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Happiness is me and you…

…and indeed, nothing beats the joy shared at a family event like a wedding.

One of my nieces got married recently and I had blogged about the Malay/Muslim ceremony and also the grand wedding banquet…and another one tied the knot over the weekend and this time, they had the traditional Melanau ceremony at the house the day before the church wedding and everything else.

Despite my Melanau roots on my maternal side of the family, I had never witnessed anything like it before. I remember my mum taking me along to a pengilan (Malay/Melanau wedding) but most of the time, it would just be to eat – or at least, that is about all that I can remember…though I do recall seeing some bersanding ceremonies including the arrival of the groom at the bride’s house, complete with a kompang band and all.

This part of the Melanau wedding ceremony called the surung berian (loosely translated as the presentation of gifts, if I’m not wrong) started off with the arrival of the representatives from the groom’s side at the bride’s house…

Dais

…all in their traditional Melanau outfits. This was prepared – the daun sireh (betel leaf) in the traditional “server”, the whole works…

Daun sireh

…but I did not see anybody helping himself to that. I’ve been told, however, that it is not really meant for the eating bit so much. Instead, it has a very special significance at such ceremonies. I saw that it was placed right in front of the three representatives from the bride’s family in front of the dais, in the middle and after those from the other side had arrived, the one in the middle moved it to one side to mark the beginning of the discussion/negotiation.

While waiting, we had these lovely kek lapis (layer cake) Sarawak and coconut cake to enjoy…

Cakes

and soon, the entourage arrived. I did not see the groom with them so I asked and was told that the groom would not be coming. Oh? That was another thing that I did not know. The gifts were presented and there was a lengthy discussion over each of them including a sword/knife that looked like a brass antique one…

Knife

…followed by a golden ring in an antique plate…

Plate & ring

…and there was a lot of money too, probably the dowry…

Money

I noticed that in line with the traditional practice, only the men were involved – none of the ladies came with the group from the groom’s side, not even the mother-in-law to be. If I’m not mistaken, this special Melanau ceremony is only accorded to royalty, those with Abang or Dayang (the equivalent to the English Lord & Lady) attached to their names. I must say that I found it all very interesting indeed and was glad to be privileged enough to witness one taking place.

Eventually, all was settled and everyone was treated to a very elaborate buffet lunch. There was so much food but I only took photographs of a few of them like this nangka muda masak lemak (young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk)…

Nangka muda masak lemak

…and this lovely acar nenas (pineapple pickle)…

Acar nenas

…which came across to me as something like the Indian chutney – I love their mango one!

I did not eat the salted ikan kembong

Ikan kembong masin

…though on ordinary days, I could just eat this alone with rice…and I would go for a second helping, that’s for sure.

The sambal for the ulam

ulam

…was superb but I also had a bit of that only. No, I wasn’t shy or on any kind of strict diet – as a matter of fact, I was pre-occupied with these lovelies…

Chee loi

I had not had them for a long time because those that I would usually see at the market were very small, not to mention expensive as well, and not worth the hassle and the time spent on getting the meat inside out to eat.

The dashing groom did show up later for photographs on the beautifully-decorated pelamin (dais) with his radiant bride…

Bride & groom

…and all the members of the family present that morning.

Stay tuned for more!

Long way 2 go…

It’s still a long way to go…till Christmas, way over a month but knowing how time flies these days, it will be here in no time at all…and on my part, I’ve received those greeting cards for the festive seasons…

Greeting cards

in aid of the less fortunate and I’ve mailed them the cheque already in payment of those that they had sent me.

I have read somewhere also that the decorations are up in some towns and cities in the world and even right here in Sibu and they are starting to release the Christmas albums for the year too. One of them would be this one…

…by the a cappella group which includes that song from “Frozen”. If you’re not sick of it yet, I bet you would be if you have to put up with the neighbours’ kids singing it day in and day out…slightly out of tune. LOL!!!.

It is still too early to name my No. 1 Christmas song for the year but I quite like this one…

…by the winner of The Voice Australia 2013 though I was never all that fond of the Malaya Curry original with or without that Just-in kid. nor the one by the cast of Glee. Unfortunately, I don’t think the album will be available here though – you will have to get it at the departmental store in Australia that is producing it and releasing it for Christmas.

And talking about departmental stores, John Lewis in the UK has released their Christmas commercial for the year…

…and it is so meaningful, so touching that I would unashamedly admit that it took quite a bit of effort on my part to hold back the tears in my eyes. This has got to be my favourite for the year, anytime better than this one or this one, for instance…or this one featuring David & Victoria’s boy – I don’t think there will be any other that will be as nice. Do click the link and watch the video clip…and tell me whether it moves you as much or not.

Their commercial last year was very good too, very meaningful as well. It touched on the joy of friendship and in giving and receiving…while this year, the theme is love. After all, Christmas IS love and what is Christmas if not shared with one’s loved ones…or when one does not have a loved one to share it with? I don’t know how many times I’ve clicked the link to watch the video clip and each time, I love it all the more. I read somewhere that the ad cost £7 million to produce and in fact, Monty the Penguin was animated. Holy cow! I could have sworn it was a real penguin!!!

Going back to the topic of songs, they are saying that the song featured in the commercial – Tom Odell’s cover of John Lennon’s “Real Love” (revived by The Beatles for their 1995 Anthology collection) may just end up as this year’s Christmas No. 1 in the UK. Well, I do think it is very nice though not quite a Christmas song…and actually, I don’t recall any that I liked last year – the last one that I thought was very nice was this one by Christina Perri, two years ago in 2012. Hopefully, there will be something as sweet and beautiful coming out in the days to come…

Slam dunk da funk…

My blogger-friend commented on my earlier post on the Tim Tams that I received from my cousin from Brisbane, Australia the other day and she said:
Tim Tams!!! You have to do a Tim Tam Slam.

A Tim Tam Slam? Gee!!! I did not know what on earth that was so I went and checked on youtube to see if I could find any video clips on that. Good grief!!! There were so many!!! Well, if you’re like me, then you can click and watch this one to see what it is all about…

Ok! That gave me an idea how to go about it so I went and made myself a cup of coffee…

Coffee

…and I was ready to roll!

No, I did not bite away the corners as I am sure you would not want to see my disgusting teeth marks on the Tim Tam so I used a knife to cut them away…

Tim Tam Slam 1

…on the diagonal ends and made quite a mess in the process…

Tim Tam Slam 2

As soon as I was ready, I dunked one end in the coffee…

Tim Tam Slam 3

…and sucked hard on the other corner that I had cut to get the coffee to go through the Tim Tam like drinking through a straw and the moment I could feel the coffee getting into my mouth, I threw the whole thing in and ate! My blogger friend also said:
Hee, hee! That’s right, use it like a straw and then pop the whole bicky in your mouth, and it “explodes.

Hmmmmm!!!! The Tim Tam went all soft and soggy inside and virtually melted in the mouth and was gone in a split second…and that was one Tim Tam gone just like that. Tsk! Tsk! I would very much prefer to nibble it slowly and savour and enjoy each and every bite instead and no, there was no explosion, just this…

Tim Tam Slam 4

I got coffee all over the front of my t-shirt…but at least, I did not fail in my attempt like this guy here…


*The Tim Tam Slam bit ends at around 2:05 only*

Hehehehehe!!!! Ok, that was kind of fun and at least, if anyone should ever ask me again, I would be able to tell them, “Yes, I’ve done it!” I’ve done the Tim Tam Slam!

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.

Blowing in the wind…

That day, when I went to get some of the ingredients to cook the Sarawak laksa, I used the shortcut and walked through the narrow alley to get from Market Road (where I had parked my car) to the Sibu Central Market along Channel Road. There are a few shops along that little lane selling all kinds of things and I saw one selling those little portable fans so I stopped to ask if they had any that run on batteries.

No, I do not need a battery-operated fan but I thought my girl could keep one at her school on stand-by. Not too long ago, something went wrong and they had to go without electricity for two or three days, my poor girl. They do have electric lines all along the main road but for some reason or other, that school still uses generators (that run on diesel, I suppose). I think they have two and at 5.30 in the morning and in the evening, the lights would go blink blink as they alternate from one generator to the other. Thankfully, somebody finally went and fixed the fault so power was restored. Still, I thought it would be best to be prepared.

Well, this shop did have one, made in China, and I bought it for RM16.00…

Rechargeable fan & light

- I was given a RM1.00 discount by the nice lady boss.

There is an emergency light by the side…

Emergency light

…and according to the not-very-easy-to-understand instructions (owing to the atrocious abuse of the English language), I think if you keep the thing plugged in, the light will come on automatically if there is a blackout.

Other than that, if you press the button a second time, the orange rim will light up…

Light 1

…and if you would like it to be brighter, you can just lift the rim like this…

Light 2

Let there be light…and there is light! Hehehehehehe!!!!

It is also stated on the box that if you use only the light, the power will last for 8 hours and likewise if you use only the fan…

Fan

But if you use both, it will be good for 4 hours only. If you press the button once, the fan would go very fast or you will get a “strong wind“, according to the box and if you press the button again, you will get  a “small wind“. LOL!!! Recharging will take around 10 hours, it says…and yes, it runs on batteries too – three of those large ones.

Coincidentally, that very afternoon, there was a blackout in the area where I stay for some two to three hours and thankfully, I had this thing at hand and I could use the fan to keep myself nice and cool the whole time. I do think it would be good to keep one around your house if blackouts are somewhat frequent…and maybe, I would go back to the shop sometime to get another one for our own use.

P.S.:
For your general information, those of you who have not managed to get hold of a copy of the book…

Book
*Archive photo*

…can now browse through or download the e-book copy of it here:
http://online.3dpageflip.com/ptrm/jxir/

However, if you’re a local and you would like the hard copy for keeps, you can go to the Sibu Resident’s Office, 5th Floor of the new Islamic Complex (opposite St Mary’s Church) to ask for it – they will give you one but if you can tell them some nice stories like you would like  more to send to your overseas siblings or relatives or friends, you may get a few more.

Fortunate…

How fortunate I was last Thursday to be invited out for breakfast by my friend, Rose! Actually, she has already blogged about it here.

Well, she said she was feeling like having something fried and I remember seeing a photograph that a friend of mine shared on Facebook of a plate of yee mee (noodles) in tomato sauce gravy and it did seem really nice. I sent her the photo to have a look and she agreed that we could drop by to see if it was as good as it looked.

I got there first and I searched high and low…

The road

…but could not find the coffee shop that my friend was talking about. He gave me the location and I do know the place – the same block of shops where this place used to be but in the middle. Well, if it’s the one in the middle, then it would have to be this one…

Full Fortune Cafe

- the other one in the previous photo (Daisy Cafe), to the extreme right of the block, was not open.

In a couple of minutes, Rose arrived with her little girl – she was having the day off owing to the UPSR resit and needless to say, she was overjoyed by the fact that she had an extra two days off as a result of the leakage…but of course, many others were not at all happy over that most disgraceful and humiliating fiasco. Anyway, back to our breakfast, we decided that since we were already there, we might as well give this place a try…

Full Fortune Cafe - front

Rose had the Foochow-style fried noodles…

Full Fortune Cafe Foochow fried noodles

…and I ordered the tomato kway teow…

Full Fortune Cafe tomato kway teow

…from the stall at the back. We both liked what we were served just that I thought they could perhaps give a little prawn or two and/or sotong (squid) plus a couple of fish cake slices instead of only those few bits of meat. Actually, I would not mind if they charge a little bit more or perhaps, they could give customers the option to choose between the normal (what we had above) or the special and pay a little bit extra for the added ingredients. I’m not too sure how much they were that morning but Rose paid RM8.30 for both and I guess it might be RM3.80 for hers (which is the standard price these days here for Foochow-style fried noodles) and RM4.50 for mine…which made me wonder what would account for the 70 sen extra for what I had. The tomato sauce used?

Incidentally, something happened that I would like to give special mention to here. I placed the order before we took our seats at the table of our choice and the kway teow was served first – TWO plates of it when I had ordered only one. I said I had ordered one plate of kway teow and one plate of mee and the lady said that the mee was in the process of being cooked and would be coming out soon. She did not seem too keen on taking the extra plate of kway teow back so I said if that was the case, she could just tapao it for us to take away. Ok, we’ll stop here for a short break and I’ll get back to the story later. Hehehehehe!!!!

Rose’s daughter had the kolo mee

Full Fortune Cafe kolo mee

…from the stall in front and she said it was very nice, nicer than what she had here (and they went back for more the following weekend as they thought it was so very good!!!).

It came with the usual sliced chili in vinegar dip and they even gave the chopped spring onions and fried shallots…

Kolo mee chili dip & garnishings

…separately, something I had not seen done elsewhere before. This way, you need not add them to your noodles if you are not so fond of the garnishes.

This was the guy selling the kolo mee plus a whole list of things that you may fancy…

Full Fortune kolo mee stall

…but I’m afraid you can’t see it in the photograph. I noticed that the stall further in sold popiah (spring roll) but it was not open when we were there. We were told that she would cook her stuff at home and bring over so she would open a bit later, say, after 9.00 a.m. She did show up later but we were too full already and decided that we would give it a miss this time around and come back again another day to try.

Back to the aforementioned kway teow, we waited for the lady to bring it out again but it never came so we called her to find out…and she told us that it was all right – they would just take the plate of kway teow back and would not charge us for it. Wasn’t that nice? Nobody else was having that so they could not just serve that to them. I guess they would just have to eat it themselves but I must say that such gestures are definitely a feather in their cap – it is these little things that will keep customers coming back.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested, she told us that they also serve tom yam noodles with the giant freshwater prawns but I did not ask how much they are selling that for…and I’m not really into this, tom yam style. Perhaps the next  time I drop by, I will ask them if they do it any other way. For those of you who cannot make out the exact location from the first photograph above, that is the Everwin Supermarket in the distance, the one beside the Sibu Bus Terminal. Yes, the roads in this area are atrocious  owing to the sinking swampy land but if you drive straight ahead from the traffic lights at Jalan Pahlawan and turn left at Yum Yum Cafe, this coffee shop is in that lane in the middle of the block of shops on your right. They seemed to have resurfaced the roads around there so for the time being, you should not have any problem getting there.

Oopsss!!!! I almost forgot! Thank you so much, Rose, for the delightful breakfast treat. Would love to do it again sometime…before you and your family move back to Kuching.

P.S.:
For your general information, those of you who have not managed to get hold of a copy of the book…

Book
*Archive photo*

…can now browse through or download the e-book copy of it here:
http://online.3dpageflip.com/ptrm/jxir/

However, if you’re a local and you would like the hard copy for keeps, you can go to the Sibu Resident’s Office, 5th Floor of the new Islamic Complex (opposite St Mary’s Church) to ask for it – they will give you one but if you can tell them some nice stories like you would like  more to send to your overseas siblings or relatives or friends, you may get a few more.

Bangers…

Last Friday evening, after dinner, we went out to walk around a hypermart at one of the mega malls here. Normally, my girl would be tired and would just laze around after dinner and then call it a day. It being a long weekend, I suggested that as I thought she could do with a little break from the same old routine…and of course, she was delighted with the idea.

As we went browsing around, I spotted this…

Made in England curry paste

That was the curry powder my mum would use those years when I was still a kid, made in England, no less. I think I have mentioned it before that during those colonial times, everyone had that same mindset that anything made in England would be good and anything made in Japan would spoil very soon…just like those made-in-China stuff that we have these days.

It was good but it was just the powder so one would have to go through all that hassle to prepare all the pounded ingredients and everything. These days, we would just use those packet curry pastes, just add a bit of extra ingredients and the curry would be as great as any other.

Then, we came across this…

Bangers 1

…and we were so tempted to buy.

It sure looked impressive, what with the Union Jack in the bottom left corner and all. At that point in  time, I did not notice that phrase in Malay to the right: “Berat bersih“…plus the prices sure gave the impression that it was imported, probably from the UK or we just jumped into that conclusion without checking properly when in fact, it was made in Malaysia…

Bangers 2

Not suspecting a thing, we decided to grab a pack and this one that we picked was the cheapest – at over RM27.00 for 8 in the box, I thought that at over RM3.00 each for something imported, it was quite all right. Prices may range from over RM30 to RM40, depending on which type/flavour you buy. I also expected it to be as long as depicted in the picture but unfortunately, the bangers inside were not even as long as the width and yes, there were eight of them but some were a bit longer, some shorter.

Ah well, since we had already bought it, we might as well give it a try and the next morning, I grilled some for breakfast to go with some croissants that we bought at that same place…and egg, fried and some sliced tomato…

Banger croissant & egg breakfast

Thankfully, it was VERY nice – anytime better than those cheap local brands with the same texture (and taste) as SPAM or luncheon meat plus the taste was different too, very much nicer and more like those sausages that I had had at some of those classier restaurants and I would say that they can be even tastier than some of those imported ones that we have around here too.

Of course, I enjoyed that breakfast platter that I dished out…but at those prices, I don’t think I would be having that again…or at least, not so soon.