When the saints go marching in…

You would need to have the patience of a saint if you were to drop by this new place in town…

TSR1

…for lunch or dinner. I was indeed thrilled when I first spotted it at the Lot 9 commercial area across the road from the Delta Mall along Pedada Road – I love Thai cuisine, you see, and I just could not wait to go there and give it a try. That was why when my girl was home for the weekend, we made a bee line to the place with our hopes up high.

Upon entering the place, I would say that I was a bit disappointed. No, the place was nice and new, pretty decent looking and clean, but other than the minimal décor here…

TSR2

…and there…

TSR3

…there wasn’t much else that would give one the feeling that he or she was in a Thai restaurant.

Now, to say the service was poor would be an understatement – it really sucked big time. We had to find a vacant table ourselves and even after sitting there for a while, nobody came to give us a menu to browse through until an ex-classmate of mine who was there with his missus and some friends of theirs…

TSR4

…came over to our table and gave me one of theirs – they had three. It wasn’t an impressive menu – just something typed and printed on a pink manila card and laminated. It would not have cost very much and they could have easily prepared a lot more, enough to go round.

Looking at what was on the menu, it appeared that they did not seem to have very much to offer – there were three individual sets at RM15.00 each but sorry, those were not available. It looked like everyone else ordered the sets for 3-4 (RM39.00) or for 5-6 (RM59.00) and I did see the usual Thai delights like tom yam or green curry in the sets but unfortunately, those were not on the list of individual items that one could order. After having made up our minds as to what we wanted, I had to wave frantically to grab the attention of one of the two waitresses to get her to come to our table and take our orders. No, they were not idling away or what – it did appear to me that they were all over the place, obviously so very busy but they did not seem to be getting anything done at all.

I did not want anything particularly heavy for lunch so in the end, I ordered their pineapple fried rice (RM6.50)…

PFR1

…which did not come out served in the scooped-out fruit but that indeed was a saving grace as when they do that at some Thai places that I’ve been to, I always have this idea that they would be recycling the pineapples and using them again and again. I have seen places where the pineapples were already quite dried and shriveled and they were still using them to serve the fried rice. Tsk! Tsk!

That, unfortunately, was served without any cutlery – were we supposed to eat with our hands? All right, it was supposed to be an individual order but we were sharing and seeing that the service was so very bad, I got up to get some plates and forks and spoons for ourselves but they insisted that I sat down and they would bring them to our table…and yes, they did – after a very long time and the rice had turned quite cold!

Was it any good? It was all right, this much I would say – it had the fragrance of kunyit (turmeric) and a bit of serai (lemon grass) but the bits of pineapple were few and far between and there was hardly any taste of that in the dish. If somebody had served me that out of the blue, I would never have guessed it was pineapple fried rice, not at all.

The Thai spring rolls (RM10.00) were nice…

TSR1

…and they had tung hoon (glass noodles) in the filling…

TSR2

That was indeed something new to me – I had never eaten anything like that before and it was quite tasty…except that I did think it would be a good idea if they had let the rolls stand on some kitchen towel first after frying to drain away the oil before serving…

TSR3

After we had finished the two, we waited…and waited…and waited and nothing came. I even had time to go outside for some fresh air and I walked round the building to the back to peep into the kitchen. No, they were not short-handed. I saw three ladies and two guys who did look like Thais to me and all of them were busy doing something.

Then I went back to our table and waited…and waited…and waited…and finally, something came – their pineapple fried rice AGAIN!!! We had it sent back and not too long after that, the pad thai (RM6.00) came…

PT

It was a disappointment – so sweet and heavily laden with msg, not nice….and I’ve never disliked pad thai anywhere else. This was the first. We could not even finish that small plate, the three of us.

The Thai fish cakes (RM10.00) came at long last…

TFC1

…and they were extremely salty and a bit tough/too rubbery…

TFC2

I had expected them to be something like otak-otak but they were not and unless one has a liking for those exotic tastes with Thai basil, serai and maybe bunga kantan, I don’t think he or she would not like this at all.

The som tam we ordered never came and by then, it was already some one and half hours since we arrived so I went to cancel that last order and settle the bill. Even that took a long time and the guy, probably the boss, kept apologizing. The total came up to RM40.60 and he asked if I had 60 sen. WHAT??? For all that I had gone through, the least he could do was to write that off and collect RM40.00 only from me…and I would have given him a little credit for doing that. No, unfortunately, he didn’t…so that’s another thumbs down!

We left the place with me patting myself on the back for such good self-control and the ability to endure all that without blowing my top…and no prize for guessing whether we’re ever going back there again.

You have to be there…

I know a lot of people love ABBA…and they love their hits, many of which are fun songs and karaoke favourites. I wouldn’t say that I’m a die-hard fan of the band even though I do have some of their songs in my repertoire and I did go and watch the movie that was released sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Other than that, I really enjoyed the musical and the film adaptation that was subsequently released and this song from the soundtrack…

…certainly did manage to move me a lot and bring a tear or two to my eyes.

Other than the aforementioned song, I do not think there are any ABBA songs that I really really like though I would say Thank you for the music and The winner takes it all aren’t too bad…and what I did not know at the time was that one of the members of the band, Benny Andersson, actually had a hand in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s not-so-successful musical, Chess, and co-wrote one of my all-time favourites, I know him so well…and another hit from the same musical – One night in Bangkok.

What happened was not too long ago, I was listening to Susan Boyle (and yes, I can watch her audition on Britain’s Got Talent and it will still move me as much today was when I first watched it way back then) singing You have to be there

…and I fell in love with it instantly. But while I was searching for the video clip on youtube, I discovered that the song was actually taken from a Swedish musical, Kristina Fran Duvemåla

Promo

…with songs by Benny and lyrics by co-ABBA, Bjorn Ulvaeu…

Benny, Bjorn & Co

Here, you can listen to the complete song by Helen Sjöholm…

…at the English-language premiere of the musical, in a concert version under the name “Kristina: A Concert Event” at Carnegie Hall. One of the reviews read, “Andersson’s work is so big, so thoroughly conceived, and so varied in style, tempo, and color that it often feels more like a symphony than a musical…” and yes, I would agree wholeheartedly that it is indeed that good.

This song was sung when the main character, Kristina, had a miscarriage and was told by the doctor that she must never get pregnant again, or she would certainly die and for the first time in her life, Kristina was doubting. She had always tried to do the right thing and follow the way of the Lord, accepting her destiny, and still He kept turning her world upside down. Now the terrifying little word “if” had started spinning in her head. What if there was no God? What would she do then? All her prayers would have been in vain. Everything she had ever believed in would be gone.

What is it Lord that you want
That I am not seeing?
What in my ignorant prayers
Am I failing to say?
Never before have I questioned the truth of your being
Never once have I dared
Never until today

All of a tremble
I stand on the edge of confusion
Who is to save me
If into the darkness I fall?
Now that I need more than ever my God to be near me
Do you hear when I call?
Are you there after all?

You have to be there, you have to
My life I have placed in thy keep
And without you I am drifting on a dark and stormy sea
You have to be there, you have to
Without you I’d drown in the deep
Too far, too far from land
The waters drag me down
I reach for your hand

This intense emotion somehow seems lacking in Susan Boyle’s rendition of the song but still, that does not make me like the song any less…and I would say it is a lot nicer than any of ABBA’s own hit songs starting from the time when they took the world by storm after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 with “Waterloo”.

What do you all think?

Highway star…

I used to be a slow coach, driving around town at around 40 kph…and hardly went beyond 60 kph. I do not see any need to do so as Sibu is a very small town – before one song on the radio ends, you would have reached your destination already…most of the time.

Remember how we used to cycle everywhere – it wasn’t all that far, was it? Well, I don’t think it has become any further these days but we do not get to see a lot of people on bicycles anymore nowadays and on the other hand, speeding vehicles are a common sight on our short and narrow roads…like they’re in a hurry because there’s somebody dying, a matter of life and death or someone’s about to give birth and they must get to the hospital instantly. Why else would anybody need to drive so fast?

Well, since I’ve been driving to my daughter’s school, about 100 km away, past Selangau bazaar,  I’ve gradually developed the habit of driving a little bit faster. No, no, I’m no highway star, not me…but I find that I do go a little bit faster than usual these days now that I’m getting quite used to it. The speed limit on those two-lane so-called highways is 90 kph so it would take me slightly over an hour to get to my destination or maybe a bit longer if I need to trail behind a long vehicle or a petrol tanker or a bus that has seen better days like this one…

Old jalopy

My friend from West Malaysia who was in town sometime last year could not resist taking the photograph as according to him, they do not get to see such old-school buses in the peninsula anymore.

At least this one looks pretty decent, unlike some of those that I would encounter along the outstation road. They look really old and move rather slowly as if they’re struggling all along the way. If there is a hill up ahead, make sure that you do not follow closely from behind…as the thick black fumes from the exhaust pipe would block your vision completely and you would not even know if that old jalopy has stopped in his tracks in front of you…or worse, if it is sliding downhill and is coming straight towards you.

I really wonder how these old jalopies can ever manage to pass the routine check-ups and tests and are deemed roadworthy for they certainly do not look like they’re all that safe.  Hopefully, the authorities concerned will get the bus companies to replace these with newer ones for the sake of the safety of not only the other road-users but the drivers and the passengers as well.

I do believe, however, that never mind the condition of one’s car, never mind old or new, big or small, when we’re on the road, everything is in God’s hands and it would be good to start our journey with a prayer and on that long and at times, not all that smooth road, this is the song that I would sing to myself all along the way…

…and put my trust in Him for God is indeed truly great.

Somebody told me…

Somebody told me the the mee sua at this coffee shop here is very nice so I just had to drop by to give it a try.

It is the standard practice in most, if not all, of the coffee shops and restaurants here to bring out the cutlery dipped in a mug or glass of hot boiling water and at some, they will give you the water and you will have the choice of either the plastic spoon and chopsticks or the stainless steel fork and spoon from those placed in a special holder on the table. You help yourself to whichever you want to use and promptly dip them in the water yourself. So it was at this particular coffee shop…and I was quite tickled by the mug that they were using that morning…

Mug

That’s really so cute, don’t you think? LOL!!!

The coffee was pretty good that day…

Kopi-o-peng

– not exceptionally fantastic but it was good enough for me which is more than what I can say about the same at some other places in town. Even if it is just a glass of coffee that you want, what more to say the things that you would like to eat, you really must know where to go so that what you get would be to your satisfaction.

So how was the mee sua? Well, exactly like what my friend told me, it was red in colour, very very red indeed…

AHK MS1

…but these days, it’s not the colour that I’m looking for but the fragrance of the traditional Foochow red wine used.

I’ve been told that if I use the cheaper version of the wine – the one that has not been completely filtered and there is a bit of the ang chao residue in it,  then, my mee sua would be red in colour…but not necessarily fragrant compared to if I use the very much stronger unadulterated clear (or light red or orange, to be exact) red wine.

Thankfully, there was some of that red wine fragrance in what I had that morning…

AHK MS2

…so I quite enjoyed it and there was a lot of ginger used in the cooking of the soup. All things considered, I would say it was good enough but at RM6.00 a bowl, I thought that was a little bit steep. Perhaps, if they can reduce the amount of mee sua in the bowl and the number of pieces of chicken from 3 to 2 and have more of the very nice soup, they may be able to sell it at RM5.00 a bowl which I would think is more reasonable by our local standards.

After having had my fill that morning. I headed on home…and it so happened that the postman was doing his rounds along my lane at that point in time and he gave me my mail…and among the bills (What else? Tsk! Tsk!), there was this very-much-welcomed relief…

You've got mail

…and inside, there was this very lovely souvenir key chain from that “fine” republic down south…

From Claire

…from my dear friend, Claire, in Ipoh who was there recently over the Independence Day weekend.

Thank you so much, Claire…and thank you especially for remembering me when you’re out there having all that fun. I owe you one! 🙂

It’s good…

My Jee-kim was in town for the family reunion recently, my 2nd aunt-in-law, that is, who was married to my 2nd maternal uncle, since departed, kim being the appropriate reference to somebody who married my uncle on my mother’s side. If it is on my father’s side, we would have to call her Tua-kor, Jee-kor, Sa-kor and so on. Wait a minute! That’s incorrect! Kor is used to address my father’s sisters…so what do I call my father’s brothers’ wives? It certainly is very complicated, I would agree, and I would say that there is a whole lot of truth in this video clip…

– you may have seen it already as some people were sharing it on Facebook but I guess there will be others who haven’t.

Anyway, getting back to my Jee-kim, when she was here, she wanted to go and eat mee sua in char bee lau chicken soup and I do know that they do it very nicely here except that they use pork leg/trotters instead of chicken and besides that, they only have it on alternate days – on every other day, they would have pek ting eyok instead. Upon one’s request, they would serve mee sua in the char bee lau soup and they would replace the pork pieces with the chicken from their Foochow red wine chicken soup which is available daily. Unfortunately, that morning when she went there, they had pek ting eyok too kha so she did not get to eat the char bee lau that she wanted so much when she was in town.

I did ask her why she would not cook her own at home and she told me that it was because none in her family would want to eat it so she has never bothered to do that. It did not cross my mind there and then to tell her that these days, one can buy those medicinal roots already cut into little bit and pieces and packed nicely in plastic bags…

CBL
*recycled pic*

…unlike in the past, when one would have to buy the roots whole and still caked with dried soil/earth from the Chinese medical stores and one would need to go through the chore of cleaning them really thoroughly…and after that, one would have to chop the roots up into small bits and pieces using a meat cleaver or chopper…or an axe! It is THAT hard, I tell you – I did try once and after doing that, I was totally worn out and did not have the energy to do much else…and was in dire need of extra doses of the soup which they say is good for those feeling ching heck which I believe, is Foochow, meaning lethargic or exhausted or something along those lines.

Now that this most difficult part has been done for you, all you need to do is to get one pack and use the amount you need according to how much chicken you are going to cook. For one serving/person, maybe you would need to use half a pack or less for perhaps a chicken leg (thigh & drumstick) or two. Boil the roots with some ginger, sliced or in chunks, bruised, in a bit of water and also some dried cuttlefish – this is a MUST as it will give the soup that special fragrance and sweetness and counter-balance the bitterness of the char bee lau – and some pre-soaked and softened dried shitake mushrooms. When the flavours have come out of the ingredients and your whole house is filled with the fragrance, you can add the chicken and pour in as much Foochow red wine as you like, according to taste. Simmer till the sweetness has come out of the chicken…and the soup is ready…

CBL soup

Cook some mee sua…and serve it with the soup…

CBLMS

…or you can eat it with rice.

In the past, my mum would boil the roots separately first and then use the soup to cook the chicken with the rest of the ingredients. We took the easy way out and dumped everything into the slow-cooker and turned it on but lately, it seems that the chicken sold at the market is often too soft for such intensive cooking and would disintegrate and we do not quite fancy shredded chicken soup. That is why we cook it as I have described above and add the chicken last.

It certainly is a lot easier these days and should I happen to hop over to Kuching anytime soon, I must remember to bring my Jee-kim a pack or two of those chopped char bee lau roots and maybe, a piece or two of the dried cuttlefish (they do not come cheap anymore these days) and some dried shitake mushrooms as well for her to cook some of her own to enjoy all by herself.

Leaving…

My ex-student, Xavier, who’s home from the UK for the summer vacation, would be leaving in a couple of days so we met up for breakfast the other day. Actually, he just got back into town after a short trip to Taiwan with his family and he got me these…

Taiwan cakes

I gathered from somebody’s comment sometime ago that these popular bring-home-gifts cost a bomb so I insisted on knowing how much that cost…and he said it was around 200 Taiwan dollars, over RM20!!!! *faints*  As far as I know, they make these pineapple cakes in Bintulu though I don’t know how much one box costs…and they also make them in Penang, no price mentioned in the blog post either. No, no, no, no…don’t get me wrong! I’m not looking at a gift horse in its mouth, no way and thank you so much, Xavier…so sweet of you to remember me (I guess you can’t help but think of me everytime you see food! LOL!!!) but I do think it is simply too expensive, never mind how nice it may be. Next time, just get something small and cheap – it’s the thought that counts.

Anyway, getting back to our breakfast, I just had to take him here for his kampua (RM2.50) fix…

KPM dark

…before he goes back to the land full of rainy skies and gales. He opted for the dark version – the one with the dark soy sauce and I also ordered this bowl of pian sip (RM2.50) to share…

PS

…even though the ones here aren’t all that great but good or not good, he would not be able to get these in the UK so these would just have to do for the time being. Hehehehehehe!!!!! He did not think the noodles were nicer than the ones at this other place though – well, perhaps, the dark version is nicer at the other side…or maybe, there is a lack of quality control  here, I wouldn’t know.

I tried the fried mihun (RM3.00)…

FM

…which I thought was all right with its very nice wok hei fragrance but of course, it would pale in comparison with what I would fry myself. Hehehehehe!!!!

I also had their Sarawak laksa (RM4.00) a while back…

SL
*photo retrieved from my Facebook album*

Goodness gracious me!!! The sliced omelette was so chor lor (coarse) – it should be cut really very thinly, not like that, and the meat is supposed to be peeled into fine strips.  Well, the saving grace was that it tasted not too bad and there were a lot of (tiny) shrimps inside but where is the sambal belacan and the calamansi lime? Without the special dip, I’m afraid I would have to give it the thumbs down, sorry.

Well, getting back to you, Xavier, have a safe and delightful trip back to London, all the best in your studies and everything there, take care and God bless! Ta-ta!!!

The olive tree…

Some of you may know this Mandarin song, if you’re as old as I am. Well, here is the English version that probably, many of you are not that familiar with…

It was the theme song in a Taiwanese movie, “Your Smiling Face” (歡顏), starring one very beautiful Hu Hui Chong (胡慧中) that had every hot-blooded male falling head over heels in love with her but she was merely lip-syncing in the movie and the song was actually by Chyi Yu(齊豫) who had a few English albums to her name and my favourite by her is this cover of a Mac Davis song.

Well, I had to drive to my daughter’s school past Selangau Bazaar last Friday as her colleague was attending a course in Sibu over the past few days so my daughter could not hitch a ride home from her. Along the way, I saw many olive trees bearing fruit in abundance…

DTs

This is our Sarawak olive, what we call buah dabai

D

…or dabay in some local languages or or-kana (black olive) in Hokkien and though many here would be familiar with the fruit, I am pretty sure that quite a few have never seen the tree before as usually, these trees grow wild in the jungle. The fruits would be white initially and then they would turn red and purplish and when they turn black, they would be ripe and ready for the picking. There are, however, red ones as well these days, it seems. These that I saw on the trees were still white so I guess we would have to wait for at least some two or three months before the fruit would flood the local market.

I went a little bit early and while at the Selangau bazaar, I had lunch at one of the shops there…

SCF

I think this was RM5.00 as I asked for the whole salted egg – normally, at such chap fan (mixed rice) places, they would give half only.

It tasted all right and I quite liked the tapioca leaves…

TL

…even though they were not pounded or blended – we would usually do that when cooking those greens.

I bought a packet of petai (stinky beans) from an Iban lady sitting by the pavement outside the shops and when I got home, I cooked those with the leftover sambal from the ulam that we had at our family reunion gathering recently and I threw in some small udang galah (freshwater prawns) that I had in the freezer as well…

P&P

That certainly was quite a dish, I would say.

I also managed to get hold of some of the exotic meat that morning and used a bit for soup and I slow-cooked the rest with soy sauce, sugar and garlic till nice and tender…

WB

…while my missus bought one young buah tupang/pulo and cooked masak lemak with it with fresh santan (coconut milk)…

TML

That was indeed quite a fruitful outing, don’t you think?

My poor girl was asking me the other night as to how long a teacher must serve in a school before he or she could ask for a transfer. She was feeling bad as I have to send her back to  her school every week and at times, drive all the way there to pick her and bring her home as well, me being no longer a spring chicken some more. I reassured that I really enjoy these little road trips – after all, there is not much excitement in my life anymore, nothing much this old man can do other than staying at home and going online…and which parent would not do the same for his/her little girl? I guess I managed to convince her and she felt a little better after that…

不要问我从那里来 我的故乡在远方
为什甚流浪 流浪远方流浪
为了天空飞翔的小鸟
为了山间轻流的小溪 为了宽阔的草原
流浪远方流浪