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.

Too much to do…

The other day, I blogged about the mini-mee kua/mee pok rolls that I bought, one kilo of it. There was a lot inside the pack, enough to fill two big Tupperware containers. I’ve cooked it twice already, tossed with Bovril the way that I like it and there is still a lot of it left.

My sister told me that she would ask her helper to fry with soy sauce and egg so the other morning, I decided to give it a try…

These were the ingredients that I used…

– two shallots, peeled and thinly sliced, chopped garlic, chopped spring onion from my garden and my missus’ pounded chili and garlic dip.

I had some char siew (BBQ pork) in the fridge so I took out a chunk and heated it up in the oven. Once done, I cut it into thin slices…

…to go with the noodles later. I bought it a few days earlier at the fruit and food sundry shop in the next lane, round the corner from my house. It appeared to me that every Friday, somebody would bring this and also slices of siew yoke (roast pork) and leave them at the shop for sale. Usually, I would not buy as it is our no-meat day but that day, I thought I would just grab some and dump the whole lot in the fridge. We can take out on another day and heat up to enjoy when we feel like it and that would save my missus the trouble of having to cook for our meals.

I boiled four rolls of the mee kua/mee pok till soft and then, I rinsed the noodles with cold water to wash away the excess starch – that would ensure that the noodles would not end up all stuck together and after that, I drained them well…

I tossed them with some soy sauce, the chili dip plus a bit of msg and pepper…

…and mixed everything together thoroughly. My friend, one Malay guy, who was with me in Plymouth, England in 1994, told me that he would always do that so that the ingredients would be distributed evenly and we would not have to fry too much and too long when everything was in the wok. The noodles might end up berpecah-pecah (broken into bits), especially in the case of bihun (rice vermicelli). That is why I have always done it this way since.

Finally, it was time to start cooking. I heated up a bit of oil in the wok and fried the shallots till golden brown before removing from the oil to use for garnishing later. Next, I fried the garlic, also till golden brown before I added the noodles. I added two eggs at the end and dished everything out…

…and served with the aforementioned char siew, garnished with the fried shallots and chopped spring onion.

I would not say I enjoyed it a lot – I think I would prefer the noodles the usual way, tossed with Bovril plus that is a lot less work, so much easier to prepare. The taste was all right, nice enough but not overwhelmingly so, especially considering that there was too much to do to come out with the dish…

At the same time, I was thinking that if I had prawns in the freezer and taugeh (bean sprouts) to add to the noodles, they would most likely bring it to a whole new level.

Ah well! I guess at the end of the day, I would just say that it was nice, not bad at all, for a change.

Convenience…

I guess everyone knows by now that I do not usually venture very far to shop for my food supplies and other daily needs as I can get most of what I want at the nearby shops and stalls in the next lane in my neighbourhood and my favourite fish & seafood stall is pretty close by as well.

Other than the convenience, these places are not so crowded unlike some of those popular malls and supermarkets around town. They may claim that all their employees are fully vaccinated and insist on ALL their customers being fully vaccinated too before they are allowed to enter but still, their names would appear so frequently in the daily list of places where there have been positive cases. That sure is kind of worrying! It is the same with the Sibu Central Market and at the time of writing, it is closed because there have been a lot of cases there, so I was told.

I do not usually go early in the morning as I’ve noticed a lot of shoppers doing their marketing for the day at that time, not only ladies but men too, some of whom have just finished their regular morning jog/walk obviously. I cannot understand why they have to do it every day – I would grab a whole lot each time I go out and dump everything in the house and my missus would do the same so we would not have to go out so often. My cousin in KK called me that day and I assured him that we would have no problem with food whatsoever as we have so much in store at home – like a kedai runcit (grocery store), he said. LOL!!!

I would stock up on things for breakfast too as we jolly well can’t be eating instant noodles all the time and I am cutting down on sweet cakes, biscuits, cookies and crackers. That is why I would buy bread and buns and mantao and steamed paos…

…all of which are easily available in the aforementioned shops and talking about the paos, they are RM2.20 each now, an increase of 20 sen since the pandemic broke out but they have insisted on each pao being wrapped in a plastic bag…

…so they would not be lying there, all exposed, waiting for somebody to buy and I do know of some people who have this horrible habit of poking everything or touching and taking something and then putting it back. I simply do not understand why they must do that – the vegetable seller (the old man in the afternoon) complained to me once about his bruised tomatoes, the result of people taking and pressing them one by one. Of course, nobody would want to buy them anymore!

Anyway, back to the paos, I would buy a few and keep in the fridge to steam and heat up for my breakfast when I get up in the morning. These days, I like to boil an egg and cut it into wedges and push them into the paos…

I so love egg in my paos.

There are quite a lot of things I can buy at that same shop for breakfast or tea and other than that, I can also drop by the coffee shop to the left of the block of shops on the left and tapao something home like what I did the other morning. The chu-char stall is at the back so I can go and order through the back door. That way, I do not have to go through the whole coffee shop which means that I can avoid any physical/close contact with any fellow human beings who may be there at the time.

That day, I bought this char pek koi/fried rice cake (RM5.00)…

…for my girl. She does enjoy it and now that we do not go out to eat here, there and everywhere these days, she will not get to eat it unless I buy it home for her. Yes, she loved it but the serving was a bit too big for her to handle so she saved half of it…

…for her lunch that day.

I got the Foochow fried noodles, the moon version (RM4.50)…

…for the mum and yes, it was good too.

Of course, by the time I got home, it would have soaked up all the sauce/gravy…

…but it did not matter. Sometimes. these noodles taste even nicer when they have absorbed the sauce/gravy – it will make them tastier! Yes, like the daughter, she could not finish all of it too so she put aside the rest for her lunch.

No, I did not buy anything for myself. I usually wake up very early, around 3 or 4 something in the morning. I’ve noticed that some of you are up and about around that same time too, already active on Facebook and may, at times, leave a comment in my blog even. Of course I must have my breakfast so usually I will see what I can eat in the house and that morning, I tried this instant mi goreng and with the added egg and sausage, I was already too full for anything else.

Of course, there may be things that are not available at those aforementioned stalls and shops. For instance, cheddar cheese is easily available, block or slices and cream cheese too but if you are looking for parmesan and the rest, I’m afraid you will have to go elsewhere. I guess at a time like this, we will just have to learn to live without certain things and make do with what we can get while making safety our priority at all times – #staysafe #staywell.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) 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 while AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) is located in the same block as Kim Tak Mini Supermarket, to the extreme left.

Easier…

I don’t know when my missus bought the glutinous rice, probably quite sometime ago, but the other day, she wanted to cook all of it to get it out of the way.

She used a claypot, lined with those bamboo leaves that they use to wrap bak chang (meat dumplings) and cooked the rice in that exact same way – with meat, dried shitake mushroom (soaked to soften), kao lak (chestnuts), hay bee (dried shrimps) plus soy sauce and ngor hiang hoon (five spice powder), what we will find in those Hokkien bak chang. She insists that she’s not good at wrapping those dumplings so this is an easier way to do it.

Yes, it was very nice and because she cooked so much of it, we had that for our meals, instead of plain rice, for two days!!! The following morning, there was a bit left, just a bit so I took that out of the fridge and stuffed it in a bowl…

…and steamed it to heat it up.

When it was done, I turned the bowl over to get it out…

…and sat down to enjoy it. This was something like lo mai kai (糯米雞) except that they usually have chicken in that and I was thinking that I could have added a slice of two of lap cheang (Chinese sausage) – if I am not wrong, they usually have that in theirs too.

I bought one here the other day, RM5.00 each…

…and yes, it was very nice but at that price, I guess it is pretty obvious why I have not gone back for more.

I went and bought the same at another place here, RM4.00 each only…

…but they were very much smaller plus the rice was way too overcooked, so sticky and mushy and that was why we did not think it was something we would want to go back for more.

I certainly enjoyed what my missus cooked that day…

…a whole lot more. Having had my fill of that over those three days, I guess you will not find me craving for it for quite sometime, at least.

Just in case it rains…

I went out to my favourite fish & seafood stall near my house on Thursday morning because we had run out of fish and prawns in the house. There was only one ikan terubok and nobody seemed all that keen to eat that – I guess after all this time when we could not get hold of any, suddenly we had one too many so I decided to just let it sit in the freezer for a while before we would finish it off once and for all.

The weather was fine that day, bright and sunny. I went out a day earlier just in case it rained on Friday, our no-meat day and I hate going out in the rain. Unfortunately, there were no prawns available, just the farmed ones but I did not want those. Thankfully, there were quite a lot of medium-sized sotong (squid), RM15.00 a kilo…

…so I asked the nice lady to pick the bigger ones for me. I suppose there was more than 1 kilo – I paid RM20.00 for it after she rounded up the total. My girl would be delighted, I was sure of that because she loves sotong but the mum would be busy the rest of the morning, cleaning them before putting them away in the freezer.

The next morning, she took them out to cook some sambal sotong

…because my girl asked for that and some nasi lemak

…to go with it.

I was delighted, of course, as I’ve seen my blogger-friends in the mainland buying nasi lemak to enjoy and the last time I had a decently good one was in July. I am not all that keen on going to the kampung area to grab some as everyday, I would see the names of the roads there in the list of places where there have been positive cases. Obviously, that part of town is best avoided, #staysafe #staywell.

Yes, my missus’ rice was very lemak, so very nice and it went so well with the sambal sotong

…too. She sure can do it well and it’s the same with her chicken rice too – nicer than any in town!

It was a good day too, Friday, so I headed to the neighbourhood shops near my house, in the next lane. There weren’t any vegetables that tickled my fancy so I just bought some more dabal seluang

That would be ideal as an alternative and anyway, we had cucumber with the nasi lemak as well.

We sure enjoyed our lunch and dinner that day but I missed the usual condiments that we would get whenever we have nasi lemak – the kacang (peanuts) and the fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies). I guess at a time like this, we just have to be happy with what we can get and pray that times will get better…soon.

I can’t put my finger on it…

This brand of instant noodles, mi goreng (fried noodles)…

…needs no introduction but they state it very clearly on the pack/packet that it’s special…

My missus bought a pack so one morning, I decided to give it a try. I have not had/bought it for a long time so I am not sure if this wrapper is brand new or it has been like that for a while now.

Inside, you can find the noodles as usual but this is special…

There is the sachet with three compartments where they give you the shallot oil, the dark soy sauce and the chili sauce and while you will usually get just the seasoning in the other sachet, this one has an extra compartment with the bawang goreng (fried onions).

I emptied the contents of the sachets into a plate…

…and I was intrigued by the look of the fried onions. They looked like crushed peanut (kacang tumbuk) to me.

I boiled the noodles till cooked/soft and tossed them with everything in the plate. In the meantime, I took one of the sausages…

…that I bought sometime ago but for reasons unknown, my girl had not bothered to eat them for breakfast. Normally, she would be so into these things but of course, she had the (more expensive) gourmet ones that the mum bought for her to enjoy – I guess she wanted to finish those first.

I fried the sausage lightly in a non-stick pan and an egg as well to go with the noodles…

I spread the white thinly in the pan and folded it over the yolk, still nice and runny, to serve so it would not take up so much space and bury everything underneath it.

Yes, I did enjoy it and it did taste a little bit different from the usual, just a little bit. In fact, it was so little that I could hardly detect it so I would not say it was so overwhelmingly special to make it stand out a cut above the rest. It’s not expensive – RM3.80 for a pack of 5 but considering that the regular and this other Indonesian brand are only RM3.00 a pack, I would just settle for those instead. After all, they are nice too.

Send it to me…

We go back a long way, back to the days when he and his brother were running this very successful place. Yes, I loved quite a lot of things on their menu and of course, their mille crepes, their chocolate lava cake, the crème brûlée and their macarons. He opened another place serving awesome gelato and that too was well-received and it was followed by another outlet serving some really delightful stuff and all the aforementioned desserts as well as the gelato.

I managed to drop by the latter in February last year and if you go and read the post, I was taken by surprise when I wanted to pay for all that we had and I was informed by the girl at the counter that the boss had paid for everything – it was all on him and other than that, the girl said that he wanted us to pick the gelato of our choice for dessert. Of course, I felt real bad and refused the invitation considering that we already had a free lunch!

Unfortunately, in March that year, the pandemic broke out and the whole town was locked down for months. We have never really recovered since then and all this while, I have not gone back there except for this one time in May this year when I ordered a few items on their menu to take home to celebrate my missus’ birthday and Mother’s Day. He did contact me then asking me for my house address as he would like to let me try some of their gelato, the new flavours but I politely declined, saying that we would surely drop by when the situation improved (and sadly, to this date, it never did – getting WORSE by the day) and I would sample some then.

Then, the other day, out of the blue, in the evening, a car pulled up outside my gate and out came a young boy with a bag full of a lot of things that he passed to me and he insisted on taking my photograph holding that, with one thumb up! Imagine my surprise when he told me who had sent it – this time around, he did not tell me he would be sending things over and I really do not know how he got my house address, not that I mind that one bit but truly, I find it quite embarrassing when folks send me freebies. So very shy lah!

So what was in that bag that day? There was this beautiful exclusively designed box…

…of these very special mooncakes…

…and actually, to say that they are special would be an understatement. These are Italian ice cream (gelato) fine mooncakes, their own creations – not anything that one can get anywhere and anytime we like, just here.

He also sent me these little tubs of gelato…

…to enjoy and there was a special handwritten note from him…

…in the box too. Isn’t that so very sweet of him, a special treat for the Mid-Autumn (Mooncake) Festival!

Of course, we made room in the freezer to store all of these – we would want to save them for my girl’s birthday at the end of this week on the 17th/18th and also for the festival on the 21st. However, we simply could not resist it so we took one out to try – the pistachio with raspberry yolk mooncake…

it was wrapped in a layer of chocolate with a thin layer of something outside – my missus said it was chocolate but it was pink! Perhaps it was fondant, I’m not too sure.

Inside, there was pistachio ice cream with the raspberry yolk in the centre…

Boy! The taste was simply out of this world, so so so very nice and all of us loved it so much that we were actually tempted to try some of the rest as well but we managed to control ourselves.

In the meantime, my girl did try the gelato on another day – the Biscoff’ Cheesecake and she let me sample a teeny weeny bit. Yes, we enjoyed it a lot, very strong on the delightful cheese taste and that of the Biscoff came across a little like salted caramel which is something that is always to our liking..

I shared the photographs on Facebook and a friend, a retired teacher like me, commented and said that their ice cream mooncakes were super yummy and yes, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so so much, Anthony, for this very special treat – it is indeed most thoughtful and generous of you. May God bless you abundantly and here’s wishing you every success in all your ventures and endeavours.

NICA+ or NICA PLUS (2.296883,111.825859) as it is called, is located at No, 18 & 20 Lorong Intan 6, on the ground floor of the block of shops to the right of the Old Sing Kwong Supermarket (Kin Orient Plaza) along Jalan Tun Abang Hj Openg, directly below the Kimchee Korean Bar.BQ restaurant on the first floor. For orders and inquiries, please WhatsApp Nica Plus https://wa.me/60167945449.

Tell your mom…

My girl saw somebody’s photos of this dish…

…on Instagram so she told her mum to give it a try since that somebody did include the recipe as well.

Usually, we would either have bitter gourd fried with salted egg

…or cooked in an omelette

…and yes, we do get bitter gourd stuffed with fish paste in yong tofu

…or we stuff it with minced meat and either have it steamed (some with black beans added) or cook it as a soup.

We had it once here with tau cheo/fermented beans…

…and all those prawns, sotong (squid) and chicken and it was really very nice.

There are a few places in town where they serve bitter gourd bihun, soup

…and yes, I do enjoy that sometimes for a change.

Anyway, going back to this one that we had that day, if you look closely, there were some carrot, black fungus and tang hoon (glass noodles) in the minced meat stuffing…

…and yes, we really liked the taste.

I absolutely loved the delightful clear soup with the pork bone stock plus the minced meat in the filling and there was a hint of the bitterness of the bitter gourd…

The vegetable, however, was a tad too bitter but we were fine with it.

This certainly is a recipe to keep!