Going through the motions…

Honestly, I just cannot understand how it is possible when someone says that he or she cannot cook. Personally, I feel that it simply involves getting to know the basics and going through the motions every time after that.

The other day, for instance, I decided to fry some mihun (rice vermicelli) for breakfast…

STP's fried mihun with char siew & roast pork 1

I had some leftover char siew (barbecued pork) and roast pork so I decided to slice and use those…

Char siew & roast pork

For kampung fried rice, I would use ikan bilis (dried anchovies) instead or perhaps, you would prefer ham or bacon, chopped into thin bits or slices or SPAM or luncheon meat…or even prawns or sotong (squid) – it is all up to you!

Just as when I fry rice or yellow noodles or kway teow (flat rice noodles), I sliced some garlic and shallots – two cloves of the former and one shallot, to be exact. The chilies are optional but I did add some sliced fresh chilies the other day plus two cili padi (bird eye chili) for that extra kick…

Cili padi, sliced chili, garlic & shallot

I boiled some water and poured it over the mihun to soften it…and once it had turned soft, I drained away the water. Of course, you would not have to do this if you’re cooking rice or the other type of freshly-made noodles. Then I added a bit of soy sauce to it and tossed it to give it a bit of colour…

Mihun, soy sauce added

You may use oyster sauce or other types of sauces instead, if you prefer.

To start off, I heated a bit of oil in the wok, say 2-3 tablespoons, and once it was hot enough, I threw in the garlic and the shallots and fried them till they turned golden brown and then, I added the meat and the chilies and mixed them all thoroughly. After that, I put in the mihun…and fried till it was all nicely done before I broke two eggs into the wok and mixed it all together, Once the egg was cooked, the fried mihun was ready…

STP's fried mihun with char siew & roast pork 2

You may want to add some salt or msg, if it so pleases you, but usually when there are enough ingredients used in cooking a dish, it would be tasty enough and I would dispense away with those. Anyway, one can always add more soy sauce or chili while eating if he or she would like it saltier or spicier.

Of course, you may vary in whichever way you choose. The Malays at their food stalls would usually add those frozen vegetables – a combination of carrot, corn and peas but I do not use those anymore as somehow or other, no matter how long you cook or boil, the peas would not become soft. So in the case of noodles, not rice, I would add some taugeh (bean sprouts) or cut sawi or chai hwa (Chinese mustard green) if and when available.

So, there you are! It does not matter what you cook – it is usually more or less the same ol’ routine with a bit of difference here and there according to one’s whims and fancies. Give it a try – I’m sure you can’t go wrong!

Treat me good…

I went out for lunch with ah^kam_koko’ when he was in town last Saturday because he was awarded the APC or in full, the Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang (Outstanding Service Award) and he wanted to give me a treat with his prize money.

I must say that he deserves it even though he is only into his 4th year of teaching as he is truly passionate and dedicated in his work. Most young people (and old ones as well) who are posted to a desolate school like his would spend their time counting the days till they could get out of the place. To get there, one would need to catch a boat from Sibu and go some 3 hours or so upriver to a town called Song…and from there, one would need to take a small longboat up a tributary to the school, a couple of hours away – if  a boat is available, that is. His efforts have not gone unnoticed and he has been featured in a national tabloid here and also here.

No doubt he is doing a lot of good there despite it being so isolated and derelict but I do think if he could be posted to a better school in the bigger towns and cities, someone like him would be able to do a whole lot more with the quality of the students he would have. Hopefully, he’ll be given that opportunity soon…

We went to this place that I have featured many times before for the chicken rice…

Chopsticks chicken rice

…and we had the char siew (barbecued pork) and roast pork…

Chopsticks char siew & roast prok

…as well as the roast duck and roast chicken…

Chopsticks roast duck & chcicken

…and the stewed eggs…

Chopsticks stewed eggs

It was indeed a hearty lunch and the whole thing inclusive of drinks totalled RM18.00 only. It wouldn’t be that cheap, that’s for sure, if I had taken him to one of those classier high end cafes but I did not want him to spend a huge chunk of his money unnecessarily. After all, it was a very delightful lunch – the food was good and there was so much for just the two of us…and young people should be a bit more prudent and save whatever they can to use for any beneficial purposes that may crop up in their lives. After all, they’ve only just begun and they have a long long way to go…

After lunch, he wanted to go for dessert and we went here for the jelly pisang and the banana cake with ice cream…and the bill for the two items came up to RM15.00 which was almost the same as all that food (minus the drinks) that we had for lunch earlier. Ah well, he insisted…so I just let him have the pleasure of giving me a real good treat. Hehehehehe!!!!

Well, thanks a lot, ah^kam_koko’ , and congratulations on your award. Keep up the good work and all the best in whatever you undertake in the years ahead.

Dollars and sense…

I went to my regular car wash shop the other day and while I was waiting at the coffee shop beside it, I decided to have something to eat.

If I’m not mistaken, that place has changed hands several times since the first time I ate there and I remember somebody telling me that the people running the place now used to operate at a place about 100 metres from the Sibu prison and they have moved here. The kampua noodle stall is no longer there and it is now a completely halal place selling nasi campur, roti canai and all kinds of fried stuff. I ordered the mee goreng special (fried noodles special) and this was what I got…

Mee goreng special 1

The noodles tasted good and the normal ones would probably come with a fried egg, sunny side up…

Mee goreng special 2

I do wish people would not use those metal rings for their eggs and fry them in a wok instead so that there would be that nice golden fringe that I love a lot. This egg is somewhat miserably overdone, I’m afraid and I must say that I can do a whole lot better if I were to fry my own. Tsk! Tsk!

For the special, you will get a huge chunk of fried chicken…

Mee goreng special 3

…that has been marinated with kunyit (tumeric). I wished they had not given me breast meat as that served to substantially reduce my enjoyment of it.

One point in their favour is that the special with all those extras cost only RM7.00 compared to the mee mamak at the cafes around here like this one or this one…but then of course, this is at a coffee shop and I would think RM7.00 is relatively pricey as well…compared to other places like the RM3.50 ones that I used to have at that old lady’s stall in Sungai Antu. I haven’t been there for quite a while so perhaps I should drop by one of these days to see if the price has gone up or not. For one thing, I loved her mee goreng…and she would give a bit of her very nice masak hitam (beef) which is anytime better than any fried chicken.

Well, stay tuned, folks! I’ll get back to you soon on this…

Rumour has it…

The other day, Huai Bin was back in town for a week as there were rumours circulating at one time and he wanted to be around to carry out his democratic right but unfortunately, what he expected would happen never did… and since, he had already booked the air tickets, he went ahead and came home to spend some time with his family.

While he was here, we managed to go out for dinner together but that night, many of the places in town were closed. It was the day after the Father’s Day weekend so probably, they had been so busy and all of them needed a break to recuperate and rejuvenate. In the end, we agreed upon this nice little restaurant in the middle of town.

I ordered my usual favourites – their black pepper and honey prawn balls…

Black pepper honey prawn balls

…and their black pepper lamb…

Black pepper lamb

If you should look at the other tables, most of them would be ordering the same things and that would bear testimony to the fact that these were great, as always. Of course they have their other all-time favourites but we did not order those as there were only the two of us and we couldn’t possibly eat so much.

I also ordered some fried midin (wild jungle fern) with belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Fried midin with belacan

…and it was good – maybe a little bit too oily…but good, nonetheless.

I was thinking of ordering the sizzling beef on a hot plate, another popular dish there, when we spotted on the menu two duck options that we could choose from. Both Huai Bin and I love duck and since the waitress recommended the apple duck, we ordered that right away, no second thought about it.

Apple duck 1

Horror of horrors! When it came, we saw that the portion was extremely HUGE, at least half a duck, no less…

Apple duck 2

The waitress did not say anything – she should have forewarned us that the bird would be served half or whole…and we would have braced ourselves for the surprise. Well, I would not say it was great, not something that would get me rushing back there again anytime soon for more… but it was pretty good especially when eating the meat with the green apple strips though they could have been a bit more generous with those.

The place was not very crowded that night which suited me fine – I hate it when it is fully packed as owing to the low ceiling at the place, it would get extremely noisy and I would get put off by that and my dining pleasure would be absolutely ruined. One thing that I’ve noticed about that place is they will cook the orders table by table…and even when everybody is ordering one same dish, they would not cook it in bulk and distribute it among the tables equally. That was why when Huai Bin had just popped a prawn into his mouth, more dishes arrived and he had to store it in his cheek to be eaten later…

Huai Bin @ Nice House

…while he went about his business of taking the photographs of the food. LOL!!! I guess this is good in a way as it would control the quality of the food served…but if there are many people and you are the last table to arrive, you may need to wait a very long time. Thus, it would be good to call them and book a place and make the orders beforehand. In case anyone is interested, the address and telephone number is as follows:

Nice House Restaurant
1E, Ground Floor, Brooke Drive, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak
084-33 6050

I certainly enjoyed Huai Bin’s company, as always, and for one thing, he would, time and again, pick some of the food and place it in my bowl for me to eat – I thought that was so very sweet and respectful and so very nice of him. My daughter does that as well sometimes…but I reckon only a handful of young people these days would do the same.  It  was a great night out for the two of us, no doubt about that, and I certainly look forward to doing it again some time.

Tell me again…

That day when my daughter was leaving to go back to Sungai Petani, I got up early in the morning to cook some chicken soup so that she could have some mee sua (Foochow string/thread longevity noodles)…

STP's Foochow mee sua 1

…before she left. Usually, we would have that for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or to welcome somebody or when he/she is leaving…and I would observe this as well, more in keeping with the tradition than anything else though there may be people who believe that in doing so, they will be blessed with longevity, good fortune or prosperity.

I had a post on how to cook this before here…but never mind, no harm going through all of that again. Well, firstly, you have to cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and marinate it in the traditional Foochow red wine…

Marinating the chicken

You will also need to slice some ginger…

Sliced ginger

…and soak some shitake mushrooms and wolfberries in hot water…

Soaking shitake & wolfberries

…and when they’ve gone all soft, drain away the water.

Heat a bit of sesame oil in the wok and when it is hot, throw in the ginger slices and fry till slightly brown. Then, put in the chicken together with the red wine that has been used to marinate it. Stir occasionally and let it cook till all the juices have come out of the meat…

Simmering the meat

Add water and red wine…

Making the soup

…in proportions according to taste and put in the shitake mushrooms and the wolfberries as well.

Bring it to boil and let it simmer for as long as you like. The longer you let it simmer, the nicer or sweeter the soup…

Simmering the soup

You may transfer it into a pot like what I did, if you wish…instead of doing it all in the wok and keeping the soup there. Finally, add salt and msg according to taste.

Then you cook the mee sua and some hardboiled eggs. Once they are ready, place the mee sua in a bowl and pour the chicken soup over it. Peel the eggs and serve them with the mee sua alongside a few pieces of the chicken…and perhaps, a shitake mushroom as well, if so desired.

STP's Foochow mee sua 2

If the traditional Foochow red wine is not available where you are, you can do without it and when you serve the mee sua, you can add a spoonful or two of brandy to it and eat – it will taste very nice too.

As a matter of fact, you can just cook the chicken, with or without the red wine, and eat it as the soup dish with rice, together with some other dishes, and I can assure you that you will enjoy it a lot too. This is so very easy to cook so I do not see how anybody can say that they simply do not have the slightest idea how to go about it. Come, give it a try…

For the good times…

My first posting as a qualified teacher was to this little town called Kanowit in 1978 and in December that year, I went on a holiday to visit some of my friends in Kuala Lumpur as well as Singapore. That was the time when I bought my very first radio-cassette player in the island republic – my SHARP GF9191…

My SHARP GF9191
*My SHARP GF9191, 2012*

It was my constant companion all my five years in that small and somewhat isolated town and to entertain myself, I would play my cassette tapes on it and listen to my favourite songs all through the day and night…

Listen to the music
*My SHARP GF9191 and me, 1981*

It was also my means of communication with the outside world as I would listen to the news and all the programmes of my choice on the radio. We did not have any FM then so I had to listen to the local Sarawak station on the medium wave (MW) band and to the stations of other countries on short wave (SW).

We were the pioneers of that secondary school in the little rural town, the founding fathers, and temporarily, we had to share the premises of a Chinese primary school in the town. Thus, we had to make do without many things and the school did not have much when it came to audio-visual equipment. School assemblies were held in the open and the principal had to use a portable loud hailer to speak to the kids.

But thanks to my SHARP GF9191, I was able to use it in my English lessons whenever I had the opportunity to use songs to teach the language in the classroom. Needless to say, the students enjoyed its high fidelity stereo sound reproduction a lot and were all ears and very interested throughout.

It certainly came in useful as well during school functions like Teachers’ Day when we would hold concerts and I would play the music on my SHARP GF9191…

Play that funky music
*Teachers’ Day, 1980*

…while my students performed the dances that I taught them…

You should be dancing...
*National Day (Hari Kebangsaan), 1979*

…and we also used it for talks and forums like this one which we, the teachers, conducted at the town community hall to share with the students our views on the importance of reading…

Lend me your ears...
*Forum on Reading, 1979*

One advantage of the SHARP GF9191 was the fact that it was portable and it could run on batteries. Thus, I could bring it along whenever I went on picnics…

Picnic in Kanowit 1
*November, 1979*

…with my friends and students…

Picnic in Kanowit 2
*At the Kanowit sandbank, 1980*

…at strategic scenic spots along the Kanowit or  Rejang River.

It has been over 30 years now but the beautiful memories of those wonderful times, all the joy and the laughter that we shared. remain crystal clear in my mind to be treasured and cherished forever.

Thank you so very much, SHARP, and congratulations on your 100th Anniversary

SHARP 100th Anniversary

Mix it up…

Gee! How time flies! It has been way over a week since Father’s Day and since Melissa left home after her holidays ended. She insisted on celebrating the occasion two days earlier as she would be flying off the next day, Saturday and since she wanted shabu-shabu for  a change, we went to this place…

Mitsu Shabu-shabu

…where I would usually go in the morning for the dim sum.

I don’t know if there are any options as they never asked and just gave us a pot of broth which they probably had brewed using this combination of herbs…

Mitsu - herbs

We ordered the mixed meat set…

Mixed meat set

…and the seafood set…

Seafood set

…as well as the vegetable set…

Vegetable set

…and as soon as the soup had started boiling, we put everything in and mixed it all up…

Mitsu Shabu-shabu 1

I must say that it was very nice, the soup especially – after everything had cooked…

Mitsu Shabu-shabu 2

It became very much sweeter and I enjoyed it a lot. I must add here also that the blended chili sauce was simply out of this world and I dipped everything so very generously in it that I had to get a second helping and then, a third – it was that good, I tell you.

However, despite the fact that there was quite a lot  to eat and everybody was very full after we had finished everything, I did feel that there could be much more than what came in the sets especially in view of the fact that the bill came up to over RM60 for three persons. With that kind of money, we could have much nicer stuff and a lot more too if we were to have our own steamboat at home…or if we were to go to this eat-all-you-can BBQ steamboat place instead…but of course the latter isn’t air-conditioned (and the place isn’t very nice) and for this reason alone, I certainly would think twice about going there as the weather had not been very kind lately – so dry and so very hot that my fat was melting in the heat… LOL!!!

Anyway, at least it was a nice enough dinner for everybody and most of all, we had the chance to spend some family time together while celebrating the auspicious day that comes only once a year.

The tie that binds…

It was the day before Melissa left home to go back to Sungai Petani…and seeing how she would grumble about the sushis at the place there where she and her friends would go whenever they felt like having some Japanese food, I decided to take her here…

SushiTie, Sibu

…that day for lunch.

I had the teriyaki chicken bento set (RM13.90)…

Teriyaki chciken bento set

…which came with this very nice plate of chicken…

Teriyaki chicken

…a piece of tofu, done Japanese style and miso soup, other than the rice and the fruit – two miserably-thin slices of not-very-nice honeydew melon. I enjoyed the chicken very much and the sauce went well with the rice but it is quite obvious that the bento sets that we had at this other place in town were much nicer and cheaper too.

Melissa had their teriyaki salmon bento set (RM13.90)…

Teriyaki salmon

…and she said that the salmon she had at that other place was nicer but of course, that one was a lot more expensive and was a dish by itself, not a bento set…so it would not be very fair to make a comparison between the two.

My missus had the yakitori bento set (RM13.90)…

Yakitori chicken

…and if you ask me, I would say that they’re chicken kebabs. LOL!!! They were nice though so due credit must be given for that.

Other than those sets that we had, I also ordered these that were served on red dishes (RM4.30 each), their unagi baby fish sushi

Unagi baby fish sushi

…and their soft shell crab…

Softshell crab sushi

…and this one on an orange dish (RM4.90)…

Inari sushi

I liked the one with the soft shell crab…but the baby fish one was extremely salty and what they called baby fish turned out to be fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies)…or at least, that was what we thought they were.

Green tea was RM1.30 a glass, hot or cold – it came free with the bento sets that we had the other day…and I was quite put off by the fact that they have been in business for years and their business has always been very good but they still do not accept credit cards – cash terms only. If eating there is cheap and the total is not that substantial, I can jolly well understand but that unfortunately is not the case.

It did not help one bit either that they actually collect 5% service charge on the total in your bill. Service? Given a choice, I certainly would not want to give a sen to that short and fat rolly-polly sour puss of a cashier – Miss Congeniality, she definitely isn’t! Tsk! Tsk! Where friendly and polite service and everything else is concerned, I would definitely say that the other place wins hands down…and I certainly would not consider it good service when they opened for business at around 11.40-11.45 a.m. when it is stated very clearly outside that business hours begin at 11.30 a.m. every day.

Besides, I do feel that they should think about having more spacious cubicles for plus-sized people like me (who usually would eat more)…

SushiTie cuibicle

…and if they want people to order what is on their menu, they would have to think twice about calling it “kanasai” (like shit)…

Kanasai

I, for one, would get quite put off by that somewhat peculiar sense of humour.

Well, never mind the more expensive tab and the grouchy faces and all, at least the food was good enough and Melissa enjoyed the lunch – that was all that mattered…but we certainly would think twice about going there again.

Let’s go to the movies…

I can barely remember the last time I went to see a movie in a cinema..or a cineplex as they are called these days. I do recall when my daughter was small, whenever we went over to KL, I would take her to see a movie while the mother was on a shopping frenzy. If I’m not mistaken, we watched “A Goofy Movie” at The Mall…and later, we went to see the very touching “The Tigger Movie”  at Mid Valley. Melissa insisted that we went to see “Lilo & Stitch” too but that seemed to have slipped my mind completely.

Well, after all this time and after all these years, I finally went to one again. When Melissa was home, we went to watch “Madagascar 3” at a cineplex in town…

Let's go to the movies

They call it a trioplex, probably because there are three halls showing three movies simultaneously…

Hall 1

I guess they have more in the cities like in KL…but I would think three is more than enough for a small little place like Sibu and there is another cineplex as well in another side of town.

The tickets are by no means cheap these days…

Movie tickets

– RM9.00 each but I hear that if you wait a little longer when a movie has been showing for quite a while, you can get the tickets a little cheaper…and it seems that if there are fewer than 5 persons, they reserve the right to cancel the show…

Do's & don'ts

Luckily, there were 6 altogether that day and thus, as they say, the show must go on.

They still have the tidbits stall outside…like at the cinemas in those good ol’ days…

Tidbits, anyone?

I can remember how I hated it very much then as people would make it a point to buy kuaci (pumpkin seeds) to eat while watching the movie. It was bad enough that they would make a horrible mess of the place but the incessant cracking sounds of the kuaci would be so distracting and at times, it would even drown out the dialogue in the movie. Tsk! Tsk!

If we go back some more, there was a time when the cinemas were not air-conditioned and smoking was permitted. Imagine somebody coming out from a movie with the lingering stench of cigarettes on his clothes  even though he himself did not smoke at all. It amuses me a great deal even till today to recall how everyone in the cinema at the time would break into wild applause everytime a hero came to the rescue or when the Roman soldiers would ride their horses towards the enemy castle or the cowboys would show up in pursuit of the Red Indians. Don’t ask me why they did that as I wouldn’t know myself but that was exactly what people did then.

Some of the heroes from my time are still around, obviously…like Batman…

Batman

…or Spiderman…

Spiderman

…but gone are the days when they would be painted by hand on canvas, all the movie posters on display outside a cinema in those long gone days.

Inside, it certainly is a lot more comfortable these days with air-conditioning and cushioned seats unlike the bedbug-infested wooden or rattan ones that we had during our time…

The silver screen

…and of course, the stereophonic sensurround sound today is a whole lot better than what we had before. You may see somebody kicking a can in the movie and you will hear it dropping on the ground behind you.

Like before, they have trailers before the actual movie starts…

Trailer

…but I would think the best part of going to a movie would be the opportunity to go out with friends and loved ones and spend some quality time together during these modern times when many would be too busy for one another or too engrossed in watching their own movies or doing their own thing on their ipads and what-have-you.

It was definitely not a great movie – just a fun-filled and relaxing one and both my daughter and I enjoyed ourselves very much. We certainly look forward to doing this together again sometime…

FOOTNOTE:
Happy Dragon Boat Festival aka the Zhang Festival or the DuanWu (Double fifth) Jie to everyone celebrating! Enjoy your dumplings!!!

Last one…

One morning when my daughter was home for the holidays, I took her here for breakfast. It was still early, around 10.00 a.m. but the lady said that we were lucky as they were down to their last plate of kway teow (flat rice noodles) already and they would be closing for the day.

Since there was only one plate left, I let Melissa have that – with sambal (RM4.00)…

KopitiamFantasy sambal kway teow
*recycled pic*

…and I ordered something else from the chu-char (cook & fry) place at the back of the coffee shop.

My friend, Philip, told me once that their wan tan hor (fun) was very nice but all this time, I never got down to trying that so I decided to order a plate for myself (RM3.50)…

KopitiamFantasy wan tan hor 1

For the uninitiated, it is actually fried kway teow

KopitiamFantasy wan tan hor 2

…with the egg sauce/gravy.

It was indeed very nice but of course, our kway teow isn’t as soft and smooth as the hor fun in the peninsula but on the whole, it still tasted great. I certainly would not mind going for that again.

I had the coffee that morning – they have the best in town…sometimes but it wasn’t so great that day. There was no sign of the guy, the barista, so I guess somebody else must have brewed the cup and it simply was not the same. Ah well…like they always say, better luck next time!