The right time…

When do folks have their Christmas dinner? On Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day itself?

In my growing up years, we would have open houses on Christmas Day (and for Chinese New Year too) so in the days leading to Christmas, my mum would be busy making the cakes and the cookies and on the eve, she would be cooking the curry. Family members and friends would come to visit and enjoy the festive delights and the curry with slices of bread…and all day, we would be drinking our favourite made-in-Sibu Ngo Kian “aerated water” and we loved how our teeth would all turn red after drinking the cherry-flavoured fizzy drink or green when we had the banana one. People in those days were not all that conscious and not in the least bothered about colouring and the harm it would cause to their health.

I do not recall having a Christmas dinner and on the night of the eve, we would put on our new clothes to go to the midnight mass in church and upon coming home, we would have the curry and bread for supper before turning in for the night. These days, it seems that many would have theirs on the eve followed by all that partying, waiting for midnight to usher in that special day – like what they would do for the new year or on the eve of Chinese New Year or even the Gawai Dayak Festival.

These days, our celebration isn’t all that elaborate every year, not anymore. We would still go to church for the Christmas Eve service and no, we do not have open houses anymore. I would still have a nice dinner in the evening though and usually, we would invite my in-laws to join us. This year, however, the one in Bintulu and his family were not coming home and my mother-in-law did not feel all too well so there were just us and my Sibu brother-in-law and his wife.

Of course, as we had planned all along, there was the snowfish dish…

Snowfish with honeydew & rambutans

that Melissa cooked a week or so earlier with extra honeydew melon and rambutans…

Extra honeydew melon & rambutans

…to go with it.

Everyone loved it…

Snowfish

…so I guess we would be having that again for our Chinese New Year’s Eve Reunion Dinner as well in just over a month’s time.

Instead of a turkey which would be too big for us to finish, we had one big chicken…

Roast chicken

…and had it beautifully roasted with potatoes by the side and everything else.

We also had our “traditional” in-the-family-style salad

Salad

…and my girl also made some mashed potatoes…

Mashed potatoes

…with a lovely hint of toasted garlic.

No, it wasn’t an all-western affair – my missus would follow her heart and just cook whatever she would feel like cooking. I would usually have a theme – western…or Chinese/Asian…or kampong (village) and stick rigidly to it. That was why we also had this very fragrant ghee rice…

Ghee rice

…and freshwater prawns…

Prawns

…done the way my missus would usually cook them – with lots of garlic and sesame oil and whatever else.

For our dessert, I took out the fruit pudding…

Christmas pudding

…that I got from my uncle’s family in Kuching sometime ago. This was a family tradition as well – my mum and her sisters would make it every year without fail for Christmas. There were only a few of us so I just cut a bit and put the rest back into the freezer to save for Chinese New Year.

Gee!!! Time sure flies and it is already New Year’s Eve. What have you all got planned? At the time of writing, I am still not sure what would be in store for us this year. We’ll just have to wait and see…

Taste and see…

It was Christmas Eve but we did not have anything planned for the day other than the church service that night and we would only be having our special dinner at home on the actual day itself. That was why we were up and about the whole day and we stopped by the Cafe Ind

Cafe Ind - Christmas decor

…for lunch. Of course, I’ve blogged about this place many times – the one serving North Indian and Indonesian cuisines.

For once, my girl did not order their mutton bryani that she loved a lot and wanted to have something else to taste and see if it was any good and she had the chicken paratha (RM11.00)…

Cafe Ind chicken paratha 1

…which had bits of their tandoori chicken inside…

Cafe Ind chicken paratha 2

…and yes, she loved it very much! The potato whatever that came with it…

Cafe Ind chicken paratha - potatoes

…was superb as well and my girl said the dip was very nice too.

I had the butter chicken curry (RM17.00)…

Cafe Ind butter chicken curry 1

…which was prepared using their tandoori chicken as well and served with basmati rice and it came with some raita and a papadum by the side.

My girl tried the curry…

Cafe Ind butter chicken curry 2

…and loved it! She said it was very nice unlike the one she had when she was in New Zealand which was rather sweet and not to her liking.

The boss of the café specially asked his very handsome North Indian chef…

Cafe Ind North Indian chef
*Note the authentic custom-made stone tandoori (oven) to the right – the Indonesian kitchen is separate and is located on the other side*

…to dish out his aloo paratha

Cafe Ind aloo paratha

…for us to taste and see if we liked it or not. This is pan-fried, not baked in the tandoori oven…and yes, it was very nice – so very tasty and fragrant you can eat it on its own, no need for any dip or accompaniment of any kind.

My missus went for the Indonesian menu and ordered their fried bihun (RM13.00)…

Cafe Ind Indonesian fried bihun

…and the serving was so huge she could only manage slightly more than half of it…and no price for guessing who had the rest! Hehehehehehe!!!!! I, for one, had never been a fan of fried rice or fried bihun at the shops or stalls outside for the simple reason that I would think that my own would be a lot nicer…but when I tried this one here, I had to admit that it was indeed really very good! Well, what do you expect! Just look at all the ingredients used – prawns, chunks of chicken, green peppers, fresh shitake mushrooms, thin strips of omelette. With all those added, it cannot possibly be not nice, don’t you agree? Another good thing about this one was the fact that there was no msg overload unlike the ones elsewhere – well, when you have all those ingredients, you do not need any msg at all to make your dish taste good.

That certainly was a delightful lunch – the total, inclusive of drinks, came up to RM52.00. Pretty decent for an exclusive (you can’t get these elsewhere in town) meal, don’t you think? And if there is anyone who still does not know the location, it is at Lai Chee Lane (2.291248, 111.828865) right behind the Bank Simpanan Nasional branch along Jalan Kampung Nyabor here. Go ahead, drop by and taste and see if the cuisine(s) here is/are to your liking.

Never tried…

This place has been around for a number of years now and I’ve been there a number of times but somehow or other, my girl had never been there to try the stuff that they serve here. That was why two Sundays ago, after our midday service at the cathedral in town, on our way home, we stopped by here for lunch.

They are most famous for their Foochow fish balls (RM4.20)…

Fish culture Foochow fish balls

…which are actually fish balls stuffed with minced meat and when you bite into it, the “soup” will squirt out so in a way, they are something like those xiao long pao at the dim sum places.

My girl ordered the kway teow soup (RM5.50)…

Fish Culture kway teow fish ball soup

…and they had those fish balls in it as well. She liked what she had but the serving was a bit too big for her to manage. I did try a bit and I too thought it was good.

My missus had the Hoisin sauce chicken rice (RM6.90)…

Fish Culture Hoisin chicken rice

…but we all thought it wasn’t anything special and was a little too salty for our liking.

I ordered their rice with ang chao meat but it never came. Luckily, I had ordered some items from their dim sum selections including the Foochow fish balls and these…

Fish Culture bitter gourd with fish paste & salted egg yolk

…bitter gourd stuffed with fish paste and topped with salted egg yolk. The bitter gourd was a bit bitter but I did not mind that one bit – I would say they were pretty good.

I like these too…

Fish culture lor mai kai buns

– they were something like lor mai kai wrapped all around with steamed pao skin though other than the rice, there wasn’t much meat, egg or mushroom inside…and I’m sure everyone would be familiar with this…

Fish Culture black bean pork ribs

…and these…

Fish Culture yam puffs

…but their fried dumplings…

Fish Culture fried dumplings

…were different – they had fish paste inside instead of meat and they were very nice too.

From what I could understand from the sign there, these dim sum selections were going for RM12.00 for any three but I was charged RM25.20 on my bill instead of RM24.00 – maybe there was something in the fine print that I did not see….or could not read. Anyway, it was just a difference of RM1.20 so it was all right – what mattered most was that we enjoyed what we had or most of it, at least.

STOP PRESS:
I have been so very blessed with all the Christmas cards and gifts that I have received and just when I thought that that was it for the year, I received a message via Facebook chat from Eric, the guy behind The Kitchen instant kampua enterprise…telling me that he had paid my bill at this new place in town and asked me to go and eat there, his Christmas/New Year treat! What??? It seemed that he had always wanted to take me out for dinner or something to show his appreciation for my help in promoting his kampua noodles but he had not managed to find time to do do – he’s very busy, I know. Wink! Wink! So he decided to do it this way and I could go and enjoy myself with my family. Isn’t he so sweet and thoughtful and so very generous? Not many of those that I have helped boost their business would bother doing that, not at all.

Thank you so so so much, Eric. Belated Christmas greetings & God’s abundant Blessings in the coming year to you and your family. May your enterprise continue to flourish and prosper in the days ahead. Cheers!

Why not…

If you drive around the kampung (village) areas in the town at night, you will see a lot of these roadside stalls…

Bandong burger stall 1

…many of which are selling burgers. I know some of them are rather nice (and cheap too) but they open quite late and I would have had my dinner so I never bothered to go and try…but my nephew was telling me about this one where they make their own patties and they’re very very nice! He strongly urged me to go and give it a try and I thought why not? That was why that night, after the movie, my girl and I drove there, at the junction…

Junction

…of this road…

Jalan Kampung Datu Baru

…and Jalan Bandong to buy and take back home for supper.

Unfortunately, when we got there, we were told that the guy making the patties had gone on an umrah (pilgrimage) and would not be back until a fortnight…and he would never tell anyone how he did it – it was his own secret recipe…so while he was away, they had to use the usual patties sold at the shops and supermarkets.

They would have their own fried chicken burger as well but by the time we got there that night, they were all sold out. I was not all that keen on those actually as I imagined they would be something that we would be able to get anytime at Colonel Sanders’ even though the guy kept insisting that his was very good and I should go back the very next day to try.

Well, since we were already there, I thought we might as well buy whatever they had and promptly placed our orders. This handsome guy was the one cooking the patties…

Bandong burger 2

…and the egg…

Bandong burger 3

…and toasting the buns and once they were done, this one…

Bandong burger 4

…would put the tomato, cucumber and lettuce and all the sauces…

Bandong burger 5

…and wrap the burgers up…

Bandong burger 6

I liked how he was wearing a plastic glove – these bits of effort on their parts to observe some kind of cleanliness sure deserve to be appreciated.

My girl had the beef & cheese (RM2.50) while I had the double beef & cheese plus an egg special (RM4.50)…

Bandong burger 7

…and to our delight, they were actually very nice – despite the fact that they were using those commercially-available patties…

Bandong burger 8

No, I did not go back for their fried chicken burger but I certainly would go there again when the other guy comes back from his umrah so I would be able to try both the burgers with the original beef or lamb patties…and the fried chicken. I guess that’s what they call killing two birds with one stone, right?

P.S.:
It’s Christmas every day, they say…and looking at how the gifts keep coming, I, for one, would certainly say that it is true, so very true. Yesterday morning, Nancy, my ex-English tuition student’s mum, dropped by my house to give me these awesome ngor hiang a.k.a lor bak (meat rolls)…

Ngor Hiang from Nancy

…that she made herself and the packet of asam paste plus two tilapias and a bagful of stingray meat – I’m thinking of cooking the latter with the aforementioned paste..

Then, in the afternoon, just as I was getting up from my nap, I got a call from my good friend, Richard, to tell me that he would be at my house in 5 minutes…and there he was at my door to pass me the lovely butter cake from the Mita Cake House in Kuching and a packet of Scottish butter shortbread fingers from Marks & Spencer, no less…

Butter cake & Scottish shortbread from Richard

Sigh!!! Everyone is so very nice, so very kind and generous and I really do not know how to reciprocate other than to say thank you so so so much and pray that God will bless them all abundantly in the days ahead. Cheers!!!

Little house…

My girl is still on holiday though there are not so many days left and she sure is not looking forward to going back to her school after having had a great time at home, doing anything and everything she wants.

Other than cooking and baking a bit, she also went and bought herself a do-it-yourself kit for RM48.00 and spent some time putting it all together. I did not watch her at work but from what I heard, there was a whole lot of cutting, folding, rolling and sticking…and even some wiring for the light in the miniature house…

Mel's miniature house 1

…that she managed to assemble all by herself.

Mel's miniature house 2

It does not look that small in the photograph but as a matter of fact, it is only around 8-10 inches tall and the base is around 6 by 4 inches…

Mel's miniature house 3

It sure looked great once it was all done…

Mel's miniature house 4

…and needless to say, she and both her mum and I were very pleased and mighty impressed by the fruit of her labour…

Mel's miniature house 5

Don’t you think that looks really great?

That day, when she finished her beautiful work of art, I took her out to a movie…

Movie tickets

Believe it or not, the last time I went to a movie at the trioplex was in June, 2012 – 2½ years ago!!! Actually, she wanted to go and see the one of the penguins but it was no longer showing so we agreed upon this one…

Movie poster

We enjoyed it very much and there was one part where there was a “garuda from Tibet“. Wait a minute! I thought garudas would be from Indonesia but when I googled, I found that there were indeed the Tibetan ones. Gee! We sure get to learn new things every day, don’t we?

I did not know the all time greats, the late Robin Williams and the late Mickey Rooney were in it and also Dick Van Dyke dancing to the one-time disco favourite, “Shake your groove thing

…and there was this one from “Dirty Dancing too. Hugh Jackman made a cameo appearance as King Arthur in the musical, Camelot, in London.

We loved the comedy and the fast-moving plot – there wasn’t a dull moment from the beginning till the end and were enthralled by the stunningly breathtaking visual effects and I would say that both of us enjoyed the movie very much.

This arrived yesterday…

Christmas card from Nick

– Boxing Day, a day after Christmas Day but nonetheless, it was just in time to add to the Christmas cheer. Thank you so very much, Nick – it certainly was so sweet and thoughtful of you to send me the card. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas too!

Nice and easy…

This was the week before Christmas…when my girl cooked her Tropical Snow fish dish and it was so nice that we finished all of it in one sitting so for dinner, we had to go some place to eat.

We have not been here…

Nice House, Sibu

…for quite some time now and I did not even notice that they’ve got a new sign up!

I ordered their honey prawn balls…

Nice House, honey prawn balls 1

…that my girl loved a lot…

Nice House, honey prawn balls 2

…and yes, they were as good as ever.

She also remembered enjoying their butter kai lan (Chinese broccoli/kale)…

Nice House, butter kai lan

…so we had that as well and we also tried their kiam sor (salty & crispy) fish fillet…

Nice House, kiam sor fish fillet 1

They probably used the imported frozen dory so the fish was kind of bland but the saving grace was that they sliced it very thinly and deep fried it…

Nice House, kiam sor fish fillet 2

…so it was nice and crispy and with all the added ingredients used in the cooking, it was pretty good.

What I never liked about this place was that it was always packed and with their very low ceiling, the noise could be extremely unbearable and that would spoil my enjoyment of the food. We went quite early that day – before 6 p.m. and there were already a few tables occupied! Gee! Their business must be really good! Thankfully, the crowd was not all that boisterous that day so it was all right.

They had a young boy, on the plump side, waiting at the tables that day and I liked him! He was conversant in Mandarin, Hokkien….and English too and he was witty and interesting and had the gift of the gab. He took our orders for the food and quickly passed the slip to the kitchen and came back to see what we wanted to drink – that way, it would not take so long for the dishes to be served –  he sure deserved a bonus point for that.

I went to settle our bill at the counter…

Christmas at Nice House

– the total for the food was only RM30.00 for the three of us. The lady boss asked if I was staying in Sibu and I said yes and she asked me if I was giving any private tuition. Good grief! Obviously she knows me and the fact that I was an English teacher. Sibu is such a small place!

For one thing, if anyone is dropping by here in the evening for dinner, it would be best to call first and make a reservation and even better if you can order all that you want to eat as well or you may have to wait for quite a while. For the uninitiated, it is in the block of shops at the beginning of Brooke Drive in the first block of shops, as you turn round the corner coming from the Sibu General Post Office, on the left. The address is 1E, Ground Floor, Brooke Drive and their telephone number is 084-33 6050.

Do avoid parking under the trees though…

Birds!!!

…or you may end up driving home with your car spotted all over. LOL!!!

Incidentally, this arrived just in time on Christmas Eve. Thank you so very much, my dear friend, Quay Po, for going through all that trouble to send me this very lovely card, Hallmark no less…

Hallmark card from Quay Po

That’s so very sweet and thoughtful of you. Hope you had a great Christmas and the same goes to everyone too. Keep the peace, spread the love and share the joy!

Hallelujah…

I used to love this song a lot but then everyone in every singing competition was singing it and eventually, I grew sick and tired of it, sheer overkill…though I did think the priest did a pretty good rendition at a wedding service in Ireland sometime ago. Then, just the other day, I came across this Christmas version…

…and it sure gave a new life and a new feel to it and it really moved me…a lot! I thought that was really beautiful and the lyrics tell of the story behind Christmas:

I’ve heard about this baby boy who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn to find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay so in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night to see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said – You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Emmanuel and Savior, Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east to Bethlehem, the wise men three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You and to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh, they gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me, this baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You, that rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

Like many other festivals and special occasions, Christmas may seem to have lost its significance but I do think that it does not really matter as long as it’s a time for joyous celebration…

Christmas in Sibu 1
*Christmas in Sibu 1 – Helen‘s photo on Facebook*

…a time for giving and forgiving…

Christmas in Sibu 2
*Christmas in Sibu 2 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…never mind that it has been over-commercialised – the giving of gifts to one’s much-loved family and friends is reminiscent of what the Three Wise Men did…

Christmas in Sibu 3
*Christmas in Sibu 3 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…and whatever it is, it’s a joy shared with one and all, never mind the colour or creed…

Christmas in Sibu 4
*Christmas in Sibu 4 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…and that is something very clearly seen in the events held right here in good ol’ Sibu town with the Annual Christmas Tree Decoration at the town square…

Christmas in Sibu 5
*Christmas in Sibu 5 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…and the Christmas Parade all over our little town…

Christmas in Sibu 6
*Christmas in Sibu 6 – friend’s photo on Facebook*

…and we can get to see all the people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion, making their way to the town centre to join in the festivities and taking photographs to share on the social media.

There are moans and groans about putting Christ back into Christmas but in my humble opinion, all these would be exactly what Christmas stands for – love, hope, peace and goodwill to all mankind. Let us put aside all differences and not spoil the mood by harping on all those age-old issues – honestly, I do think there is a time and a place for everything and you can go ahead and ruin your own, if you choose but don’t drag everybody else down with you – and share these very special Christmas gifts with one another…

Christmas gifts
*image from a Christmas card*

…and wish everybody…A BLESSED CHRISTMAS…or HAPPY HOLIDAYS, whichever may apply.

Cheers to all, May God bless all of us!