Our own way…

Last Saturday was the Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (冬節).

All through my growing up years, we never did have a grand celebration. For the Chang or the Mooncake Festivals, we would just eat those changs (dumplings) or mooncakes respectively and for this one, my mum would prepare the glutinous rice balls or tang yuan (湯圓) as they are called and we had to eat them. The only one we would go all out to celebrate would be the Chinese New Year Festival. These days, it seems that any festival or chek, as we call it in Hokkien, everyone would be celebrating and go out for dinner in the evening and here, shops would close by mid-day.

I never did like those balls – I found them rubbery and hard to swallow and the sweet pandan-flavoured sugar syrup sure did not help much to enhance the bland taste of the thing. Later, there was the dry crushed peanut and sugar coated version and I sure liked them a little bit more.

I did see any forthcoming in the kitchen last Saturday morning so I went to the shop round the corner from my house and yes, they had the flour and two types of coating – peanut and mung bean so I bought the orange-coloured one with sweet potato and headed home. The ladies got down to making the tang yuan

Tang yuan

…and yes, we did get to eat them, after all, to preserve the age-old Chinese tradition.

When my mum was bedridden, my sister would buy them from the market and when we went over to their house, we would eat, usually one each since we were not all that fond of them. I guessed she would not be having any this year so we gave her some and arranged to meet for lunch here for a little family celebration of our own in our own way and to pass them to her.

My missus had the chicken vindaloo

Cafe Ind chicken vindaloo

…but she still thinks her kalio ayam is a lot more to her liking. I had the fish curry with basmati rice…

Cafe Ind fish curry with basmati rice

…and I quite enjoyed that even though it was rather over-sourish that day but it went really well with the rice.

My girl and my sister both had the mutton biryani

Cafe Ind mutton biryani

That girl of mine would stick faithfully to that everytime we drop by here. The total, inclusive of drinks, came up to RM89.00 and yes, the generous boss gave me a discount and rounded it up to RM85.00 only for me.

Well, it so happened that my friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, made some tang yuan as well and he wanted to send them over to my house that evening. However, we would be going for our weekly Novena and sunset service in church so I said we would drop by once we were done, around 8 something. We were still very full after our lunch so we thought we could have supper there that night.

When we got there, our attention was drawn to this very lovely Christmas tree…

Payung Cafe Christmas tree 1

…by the side and we were amazed to find out that it was actually a quilt-like curtain with a 3-D image of the tree and the ever so creative and innovative Peter painstakingly sewed all the ornaments…

Payung Cafe Christmas tree 2

…onto it. I must say that it sure looked like there was a real Christmas tree standing there. They were still working on the decorations at the time so if one drops by around Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, one would be able to see a lot more…which is more than what I would say about a lot of places here this year – Christmas sure seems a whole lot laid-back, not much decoration, probably because of the flagging Malaysian economy. These are hard times, they say.

For our supper, I had their beef spaghetti (RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe beef spaghetti

…and my girl had their chicken chop (RM25.00)…

Payung Cafe chicken chop

…and no, this time around, we did not request for the two slices of garlic bread…

Payung Cafe garlic bread

…to be left out – I ate those…and replaced with mashed potatoes (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe mashed potatoes

…as comparing the prices, that would not be a fair exchange and I would not want to take advantage of the nice people here. Business is business so we ordered that separately.

My missus had their tom yam prawns (RM17.00 with rice)…

Payung Cafe tom yam prawns 1

…and with her special request for it to be extra spicy (which got everyone at the place sneezing away), it was very much to her liking.

There was a Malay lady (and her hubby) who commented in no uncertain terms on their Facebook page recently that there was no soup in their tom yam

Payung Cafe tom yam prawns 2

…and tom yam is supposed to be a soup dish. Well, tom yam fried rice or bihun is not soupy and it is stated as tom yam prawns in the menu, not like at some places, seafood tom yam soup. Well, there was soup in the dish as anyone can see from the photographs, more than enough for my missus, at least, so much so that she could not finish all of it as she was very full already and she even enlisted our help with the prawns – they always give me extra here.

Yes, we did get to enjoy the glutinous rice balls…

Peter's tang yuan

…that Peter prepared in his own way – with sago pearls in gula Melaka (palm sugar) and santan (coconut milk) soup. This is a little bit like the ginataang bilo-bilò in the Philippines, thank you so much, Peter, for the special treat.

Initially, we did not plan to celebrate the festival in any way but we certainly did have a great day…in our own way.

CAFE IND(2.290813, 111.829294) is located along Laichee Lane, right behind one block of shops facing the main road (Jalan Kampung Nyabor) where the Bank Simpanan Nasional, Sibu branch (2.290561, 111.829071), is and PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.