Born in the Year of the Ox, my dad will celebrate his 90th birthday or his 91st, if we follow the Chinese Lunar calendar, this coming Sunday – the 28th Day of the 4th Month. He will celebrate it following his Chinese date of birth every year and in the past, my mum would do all the remembering as to which date exactly it would fall on and my sister will keep tab on it as well. These days, it is very easy to find out exactly when the date is on our regular western or Gregorian calendar via one of these websites…and I will always key in the reminder on my handphone to make sure that I do not forget.

However, this Sunday, my girl would have gone back to her school so he wanted to have it earlier so we could all sit down together for a dinner to celebrate and that was why we had it last Sunday evening. Instead of ordering food from outside, we decided it would be better (and nicer too) to cook a few dishes ourselves and that was exactly what we did. For one thing, my parents do not have very strong teeth so they would not be able to enjoy any meat or anything for that matter that is way too tough for them to chew and of course, if we cook our own, there would not be that overdose of msg that we often get when we have anything from the Chinese restaurants outside.

They love phak lor duck – stewed duck with soy sauce and five spice powder…

Five spice stewed duck

…and we cannot get any outside that will be exactly like how my mum would cook it in the past so we decided to have that. My missus can cook it that same way as her mum used to cook it like that too in her family. Of course, duck can be very tough so she cooked it the night before, heated it up the next morning and again, that afternoon so that by dinner time, it was really very nice and tender.

There was this dish that my dad used to buy home from an old-school restaurant in town and we loved it a lot. Unfortunately, the last time I went there, the waitress taking our orders said she never heard of it and it was not on their menu. We wanted to have that for old times’ sake and my parents would not have a problem chewing. I made the meatballs more or less the same way that I did the other day, replacing the beef with minced pork (and leaving out the mixed herbs and spices) and later in the evening, my missus cooked the sweet and sour sauce for them, the same way she would cook the sauce for her sweet and sour fish

Sweet and sour meatballs

Everybody certainly enjoyed the meatballs that night, I must say.

And talking about fish, I went and bought this white pomfret (ikan bawal putih/pek chio) and my missus steamed it…

Steamed white pomfret
*Oops!!! Sorry, the snapshot came out a bit blur!*

My father loves the white or silver variety and is not all that fond of the black ones that would have a stronger smell and of course, he loved this very much. The fish was very fresh and nice – when you go for something like this outside, it would be rather expensive plus at times, especially when it is steamed, the fish would taste kind of bland, probably not all that fresh, and I would have to resort to eating it with a lot of soy sauce and sliced red chili to make it more palatable.

We also had a simple sweet corn soup to wash every thing down and this salad dish…


…with our special salad dressing that has been in my maternal side of the family for years and years. Inside, there were boiled prawns, potatoes, egg…and tomato and cucumber slices. We had a problem getting the lettuce as for some reason or other, there was none available anywhere in town. Hmmm…no wonder that day when we had lunch at the Italian restaurant, they were using what we call Sabah eyew chai instead. Finally, we had no choice but to go in search of our local ones at our Sibu Central Market and there was none to be seen…until I saw a handful with very small leaves at one stall. I grabbed all of it, of course, and the girl asked for only 30 sen for the very much coveted stuff. There was just enough for the dish that night, thankfully!

I could see that both my parents enjoyed everything – they did eat quite a lot and there were smiles all around. My dad commented that it was good that we could still cook like this – I guess what he meant was that we could cook dishes the way my mum did before she became bedridden some 9 years or so ago. He must have missed her cooking very much.

Yes, it was a small simple celebration – just the three of us with my parents and my sister but it was, without doubt, a good and meaningful one – nothing beats having the family members altogether especially in one’s golden years.