Wasn’t expecting that…

I wanted turkey for Christmas but my missus would not hear of it. She insisted it wasn’t nice, like wood, had a peculiar smell and taste, would be a lot nicer to roast a chicken instead bla…bla…bla. Sigh!!! We can buy the frozen ones here, a small one can set one back somewhere around RM150.00 – it used to cost around RM80.00 a long time ago…and that is a lot of money just for the turkey. I am sure we would have to cook some other stuff as well to go with it so in the end, I decided that we would all go out for one of those Christmas specials around here. I did not pay much attention to the menu as I wasn’t expecting much…but yes, I made sure it had turkey.

All in all, it was such a disappointment that I simply deleted all the photographs that I took and decided not to blog about it…and the turkey was dry, tasteless…and there was no cranberry sauce to go with it, just some brown gravy that did not help much to save the day. It really pisses me off how people would simply jack up the prices and cash in on this season of love and goodwill – if they want to charge that much, they should make sure that what they serve is extra special, value for money. Like I said I was not expecting much but I sure would expect to get a little bit more than sweet and sour pork and char kway teow. I could have taken what I paid and gone to some Chinese restaurant for those and eat myself to kingdom come. Tsk! Tsk!

However, there is this one place here that I went to once before. No, they did not have anything special – you can just order anything you want à la carte from their regular menu and the thing is they are giving a 15% discount on the bill throughout this festive season. Now, isn’t that really nice? Unfortunately, I did not go there for dinner – I don’t think they had turkey – but I did drop by a few days after Christmas for coffee with a cousin of mine who was home from Sydney, Australia.

I had the rainbow cake (RM11.90)…

Cocoa Coffee rainbow cake

…which was the craze at one time after red velvet had had its round. There was so much hoo-ha over it but I, for one, was not all that keen on all those colours which obviously, are the main attraction. My cousin crinched at the sight, refusing to try even a bit. It’s nothing, really, I had had people telling me, it’s just cake, a very colourful one. Anyway, I decided I would order a slice and try it once and for all so everytime, I see anybody raving about it, I would know what it is like…actually.

Yes, like what everyone has been telling me, it is indeed…just cake! Thankfully, it was quite nice, soft and not dry but I really do not see what all the excitement was about! I would much sooner go for what my cousin had – the chocolate mud cake (RM9.90)…

Cocoa Coffee chocolate mud cake

…which was so very nice that I would not mind going back for more some day except that if I am not wrong, the people here make different cakes on different days so what you enjoy on one day may not be available the next time you drop by. My cousin is very health-conscious, keeping a stringent regiment as far as his food (and fitness programme) is concerned so he would only eat half of that and gave me the other half and no, I am not complaining! Wink! Wink!

My girl who came along with me that afternoon had their classic maple waffle (RM12.90)…

Cocoa Coffee classic maple waffle

…and she enjoyed it a great deal. She said it was very much nicer than any she had had around here.

No, I would say the things here, like at all the rest of such coffee places that are sprouting here, there and everywhere around town,  are all that cheap and that applies to the drinks too. My girl had a maple orange (RM11.90) and I had an iced Americano (RM10.90) while my cousin had a hot cappuccino (RM10.90)…

Cocoa Coffee hot cappuccino

Even at those prices, there were many people there at around 3.00 p.m. that afternoon which surprised me very much – quite  a number of tables were occupied…but what I noticed was that they were there when we arrived and none had left when we were about to go. I guess this is what young people do these days – hang around at one of these classy places to chat for as long as they want (and take a lot of selfies too – saw those at one table doing that the whole time we were there) and that accounts for the high prices as there sure aren’t going to be a lot of people coming and going.

The bill for our little afternoon tea/coffee came up to RM68.40 and with the 15% discount, the total was RM58.15…and I really must say a big thank you to my cousin for the box of chocolates…

Chocolates from coz

…that he brought for me, that sure was so very sweet and thoughtful of him.

I wasn’t expecting this either but the postman came yesterday afternoon and passed me this card…

Hallmark X'mas card from cousin Yvette

…from his sister, my cousin in Perth, Australia. Thank you so much, cousin – it is so sweet of you to send me a card and I would say that somehow, a Hallmark one does seem to make it extra special.

The postman also delivered this stunningly beautiful calendar…

Calendar from Australia

…along with it – from my very old friend, Jasmine, in Adelaide, Australia and it certainly was a lovely surprise, I was not expecting that too!

Of all the months, my favourite has got to be my birthday month – December…

December

…and no, it’s not because of the macarons. I absolutely love the caption. LOL!!! Thank you so much to you too, Jasmine – I am indeed truly blessed. I sure am looking forward to seeing you back here in Sibu sometime next year. Oops!!! I must thank you for the Christmas card enclosed inside as well – I did not notice it at first as I was so excited upon receiving the calendar and I only found it when I checked the envelope again. Hehehehehe!!!!

It’s New Year’s Eve today, so what have you all got planned? Maybe I would drop by the aforementioned place for dinner and enjoy the 15% discount…or maybe we’d go elsewhere – I have not decided yet.

Good enough…

We were out and about that morning and we dropped by the hypermart here and I saw these pies…

Pies

…and this box of lasagna…

Lasagna

They only have two choices – beef or chicken and of course, I grabbed all the beef.

They’re Malaysian-made – the address given is somewhere in Shah Alam, Selangor so of course, they are not as expensive as anything that is imported from abroad. If I remember correctly, they’re all over RM9.00, less than RM10.00 each.

I was wondering about the names of those pies though – I called all of mine shepherd pies, the ones where I used mashed potatoes for the pie cover…until somebody corrected me and said that those were cottage pies, seeing that I used beef for the filling and for shepherd pies, it has got to be lamb. Ok, so now I know!

However, both the pies that I bought were beef and they did not have any lamb and the only other option was chicken. Never mind the names – the test of the pudding or the pie is in the eating so we heated them up to try. The so-called cottage pie had slices of potatoes on top…

Cottage pie 1

…nothing like any pie that I had seen before but it tasted great! There certainly was a lot of meat in the filling…

Cottage pie 2

…and I could detect the use of some herbs in the cooking. As a matter of fact, I did find some bits of bay leaves in it. My girl was not all that fond of the peas (and the carrot and the corn kernels)…

Cottage pie 3

…in it though. Like the frozen ones we get here, they were kind of hard, maybe not so hard but no, they were not soft enough.

The so-called shepherd pie had mashed potatoes…

Shepherd pie 1

…as its cover and yes, the mashed potatoes were very nice – not over smooth and over-blended like some that I have had here and there and the filling…

Shepherd pie 2

…was great too. No, the filling of the two pies did not taste the same – each had its own and both were nice. I think if I had to make a choice, it would not be based on the filling since we liked both of them equally but most likely, it would be toss between sliced or mashed potatoes…and the latter would win, hands down.

The lasagna…

Lasagna 1

…was like lasagna, very nice too…

Lasagna 2

…and as for the taste, what can one expect from the tomato-based bolognese sauce? That was exactly what it tasted like. My girl liked it a lot and if it was good enough for her, it was good enough, period. For one thing, the only place where we could get to eat that does not seem to be serving it anymore – probably at RM18.00 for one not-very-big serving, it does not go down too well with the general public so they’ve probably taken it off their menu…and of course, since they started using those imitation crab sticks for their seafood one at the franchise pizza place here, my girl has not bothered going back for that one.

I checked the expiry dates and they are good till the end of 2016 so we may just go back there and pick up a few more to stock up in our freezer. Here, if we can get to buy something nice, we may not get to see them again…ever, like those bangers that I enjoyed a lot. That’s the way it goes.

In the meantime, this very pretty Christmas card, postmarked 18th December (Ipoh, not Taiping), came in yesterday afternoon…

Card from Yan

Thank you so much, Yan! Despite your very tight and hectic schedule these past weeks, you managed to take a little time off to send me a card – that is truly so very sweet of you. Bet you all had a wonderful holiday and your girls are getting all geared up for school when it reopens next week. All the best for 2016, all of you…and God bless always. Cheers!!!

Gotta try it…

I had a glimpse of it once when I was having dinner here and it sure looked good so I made up my mind there and then that I gotta try it sooner or later. In the meantime, I heard reviews from people who had had it and they were praising it to the skies so that afternoon, we made our way there for lunch and I ordered it. Probably people do not usually have that for lunch and the girl seemed kind of surprised that I wanted it. She even went to confirm that it would be available and yes, it was.

Of course I just had to order their very special ngor bee th’ng (five-flavour soup)…

Tung Seng ngor bee th'ng

…which is actually a Chinese cooling dessert, not a soup, and yes, it was as refreshing as ever and I did enjoy it a lot.

In the meantime, this was served – the fried rice…

Tung Seng fried rice

…which we did not order but we said that we did not mind having that so it was not really a problem. It was all right but I think we had something nicer a long time ago.

We also asked for the midin fried with sambal belacan

Tung Seng midin belacan

…and this too was just all right, probably because of the quality of the belacan used. I would go for the ching chao (plain fried) the next time around.

Now, if you are wondering what it was that I wanted to try so badly, well, it was their crispy pata…

Tung Seng Philippine pork leg

…or what we call the Philippine pork leg here. I really wonder how they did it for the skin was very nice and crispy…and there was hardly any fat inside – they probably managed to melt all of it away. If I were to do it myself, the meat inside would definitely be hard and dry but no, it was still quite moist and succulent.

The ladies liked it…

Tung Seng crispy pata

…very much but given a choice, I think when it comes to pork leg, I would prefer our stewed/braised version with soy sauce and five-spice powder with  hard-boiled eggs added…served with sambal belacan.

Of course that did not come cheap! The pork leg alone was RM60.00 each but it was big, VERY big. We barely ate half and we took the rest home and heated it up and had it for dinner. However, I thought the prices of the fried rice – RM12.00, mind you…and the midin- RM10.00 were a little on the high side. I don’t know if it was the sambal belacan but elsewhere, I think it is only RM8.00, the standard price for a vegetable dish…unless they have all jacked up the price now, I wouldn’t know.

Now that I’ve got to try what I wanted to try, I think the next time around I would just stick to their very nice sliced pork served with cincaluk dip…and also their lovely prawns with young coconut flesh served in a coconut. Personally, I do think those two specialties of theirs are a lot nicer.

After our lunch, my girl insisted on stopping by here so she could treat us to the cakes for dessert. It has been years since we last dropped by. We shared the tiramisu (RM8.80)…

Secret Recipe tiramisu

…which was all right, very strong on the coffee taste to the extent of being slightly bitter but we liked it more than their chocolate banana (RM8.80)…

Secret Recipe chocolate banana

…which was not bad but the slightly cheaper and very nice one here comes with ice cream and we sure enjoy that more.

I loved their durian cake (RM8.80)…

Secret Recipe durian durian 1

when I tried it the first time a long time ago and I enjoyed it everytime I had the chance to have it but this time around, I kind of found it…

Secret Recipe durian durian 2

…a little disappointing – the durian fragrance seemed a little off which made me wonder whether they used fresh durian or durian essence and the texture of the cake was a little dry, only slightly, but I do recall it being much nicer…and I was thinking I should have ordered the white chocolate macadamian instead.

It has been a while since I discovered that their drinks here were RM1.00 more expensive than at their outlets in the peninsula/Penang. I don’t know if it is still so but I was kind of pissed off by it. I would understand if the food and the cakes were more expensive but I could not understand why everything was priced the same, just the drinks…and for that reason, I have never been all that keen to drop by the outlets here…especially when we have places here that serve very much nicer cakes and desserts.

Still time…

There are only a few days left to the New Year and right after that, school will reopen which means that my girl will have to go back to her work station once more. Of course she is not looking forward to that but what to do? Duty calls.

There is still some time left so we have been going around town, eating the things that she loves. The other day, we wanted to go for the nasi kerabu here but it was closed. Perhaps the people there had taken sometime off and gone on a holiday or something but thankfully, when we tried again a week or so later, it was business as usual and of course, we had what we wanted…

Sri Tanjung nasi kerabu 1

…and yes, it was as good as ever and we really enjoyed it to the max.

It did cross my mind once to try and cook my own but when I saw the recipe and all the things I would need to prepare, I changed my mind right away. We only get it here once a week, Saturdays only, and if I remember correctly, it is only RM5.50 for chicken…

Sri Tanjung nasi kerabu 2

…and RM5.00 for fish unless the prices have gone up lately but still, considering the work that would go into it, I would much sooner fork out the money. After all, I must say it is really very inexpensive…and the one here is very much to our liking.

To eat it, one would have to mix everything together…

All mixed up

…and if it had been with fish by the side, I would also shred the meat and mix with the rice. This prompted my missus to remark that this is the Malaysian/Kelantanese version of the bibimbap and of course, this is best eaten the traditional way, using one’s hand!

We had already finished and were about to leave when I saw some people at the next table having their bubur (porridge) durian, obviously a dessert, served with slices of baguette but we were already too full so we did not order that to try. Perhaps we would do so the next time around if they still have that or maybe we would have to wait till the next durian season – the current one is more or less over by now.

I did get to buy this home for dinner though – their chicken rendang (RM2.00 per piece)…

Sri Tanjung chicken rendang

…which was very nice but no, it did not quite taste like rendang. My girl said it came across something like satay chicken to her but it was all right – at least, it was pretty good and went very well with rice.

Moving on from the above, we also managed to drop by here for her favourite sweet and sour fish fillet…

Y2K sweet and sour fish fillet

…in town and the sweet potato leaves…

Y2K sweet potato leaves

…that she has grown to love ever since the first time she tried those here.

The tofu dish…

Y2K ang sio tauhu

…that we also ordered was very nice as well and the kiam sor (salty & crusty) pork…

Y2k kiam sor pai kut

…too even though it did not look quite the same as how they would serve it elsewhere, tossed with a lot of chopped Bombay onion, garlic and chili, other than the spring onion.

The total for the four dishes plus rice and drinks for the three of us came up to RM51.00 which was quite reasonable, I guess…and at least, we enjoyed all that we had and my girl got to eat what she loved before making her way back to her school for another gruelling year. Sigh!!!

Times change…

When my uncle and the rest of the family members drove here that day, they were able to go round by themselves so I did not get to join them all that much when they went to places that they knew to eat all the things that they loved so well.

On the day they arrived, upon their request, we went for dinner together here and of course, I ordered some of our favourite dishes here like the butter scotch prawn balls, the Thai-style mango chicken, the cangkuk manis fried with egg and also the bitter gourd with salted egg…and we also had this – their stewed pork belly with yam…

Ruby pork belly with yam

…which we had never tried before and yes, it was good and everyone enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, the lighting was a little dim so the photograph did not do much justice to it. For that same reason, I did not take snapshots of all the other dishes that we had. Of course, if I were to compare the two, they were not the same dishes but personally, I liked what we had here – the pork belly with preserved vegetables – more. There were 10 of us that night and the 3 meat and 2 vegetable dishes came up to only RM120.00. Including the rice and drinks, the total was a little over RM150.00 but as always, the kind and generous boss waived the extra and collected RM150.00 only from me.

I do not know where else they went the next morning but they did grumble to me that the Ah Tor kway teow

Aloha Ah Tor kway teow
*Recycled photo*

here that they used to enjoy so much those years when they were living in Sibu turned out to be most disappointing. In the past, the father was the one running the whole show, doing all the frying but he had passed away so right now, the son and I don’t know who else, have taken over. I would agree with them on this as the last time I had it myself, I also did not think too much of it.

On their second night here, my uncle, his wife and my cousins had to go to the airport to pick the eldest daughter who did not come with them by car and was flying into town and after that, they went here for dinner. Of course, they had the very nice fried kway teow with cockles…

Ying Siang fried kway teow
*Recycled photo*

…and I heard that they also had a plate of lemon chicken, fried kang kong and sizzling tofu on a hot plate. I saw the photograph and the servings looked really huge plus they enjoyed what they had and that was all that mattered.

The rest of the group, four of them and three of us, me, my missus and my girl, went here instead. By the time we got there, they had already ordered the otak-otak, the mushroom roll, the belimbing prawns and the pomelo salad and we added one more to those, their green curry plus their dreamy nite for dessert. Of course, they enjoyed everything and the nice boss gave us a huge plate of their herbs salad…

Payung herbs salad

…and his very special fried tempoyak on the house. My auntie recalled sweet memories of how tua-ma (great-grandma) used to cook it this same way and she would dip green cili padi in it and eat.

They were playing the lovely keroncong songs again that night and when this song came on, my auntie exclaimed, “Oooo…Bengawan Solo!!! Ah Get-Ee (Auntie Ah Get) used to sing that!!!” It certainly was a walk down memory for her that night. My late Auntie Gertrude, who passed away in 1982, was a very good singer and she used to sing at public functions and parties and her most famous songs would be this one and also You belong to my heart.

My cousin picked up the tab that night and I think the total was over RM100 for the seven of us, I cannot remember exactly now, inclusive of drinks and rice but there were two complimentary freebies plus it was a much classier place than the aforementioned and all things considered, I would think it was worth it.

The next day, in the evening, we had the special dinner to celebrate my uncle’s 75th birthday and the following day, early in the morning, they went on their way back to Kuching.

P.S.:
The other day, I got a call from my old friend/ex-classmate, Robert. He said he had something he would want to give to me to try…so we arranged to meet and this was what he passed to me…

Fried dabai

– fried dabai (local black olives), cooked by his missus, Angela. Yes, it was very nice – she had used very good dabai and cooked that with a  lot of garlic and chili. It was not spicy though – chilies these days do not seem to be hot at all. I had that with rice and had to refrain from going for a second helping! It sure was nice of you two to share some with me, Robert & Angela, thank you so much!

Long ago…

They were my students long ago in Kanowit and I was their class/form teacher in Form 2, 1980 and Form 3, 1981, around 35 years ago…and last Sunday evening, they held a reunion here and I was invited to their gathering. It sure was nice that they have not forgotten their old teacher and I was pleased to see that they are all doing well in their own fields. A few of them even took it upon themselves to sponsor the dinner, the hotel stay for some coming from places like Sabah, Langkawi and even Thailand!

It was a buffet dinner with a whole lot of choices to pick from…

Buffet 1

I loved the fish fillet – using fresh fish, probably red snapper, not those frozen fish fillet (dory) and there were freshwater prawns…

Buffet 2

too! I wonder how much that was per head but I am quite sure it did not come all that cheap.

This was home-cooked and they brought it along – the sour duck…

Buffet 3

If I am not wrong, this is a Cantonese delicacy – many of them are Cantonese and they would chat among themselves in their dialect. We do not get this too easily here and the one we had that night was a lot nicer than what I had here or here…but it was sour, if you can catch the drift. LOL!!!

There was also the ethnic Melanau umai

Buffet 4

…which was very nicely done and also the beef salad…

Buffet 5

…that I quite enjoyed too.

This was the salad and dessert bar…

Buffet 6

…and while the ladies had a go at the food first…

Ladies first

…I decided to try the Sarawak laksa

Laksa 1

…from the laksa stall…

Laksa 2

It was mild, not spicy at all…

Laksa 3

…but on the whole, I thought it was pretty good except that I did not like those factory-produced fried shallots sold in plastic packs at the supermarkets – they have a certain smell that I do not quite fancy at all and I would much rather go without any if I can’t have any freshly-fried ones.

 The students even went through all that trouble to get this done for the teachers…

Souvenir

…with the original school crest that would date back to 1978, the year they entered the school in transition…and my first year of teaching after graduating from college. It seems that the school has changed to a new one now since 2011 so this one has become part of its history that is definitely a lot more relevant to all of us.

Of course we had a group photograph taken…

Group photo

…for remembrance. There were two other teachers, my ex-colleagues, who were present that night…and goodness, how they have changed and grown from the little boys and girls that I used to know…

SMK Kanowit Form 2A 1980

I could remember some of their names…and others, I could remember their faces…but of course, I could not remember all. On a sad note, I heard that six of them had passed away – life is indeed so very fragile, we never know what tomorrow may bring.

I think this is the first ever reunion they have had and they are planning another one next year in Bintulu. It sure was nice to see all these wonderful ex-students of mine once again after all these years and if I do get invited again, I sure would try my best to attend. In the meantime, thank you once again to all of them, God bless and do take good care till we meet again. Cheers!!!

Happy X’mas…

So this is X’mas…and what have you done
Another year over and a new one’s just begun
And so this is Xmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young

Christmas 1
A very Merry X’mas…and a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fear.

It was 1971 when Lennon released this Christmas standard as a single, the time of the horrendous Vietnam War…

…and over the years, many singers have released their covers of the song…but sadly, after 44 years, it has not got any better in this world of ours. In fact, it certainly seems that it is getting a lot worse in the world at large…and even in our own country. Whoever said that all men are brothers obviously got it all wrong, seeing how countries fight against countries, how mass destruction and rampant shooting happen every other day here, there and everywhere…and how even fellow-countrymen do not seem to be able to live together with love and respect for and mutual understanding of one another. In Gandhi’s words at the end of the video clip, “An eye for an eye…will make us all blind.

On this special day and during this beautiful season of hope, love and joy, peace and goodwill among all men…

Christmas 2

…therefore, let us pray for a miracle so that one day soon, we would be able to sing with all our hearts that…
War is over, if you want it
War is over now…
Happy Christmas!

Christmas 3

A Blessed Christmas to all family and friends and everybody wherever you may be…

A Christmas card…

In this day and age, not many people bother to send Christmas cards anymore. I guess it is easier and a lot more convenient to send their season’s greetings via the internet, plus it’s free some more.

I’ve been sending cards for as long as I can remember. Postage used to be 10 sen only, unsealed while these days, it is 50 sen, never mind sealed or unsealed. For a while, when I was working, I used to do some work for the ministry, marking English Language papers and that would stretch through the whole of December and Christmas and the New Year would just pass by unnoticed. I had to make it a point to send my cards as early as in November or I would not be able to send any at all that particular year – I just did not have the time.

Maybe it is because I am old but somehow I feel kind of sentimental, getting Christmas cards. I remember they must be handwritten for that special personal touch – those in the professional or business fields could type theirs and that would be considered as being more formal.

I received quite a few this year – these came from my family members, the two on the right from Kuching and the big one came from my cousin in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

From family

…and these came from my dear ol’ friends in Kuching…

From Vivien & Mary

Vivien and Mary. It sure has been a while since I last met the two of them.

I also got a few from my blogger-friends…

From blogger friends

…from Perak – Elin from Ipoh, and Angeline (with the own-made bookmark enclosed) and Hayley from Taiping, and this came all the way from Plymouth, England from Julia

From Julia

…and Alistair. It sure is so very sweet of her to remember me and to send me one.

This one came a little later than those from the other bloggers, from zmun2

From zmun2

…a couple of days ago, in time for Christmas. Hmmmm….those gingerbread men look good enough to eat! LOL!!! Note the cute little sticker on the envelope – nice touch!

Why! Even the people at this company mailed me one…

From Reader's Digest

…as well. I’ve been subscribing to the magazine for as long as I can remember.

These are for a good cause…

Charity

…and I do think it would be good to grab hold of those to send and kill two birds with one stone. I’ve been getting those from the Mouth & Foot Artists very regularly and I would always make it a point to send them a cheque everytime in payment of those that came in the mail. I’ve heard of people getting those and they did not bother to pay for them nor return them to sender – instead, they just made use of the cards to send greetings to their family and friends. Now, that is really not very nice, is it?

And what a lovely surprise I had when this came all the way from Dubai…

From Dubai

…from my most wonderful friends with whom my family and I spent the most wonderful holiday we ever had when they were in New Zealand. To this day, I cherish the precious memories that will forever remain treasured in my heart.

I did not expect to get this one from my young and handsome blogger-friend in Sungai Petani, Kedah

From Nick

…either as he had already extended his Christmas & New Year greetings when he sent me a birthday card and present the other day. Thank you so much, Nick! It is so sweet of you to send me another card specially for the festive season – I wonder why it is postmarked Alor Setar though. Perhaps you can plan to hop over to Sibu instead next time – you’d do that, wouldn’t you?

Now these came in the mail…

From smallkucing

…as well but via poslaju. Thank you, smallkucing and family for the chicken floss and also the book for Melissa che-che. She was so happy to get a book to read and she loves it!

In the meantime, my friend, Annie, came home for a few days and she gave me this lovely tumbler…

From Annie 1

…for Christmas and she also got something for Melissa too but don’t ask me what it was. She is sticking steadfastly to her “Don’t open till Christmas” rule – and the suspense is killing! LOL!!! Thank you also, Annie, for the lap cheong (Chinese sausages)…

From Annie 2

Wowwww!!! That’s a lot! Enough to last me through the whole of next year! LOL!!! And I must not forget to thank you for going through the trouble to help me buy the mini palm-sized projector that I wanted to give to my girl for use in her teaching and for bringing it all the way from KL.

Just when I thought that was all, the other night, I got a message from my ex-student, Tham, who said that he was on his way back from Kuching and would drop by my house soon after he had arrived and he did! At 10 something that night! It seemed that he and Daisy drove back all the way from Kuching…and how sweet it was of the two to think of me and bring me back something for Christmas. They got me this cheese butter cake from a bakery in Kuching…

Mita cheese butter cake

…the one with the very rich buttery fragrance that I really like a lot but I’ve been telling everybody not to buy for me as it does not come cheap, way over RM10.00 each, I heard. Gee!!! I sure have enough goodies to hold an open house for Christmas now. Anyone heading my way? Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

Thank you, all, for the lovely cards and gifts, everything. It’s Christmas Eve already – planning anything special for dinner? Care to share?

Welcome to the jungle…

My uncle and his family and everybody who came that day drove all the way from Kuching and like what I used to do before here and also here, they stopped by the little bazaars and towns along the way and by the time they reached Sibu, they had already bought quite a lot of stuff including things that came from our jungle where they grow wild and are sold by some ethnic women at those places, and are not that easily available in the big towns and cities in the state.

He gave me this durian mantak (unripened durian)…

Durian mantak

…to cook for my mum. I’ve cooked a more complicated version here once but my mum prefers it simple so this time around, I did it the way she likes it.

It is actually very easy. All you have to do is to remove the seeds and cut the flesh into bite-size chunks…

Seeds removed

My mum does not like it cut too small so that explains the rather big size of the pieces ready to be cooked.

To start off, you need to cook the stock. Just boil some water in which you put these ingredients…

Ingredients

– a bit of belacan (dried prawn paste), a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and chili. Simmer awhile to let the flavours come out of the ingredients before putting in the durian chunks.

Bring it back to boil and let it simmer for sometime and soon, it…

Durian mantak rebus

…is ready to be served, no added salt and no msg required.

My uncle also brought me these seeds…

Buah pelajo

…that are actually the kernel of what we call buah pelajo here. Probably that is in Melanau or Sarawak Malay for it appears that some people know them as melinjo or maybe that is in the national language. There are quite a lot of differences between the two, like for instance, we call an aeroplane bilun here but that is a balloon to them and their plane is kapal terbang, literally translated as flying ship.

I also cooked these in a similar way, what we call our sayur rebus (boiled vegetables) in our ethnic Melanau kampung-style cooking. As in the above with the durian mantak, I had the belacan and the chili but this time around, I had left out the ikan bilis as I had some prawns…

Udang galah

…and wanted to use those instead.

What I did was, I boiled the belacan and the chili for the stock before adding the seeds, leaving it to boil for a while before I added the prawns. I brought it back to boil and let it simmer some more to bring out the taste and sweetness of the crustaceans. Then I added some baby corn…

Paku & baby corn

…and added a pinch of salt since I did not use a lot of belacan nor did I add any ikan bilis so it would not be salty enough. When everything was almost done, I dropped in the paku (wild jungle fern) and turned off the heat the instant the soup started boiling again. Do not leave the paku to boil in the soup too long as it will become discoloured and will not look nor taste as nice.

This soup is best served piping hot…

Sayur rebus buah pelajo with paku, jagung & prawns

…and goes absolutely well with rice and yes, it is msg-free.

Since it is not easy to get those seeds, we would have to do without those usually but we can cook a lot of other things this same way and it will taste just as great.

Our loved ones…

I’m pretty sure that everyone will agree that special occasions like birthdays are best spent with our loved and dear ones.

My uncle from Kuching, my mum’s youngest brother, turned 75 that day when he was in Sibu. He is a Dragon, one complete cycle older than me – I am a Dragon too. His whole family was here and also an aunt – my mum’s youngest sister and her daughter, and my auntie-in-law, the wife of a late uncle of mine plus a friend of my cousin, 9 of them altogether.

On the night of his birthday, we all went here, all of them plus me, my girl and the mum making up a table of 12 that I had gone to book earlier. My girl got a birthday cake…

Birthday cake

…specially for her koo-kong (grand-maternal uncle) from Marcus, the home-based baker at Delta Estate here and of course, everyone loved it. Marcus was already doing it a long time ago when my uncle and family were living in Sibu and of course, they used to order their birthday cakes from him too then. Needless to say, they were very happy to get to enjoy it again during their brief stay here. As a matter of fact, he made my wedding cake when I got married and more recently, he made one for my nephew’s wedding too.

It being a birthday celebration, this is a must – our traditional longevity noodles, the mee sua (thread/string noodles)…

Longevity noodles

…with a golden egg each. My uncle seemed a little surprised probably because nobody was serving it like this long ago when he was still living in Sibu and he probably was expecting the noodles served with the traditional red wine chicken soup.

However, he had had the chicken pie…

New Capitol chicken pie

…from this old-school restaurant then – the only one in town at the time. This goes back a long way to around the 60’s and unlike today, we never had any such thing at the time and this was held in high esteem. When I was invited to some home dinner parties at some elite residences, like for their children’s birthdays, I would surely get to see this pie in the buffet spread. My uncle was looking forward to eating it again, a walk down memory lane not only for him but also for me.

However, we thought it was nice but we certainly did not think it was really great especially now that we can get lovely chicken pies elsewhere…and even bake our own! I would say that the pie crust was very good, almost as good as mine but the filling…

New Capitol chicken pie, filling

…was watery and something like some Chinese stewed chicken, quite unlike the ones we are more familiar with these days. The waitress removed the pie crust and served it separately so it would not turn soggy – I guess that wouldn’t have been necessary if there had been less gravy and if it had been a lot thicker.

Of course, this was a hit – the Sibu Foochow-style sio bee (meat dumplings)…

New Capitol Sibu Foochow sio bee

…and there were a few left at the end of the dinner and my cousin grabbed them to take back to the hotel to enjoy later that night. That sure showed how nice they were and how much they loved the ones served here.

We also had the braised pork belly…

New Capitol braised pork belly & mantao

…eaten sandwiched between their own-made mantao (steamed buns) that were bigger than the ones we can buy around town, and were softer and fluffier too.

One of my cousins, my uncle’s daughter, saw this chess/checkerboard duck…

New Capitol checkerboard duck

…somewhere online and insisted that we must have those and we did! It seems that they cannot get this dish anywhere in Kuching.

This was sea cucumber…

New Capitol fried sea cucumber

…fried with egg and whatever else and we asked for asparagus…

Asparagus

…but got it with an assortment of other vegetables.

That certainly was a delightful dinner and even though there were 12 of us, we couldn’t finish everything so I tapaoed the leftovers home…except for the sio bee that my cousin wanted. Some of them had beer, a few cans, and inclusive of all the drinks, the bill came up to around RM300.00 only. We thought that was very reasonable and most importantly, we were indeed most happy to be able to get together to celebrate with my uncle and his family on the special occasion of his 75th birthday.

Once again, Happy Birthday, Uncle Paul, many happy returns and may God bless you and your family abundantly in the year ahead. Cheers!!!