American Pie…

Nope! It isn’t an American Pie…but an Aroma Pie!

Aroma Bakery

The Aroma Bakery is located in Taman Damai in the vicinity of the Sibu Civic Centre (Dewan Suarah) in the same block as Grace Cafe which is quite popular in Sibu for its dianpianngu.

I happened to drop by one evening and found one solitary chicken pie left…

Aroma Bakery chicken pie 1

…so I snapped it up in a jiffy. I can’t recall exactly now but I think it cost RM2.60…or was it RM2.80?

When I got home, I tried it immediately…

Aroma Bakery chicken pie 2

Best lah! The pastry was pretty good and the filling was very delicious. I noticed that they had a layer of chicken meat floss inside as well.

So if you’re around that area in the afternoon, you can drop by and try your luck. I certainly will be heading back there for more and I hear that on some days, they have very nice curry puffs too… Yum!!!

Send a letter to me…

The postman stopped by the other day and handed me a letter…

Letter from Singapore 1

For once, it wasn’t a bill which is normally what I would receive most of the time. Bills, bills…and more bills! Instead, it was a registered mail from Ladyviral who has moved to the island republic down south recently with her hubby.

She has sent a few bloggers, yours truly included, a key chain…

Letter from Singapore 2

Thanks, Ladyviral, for the nice and thoughtful gesture. Who knows, we may get to meet in the Lion City someday…

Well, actually, I was in the kitchen that day when the postman came, preparing my own version of steamed tofu…

STP's steamed tofu 1

…with slices of pork belly and salted fish on top plus thin strips of ginger, chillies and spring onions, a sprinkling of garlic and a dash of light soy sauce.

It turned out all right…

STP's steamed tofu 2

…but the taste was on the mild side, definitely not for those who prefer something strong and spicy. On the whole, it wasn’t too bad for a change. Perhaps you would like to try it?

In the middle of the night…

In the 70s, I went to live in Kuching and I had to find a job to support myself. I worked as a temporary teacher in a private secondary school for RM300 a month. It was quite enough at the time to pay for the basic expenses and to supplement my income, I ended up writing so many plays for radio – RM30 each, for the station in Kuching that some people thought that I was working for RTM.

At the time, I was renting a room at a friend’s house…and there was this girl, Jacky, who was also renting a place there. Jacky was a cashier at a coffee house in one of the hotels in Kuching and my friend and I would hang around there quite often. When Jacky finished work at 11.00 pm, the hotel transport would send her home and we would just hitch a ride. Sometimes, upon reaching home – in the middle of the night, we would tell Jacky that we were hungry and she would cook something for us. Jacky was a great cook and would always be roped in to prepare the dishes for birthdays and other special occasions.

I remember how she used to pinch some shrimps…or bits of meat from the freezer and cook soup with ginger and Foochow red wine, adding salt and msg according to taste. After that, she would boil some mee sua (string noodles) to go into the soup…and I can remember it was really nice and we thoroughly enjoyed that for our supper.

So, the other day, I fried two pieces of ginger in a bit of oil and threw in some prawns before adding water and a bit of Foochow red wine. After boiling for a while, I added a bit of light soy sauce and msg and poached an egg in the soup. In the meantime, I boiled some noodles (I found a bit of mee pok left in the fridge from God knows when!)…and served them with the soup with a sprinkling of freshly-cut chillies and spring onions on top…

STP's prawn noodles 1

It was nice though I think I would prefer it with mee sua but it certainly would be worth cooking once in a while for a change from the usual Foochow chicken soup cooked with ginger and red wine…

STP's prawn noodles 2

I remember how that time in Kuching, my friend’s mother would get up in the morning and notice what we had been up to the night before and she would grumble, “Humph!!! The ‘rats’ have been busy again last night!” LOL!!! Those were the good ol’ days indeed!!!

The letter…

This is not going to be a post about those things that you get in the mail…but about the letter – A.

The letter A 1

Some of you may not be aware that they have changed the grading system in the SPM Examination at the end of Form 5 from numbers, Grades 1 to 9…to letters, Grades A to E and G which stands for GAGAL (fail…and I guess it can also stand for “goondoos” as well). For each A, they have A+, A and A- but only a B+ and B and also a C+ and C for the two subsequent grades and they do not have any such differentiation for the D and E grades. I wonder why.

SPM new grading system

Another thing that they claim is that an A is equivalent to the former A1 and an A- is the same as the former A2. An A+, however, is an achievement much higher than the former A1…

I think they said that in the past, among those who got A1, there are some very good ones and some not so good ones, so to be fair, they now have A+ to “separate the men from the boys” or so to speak. Personally, I fail to understand the rationale or the logic behind all of this. They could just raise the minimum mark requirement for an A1 so that those who are not of that standard will have to be happy with an A2 or lower. Sometimes I really wonder how the minds of those people function.

Now we have schools proclaiming the number of students getting straight As…but they are certainly not revealing specifically whether it is an A+, an A or an A-.

The letter A 2

And talking about those who did manage to get an A in English, it does seem that the candidates have to be quite good to get an A+ and do take note that I said, quite good – not very good or extremely good. I had some students that I had expected to get a B4 for the Cambridge English 1119 score but they managed a B3 instead. And for the SPM grading, they got an A when under the old system, I would think that they could be good enough for an A2 or lower and definitely not an A1. Catch the drift?

Whatever it is, I cannot understand why there is this mad scramble for a string of As. At the end of the day, it is just one’s paper qualification – it does not prove who you really are. And at the end of the day, it is you – whether you are an individual of substance or not that really matters. I know of a girl who is now studying under the JPA scholarship in Japan. Her grades for her Science subjects were not outstanding but she managed to impress them at the interview and succeeded in getting what she wanted. On the other hand, I do know of a couple of excellent students who also got the scholarship and went abroad – one broke down mentally halfway and had to come home to recuperate, never to continue his studies again and another had to continue in a private college in KL as he just could not make the grade when he was sent to the States.

And incidentally, when the aforementioned girl’s SPM results were released, she called me and said that if her school had been a tall building, she would have jumped off and killed herself. Why? It was because she had called her mother earlier…and she said, “You’re so useless!” and hung up. I had to do all I could to console her and encourage her that in life, there would be so many roads to choose and so many ways and means of getting to where one would want to go. A string of As may be a means to an end but is in no way THE end and I’m sure everyone will agree that success in examinations is in no way an assurance of success in one’s undertakings in life…

Try it on my own…

Technically, it’s not autumn yet in the Southern Hemisphere. The Spring Equinox is on the 21st of March when the sun is directly above the Equator and it will be the season of spring in the countries in the Northern Hemisphere. This, of course, means that the days will be getting colder in the south in countries like New Zealand…and Wellington will be as windy as ever…

Melissa - blowing in the wind

Gales are pretty common in that country and it would be best to stay indoors a lot more to stay out of the cold and the rain.

I suppose my daughter will have to fill up her fridge to stock up on her food in case she may not be able to go out to get her supplies. As far as cooking is concerned, I am positive that she has tried it on her own and is doing very well indeed. Over the weekend, she cooked this beef stew to go with her rice…

Melissa's beef stew

Now, don’t you think that looks really yummy?

As the lyrics of the song go:
I’m wiser now
I’m not the foolish girl you used to know
So long ago
I’m stronger now
I’ve learned from my mistakes which way to go
And I should know
I put myself aside to do it in your way
But now I need to do it all alone

And I am not afraid to try it on my own
I don’t care if I’m right or wrong
I’ll live my life the way I feel
No matter what I’ll keep it real
You know
Time for me to do it on my own…

I never had the chance to do things my way
So now it’s time for me to take control…

…It’s time for me to
Finally stand alone
Stand alone.

Thumbs up, girl! You make Daddy real proud, you really do!

Higher and higher…

There was this song by Rita Coolidge entitled “(Your love has lifted me) higher and higher” and come to think of it, my love for these tua paos (big/giant buns)…and for that matter, everybody else’s, has lifted the price higher and higher…

Tua pao 1

I think it was around RM1.50 or less long ago when the coffee shop, Loke Ming Yuen, was in the Li Hua Building (where Ngiu Kee Supermarket & Departmental Store is located) and then it moved to the Fortune Commercial Centre behind the Rejang Medical Centre, next to the main Sushi Tie outlet here. By then, if I remember correctly, the price had gone up to RM2.00…and then RM2.20…RM2.50…and now it is RM2.70 each.

I love it a lot, particularly the taste of the filling inside with the slice of hardboiled egg…

Tua pao 2

There used to be a coffee shop in the block of shophouses across the road from Bukit Bintang Plaza in KL that sold very nice tua pao – with chicken meat. That was around the mid-80s. I remember once I was stuck in a cab in a traffic jam around 6 something in the evening…and the cab driver nonchalantly took out his tua pao and started eating. Then he turned to me and said that it was VERY nice but I should not eat any as I was already so fat! Grrrrr…!!! This must be what they say in Malay, “Sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga!” or adding insult to injury in English. LOL!!!

There are cheaper buns around but then of course, they may not be as nice. Like the other day, I bought those at the MasterBakery at Rejang Park

Master Bakery paos

That’s the place that I usually go to to buy their yummy butter pastries. As you can see, they are relatively smaller in size. The ones with the green dot is the bak pao (meat bun) and if I remember correctly, they’re RM1.70 each…and they call it Hainan bak pao or something like that. I found that the filling had a bit too much of the taste of ginger to my liking…

Master Bakery bak pao

…but on the whole, it was not too bad.

The char siew pao is cheaper at only RM1.50 each…

Master Bakery char siew pao

…and the filling is not too bad either. But I think the ones at the Big Thumb Bakery here are nicer…or I would much sooner go for the dim sum-type of char siew pao at Mitsu Tea House at more or less that same price, just that they are smaller.

Whatever it is, if you ask me, any pao is nicer than the ones at that place in Kuching with an obscene sounding name… LOL!!!

Good for you…

I guess everybody knows that fish is good for you…and I guess that is the reason why it is getting more and more expensive. Ikan bawal hitam or black pomfret or what we call or-chio in Hokkien is now RM19.00 a kilo and the price fluctuates according to the season. In the past, it was less than RM10.00 a kilo and because it was cheap, it would be deemed a disgrace if it were to be served at a full 10-course Chinese sit-down dinner…

Ikan bawal hitam

The above photo is actually for the benefit of Cleffairy who said that she did not know what an ikan bawal hitam looked like. ROTFLMAO!!! On the other hand, white pomfret or ikan bawal putih and what we call pek chio is similar in shape but not so dark. I would say it is silvery rather than white in colour, its flesh is softer and smoother and the fishy smell is not as strong. As for the cost, buying one these days will burn a hole in your pocket, that’s for sure!

Personally, I prefer the black ones despite the stronger taste. Though not quite suitable for steaming, it is good for cooking curry or assam or you can just fry it like this…

Fried bawal hitam

…and then you can make the sauce to pour over it – sweet and sour or perhaps fermented bean (tau cheo) or salted black bean sauce. Otherwise, you can make some thick assam kunyit (tumeric) sambal or sauce which is also very nice.

Another fish that I like very much is the ikan terubok (longtail shad) which costs a bomb as well these days – some RM20-30 a kilo. Imagine my delight that day when I found some at this fish stop next to the tuition centre where I am teaching selling for only RM15.00 a kilo. I bought two at RM17.70 only and cooked one…

Ikan terubok

My mother said that if I were to panggang (bake) it, I should not remove the innards…but I got rid of them anyway so that it would not be so messy when eating the fish. It is so easy to cook! You just wrap it in aluminium foil like this…

Ikan terubok - wrapped

…put it in the oven or what is called the Tatung pot and turn on the heat/fire…

Tatung pot

…and after around 30 minutes, the fish is cooked already…

Delicious ikan terubok

It is best if it is lemak (oily or fatty) and if fresh, it will be so very sweet you can eat it just like that. Ooo…just look at all that Omega 3 and tasty juices that had seeped out of the fish! There is absolutely no need for any marinating or sauces, I assure you…but do watch out for the bones! LOL!!!

Beans in my ears…

If you’re wondering if there really is such a song, the answer is there IS!!! I used to hear it on the radio when I was a kid…and if you listen to the lyrics, there are a few things that may be of interest. Firstly, they put beans in their ears so they cannot hear the teacher (nagging and scolding)…and secondly, they think grown-ups have beans in their ears for they never listen to what the children say.

Anyway, this post is not going to dwell on the song or those issues. It is actually about a variety of beans – french beans…

French beans

When I cook them, I will slice them very thinly and diagonally like this…

STP's fried french beans 1

My missus will just chop them into 2-inch strips and fry them with Bombay onions and egg and I do not like them like that. I don’t like the onion taste and the beans have a very strong smell that puts my off. Somehow or other, when cut the way I do, the smell seems to disappear altogether…and I will always fry them with garlic and egg, plus salt and msg according to taste. However, the other day, I decided to use some belacan and bits of pork belly instead…and of course, a chilli cut into long thin strips…

STP's fried french beans 2

…but of course, those are optional. This was because I could recall that at my favourite haunt here – the Ruby Restaurant, they would fry the mixed bean combo – french beans, long beans, four-angle beans and ladies fingers with pork belly and I could taste the belacan in it. I love that dish a lot, so I thought I could do the same with the french beans.

As always, I browned the garlic in some oil that I had heated in a wok, threw in the belacan and the chilli followed by the pork. After stirring it for a while, I put in the french beans, added a bit of water and stirred till cooked…

STP's fried french beans 3

The belacan was salty enough and there was enough flavour in it without any need for msg. I did not add an egg either as I thought I could do without it.

The final verdict? It wasn’t anything like what I had at the Ruby Restaurant…but it was definitely a nice change from the usual!

That don’t impress me much…

Well, I cannot deny that I was very impressed and flattered when I saw the plastic bag…

Plastic bag

…No less! But I only saw the price tags the other day and I was utterly shocked to say the least…*breaks out in cold sweat

Biscuits 1

…and for that amount of money, you get 13 pieces inside. Now, you can go and calculate to see how much each piece costs.

Biscuits 2

Then I checked the other tin my nephew gave me…and was in for an even greater shock!!! Great balls of fire!!! *FAINTS!!!

Biscuits 3

These are the biscuits that you can find inside the tin.

Biscuits 4

I tried a couple but did not think they were special, not at all – and a tad too sweet some more, if you asked me. Give me my Kjeldsens’ butter cookies or my Scottish shortbread anytime – any brand!

I used to buy the biscuits at Marks and Spencer long ago, their Scottish shortbread in particular and they were really very nice. However, needless to say, they were a bit pricey but they had very good offers a few weeks before the expiry dates and were selling them at very affordable prices, so I could stock up on the goodies then. I have not been to the place since they closed down the Bukit Bintang branch, so I do not know whether they still do that.

Whatever it is, if it is for that amount of money, I would do without even my favourite butter cookies and Scottish shortbread and go for something else a whole lot nicer. I bet all of you would agree with me, wouldn’t you?

Nobody loves me…

I know it by its local name – ketola…and I did not know whether it had an English name until I checked in this website. Judging from its shape and plant, I just guessed that it is some kind of gourd…and indeed, it is called ribbed or ridged gourd, among all the other names including loofah and Chinese okra…

Cooking ketola 1

It is easily available at the market here…and some of the sellers even get rid of the hard green skin for you so that you will not need to go through the hassle…

Cooking ketola 2

…before cutting the veg into chunks like these…

Cooking ketola 3

This is a simple dish, probably Foochow, and the basic ingredients used in cooking ketola are ginger, egg…and salt and msg according to taste. I had a bit of prawns left in the freezer and two tomatoes in the fridge, so I decided to add those, as well as a chilli cut into thin, long strips…

Cooking ketola 4

I fried the strips of ginger in a bit of oil before adding the prawns and chilli. Next, I broke the egg into the wok and stirred it…and then I put in the ketola. I added quite a bit of water as I love the taste – like chicken soup and I usually mix it with my rice when eating. Once the ketola is cooked, I added the tomatoes and salt and msg according to taste, and stirred a bit more before serving…

Cooking ketola 5

I reckon it is quite delicious all right and yet, we do not get to see it being served in restaurants…and most of the time, not even at those economical fast food stalls. I wonder why nobody seems to love it at all…