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The main event…

The wedding of my niece and her groom culminated with a grand banquet…

Wedding cake

…held at the sparkling new hall at this recently-completed building in town.

The door gifts…

Door gifts

…included a pair of lovey-dovey heart-shaped glass photo frames and a box containing personalised red velvet cookies and a slice of cake – if I’m not mistaken, it was the hati parek with its lovely rich taste of fruit (raisins or prune).

Upon the arrival of the newly-weds, they took their places at the pelamin (dais) and there followed the bersanding and menepung tawar ceremony…

Bersanding

…with the blessings by the distinguished guests and the immediate members of the couple’s families.

After that, the couple proceeded to the main table…

Couple with guests-of-honour

…where they were seated with the guest-of-honour, the bride’s paternal grand-uncle, my maternal uncle.

Dinner was served in what I always call “the dome” – I used to have that very frequently at hotel restaurants and other venues on my working trips here, there and everywhere in the peninsula prior to my retirement but this was the first time I had seen this here. Selections included the ayam masak merah (red-cooked chicken)…

Masak merah

…and the Sarawak’s own daging masak hitam (black-cooked beef)…

Masak hitam

I loved the pineapple curry…

Kari nenas

…and the acar ikan masin (pickled salted fish)…

Acar ikan masin

…though the latter was a tad too salty. It would be good to soak the salted fish first so it would not be so salty in which case, I would be able to indulge in more of it. Hehehehehe!!!!

There were the acar limau (calamansi lime pickle) and fruits as well and to go with all those, we were given a choice of white rice or nasi kuning (yellow rice)…

Nasi kuning

I would say that I enjoyed the dinner very much, a nice change from the usual Chinese dinners at the hotels or restaurants.

In the course of the evening, the sister of the bride…

Sister of the bride

…gave a very delightful and entertaining speech.

Gee! I love weddings, I really do and I would say I enjoyed the evening very much, basking in all the joy and the splendour…and there will be another one coming up at the end of next week – I’m certainly looking forward to that.

In the meantime, here’s wishing the two of you again, Nadya and Helmi, everlasting love and happiness and all the best in the years ahead. Cheers!!!

My little girl…

No, no…it wasn’t my little girl that was getting married but my cousin’s youngest, my cousin from my Melanau maternal grandma side of the family.  His older children, a son and another daughter got married together on the same day a few years ago in 2010 and now, it was the youngest child’s turn to tie the knot.

The handsome groom comes from Bangi, Selangor and here, you can see the entourage arriving at the bride’s house…

Nadya's wedding 1

…bearing gifts and all, for the akad nikah or matrimonial rites ceremony.

They all gathered in the living room…

Nadya's wedding 2

…for the prayers and the handing over of the gifts and everything else after which, the bride’s family reciprocated with their gifts…

Nadya's wedding 3

…and when that part of the ceremony was done…

Nadya's wedding 4

…the bride made her appearance…

Nadya's wedding 5

The brother of the bride…

Nadya's wedding 6

…and somebody else from the groom’s side were the witnesses and they had to sign the marriage certificate. There were more prayers and a somewhat lengthy sermon before finally, the father of the bride handed over his daughter’s hand in marriage…

Nadya's wedding 7

Here, you can see the happy couple seated on the pelamin (dais)…

Nadya's wedding 8

…but the bersanding ceremony would only be held the following day. Bersanding literally means the “sitting together of the bride and bridegroom on the bridal couch” for the menepung tawar, the ceremonial blessing by the couple’s family and friends. This is followed by the feasting and merry-making called the kenduri which, in this case, would be the grand banquet the following night.

The guests at the akad nikah ceremony that night were treated to a very scrumptious buffet dinner with all the delectable local delights…

Nadya's wedding 9

Heartiest congratulations to you, Nadya, and Helmi, on your marriage…from uncle, auntie & Melissa. May your lives together be filled with everlasting happiness and God’s abundant blessings each passing day in the years ahead.

Two together…

I went to Andrew’s wedding last Friday, 19th September – he and his siblings, an elder brother and two sisters, were all in my English language tuition class when they were in school…

Andrew & Sandra and family

It was indeed a very nice ceremony in one of the churches in town. The string quartet played a beautiful rendition of Canon in D on the violins as the father of the bride walked with his daughter, Sandra, into the church and up the aisle to give away her hand in marriage. What caught everyone by surprise was when the wedding rings were transported by air via an RC helicopter to the pastor at the altar – that was…different and very impressive though if I had been the coordinator of the event, I probably would arrange for some music to be played to add to the excitement – the theme song from one of those movies,  my favourite – the one from Godzilla perhaps.

Lunch was served but we decided to skip that and head on home. They gave away these door gifts to everyone who came – some homemade cookies in the very lovely mini-tins…

Door gifts, church wedding

…and that night, we went for the very lavish banquet, held at the grand ballroom in the leading hotel in town…

A & S 1

The wedding planner sure did a great job with the decor…

A & S 2

…all over the lobby and in the ballroom itself. There were more door gifts and I was wondering why they had the wedding cake in packs…

Door gift, banquet 1

…that resembled those complimentary pieces of soap in hotels. Actually, inside, one would find two pieces of (fridge) magnets, two pieces of a puzzle…

Door gift, banquet 2

…and that explained the jigsaw theme that they had for the wedding – two become one, the  perfect fit.

The menu for the dinner that night was very special, starting off with this very nice selection of starters…

Starters

…that I enjoyed so much until I realised what one of them was – pickled chicken feet! Eyewwwwww!!!!! LOL!!!

Oh dear!!! They were having those alternating coloured spotlights in the ballroom too that night so the photos of the dishes did not come out too well except for this giant bowl of chicken and fish maw plus dried scallop soup…

Soup

…and this one did not turn out too badly either – the deep-fried almond slice-coated scallops and the scallops with whatever in the middle…

Scallops

…and I managed to snap this one when one of those young friends of the groom at my table was taking a shot at it using her smartphone…

Duck

- my favourite at this place, their stuffed duck with the lor mai kai-like glutinous rice filling.

There was a jazz band from Kuching in attendance, playing all those romantic songs, oldies – English and Chinese, a bi-lingual emcee from KL…and this guest performer, James…

Violin solo

…sure stole the limelight with his very nice instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.

I also loved the song that they had picked for the video presentation of their wedding album…

The reception went on till very late and it was already way past 10 and there were still a couple of dishes yet to be served but we were feeling tired as it had been a long day and so we decided to leave a little earlier than most.

Thank you so very much for the invitation and our congratulations once again, Andrew & Sandra. May God shower His blessings abundantly upon the two of you in your life ahead…together as man and wife. Cheers!!!

Keep it quiet…

I mentioned in my previous post that I told my Trengganu friends to go on and have breakfast on their own as I had something on and I would only be picking them up a while later at 9.00 a.m. Well, the truth was that it was my girl‘s birthday that day and I had wanted to hold some kind of celebration for her but she did not want anything of the sort and said that she would prefer to just keep it quiet. Of course, we HAD to have the usual customary practice of eating our Foochow mee sua or longevity noodles…

Mee sua
*Archive photo*

…with eggs first thing in the morning before we went out.

That night, we went for dinner here together with my Trengganu friends and I asked the boss beforehand to prepare for us his very special made-to-order ulam

Payung ulam

…with the three kinds of sambal (dip). Needless to say, we enjoyed that so so much – I think my missus was the one who loved it the most especially as the dips were a little on the spicy side. The fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) that came with it was really very good too – this is available on their menu but I think I only had that once before simply because there are too many nice things here that I would want to order and this has always been sidelined.

Since it was my girl’s birthday, I had to order her favourite – the Bangladeshi lamb curry (RM17.00)…

Payung Bangladeshi lamb curry

…and yes, it was absolutely superb as always.

My friends were impressed by the Payung rojak

Payung rojak

…and taken by surprise to learn that the leaves of the buah kedondong (umbra) were, in fact, edible. Like everyone else before them, they tried…and they loved it too!

They liked the otak-otak

Payung otak-otak

- anytime better than the fish-cake textured Muar (or the Singapore nyonya) version, they said but it seemed that they had not tried Penang’s so they were not in any position to compare. They did insist, however, that we should visit them in Trengganu someday so we would be able to try their version with whole fish inside and they were pretty sure we would love theirs too.

We also had the Kuching Hakka specialty, a must for Chinese ladies in confinement, the kacang ma chicken (RM16.00)…

Payung kacang ma chicken

…with a special request for extra white wine. I don’t think they were overwhelmed by it – in fact, when I first tried the dish, I did not think it was all that great either but eventually, I grew to love it more and more and now, I truly enjoy it a lot! I suppose it is some kind of an acquired taste which probably explains why it is not all that popular in the predominantly-Foochow town of Sibu.

This was what they loved the most that night – the one and only Payung mushroom roll (RM8.00)…

Payung mushroom roll

…and while they were enjoying every bite of it and singing its praises, they were already making plans to try and make their own once they got back home to Trengganu. Yes, it IS that good!

We did get a cake for my girl for her birthday…

Melissa's birthday cake

…and we brought it along that night. I asked the staff to cut a slice for each of us for dessert and to enjoy the rest of it themselves.

Then, when I went to settle the bill for the delightful dinner, the boss told me that the ulam was on the house. Gee!!! Don’t you think that was so very nice of him? He said he enjoyed doing it and did not mind it one bit preparing that for us that evening.

Well, my only hope was that my friends, on their last night in Sibu, enjoyed that exotically-unique dinner that one would not be able to find anywhere else…and from the look of it, I do think I can safely say that they most certainly did and at the same time, we did get to celebrate my girl’s birthday as well…in a quiet kind of way, just as she had wanted it.

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.

Lavender Moon…

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) also known as the Mooncake Festival to one and all. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, this festival falls on this day in the year.

One legend has it that a hero named Yi, a sharpshooter, lived with his wife, Chang’er. It so happened that in a certain year, ten suns rose simultaneously in the sky and this led to all kinds of disasters everywhere. Yi shot down all of them except one, leaving it for the purpose of providing light. An immortal was impressed and gave Yi an elixir that would make him immortal but he did not want to become immortal without his wife , so he let her keep it. But one of Yi’s apprentices got to know of this and on this date, when Yi was away hunting, he went to see Chang’er to try and get it from her. Chang’er refused. She swallowed it and instantly she was able to fly skywards. Because of her love for Yi,  she opted to reside in the moon to be near him. When Yi came back, he found out what had transpired in his absence and he felt so heartbroken. He presented offerings to his wife and the people then felt sorry for them and started to do the same.

I did not know of this legend but when I was small, I did read about how, once in China, under the oppression of Mongol rule, the people planned to overthrow their rulers. If I’m not mistaken, I came across this story in the Dolphin, a magazine for young students published by the Borneo Literature Bureau in Sarawak, selling for 20-30 cents way back then. Every household at the time had to serve and feed a Mongol who stayed with them in their houses. They inserted messages into moon cakes to inform everyone of the rebellion. The message read, “Kill the Mongol in the house on the 15th of the 8th lunar month,” and the people did accordingly and managed to drive the Mongols out of China. This led to the founding of the Ming Dynasty, 明朝, in 1368.

Whatever the story may be, this is a Chinese tradition that has been around like forever and ever since I was small, I would look forward to this time of year to be able to enjoy our Foochow mooncake biscuits…

Pek quek peah
*Archive photo*

…and of course, the mooncakes…

Mooncake
*Archive photo*

…as well.

Unfortunately, the prices have been increasing and this year is no exception so feasting on these would be out of the question. However, I would still buy some and enjoy a bit for no other reason than to uphold and preserve the age-old tradition.

This year, I received a box of them, Lavender’s no less…

Lavender 1

…from my sweet and generous friend, Annie in KL.

As a matter of fact, she also sent me a box from this same bakery last year…

Lavender's mooncakes 2013
*Archive photo*

This bakery, that has an outlet at Mid Valley in KL, has very high standards as far as their products are concerned…

Lavender 2

I have tried their layer cake before…

Lavender's layer cake
*Archive photo*

…and needless to say, they were indeed very good.

This being a scheduled post, at the time of writing, I have not cut any to enjoy yet…

Lavender mooncakes 2014

…but when I finally get down to it, hopefully, I will remember to take some photographs to share in a later post.

In the meantime, I do hope you will all enjoy eating yours at your end. Any grand dinner planned for tonight?

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.