Before the day…

It sure was one hectic time for us, driving here and there with things to get done before all the places closed for the Chinese New Year holidays and going in and out of the medical centre to visit my mum and spend some time with her, just to keep her company, not that there was really anything much that we could do.

Despite all that, I insisted on having our own reunion dinner at home in keeping with the tradition even though it was just the three of us – my girl, the mum and I…and we had an early one so we could rush back to the medical centre right after that.

No, I did not want anything fancy – just steamed fish…

Steamed fish

…and rice. All these years, what I heard was that everyone must have fish at the reunion dinner – 年年有“鱼” and it must not be eaten all at one go. One would have to make sure there is some leftover to eat the following day. However, I read somewhere that the fish must be served whole…so fish head curry does not count, I’m afraid, and my missus saw on some television show that we must eat the middle part and not touch the head or the tail – those would have to be left behind to be eaten the next day, New Year’s Day.

I can’t say I am a firm believer nor a staunch follower of all these customs and traditions but I do find all of them somewhat interesting and I do not mind praticising some of them though I would not go out of my way to do so, solely just to keep our heritage – our customs and traditions alive.

My missus also made this salad dish…

Salad

…as well and actually, she had been cooking a few dishes over the past week or so to freeze and keep, waiting for the big day and she insisted in taking out the pre-steamed meat rolls or ngor hiang…or what they call lor bak in the peninsula to fry till they became the much coveted auspicious golden colour…

Ngor hiang

…and there was also the kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chicken

…and the satay beef…

Satay beef

…as well as this asam kunyit (tamarind tumeric) giant freshwater prawn and pineapple dish…

Pineapple prawns

I wouldn’t say it was one grand feast to end the Year of the Monkey but yes, it was a good dinner and fingers crossed, it was decent enough to bring the promise of endless good days ahead in the Year of the Rooster.

Unexpectedly…

The best things are the ones that come unexpectedly, pleasant things, of course, that come as a delightful surprise.

I have not seen Justin for a long long time ever since we went out for dinner a few times with our friend, Julia, from Perth Australia, here and here and here, for instance. What I knew was he completed his studies at a university in Kuching and then he went over to the peninsula to work but all these years, we never got to meet each other again though we stay in touch on Facebook.

Imagine how happy I was to hear that he would be coming back to Sibu for Chinese New Year and he sent word to tell me that he would drop by my house as he had some stuff to give to me. Oh? Isn’t that so very sweet of him…to remember me after all this time and to go through all the trouble of bringing things back for me?

First things first, he had these the sweet gifts of gold…

Amik melon

…specially for me. In Chinese culture, eating fresh fruit symbolises a new life beginning, and eating sweet fruit is a wish for a sweet year ahead. I had neither seen nor heard of these amik melons before but according to Justin, they are very popular in West Malaysia and Singapore and they are now trying to break into the local market, Sibu especially. He graduated in the field of agriculture so that is what he is involved in right now over in the peninsula.

Other than those, he also brought me a pomelo…

Pomelo

– an auspicious gift for family and friends during Chinese New Year. “Pomelo” in Chinese is called ‘da ji’ which means ‘to have’ so the real meaning of ‘da ji’ is like a wish to achieve prosperity.

Then, of course, there is this thing about eating fish during Chinese New Year – 年年有餘, “Year Year Got Fish” literally or a more accurate translation would be “Have abundance every year“. The word for “fish”, yu is a homophone for “abundance” and “affluence”…and Justin brought me these Muar otak otak

Muar otak otak

…for me to try and also the prawn version as well.

Thank you so much, Justin – you really made my day and with all the auspicious gifts that you brought specially for me, I bet a truly wonderful year is in store for me in the days ahead, that’s for sure. A Blessed and Happy Chinese New Year to you and all your loved ones too, cheers!!!

I feel bad…

No matter what the circumstances might be, I felt bad that I had to cancel my orders at the very last minute and I was afraid that they would be stuck with all that food even though the boss, Peter, said that there would be people who would want to buy so he should be able to sell it to them.

That was why on Chinese New Year’s Eve, we stopped by the place…

Payung new decor

…to find out and also for a quick lunch.

My girl had her favourites, the lamb Masala with rice…

Payung lamb Masala

…and their mashed potatoes.

I had their Payung chicken with rice…

Payung chicken 1

…that has been on their menu for a long long time now and I guess it has its following. I can’t say it is on my favoured list – rich and creamy with yogurt and the taste and smell of green peppers…

Payung chicken 2

…but I just felt like it that day so that was what I had.

My missus wanted the tom yam prawns…

Payung tom yam prawns

…and it so happened that Peter and a couple of the guys had gone marketing and one of the newer guys had to do the cooking even though he does not do it usually. Peter was worried that it might not be good but my missus enjoyed it very much so that was perfectly o.k. then.

Well, he said there was only a bit of the Bangladeshi lamb curry left so they would not have any problem serving that to any customers who would want to have that. However, they still had quite a bit of the green curry that I also ordered, my missus’ favourite, so I asked for the 2 kg, my original order and Peter gave me a generous discount for it, RM48 a kg instead of the usual RM58 or something and as we were leaving, he sent one of the boys running after us to pass me two tubs of the kueh bangkit that were made upon special order by someone in Mukah and they are selling it here…

Payung kueh bangkit

Thank you so very much, Peter and may the year ahead be a wonderful and successful one for all of you lovely people at Payung and may your days be blessed with blue skies, lots of smiles and everything nice. Qong Xi Fa Cai, cheers!!!

Better days…

That is what I am hoping and praying for in this Year of the Rooster.

Qong Xi Fa Cai or Kong Hee Fatt Choy, wishing one and all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Before the old year drew to a close, I was very sick so I was not able to join my young friends for dinner here. They went on their own and I was glad to get their feedback – they enjoyed the food very much. The following week, I was feeling better so I thought we could go out together before they went back to Perth, Australia and I made a table reservation here. Unfortunately, my mum was admitted into a medical centre here that very evening so I was not able to show up – I asked them to go ahead without me and my dear friend, Mary, would take good care of them and make sure that they would get the best they could have there.

My mum was in a very bad shape and we were rather worried. I called Peter at Payung to cancel my bookings of some of their dishes for Chinese New year. He was quite reluctant to let me do so at first but when he heard of my mum’s condition, he relented right away – I was afraid that I would not even be able to drop by to collect should anything happen.

Mary contacted me late that night to ask how my mum was. At that point in time, the doctor and nurses were still working on her – things were pretty much the same. Then I asked if my young friends enjoyed their dinner there but she told me they did not show up. Oh dear!!! Luckily I did not pre-order the dishes – that would have been real bad if they had cooked everything and nobody came to eat but Mary, our dear gracious Mary, was perfectly all right with it and kept saying it was o.k.

The next morning, Mary texted me again to ask about my mum and yes, she had taken the turn for the better by then. No, she was not eating nor drinking but everything was administered intravenously and things did not look so bad after that. Then, Mary asked me if I could drop by her restaurant to get something but I said no, I would not do that as I knew she would be giving me something and being caught with my mum at the medical centre and taking care of my dad at home, I would not know how on earth I would be able to reciprocate.

The next morning, I went to buy some fried noodles for my dad – the one that he enjoys a lot here…and I ordered some pad Thai for my girl and stopped by on the way back to my parents’ house to pick it up. I did pick up a small box of Mandarin oranges for the very lovely staff there, so very nice and so very friendly, to enjoy and when I reached the place, my jaws fell wide open!!!

There was this HUGE dish of steamed kampung chicken…

Steamed chicken from Mary 1

– free range and corn fed, all ready, waiting for me. Oh Mary, Mary, Mary!!! The sweet and gracious lady, so very kind and thoughtful, must be thinking that being caught in the whirlwind of things, we would not be able to find time to do any cooking for our Reunion Dinner and at least, we could have this gorgeous dish of steamed chicken…

Steamed chicken from Mary 2

…from her.

Of course I felt bad to accept as I had nothing to give in return other than my most profound and sincere thanks and my fervent prayers that God will bless her and her loved ones abundantly in this New Year and that she and her wonderful staff at Flavours will enjoy a most successful and prosperous year in the months ahead.

I guess the celebration is going to be pretty low-key for us, most of the time, going in and out of the medical centre, but I do hope everything’s going good for all of you wherever you may be. May God bless us all. Cheers!!!

Little something…

Many, kids especially, look forward to Chinese New Year in anticipation of those little something they would receive from their elders and next of kin – the ang pow or hong pao or red packets containing money. There was a time when the minimum one should give was RM1.10, the 10 sen coin being a polite indication of having given a little bit more than just RM1.00 but I do not think people bother about that so much these days and they just give whatever they feel like giving.

I do know for a fact that these days, many are into this hobby of collecting ang pow packets and they would go round asking for any that anyone could spare to add to their collection. I always get a lot from the bank round the corner from my house and this year, they have even given me an exclusive box set…

AMBB ang pows

…in addition to the regular ones but I do not need that many since I am not making those lanterns like the ones last year…

Own-made lantern
*Archive photo*

…to decorate my house. I would need a minimum of 24 ang pows to make one lantern like that.

My friend, Victor, also gave me some…

The Green House ang pow

…from his shop but unfortunately, he only gave me the packets, no money inside. Hehehehehe!!!!

Then there were others from here and there…

Others

…but I have bought a lot from the Foot & Mouth Artists people

Foot & Mouth Artists ang pow

…so I actually have more than enough already. Talk about starting the brand New Year on the right foot, I was thinking that it would be a nice gesture in the right direction on this very auspicious occasion to do a little bit for charity to help the less fortunate.

However, one thing that is getting more and more scarce as the years roll by would be these Chinese New Year greeting cards…

Chinese New Year cards

Thank you, Somewhere in Singapore – yours is one of the three that I received this year and I got the other one from a very old friend of mine in Kuching and this one…

CNY card from Hayley

…made it just in time, from Hayley In Taiping, Perak. Thank you so much to you too, Hayley – so sweet of you to send one my way.

Are you ready…

The schools here have closed for the Chinese New Year holidays and tomorrow, Chinese New Year’s Eve, we bid farewell to the Year of the Monkey and herald the arrival of a brand new year, the Year of the Chicken or as some would have it, the Rooster…

Farley, Rooster

Word has it that this very impressive decor, one that is most fitting for the occasion, was imported all the way from China and placed strategically in front of one of the most popular supermarkets and departmental stores in town.

Not to be outdone, one of the megamalls here has this golden one standing/sitting majestically right in front of the building…

Star Megamall golden hen 1

…and some claim that it is a hen, not a rooster. I’ve heard some ladies grumbling as to why it must be the rooster and not a female hen when in Chinese, it is just chicken – no discrimination either way. For one thing, it is the hen that lays the golden eggs so perhaps, it is good this way…

Star Megamall golden hen 2

…actually. Hopefully, it is going to be a productive year ahead, full of golden eggs all along the way.

Poor Pikachu – the one playing the role of Santa here last month has been forced to step aside and is relocated to the back entrance…

Star Megamall Pikachu

…of this shopping mall and I spotted this inflated God of Prosperity…

God of Prosperity

…outside a newly-opened furniture shop in town so I quickly stopped by to snap a photograph of it.

I am not sure if there are other nicer Chinese New Year decorations around town or not – for one thing, as I had been a little under the weather, I had not been around much but I guess we do have lots of lanterns here, there and everywhere like at this brand new supermarket…

New supermarket Sibu

…in town and all around the vicinity of the Chinese temple in the town centre…

Chinese New Year 2017 tua pek kong temple Sibu

Well, ready or not, it is here…so let the festivities begin!!!

Lolly…

For a while I thought it was that Filipino international fast food franchise

Lolibee Star Megamall Sibu

…but upon a closer look, I noticed that the name started with an L and not a J and yes, I did confirm that with the girl at the counter.

My missus was telling me about this new place at one of the mega malls in town and she said she could smell curry and stuff so she guessed it could be a place serving Malay cuisine…and of course, I wanted to go and check it out and we did!

It was not a very big place – I thought these tables and stools looked kind of unique…

Lolibee Eiffel Tower table & stools

…but I do think that people with children would probably have to be more careful when letting them play around those, all that metal with sharp edges and everything.

My missus ordered the three sours…

Lolibee Three Sours

– she and our girl would have that everytime they see it on the menu anywhere and I decided to give it a try. Goodness gracious me!!! That was so so so very sour!!! How could anybody possible drink that! It tasted quite nice actually, refreshing but it was way too sour for me and I could barely manage half of it. My missus had no problem whatsoever with her glass though and she gulped it all down, right to the very last drop.

The nasi lemak and the nasi ayam penyet were both not available yet so I settled for the nasi bryani with black beef (RM8.00)…

Lolibee nasi bryani black beef

Thankfully, the papadum was crispy, not limp like the one I had here but the masak hitam beef was not quite there. Yes, there was a hint of the regular masak hitam taste but no, there was too little of it to make much of a difference. I thought it was something a little better than plain soy sauce beef.

The rice was not quite there either…

Lolibee nasi bryani rice

…but on the whole, it was all right and it probably would have been nicer if they had pickled those nice fine strips of cucumber by the side. At that price, I sure would not mind stopping by for this again and enjoy it in the nice surroundings, air-conditioned and all, should I happen to be around there…especially when I would have to sit and wait for the ladies while they go on their shopping spree.

My missus had the nasi bryani chicken curry (RM7.00)…

Lolibee nasi bryani chicken curry

…and of course, her main bone to pick would be the fact that it was not at all spicy, not quite to her liking. She said it did not taste quite like the regular curry one would find here, there and everywhere but it was quite nice and they sure were very generous with the meat, that huge chunk of chicken thigh. I was wishing they would take a kitchen towel or a piece of tissue paper and wipe away those spills by the side though – these little things can leave a lasting impression, I must say.

I sure would not mind dropping by here again should I happen to be at the mall anytime soon…to give the other dishes that they have on their menu a try. Do let me know if you’ve been there and there is anything that you like…or otherwise.