Just like old times…

When I was still working, I had official tasks to perform at the end of every year, right through Christmas and the New Year, so much so that these festive days would just pass unnoticed – there was hardly anytime for much else. But around this time, my friend, Jimmy, would come from Bintulu and Lim from Roban/Kuching for the same and they would stay at my house. We, Melissa especially, would enjoy the company and the fun that we would have together despite having to go through the chore – W-O-R-K – when everyone else was celebrating and having fun. Later, Lim’s missus joined the team and eventually, they moved to Sibu and they’re both working here now, blessed with three kids to date.

Well, coincidentally, it was the DongZhi or Winter Solstice Festival that day when Jimmy had to fly in for one of the meetings and I decided to ask them all over to my house not so much as to celebrate the festival but for a get-together just like old times…and for the dinner, I chose to have a jungle theme, all the traditional ethnic or kampung-style dishes that one would not be able to get anywhere in town.

I cooked some steamed tuak (traditional ethnic rice wine) chicken with a bit of cincaluk (fermented shrimps) added…


…and also some tempoyak prawns


I was at one of the Rejang Park shops earlier that morning as Jimmy wanted to buy some groundnuts that people in Kuching seem to be crazy about. He bought a kilo on his previous trip but they never reached the person they were meant for, it seemed…and this time around, he bought two kilos. I got him to try the kuachee (pumpkin seeds) and he ended up buying a kilo of that as well – that’s another must-buy when Kuching folks come to town.

Anyway, when we were there, the guy at the shop asked me to buy their bamboo clams and I saw that they were BIG and they had been nicely cleaned. I had never cooked those before as cleaning them to get rid of the sand in them could be really tedious and troublesome but they looked good and were going for RM25.00 a box (one kilo) only so I decided I would give it a try…


I fried them with some curry powder, among all the other ingredients that I added, and they were a hit! Before the night was through, there was not a single one left.

I bought one ikan terubok masin (salted fish) at the market here sometime ago but I never got round to frying it so I decided to do just that for the dinner…


…and serve it as one of the dishes that night…


It sure was a good idea as the salted fish was certainly very well-received too and went well with all the other dishes we had…especially the dabai (wild black olive) fried rice that I cooked…


I thought it was not very nice as usually, I would only cook a bit for breakfast once in a while and I was not used to cooking such a large amount at one go but it was all right when eaten together with everything else.

I fried some bihun with those canned clams in soy sauce


…with cangkuk manis added for the kids in case the dishes that I had lined up did not go down well with them but they liked most of what we had and they loved the bihun too!

Melissa made this buah emplam (local sour fruit from the mango family) sambal


…which everyone loved a lot and I also had some cincaluk dip…


…in case anybody wanted it a little bit stronger and of course, there was that very nice fried tempoyak that the boss of Payung Cafe gave me

Payung tempoyak

My missus and Melissa also prepared this dish of Bintangor rojak


…with the special sauce that my friend, King Hua, gave me recently…and since it was the DongZhi Festival, my missus and Melissa made these traditional glutinous rice balls…


…with sweet potato added, hence its colour, which made them easier too chew and swallow than the usual tangyuan balls. They went a step further and stuffed some of the balls with gula melaka (brown palm sugar) and the rest with some durian cream that my missus made. Everybody enjoyed them very much especially the kids and they even asked for seconds!

So there you have it – our simple dinner that night…

Dinner is served

…with all the ethnic/kampung delights and of course, when you’re in the company of great friends, anything would taste nice, that’s for sure!

Those were such happy times and not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone
But they’re back again just like a long lost friend
All the ones I loved so well…

…it was yesterday once more!