The older I get…

…the lazier I become.

These days, I feel so lazy to cook something nice for breakfast. I will just have my mug of coffee, Nescafe, no sugar – I am not bothered to go and brew something nicer and maybe have a few biscuits and then, I would go out to water the plants and do the gardening till mid-morning when it gets a bit too hot for me to continue. In the past, I would cook some fried rice or noodles or fry some bihun but the mere thought of it makes me tired already. LOL!!!

The other day, however, there was a lot of leftover rice in the fridge and some sambal belacan and some sambal ikan bilis so I decided to get them out of the way. I fried a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) in a bit of oil, browned one shallot, peeled and sliced, three cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped and then threw in three chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced, followed by the two sambals and then the rice and mixed everything together well. Next, I added two eggs, sprinkled a little bit of salt and thinly sliced Thai basil and spring onions from my garden and it was done…

My sambal fried rice

There was enough for the two of us for breakfast and dinner – we had lunch outside that day.

On other days, either my missus or I would go out and come home with some things we could have for breakfast. I would feel lazy to go out even these days so you would not see me venture all the way to the wet market (the Sibu Central Market) in the early morning.

Thankfully, there is this shop round the corner from my house…

Swee Hung
*Photo from Google Streetview*

…in the next lane.

If I remember correctly, it started off as a fruit shop and it grew and grew. These days, in the early morning, it is a mini-market where one can get fresh meat and fish, fresh vegetables and even things like tofu and taugeh (bean sprouts) and they have a lot of things in their freezer too – as a matter of fact, I got the beef that day from there.

The boss would go to Sarikei every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and come back with a whole lot of things such as some very fresh sweet corn, pineapples and the juiciest and sweetest pomelo, the variety that they call mor-mor phow (hairy pomelo). I loved the Nestum-coated peanut butter mochi that he used to get from there but for reasons unknown, not anymore. There are also those lung ngor (egg cake) and bak koi (egg cake with minced meat and shallots) and the Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits…and so on and so forth. A lot of the stuff that they sell are homemade – people make them at home and leave them there for sale.

I bought these yew char koi or yew tiao

Yew char koi

…there at 60 sen each but unfortunately, they were far from anything like what we used to enjoy before in my growing up years. They tasted all right with kaya (coconut jam)…

With kaya

…but as you can see in the photograph, the texture was all wrong – they looked, to me, like some clogged artery.

The dough is supposed to be very small, finger size and they would use a piece of something like a cutter to make the dent in the middle, lengthwise. Once that is thrown into the hot oil, it will rise to the occasion and will be at least 12 inches long! Inside, there should be a lot of air spaces, crusty or crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When we ate the thing, we would tear it along that aforementioned dent and it would come apart easily, not these ones that I bought the other day. Of course, I would not want to buy anymore the next time I see any at the shop.

On another day, my missus bought these chicken curry puffs…

Curry puff

…and the next morning, I heated them up for breakfast.

I was delighted to see the chicken inside…

Curry puff filling

…when I cut it but my happiness was short-lived. That was all the meat there was inside – the rest of the filling was all potatoes. Yes, it was quite nice, that much I would say, but at RM2.50 each, I think I would much sooner go for a plate of kampua mee with a lot more meat than those miserable bits in the puff.

These were good though – the ma ngee or horse’s hoof…

Ma ngee

…that I bought from the shop, also selling for 60 sen each. I’ve tried others before – there were very small ones, others were hard or not quite the same or the texture was something like doughnut which should not be the case. They are two different things.

I certainly would keep going back to the shop as it is so very convenient and parking is easy and free and if I buy a lot of things, they will help carry all the stuff and put everything in the car…unlike when I go to the market in town and park my car far away and walk all the way there and back again with all my purchases, sweating from every pore.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket. Kim Tak Co. and Ah Kau Cafe are located in the other block on the left.

Not what I thought…

There is an open space in the vicinity of Sungai Antu where the Trans-Sarawak Bus Terminal was a long time ago – this coffee shop and this one are located there, in the block of shops facing it. At one time, they used it for the temporary stalls of the hawkers here while Taman Harmoni, the food court/hawker centre, was undergoing some massive renovations and eventually, they all moved back to where they came from.

Quite recently, I saw some construction going on and it looked like they were putting up some hawker stalls there. The work has been completed now and I saw a banner declaring, “For the Sibu Bidayuh Community, a project of DBNA” and that got me quite excited as I thought there would be stalls selling Bidayuh cuisine like the restaurant at the association’s premises in Kuching.

However, my happiness was short-lived as when I dropped by to check the place out, I did not see what I had expected – I don’t know how many of the people there were Bidayuhs as they were all speaking Foochow. There was a food stall where they were dishing out some dishes, getting them ready for anyone into chap fan/nasi campur (mixed/economy rice) and though they looked good, they were all Chinese, it seemed, not Bidayuh. Perhaps they did not intend it to be a place serving traditional ethnic Bidayuh delights and had rented out the stalls for the funds for the community and association’s activities here.

In the end, since we were already there, my missus and I went back here for our lunch and of course, she had the nasi kerabu with ayam percik (RM6.50)…

Warong Cafe nasi kerabu ayam percik

I ordered their nasi lemak special (RM6.00)…

Warong Cafe nasi lemak special 1

…and asked for the ayam percik but the girl said they would serve that with chicken rendang

Warong Cafe chicken rendang

…so I had that instead. Actually, I had that a long time ago when this place was under a different name (and probably somebody else was cooking it then) and thought it was very nice.

This time around, I thought it was good, the chicken rendang, but between the two, I felt the ayam percik was nicer. The rice was quite lemak (rich with santan/coconut milk) and not hard and dry like what I had at some places around here and some were so bad that they might as well just serve plain rice instead and on the whole, I did enjoy my order…

Warong Cafe nasi lemak special 2

…that day.

WARONG CAFE (2.318841, 111.831732), formerly Sri Tanjung Cafe, is located among the shops in between Jalan Tapang and Jalan Tapang Timur towards the end of Jalan Kampung Nangka – RTM Sibu is located right across the road on the right.

Many shades of black…

No, this post has got nothing to do with the infamous 50 shades of grey – it is all about our Sarawak’s own culinary delight – the daging masak hitam

Daging masak hitam 1

…literally translated as meat (beef) cooked black.

Here, we have the instant paste…

Liza's instant paste 1

…which if I am not mistaken, is made in Miri, available at many shops and supermarkets at less than RM4.50 a tub.

I have noticed, however, that no matter what product it may be, the suggested cooking instructions and the list of ingredients…

Liza's instant paste 2

…are all the same so one should be aware of that and not follow everything blindly.

To cook the dish, I had this imported Australian beef…

Beef

…sliced thinly and across the grain so it will not be tough and I marinated it with the instant paste.

In the meantime, I peeled and chopped one Bombay onion and bruised the ends of two serai (lemon grass) stalks…

Onion, chili and serai

These would be the two extra ingredients we would add whenever we use any instant paste in our cooking. That day, I also sliced some chili thinly to add to the dish for a little bit of heat. My missus is not really crazy about our daging masak hitam and my guess is it is because generally, the dish is not spicy.

I fried the onion in a bit of oil…

Fry the onion

…before adding the lemon grass and the chili…

Add serai & chili

…after which, in went the beef…

Add beef

Mix everything thoroughly and stir fry till the juices have come out of the meat so you will have a bit of sauce or gravy. You may add a bit of water if you would like more of it…and a bit of sugar if you would like it savoury sweet.

I simmered it for a while and when it was done, I dished it out…

Daging masak hitam 2

…and served and needless to say, it was great…

Daging masak hitam 3

…but no, it was not quite there, for want of a handful of raisins, blended and those spices that they sell in the shops for use in sup tulang (bone soup) would be an added bonus.

I did send this instant paste to Elin and also Phong Hong and I sent some to Lilian, Merryn’s mum too and Merryn said that she kept one tub for herself to try. I wonder if she has got down to it yet…

Dinner…

I usually have my dinner at around 6.00 p.m. every day. That may be considered a little early for some people but all this while, that is our usual time unless there are other arrangements.

Last Sunday, after we had come home from sending my girl back to her school in the jungle, I was having my dinner when my good friend/ex-classmate, Robert, called. He said he would like to meet me to discuss something but I was already halfway through. I told him I would go as we had not got together for quite a while now but I would not be eating much anymore.

I met him and his wife, Angela, here and they ordered a few dishes for the two of them but I did have a bit of what they were having. There was this Thai papaya salad dish, the som tam

Flavours Thai Kitchen som tam

…and they had the white/clear tom yam soup…

Flavours Thai Kitchen white tom yam

They said that they had been having that lately, a welcome change from the spicy and creamy version…

Flavours Thai Kitchen creamy seafood tom yam
*Archive photo*

…that my girl likes a lot.

There was also this omelette…

Flavours Thai Kitchen omelette

…which was nice but really, that was the first time I had seen an omelette that thick and it was a wonder that they did manage to get it perfectly cooked inside.

I could guess that Robert wanted to talk about the plans of our high school reunion in April next year. They have been discussing it full swing already on WhatsApp but of course, I am not in the group or any group, for that matter, as I do not have a smart phone. Some of the ladies did contact me regarding this even though it is still a year away.

They had had a few reunions before the one I attended in 2011 and then, we had one in 2013 followed by the grand reunion dinner organised by the alumnis of our schools and though those of us from around here have attended the ones in subsequent years here, here and here, we have not had our own, just those of us from the same year when we were in school since the aforementioned one in 2013 (though I heard the ladies had their own this year in Kuching) – I guess after five years, it will be good to get together again.

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN (2.292836, 111.828287) is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

Vegetarian…

My girl bought two packets of chick peas and used one to cook some vegetarian curry – she said that she used to enjoy that at the Indian stall across the road from the teacher-training institute where she was at Kuala Ketil in Sg Petani, Kedah. She soaked the chick peas overnight and cooked the curry the following day and though I thought it was very nice, she was not too happy with it as she said the chick peas were hard, not like the ones she had before.

The remaining packet was lying there all this while so last Thursday, I decided I would cook it. I also soaked the chick peas overnight and I boiled them the next day…for hours until they became soft. Maybe they had been kept too long already, all dried up and shrivelled and that was why it took so long and besides, the skin never came off on its own and worse, they did not taste good at all, none of the nice kacang kuda (chick peas) taste. In the end, I decided to cook curry with them.

I pounded some shallots, garlic, ginger, chilies and kunyit (turmeric) and fried the paste in a bit of oil, together with two stalks of serai (lemon grass). I chopped some tomatoes, skin removed, till really very fine and threw it in and I added some water before adding the chick peas and potatoes, peeled and boiled till almost cooked/soft. Oh dear!!! It was then that I discovered that there wasn’t any curry powder in the house so I had no choice but to add a bit of serbuk kunyit (turmeric powder instead) for a nice yellow colour, a spoonful of garam masala (Indian spices) and a spoonful of paprika…and I added a bit of evaporated milk and threw in a sprig of curry leaves. Lastly, I added a bit of salt and sugar and when I tasted it…

My chick pea & potatoes vegetarian curry

…I thought it was very nice! Once cooled, I kept that in the fridge for my girl to enjoy for lunch the next day, Friday, once we got home from fetching her from her school in the jungle. It so happened that her housemate at the teachers’ quarters came along with us and of course we invited her to join us for lunch. She tasted the gravy and exclaimed spontaneously, “This is nice!!!” Of course, that pleased me immensely. Hehehehehe!!!!

We did not go to the sunset service on Saturday evening as we went out for dinner to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday. That was why we went to the early morning service on Sunday instead and after that, we dropped by here for brunch before making our way along the Pain-Borneo Highway to send my girl back to her school.

My girl had her favourite, the thosai

Sri Pelita thosai

…and that too is vegetarian, I guess but no, we did have the slices of beef with our kampua mee

Sri Pelita beef kampua, black

– my missus and I. I forgot to tell them I wanted it white so we were served the black version, the one with dark soy sauce but it did not really matter as it was good. My missus was having it for the first time here and she was pleasantly surprised and sang its praises, especially considering that it was halal, no lard was used in the making.

I was afraid that the mee would not be substantial enough and I would be feeling  hungry as we would not be home till mid-afternoon so I ordered one roti canai

Sri Pelita roti canai

…for myself and yes, that’s vegetarian all right but of course, my girl can’t eat that, much as she would like to, as it is made from  wheat flour and is not gluten-free.

The nice boss, Guna, was not around that day and the bill came up to RM18.50 for all that we had, the three of us, plus the drinks. I saw the chef taking a break and enjoying his chappati at the next table – I didn’t know they had that! I sure would want to try it the next time we drop by here.

SRI PELITA CAFE (2.293579, 111.820700) is located along Lorong Kampung Datu 11, off Jalan Kampung Datu, the first shop in the block to the right of Paramount Hotel.

Not so nice…

It’s my brother-in-law’s birthday tomorrow, the 26th of April. I think he’s 65, a year younger than I am…and of course, his wonderful daughter, my niece – the one working in Singapore – came home last weekend to celebrate with her parents and she invited us too.

They wanted to go here but for reasons unknown, they were closed. Probably they had gone off somewhere on a holiday. That was why we ended up here and of course we had our favourites – their honey prawn balls…

Nice House honey prawn balls

…and their sour plum chicken…

Nice House sour plum chicken

My niece wanted the sea cucumber soup…

Nice House sea cucumber soup

…which was nice, just that I did not think I could find any of the coveted stuff in it, not even a little bit.

We also ordered our local wild fern – the midin, ching chao (fried plain)…

Nice House midin, ching chao

…specially for the benefit of my niece as she would not be able to find those in the island republic. I hear they export it there from Kuching but I don’t know where people there can get to enjoy eating it and besides, I am pretty sure it will not come cheap, no way.

My brother-in-law ordered this salad sotong (squid)…

Nice House salad sotong

…and he also wanted his favourite sweet and sour fish fillet…

Nice House sweet and sour fish fillet

…and omelette, another one of his favourites – we had that with bitter gourd added…

Nice House bitter gourd omelette

…which we enjoyed a lot more than if they had just fried the egg with Bombay onions. Had I known they did not have lap cheong (Chinese sausage), I would have brought along my very nice own-made wine-infused ones from my friend, Annie, in KL.

My niece commented that they did not not use enough oil and the wok was not hot enough so it did not have that much-coveted golden fringe. In fact, she thought the food here was not so nice, kind of bland and lacking in the stronger flavours of what they have elsewhere. for instance, some of the delightful dishes that they have on their menu at the aforementioned place that was not open that day.

I would say she was right in a way – the food here is rather on the mild side, not salty and no msg overdose and not oily but personally, I do enjoy what they dish out in their own subtle ways, a welcome change that we may go for sometimes. For one thing, it does seem to go down really well with a lot of people as this place is always very crowded and that night was no exception – the place was full…and thankfully, the dishes came out fast and furious and we did not have to wait long to enjoy our orders.

If I remember correctly, my niece paid over RM140.00 for the dinner, inclusive of rice and drinks so I guess it worked out to around RM20.00 each for the 6 of us. As a matter of fact, my missus did request for servings for 4 persons which makes it even worse, around RM30 per person – not all that cheap, not at all.

NICE HOUSE RESTAURANT (2.29201,111.82739) is located in the vicinity of the Tunku Osman shops, opposite Rejang Bookstore.

Hard work…

This is what we call buah tupang in Melanau or buah pulo in Malay…

Buah tupang

I did blog about eating the very nice mature seeds here and a long time ago, I had a post on how to cook it, masak sayur rebus (boiled vegetables)-style.

Last Friday, we had to drive all the way to my girl’s school in the jungle to fetch her and bring her home for the weekend and on the way, we stopped by the Selangau market. I saw a lot of the young fruit but my missus said that she did not want to buy – “Ching chay kang (a lot of work)!” she said. Knowing how my girl loves eating this, I simply had to grab one and believe it or not, it was just RM2.00 each, RM5 for 3 smaller ones.

Yes, it was quite a lot of hard work as I had to shave off the outer skin and get rid of the “thorns” and I had to put my hand, the one holding it, in a plastic bag to avoid any contact with the sap…

Shaving the outer skin

You may end up getting it on the knife and it would be hard to get it off but an easy way would be to use cooking oil…

Getting rid of the sap

…and you would be able to scrub it off quite easily after that.

The lady at the market swore it was very young but looking at the shades of brown in the seeds…

Outer skin removed

…I could tell it wasn’t really that young so the shell might be a bit hard. Of course, one could peel it off while eating but that would take away a bit of the enjoyment of the dish. That was why I took out all the seeds…

The seeds

…and got rid of all the shell…

Shell removed

There may be a thin brown-coloured skin inside but like the ones in groundnuts, that need not be removed.

The rest of the skin…

The inner skin

…is edible too but not the core.

Once done, I got the ingredients ready…

Ingredients for pounding

– some shallots, garlic and ginger, chili, a bit of kunyit (turmeric) and lengkuas (galangal) and pounded them till really fine…

Pounded ingredients and serai

…along with two stalks of serai (lemon grass), bruised at the ends and I also pounded some udang kering (dried prawns) with a bit of belacan (dried prawn paste) added.

First, I fried the pounded ingredients and the serai in a bit of oil before adding the seeds and a bit of water and I let it boil for a while to cook the seeds. Next, the skin went in and finally, I added santan (coconut milk) and a bit of serbuk kunyit (turmeric powder) for a nicer yellow colour and salt according to taste…

Tupang muda masak lemak 1

…and it was done!

It was nice…

Tupang muda masak lemak 2

…but no, it was not like what my mum used to dish out – hers was very much nicer. I think I went a bit overboard with the ingredients – the kunyit, lengkuas and serai so it was a little too strong on the taste of those but yes, it was good enough…

Tupang muda masak lemak 3

…for my girl to want to bring some back to her school in the jungle to enjoy on one of the days in the week ahead…but she only wanted the seeds, not the skin. Still, that sure was a consolation for all my effort.