Dusty memories…

Some of you may remember Helen, my student from my first batch in Kanowit way back in 1978 – we had a reunion not too long ago and I did blog about it then. Well, she is based in Brunei right now and she was back in town the other day with her mum to attend a wedding.

I remember the mum very well but being in her mid-70’s, it took her some time to dig out the dusty memories at the back of her mind before she could remember who I was – that young and slim and handsome teacher! Sighhhhhh!!!!! Unfortunately, time has not been kind and though she did say that I still have the looks, I know I definitely have “grown” a lot since. Sobssss!!!!!

I took them out for lunch here – I did not want to go some place else that I have not been to just in case the food might not be all that great.

We had the creamy butter prawns…

Creamy butter prawns

…that were great as usual and Helen insisted on having the fried cangkuk manis (mani cai) with egg…

Cangkuk manis egg

In her opinion, the best is right here in Sibu – none that she had had elsewhere could measure up, not at all.

Other than those two, we also ordered the midin, ching chau (fried plain, with garlic)…

Midin

…and the Foochow-style tofu soup…

Tofu soup

Yes, Helen and her mum enjoyed all the dishes very much and we really had a great time talking about old times and everything that has transpired in our lives since that time so very long ago in Kanowit. Unfortunately, something cropped up and I had to rush home right away so I dropped them off at their hotel and made my way through the jam – it was already the 5th Day of Chinese New Year and everyone had gone back to school or to work and I thought the roads would be clear already. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so.

It sure was nice seeing you and your mum again, Helen, and thank you for the made-in-Indonesia instant noodles that you brought all the way from Brunei for me…

Indonesian mi goreng

Yes, a cousin of mine had an Indonesian girlfriend and once, he gave me a packet from there to try – he was of the opinion that the ones made there, despite being from the same company, were much better. Can’t wait to try these and blog about it!

Can’t forget you…

My Indonesian blogger friend, the Dentist-Chef, asked what fish it was…

Tangadak

…that we had for our Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner.

Then, the celebrity food blogger in Penang, Ken, asked if that was terubok (toli shad) and no, it wasn’t…nor was it the empurau…or what they call in Mandarin, the Wang Pu Liao (Cannot forget) – the same as in the lyrics of that very popular song from the movie, “Love without end” (不了情) starring the Asian movie queen, the late Lin Dai (林黛)…

Well, I sure would not be able to afford one, the poor ol’ pensioner that I am, no question about that. When my Singapore friend, Alfred, was in town, he snapped this photograph…

Empurau for sale
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…at a shop here and he even went in to have a look…

Empurau, frozen
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…and goodness gracious me!

Empurau, price
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

Just look at the price!!! *faints* That certainly makes me wonder whether it is the price that people will never forget or its very sweet, very smooth, very soft and so very delicious flesh.

They catch these freshwater fish – the empurau, semah and tangadak upriver and yes, I cannot deny that they taste really very good, absolutely out of this world, but I am not particularly fond of the small forked bones that they all have in them. I guess one would have to eat very very slowly to make sure they would not swallow any accidentally and at the same time, enjoy every little bit of the fish to make it worth the price…or get ready to fork out some dough to visit the ENT specialist in town.

I’ve tried the empurau before – they served it at Chinese restaurants before – just a slice of it, steamed, would cost a bomb! And once when I went to Belaga to give a talk to the students at a secondary school there, I had a very small one for dinner, about the size of the aforementioned slice. I hear that these small ones are more affordable and are equally tasty…if and when available. I’ve also enjoyed the ikan semah before – once, a friend went to Kapit and when she came back, she gave me one…and on another occasion, we had it at a dinner that my friend invited me to…and yes, it was very very nice too. From hearsay, I gathered that the empurau is 1st class, the most expensive selling for over RM200 a kg at one time while the semah would be somewhere in the region of RM150-200.

Well, what we had was the tangadak – the third in the class of the most expensive fish found here. I was quite surprised when my missus told me that she bought it at around RM50 a kilo – in the past, those from upriver would be going for at least around RM100-120 a kg. I asked if it was farmed but she said that the seller said no, it was freshly caught from the river. Yes, they do farm these fish now…and if they are from the huge lakes at the Batang Ai electricity dam, they would be just as nice, I am sure but if that is the case, I would expect those to come at very much cheaper prices, don’t you think?

It had to be you…

The 2nd Day of Chinese New Year was kind of slow – we did not have a steady stream of visitors unlike the 1st Day but my good friend, Lim, and his family dropped by around noon and so we asked them to have lunch at my place…but unfortunately, all we had were leftovers from the previous night’s dinner with my in-laws. They brought along two guests, Lim’s niece from Auckland, New Zealand and her French boyfriend…and when Lim and his missus suggested going out for lunch together the following day – the 3rd Day of Chinese New Year, I told them that it had to be here

Payung decor 1

…for the exotic delights that their guests would not find anywhere else,

Payung decor 2

Well, they were keen on the idea too as they had never been to this place…

Payung decor 3

…before themselves.

Of course, I ordered my favourites – the Payung rojak

Payung rojak

…and the mushroom roll…

Payung mushroom roll

…and their special otak-otak, different from all the rest…

Payung otak-otak

…and their Payung belimbing prawns…

Belimbing prawns

Lim’s missus loved the kacangma chicken she had at our house so I ordered the one here…

Payung kacangma chicken

…for her to try and she said it was very nice too.

Peter, the boss, was so kind as to serve us his paku (wild jungle fern) cooked in santan (coconut milk)…

Payung paku in santan

…on the house and also his special ulam

Payung ulam

…which Lim’s missus enjoyed to the max.

I do not know how much their guests enjoyed everything that we had – they certainly looked very intrigued by it all and were somewhat curious as to what everything was but I could see that they were not into anything a little bit spicy. Hmmmm…perhaps we should have taken them to some place else.

My missus ordered their tom yam spaghetti…

Payung tom yam spaghetti

…and requested for it to be extra-extra spicy and it most certainly was so though some of us did try a little bit of it, she had to finish most of her order herself.

My girl was not in the mood for the usual that we have had so very often so she asked for a chicken chop…

Payung chicken chop

…for herself but she said it was dry and was not very nice. Well, it does look charred somewhat if one looks at it carefully in the photograph.

It so happened that my young and handsome friend/ex-student, Ryan, wanted to drop by my house to visit me during his lunch break but since we were out, I asked him to join us there and he did. He had the Bangladeshi lamb curry and he said it was good. He has graduated already and has been so caught up in his work that we did not get a chance to meet at all – not since Chinese New Year last year! It sure was great to see you again, Ryan – nice of you to make an effort to come by to see me…and I do hope the  Year of the Goat would be a very happy and successful one for you.

Now, this was where the “trouble” started. While we were out, people started texting me to ask if they could come to my house and I told them that I was out but I would be home by 3.00 p.m. My bad!!! I am sure you can guess what happened – everyone showed up at 3 and we certainly had a jolly big crowd at my humble little house. I thought that was fun though – so many people at one time in our usually very very quiet abode. That certainly was a welcome change. Thanks so much to you…you…and you – all of you wonderful people who came that afternoon.

Later that day, we had to go for the evening service in church as the next day, we had to send my girl back to her school – and work resumed the day after that, Monday.

STOP PRESS:
The postman just delivered this yesterday…

CNY card from Nick

- a beautiful Chinese New Year card from another young and handsome friend of mine all the way in Sg Petani. No worries, it’s still Chinese New Year – not Chap Goh Meh yet. Thank you so much, Nick, it really is so very nice of you to go through all that trouble. I do hope you’re having a wonderful time ushering in the Year of The Goat at your end. Qong Xi Fa Cai!!!

Each year…

Come Chinese New Year each year, in the evening on the 1st Day, we would ask my in-laws to come over to our house for dinner

CNY dinner with in-laws

…and this year was no exception.

My missus cooked most of everything and this year, we had these garlic prawns with sesame oil…

Prawns 1

…and the ones with sambal and pineapples…

Prawns 2

These were steamed minced meat on scallop shells…

Steamed minced meat

…and there was, of course, the chicken curry…

Chicken curry

…and the kacang ma chicken…

Kacangma chicken

…plus my missus’ very nice oven-baked chicken wings…

Chicken wings

…and the golden ngor hiang or lor bak (meat rolls)…

Ngor hiang

…and mushroom rolls…

Mushroom rolls

…with a lot of cheese.

The photograph of the satay beef came out blur and the one of the mushroom broccoli…

Mushroom broccoli

…wasn’t very clear either nor was the one of the noodles that I fried

Mee goreng

You probably would remember that time when I fried some and it turned out really good so I decided to buy 1 kg of the noodles and cook it again more or less the same way but this time around, I  had some big prawns in it. It was all gone in no time at all so that would be a clear indication as to whether it  was nice or not, right? Hehehehehe!!!!

Everyone enjoyed the dinner and had a great time – they’re very nice people, my in-laws and I would say that it has always been a pleasure to host such dinners for them everytime – though most of the time, I would not be the one doing most of the work. Wink! Wink!

The waiting is over…

It’s here – the Year of the Goat…and to welcome and usher in the new year, in keeping with the tradition and to preserve the heritage, we had our mee sua (longevity noodles)…

CNY mee sua 2015

…first thing in the morning.

After that, we headed to my parents’ place and after that, to my mother-in-law’s, to wish them a very Happy Chinese New Year and to pay our respects. Then we went back home to wait for friends and well-wishers to drop by.

We served them drinks, cakes…

Cakes

…cookies and everything else that we had prepared for this special day. I did mention in an earlier post that my missus did not make any cakes this year – we just went and bought our favourites at my regular Malay kuih stall at Bandong and the nice lady even gave me this kek batek mocha…

Kek batek mocha

- not the usual batek cake but one with a difference, thank you so much. Some liked it a lot but my favourite this year would be the kek belacan.

We also had the very lovely fruit cake…

Fruit cake

…that my cousin in Kota Kinabalu gave to me when he came to town and that was indeed very nice as well.

There was a steady stream of visitors the whole day, starting with my girl’s coursemates and a friend of theirs…

Mel's friends

…who were so sweet and thoughtful as to bring this…

From Mel's friends

…along to give to us, thank you so much…and thank you too, Azlan – my friend from the radio days with Mag & Pat in the afternoon on TraxxFm for this “gift of gold”…

Gift of gold

…and then, there was my godson, Andrew, home from New Zealand, who dropped by with his family…and an ex-student of mine working in Kazakhstan at this point in time but was also home for the festival. As always, Andrew did not come back empty-handed and this time around, he brought me these…

From Andrew

Hmmmm…interesting! I never knew that “sweet as” is Kiwi slang for awesome or good one. A big thank you to you too, Andrew…and I  also would like to thank everyone who took their time off to drop by and extend their Happy Chinese New Year wishes – that was so very nice of you all and I really appreciate it a lot.

The last group on the 1st Day left at around 10 something…and it was past 11.00 p.m. before we turned in for the night. We had a great time entertaining our guests and I would say that it sure was a wonderful start to this brand new year.

P.S.:
My ex-colleague dropped by the 2nd Day of the New Year and she gave me these -

From ex-colleague

- her mum’s own-made peanut cookies and some jelly powder. Nope, please ignore the bag – there was nothing in it that would be of any use to me, not that it would help one bit…but obviously, my ex-colleague is a regular customer. I had not seen her since I retired over 7 years ago and it seems that she got a transfer to Kuching soon after I had left the service and look at her now – so much younger, her skin so fair and so smooth! Ok, my friend! Don’t you think I deserve a special treat for that? Hehehehehe!!!!!

The day before you came…

This was on the the eve – the day before Chinese New Year’s Day came.

My missus was busy the whole day cooking in the kitchen while my girl and I did a bit of last-minute cleaning and put the finishing touches to the decoration inside the house…

CNY 2015 1

We didn’t go out to buy new stuff for the purpose – most were things that we had last year or even before that.

My missus did go and buy fresh pussy willows though…

CNY 2015 2

She said that one would need to get new ones for the auspicious occasion and true enough, she did come into a bit of money soon after she went and bought some – not much, just a bit and enough to pay for her purchases. Hehehehehe!!!!

There were, of course, the Mandarin oranges…

CNY 2015 3

…and we were done – all nicely spruced up…

CNY 2015 4

…and ready to welcome and usher in the Year of the Goat…

CNY 2015 5

That night, we had a simple reunion dinner…and in keeping with the tradition, we had fish…

Fish

- as they say, Nian Nian You Yu (年年有魚) or abundance year after year…and these golden meat rolls – the ngor hiang or lor bak

Ngor hiang

…as they are called in some places.

This was a once-a-year treat for us – the five-spice phak lor (stewed) duck…

Phak lor ark

My girl and I enjoyed it to the max and we would only get to eat this once a year as my missus does not eat duck. Ironically, nobody (outside) does it better – in fact, none would come anywhere near and the next best thing would be the regular roast duck, that’s all.

We also had these mushroom rolls…

Mushrrom rolls

…which tasted very nice but did not look as great – this would need a little bit more practice, I guess…and we did not think the beer-marinated chicken boxing…

Chicken boxing

…was all that nice – we prefer the way my missus would usually marinate chicken wings to bake on normal days, whatever ingredients she would use for those.

The scallop and crab meat and minced meat soup…

Soup

…that my missus cooked was simply out of this world, very very nice. We did not finish most of everything but this one, we literally licked the bowl clean! LOL!!!

It had been a long and tiring day. Believe you me, I went to bed early and slept through the 3rd World War and a 4th one thrown in for good measure – all the deafening fireworks and firecrackers all through the night, especially around midnight…

…but for many, this alone would make it worthwhile for everyone to make the trip home to Sibu for this very auspicious occasion and yes, it would be a good time to come and visit as well – just book your air tickets early as it can be difficult to get seats or it may be mighty expensive as the festival draws near.

North and south…

Back to the two ex-students of mine that I mentioned in an earlier post, one is working up north in Penang and the other is down south in Singapore. One told me that he would be giving me two jars of his mum’s homemade acar timun (cucumber pickle) – in fact, he gave me one last year and I loved it! Just like the ones my mother-in-law used to make but she, being old now, is no longer making anymore.

Then, the other one saw me discussing with some of my friends on Facebook – we were taking about the bak kua I got from my Singapore friend who was here recently – Bee Cheng Hiang & Fragrance…and he mentioned another brand, Lim Chee Guan – the moment I said that I had never tried that before, he said that he was on his way…and good grief! After a while, he posted a photograph of his purchase to show me, telling me that he would be giving that to me once he got home. I went and googled and it seemed that this so-called “aeroplane/airplane brand” is among the best, if not THE best, in Singapore.

Of course, it would not be nice to just take their things…

From Hong & Johnny

…and not give so I took the two of them out for breakfast here.

The one in Penang said that he went and ate the kampua noodles at some place in Penang and it was not nice, and not quite the same (though he did say that the kolo mee he had at that same place was quite good). The one in Singapore said he had tried the one at Bugis and the other somewhere around Tampines…and both were not the same either and very expensive. Now that they were back home in Sibu, of course, they would want to go for the real thing…even though I did say that the kampua mee (RM4.50)…

Noodle House kampua

…here would not be all that great (and it doesn’t come cheap either).

I suggested the one with black pepper beef (RM9.80)…

Noodle House kampua with beef

…which I quite like myself so one of them agreed to give it a try – the other does not take beef so he had to settle for the former…and yes, he loved it as I thought he would!

We shared the kompia stuffed with stewed pork belly (RM4.80)…

Noodle House kompia pork belly

…and minced meat (RM3.80)…

Noodle House kompia minced meat

…and they liked how they do it here.

I had their kway chap special (RM7.90)…

Noodle House kway chap

…and it was good, as always.

I always enjoy getting together with my boys and talk about their days in school…and things going on in their lives right now…and this time around, it certainly was no exception, I must say.