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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.

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.

Remember the times…

They call themselves DYRians and they are all members of a Facebook group, “Do you remember

DYRians

They were on a road trip stopping here and there all along the way from Kuching to Mukah and while in Sibu for one night only, they gathered at this restaurant here for some old-school Sibu (Foochow) delights.

One of them is an old friend of mine, going way back to our a-go-go dancing days and I do remember when I used to write radio plays for RTM Kuching, she would be roped in on more than one occasion to read the part of one of the characters. Well, she contacted me before they came and asked me to join them…and it turned out that one in the group that came was an old schoolmate of mine and I had not seen nor heard of her since I left high school in 1971! Another one was a familiar name during my requesting days in the late 60’s and early 70’s but I did not get to meet her personally then.

Anyway, so there we all were at the place and they had this ang chao duck…

Ang chao duck

…a truly authentic Foochow dish. Ang chao is the residue obtained from making the traditional Foochow red wine.

Of course, they had the only-in-Sibu Foochow sio bee

Foochow sio bee

…which is different from the usual dim sum/yam cha siew mai or those in Kuching. The ones here have fish added so its taste or flavour may be a bit different from the others in town.  You can see in the background that when the Foochow-style fried noodles…

Foochow-style fried noodles

…were served, there was only one sio bee left and even that one was snapped up very quickly. No prize for guessing who took it…but I assure you that it sure wasn’t me! LOL!!!

There was also this braised pork leg…

Pork leg with man tao

…to be eaten sandwiched in one of those mantaos (steamed buns) on the plate in the background and this is another Foochow delight – the tauhu tear

Tauhu tear

…or bean curd soup cooked with canned oysters.

They also had the manicai/cangkuk manis fried with egg but the photograph came out blur and the one of this sweet and sour pork dish…

Sweet and sour pork

…didn’t turn out very clear either and neither did this one of the peanut dessert…

Peanut dessert

In fact, I had never had this before and I thought it was really very nice.

It was pretty obvious that they enjoyed everything to the max, most of which they would not be able to get in Kuching and even if they can, it may not be as nice. The whole thing came up to RM18.00 per head inclusive of rice and drinks which I thought was all right, pretty reasonable…but they were pleasantly surprised as according to them, it would be hard to come by such nice food at such prices in the state capital these days.

I had a great time that evening catching up with my old friends and meeting new ones…

With the DYRians
*one of the DYRians’ photographs shared on Facebook*

…and I do think it is really so wonderful to be able to enjoy one’s golden years in such delightful fun-filled company.

All the best always to one and all, cheers!!!

Forevermore…

So there we were…

Dinner World, Bintulu 1

…at this sparkling new restaurant in Bintulu

Dinner World, Bintulu 2

…for my niece’s grand wedding banquet…

Dinner World, Bintulu 3

We made it a point to go earlier so we would find a parking space near the main entrance so we would not have to walk very far – remember I had my two aunties with me and I am no spring chicken myself either. Good excuse, eh? Hehehehehe!!!!

They have an escalator but it was out of order. Luckily, there was also a lift that we could make use of to get to the upper floor. For one thing, the restaurant has a very peculiar design – to get to the washroom you will have to go out one door and then go all the way down the staircase to get there. I, for one, would rather take the lift again and use the ones in the restaurant lobby.

Everything was ready…

Wedding decor 1

…neatly in place…

Wedding decor 2

…waiting for all the guests…

Dinner World, Bintulu 4

…and the bride and the groom to arrive…

Bridal sedan

…before the event could start…

Main table

As soon as the happy couple made their grand entrance, they were ushered onto the stage for the cutting of the wedding cake…

Wedding cake

…and then it was time for dinner to be served.

It seems like it’s the latest fad as far as the lighting of such venues goes whereby the colours of the lights would change alternating between red, yellow, green and blue and that, I find, is a nightmare for people like me without the sophisticated equipment and totally dependent on a cheap and simple digicam.

Dinner 1

That was why I had a problem with the snapshots of the dishes served that night…

Dinner 2

…as no amount of editing and adjusting could get them to look nicer in any way…

Dinner 3

The food, I would say, was, at best, all right…

Dinner 4

…not great and at times, even cold despite the fire down below…but I guess we could just put it down to the lack of experience, this being a new restaurant and they had yet to learn how to cope with such a large crowd. Service was good though, just that for a place this impressive, I would expect the food to be a lot better.

Anyway, that was secondary as on special auspicious occasions such as this, what would be the most important was the getting together with loved ones – family and friends…

All in the family
*Facebook photo taken by one of my cousins*

…and the sharing of the joy of the bride and the groom and their immediate families. Congratulations once again, Diana and Kwang Siang, wishing the both of you love and happiness in abundance forevermore…

The toast

…and to my cousin and her hubby too on the wedding of their youngest daughter, thank you so much for the invitation. Cheers and God bless, all!

Same thing…

I did manage to drop by the Ramadhan Bazaar in Bintulu that afternoon before the grand wedding dinner in the night. I went to the one in front of this supermarket and departmental store…

Sing Kwong Bintulu

…which was a short distance away from the hotel where I was staying.

I would say it was more or less the same thing as the ones in Sibu or elsewhere in the country – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I stopped by the first stall on the right…

Ramadhan stalls 1

…and bought these kuih bahulu (traditional Malay egg cake)…

Kuih bahulu

I don’t know how they make them now but in the old days, they would use those copper chuan (mold) and cook them over a hot charcoal stove. The last time I saw some of these was at Tesco in Sungai Petani many years ago and I did buy some home too then. They’re all the same shape now, it seems – in the past, we had some fish-shaped ones, that much I can remember.

I did not fancy the other things they were selling…

Ramadhan stall 1

…nothing that we can’t get in Sibu.

The food looked pretty good at some of the other stalls…

Ramadhan stall 2

…but unlike the ones I would frequent in Sibu, it appeared that there, they would leave everything exposed…

Ramadhan stall 3

…and thankfully, I did not see any flies fluttering around. That would be so disgusting, really.

This one with all the smoke…

BBQ stall

…was selling all the panggang (barbecued) stuff.

It was already past 4 in the evening and if we compare that one…

Ramadhan stalls 2

…to the ones we had here in Sibu, theirs was certainly not as crowded…

Ramadhan stalls 3

Perhaps this was not the main one and there were others all around town that were more popular, I wouldn’t know as this was the only one that I went to check out during my short stay in the town.

There was a stall selling “nasi Arab” (Arabian rice) – I sure would love to try to see what that was…but I was going to a wedding banquet in a few hours’ time so I decided to give it a miss…and of course, I did not buy nor eat any of these…

Durians

…either. LOL!!!

After that quick walk around the Ramadhan Bazaar, I headed back to the hotel to bathe and change and get ready for the main event of my visit to Bintulu…and that’s coming right up! Make sure you come back for my post on that, okay?