Nobody’s home…

Come Day 4 of Chinese New Year, I had to send Melissa back to her school so nobody was home then. But on Day 5, I was at home to continue receiving guests that cared to drop by.

My blogger-friend, Rose, was away in Kapit to usher in the new year with her in-laws there and upon returning from there, she wanted to drop by on Monday, Day 4…but had to come a day later owing to the aforementioned reason. She mentioned something about not ever having the chance to taste something and I could not remember what it was but anyway, I cooked some Bovril mee kua for her to try…

BMK1

…garnished with sliced egg and chopped spring onions and Chinese celery.

I did not know how many people would be coming so I cooked a lot and I was not that used to cooking so much at one go -but thankfully, I thought it turned out all right though I was not all that sure if she enjoyed it or not…

Rose

– she said she is not a fan of Bovril and they had kampua before dropping by my place but the son seemed to like it…

BMK2

…and kept coming back for more.

Another group of ex-students dropped by in the afternoon and I guess that would be it for this year. My sincere thanks to all who took the trouble to come and visit – it is indeed most appreciated. Do keep in touch and feel free to drop by anytime you want. Our door is always open and you will be most warmly welcome even if it is not Chinese New Year or any festive season in the year.

It’s too late…

This arrived on Monday, too late for this year…

From TM

…but no worries! I will save them for next year’s Chinese New Year, especially that very nice “Hock” (good luck) door sticker, thank you so much, Twilight Man. Our snail mail delivery service here is, literally, at a snail’s pace.

This nice card…

From Angeline

…with the lovely horse attached came from Angeline, thank you so much too…and coincidentally, Claire sent one…

From Claire

…that’s exactly the same as the one I got from [SK], thanks to you as well, Claire. They’re all hanging in the house at this point in time, part of my Chinese New Year decoration this year.

My missus did buy some of these red carnations…

Flowers

…for the house too. I love having fresh flowers in the house – somehow, I feel they make the place come alive. Do you have any at your house too?

My sister-in-law came to town on Monday too, a bit too late for the actual Chinese New Year festivities but it was no big deal as the celebration will continue right up to Chap Goh Meh, the 15th Night in the new year. We went out for dinner at this place in Rejang Park, my in-laws’ choice of venue, and boy, was it crowded!!! I hear it is always very crowded but I guess it is much worse since everyone’s home for Chinese New Year and not all the places are open yet.

The fried fish fillet…

FFF

…that we had was as bland as it looked, nothing to shout about. I thought the sweet and sour version…

SSFF

…was a lot nicer as the sauce made up for the lack of taste of the fish and even so, I think there are nicer versions of this fish dish elsewhere in town.

The freshwater prawns…

FWP

…were great though – you just can’t go wrong with those – they’re sure to be nice no matter how one cooks it.

The midin was good…

FM

…and the sea cucumber soup…

SCS

…was good too though I would not say it’s the best in town.

I did not like the venison…

Venison

– I thought it was too watery, not done the way I would love it.

My missus picked up the tab and the total came up to over RM120.00 for the six of us, inclusive of rice but excluding the drinks. She thought that was cheap but I guess the prawns would take up most of it and I would not mind paying more for some nicer fare elsewhere…

Simple…

We kept it very simple this year as like what I said in my previous post, we’re no spring chicken anymore – no longer that young and we neither have the strength nor stamina to be cooking all day in the kitchen to dish out something nice for those who care to drop by.

But our doors are always open and there are always cakes like this one that my missus baked…

Cake 1

…and this kek lumut that she steamed…

Cake 2

The green and yellow/orange one was given to us by my brother-in-law, made by a Malay friend of his, and we bought the black one from the kuih stall at Bandong here – the hati parek

Cakes

…and there were a few other varieties as well, like this intoxicating fruit cake from my friend in KL, for instance…

ET's fruit cake

Can you smell the brandy? She gave it to me when I was in KL around the middle of last year and I had been saving it since for this special day.

Then, there were the cookies – my missus made these dahlia and peanut cookies…

Cookies 1

– the latter was a hit as they would melt in the mouth owing to the fact that she used peanut butter instead of crushed peanut.

She also made a few others and the rest she bought from the bakeries in town…

Cookies 2

…and there were other snacks and tidbits and we had keropok (prawn crackers) served with the acar (pickle) given to me by my ex-student.

Like I said, it was all very simple – nothing much to shout about but we did have a constant stream of visitors including this ex-student of mine…

My student

– the one who drew this picture of me a long long time ago. He was very big and fat then, maybe even fatter than me but look  at him now! There were other groups of students who came as well…

Ex-students

Some of them will always make it a point to drop by when they’re home for Chinese New Year every year.

Then, there were my friends…

Friends

…some of them bloggers, some ex-bloggers and Melissa’s friends came too…

Mel's friends 1

These guys came from the peninsula – KL, Trengganu and they were filled with awe by the festivities they were experiencing for the first time in their lives – the firecrackers and fireworks every day and night especially around midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve…


*Huai Bin of sixthseal.com‘s video*

…and to their delight, they were given ang paos too at the houses they visited. One commented that this was the first time in his entire life and not only did he receive one or two but so many! I am pretty sure that as long as they are still working in Sarawak/Sibu, they will not bother to go home for the short break, come Chinese New Year every year.

Her former classmates, going back all the way to Primary One…

Ex-classmates

…dropped by for dinner and they sure had a great time catching up with one another’s lives now that all of them have graduated and are working here, there and everywhere and they do not get to meet all that much anymore.

In Melissa’s words, Chinese New Year can be very tiring but it is so much fun and nothing beats celebrating it at home with the joy of the festive season in the air and with friends and family, all of one’s loved ones, all around.

Every year…

On the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, it is customary for us to have a bowl of longevity noodles…

Mee sua

…served in chicken soup cooked with our traditional Foochow red wine and so it was this year as well. We had that the first thing in the morning when everyone has got up.

Every year, for many years now, my in-laws would drop by in the evening of the 1st Day for dinner and this year was no exception.

My missus cooked this very nice chicken rendang

CR

…and kacang ma chicken…

KMC

…but she steamed it a little too long and the meat was falling apart a little bit. Nonetheless, it tasted great and everyone loved it.

We only had a bit of the duck for our reunion dinner that previous night so there was a lot more of it…

Duck

…and we served that as well.

Likewise, my missus made a lot of the lokan

Lokan

…and saved most of the lot she made for this dinner with all the members from her side of the family.

Nope, this was not what was left over from the previous night’s dinner. My missus cooked this mixed vegetable dish…

MV

…exactly the same way as she had done the night before and she made this salad too…

Salad

…using the giant freshwater prawns that my brother-in-law gave us recently.

No prize for guessing where I tapao-ed these from…

Otak-otak

– the otak-otak that my mother-in-law fell in love with instantly at first bite, and the mushroom rolls…

MR

…as well as the lamb curry…

Lamb curry

No, I did not get any special discount or none that I know of – I did not ask for it…but they were so kind as to make everything extra large, twice the usual sizes! That certainly saved a lot of work so I think it would make a lot more sense to just buy home all our favourites instead of slaving and sweating it out in the kitchen all day…or for several days in a  row. After all, we’re no spring chicken anymore and no longer have the strength and stamina like we used to.

The highlight of the evening was the yee sang that we started off the dinner with…

Yee sang

…by mixing all of the ingredients together and throwing it up in the air to signify togetherness and for good fortune in the coming Year of the Horse. I’ve had that a few times before but this was the first time I had it in my own home – this is not easily available here, Sibu being a Foochow town and if I’m not mistaken, this is actually part of the Cantonese culture. Thanks to my good friend, Mandy, who went through the trouble of buying that and sending it all the way from KL, we all could have the pleasure of experiencing the traditional practice and enjoying eating that this year.

So how was your Chinese New Year this year? More of mine in the next post, so do stay tuned!

The time has come…

Gosh!!! I had had such busy weeks preceding the Chinese New Year festival so much so that I did not really have much time to get down to the preparations. That is why the decorations at my house were pretty minimal this year…

CNYD 1

…using ang pao packets, mostly and some stuff from last year…

CNYD 2

We had a simple reunion dinner at home – me, my missus and Melissa and my missus insisted on cooking a few dishes even though I told her not to bother – we could just go and tapao a few things that we all liked and that would be good enough.

She steamed this fish…

SF

…as it is the customary practice that one must have that for the reunion dinner and she also cooked this five-spice braised duck…

Duck

…for the two of us. She does not eat duck herself so that is why she would not be cooking that on ordinary days.

She also made these lokan

Lokan

…and added some of her pounded chili, hence the stains of red that you can see in the photograph.

I fried this dish of bamboo clams, with tom yam sauce…

Clams

…and for the vegetable dish, my missus cooked this mixed vegetable dish with mushrooms and clams…

Veg

Those were the dishes we had that night – nothing much really, nothing elaborate but at least, Melissa felt delightfully thankful that she could spend the new year at home and we could all sit down and enjoy this very significant meal together.

So how was your reunion dinner? Bet it was a lot more grand than this and impressive to the max.

What’s next…

My cousin and her hubby from the UK were only here for 2 nights and that morning, on the day they were leaving, I took them here for breakfast.

I asked them to order the longevity mee sua served in chicken soup cooked with traditional  Foochow red wine…

LMS

…something they would not be able to get where they came from unless they cooked their own…and I requested for extra red wine to add to the fragrance and the flavours. They loved it very much and commented that it was indeed really very good.

They had not had kampua noodles since they got into town so I suggested that they tried the sizzling black pepper beef kampua

SBK

…as personally, I do not think very much of their so-called classic kampua and I feel the noodles in this combo have always been pretty good and go well with the beef and the sauce. Well, I guess I did right for they enjoyed that very much as well.

I ordered the kueh chap special for myself…

KCS

…but ended up sharing. It amazed me that like me, my cousin’s hubby actually enjoyed eating the innards…and they do it very well here, something one should consider having when dropping by this place.

Other than the aforementioned, we also had the deep fried kompia stuffed with pork belly…

KPB

…and I made it a point to insist that they must fry them properly and must not get them so very oily like the last time I ordered that and it was all right that day – as good as always, no complaints and they loved it!

I never had this before – the deep fried kompia with beef rendang

KBR

…and ordered that to try but I’m afraid the general consensus was that the two were not all that compatible – definitely not something I would want to order again.

Then came the desserts! We were already very full by then so we only had two – their rum and raisin mille crepe…

RRMC

…and their chocolate lava cake…

CLC

…and needless to say, they swept them off their feet. They were certainly most impressed that in this little town, one can get such awesome desserts that can rival any in any country in the world, even in the UK!

I asked one of the guys there for some ang pao packets and he said that they had given them all away but he was nice enough to dig out a pack from what he was saving for his own use for me…

NHAP

Isn’t that sweet? I gave the pack to my cousin as I thought she might need some for her own use…and she promptly put some money in one and handed it back to me – to give to Melissa. Oh dear! I was not expecting that…but thanks all the same, on Melissa’s behalf.

And guess what happened? A guy with his wife and son at another table approached me and asked if he could have his photograph taken with me. Gee!!! I was stunned speechless!!! It turned out that he was one of my regular blog readers, home from Perth, Australia for Chinese New Year and he had commented on my posts once in while. I really thought that was so embarrassing! Now, I really must watch what I do in public as I would never know – there may be people out there who know me but I do not know them. Blush! Blush!

After that very heavy breakfast, we walked over to the Sibu Heritage Centre and even though photographs are not allowed, I simply had to snap a few of this traditional Dayak weaving loom…

TDWL

…to show my friend, Opal, in the USA as she had bought a loom recently to do her own weaving…and these are the finished products…

Pua kumbu

…which definitely do not come cheap and rightly so too, considering all that work that goes into them.

After the tour of the place, we stopped by here for lunch but we were really too full to really want to eat something so we just shared the kalio ayam and one tandoori chicken before I dropped them off at the hotel to rest and then check out and make their way to the airport.

It certainly was nice seeing you two again, Eleanor and Phil. Do come again and do stay a little bit longer next time. There may not be all that much to do in town but rest assured that there are a lot more things here to eat that you have not tried yet.

The beat goes on…

Right after our food marathon came to an end, my cousin and her hubby all the way from the UK came to town and thus, I had another round of feasting…right before Chinese New Year.

Oh gosh!!! This was so so so embarrassing! They contacted me sometime ago to ask me to help book them a hotel room and I got down to that right away. Before they left England, they contacted me to let me know when they would be arriving…and I said I would meet them upon arrival. I just got home at around 5 p.m. that day and was settling down for the evening when my cousin called me. Good grief! She was at the airport in Sibu and I had forgotten all about it! Oh dear! Oh dear! In the end, they caught a cab to get to the hotel and I met them there…and after they had checked in,  I took them here for dinner

BP

Of course, I ordered the favourites and they thoroughly enjoyed everything, including the desserts…

DIC

My cousin kept saying that she would want to go back there for another round but there simply was not enough time – they were here for two nights only.

The next morning, I thought I would let them have something different from what they can get quite easily elsewhere and took them here for breakfast

FC

Ooooo…they loved everything that I ordered including the celebrated Fuzhou fish balls…with minced meat filling and a bit of ginger soup inside. My cousin said they were just like those Shanghai dumplings that she had in Hong Kong or some place – in the end, I found out that she was talking about the very popular xiao long pao.

Among all the items that we had, they also loved the yam puffs…

PYP

…though we thought we liked the ones with char siew filling (that we also had) much more than these with the  prawn filling…and they even liked the egg custard tarts…

EC

…that are easily available anywhere. After breakfast, I took them to places around town and other than that, we also visited some of the members of the family in town that my cousin had not met for a long long time.

More on the visit in the next post, and in the meantime, I really must thank them for these lovely gifts that they brought all the way from England…

From Lena

…and talking about thank yous, I would also like to thank my niece for these…

From Mary

…all the way from Singapore and this too…

Pork belly bak kua

– I promise I will eat just a tiny little bit each day.

My dear friend, Mandy, went through all that trouble to send this yee sang from KL…

From Mandy 1

…for Chinese New Year, thank you so very very much. We do not usually have this here as if I’m not mistaken, this is Cantonese and Sibu is a predominantly-Foochow town. I think the belief is that all the mixing of the various ingredients together will strengthen the bond between all involved…

From Mandy 2

…and the tossing, the higher the better, will bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year. Fingers crossed!!!

These came from 1sun3

From 1sun3

…who comments regularly in my blog, thanks to you too, my friend, and I was out that night, the night before Chinese New Year’s Eve, to join my ex-students, Form 5 1993, at their reunion here

Reunion

…when another ex-student of mine, working in Penang, sent this to my house…

From Pek Hong

– his mother made this delightful acar timun (cucumber pickle) that I particularly enjoy eating with keropok (prawn crackers), thanks to you as well, Pek Hong. It’s really so sweet of you. I’ve tried it already and it is really very very good – everything’s just right, perfectly made. I sure would want to book a few bottles next year but of course, I will have to pay for them. Can’t be expecting freebies all the time, eh?

And no, that wasn’t all! Huai Bin dropped by my house on the eve of Chinese New Year to pass me these…

From HB

Gosh!!! I had been so very busy that I did not realise he was back in town and he was so nice as to remember me in his list of who-to-give-what and brought them all the way from KL to give to me. Very much appreciated, buddy, and a big big thank you. He said he would be home for a while so probably, we would be able to go out sometime for something nice – and of course, it would have to be my treat. Hopefully, he would be able to make time for that and I certainly would blog about it.

So, thank you very very much to one and all for everything. I do hope you all had a great time ushering in the Year of the Horse. Hopefully, I will be blogging about that in the days to come, we’ll see!

The morning…

That morning before our lavish lunch that I featured in my previous post, we dropped by here…

SP

– another place that I’ve blogged about a number of times before. It seems that they have replaced the old shop sign for a while now and obviously, it has not escaped the wrath of the swarm of fly-by-night birds that infest the town.

Since we were there early, they had not got everything ready yet but the deep fried tandoori chicken…

DFTC

…was already available and these fried fish as well…

DFF

…and the different types of curry…

Curry

…and incidentally, the ones here are more towards the mamak/nasi kandar style unlike the Malay or nyonya ones.

Only one vegetable dish was ready – their pumpkin with cangkuk manis

PCM

…but it did not matter as we were there for breakfast only and we had their nasi lemak

NL with TC

…and asked for their tandoori chicken to go with it. I tried a bit of the rice and I must say that I would still stick to my favourite – the stall by the roadside at Bandong in the morning. I am not sure whether he is still there or not though as I have not gone there for a long long time now.

My friend had the roti sardine…

RS

…and I thought that was good, nicer than the roti pisang

RP

…that I had. I thought the bananas were somewhat sourish, not sweet, so I did not really think it was all that great.

We also ordered the pulut panggang

PP

…as my friend wanted some photographs of those for his perusal.

I went back to the place again a few days later with my missus and Melissa after our morning Sunday service and I ordered the roti pisang for them to try and this time around, it came with a squiggle of chocolate syrup on top…

RP with CS

…and that obviously did the trick. It was really very nice and my girl enjoyed it to the max.

For brunch, she had her usual – the nasi bryani with mutton curry…

NB with MC

– her favourite while I decided to try their Maggi mee goreng

MMG

…which basically looked and tasted the same as their mee mamak

MM

…which my missus had and personally, I would prefer the latter as I wouldn’t say I am all that fond of the texture of instant noodles, fried.

Going back to my breakfast with my friends that morning, they headed to a hotel restaurant nearby for an early lunch at 11.00 a.m. but I had to miss that one as a friend would be arriving around that same time and I had to go and pick him up at the airport…and was only able to join them again for the scrumptious lunch we had that same afternoon, their second round.