Sightseeing…

Melissa’s good friend from Kemaman, Trengganu dropped by Sibu for one night…

Mel & friends

We took her and another coursemate of theirs and her friend from Bintangor here for lunch and all of us had their Penang fried kway teow

Red Carrot ckt

I thought it was kind of odd that they fried 3 plates first and the remaining 3 of us had to wait for quite a while to get ours. Perhaps they did not want to cook a whole lot at one go so that they would be able to maintain the quality and the taste. I did notice on their menu that they had deleted “Thai-style” from their Thai-style fried noodles – probably they read my comment in the earlier post regarding this.

After that, they all went over to my house while I rushed to Rejang Park to buy some kompia and chu-nu-miang. Nobody should leave town without trying these but instead of the usual 4 pieces for RM1, they were selling them at 3 for a ringgit only. They did say, however, that the usual price would resume after the Chinese New Year festive season. Tsk! Tsk!

Later, the two from Bintangor had to make their way back so after they had left, we went on a tour of Sibu – through the Malay and Melanau kampungs (villages) and to Sungai Merah (Red River) – the place where the earliest Foochow settlers landed…

At Sungai Merah

We were lucky as it was ebb tide and the water in the river flowing out from inland was indeed red in colour, true to its name.

There is this very old Chinese house in the vicinity…

Old Chinese house

– one of the very very few remaining ones that are still standing – most would have been demolished and replaced with one of those character-less modern structures. There is a very long history behind this house but I can’t seem to locate the link to the information right now.

From there, we stopped by here, our local version of the Farmers’ Market

Pasar Tamu Sg Merah

…where we saw this little girl setting up her stall selling baby corn…

PTSM 1

It was only 3 something in the afternoon, a little  bit too early actually but many of the stalls had already started their business.

There was a lady selling ikan keli (catfish)…

PTSM 2

…but I thought that was a tad too expensive and the fish were not very big.

I love these…

PTSM 3

They are found stuck to floating logs and wood in the river and one can fry them with soy sauce and ginger and wine – the same way one would cook balitongs…but one can just boil them and eat them just like that, dipped in sambal. To get to the flesh, one would have to use something sharp like a pin, to remove the semi-circular protective cover and get the flesh out. The sad thing is that of late, these shells have become very small unlike the ones we used to have before.

There were a few stalls selling barbecued stuff such as these…

PTSM 4

…and others selling our local or jungle produce…

PTSM 5

I did not buy this young buah pulo or what we call buah tupang

PTSM 6

…but I did grab its older mature brown seeds from the next stall in the yellow basket next to the chilies. One would just have to boil them in hot water with a pinch of salt added and when cooked, the hard shell and the thin brown skin would have to be removed prior to eating the kernel which is something like chestnuts or buah cempedak seeds.

I had dropped by a week or so earlier to buy the terung dayak (Dayak brinjal)…

PTSM 7

…for my kampung-themed Chinese New Year treat but I did not get the chance to cook them.

The cangkuk manis (sweet vegetable) seemed cheaper than in the town and at other places…

PTSM 8

– only RM1.00 a bundle compared to RM2.00 elsewhere.

They only had the low-grade midin (jungle fern) left…

PTSM 9

– the ones with a lot of leaves. Those slightly “hairy” ones at the bottom of the above photo are another variety of edible ferns that we have here but these are slightly bitter and are not as nice and popular as the rest. At the top right-hand corner are the pre-pounded bandong (tapioca) leaves specially for those who are too lazy to do that themselves.

These looked like straw mushrooms…

PTSM 10

…but they called them kulat kelapa sawit (oil palm mushrooms). I wouldn’t know whether they are found growing or cultivated in the oil palm estates or why they are thus named – I never bothered to ask.

After that enlightening visit to the tamu, we proceeded to the Bukit Aup Jubilee Park where we stayed till around 5.00 p.m. before we made our way to the town centre whilst enjoying all the sights along the way.

Do stick around for the continuation of the tour in my next post!

Empty handed…

Normally, when one visits a place, one would not want to go home empty-handed and would like to buy a little something to take home.

If you come to Sibu, for instance, you would probably want to buy some kompia home…

Kompia plain

…or the sweet version, the chu-nu-miang

Chu nu miang

Some would prefer the fried ones stuffed with pork belly…

Kompia pork belly

…or minced meat…

Kompia minced meat

Others may prefer the lung ngor or in Hokkien, the kay nerng kor

Lung ngor

…and some love the tee piang

Tee piang

…or the lay peang

Lay peang

…or the ma-nging (which means horse’s ears or something)…

Ma-nging

…and perhaps, our Sibu Foochow-style sio bee (siew mai) as well…

Sio bee

I know a few people who would want to tapao our kampua noodles home…

Kampua

puak lak (with chili)…

Kampua with chili

…or the special, perhaps…

Kampua special

…with all the innards or the one with garlic added…

Kampua with garlic

…or with pian sip

Kampua with pian sip

Gosh!!! Phewwww!!! The list is endless but I am pretty sure that anyone who drops by Sibu will want to buy as many things as he or she can possibly carry to take home – like how people going to Penang would cart home their tambun biscuits or those going to Ipoh would bring home bags and bags of their heong peah.

So, what would people usually buy home should they drop by the town or city where you live?

Travellin’ man…

People did not use to travel so much when I was younger. For one thing, it was certainly not easy to move around then. I remember I flew to Kuching once when I was in primary school to visit my cousins there and I guess I was one of the privileged few.

Later, in my teenage years, I hopped over to Kuching quite frequently as I had a lot of friends there and most of the time, I would use the Rajah Mas, formerly called the Rejang, paying RM10.00 only to sail on deck, meaning that I would not have a cabin to sleep in. The ship would sail from Sibu at around noon and would depart from Sarikei at around 6.00 p.m. and reach Kuching in the morning the next day. I never used the Pulau Kidjang which sank in 1973…and the Rajah Mas followed suit in 1997. Subsequently, there were express boats plying between Sibu and the state capital and I went on that once…

Kuching-Sibu express

I cannot remember when this was exactly but I guess it would be sometime between 1978 and 1980 or 1981…and yes, it was called the M.V. Concorde. LOL!!!

I was in Singapore in 1973 when the Pulau Kidjang tragedy occured and that was when I travelled by train for the first time and went to Kuala Lumpur for the first time too…

National Museum
*@ the National Museum, Kuala Lumpur – 1973*

…and I did go up to Genting Highlands as well.

Genting

It wasn’t a theme park at the time – just a hotel and a casino, the first phase of what is today a sprawling place with a few hotels and everything that is in it now. The road then was horrible – you would go zig-zag, left and right, till you reach the top by which time you would be quite sick, I’m sure.

After that, I took a bus to Penang – also my first visit ever, and stayed a few days on the island…and there wasn’t any bridge at the time so we had to use the ferry…

Penang ferry

…which still runs to this very day.

Well, time has changed…and of course, I have changed too…a lot!!! And one thing’s for sure, travelling today is definitely so much easier and a whole lot more comfortable than how it used to be.

Been sometime…

This Sarawak’s own franchise…

SB 1

…has been around for years now and I do drop by time and again to get the fish burger that Melissa likes a lot, takeaway and I must say that I do too – I had a post on that a long long time ago in 2008. However, I’ve not actually eaten there since the time in March, 2009 when my friend (from Penang) insisted that I tried their cheese burger with egg – he thought it was simple the best, better than all the rest and I did drop by again once in August that same year as they were promoting their smoked beef burger (which, I guess, did not do too well seeing that it did not get onto their permanent menu eventually).

Well, Melissa and I went to the outlet round the corner from my house that day on Chinese New Year’s Eve…

SB2

…as we were busy with all the preparations and did not have time to cook lunch plus we were saving it all for the reunion dinner that evening.

Business was good…

SB3

…and both Melissa and I wanted their broasted chicken…

SB4

…with their special rice…

SB5

…which was nicely-flavoured and had raisins and bits of sausages in it.

I ordered the value meal (RM11.50)…

SB6

…which came with two pieces of the chicken along with the rice and the cucumber pickle plus a free soft drink. Melissa had the same but with only one piece, minus the free drink (RM6.90).

The meat was juicy and tender…

SB7

…and very nicely done and obviously, the chicken is less oily inside – unlike some where one would find layers of fat under the skin…

SB8

…and it is also less oily on the outside. As you can see, there were only traces of oil on the plate…

SB10

There are a lot of choices including their fried tilapia with rice, their nasi lemak or their spaghetti or fried macaroni and all the rest but my favourite is still their fish burger.

We have five outlets now (or at least, the ones that I know of) – one at the Sibu Gateway in the town centre, the one near my house in Pedada, another one at the Giant Hypermall and another at Taman Indah and one round the corner from Farley in Salim. Has anybody been to one lately? Which item on their menu is your favourite, perhaps you would like to share?

Nice…

If you may recall, when I got back from our trip to New Zealand, mummy-blogger and fellow-Sibu blogger, MerySia, dropped by my house to give me these goodies that she had brought over from Medan, Indonesia…

Gifts from Medan

…when she came back here after her holidays in her hometown.

I’ve not tried to fry rice using the seasoning in the packet yet and other than that, I put the packet beside the one with the big green ribbon in the freezer and did not manage to fry them to eat until just the other day. She could not tell me what they were and her instructions were to keep them frozen and to take them out when I was ready to cook them and eat – and that was exactly what I did. The rest of the stuff? Well, they’re all long gone now, of course! Hehehehehehe!!!

When I unsealed the packet and took out what were inside, I found that they were, in fact, some kind of rolls…

Medan rolls 1

I heated some oil in the wok and deep-fried them till golden brown…

Medan rolls 2

…and when I cut one to try…

Medan rolls 3

…I found that it tasted pretty good.

I would think they were actually some kind of popiah but other than the carrot, cabbage and whatever else inside, they had potatoes as well…

Medan rolls 4

My daughter enjoyed eating them too and we had them for dinner that evening and finished the whole lot in one sitting. Thank you so much, MerySia. It was nice, very nice!

And to move on from there, that day, when we went here for lunch, my missus bought these Portuguese egg tarts…

Portuguese egg tarts

…from the bakery. I tried one but did not feel it was all that great – as it was, I would think that I had had nicer ones elsewhere. Perhaps, I should have heated it up in the oven first before eating.

Well, that was exactly what I did with the chicken pies (RM1.80)…

Chicken pies 1

…that she also bought and I must say that they were really very nice!

As you can see from the photographs, they had huge chunks of meat inside…

Chicken pies 2

…and mushrooms too…

Chicken pies 3

Theirs are not the “usual” chicken pies that I am more accustomed to, like the awesome ones here that I like a lot. I think this is their own original recipe and it tastes good – nice for a change, I would say, and that’s all that matters.

All through the night…

It has been raining a lot around here but that certainly did not dampen anyone’s spirit or in any way, affect all the joy and excitement to welcome and usher in the Year of the $$$$$$$$nake…and it has been going on like this every night since.

This is what you will get to see outside most houses here the morning after…

The morning after

I did not bother to get up and go out to watch though as I was rather worn out from all the preparations the whole day on Chinese New Year’s Eve. I did manage to sleep a bit that night but just before 7.00 a.m., I was awakened by the explosive sounds of firecrackers in the neighbourhood. This time, I got up to see what was going on and lo and behold! One of my neighbours was having some lion dancers come over to their place…

Lions 1

…so very early in the morning. There were not one, but two lions!

Lions 2

Ah well, after all, it IS Chinese New Year! I noticed that most of the dancers were speaking Iban (a local Sarawak’s ethnic language) among themselves though! That certainly is in keeping with the 1Malaysia spirit, true and true.  Interesting!

Hmmmm…looks like some of my neighbours’ “good luck” spilled over into my garden and onto my patio as well…

Good luck...

…and this dropped right into the middle of my house compound…

...from the sky

…while we were in the house having our mee sua for longevity and prosperity – a Kong Ming lantern! I hear it is of great significance in Taiwan.

Well, it’s the 4th Day of the Chinese Lunar New Year today…

Hong sek

…and to all those celebrating, have fun!

FOOTNOTE:
It is Ash Wednesday today marking the beginning of the Holy Season of Lent, the time for reflection and repentance for Christians and a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. With all due respect, I have refrained from having any food pics in today’s post…and to whom it may concern, have a Holy and Blessed Season of Lent.

Two days…

Gosh! We’re already into the 3rd Day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. How time flies!

Well, we did not do much on the 1st day – we had the traditional Foochow mee sua first thing in the morning…

Mee sua

…for longevity and prosperity and it being a  Sunday, we went to church, all dressed up to the nines in our new clothes…

Melissa - CNY 2013

…and then we dropped by my parents’ house…and after that, we went to visit my in-laws but they were not at home. It did not matter much as they would be coming over for dinner – we usually invite them over in the evening of the first day…and other than the dishes I had featured in my previous post, we also had this very intoxicating kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chciken

…and this dish of freshwater prawns fried with cheese and garlic…

Cheese prawns

…that my missus cooked.

I got up early in the morning the next day to fry this tom yam mihun

Tom Yam mihun

I actually added a lot of sotong (squid) and prawns but somehow they all shrank and were hardly visible under the mihun.Well, it did not matter much as everyone loved it and said it was very nice.

In line with the kampung theme for my Chinese New Year treat this year, I cooked some tempoyak (fermented durian) prawns…

Tempoyak prawns 1

…something that many were tasting for the very first time!

Tempoyak prawns 2

I also cooked some cincaluk (fermented shrimps) fried rice…

Cincaluk fried rice

I did not put too much cincaluk in it in case there may be some not that accustomed to the taste and smell but I did prepare this cincaluk dip (with thinly sliced chili and calamansi lime juice added) and placed it by the side for anyone who wanted more for that extra kick.

Cincaluk dip

For the vegetable dish, I had some fried tapioca leaves and sweet potatoes…

Veg

I used some ready-pounded sambal that my missus had in the fridge but I think there wasn’t enough so at best, it was just all right – could have been a lot nicer, I think.

I was going to cook some terung dayak (Dayak brinjal) but it was already 10.00 a.m. and my phone had started ringing. There were people on the way already so I had to abandon the idea and make do with what I had to serve…

Ready to roll

Gosh!!! Everybody must have loved what I served as in no time at all, everything was finished – probably, this was something different from the usual fare of curry and stuff that they would normally find in other houses and by around 2.00 p.m., there wasn’t much of anything left for those who came later.

Huai Bin dropped by at around 5.00 p.m. with one regular reader/commenter, Grace and a few of my ex-students…

Visitors

…so they just had to make do with the cakes…

Fruit cake
*My friend’s awesome fruit cake all the way from Auckland, New Zealand – one slice of that and you will fail your breath analyser test… LOL!!!*

…biscuits and stuff – that was all I could offer by then.

Our day will come…

Well, the day we were all waiting for has finally come…and we’re in the midst of the festivities and celebration at this point in time.

I dropped by a bakery round the corner from my house to get these…

Ong lai

…since we did not make any pineapple tarts (and nobody gave me any) this year.

Actually, I like these a lot – and I like the fact that they’re in the form of gold nuggets which would symbolise prosperity and they come in those little red cups and red, to the Chinese, is the colour of good fortune. Other than that, pineapple is called ong lai in Hokkien, ong meaning good luck and lai meaning come.  I know there are people who will display a pineapple somewhere in the house but not me – I would not bother to go to that extent in the hope that good luck will come my way. Incidentally, since I was stopping by to get some for me, I got two tubs for my friend, Huai Bin, too. I hope he likes them as well.

My missus did the cooking on the eve of Chinese New Year while I did the cleaning – all the mopping, sweeping and vacuuming and also the arranging of the furniture, the laying of the carpets, the decoration and all that…

Living room

…but it certainly was worth the effort as nothing beats sitting back at the end of it all to enjoy looking at one’s work and having the satisfaction of seeing that it has been pretty well done…

Dining area

That afternoon, Huai Bin dropped by my house to give me these…

From Huai Bin

They’re some kind of firecrackers that you can light like a match. Actually, I’ve not tried them out yet…and being quite a noob at these things, I wonder if I can manage. Hehehehehe!!!!!

We had our reunion dinner early. There must be fish as they say nien nien yew yu which means “an abundant harvest every year” so we had fish…

Fish

…and these ngor hiang/lor bak or golden meat rolls seem to be a must at every Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner as well…

Ngor hiang

My missus cooked duck for my daughter and me…

Duck

– she did not touch that as she does not like duck. That is why we seldom have that at home during ordinary days.

In line with our kampung theme for our open house this year, my missus cooked this ayam pansuh – chicken cooked in bamboo…

Pansuh

We tried a bit and everyone loved it very much.

Other than that, we had this golden pumpkin with sweet vegetable (cangkuk manis) dish…

Golden & sweet

…fried with sambal udang kering (dried prawns) which in a way was in keeping with the emphasis on gold (good fortune) and sweetness (joy) for the festive season. There were others but we did not bother serving them as we could not possibly eat so much – you may get to see them some of my posts that are yet to come.

I did light a couple of those small firecrackers that I had, solely to preserve the tradition and culture, unlike my neighbours who went all the way…

Firecrackers 1

…to welcome the new year with a bang…

Firecrackers 2

So how have things been going at your end? Having a great time and eating like there’s no tomorrow? No worries – after all, it only comes once a year!

Best wishes…

…for the New Year – the Year of the Snake…

CNY snake 2

Qong Xi Fa Cai, Kong Hee Fatt ChoySin Nee Huat Chai and Xin Nian Kuai Le…to all celebrating this auspicious occasion…

Starting the year with a bang

…and a very very big thank you once again to Annie-Q for the bak kua & cookies…

From Annie

…and also to Huai Bin for the bak kua and all the stuff from you

From Huai Bin

…and Yee Ling for the ang pao and gift…

From Yee Ling

…and not forgetting Mandy for the greeting card, thanks again…

From Mandy

…the Ipoh Mali ladies, Elin and Claire for theirs as well…

From Elin & Claire

…and Yan from Taiping, also in Perak…

From Yan

…and a trillion zillion thanks again and again to my very dear friend in New Zealand. I’ve finished all the chocolate cake now but I’ve saved the precious loaf of liquor-rich fruit cake for this special day and the cookies too…

From NZ

Thank you all so very much!

Red & gold for good luck & prosperity

A Happy & Prosperous Chinese New Year to one and all and to those not of Chinese descent, happy holidays and come, come and share the joy, the happiness of this grand festival!

Love bites…

Hey! It’s Chinese New Year’s Eve!!! All ready for the Big Bang tonight? This was what it was like last year in my neighbourhood…

*Huai Bin (sixthseal.com)‘s video on youtube*

I wonder if it will be just as grand/noisy this year or not.

It’s going to be a busy day today with the last bits of cleaning up the house and sprucing it up a bit, the baking of the cakes and the cooking of the dishes for tonight’s dinner and for visitors who care to drop by in the next couple of days.

The cookies are all ready. We have these nice butter cookies and the peanut ones…

Cookies from NZ

…that my very very dear friend gave me when I was visiting her and her family in Auckland, New Zealand at the end of last year.

I also bought this kuih makmur or ghee balls – one of my festive favourites…

Makmur

…from this new place in Sibu…

Joy Pastry House

…except that they do not use ghee. The lady told me that they used butter instead, Golden Churn no less and I love it. Very nice!

My missus made a lot…including these that I have featured before in an earlier post, using the breakfast cereal that we got in New Zealand…

Cereal

…and these chocolate delights that my daughter loves a lot…

Choc
*Melissa’s photo on Facebook*

…and these cheese ones…

Cheese

…and as in previous years, we also have the traditional “kuih dahlia“…

Dahlia

…named after the flower and if I’m not mistaken, this year, they’re strawberry-flavoured for a change.

These are the coconut ones…

Coconut

…and other than all the cookies, my missus has baked the cashew nuts already as well…

Cashews

…and fried the papadums and the keropok (fish/prawn crackers)…

Keropok & acar

…that goes absolutely well with the acar timun (cucumber pickle) that my mother-in-law would not fail to make every year and give us a jar of it to enjoy.

Of course, there will be the kerepek gunting

Gunting

…and the bak kua (barbecued pork slices) that I have received from some dear friends of mine here, here and here and all the food that we’ll be serving to family and friends who care to drop by during this auspicious occasion.