But not often…

Sometime towards the end of the month-long school break, my girl mentioned in passing that she likes curry laksa or curry mee, be it the nyonya curry laksa like the ones at the since-closed-down Singapore franchise outlets here…

328 Katong laksa
*Archive photo: 328 Katong laksa*

…or the ones commonly found in West Malaysia…

Curry mee
*Archive photo: curry mee at O&S Restaurant, Paramount Garden, PJ*

…or the ones up north with pig’s blood and cockles and all. We did have a stall at a coffee shop here once where they served pretty good curry mee but everytime I went there, I would go for their Penang Hokkien prawn mee instead as it was more to my liking but either they decided to call it a day or they moved elsewhere – to this day, I have yet to find out what exactly happened.

Left to my own devices, I decided to cook my own for her for lunch when she came home last Friday after her first week back in her school in the jungle. I had the RM40 a kilo prawns that I bought a couple of mornings earlier when I went strolling at the wet market at Rejang Park and I dropped by the supermarket near my house that stocks up on a lot of Singapore products and grabbed a box of this…

Prima Taste instant curry laksa paste

…made in Singapore. I got one from a friend once, way back in 2013 and I used it to cook what my mum called her sayur masak lemak, otherwise known as sayur lodeh, and yes, it was very very nice and when I first tried the curry laksa at that Singapore franchise here, the first thought that ran through my mind was that it tasted exactly like what my mum used to cook.

I remember seeing it at the aforementioned supermarket at the time, priced around RM16.00 only but when I went to buy it that day, the price had gone up to over RM23.00. Goodness gracious me! Ah well! I decided to go ahead with my plan, anyway.

My girl bought this packet of the sago version of the hung ngang or the big bihun

Sago vermicelli

…because it was gluten-free, no wheat in the ingredients…

Gluten-free

…and it had been sitting in the pantry all this while. I decided to give it a try and soaked it in boiling water for 1 hour according to the instructions at the back of the pack but it was still not soft enough by then so I boiled it a bit  and then, it was all right.

These instructions were at the back of the box and they enclosed this leaflet inside…

Instructions

…and I followed it to the letter.  I saw that bit about adding laksa leaves (the daun kesum that I have growing in abundance in my garden) but I only added a few for fear that my girl might be put off by the strong smell/fragrance and yes, I did add some tau hu pok (tofu puffs) in the broth – my girl loved those!

For the condiments, I boiled the prawns, around half of the number that I bought and used the stock for the broth/soup. I fried some tau kua (firm bean curd cake) lightly and sliced and I also boiled some quail eggs and blanched a bit of taugeh (bean sprouts). I put the vermicelli in a bowl and arranged everything on top before adding the broth and a bit of the tofu puffs and served…

My Singapore nyonya curry laksa 1

Yes, it was so very nice…

My Singapore nyonya curry laksa 2

…that my girl insisted on having what was left for her dinner and of course, I was mighty pleased that she enjoyed it so much, definitely worth all my effort in cooking it for her. I did not like the sambal cili that came in a separate pouch in the box though – it had that canned smell and taste, something like the sambal ikan bilis that comes in tins. I thought the laksa was good enough without it.

I don’t know if or when we will be having this…

My Singapore nyonya curry laksa 3

…again but for sure, if we should ever do so, it would not be all that soon and not too often either.

Take it slow…

My jasmine tree is dying, a branch at a time so I had no choice but to saw away those branches that had died. I would cut away the little twigs and pack them in a big bag and put it outside for the rubbish collectors to cart away. I am not like many selfish people around here – they would just leave them to dry, leaves, grass, anything and everything and on a hot day, they would burn it all, polluting the whole neighbourhood with thick, smelly smoke.

However, that day, I had some huge branches so I sawed them into shorter lengths and tied them together in a bundle like what I did with the branches from my rambutan tree. Sadly, when I woke up that morning, I spotted the bundle placed nicely by the side of the road. The rubbish collectors had refused to dispose of it for me. Ah well, it did not matter as I had another heavier bundle with all the very much bigger branches that I had intended to take and throw away myself so I just had to get rid of both the bundles together, no problem at all.

Usually, I would take them to those so-called ‘refuse bin centres” where they would have some very huge bins and I would throw everything there for the people concerned to take away to some landfill rubbish disposal dump and one place that I often go to is Rejang Park – as far as I know, they have four of those bins there, two beside the wet market and two more on the other side beside the parking area.

Well, since I was there that morning and I did not have anything planned, I decided to take a slow walk around the place. I spotted this little corner shop…

Corner shop, Rejang Park

…still going strong. They have char kway teow and whatever noodles, fried on a hot plate and these tee peang

Tee peang, Rejang Park

…which my cousin from Kuching had before and she said they were very nice but if you do not go early, they will all be sold out.

I bought some to try and yes, they were quite nice, ALMOST as nice as the handsome boy’s at the pasar malam (night market). These were smaller though, maybe by half, but a lot cheaper, 4 for RM1.00 as opposed to 3 for RM2.00 at the handsome boy’s stall and of course, here, you will not have any eye candy to feast your eyes on while waiting for your order. Hehehehehe!!!

I also dropped by here…

Leong Leong Cafe, Rejang Park

…the favourite of many. I often see a lot of people there, mid-afternoon, enjoying their cooling local iced desserts…

Leong Leong Cafe menu

…which I did try before but I was not all that impressed, not just once but twice. I prefer the ones here but those there are very much more expensive, by as much as RM1.00! The kopi-o-peng/iced black coffee (RM1.50) here was all right but no, it did not sweep me off my feet.

I heard the noodles from this stall there…

Leong Leong Cafe noodles stall

…were very nice and I did try the fried ones once but I did not get to sample their kampua mee then. That was why, that morning, I ordered their pian sip (meat dumplings) soup – small (RM2.00)…

Leong Leong Cafe, pian sip soup 1

…which turned out to be really big, more or less the same size as the regular servings elsewhere.

It was all right, the dumplings were fine and the soup had a hint of our traditional Foochow red wine…

Leong Leong Cafe pian sip soup 2

…but it was kind of diluted – I would like it more if it had been stronger on the meat bone stock.

The kampua mee (RM2.80)…

Leong Leong Cafe kampua mee 1

…was good, nicer than a lot of places around town but I did not think it…

Leong Leong Cafe kampua mee 2

…was anything exceptional, not something that would get me out of my way to come and enjoy though I would not mind having it again should I happen to be in the vicinity.

After I had had my fill, I strolled over to the wet market and I saw some very big seawater prawns selling for RM40.00 a kilo – I don’t know if the price has dropped or what but I used to see those that big at the central market going for RM45.00. Yes, I did buy a kilo even though I did not have any plans at that point in time as to how I would cook them. Of course, after buying them, I had to go straight home and get down to the chore of deveining them.

LEONG LEONG CAFE 亮亮茶餐室 (2.306688, 111.837028) is located at No. 42, Jalan Teruntum, among the Rejang Park shops, to the left (the inner side, not facing the main road) of the since-closed-down cinema complex.

You ruin me…

It was in early 2013 when my girl was posted to her current school in the jungle, 99 km along the Sibu-Bintulu trunk road so it has been over 5 years now, going into her sixth year right now and sadly, she has not been successful in her applications to move to a school closer to home.

It  could have been a somewhat nice school if the people concerned had been more pro-active and had maintained the place, facilities and all really well and if they have a steady supply of electricity and are not dependent on generators and have a more reliable supply of diesel but no, this post is not going to be about the school. Perhaps I shall get round to it in the not-too-distant future but right now, I would like to highlight the problem I face every week when I drive to her school to pick her on Fridays and come back together or when I send her there on Sundays.

Initially, the road was fine…

Sibu-Bintulu Road 2013
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu, 2013*

…though not all that great – maybe I was not too familiar with it and I had the tendency to go too fast. That probably was because it seemed so far away so I had to hurry there, do what we had to do such as cleaning the place up and what not and rush back again but there were regular upgrading and resurfacing works…

Upgrading & resurfacing
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu, 2013*

…and the little inconvenience at the time sure paid off and the road seemed to get better and better after a couple of years or maybe it was because I was so familiar with it by then, like the back of my hand, so to speak, so I would know every pothole there was along the way.

Eventually, I found myself enjoying the leisurely drive…

Batu 36 Sibu-Bintulu
*Archive photo*

…week after week after week. Of course, there would be those recalcitrant drivers in their 4WDs or pick-up trucks, those huge inter-town buses and even overloaded trucks like this one…

Overloaded

…driving like there is no tomorrow but experience has taught me to avoid those and give way to them, let them overtake, if they are coming from behind. The speed limit here is 90 kmph and if I was doing 80-90 kmph and they could overtake me and disappear out of sight, one can imagine how fast they were going. No worries though, over the years I hardly ever saw any police personnel on patrol even though there is a station at Stapang and this nice one, flats and all…

Police, Selangau
*Archive photo*

…at Selangau so those hell-raisers can just go ahead and race themselves to kingdom come!

The overtaking lanes constructed at three places did help somewhat but unfortunately, they are in a rather bad shape these days. Besides, it seems to me that most everyone thinks they are F1 drivers the moment they reach those lanes and they would go so very fast like they are afraid of people overtaking them. Obviously, these people are suffering from some kind of inferiority complex and would need to go and see a psychiatrist.

There are only two lanes, one going and one coming…

Two lanes
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu 2013*

…so if there is a slow coach in front…

Slow coach
*Under-powered and overloaded*

…on days like some weekends, especially after a long weekend or a festival, when the lines of cars are simply unending, one will just have to follow quietly and patiently.

Then there were those left-wing people (they are right wing now) who kept making a whole lot of noise asking for a highway like those multi-lane ones in the mainland. Why, the father and son came to Sibu when the YB at the time died of cancer and there was a by-election and the old man commented that driving on the roads here was like riding on horses – and that got me wondering as to whether they ever did ride on horses before.

That was how it all started, the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway. Slopes were bulldozed and flattened, vast areas of jungle were cleared, longhouses and other houses along the way were demolished but works went on at a snail’s pace. On my weekly drives, along the way I could count the number of people that I saw working with one hand and when it rained, flash floods would occur and the water would wash the mud onto the road rendering it quite invisible so I would have to drive very very slowly, praying and hoping that I would not run over a giant pothole or go into the drain.

Lately, they have had all the detours along this once relatively straight road so you would have to turn right here…

Lencongan 1

…and left there…

Lencongan 2

…go down the slope here and up the slope there…

Lencongan 3

…twisting and turning like a snake…

Lencongan 4

…and it would not be so bad if these lencongans had been well-made. Maybe it is because they are meant to be temporary so the quality is bad and they have been done hastily in a slip-shod manner so give it a week or two, there will be potholes, BIG ones, all over, a whole lot of very uneven parts and going over those, I would hear the LOUD crunching sound of my car being dragged along. Suffice to say that with the construction of what we call the Pain-Borneo Highway, the once rather nice road has been completely ruined!!!

I hear that construction has been held back pending investigation of the main contractor and the sub-contractor and the sub-sub-contractor etc…etc…etc… Word has it that the ones right at the bottom line, doing all the work, get paid very little, if at all.

Our population is smaller, our traffic volume is much less than over in the peninsula – personally, I do not feel we really need a highway. It would have been a lot better if all the money had been spent gradually and progressively on maintaining and upgrading the road and at most, a few more of those overtaking lanes would do fine but I guess it is too late to turn back – the whole road is one horrendous mess and it gets worse by the day! Looking at the progress going on so very very slowly, I really do not think I, and many of those at the top as well, including the one at the very top, will get to see its completion…in our lifetime.