Getting ready…

Groan! I’m so tired after all the weeding! I wonder why my missus would go and plant all those things…and I’ve got somebody to come and cut the grass in my lawn too…and good grief! The day after tomorrow is Chinese New Year’s Eve…and there is still so much to do!

I’m glad that I’ve got some of the usual traditional family favourites. My foster cousin gave me the kuih gunting (scissors biscuit) she made…

CNY2011 - kuih gunting

I think I have featured these in a post last Chinese New Year…or was it the year before? It is called thus because after making the dough and cutting it into long strips, you use the scissors to cut them into bits to deep fry in the boiling hot oil in the wok.

She also gave me the kuih kereta (engine/car biscuits)…

CNY 2011 - kuih kereta

…and these are thus named because they use some kind of wheel, made of brass, to roll on the thin dough to cut it into pieces and also to cut the lines in each little piece.

My missus bought these very nice kuih bangkit

CNY 2011 - kuih bangkit

…and the pineapple jam tarts…

CNY 2011 - pineapple tarts & cookies

…the rolled ones, not the open ones type that we used to have when we were kids but as they say, beggars can’t be choosers. She also bought a lot of other types of cookies including those in the photo…and also a couple of cakes as well. I think she may make some more in these two remaining days.

Some of the decorations are up…

CNY 2011 decor

…but we’ll leave the cleaning and finishing touches to the last minute or else it will all get messy again by the time the big day arrives.

The money is in the ang pao packets, all ready…

CNY 2011 ang paos

…and here too, like everywhere else throughout the whole country, there are no new RM5.00 notes. I should have asked for RM1.00 notes and prepared the RM1.10 ang paos for everyone instead…like those that I used to get when I was a kid. Too bad it did not cross my mind at the time. LOL!!!

So, how are you are doing? Are you ready for the New Year yet – the Year of the Rabbit, 2011?

Let’s stay together…

There is a hawker centre near my house – Taman Muhibbah (Togetherness Park). I seldom eat there as it is some kind of an open air place and without a fan, I would be feeling hot and uncomfortable, perspiring from every pore. So most of the time, I would buy the food there and bring home to eat.

My favourite is Stall No. 7. The other day, I bought this sweet and sour pork…

Muhibbah - sweet & sour pork

…and fried clams in soy sauce…

Muhibbah - fried clams in soy sauce

…plus some fried midin (jungle fern)…

Muhibbah - fried midin

…for three persons and was charged RM18.00 only. Pretty cheap, don’t you think? As for the taste, I would think it was good except that I would like it better if they had been less generous with the msg.

While I was there, I stumbled upon a stall selling Chinese carrot or white radish  cake, otherwise known as chai thow koi or koey kah. My daughter loves this so I bought some for her to try…

Muhibbah - Chinese carrot cake

This cost RM3.00 and she quite liked it except that she said she would prefer it slightly burnt around the edges…or with more of what people would refer to as “wok hei“. Well, beggars can’t be choosers as we do not usually get this around here. There is another stall at a different place – the one run by a guy from Klang/Selangor…but I suspect that he used steamed yam cake instead of white radish.

All in all, this is a good place to go and have dinner or supper with family and friends. There are mostly Chinese stalls at this particular hawker centre, unlike at Taman Harmoni (Harmony Park), but there is a section of Malay stalls selling stuff like satay, barbecued chicken wings and so on. The only problem is that it is very crowded at night and despite the ample spaces around there, parking can be quite a pain. Do be prepared to park quite a distance away and walk…

Down on the corner…

My daughter and I went to my favourite Sarawak laksa place for lunch but while she had the laksa, I opted for the nasi ayam Pattaya (Pattaya chicken rice)…

Thomson Corner - nasi ayam Pattaya 1

It had been quite a while since I last had it and it seemed that the chicken was a bit less than what I used to get. The rice inside was good though…

Thomson Corner - nasi ayam Pattaya 2

It was something like nasi lemak with the fragrance of santan (coconut milk) but I think there were more raisins and finely-chopped sausage in the past as well. All these did not bother me much though as it was still good and I did enjoy it – that would be the most important thing, don’t you think?

I also ordered the pian sip (meat dumplings), otherwise called kiaw in Kuching and wantan elsewhere…

Thomson Corner - pian sip, dry

They used to sell them before – the soup version but they stopped. It certainly looked like they are back on the menu once more – now with a choice between soup or dry.

We also shared the  salad sotong (squid)…

Thomson Corner - salad sotong

– RM6.00 for a large serving. I cannot remember now but I was pretty sure it was RM5.00 before. Anyway, it was nice but I think I prefer the batter used for the salad sotong here. I wonder if the price there has gone up too or not.

Usually, I would not order such things…

Thomson Corner - durian longan cocktail

…but this one had blended durian in it – their durian longan cocktail. It was pretty nice though I would prefer a stronger durian taste in it and maybe some of the flesh from the fruit as well. This cost RM4.50…and since I never had anything like that before, I am in no position to make any comparisons.

All in all,the bill came up to around RM20 including the sugarcane juice that Melissa had with her laksa.

Business was really good and the place was packed with students from my former school across the road. Gee! Don’t they go home to eat anymore these days?

Old photographs…

A friend of mine uploaded these old photographs…

…onto Facebook the other day. Omigawd!!! I looked so young then…

PRODELT 1999 1

Gee! When did I grow to be so old? That was in 1999…when a group of teachers from Sarawak and Sabah got together in Kota Kinabalu to work on a project for English Language teachers in the two states under the guidance of a consultant from the UK, Ms. Diana Lubelska, from MARJONS (the University College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth).

I have always been considered fat most, if not all, of my life but compared to today, I thought I looked quite fit and trim then…

PRODELT 1999 2

Sigh!!!

This is the group photo that we had taken then of all of us involved in the project. Now, can any of you spot me in it – the rose among the thorns?

PRODELT 1999 3

Sadly, one is no longer with us anymore…and a few of us have already retired from service but God willing, may we all be blessed with a long and happy life…

This road I’m on is endless
We climb our mountains all alone
Old photographs and places I remember
Just like a dying ember that’s burned into my soul
Even though we walk the diamond-studded highways
It’s the country lanes and byways
That makes us long for home…

Edelweiss…

I bet a lot of people know this song, especially if they are my age. It was in the movie, “The Sound of Music”

…the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical set in Austria based on the lives of the Von Trapp family singers. However, I wonder how many actually know what Edelweiss is though… Well, if you don’t, Edelweiss is in fact an Alpine flower. You can click this link to read more about it.

Anyway, I’m talking about this because I once met a man from that country – Austria. He married the sister of the boss of that chicken rice shop that I frequent – Chopsticks and was in Sibu for Chinese  New Year at the time. He was setting up a pizza place here, Peppino’s Pizza, which lasted for quite a long while and Melissa actually liked the pizzas there more than those at Pizza Hut. Unfortunately, it has since closed down.

Well, I met him again the other day at his brother-in-law’s place and this time around, he was selling cakes – fruit cake and carrot cake…

Carrot cake 1

I bought a loaf of the latter to try…

Carrot cake 2

…and I must say that it was very nice with the fruits and the nuts in it plus a hint of cinnamon. Yum! Yum!

I thought I would save that for Chinese New Year but unfortunately, it’s all  gone now…and at RM17.00 a loaf, I’d probably go for something that will cost a bit less…unless some kind and generous soul gets the hint. Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

Easy come, easy go…

Chinese New Year is in the air here in Sibu…

Sibu Tua Pek Kong temple

This is in the vicinity of the Tua Pek Kong temple in the town centre. One can see lanterns everywhere…

Chinese New Year mood in Sibu

…and we have to brace ourselves for the earth-shattering blasts of fireworks and firecrackers anytime all through the night. Tsk! Tsk!

We were in that part of town because I had a “small unexpected windfall” and I decided to take the family out to celebrate. Melissa chose to go to Cafécafé which we have been to a few times before and the food has always been great.

My missus had the grilled Oriental chicken (RM18.00)…

Grilled Oriental chicken

I don’t know if it’s any good as she did not say anything but I did try a bit of Melissa’s crispy chicken chop with maltoise sauce (RM18.00)…

Crispy chicken chop with maltoise sauce

I thought it was all right…but the wedges were very tasty – own-made and I don’t know what sauce it was that they had on them but it was really yummy.

I had the grilled tenderloin steak with red wine sauce (RM28.00)…

Grilled tenderloin steak with red wine sauce

…which was very good indeed – tender and perfectly done – medium rare and the red wine sauce was superb. I wish they had a bit more dressing on the salad though.

My daughter and the mum shared the mango pudding for dessert (RM6.50)…

Mango pudding
*Melissa’s photo on Facebook*

…and in my opinion, it was all right – pretty good but I think what I had was much better – the creamy banana pancake (RM7.50)…

Creamy banana pancake

…with banana slices plus some kind of caramel-like cream wrapped inside the thin pancake and ice cream by the side with twirls of chocolate syrup and crushed peanut sprinkled over all that. It was simply out of this world! Yum! Yum!

All that came up to RM95.00, inclusive of drinks…and it certainly was worth it as the food, as always, did not fail to please, the ambience was cosy and nice and the service was excellent. Actually, the waiter acknowledged me – saying that he could recognise me as a former teacher in his school (SPM school leaver waiting for results) even though I never taught him…and he was always around, all smiles the whole night through and ever ready to answer any beck and call. For that, I asked him to keep the change for the RM100-note that I forked out to settle the bill.

Ah well, as they say…easy come, easy go! LOL!!!

Going up…

I stopped by a coffee shop the other day for a plate of fried kway teow (flat rice noodles) and opted to go without a drink as the kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) had gone up to RM1.50 from the former price of RM1.30. The price of the noodles had increased too – RM3.00, formerly RM2.80. Well, some places were already charging that even before the prices started escalating. Kampua noodles, for instance, were between RM2.20-2.50, depending on where you go.

Well, I do not have a bone to pick with the new prices of noodles around town considering that the prices of virtually anything have gone up – petrol, cooking oil, flour, sugar. A loaf of bread has gone up 20 sen too and thankfully, I do not eat bread that much. But there are some places around where the things are somewhat more affordable. This food stall at Bandong (next to the surau), for instance, sells this much of mee goreng (fried noodles) for only RM2.00…

Bandong mee goreng 1

…and you can fork out an extra 50 sen for that bit of extra sambal that you can see in the photograph. I actually asked for two packets and that kind Malay man (from Perak, near Ipoh) gave me three for RM1.00.

I found that it tasted all right except that it was cold and would probably tasted nicer if I had heated it up a bit. It went very well with the sambal though…

Bandong mee goreng 2

…and RM2.50 for all that would be much cheaper than going to eat at the coffee shops, be it at the Chinese or Malay stalls.

Given a choice, however, I would go for the little RM1.00 packets of fried mee or mihun at my regular kuih-muih stall in the vicinity. You will get less, of course, but if you buy two packets, there would be a lot to finish. I find the ones there much tastier in comparison.

My missus would buy noodles at the market and go through all that hassle of frying them herself…but they are ready-packed, each bag weighing 1 kilo and there is absolutely too much for two unless we want to have nothing but noodles for a week. I think I would still prefer to buy or eat outside once in a while…but I’m definitely not going to order the drinks.

The increase of 30 sen agreed upon among the members of the coffee shop association in the town is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. Imagine a 20-30 sen increase for a glass of kopi-o-peng which is mostly water and ice with a little bit of coffee and sugar when the latter had only gone up 20 sen a kilo! Money does not come that easy…and I certainly have no intention of wasting it like that. Period.

Learn to love…

I first tried the celebrated Penang assam laksa in December, 1973 on Penang Hill and I did not like the seemingly-peculiar taste…or at least, that was what it felt like at the time. On another occasion, I just tried a little bit of it when somebody had a bowl of that in KL and I was not that crazy over it either.

On the other hand, my daughter has had it a couple of times in Sungai Petani and even with her friends in NZ, and she quite enjoys it. Well, the only place that I know of in Sibu where they do sell the laksa would be at my regular Malay kuih-muih stall at Bandong. The problem is by the time I drop by in the morning at around 8 something, they would all be sold out. That was why, the other day, I had to reserve a few packets and we were able to have that for lunch…

Bandong Penang laksa 1

It has some kind of exotic taste that would probably put off those who are not very adventurous when it comes to their dining pleasures but lately, I am more into that kind of cuisine…and that day, I found that I actually liked it a lot. It was particularly nice with a squeeze of calamansi lime, giving it the extra fragrance and a bit of sourish taste.

Bandong Penang laksa 2

This only costs RM2.50 a packet and my daughter had one for lunch and another for dinner so that should give you a fair idea as to how nice it was.

Hmmmm…perhaps on my next trip to Penang, I should go and try the one at Air Itam which many people claim to be the best of the best…

Air Itam Penang assam laksa

I wish they would, in the meantime, replace those wobbly metal stools and the equally unstable tables though…and I will make sure that I will not look at the black murky water in the drain this time… LOL!!!

You haven’t seen the last of me…

I do not go to the movies anymore and I do not watch television either – except perhaps “American Idol”, the latest season of which has started. But I did know that the Golden Globe Awards ceremony was on the other day and I googled to see which song won the Best Original Song category.

I was somewhat surprised to see that the award went to the song, “You haven’t seen the last of me” by Cher…

Cher? Gee! You must be very old if you know Cher. When she first started singing as one half of the Sonny & Cher duo, I was still in school. When I shared the link to the song on Facebook, an ex-student of mine commented, “Certainly not (seen the last of her, that is)…plastic lasts forever!” LOL!!! I thought that was hilarious…mean, but hilarious.

Well, it turned out that the song was a Diane Warren’s composition…

Diane Warren's Love Songs cd

She has a number of award winners to her name. Who does not know “I don’t wanna miss a thing” by Aerosmith (from “Armageddon”). Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be” from “Pearl Harbour” or “How do I live” by Trisha Yearwood from “Con Air”. Other songs by her that I love so much include “Unbreak my heart” by the singer with the sensuous sultry voice, Toni Braxton, “Because you loved me” by Celine Dion and one which happens to be one of my all-time favourites – “Love will lead you back” by Taylor Dayne.

Well, I must say that I do like this latest award-winning song by Diane Warren and its very motivating and meaningful lyrics:

Feeling broken, barely holding on
But there’s just something so strong, somewhere inside me
And I am down but I’ll get up again
Don’t count me out just yet

I’ve been brought down to my knees
And I’ve been pushed way past the point of breaking
But I can take it, I’ll be back…back on my feet
This is far from over
You haven’t seen the last of me
You haven’t seen the last of me

They can say that I won’t stay around
But I’m gonna stand my ground
You’re not gonna stop me
You don’t know me, you don’t know who I am
Don’t count me out so fast

(CHORUS)

There will be no fade out, this is not the end
I’m down now but I’ll be standing tall again
Times are hard but I was built tough
I’m gonna show you all what I’m made of

(CHORUS)

No no, I’m not going nowhere, I’m staying right here
Oh no, you won’t see me begging
I’m not taking my bow
Can’t stop me – it’s not the end
You haven’t seen the last of me
Oh no, you haven’t seen the last of me
You haven’t seen the last of me

Do give it a listen. Maybe you’ll like it too!

I’m into something good…

The other day, my daughter and I went  to the Kopi-O Cafe, a food court at the Sing Kwong Complex in the Salim area here in Sibu as she wanted to eat the claypot chicken rice or the pork and salted fish claypot rice there…

Prok & salted fish claypot rice
*recycled pic*

Unfortunately, the stall was not open for business, so we had to look for something else. In the end, I settled for this from another stall at that same place…

Special Taiwan rice

They call it the Special Taiwan Rice with a huge slab of braised pork and salted vegetables plus rice.

It was really very nice and even at RM6.00 a bowl, I thought it was fairly priced considering that they were so generous with the meat. I really enjoyed that and I would not mind going back there again some day.

My daughter had the zhao zai hung ngang – which is actually the bigger version of mihun (rice vermicelli) served in the sourish preserved vegetable soup…

Zhao zai hung ngang

This was only RM3.00 a bowl and my daughter said it was not too bad but because it was a bit too sour for her, she only managed to finish about half of it.

I found out that my ex-student owns the Special Taiwan Rice plus Bak Kut Teh stall and also runs the Economical Fast Food or chap fan stall, the claypot rice stall as well as the coffee shop. According to him, the claypot rice stall would not be open until after Chinese New Year as he is kind of short-handed at the moment and the best piece of news that I got from him was that the prices of drinks at this food outlet would stay the same – no increase of 30 sen.

Well, the drinks were on him that day but unfortunately, not the rice. Tsk! Tsk! LOL!!!