast chicken

…or whatever. It’s all up to you.

It may look kind of plain but those of you who have tried this Sibu Foochow delight and have fallen in love with it…

Kampua lover
*Photo from www.smallkucing.com*

…will attest to the fact that the beauty of it is while eating, you can savour the fragrance of the lard and the fried shallots in it plus the flavours of the shallots added and the spring onions…and the added taste of whatever meat or any other condiment that you may be having with the noodles.

Incidentally, it seems that many have jumped on the bandwagon and have come out with their own versions of the instant kampua noodles. This one…

Imposter
*Friend’s photo on Facebook – sorry for the blurry pic*

…is selling at the Sibu Central Market at RM7.50 a pack and I was told that they are also selling the original there at this same price too. Gee!!! That’s easy money – just order and collect…and sell at a profit of RM1.00 per pack. I also heard that there are others selling at around RM6.00 or RM6.50 as well. Of course, I have not tried any of them…but if anyone of you has done that and finds any that is nicer, do let me know. I’d go and grab some right away. Thanks.

Whiter than white…

An ex-colleague told me that I should drop by here…

Uncle Teh Corner

…to try their pek koi (white cake). He thinks it is the best around but I would have to ask for the or koi (black cake) so that it would come out black, fried with dark soy sauce. In case anyone’s wondering, this coffee shop is right beside the Nissan showroom on the other side of the Sibu Bus Terminal commercial centre, a bit to the left of this place.

Well, it so happened that I was in the vicinity that morning to collect my orders for the instant Sibu kampua so I decided to drop by here and give it a try. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell them I would like it black so it came out like this…

Char pek koi

- white!

If any of you have not come across this in my earlier posts on the dish here or here, for instance, this is pek koi

Pek koi

…or white rice cakes. The dried pieces are sold, packed in plastic bags, at most grocery stores and supermarkets. In the past, the made-in-China ones would be so hard that you would need to soak it overnight to soften before you could fry them and eat. I hear that there are some these days, I don’t know if they are made in China or some place else, whereby you would not need to do that. It makes no difference to me really as I am not really a fan and you would not catch me buying any and cooking my own.

There are places around here that fry them black like char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles) and there are others that cook them this way – with the canned clams in soy sauce and egg.

Char pek koi - ingredients

If I’m not mistaken, the one here had a little bit of thinly-sliced leek in it as well.

This was RM3.80 a plate, probably an increase of 30 sen from RM3.50 before…and I would say that it was nice and something one might consider having sometimes for a change but seeing that a plate of kampua noodles is RM2.70 or 2.80, a ringgit less, and many would agree that they’re a lot nicer, I guess occasions when I would go for this again would be few and far between.

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…