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Do it all again…

Last Sunday, since the school holidays had started and we did not have to drive my girl back to her school, we went to the midday service at the cathedral in town and when it was all over, we stopped by here again…

Zen, Sibu

…for lunch before heading home. I am quite sure that even if you do not click the link to check, you can jolly well guess what kind of cuisine we would be having simply by looking at the bamboo in the decor outside.

They had run out of their kim chi fried rice the last time we were here early last month so this time around, we asked first and only when they said it was available did we take our seats…

Green tea & pickled ginger

…and place our orders.

We had this very colourful sashimi salad (RM15.90)…

Zen, sashimi salad

…which we liked a lot. The sesame salad dressing was very nice and they were very generous with the salmon and tuna.

The onion karaage with kim chi sauce (RM9.00)…

Zen, onion karaage

…was pretty good too – we thought the onion rings went very well with the delightful sauce but perhaps they could give a little bit more of the latter, I think.

These yakiniku rolls (RM16.00)…

Zen, yakiniku rolls

…tasted really great too. There was beef inside rolled around some very thin strips of vegetables and mushrooms, and wrapped in bean curd skin.

The kim chi fried rice (RM12.00)…

Zen, kim chi fried rice

…was not too bad – it had the very strong wok hei fragrance and I did not mind the kim chi. Prior to this, I had tried it a few times and I never liked it but I still wanted to order to try as I had seen blogger-friends raving about the kim chi they had made themselves and using that for their fried rice, and praising it to the skies. I thought it was quite nice but no, it did not get me that excited, not at all. I would think that the salmon fried rice that we had on previous occasions was much nicer.

Now, this was rather disappointing, their soft shell crab agemon (RM16.90)…

Zen, soft shell crab agemon

…but it had nothing to do with the taste. For one thing, there was so very little of the crustacean and for another, they did not even bother to make it look a little bit more presentable unlike the last time we had it in 2011

Zen, soft shell crab agemon 2011
*Archive photo*

…and if this is what it is going to be like now, we would much sooner order something else the next time we drop by here.

This, however, was a different story altogether – their mentai prawns (RM26.00)…

Zen, mentai prawns 1

Not only was the plating very well done, but the prawns were really very good too…

Zen, mentai prawns 2

All in all, we thought that was a pretty good lunch and of course, my girl, who is a true-blue die-hard fan of Japanese cuisine, was the happiest…and when she is happy, needless to say, the father is happy too.

That day, they were playing some Christmas songs and carols instead of their usual Japanese repertoire and I did see that they had put up a bit of the decor as well…

Zen, Christmas decor

Well, time certainly is rolling by fast and it’s now less than a month away. What have you done so far?

Luck…

I don’t have much luck at lucky draws. Even with around 80 prizes for a staff of around 100, I would be one of the unfortunate few going home without a prize. Sobssss!!!! To add insult to injury, I was always the master of ceremony at those school dinners, the one conducting the draws and not winning one myself. In fact, at my retirement party, my principal reserved a prize just for me – for emcee-ing all those years (and missing out on much of the good food served) and not winning a prize…ever.

Thankfully, my girl’s not in the same boat. She seems to be a lot luckier than the old man…and she won something at a school party a couple of weeks ago and that day, at the lunch function that she went to, she came home with this…

Lucky draw hamper

And talking about that lunch function here…

Paramount Hotel, Sibu

…after we had our own lunch at the coffee shop next door, my missus and I went to that supermarket in town – the one that has all the imported stuff, to browse around…and I ended up buying these for my girl…

Pasta galore

…to enjoy. I know she loves such stuff and she sure was delighted at the sight of what I had got for her and cooked one right away that evening for dinner…

Fettuccine with bacon bits in creamy sauce

…with bits of bacon added. This was the made-in-the-USA (Orinda, CA) FARMHOUSE “durum wheat semolina pasta, parmesan flavour – fettuccine in savory cheese sauce with other natural flavors plus four cheeses and milk“. Yes, it was very nice…and each box was only RM7 something, serves two…and if it’s only RM3 something per serving, that’s a lot cheaper than eating something like this anywhere outside…and some may not even be all that great!

Of course, my missus did not have any as she is not fond of those rich and creamy sauces served with pasta and would much rather go for something like the bihun that I fried for breakfast the following morning…

Fried bihun with beef sausage, egg & green veg

…with beef sausages, egg and green vegetables.

Back at the supermarket, I saw these on special offer – R1.99 for each of those boxes with the Japanese characters and only RM2.99 for the one from Arnotts…

Special offers

…and no, the Arnotts one was made in Australia…

Australian import

…NOT Indonesia and if not for the fact that the expiry date was drawing close, you would never be able to get it at this price. Well, I’ve tried it but I can’t say that I liked it a lot – it was very sweet and hard…and I could not dip it in my coffee because of the chocolate coating. I would say that the Marks & Spencer ones that I got from my ex-student, Julia, the other day were very much nicer.

I’ve also tried the Japanese ones. The Coco Nut, even though I have never been a fan of coconut cookies (I’m not all that fond of those bits of grated coconut in them), were really very good – no grated coconut in them but the coconut fragrance was absolutely awesome, very rich and very very nice. Melissa loved the chocolate chip ones as well – she said they were very much nicer than the ones I bought for her to try the other day. At RM1.99 only a box, I think I would want to head back to the place and grab some more before the stock runs out.

Unintended…

Last Saturday, my girl had to attend a lunch function at this hotel in town…

Paramount Hotel, Sibu

…and I thought my missus and I could just go to the coffee house there for ours and hang around till Melissa was through with hers and we could all go home. Unfortunately, it was booked for some private function so we decided to just walk over to Sri Pelita instead. For the uninitiated, this is the first one in the block of shops to the right of Paramount Hotel along Jalan Kampung Datu.

I thought I would want to try the ayam penyet at the stall there but unfortunately, it was no longer on the menu and I did not feel like having the guy’s ayam madu (roasted honey chicken) or Hainanese chicken rice. In the end I settled for the nasi campur (mixed rice) and these were my selections…

My nasi campur platter

- a generous serving of the lamb curry with extra potatoes and this very nice fried fish, very fresh…

Fried fish

…and one egg…

Egg

…plus the fried mani cai/cangkuk manis

Cangkuk manis

Somebody commented on my Facebook page that this must be so spicy but no, actually, it wasn’t, not at all. The curry was more Indian-style, very nice but not spicy, not even a bit, and the egg came across like the gravy in the Chinese sweet and sour dish. And don’t let the chili slices on among the vegetables frighten you – that seems to be the predominant problem these days whereby chilies are not spicy, bitter gourd is not bitter and terung Dayak/lakia kio (Dayak brinjal) is not sour. What is the world coming to, I wonder? I would say that most, if not all, of the things in the spread here for the nasi campur are not spicy so those who are not thus-inclined would have no problem at all unless they do what we did – ask for their special sambal belacan

Sambal belacan

Now THAT was hot and with that special on-the-house accompaniment, it certainly was a delightful lunch for my missus and I!!!

Of course, it did not come cheap – not with 3 meat and 1 vegetable. The total came up to RM10.00 though I would confess that I helped myself to a little more of the lamb curry than I should. This is one of those help-yourself or buffet-style nasi campur places and that probably would be enough for two servings but you can’t blame me really – I just could not help myself when everything looked so good and I would have wanted everything if I could! My missus was more disciplined – she had the lamb curry and the cangkuk manis plus another vegetable, bayam – one meat and two vegetables only and hers was just RM3.00. Cheap, eh?

While we were eating, I saw that the kampua noodles stall was open. It was closed for the day the last time we were at this coffee shop and I had no intention of waiting till the next time I drop by to try so I ordered a plate to see if it was any good…

Halal kampua with beef

They had a choice of beef or chicken and I chose the former…and boy, it was astounding! I would say it was much nicer than the other halal kampua place that I like very much, the one where for RM1.00 more, you would get a few of their very nice prawn fritters. Never mind the absence of lard, the onion oil was so very fragrant that it would put some of the regular kampua stalls in town to shame. It was pretty obvious that they do not scrimp on the ingredients here unlike those places where they would do that for a bit of extra profit and in the end, what you will get was something rather toned-down and not really nice.

This was RM3.00 though, 20 sen more but of course, beef is expensive and you get more than those 3 or 4 very thinly sliced red-dyed boiled pork. People have been commenting in general about Sibu kampua noodles that when eating, one should switch of the fan as if it is turned on full blast, the meat would all fly helter skelter. Other than that, at those places, they will give you a small bowl of very bland soup which would come across like plain water with light soy sauce and msg added, that’s all. Here, you would get this so very delightful sup tulang (bone soup)…

Sup tulang

…that was so thick and rich, so very flavourful and a lot nicer than any sup tulang that I had had at any Malay stall elsewhere even. You can catch a glimpse of the chili sauce in the photographs too and I  am sure you would have noticed that they give you their own-made Thai-style sauce, not those boring bottled ones that you will get elsewhere.

No, no, all you sceptics and non-believers! You don’t have to take my word for it and go there to give it a try. Just stick to those places that you frequent and spare me the caustic sarcasm in your comments. This place is enjoying brisk business with so many people coming and going the whole time when we were there (and they have even taken over the shop next door to increase their seating capacity)…so it would not make any difference at all whether you do drop by or not. Period!

Special request…

My missus went and plucked some more tapioca leaves (daun bandong/daun ubi kayu) from the belukar on some empty land around where my mother-in-law’s house is so I took a bit and fried them with some pumpkin, enough for the two of us for lunch and dinner that day…and no, I did not forget the serai (lemon grass) unlike the last time I fried this ethnic dish.

What happened was I went and shared this photograph on Facebook…

Daun ubi goreng dengan labu

…and somebody commented saying, “Pass me de recipe PLEASE….for pumpkin I only see Pumpkin pie Pumpkin Bingka n steam pumpkin for those on diet.” [SIC]

Well, I did get to cook this same dish again last Friday because my missus cooked this prawn curry…

Prawn curry

…for lunch and I just pounded some sambal belacan (dried prawn paste dip) and blanched some long beans for our ulam

Ulam, long beans & sambal belacan

…and both were extremely spicy and I was thinking that perhaps, my girl who was coming home that evening would not be able to handle those so well. That was why I decided to cook the tapioca leaves with pumpkin again that day for dinner. This time around, I photographed everything step by step in the hope that my friend would be able to dish out something similar since she had asked for the recipe.

Firstly, after having prepared all the ingredients including all the pounding, I fried a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) in oil till slightly brown and then I pushed them aside and put in the pounded ginger and serai (lemon grass), bruised at the ends…

Steps 1 & 2

After frying those till nice and fragrant, I added a spoonful of the sambal belacan from the above ulam – this may be replaced by half a cube of ikan bilis stock or salt and msg but these should be added much later, not at this point in time. After frying for a while, I added the tapioca leaves, pounded, of course…

Step 3/4

…and not blended and if you are adding thinly-sliced chili, you may throw that in here.

I mixed everything together thoroughly and added a bit of water…

Step 5

…just a bit at a time whenever it got rather dry. Do not add too much at one go…

Step 6

…even though the water would soon seep into the pounded leaves and there will not be any left. But you would need a bit of it to try and see if what you’re cooking is salty and tasty enough or not. If you are using ikan bilis stock cube or salt and msg, you can add them here according to taste.

Finally, I added the pumpkin…

Step 7

…which I had cut into bite-sized chunks and boiled lightly to make sure they were cooked and soft enough. I had removed the skin as I was pretty sure my girl would not fancy the hassle of having to remove that while eating.

Just mix everything together thoroughly and continue frying for a bit and then, dish out and serve…

Step 8

This time around, I found that I had done a better job than the previous time as it was not so wet and was, therefore, nicer or that is how I personally like it. Some people may want a bit more gravy to go with their rice – that’s up to them. Like I always say, to each his own!

So there you have it, my friend – my resipi daun ubi dan labu goreng (fried tapioca leaves and pumpkin recipe). Good luck!

Enough time…

It seems to be the trend these days among young people to wake up very late. I know of some who would wake up at around noon, just in time for lunch! Thankfully, my girl does not sleep that long – on weekdays, she would wake up at around 6.30 a.m. to go to work and on weekends and holidays, she would want to sleep in but even then, she would get up at around 8 something or to the latest, between 9.00 and 10.00 a.m…and since I get up at around 5.00 to 6.00 a.m, or sometimes even earlier, I have enough time to cook something nice for her to enjoy for breakfast.

Last Saturday morning, I decided to use the meatballs that I had in the freezer, those remaining ones after I had used some to cook my bakso sometime ago. I fried them in a bit of oil till nice and brown…

Meatballs, fried

…and put them aside for a while.

Then I got the other ingredients ready…

Ingredients

…some chopped garlic (4 cloves) and Bombay onion (1 small one) and tomatoes (4), cores and seeds removed. I had made the mashed potatoes the day before using 4 potatoes, a teaspoon of garlic butter and 2-3 tablespoons of evaporated milk and 4 slices of smoked cheddar cheese – it turned out very nice indeed. I cannot remember now who gave me that packet of spaghetti bolognese sauce and it had been sitting there for quite a while so I decided that I should use it. Incidentally, actually this brand is available here in our little town.

I did think of using some pasta as a base but there wasn’t any in the house and neither were there any mushrooms, canned or fresh, so I had to do without those as well.

Anyway, to get on with what I did that morning, I fried the garlic and onion in a bit of oil and then I added the tomatoes and the meat balls. I emptied the contents of the packet into the wok and added 1 cup of water as instructed. It was very fast – the sauce thickened very quickly and everything was ready in no time at all. I poured some into a casserole…

Meatball bolognese

…and covered it with the mashed potatoes…

Mashed potatoes pie cover

There was enough leftover to make a smaller one so I did just that to give to my sis to enjoy – she stays with my parents and since the older folks are not into this kind of cuisine, she does not get to eat it very often.

I sprinkled a bit of parmesan cheese on top of both and put them in the oven to bake for around 30 minutes and it was done…

Baked meatball bolognese with mashed potatoes 1

I would say that it came out looking very nice.

I helped myself to a bit…

Baked meatball bolognese with mashed potatoes 2

…and yes, it did turn out really well.

When my girl got up, she too had some…

Baked meatball bolognese and mashed potatoes 3

…and she too gave her double thumbs up…and that, I would say, is reward enough when one cooks something – knowing that everyone loves and enjoys it!

Leftovers…

I think it was a packet of one of those “healthy” noodles that my girl bought to bring to her school sometime ago – the “twin vermicelli pack” containing some red rice noodles and millet noodles. She had cooked and eaten half of it and the remaining half had been sitting there idle for a while now so we took it home and the other morning, I decided to finish it all off at one go…

Leftovers

…and used it to cook this plate of fried noodles…

STP's fried noodles 1

I had also bought some barbecued pork ribs the day before for dinner and there were two chunks left and I also had the char siew (barbecued pork) oil and the drip from the roast pork that they gave me. I boiled the noodles and drained them well before adding the latter and tossing them together well…

Seasoning the noodles

I had decided to keep the former for another day, to fry rice perhaps, so I did not use that with my fried noodles.

I also cut the meat off the bones and sliced them thinly and I kept the bones to throw in as well later…

Meat from barbecued pork ribs

…as there was still some meat left and it would be such a waste to throw it all away.

Firstly, I fried some chopped garlic (3 cloves) in a bit of oil till golden brown and then I threw in the meat and the thinly sliced chilies (2) and mixed everything together…

Frying the ingredients

After that, I added the noodles…

Adding the noodles

…and lastly, two eggs and some chopped spring onions.

I tried a bit and found that it was not salty so I added a dash of fish sauce and a pinch of seasoning. Once, I thought it had been sufficiently fried, I dished it all out onto a plate…

STP's fried noodles 2

…sprinkled some fried shallots that I had at hand over it and served.

I do think that one can fry something that is more or less the same using those egg noodles available at the supermarkets and some char siew (barbecued pork), along with the other ingredients. Of course, you are free to add anything you fancy. I was thinking that a bit of green vegetables would help add some colour to the dish but there wasn’t anything compatible that morning in the fridge.

As it was, I would say it was very nice and I sure would want to fry something like this again the next time I happen to have some char siew and noodles in the house.

Let’s get to what’s real…

When my girl got back to town last Friday, I heard that she went to the franchise pizza place and was so disappointed with the seafood lasagna that she used to love a lot. They had a choice between beef and seafood before but eventually, they did away with the former which my girl actually preferred to the latter. I do know that owing to the poor quality control, there may be differences between outlets. She always complained about one in Sungai Petani and even here, she would prefer the one in the town centre after having had a few let-downs at the other outlet on the far side of Sibu.

Well, she went to the better of the two that day and she grumbled that they seemed to scrimp on the ingredients on the seafood lasagna now and instead of the tiny shrimps and whatever else, the one that she had that day had those imitation crab sticks instead. Between the two of them, she and her colleague, the bill came up to some RM60.00 plus…and with the 10% service charge plus 6% government tax, the total came up to around RM70.00!!!

Anyway, to make up for it, I decided to bring her here

Bistecca & Bistro, Sibu 1

…for lunch the next day – Saturday.

We did not want any steaks…

Bistecca & Bistro, Sibu 2

- I thought that would be a  bit too heavy for lunch and I, for one, would like to try something new instead of stuff that we had had before, nice though they might be. In the end, we ordered one Pizza Bracio di Ferro (RM29.00)…

Pizza Bracio di Ferro 1

…and yes, it was very nice. I don’t recall ever having any pizzas with egg on it like this…

Pizza Bracio di Ferro 2

…and I love eggs…and ham so to me, this one was a winner!

I had seen a photo of their new pasta dish with squid ink and it turned out to be their Pasta All’Nero (RM28.00)…

Pasta All'Nero 1

I was quite hesitant in ordering that as I had seen people sharing disgusting photographs of their black teeth after eating that and normally, when we buy squid, we would rinse and rinse to get rid of all the ink. However, my girl said she had seen and heard a lot of this squid ink stuff but she had never got to try – that was why, in the end, I relented and ordered it…

Pasta All'Nero 2

It was quite bland – not much taste at all which probably was a blessing in disguise as somebody said on Facebook that he tried it once somewhere and did not like the smell nor the taste.  This one that we had was all right, just that it did not have the wow factor and to me, it was not something I would be in a hurry to go back for more.

I cannot remember for sure if we had this before or not – their Pasta Tomato Amatriciana (RM19.00)…

Tomato Amatriciana 1

…which wasn’t too bad by us and anytime better than the one with the squid ink.

I’m not really a fan of tomato-based sauces for my pasta dishes…

Tomato Amatriciana 2

…but my girl loves it more than the rich and creamy carbonara ones. Anyway, there was bacon in this one and without fail, anything with bacon will get my double thumbs up.

The bill came up to RM76.00, a bit more than the previous day’s lunch for two and this time around, there were three of us and without a doubt, my girl enjoyed what we had here a whole lot more. I do hope they will add some lasagna selections to their menu one of these days and rest assured that we certainly would be making a beeline back to the place to give theirs a try!