‘Cause I had to…

I bought some things online and did not have any problem with it until I decided to buy some t-shirts, 4XL and the ones I received looked more like 4XS. I never bothered to shop online after that until the other day, simply because I had to.

One fine day, my girl asked for my permission to use my printer to print her school stuff. Yes, for the uninitiated, teachers do a lot of things in school and at home and pay out of their own pocket and in this case, they would have to buy the printer and the ink, black and colour and the A4 paper. Thankfully, they are quite well-paid these days, unlike during my time when I first started teaching, plus my girl has no commitments, no responsibilities, no family, old folks to support.

She had run out of ink and her printer was not the same model as mine so she could not use my reserved stock. It seemed that she did ask her mum to go and buy on one of her weekly shopping trips but she was duly informed that it was out of stock and none would be forthcoming, something we have to learn to get used to during this COVID-19 pandemic.

She did not go to the shop where I bought the printer so we drove there to try our luck. Unfortunately, they did not have any either. Left with no choice, my girl had to use my printer and it was perfectly all right as I hardly print anything at all these days.

In the meantime, I decided to try my luck online. I was quite pissed off to find that I could not log into the one where I had shopped before. I wrote my user name and my password down so I would not forget them but it kept telling me this and that and sent me on a wild good chase. In the end, I just gave up and went to another online shopping website and registered an account there. (My sister said that I could have opened a new account at the previous one, no problem at all. Probably she had the same problem and that was what she did!)

I placed my order for the ink…

…two sets, each comprising one black and one colour selling for RM112.00 (they are more expensive if you buy them individually/separately), RM224.00 altogether, RM225.50 inclusive of shipping. RM1.50 only for shipping? Now that was cheap, unlike the previous times when I shopped online or when I sent things via our national courier.

That was on the 6th instant and I received my order safely on the 12th, not exactly dijamin sampai hari esok but at a time like this, I was not counting on it being delivered so soon…and yes, my girl did not encounter any problem with the ink that I had bought and as they say, all’s well that ends well!

It’s all right…

I went next door…

…the other day to get my road tax slip – I managed to renew my car insurance sometime ago but because of the pandemic, they could not go and pay the former for me until way past the expiry date and finally, when they did manage to do so, they called me to go over and get it from them. It was past 2.30 p.m. and much to my surprise, the coffee shop was still open. They usually close at 2.00 p.m. (and reopen come dinnertime) and they only open in the morning and for lunch on Sundays and they take the day off on Mondays.

The guy asked me to buy what looked like chili flakes (RM20.00) and he said it was very nice but I was not so keen. I noticed that he now has a BIG freezer by the side inside his shop and obviously, he has gone into selling some of his popular dishes…

…frozen.

I liked his daging masak hitam, served by the side with his reasonably good nasi lemak

…but for reasons unknown, the ladies in the house are not into that original Sarawakian culinary delight.

My girl used to love the curry, beef especially so when she was teaching in the school in the jungle, I would buy for her to take and eat there – it was not cheap though, only a little for RM10.00.

That was why in the end, that day, I decided to buy the lamb curry (RM40.00)…

…to try and see if it was any good.

My girl liked it…

– she said it was nicer than the curries at the Malay and mamak shops and stalls but I was not all that impressed by it. At best, I would say it was all right, not anything to shout about. It had its own taste, quite different from all the rest and no, it was not spicy at all. One good thing about it was the meat was fall-off-the-bone-tender, very nicely done!

I may go back again but no, I shall not be buying this or any of the guy’s curry again – perhaps I would want to try his rendang or masak merah the next time around or whatever else that he has in his big freezer that may tickle my fancy but if it is mutton/lamb curry…

…that I want, I would much sooner drop by here and tapao two servings home.

It is RM21.00 per serving (at least 3 huge chunks of meat) with biryani rice and whatever they give by the side so RM40.00 should be enough for two servings and I am quite sure there will be enough for us for two meals…or perhaps, I can persuade my friends at Payung to cook their very nice Bangladeshi lamb curry…

…or lamb masala – they usually do it around Chinese New Year for sale by the kilo but we can divide it up into smaller servings and eat slowly and derive a whole lot more enjoyment from them.

COLOURFUL CAFE (2.316673, 111.837539) is located in the Renew4U building at the junction of Brooke Drive and Lorong Kwong Ann 8, across the road from the Church of Jesus  Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

Bad name…

I do remember eating ikan patin in my growing up years but I cannot recall how my mum used to cook it. Perhaps that was the fish that she used to cook with ginger in soy sauce, the one with the black wobbly skin that I liked a lot.

However, eventually, people started farming the fish and it had that horrible mud smell – they said that it was because the fish ponds did not have running water – so we stopped buying and eating it altogether. Another fish that shared the same fate was the ikan sultan

I am very wary about buying it these days as I would not know how to tell the difference – whether it is the farmed variety or not and whether it has that mud smell or not.

In the meantime, those (cheap) frozen fish fillet made their appearance at the supermarkets here. Some call it dory, some call it white fish but whatever it is, it is what they will cook for you when you go to a Chinese restaurant or chu-char (cook & fry) place or when you go for your favourite chao chai hung ngang (with fish)…

…at a coffee shop or when you go for a plate of fish and chips…

…at some classy café or restaurant.

It is quite tasteless so whether it is nice or not will depend on how and what it is cooked with. Unfortunately, I had had the displeasure of eating what they call dory with a jelly-like texture and an unpleasant smell – probably, this is some kind of imitation and one really can’t tell when it is not sold as a whole fish.

Anyway, this…

…has taken the town by storm lately – pangasius from Vietnam.

The lady at one of the neighbourhood shops in the next lane did ask me to buy…twice but both times, I said no. As far as I know, this is also called dory (not to be mistaken with the John Dory in New Zealand) and for want of a more unique name, catfish in the US! Eventually, my sister told me that she had been buying and cooking it and she said it was very nice.

I still was not convinced and it was my missus who went and bought a pack…

I told her to cook chao chai (fermented preserved vegetables) soup…

…with it with lots of our traditional Foochow red wine…

…and yes, it was very very nice and yes, I did enjoy it to the max as well with its fish texture, no smell whatsoever and very delightful taste.

Some of you may have heard of the bad press this fish has been receiving from the catfish people in the USA – well, what’s new? Haven’t they been saying all kinds of things about all kinds of things to support/protect their own industries? Well, if you’re one of them and have your doubts about this ikan patin from Vietnam, you can watch this Channel News Asia documentary– I am sure you will find everything you want to know about the fish.

Gave me…

My neighbour gave me this the other day and I managed to cook this dish…

…for dinner with it, moringa leaves!

At one time, everyone was talking about it and I also went in search of the green noodles, made from those leaves. Unfortunately, it did not sweep me off my feet so I never went back for more. I did check the websites and I saw a lot of health benefits one could derive from them and I was contemplating on planting my own tree. Luckily, my friend, Annie, in KL sent me a photograph of the one in her mum’s garden – it was HUGE, as big as a durian tree and I changed my mind instantly!

My neighbour at the back had a tree right beside the fence and ever so often, the broken twigs and branches would drop over on our side but I never paid any attention to them. I don’t know why they eventually got rid of it and in its place, they have planted a few guava trees and it sure looks like they are enjoying the fruits, growing in abundance all over the trees.

This neighbour who gave me the leaves…

…had a plant in a pot so the growth is kind of inhibited or controlled, so to speak. I guess that is why it is small and so are the leaves as well.

I did not know how to cook them so I went and googled. It looked like most people would brew tea with them and drink and others would dry them in the sun, pound them into powder and stuff them in capsules and eat. I saw an Indian recipe with dhal and the rest were all fried with egg, like cangkok manis. I went and asked my friends on Facebook and most said I could fry with egg like cangkok manis. One said I could throw them into the soup when I cook instant noodles – actually, that did cross my mind! In the end, I decided to go about it my own way.

I fried some chopped garlic in oil till golden brown, added one chili, thinly sliced, followed by all the stuff I got from here – two prawns (with heads and shell intact), a few pieces of sotong (squid) and some fried fish cake made from the bay kar/ikan tenggiri (mackerel)paste that I bought, sliced and when it was done, I added an egg, followed by a teaspoon of oyster sauce diluted in some water…

I must say that it tasted very nice… – one can never go wrong with all that seafood!

If the leaves had any taste, I sure couldn’t detect it and on the whole, I must say that cangkok manis, with its special sweetness, can win hands down. However, considering that the dish tastes all right and that the leaves have so many health benefits. that got me wondering as to why this is not cooked and served at our restaurants and chu-char (cook and fry) places in town.

Short-lived…

I blogged about how happy I was, when in the absence of the shallots/bawang merah (red onions)/chang kia (small/baby onions) from India, I was able to grab hold of some from Myanmar. Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived as it was not in any way as fragrant, not so nice…and extremely expensive, RM26.00 per kilo, and likewise, the spring onions that I managed to get from planting them were quite disappointing, more suitable for colour and presentation only.

The good news is the ones from India are available again and I wasted no time at all in planting them in the hope of getting some spring onions that I can use with my instant noodles or whatever that I may be cooking. Unfortunately, out of the many that I planted, only two sprouted…

…but there is still some hope. The morning after I took this photograph, I spotted another one breaking through the soil. I quickly picked some more, the ones with longer roots, and planted them. Fingers crossed, these will yield a bountiful harvest.

The whole time when there were no shallots from India, there were no spring onions for sale at the market. If you go and eat kampua mee at the shops, you will not see the usual sprinkling of fried shallots and chopped spring onions on top.

My missis went and bought daun sup (Chinese celery) for use as a substitute. We would use the leaves and the stems but we would leave a bit, those parts close to the roots, intact and I took the ends and planted them. Of course, I was delighted to see that they have sprouted…

…and are growing quite well. My missus did try a few times but no, she did not fare as well.

Talking about what she planted, she bought some sweet basil sometime ago…or at least, that was what she said it was. She also saved the bottom part of the stems and the roots to plant but only one…

…survived and I don’t remember the leaves being this big in the ones she bought.

Well, it does not look like there is enough to cook for one dish. Perhaps we can pluck and drop them into our instant noodles instead.

Bringing it back…

Not too long ago, I was told by my friends here that they have discontinued their belimbing prawns because their tree died and they could not find a regular supply of the fruit. Of course, I was disappointed as that is one of my favourite dishes on their menu. Needless to say, I was thrilled when they sent word that they are bringing it back and it is currently available at their café.

According to this website, “this rather understated ingredient is not widely used outside of Malay and nyonya cuisine…and not to be confused with starfruit, which also shares the same Malay name, this is a small sour fruit which adds a wonderful sour note to dishes with a crunchy juicy texture.

I decided to have it with spaghetti…

…that morning instead of rice since I am cutting down on carbs and even though it was very nice, I only managed to finish two-thirds of the pasta – I’m slowly becoming a rather small eater lately, it seems. I should have asked for less since I can’t/am not allowed to eat so much these days but personally, I think I’d enjoy it more with rice.

For one thing, the belimbing

…that Peter managed to buy and use was the green variety and according to him, this is extra sour unlike his yellow ones before. I think I prefer it a little toned down. Other than that, it was very spicy but no, I did not have a problem with that. Blame it on the weather but this current batch is an absolute killer – my missus just bought a few kilos to make her own blended chili dip the other day and of course, she loved it!!!

I was the only one there that day but I think there were a couple of orders that had to be delivered to the customers’ offices and one came to collect himself, takeaway. If anyone would like to enjoy these belimbing prawns or anything else on their menu, for booking and delivery, call 016 578 7614.

I did hear, however, that there are some of my other favourites that are no longer available – they are not all that keen on cooking a lot and keeping everything frozen for too long. As far as I can remember, some of those that one can order include their kacang ma chicken…

…their green curry…

…their butter chicken…

…and their Payung chicken…

Yes, their mushroom roll…

…is available but I guess it would be best to just call them and ask so as to be sure. One good news especially for lei cha

…lovers is that it is available every day now, not just on Friday or only on Thursdays and Fridays like before.

I certainly would want to go back again for the belimbing prawns but with rice the next time around…

…and incidentally, while I was there that day, Peter treated me to this lovely toasted freshly-baked bread from the hotel bakery at the back, generously served with peanut butter and butter…

Yes, it was really good but I think that more or less used up all my somewhat limited ration of carbs for the day. Sigh!!!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

New level…

I bet everybody remembers the sotong (squid) that I bought the other day. I asked my missus to pack some in small packets to keep in the freezer so I would be able to take them out to defrost and add to my bowl of instant noodles…

That would certainly bring the taste to a whole new level!

We also do the same with the smaller pek hay (seawater prawns)…

…for this same purpose or to add when frying vegetables, rice or whatever. In Hokkien, we call it cho liao or literally translated, use as ingredient.

One thing we may do when buying prawns would be to remove the shell, heads and tails, wash and rinse them very thoroughly and boil them to get the stock. My missus may pan-fry them first – she says it will give the stock a special fragrance, nicer than if we boil them just like that. A cousin of mine would always do this and use it to cook Sarawak laksa everytime he buys some prawns. Of course, we remove the veins and dispose of them separately. For one thing, we can throw the shell and everything into the rubbish bin after boiling and there will not be any stench coming out from there at the end of the day but usually, I will take and bury them in the garden for the natural fertiliser.

Anyway, back to the instant noodles that I cooked that day, one thing I would always add, never mind whether I have any sotong or prawns or not, is an egg…

and right before serving, I would sprinkle some chopped spring onion from my garden…

– just a bit of that will make a world of difference. We may use daun sup (Chinese celery) instead if we have that in the house and the good news is that I’ve planted some and they are growing really well. I may get down to blogging about it one of these days.

Let’s go eat…

Easter Monday was an occasional holiday (cuti peristiwa) for some schools in Sibu and my girl’s school, being formerly a Catholic primary school, was one of them. That was why their school did not reopen until the following day, Tuesday. As a matter of fact, it was among the few schools, six of them and later, two more were added to the list, that had remained closed even before the week-long mid-term break as they were located in the “high risk” zones and two more were added soon after as there were cases in those.

Anyway, we went out again that day to settle some matters and we finished at around 10.30 a.m. which was a bit too late to go home and cook lunch so I suggested going some place for lunch/brunch.

We dropped by here once for the chap fan (mixed rice)

…or what is commonly known as economy rice and they start at 10.30 so we decided to go over and see what they had for the day.

I had the soy sauce pork belly (bottom left)…

…and it was very nice! The lady boss told me that they had pork trotters mixed with it, something I would always order here and have always enjoyed and she gave me a chunk, all lean, but that day, I did not quite like it – it tasted like leftover meat that had been reheated over and over again. Perhaps I would have loved it a bit more if she had given me a piece with some fat instead.

The curry must be mighty popular since they cooked so much of it but somehow, I wasn’t thus inclined. The soy sauce chicken (top left) did not tickle my fancy either. In the end, I picked the ngor hiang/meat roll (top right)…

…that was very nice the last time but this time around, it was way too peppery and probably had a bit too much flour in it so we did not think it was all that great. My missus had the pork ribs (bottom right) and she did let us try a bit – yes, that was really very nice. We sure would go for it again next time if they have it on their menu for the day.

Of course, my missus MUST have the bamboo shoots, masak lemak – she loves it so much and the paku (wild jungle fern)…

…that I also had was great too.

My girl had the brinjal, her favourite, and also the long beans fried with egg (bottom left)…

I guess they were all right as I did not hear her complain.

I wouldn’t say it was so good that you would find us rushing back for more but it was nice enough and inexpensive. While we were there, even though it was kind of early, there were already people coming and going, tapaoing their picks for their lunch (takeaway).

I did not ask for the breakdown of the prices but I guess that should work out to around RM5.00 each with a nice bowl of complimentary soup each – the total, inclusive of drinks for the three of us, was RM21.70. I loved their new impressive-looking display cabinet, horizonal unlike the usual vertical ones, a lovely greyish black in colour, unlike the usual aluminum ones, with sliding mosquito-netted doors on top and I never have a problem finding a vacant space to park the car in that area of shops.

A-PLUS FOOD CENTRE/RESTAURANT (2.293355, 111.823653) is located among the shops along Jalan Kampung Datu, behind the block of shops (where Fresh & Pay Supermarket is) near the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg and Jalan Kampung Nyabor.

By ourselves…

My girl enjoys lamb a lot and other than the lamb racks and the lamb shanks that we had had for our dinners in conjunction with some special occasion, she had not had any for quite sometime now.

We used to drop by here for their very nice lamb chop with mint vinaigrette sauce (RM26.00)…

– this was probably the last time she had it there, in October 2019. As a matter of fact, they have closed down that outlet (and the other one in town) and relocated to a new place but because of the pandemic, we have not gone to check it out.

She also enjoyed the ones here (RM14.50)…

This guy, originally from KL, was the executive chef at a leading hotel in town before he joined the classier spin-off of our own Sarawak fast food franchise and eventually, he ventured out on his own. For one thing, not only is his very nice, it is also very cheap probably because of the coffee shop setting of the place, nothing fancy, just great food.

Another place that my girl likes is the one on the way to her school in the jungle. We used to pass by a few times a week and time and again, we would stop by for a bite to eat. However, I don’t think we have gone in that direction ever since she got her transfer to a school in town.

She likes their grilled New Zealand lamb shoulder (RM26.00)…

…which she would order every time we stopped by, nothing else.

Well, since we have not been going out and she felt like having lamb chops, the mum went and bought two packs of New Zealand lamb shoulder at over RM20.00 each to cook our own all by ourselves. There were three slabs in a pack so that means we could have two each…

My missus just pan-grilled them…

…and served them with this made-in-the-UK (despite its Chinese sounding name) bottled mint sauce…

…that she bought sometime ago but never used. I wonder why she bothered since we have a lot of mint growing in the garden and we can easily pluck some and make our own.

That certainly was a delightful meal and I guess that should be enough lamb for a while till the next time any of us feels like having some more.

All you get…

I liked the mini char siew pao from Johore that my missus bought not too long ago so I told everyone about them on Facebook. My friend, Annie, in KL promptly commented on my post and shared a photograph of this…

She likes this one too!

That was why when the ladies went out shopping the other day, I told them to drop by the supermarket and grab a pack for me if they see it there. Well, they did and yes, they got me a pack.

The very next morning, I could not wait to steam it to heat it up and give it a try. When I opened the pack, I was stunned. There were ONLY two…

…inside, two big ones but two is all you get in a pack, no more, no less!

Yes, they were very nice, piping hot, straight from the steamer and there were huge chunks of meat inside, with quite a bit of egg some more…

…unlike those miserable steamed paos here.

However, they are RM11.00 something a pack so it works out to almost RM6.00 EACH, two plates of kampua mee, mind you! At that price, I think I would give them a pass – at least, I’ve given them a try and I do know how good they are. Period.

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.