On the road…

Last year, my friend, Philip, took me on a road trip to Kanowit. Well, he’s back in town from the US and this year, he took me and my missus to Bintangor.

Road to Bintangor

Originally, the town was called Binatang but I guess some people did not like the name as it is a Malay word that means “animal” in English so they changed it to Bintangor. It is very near to Sibu, around 30 to 40 minutes by road…

By the roadside, you may get to see some stalls selling fruits…

Roadside fruit stall

…such as the celebrated Binatang kam or Bintangor oranges…

Bintangor oranges

These are known to be very sour and when peeling them, there would be this very pungent smell that would fill the whole house. My missus loves these the most and prefers them to all the other kinds of oranges in the world but my daughter simply cannot stand the smell while the mum is peeling and eating one of these.

These are the very sweet honey pineapples…

Honey pineapples

…that we call kelapa sawit as they are grown as a subsidiary crop in the oil palm estates around here. They’re more or less the same price as in Sibu – around RM4.00 for a medium-sized one and up to RM6.00 for something bigger.

The sweet corn…

Sweet corn

…or what they call Ligo around here after the brand name of the canned kernels is much cheaper though – 7 for RM10.00 while in Sibu, that amount of money would probably get you 5 at the most.

Owing to the fact that Bintangor is well-known for its oranges, the fruit is used as the symbol of the town…

Bintangor waterfront

This replica is located at the Bintangor waterfront.

The town is a lot bigger than Kanowit. These old shops have been around for a long time – they were there already in the late 60’s and early 70’s when I used to travel to Kuching using ships like the Rajah Mas or when express boats would stop by en route from Sibu to Sarikei.

Bintangor shophouses 1

There are many new blocks of shophouses now…

Bintangor shophouses 2

…and this is the tallest building in the town centre…

Bintangor's tallest

There used to be a somewhat impressive hotel there but the proprietor had gone bankrupt or so I heard and the place looks quite abandoned, left there completely  idle.

I saw a few schools around and many churches including this big one…

Bintangor Catholic church

– the Church of Christ the King.

I cannot remember the last time I was in the town but I can recall stopping here sometimes for lunch when I was driving back from Kuching to Sibu – those days when my daughter was still a toddler, probably some 20 or so years ago…and I did stay there once when I had to run courses for teachers at one of the schools in the town or was it at the teachers’ training college halfway between here and Sarikei, I can’t exactly remember now. But this time around, I noticed that the town, though bigger than Kanowit, was rather quiet  and not as busy. Usually, at this time in the morning every day, one would find a hive of activity there but not here…unfortunately.

Now, what brought us all the way to this town then, you may ask? Well, I will let you know the answer…in the next post. You’ll stay tuned, wouldn’t you? LOL!!!

Once in a while…

I was in the vicinity of this bakery the other day and I decided to drop by to see what else they had to offer. So far, I’ve tried their garlic bread and also their chocolate cake and I thought they were all pretty okay.

The other day, I decided to go for their ham & cheese bun…

Ham & cheese bun

…but it was kind of disappointing. There was only a teeny-weeny piece of ham inside and the cheese tasted something like sour cream. I did not fancy the texture of the bread either – it was a bit too soft for my liking.

The coffee bun was not too bad…

Coffee bun

…though it was not really all that fragrant. I remember how, many years ago, I went crazy over the coffee buns at this place when they first came into the scene – you just buy a few home and the whole house would be filled with the smell of coffee. Unfortunately, the quality gradually dropped and it was not as nice as before and my craving for those buns also diminished eventually and I stopped buying them altogether.

The egg tarts (RM1.20 each)…

Egg tarts

…were a bit too bland and somehow, the pastry was not what I would be more accustomed to. It was so very soft that you would not be able to pick them up with the plastic tongs provided.

The banana cake (RM4.50 a loaf)…

Banana cake

…was good. The texture was nice and soft and on the whole, it tasted fine.

For one thing, I like this place because it is somewhat squeaky clean. They do not seem to have a lot of things to choose from so I guess there can be better quality control than at other bakeries in town with the mass production of all kinds of cakes, bread and buns…and the two guys, probably the ones who run the show, are always dressed up in their clinically-clean white chef outfits and this somehow gives a more impressive impression and places it a class above the rest.

Still, at my age, I shouldn’t be taking a lot of sweet things so I would not be dropping by and buying the things from there again anytime soon but it would be all right, I guess, if I would just indulge in them once in a while, don’t you think so?

In the neighbourhood…

It so happened that I was in the neighbourhood so I decided to stop by this shop…

TwinCorner Sibu

…again to give it another shot.

The last time I was here, I thought the roti canai was very good but the stuff from the Malay stall there was not that great and definitely not something that I would want to go and eat again.

I thought most of the stalls would be closed, it being the puasa (fasting) month right now but to my surprise, they were all open. Well, I did not order anything from them this time around as I had already made up my mind to try the chui-char (cook-fry) place at the back of the coffee shop.

My missus had the fried mihun (rice vermicelli) with cangkuk manis (RM4.00)…

Mihun with cangkuk manis

…which was quite good but there did not seem to be a lot of ingredients other than the vegetable, egg and bits of meat so minute that they were hardly visible. Thus, I would think that RM4.00 is a little bit too much to charge for that. I tried a bit and personally, I think I prefer the one here which had some of those canned clams in soy sauce that we usually use to fry mihun at home…and that one was only RM3.00 a plate though I wouldn’t know if they have jacked up the price since then as in the case of most things around here lately.

I ordered the fried kway teow (flat rice noodles) with cockles (RM4.50)…

See-ham kway teow

…which was even more expensive but thankfully, it was very nice – perhaps nicer than what used to my favourite here – but the next time I order this, I must remember to ask them to leave out the kuchai (chives) as I do not fancy the smell/taste and it can be quite a chore picking the strips out of the dish and placing them by the side of the plate. The cockles were big and fresh, no complaint about those…and as a whole, it was definitely something that I would not mind ordering again the next time I drop by that same coffee shop.

Good enough for me…

I think I’ve mentioned this before in some earlier post of mine that this guy used to work at a hotel in town, baking cakes and stuff and eventually, he and a colleague of his, a Malay lady, left and opened their own bakery shops…

Chung's

I wouldn’t say I was really crazy over the stuff he bakes and sells, even though I quite like his mooncakes which are nice and a whole lot more affordable and I would buy them every year when the festival comes around, but at one time, I really loved his garlic buns…

Garlic buns

They were really good and not expensive and I heard of people buying them by the boxes to take them back to their own towns and cities to eat.

I bought a packet the other day and they still tasted great except that the price had gone up from RM1.00 to RM1.30 for 4 and I do wish that there could be a little bit of quality control as I noticed that they were not as evenly oval as before and some were big and others were much smaller.

Normally, I would pop them in the oven to toast a bit so that they would be slighter harder and very crusty at the top while still nice and soft inside – I loved them that way. Well, the other day, I went a step further – I cut the buns and spread a bit a garlic butter inside and stuffed them with bacon that I had grilled till crispy…

With bacon & garlic butter 1

It certainly helped to make them look less plain, don’t you think?

With bacon & garlic butter 2

After some 5 minutes or so in the pre-heated oven, I took them out…

Oven-toasted

They certainly tasted a whole lot better this way, I must say as it  brought the taste up to a whole new level. Perhaps, it would be nicer with some hardboiled eggs, mashed and a piece of lettuce or a slice of cucumber perhaps, but this definitely was good enough for me… Yummmmm!!!!

Beautiful in my eyes…

This is so very beautiful, really…and I’m sure everyone will agree with me that it is not just beautiful in my eyes but in everybody else’s as well.

I love weddings…and I love attending such happy occasions to share the joy that is synonymous with the event. Unfortunately, much as I would like so very much to, I was not able to make it when quite recently, my friend tied the nuptial knot. Nevertheless, I must say that I was delighted when I checked my email the other day and discovered that he had forwarded to me this lovely photograph of him, looking very handsome and very happy, and his radiantly beautiful bride…

Man & wife...

Heartiest congratulations, my friend, to you and your missus and may God bless you two abundantly with blue skies and everything nice in the years ahead together. Cheers!!!

Now, I wonder how many of you know who he is…and who he has taken to be his wife. Any guesses, anybody?

Time runs out…

This has been sitting around in the house for a long time. I’m not too sure whether it was my missus or my daughter who bought it but probably, it was during the March holidays earlier this year or was it in December, I can’t remember exactly now. Anyway, it was due to expire in over a week’s time on the 2nd of August so I decided to cook it before time ran out.

Looking at the name on the packet, Rice Sides – Cheddar Broccoli…

Rice Sides - packet

…I would think that it was supposed to be served as one of the sides along with a main dish but never mind, I reckoned there would not be any harm cooking it and eating it on its own.

The instructions were given on the packet…

Rice sides - instructions

…and as you can see, a tablespoon of margarine could be added but that was optional. Not one to follow rules, I added butter instead as I thought that would be more fragrant and tastier. It also said that it should be simmered COVERED but I did not. I kept opening and stirring to make sure that it did not stick to the bottom of the pot. Golly gee! I am quite disobedient, am I not? LOL!!!

Other than that, I also chopped some bacon and grilled it in a pan till nice and crispy and separating it from the fat that had melted, I added that to the rice while it was still simmering…and I also added a bit of chopped Chinese parsley as well.

It was very easy to cook, really and pretty soon, it was ready to be served…

Rice Sides

Was it good? I must say that it was – something like one of those creamy pasta dishes at the cafes or restaurants but cooked this way, I think I would prefer pasta to rice.

Oops!!! Was this supposed to be healthy?

Rice Sides - healthy

Well, too bad! With the butter and the bacon added, I didn’t think it was anymore but as Rhett Butler would say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” LOL!!!

Conscious…

Nowadays, a lot of people are very health-conscious. They will refrain from eating a lot of stuff that is too fat or oily. Well, they may be interested in getting one of these…

Healthy cup 1

I don’t know whether it is still available in the shops or not or where one can get hold of one. If I remember correctly, my parents bought it for me a long long time ago on one of their trips to Singapore.

Sometimes, when you cook something, there may be a lot of oil in the dish. For one thing, this may put a health-conscious person off and for another, it may affect the taste adversely. This may happen even when you use only a little bit of oil like when cooking chicken, for instance. Despite all the effort to remove the skin (and end up with one miserable-looking totally naked chicken) and trimming off the fat, after cooking, there may still be too much oil for one’s liking.  So how do you get rid of the excess oil or fat?

What one could do would be to put the whole thing into the fridge and after it is cold enough, you will find that the oil or fat would have solidified on the surface and you can remove that quite easily. Another way is to pour the soup or gravy into this thing. As we all know, fat floats on water and after letting it stand for a while, this will become pretty obvious. Pour the soup or  gravy out slowly via the spout through the outlet at the bottom…

Healthy cup 2

Once you’ve reached the oily part, stop…and throw the rest away. Your soup or gravy would be quite oil-free after this.

This thing also doubles as a measuring cup. Very often, I would see cooking instructions asking me to add how many cups of water and I would be quite baffled. Cups? What cups? There are big cups and small cups. With this, I have no problem at all getting the correct measurement…

Healthy cup 3

…be it in cups or ml.

 Pretty handy item to have in the kitchen, don’t you think?

Less is more…

Sometimes, less is more! For instance, when you cook something, you may want to add this and that but at times, if the ingredients are not compatible or the combination is not in the appropriate proportions, the end result may be quite disastrous. Thankfully, though I am, at times, guilty as charged, so far what I have dished out turned out quite well…or most of the time, at least. But come to think of it, it is really not very necessary. Even with a little bit less, you can get something just as good or perhaps, even better.

Well, I was browsing through my fried rice posts the other day and I noticed that I had always added something extra – things such as bubuk (dried tiny shrimps), udang kering (dried prawns) and belacan (dried prawn paste) or cincaluk (fermented shrimps) and at times, even non-halal stuff like Chinese sausages or char siew (barbecued pork) or SPAM…and it dawned on me that I have never had a post on kampung fried rice in its simplest, most basic form…

STP's kampung fried rice 1

It is very easy to cook kampung fried rice. Kampung is the Malay word for village and this is how the people in the villages cook their fried rice. It is simple and yet very delicious.

To cook this, you will need some leftover rice that has been kept overnight. It is best to use this instead of what you have freshly cooked. Loosen the grains so that your fried rice will not be lumpy…

rice

You will also need a shallot or two, two or three cloves of garlic, a chili and some spring onion, if any…

ingredients

Besides, you will need some ikan bilis (dried anchovies), fish gravy and an egg as well.

Peel the shallot and garlic and slice thinly. Clean the chili and remove the seeds and do the same to it, and chop the spring onion…

ingredients - sliced

Heat up a bit of oil in the wok and put in the sliced shallot and garlic and the ikan bilis. Fry them till they turn golden brown…

onion garlic & ikan bilis

Next, you add the sliced chili and chopped spring onion as well as the rice. Stir them well to mix everything together…

rice chili & spring onion

Then you add some fish gravy to it and a bit of monosodium glutamate. Instead of the fish gravy, you may use soy sauce or salt instead. After that, break an egg into the wok…

Egg

Break the yolk and mix the egg with the rice. Fry until the egg is completely cooked. Your kampung fried rice is ready. Scoop out the rice from the wok and serve it in a plate…

STP's kampung fried rice 2

Now you may begin to enjoy the fruit of your labour. Bon appétit!

My parting shot – it is nice, as nice as all the rest that I’ve cooked before or perhaps even nicer…and definitely better than those at many places in town, take my word for it. Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

Caught in the act…

Ooops!!! Obviously  the boss at this place…

SriPelita Sibu

…to the right of the Paramount Hotel here in Sibu reads my blog. I certainly was caught by surprise when he told me that next time, I could make a special request for my egg to be fried the conventional way and they would not use the metal ring. I guess he must have read this post and was responding to my remarks in it.

Well, I dropped by again the other day with my missus as I saw from a banner hanging there that they have nasi bryani

SriPelita nasi bryani

…and I wanted to give it a try. The rice was good and we loved the very thin and crispy papadums a lot.

My missus wanted hers with mutton curry (RM7.00)…

Mutton curry

…and she loved it very much. I tried a bit and I must say that it wasn’t too bad at all – I wouldn’t mind having that myself but since she already had lamb and curry, I opted for something different, the chicken (RM6.00)…

Ayam madu

I was given a choice of curry, fried, sambal and I chose this one – their honey chicken. It turned out somewhat watery and different from what I had here in KL when I went out for dinner with Annie-Q and the rest but it was nice. I found it to my liking, sweet and not spicy at all but I think I would rather have that with plain rice – perhaps I am more accustomed to pairing bryani rice with curry.

While talking to the boss, I found that he actually comes from Taiping, Perak and as one can see from the meat counter…

Meat counter

…what he has to offer would be something like those Indian mamaks’ nasi kandar shops over in the peninsula. If I’m not mistaken, he is one himself. Of course, the range of selections available is not as wide but one would have to remember that Sibu is a small town and if he prepares so much, there would be a lot left over by the end of the day.

For one thing, I must compliment the chef for the vegetables…

Vegetable counter

…for they actually look so very nice which is one thing that I would not say about some of the nasi kandar shops that I have patronised in the past. Just look at the fried paku (wild fern) and ladies’ fingers on the left – I would say that I was impressed, very impressed. I did not get to taste them though so I will reserve my comments on that.

The deep-fried bitter gourd is also different from what we had in KL…

Deep-fried bitter gourd

My missus tried a bit and said that it was different but would have been all right if not for the fact that the vegetable was very bitter – unlike what I fried myself the other day and featured in yesterday’s post.

It did not cross my mind at that point in time but I should have tapaoed the tandoori chicken…

Deep-fried tandoori chicken

…and taken it home for dinner. I have always loved the very nice exotic flavours but usually, those cooked in the tandoori or the stone oven, or at least those that I had before, have the tendency to be somewhat dry. I wonder if I would like these deep-fried ones more but I guess that will have to wait till the next opportunity to drop by the shop again…

Bitter heart…

I remember when I was teaching and staying in Kanowit in the late 70’s up to the early 80’s, I did not do any cooking in  the first two years when I was staying in a little room/cubicle above one of the shophouses in town. Then they completed the first housing estate in the town – the Kanowit Garden…and I was able to rent the upper floor of a terrace house, sharing with a colleague of mine and I stayed there for the next three years.

We were teaching in the afternoon as we were squatting at the premises of a primary school and they had their lessons in the morning…and every morning, I would have to go to town to buy things to cook and eat for the day. We did not have a refrigerator so the marketing had to be done daily and I had to do all my cooking on a kerosene stove provided. It was all right and we got along fine, no problem at all.

I remember, however, that sometimes we would not be able to get fresh meat so I would used some of the canned stuff as an ingredient when I fried vegetables…and that was perfectly all right too. The food tasted fine and we always enjoyed our meals and had our fill before going to school to teach…and heating up the leftovers when we came back to finish everything off for dinner. We did not have any fridge, remember?

Well, just the other day, I found half a bitter gourd in the fridge and I had a little bit of SPAM left so I decided to use that to cook the vegetable. Somehow that reminded me of what I used to do during those good ol’ days when I was in Kanowit – using canned meat to cook vegetables.

These were the ingredients I used:

Ingredients

– bitter gourd and a fresh chili, both thinly sliced, garlic, finely chopped and SPAM,. cut into little cubes.

I heated a bit of oil in the wok and fried the garlic till golden brown…

Garlic

…and then I added the SPAM…

SPAM

…and fried it for a while before adding the chili and the bitter gourd…

Chili & veg

I added a little bit of water to cook the bitter gourd but just a bit – there wasn’t any need for a lot as I had sliced the vegetable till very thin so it would cook very fast and very easily.

I added a bit of salt and msg, according to taste, and once all the moisture had dried up, I broke an egg into the wok…

Egg

Finally, I mixed everything together and stirred till the egg was cooked…

Done

…before I scooped everything out and served it in a plate…

STP's fried bitter gourd with SPAM

Was it nice? Well,I must say that it was…but if you do not wish to use canned meat, you can always substitute it with prawns or sliced fresh meat. That would be just as nice as well, I’m sure…