Yellow…

On special occasions like when I’m entertaining some friends at home or for my open houses during Chinese New Year (whenever in a moment of temporary insanity, I decide to stay back in Sibu for the festive season), I would cook this yellow rice to go with the curry or the masak hitam (a Sarawak meat dish which is a lot nicer than the masak merah in the peninsular) or satay…and without fail, no matter how much I cook, I would run out of the rice very quickly so I will have to cook some plain white rice quickly or resort to serving slices of sandwich bread.

I don’t know exactly what it’s called – whether it’s nasi kuning (yellow rice) or nasi kunyit (tumeric rice) or nasi minyak (oil/ghee rice) and I don’t know how other people cook theirs but this how is I do it. I will chop some shallots and cut them into thin slices – the more I use, the more fragrant the rice later. Then I will buy a packet of the combination of spices that is easily available from any sundry shop, with cinnamon stick, star anise, bunga chengkih and buah palaga…and I will need some tumeric powder (serbuk kunyit), raisins and ghee. 

STP's saffron rice - ingredients 1

I will also wash the rice and drain it and prepare some knotted pandan (screwpine) leaves…

STP's saffron rice - ingredients 2

After heating up the wok, I will heat up the ghee and once it is hot, I will put in the shallot slices and saute until they turn golden brown. Then I will remove them from the oil to be used for garnishing when serving. Do take care to remove every little bit as what remains in the oil may get burnt and will affect the colour and appearance of the rice later.  Then I put in a handful of raisins and they will expand and turn round and brown in colour. Remove them from the oil and they will shrink and return to their original size and colour. Like the fried shallots, the raisins are also kept for garnishing when serving too. After that, I put in the spices and fry them in the oil and when I can smell the fragrance, I will remove the spices and discard them. I do not cook these together with the rice as I do not like the smell to be too strong, but some people may prefer it that way.

Then I put in the rice and add a teaspoon of tumeric powder (serbuk kunyit) and mix it all thoroughly with the now very fragrant ghee/oil, after which I will transfer it from the wok into the rice cooker. After adding water plus salt and msg according to taste, I will then cook it as I would cook rice normally, with the knotted pandan (screwpine) leaves submerged in the water. Stir regularly to ensure that the bottom part of the rice will not get burnt.  Once the rice is cooked, it is ready to be served. Sprinkle the fried shallots and raisins on top like this…

STP's saffron rice

It’s actually quite easy, so you can give it a try should you happen to be cooking curry, rendang or one of those nice Malaysian dishes that the rice is most compatible with. Good luck!

That’s what friends are for…

Yes, Sophia was right! The A1 Mountain Globe instant curry mix now comes in a new packaging, no longer the old not-very-impressive-looking plastic bag with orange and yellow print. However, there are a lot of other brands that look quite similar and all of them profess to be A1, so now, one will have to be very careful when buying and has to look for the specific brand.

A1 Mountain Globe new packaging

Well, as I have mentioned in my previous post, my friend, Jimmy, was in town and I decided to call a couple of friends to get together for a simple lunch at my place. For the main dish, I thought I would just give the instant rendang mix a try, so I got a packet and cooked some chicken with it…

STP's rendang chicken 1

It was very nice and pretty similar to the curry chicken cooked using the A1 Mountain Globe instant curry mix. Maybe there is a slight difference…and in my opinion, the chicken curry is a teeny-weeny bit nicer. Anyway, to go with that, I also cooked some yellow rice…

STP's saffron rice

I think they call this nasi kunyit (tumeric rice) or nasi minyak (oil/ghee rice) or nasi kuning (yellow rice). If you are interested, I will be posting on how to cook it in my next post. I also fried a simple dish of thinly-sliced cabbage with eggs…

STP's fried cabbage with eggs

They loved it very much and almost finished it all…and I was actually thinking of just cooking half a cabbage. Luckily, I decided against it and cooked the whole thing. My friends said they had never eaten cabbage cut into such thin fine strips before. Gee! That’s how I’ve had my cabbage my whole life through! Actually, it was a bit coarse already as I was running out of time and had to do it quickly. And just in case, they did not have enough to eat, I threw in a bit of this sambal petai from 3Q-Takeaway for good measure…

3Q's sambal petai

Don’t worry, I poured away the oil before serving. And by the way, I heard that 3Q-Takeway will be wrapping up its business at the end of this month…as the Q-in-charge is unable to cope single-handedly. Oh dear! No more kacang-ma !!

So that was the lunch that I had with my friends the other day. Anybody else interested in dropping by? LOL!

Let me try again…

I think I mentioned in a recent post that my daughter and I went to The Ark but it was closed. Well, my friend, Jimmy, from Bintulu was in town again and look at what he brought me… Two different types of tempuyak (fermented durian) and some very nice cincaluk (fermented shrimps)!

STP's tempuyak and cincaluk

So the day he came, we decided to try again and went to The Ark for lunch and to our delight, it was open for business.

Sibu's The Ark cafe gallery

This is the main section where the cashier’s counter is…

Sibu's The Ark main section

…but I prefer the section to the side where I sat the last time I came as it is brighter and airy and you get to enjoy the cool breeze blowing in from the river. I think I had some more photos in that earlier post of mine on the place. Jimmy  was very impressed by the whole place…

Sibu's The Ark Victoria Station clock

…but of course, what matters the most would be the food. I ordered the two items that I had before for the simple reason that they were very nice. The lamb curry (RM11.00) was enough for at least two or three persons…

Sibu's The Ark lamb curry

…and they were also quite generous with their ladies’ fingers with belacan (RM6.00)…

Sibu's The Ark ladies fingers with belacan

…and we also had the Thai-style crispy chicken (RM8.00)…

Sibu's The Ark Thai-style crispy chicken

Unlike other places where they would just use the Thai sauce from the bottle, here they prepare their own and I could detect hints of lemon grass and maybe even bunga kantan. It was good but probably, more of an acquired taste and less adventurous diners may need more time to get used to it. My daughter had their Chicken Cordon Bleu (RM12.50)…

Sibu's The Ark chicken Gordon Bleu

It may not look much in the photo but in reality, it was huge! A quarter chicken, at least…and they had it stuffed with ham and cheese. Ooo…double thumbs up! My friend wanted to try their condensed milk with peanut toast (RM2.50) so we ordered that as well…

Sibu's The Ark c/milk and peanut toast

It was o.k. but I would prefer more peanut (butter) and the condensed milk tasted as if they had opened the can for quite sometime now.

What I like best is the fact that they do not have the plus-plus on the bill (10% service charge and 5% government tax) unlike some other places, including that empty garden. I thought that the government had waived the 5% tax in view of the current economic recession?

All in all, it was no doubt a pleasant dining experience…and I would not mind going there again…and again…and again!

I went to your wedding…

Jude was actually my sister’s student in another school but I had heard a lot about him from her. Some of his classmates were in my tuition class but not him, and I only got to meet him personally when he joined my Lower 6 MUET class when he came to Sacred Heart School to do Form 6. But he did not stay very long as he left for further studies after a month or two. The next time I saw him again, he had already graduated and was working in Miri… 

Anyway, fast forward to…yesterday, 26th November, 2008. Jude got married to Claire at the Church of St Mary of Divine Mercy here in Sibu…

Sibu's St Mary's Church

This was the bridal car. Note the traditionally-Chinese red lanterns!

Jude & Claire's wedding 1

And here you can see the bride about to enter the church. Note the traditionally-Chinese red umbrella!

Jude & Claire's wedding 2

In the background, you can see Jude’s younger brother – blogger Clement who was the designated chaufeeur for the day. To the left, you can see two of the fleet of Kenari’s that were prepared to transport guests to the wedding and back.

This next photo shows the father of the bride leading his daughter down the aisle to the altar to give away her hand in marriage…

Jude & Claire's wedding 3

…and an emotional moment was when Jude hugged the soon-to-be father-in-law and the old man broke down in tears! Gee! I think I would also cry at my daughter’s wedding….hehehe!!! Here you can see the congregation and the wedding mass in progress…

Jude & Claire's wedding 4

Eyew! That lady two rows in front of me had just gone for cupping! I wouldn’t want to wear that blouse if I were her! LOL!!! And once the service was over, Jude and Claire walked out of the church, now man and wife…

Jude & Claire's wedding 5

…and here’s a photo of the happy newly-weds!

Jude & Claire's wedding 6

Note the traditionally-Chinese gold chain. Well, at least, she has good taste…unlike the bride in China that I had a post on sometime ago. LOL!!! Jude saw me and told Claire, “Look! Look over there! Stp’s taking our photo! You’ll get to see it in his blog!” Hahahahaha!!! Am I that predicatable, Jude? But the picture has turned out pretty nice, don’t you think? Especially when considering that it was taken with my miserable handphone with photo-snapping facility and my amateur photo-taking skill.

The wedding reception was held in the evening at the Phoenix Court, the Chinese restaurant at the Paramount Hotel. However, the lighting was poor so I did not bother to take any photographs to post.

Well, once again, our heartiest congratulations to the two of you, Jude and Claire, from my sister and me…and here’s wishing both of you blue skies and everything nice in the years ahead.

Empty garden…

Noontime on Tuesday, my daughter and I went to the Sibu Esplanade…

Sibu Esplanade

…because we wanted to go to The Ark for lunch. The restaurant is located to the left of this waterfront park, if you are facing the mighty Rejang River, the longest in Malaysia…

Rejang River express boats

Those are the express boats that link Sibu to the towns upriver like Song, Kapit and Belaga. Here, if somebody tells you that he came by express, he is not talking about a bus or a train, but one of those boats instead.

Unfortunately, The Ark is closed on Tuesdays, so the two of us went to the Garden Hotel cafe instead. This is the open air section outside…

Garden Hotel cafe open air section

…and as you can see, it was empty. Inside, it wasn’t much better with around 3-4 tables occupied only, a far cry from those days when the place would be packed by yuppies on their lunch break. I also noticed that it was somewhat dimmer than the last time I had dinner there with a sweet and young birthday girl but I reckoned that they must be trying to cut down the electricity charges.

I had the RM8++ set lunch…

Garden Hotel cafe set lunch

I had the fried lamb with curry sauce and two side dishes – fried ladies fingers and sambal ikan bilis, plus rice and complimentary soup…

Garden Hotel cafe set lunch - complimentary soup

…and a free cold drink…

Garden Hotel cafe set lunch - free drink

My daughter had the iced Milo and this plate of fish and chips from the a la carte menu…

Garden Hotel cafe - fish and chips

I did not check the price but I guess it is still around RM11-12++ but it was a lot less substantial than before, that’s for sure, and I do wish they would serve the tartar sauce in something more presentable than that horrendous melamine bowl. No wonder business seems so poor these days especially when compared to the time with their RM5 nett set lunch – one specific set menu per day for the whole month. Now it is RM9.20 altogether and they give a choice of one out of 4 or 5 set meals everyday in one entire month. They should have maintained the old prices and with the huge turnover, they would be reaping higher profits, I’m sure, even though they may be earning less from each diner.

Compared to what they used to serve before, the set lunch was not really that great and at that price, especially during such difficult times economically, I am sure it will just go on being one pathetic and miserable empty garden….

Unwell…

When I was a kid, everytime I fell ill, I would have to eat porridge with salted eggs…so much so that I became sort of conditioned to it. Each time I had to eat porridge, I would feel quite unwell even though I was as fit as a fiddle.

It was not till much later that I got over it. During my dancing days at the Sibu Recreation Club (SRC), after the ball, we would adjourn to the upper floor of the Sibu wet market for teochew porridge – plain porridge with all the condiments such as salted and century eggs, salted vegetables, salted fish, fried kangkong and so on and I grew to enjoy porridge after that…without feeling unwell. In Kuching, after partying away at places like Jubilee Hall (now Dewan Masyarakat), we would go for porridge at the Open Air Market – the other section, not the one with the sio bee and what not.

Well, it so happened that the other day, my missus came home from a working trip to Limbang with a really terrible cough…and before we knew it, my daughter was sneezing and coughing away and pretty soon, I followed suit. That affected out appetites, so I decided to cook porridge instead of our regular meals…

STP's meat porridge

I boiled some meat bones for the stock and used it to cook the rice porridge (with a two-inch piece of ginger, and pandan leaves as well for extra fragrance). When the porridge had started boiling, I added the meat balls that I had made and a tablespoon of chicken stock. Some people would add a bit of “tang chai” (some kind of preserved vegetables, light brown in colour) but my daughter does not like it, so I did not bother. There wasn’t any spring onions or Chinese celery in the fridge nor did I feel like chopping and frying some shallots, so I did not have those either. They would definitely add some extra flavour to the porridge.

There was some leftover that evening, so the next morning, I took it out of thefridge and put it in a bowl, added some sliced beef sausages and broke an egg over it and steamed it for a while. What you see in the photo is the end result.

Another version of porridge that I cook sometimes is the tuna porridge. Just cook some rice porridge, again with a two-inch chunk of ginger and some pandan leaves. Open a can of tuna flakes (in water) and dump the whole lot inside and stir regularly. Add a tablespoon of ikan bilis (anchovies) stock…and that’s it. Of course, if you want to add the tang chai, the spring onions and Chinese celery, the fried shallots, that’s all up to you! I cooked this once for my friend, Jimmy, from Bintulu and he loved it. When he went back to his hometown, Serian, he tried cooking it for his family and they liked it very much as well. They actually thought it was chicken porridge, believe it or not!

Perhaps you would like to give it a try too?

Ferry across the Mersey…

There used to be a ferry service here, not across the Mersey but instead a tributary of the mighty Rejang, the Batang Igan (if I’m not mistaken) that flows alongside the Malay-dominated Kampung Hilir and the essentially Melanau Kampung Nangka but it has stopped running since the opening of the Igan Bridge. I grew up as a kid in this vicinity (until the early 80s) near the three-point junction known as Simpang Tiga – where the three roads, Race Course Road (now Jalan Ramli Amit), Jalan Kpg Hilir and Jalan Kpg Nengka meet. Today, there is another road leading to the junction – Jalan Ria, so in a way, it should now be called Simpang Empat.

Beside this junction, you can spot this stall that operates from around 4.00 p.m. until 10 or 11 at night selling the very popular Ferry Kebab…

Sibu's Ferry Kebab stall

It has been in business for many years now and the kebabs are still selling like hot cakes. You have a choice of chicken or beef…

Sibu's Ferry Kebab 1

I have mentioned about the scarcity of fresh beef in Sibu a number of times in my previous posts…so you may be able to see in the photo that these days, they have mostly chicken…with that little bit of beef at the bottom. I wanted beef but it was not cooked yet at the time and meanwhile, two other cars stopped to buy the kebabs and they too wanted beef. It certainly seems to be the more popular of the two options.

The guy will toast the bun a bit in the fire in the panel behind the meat…

Sibu's Ferry Kebab 2

…after which, he will stuff the bun with the chopped-up chunks of meat mixed with some cabbage, cucumber and onions and then he will pass it to his female assistant who will squirt mayonnaise and chilli sauce on it before wrapping it up.

Sibu's Ferry Kebab 3

Needless to say, with the escalating prices of everything these days, it has gone up from RM2.00 each in the past to RM2.50. Well, it is still relatively cheap and absolutely delicious, and I would sooner have these than those ultra-expensive elite hotdogs and burgers. We hadn’t had any for a long time and in our hurry to gobble everything up, I forgot to take a photograph of the real thing. But never mind, as I’m sure Huai Bin will not mind my “borrowing” a photo of the kebab from his blog…

Sibu's Ferry Kebab from sixthseal.com

You may want to hop over to read his post on it – “The Quest for Meat” but be forewarned that it may be more than just about kebabs. Right, Huai Bin? Wink! Wink! ROTFLMAO!!!