Scratch…

Last Friday, I had to drive to my girl’s school to bring her and her new friend/colleague/housemate home for the weekend because the one who would give her/them a lift had to attend a course at another school in the district and would not be going back to their school and would drive straight home after that and anyway, that would be very much later in the day.

I was up early so I decided to cook something for dinner in case we would be home late or we might be too tired by the time we got back so we could just heat up the food to eat. I deep-fried one of the two tilapias…

Tilapia 1

…that my friend, Nancy, gave me sometime ago. I had cooked one sometime ago and yes, it was very nice, never mind what they say about the farmed fish…and so was this one. It was very lemak (oily, rich in Omega-3) and very tasty, very sweet and no fishy smell at all, plus there were no bones other than the big one down the centre and those at the sides/fins…

Tilapia 2

…I would say it was very much nicer than the somewhat bland and very expensive tangadak we had for our reunion dinner despite the fact that we had kept it frozen in the freezer for so long.

For our vegetable dish, I fried this thinly-sliced long beans with egg…

Long beans with egg

On our way there, my missus and I stopped by one of the coffee shops facing the market in the Selangau Bazaar for an early lunch. Boy!!! Eating in that little place could be so expensive! We had the chap fan (mixed rice) – my missus had the mini-squids with two vegetables while I had the squids as well plus the sweet and sour chicken and the kembong (which was not all that big) and a serving of bayam. I did not take any photograph of what we had but together with our kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee), the total came up to RM20.00!!!

Never mind, I thought! After all, it isn’t all the time that we will get to eat there and I would say that the food was pretty good. I decided to tapao two packets for my girl and her friend for lunch – rice with the chicken and squid and the bayam…and the total was RM17.00. Shocking!!! I think it was RM8.00 each and they charged 50 sen for the flimsy cardbox box for tapao-ing in place of the polystyrene containers that they used to use before.

We got there before noon and I parked my car by the side beside the parking shed of one of the teachers. Then we went to my girl’s quarters and waited for them to come back from work, change and have lunch before we went back to the car to drive our way back to Sibu.

OMG!!! I was so put off by what I saw!!! There was this metre-long scratch and dent…

Scratch and dent

…by the side of the vehicle!!! No, I was not blocking his way. He could have reversed STRAIGHT out quite easily or turned a bit towards the left (instead of right) and he would not have hit my car. All that was needed was a little bit of caution and attention, something that some young drivers these days seem to lack.

Now, I was really pissed off not so much because of the damage – it’s an old car, anyway, and no, I would not ask him for any compensation or anything – but he did not even have the common courtesy to go and look for me/us to let me know what he had done. Perhaps he was in a hurry to go for his Friday prayers, I wouldn’t know. I certainly hope that he did pray for forgiveness for his sin… Tsk! Tsk!

Just another name…

I hang around Facebook most of the time. I find the social media very useful as it keeps me in touch with family and friends – their birthdays, anniversaries, what’s going on in their lives and share their joys and also their sorrows…and anything of mutual interest. It keeps me up-to-date too with the latest information and news and I do not have to watch any football match anywhere in the world to know who scored and who won. I’ve a Twitter account too but no, I hardly ever go there…and I’m not on Instagram since I do not own a smartphone.

I do wish, however, that everyone would be more responsible in sharing anything that they come across. Like in the case of the recent flood in Kuching, there were people who posted old photographs from many years ago of the Kuching Waterfront totally submerged. Such acts may lead to undue shock and worry not only for the unsuspecting folks there but also their loved ones living elsewhere. Then, of course, there were those that would surface everytime an election was round the corner or when there was a tragedy involving our airlines…and God knows how many times Jackie Chan has died on Facebook. It really makes me wonder what cheap thrill certain parties derive from doing such silly things…and the problem is there are many people who would quickly share without verifying the authenticity, the truth behind those things.

Like, for instance, way back in  2010, there was this video clip of a news report in Taiwan on an Indonesian-made instant noodles. Many countries including Singapore and Australia quickly ran tests that showed that there wasn’t any truth whatsoever in the report. After all this time, the video clip surfaced again very recently – I do not know how she came across it but without a second thought, she quickly shared it on Facebook and of course, the uninitiated, who did not see it the first time around, would fall for it, hook, line and sinker! I could not refrain from telling her off…but no, she did not delete at all. I just cannot understand why she saw it fit to keep it there.

Anyway, my ex-student gave me two packs of the made-in-Indonesia mi goreng

Indofood mi goreng

…the other day, 5 of these individual packets in each of them, and everyone started asking why it was named Indofood and not Indomie – the name that all of us would be more familiar with. Well, if you look closely at the name of the manufacturer, it is the same company…

Manufacturer

…that produces Indomie sold locally here – PT Indofood. You can click the link to that old post of mine and see this same name on the packets.

So these that I got were made in Indonesia…

Product of Indonesia

…for export to Brunei…

Halal

Now, the question is whether this is better than what we can get from the shops here. Inside, you will find the same four sachets – the seasoning, chili powder, fragrant oil and sweet dark soy sauce…

Sachets

…but when I opened the one with the seasoning, I could catch a whiff of the fragrance – something that I never experienced before.

The noodles were harder or firmer so I had to boil it longer but even though I did that for quite a while, it never turned overly soft and at times, even soggy, like some of the other brands. I tossed the noodles in all the ingredients provided and fried an egg to go with it…

Indofood mi goreng

…and sat down to eat.

It was very nice but pretty close to our Indonesian-made Indomie…

Indofood mi goreng

…which is definitely nicer than the Malaysian imposter and also the mi goreng from the other brands available – nice and special enough to make me decide not to eat the rest but to save them all for my girl to take to her school…to cook and enjoy sometime.

Take me there…

My god-son/ex-student, Andrew, had a few days left before he and his family had to make their way back to New Zealand and he asked if I could take him for the best kampua noodles in town. Of course there is none that I would categorise as the best as what is best for me may not be the best to others…so I told him that I would take them for my favourite here

RTM Cafe kampua

…and yes, both he and his missus and even their little girl liked it a lot, especially with the strong lard fragrance.

They’ve done up the place nicely…probably for Chinese New Year and I particularly loved the stickers…

RTM Cafe wall sticker

…on their walls.

I decided to try their chin therng mee (clear soup noodles)…

RTM Cafe chin therng mee 1

…and ordered that for myself to try. It was nice but no, it is not supposed to be like that – the original/authentic chin therng mee

Authentic chin therng mee

…or what I would refer to as the soup version of the kampua (dry plate) noodles. That would comprise the noodles served in clear bone stock soup with light soy sauce, lard and msg added served with a few slices of the red coloured boiled meat (the imitation char siew) and a sprinkling of fried shallots and chopped spring onions.

The one here had the stewed meat slices and minced meat as in the kampua noodles, dry, and they also added a lot of green vegetables…

RTM Cafe chin therng mee 2

…which one would never see in the original/authentic ones.

We also had the pian sip (wanton/meat dumplings)…

RTM Cafe pian sip

…tossed in dark soy sauce but they did not seem to be helping themselves to any so no prize for guessing who had all of that.

After that, I drove them to Bandong to my regular Malay kuih stall where they did pick up a thing or two and then, we went to the Sibu Resident’s Office where they managed to get hold of two copies of THE book to take back to New Zealand. After a short drive around town, we dropped by here to buy the kaya but unfortunately, it was sold out and they would not be making any more till after Chap Goh Meh. Never mind! They were keen on dropping by there anyway as they would like to have the durian ice cream…

Payung durian ice cream

…one more time before they leave town. In fact, they had been here earlier for lunch and they complained that the one they had had very little of the durian cream. There! They should have mentioned my name for that special preferential treatment. Wink! Wink! Hehehehehe!!!!

They also told me that their niece or somebody had the mango ice cream and loved it so so so much but they did not get to try as she finished it all by herself. Oh? I had never ordered as I expected it to be just ice cream with some bottled mango syrup but no, they also made their own mango puree/cream for it but they used our local mango – the quinee with its much stronger (and nicer) fragrance and taste.  We all tried…

Payung mango ice cream

…but we unanimously agreed that the durian was much nicer.

It certainly was nice seeing you all again, Andrew and Michelle and little Ashley. Thanks for all the treats throughout our brief outing that morning. I certainly looking forward to seeing all of you back in Sibu again soon. Take care and God bless always Cheers!

Left behind…

We still had these stalks of leek left behind after Chinese New Year…

Leek

…and they had started to dry up so I decided to take one and cook something with it – I did not want to use all as my missus might have something in mind.

She told me that she would use just the bulb and the stalk close to it but not the leaves. I think that would be such a waste so I would use all except for the parts of the leaves that had withered and turned brown. I sliced them thinly like this…

Ingredients

…and got the other ingredients ready as well – the usual suspects, the peeled and thinly sliced shallot and two cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped, one chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced and some of the leftover bak kua (barbecued meat), cut into thin strips. Lap cheong (Chinese sausage) would be good too but we have run out and do not have any in the house.

I still had half a packet of the bihun or noodles that they use for Penang assam laksa so I decided to use what’s left of it. I fried some of it once but found the texture rather hard and rubbery and did not quite like it. I can’t remember if I blogged about it but when I shared the photograph on Facebook, a cousin of mine said I would need to boil the noodles for quite sometime to get it nice and soft. That time, I only soaked it in hot water so this time around, older and wiser, I boiled it for a while before rinsing it in cold water and draining it well…

Penang laksa noodles

…for use.

I fried the shallot and garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown before throwing in the bak kua and cooking it for a while to get the flavour out. Next, I added the leek and the chili and mixed everything together thoroughly. For the seasoning, I sprinkled some pepper and a pinch of ikan bilis stock and added a tablespoon of kikkoman sauce. Once done, I added two eggs and fried well  before dishing it all out…

Fried Penang laksa noodles 1

…onto a plate.

I sat down and tried…

Fried Penang laksa noodles 2

…and yes, it was really very nice…and was pleasantly colourful too! I certainly would consider cooking this for Chinese New Year next year. I am quite sure it would be a hit – like the noodles this year.

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!!!