Not available…

Gosh!!! It has been two weeks at least now since I last bought those pek hay (seawater prawns) from my favourite fish & seafood stall in the neighbourhood. Maybe it is not the season and that last time was probably in August. So far, I only saw those farmed ones and at times, the cheaper teng khak (hard shell) ones that I am not really fond of – they taste fine but they have a somewhat strong smell.

I went again that morning and no, she did not have any. I did not want any fish as I still had some in my freezer so I went over to the fresh mini-mart beside the stall in the main building to see if there was anything of interest to me.

Much to my delight, I saw these paku (wild jungle fern)…

I liked how they made the stalks stand in a basin with a bit of water at the bottom for customers to take the amount they wanted and go over to the cashier’s counter to weigh and pay.

These paku and also its distant cousin, the midin, will make their appearances at the neighbourhood vegetable stall and shop in the next lane from my house very rarely and of course, I would grab them the instant I see them. I guess I can go to the jungle produce section at the Sibu Central Market but that is a high risk zone and seeing how all the clusters in the state are all the rumahs (longhouses) and kampungs (villages), I certainly would avoid any close proximity with those ethnic sellers.

Besides, they are not very honest – they will tie the ferns in bundles, wrap them with some jungle leaves and tie and when you get home and open, you will find the not-so-nice ones hidden in the middle and those would have to be thrown away, may God forgive them.

I took what I wanted and that cost me RM2.50. They were selling it at RM4.50 a kilo here and what I bought was enough for a plate…

…fried with sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) for lunch and dinner.

We had that with this awesome dish of ayam masak merah

…that my missus cooked from scratch and the lovely nasi biryani

…using the packet of mixed spices and ingredients from MAGGI. Yes, it was very nice, bursting with the fragrances of all the spices in it. We certainly would buy more to keep and cook whenever we feel like having more of this.

Yes, that is the amount of rice I eat per meal these days and never mind how nice the food may be, a second helping is strictly not allowed as I am on a low-carb diet. My life sure is so miserable, isn’t it? Sobsss!!!

Anyway, on my way back to the car that morning, the nice and generous lady from the fish & seafood stall called out to me and came over to give me this…

– some salted fish that she made herself. Hopefully, she will have some prawns for sale soon so I can buy from her.

The fish & seafood stall and the CCL FRESH MINI MARKET are located at the end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.

You don’t have to be a star…

The other morning, I dropped by this place that they call a “fresh mini market” which I feel is a mini-supermarket selling fresh produce, all kinds of frozen stuff, canned food and other factory made products and in one of the many freezers at the place, this…

…caught my attention.

There used to be an outlet of that Taiwanese star, Jay Chou’s franchise here and I did get to try it once – the mushroom and egg (RM8.90), RM10.90 with chicken but I think it has closed down now. This was my verdict at the time: I would not say it got me all excited as I thought it wasn’t anything that would get me running back for more…[and] at those prices, I think I would just give it a miss.

It looked like our roti canai to me but I thought our roti canai had a slight edge over it. Well, at least, this time around, they do not beat around the bush anymore and call it puff paratha. They call roti canai roti prata in Singapore but it looks like roti paratha is a little bit different. Wiki defines it as a flatbread that originated in the north of India. It is still quite prevalent there, where wheat is grown and is the traditional staple of the area. Paratha is an amalgamation of the words parat and atta which literally means layers of cooked dough. Ah well, in the words of William Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, if you ask me!

I checked the back of the pack…

…and found that it was made in China, Shandong, to be exact and they did give that website with Jay Chou’s name at the bottom, http://www.liangfood.com. I must say that it did not come cheap though, RM17.50 for a pack of 5 pieces so that works out to RM3.50 a piece. One can go for a plate of kampua mee and probably enjoy it a lot more and still has change at most places.

I did grab a pack, nonetheless, because my girl loves these things and I was quite sure she would want to give it a try. If I remember correctly, she did buy the ones from the aforementioned franchise outlet more than once.

She fried a piece…

…in a non-stick pan, no oil added till it was nicely done…

…and then, she fried an omelette and placed the piece on top so they would stick together…

After that, she rolled it up…

…and ate it.

She did give me a bite to try and yes, I thought it was nice but probably, if she had fried it in a little bit of butter, it would be nicer…and personally, old habits die hard – I would much sooner eat that with curry! I am very sure I would enjoy it a whole lot more.

CCL FRESH MINI MARKET is located at the end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.

Them, too…

This…

…came from them, too – the guys behind that grilled chicken sandwich

…that I thought was pretty good. As a matter of fact, I’ve gone back to buy again, despite the price, as my girl seemed to enjoy it so when I happened to be around there, I would grab one for her for her breakfast.

When I saw it the first time, I did not know what it was but I could tell it was from those same people because of the logo embossed on top. I grabbed two to take home and try and we quite enjoyed them. Only when my girl told me those were dorayakis did I realise it was that thing that the cartoon character, Doraemon, always eats in the TV show. I went and googled and this was what I found about it: a dorayaki is made of two hand-sized American-style pancakes sandwiched together with a sweet filling, the most popular of which is azuki red beans.

Yes, the ones we had that first time had red bean paste inside…

…but the filling was different from the usual red bean paste, what we call or tau sar that we find in buns and all the rest, not so fine (at times, I could detect the presence of a red bean or two) and not so black and most importantly, not so sweet. Both my daughter and I thought they were quite nice but not anything that would get me running back for more.

Well, I saw them again the other day and I decided to buy some…

…so I would be able to blog about it. I just took without looking and what I did not realise at the time was that there were different kinds of filling in the dorayaki.

I tried the peanut…

…and I was rather disappointed that it had peanut butter inside, not freshly crushed peanut like in our local apam balik. The vanilla wasn’t anything to get excited either. My missus had that and she said it was some cream like what we would find in cake icing. Other than that, I was wishing the whole time that the pancake could be softer – it was a bit on the hard side, not that spongy.

All thing considered, I felt the price, RM1.60 for that little piece, was a little on the high side. It reminded me of the thick version of the apam balik which I am sure would be very much nicer even though I am never a fan of those – I prefer the thin and crispy ones, only 70 sen a piece the last time I bought any at the stall in the next lane round the corner from my house.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

My dream came true…

I saw some of my blogger friends sharing photographs of their black vinegar pork trotter/leg and of course, that got me drooling away and wishing that I could get to enjoy it too. Why, one of them even shared the recipe in her blog!

There are a few places here selling that – here and also here on Sundays only and here as well. As a matter of fact, I did buy the one from that last place from the neighbourhood fruits and vegetables sundry shop in the next lane from my house. At one time, they left a few tubs there for sale and I did get to buy one to try…

…and yes, it was very nice.

I was thinking of going to one of those places to tapao home to enjoy but I was not that keen on going out and venturing here and there, not with the pandemic raging on like nobody’s business! That was why I kept putting it off one day after another!

Imagine my delight that day when I saw that my missus had cooked it…

…for us. Of course, hers is second to none and likewise, her phak lor too kha (braised five-spice pork leg) as well.

There was a coffee shop/restaurant in Kanowit where I used to go for my meals. The lady boss could cook it in that exact same way -she’s no longer around, of course. My guess is it was because she was Hokkien or some other dialect, not Foochow. Both my mum and my mother-in-law could cook it that same way too but sadly, I’ve yet to come across a place here that can cook it half as nice as them.

Ooooo…I so loved how my missus also went and added some hardboiled eggs to the stew. Those are one of my weaknesses – I love them so much!!! But the best thing about the dish was how my missus had taken the trouble to simmer it long enough so the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and the skin was so soft, so jelly-like that it melted in the mouth. Eating that sure felt like heaven, you can take my word for it!

I did buy some mantao (steamed buns) from the aforementioned shop sometime ago to keep in the fridge to take out and steam in the morning to heat up and eat for our breakfast so of course, we took a few of them out…

…to eat with the pork trotter and the sauce…

Boy! that was so so so good!!!

Now that I have had my fill of that one dish that I was dreaming of, I guess I shall not be craving for it…for a while! LOL!!!

One only…

Yes, I did go to the fruit & vegetable sundry shop in the next lane from my house to buy ONE mooncake, just one – one only…

For one thing, these things are sweet and I am presently on a low sugar diet so I should not be eating them. Well, I bought one so as to preserve the tradition, our culture, our heritage of eating mooncakes in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival.

I like these local homemade ones especially those with the black sesame filling…

…but unfortunately, the person making did not make any this year so I had no choice but to settle for the pek tau sar (mung bean paste)…

For whatever reason, my missus cannot eat the red bean paste ones as everytime she eats anything with that filling, she will feel giddy and her head will start spinning. Probably, it’s some kind of allergy. They only have these two types of filling plus another one with the kuaci (melon seeds), peanut and all kinds of seeds – I never liked that one since young so of course, I did not bother to buy it.

The mooncake…

…was selling at RM6.00 each which was a whole lot cheaper than those branded ones “imported” from West Malaysia. I did not see any at the neighbourhood shops and I have not ventured to the major supermarkets in town so I do not know if they had those there or not this year. They used to sell them there but times are hard and probably, they did not order any for fear that nobody will buy and they will end up stuck with boxes and boxes of those.

Sadly, these local ones seemed to have dropped in quality this year. I do not mind it one bit if the traditional mooncake skin is thick – you can see from the above photos that it was not that thick before. As a matter of fact, I actually enjoy eating the pastry used to make the skin. Some people make such a fuss, insisting that it must be paper thin and frankly, if that is the case, they might as well eat the filling and forget about the skin completely.

Unfortunately, the skin of the one I bought that day was a bit coarse and rather hard and dry, not as nice as I remember it to be…and it was quite sweet. If I throw in another 50 sen, I can go and buy my favourite Sibu Foochow pek guek tong chiew peah (Eighth Month Mid-Autumn Festival biscuits) which would not be so sweet and I would have a lot more to enjoy.

Incidentally, I was watching a show on “Festival Foods” on the AEC Channel on TV and the episode was on the Mooncake Festival. Much to my surprise, they were showing them making the mengandungi-lemak-babi 面茶 (miàn chá)/ 福州 (Foochow) cookies

Photo from their Facebook page

…somewhere in West Malaysia. I went and googled and found the Facebook page of a biscuit factory in Ayer Tawar New Village in Perak and yes, they make those biskut tikus (rat tail biscuits) too. We also have those here but we’re not fans of the biscuits. That is why I never buy them nor have I blogged about them.

Ah well! Like what I said right from the start, this was to preserve the tradition, our culture, our heritage so I guess it is perfectly all right, buying and eating one only once a year.

These mooncakes were available at SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) which is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to the Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Can we?

When my missus cooked the sambal sotong with the squids that I bought that day, our girl asked her to cook her nasi lemak which, of course, would put all the not-so-lemak or not-lemak-at-all ones outside to shame. Needless to say, we enjoyed our meals to the max that day even though it was just the sambal sotong and the rice to go with it, a little bit of cucumber and some dabai seluang by the side.

I did mention in that post that her chicken rice is pretty awesome too, definitely a whole lot nicer than most, if not all, of the ones we can get outside. I would say we have a couple of good ones like the ones here or here, for instance but I have noticed how they seem to lack quality control – some days, it can be so good while on other days, it can be quite disappointing. Anyway, we are #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome these days and since I felt like eating that the other day, I asked her if we could have that for our meals. My girl, of course, had no problem with it – she loves her mum’s chicken rice, that goes without saying!

My missus would always pair her chicken rice with steamed chicken…

…even though she can do a great job at roasting it too. Of course, when cooking chicken rice, what is most important will be the rice. We can buy very nice roast chicken at a lot of places outside and yes, there is steamed chicken here and there too. Unfortunately, most of the time, their rice does not make the grade.

It does look, therefore, like the challenge is in cooking the rice and a whole lot of effort is required to do that. I popped into the kitchen to have a look and I saw that my missus had rendered the fat…

…that would be used to cook the rice.

She had prepared a whole lot of ingredients…

– the shallots, ginger, lengkuas (galangal) plus the garlic (she usually peels and chops a whole lot of that and keeps it in the fridge instead of having to do it all the time) and some spring onions as well as daun sup (Chinese celery) for the garnishing when serving the chicken later.

There were also these ingredients…

– the sesame oil, the traditional Foochow red wine, salt, chicken stock and chicken rice paste and of course, these pandan leaves…

…were a must for its special fragrance.

I did not stick around too long for fear that I might be getting in the way so I left her and my girl to get on with what they were doing and when everything was done, the much-looked-forward-to lunch was served. Yes, the rice…

…was superb, as always and the chili dip…

…that my missus also prepared was spicy and went absolutely well with both the chicken and the rice.

We sure enjoyed everything immensely that day but it did seem like a whole lot of work. Perhaps in future, we should reserve this for some special occasion and stick to some simple easy-to-cook dishes on ordinary days.

And the boat sails by…

Yes, like what I said in an earlier post, we had a steamboat dinner on Saturday night, the 18th of September, in conjunction with my girl’s birthday. There were 4 of us altogether – we invited her godmother/aunt, my sister, to join us.

We had the usual suspects…

…nothing new, except for the Foochow fish balls (top right) available frozen from this place here. Perhaps some of you would remember how people would stand in line to buy them whenever there was a food fair in town. We do not have to venture so far now – they are selling these at the fruit & vegetable sundry shop in the next lane round the corner from my house.

Also available at that same shop now is this fish paste – I noticed a Sibu address on the packet but I wouldn’t know whether it was made here or they merely packed it for sale. One thing that caught my attention was that they had pork in the list of ingredients and yes, the fish balls that my missus made using the paste (top left) were very nice. I got the prawns (the ones from Sabah, shell & vein removed), the New Zealand mussels and the seafood tofu (bottom right and left) from there too.

I got this Australian wagyu beef (RM33.50)…

…very thinly sliced, from the fresh mart behind my favourite fish & seafood stall in the neighbourhood and of course, we must have some vegetables…

…in our steamboat and some tang hoon (glass noodles) and spring onions…

…too. I don’t know what spring onions those were that my missus bought – they were huge but sadly, they were not fragrant, not nice at all.

I did buy some sotong (squid) not too long ago and a pack of frozen boiled scallops (RM18.00) too but my missus said she forgot and did not take them out of the freezer so we would have to keep those for another day.

The soup that she prepared…

…using the innards and the unwanted parts of the chicken (head, Parson’s nose, neck, claws/feet and innards) that I bought that day to cook the mee sua and of course, pork bones as well was absolutely awesome – so sweet, so flavourful, so very nice! To start off, she brought it to boil in our multi-purpose cooker with some fish maw, bean curd sticks and sweet corn in it.

When we were all seated at the table, we added as much of everything…

…as we could and put back the lid and waited for it to boil before we started eating and as we ate, we added more of everything else and ate till we were full.

Other than the aforementioned spring onions, I did not like the meat balls my missus made because of the ingredients she added. I prefer plain minced meat rolled into balls, unadulterated. Other than that, I thought the beef was disappointing too. Yes, it was very nice and tender, no problem with that but it did not have that strong beef smell/fragrance that I would look for when going for beef noodles or any beef soup dishes. Other than those, everything else was fine.

I also mentioned in another earlier post that for dessert, we had the rest of the gelato mooncakes…

…that my friend sent to me.

I’m not a fan of snow skin so the two by the side on the right and on the left did not excite me much. I loved the durian…

…with gianduia/gianduja, a chocolate spread containing about 30% hazelnut paste, invented in Turin during Napoleon’s regency (1796–1814), reputed to be Nutella’s sophisticated older cousin. Personally, I would rank the pistachio ice cream with the raspberry yolk, the first one we tried that day, as the Numero Uno and this one comes in as a close second.

So there you have it! Our very simple steamboat dinner at home to celebrate my girl’s birthday and the Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival, 2021. #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

Pop up…

Today, the 21st of September, Tuesday, is the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), more commonly known as the Mooncake Festival.

No, we’re not having any kind of celebration this year, not even a special dinner – something that we usually would not miss in previous years. With this pandemic raging on and on, we really are not in the mood for much of anything.

Why! I did not even go and buy myself a mooncake to enjoy!!! For one thing, I am on a low-sugar diet and those mooncakes are super sweet, never mind that some of them claim to be low sugar – honestly, I can’t tell the difference. However, that does not mean that I did not get to eat any at all.

The other day, out of the blue, I had these beautiful gelato mooncakes…

…delivered to my house, a special gift from my friend, the proprietor of this place and all the rest.

We tried the pistachio with raspberry yolk…

…that very evening and it was so so so good!

But no, that did not give me an excuse to cast caution to the wind and feast on all of them. I would just nibble a bit to see what it tasted like and the ladies enjoyed the rest and that day, on my girl’s birthday, I took out the remaining three in the box…

…and we had them for our after-dinner dessert, killing two birds with one stone – to celebrate the birthday and the festival simultaneously.

Yes, in keeping with the tradition, I did go and buy our pek guek tong chiew peah

…the traditional Sibu Foochow Eighth Month Mid-Autumn Festival biscuits to nibble and my missus did bring home another two packets, if I remember correctly. Gone are the days when I would finish off one packet in one sitting – these days, I would have to limit myself to just two or three pieces at a time.

Other than the gift of gelato mooncakes, I had another surprise the other day around a week before the festival. The postman delivered this…

…to the house – a greeting card for The Mooncake Festival and a really beautiful pop-up one…

…at that.

I don’t know if it is a specially ordered, custom-made one…

…as I have never seen them selling greeting cards for the Mooncake Festival anywhere before.

That awesome card…

…came all the way from Sungai Petani in Kedah from my young and handsome friend, Nick, who came to visit me here in Sibu in 2017. Gosh!!! That was so long ago!

Thank you so much, Nick! It really is so sweet of you to remember me and keep me in your thoughts at a time like this and it sure made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. A very Happy and Blessed Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival to you and all your loved ones too…and here’s wishing the same to everybody as well on this very auspicious day. #staysafe #staywell Cheers!!!

Eat me…

No, we did not order a cake from Marcus nor did we go and buy one from anywhere for my girl’s birthday on Friday, 17th September. We’re #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome, you see.

Instead, the mum went and baked a butter cake…

…and my girl did the whipped cream icing, tinted lightly blue using the butterfly pea flowers from my garden and the mum went and plucked some of the blooms and leaves to place on top…

It did not look too bad, don’t you think?

It tasted really great, reduced sugar and my girl did not add any to the whipped cream icing but still, I restricted myself to just a few slices. Gotta have a lot of self-control these days.

For the same reason as to why we did not get her a cake, we did not go out to buy any presents for her either – we just gave her ang paos. She also got those from her godmother/aunt, my sister, that is and also my in-laws and yes, they did go through the trouble to buy her a few things as well.

That afternoon, it sure was a pleasant surprise when a car pulled up at our gate. It was her very good friend, Dayang who did give her a cake last year too and yes, we did invite her to join us when my girl celebrated her birthday at the Thai restaurant, our favourite in town.

She dropped by to give her this cheese and tomato pizza…

…her favourite at that home-based Malay eatery in the kampung serving western cuisine including pizzas and pasta. I’ve never been there before because it is a small place – I do not fancy going there to dine with my car parked by the side of the small and narrow lane but as far as I know, it is very popular – a lot of people frequent that place and they would share photos of what they have there on Facebook, all of which look pretty good, frankly speaking.

The pizza was very nice, very generous with the cheese but I prefer thin crust and I’m afraid it wasn’t.

Other than that, my girl’s friend also gave her this…

Eat me!!! That reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.

Inside the box was this croissant sandwich…

…from this very popular place in town, another place that I’ve never been to. Oopsss!!! It was our no-meat Friday but never mind! We made it an exception for my girl since it was her birthday and yes, she did enjoy it.

We did have a steamboat dinner as well on Saturday evening, the 18th but I may or may not blog about it as it would be pretty much the usual – we have had many steamboat dinners before so you can expect that we had more or less the same things. We’ll see!

I hope you had a decently happy and wonderful birthday, love – the best we can do at a time like this. May God bless and protect you abundantly each passing day in the year ahead. Cheers!!!

Not the day…

My girl’s birthday was on Friday, the 17th of September but it was our no-meat day so we decided to put everything off till the next day, the 18th which, because the people at the registration office messed it up, is the actual date on her birth certificate and her MyKad.

No, we did not plan to hold a grand celebration, not when we are #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome but of course, our traditional Foochow longevity noodles, the mee sua

…would be a must, no question about that!

I’ve blogged about cooking this before, once, at least…but never mind, let’s go through it all over again. I went out a day earlier to buy the special best quality chicken – they were out of the pua chai kay (half breed chicken) but they gave me a few choices, all just as nice, they said and I chose one.

As soon as I got home, I picked out the parts of the chicken with the meat that we would prefer and marinated it with our traditional Foochow red wine…

…and kept it in the fridge overnight.

When I got up early the next morning, I got the ingredients ready and started cooking the soup.

Firstly, I got some ginger…

…ready. This locally-grown ginger is a whole lot better than the very clean, dehydrated white ones, a lot more “hiam” and fragrant in comparison.

I soaked some dried shitake mushrooms to soften…

…and later, I had to cut away the stalks. Those are hard and not very palatable.

At the same time, I also soaked some dried wolfberries and red dates…

…and after a while, I was ready to start cooking.

I heated up some sesame oil in the wok and threw in the ginger, bruised…

…and let it fry till the fragrance came out.

After that, I put in the chicken…

…and yes, I poured in all the wine that was used to marinate the meat.

After frying till all the juices came out and the meat had absorbed the wine, I added the soaked ingredients…

Yes, I poured in all the water used in the soaking so as to retain the fragrances and tastes.

Finally, I added the water…

…and put in one chicken stock cube instead of salt and msg and after bringing the soup to boil, I let it simmer for some time. The longer you simmer, the sweeter and nicer the soup!

I cooked the mee sua for the three of us and poured the soup all over the noodles…

…and served them with the meat and also the egg…

…from those that I had cooked…

It is the traditional Foochow practice to have hardboiled eggs alongside the mee sua. Some would colour them red, following the age-old practice – in the old days, they would only colour them red for the birthdays of the sons/males in the family but these days, they do not bother to differentiate between the sexes.

Yes, we sure enjoyed what we had that morning and as you can see, Foochow cooking is generally very simple, easy to cook and very nice to eat.