On our own…

A big thank you to my cousin in Kuching for the very nice Chinese New Year card…

CNY card 2

…that she sent me, the 2nd one that I’ve received this year. I thought that was so cute, Papa Piggy and Mama Piggy carrying the taels of gold signifying riches or wealth in abundance.

And this gorgeous one…

CNY card 3

…just arrived yesterday all the way from another cousin of mine in Perth, Australia so this one is 3rd in line. I doubt we can find such nice ones here. She even added this interesting sticker…

The Year of the Pig

…at the back of the envelope.

I did not send out any this year not because of any particular reason – just that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Unlike Christmas cards, I don’t think there is any problem getting hold of them around here and anyway, I do have quite a lot from the Mouth & Foot Artists but I just never got round to it.

I think I did mention a few times that we will not be celebrating this year, no open house and no visiting family and friends either, as it has not been a year since my mum passed away – the 1st anniversary will be next month, in March. However, we would have something on our own at home, like the reunion dinner on a very small scale. We would just cook a few simple dishes and invite my sister to join us as she would be alone and we would probably buy some cakes and cookies and snacks as well.

The nice lady at the bank, my friend, asked me the other day if I would want to reserve some new bank notes for my ang paos but I told her that we would not be celebrating so I would not be giving out any this year. I did ask for some of their red packets though – my missus collects them and my sister as well so I can always give to them…

Ang pao packets

I am glad that unlike in previous years, they have subtly done away with the animal in the Chinese zodiac. I do prefer that as I can use the ang paos whenever I like – otherwise, it would be another 12 years before I can use them again as each year, there will be a different animal.

The other night, I went to that supermarket in town to buy some Mandarin oranges…

Buying Mandarin oranges

…to enjoy, this once-a-year thing. Traditionally, it is believed that red and gold are auspicious colours that will bring good fortune and prosperity in the coming year. The nice boys went through each and every one of the oranges to make sure they were all in good condition and if any were less than satisfactory, they would be quickly replaced.

There was a man who got there before me and he wanted to buy 8 boxes altogether. He looked old but my guess is he wouldn’t be all that old, maybe around my age or a bit older or to the most, in his early 70’s. The boys diligently went through all the oranges one by one and I was quite pissed off by how grumpy and fussy he was! When one asked him for his opinion, he snapped back somewhat fiercely and sarcastically, “You say it is good, it is good lah!!!” No, he did not say much else but he just stood there looking very angry like he was angry about something. Why! I even saw him taking some of the fruits and pressing them with his thumb – that is one habit some people have that I absolutely detest and why would anyone want to press an orange! Even if the fruit had been good in the first place, the unwarranted pressure would spoil them eventually. I absolutely hate it when I see buyers doing this when buying fruits, tomatoes and so on.

I was somewhat pissed off by his behaviour and attitude and that got me thinking – is it because of age that people become grumpy like that? Or is it some people’s second nature – they are born like that? Or is it the home environment, the upbringing…or is it this thing about some people – they think they have the money so it is their prerogative to boss people around?

Whatever the reason, I certainly would not want to end up like that – such unpleasantness sure leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth, so to speak. One thing’s for sure, the world would be a very much nicer place if everyone can be nice to everybody, never mind whether they are rich or poor, young or old…and regardless of race, colour or creed. Like how the song goes, “What the world needs now…is love!

Baby talk…

When we talk to babies, we tend to use double syllables in their baby lingo. Kai kai or wau wau means to go for a walk or a spin in the car, or or means to sleep, shi shi means to urinate, uk uk is to pass motion, chek chek means dirty while nen nen means to drink milk and so on and so forth. Mum mum, to the toddlers means to eat and there is a new place in town that sees it fitting to go by that name…

Mum Mum Food Street

I dropped by early Sunday morning to check it out and there were quite a lot of people having their breakfast there already. The people at most of the stalls were still starting to get ready for the day except these two…

Stalls

– the kueh chap & lor mee stall and the kampua mee stall and both were enjoying really brisk business.

I was stunned when the waitress told me that the kopi-o

Kopi-o

…that I ordered was RM1.80 a glass. Firstly, they got my order wrong – I wanted it with ice and secondly, normally, the ones with ice come at that price (or less even elsewhere), a lot less if without, maybe by around 59 sen.

I did not feel like having kueh chap and I did catch a glimpse of the lor mee being served – the one I had the other day looked a whole lot better. In the end, I ordered this set from the kampua stall (RM6.00)…

Set B

-the kampua mee kosong (without meat) and the liver soup. There are three sets to choose from, this one and one with clear pork soup and one more that I can’t really remember now.

The kampua mee

Kampua mee

…was very nice even though they did not use the straight and thicker handmade authentic kampua noodles. Not only was theirs curly but I noticed the extra thinness but of course, that did not matter much to me. As long as it was nice, that would be fine by me.

The piansip/kiaw/wanton (meat dumplings) is RM3.00 a bowl so my guess is that the regular kampua mee would cost the same too but I could not see it in the price list of the items available at the stall. They did break down the prices for the sets, RM3.00 + RM3.00 and if it is RM3.00 for that plate of kampua mee, then I would say it is VERY expensive for a kosong (without meat).

Thankfully, the liver soup…

Liver soup

…was very nice, very generous with the ginger and the traditional Foochow red wine and other than the liver, there was egg and a bit of the khiew chai (curly vegetable) inside. I enjoyed that!

Well, I guess I would drop by again but most likely to try what the other stalls have to offer instead of these two.

MUM MUM FOOD STREET (2.290923, 111.821227) is located along Lorong Lau King Howe 1, a few doors before the Bakemore Bakery and the hotel that are located back to back with this coffee place. Lim Teh & the Waterfront Apartments (our Sibu Twin Towers) are right around the corner.

Approve…

Last Saturday, I took my girl here for lunch so she could try the nasi kerabu that I thought was pretty good and yes, as expected, she enjoyed it…

La'zzaty Cuisine nasi kerabu

…and gave her two thumbs up in approval.

In the meantime, the mum went for the nasi campur (mixed rice)…

La'zzaty Cuisine nasi campur 1

…and had the sambal petai (stink beans) with prawns, kerabu daging and some sotong  (squid) dish.

I also went for the nasi campur – the ikan bakar (grilled fish) looked so good I simply couldn’t resist…

La'zzaty Cuisine nasi campur 2

…and of course, I had the liver and yes, I loved petai too!

I also had some ladies fingers and brinjal from the ulam selections and helped myself generously to the sambal belacan (dried prawn paste)…

La'zzaty Cuisine ulam

Oh boy! That was so good too! My missus helped herself to what I took and yes, it sure looked like she loved it as well, as much as she liked her picks from the nasi campur cabinet/counter and I sure enjoyed mine too!

The total, inclusive of drinks, came up to only RM29.80, around AUD/NZD10.00 for the three of us and I liked how everybody here is very friendly and always ready to answer any question that I ask. I saw some people with all the dishes in small plates, shared by everybody and eaten with rice…and one of the guys said I may do that too if I am thus inclined when I go for the nasi campur, instead of dumping everything on top of the rice. Perhaps I’ll do that next time…

LA’ZZATY CUISINE (2.307198, 111.828479) is located along Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg on the left if you are coming from town, right after the SHELL petrol station, at its junction with Jalan Nibong. The Sibu Buddhist Temple is on your right on the other side of the road.

Unsung heroes…

There are a few celebrated kampua mee places, those that many people will swear by and insist that their choices are the best in town, second to none. I’ve tried some, if not all, of them but I would not go to such an extent as to make such a declaration. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and I, for one, have my own preferences.

The other day, however, I decided to go to the lesser-known places, those that I hardly ever hear anybody mention. Who knows, there may be some unsung heroes, so to speak, those that may be really nice but are yet to be discovered. For a start, I stopped by here…

Xu Mama Cafe

…the other morning.

I don’t know if it now has a new name but the shop sign sure looks new but what I do know is that this sotong kangkong guy used to be here and was immensely popular. Incidentally, he is no longer at that other place now and I don’t know what has happened to him. Another thing that this place was popular for was their bak chang (meat dumplings) but I did not see any that morning. There was a nice chu-char (cook & fry) place at the back a long long time ago too and I did go and buy some dishes home. I don’t know if they are still there – I did not venture so far inside the shop but there are a few other stalls including one Muslim/Malay one.

The kopi-o-peng (RM1.70)…

Xu Mama Cafe kopi-o-peng

…was good, as good as many other places around town.

As for the kampua mee from this stall…

Xu Mama Cafe kampua mee stall

…when I got there, I was attracted by the lor mee (RM6.00)…

Xu Mama Cafe lor mee 1

…that everybody else at the shop at that time was having so I took that as an indication that it must be very good.

It was good, not like the lor mee that I used to know before and more like the Hailam lor mee that I had once in Penang. Yes, it had the yellow noodles and the kangkong (water spinach) inside…

Xu Mama Cafe lor mee 2

…and when I tasted the gravy initially before everything else, I thought it was so very thick, so gooey and gluey but after I had tossed everything together to eat, it was all right and I would say that I did enjoy it quite a lot in the end.

As for the kampua mee, I guess I will have to go back there another day to give it a try.

XU MAMA CAFE (许妈妈茶室) is located at No 5, Jalan Ramin (Ramin Way), opposite what used to be Star Cineplex or Cathay Cinema a long time ago.

You got it wrong…

Last Friday, as usual, we drove to my girl’s school in the jungle to get her and bring her home for the weekend. I gathered that she had not been eating well all week as the food she got in the lunch packs from a caterer in her school was not to her liking so to cheer her up, I suggested stopping by the Japanese place for our late lunch and of course, that instantly brought a smile to her face!

We had some reruns, the sushi from the carousel that we had before on our previous visits but I don’t think we had this one…

Sushi 1

…before nor this one…

Sushi 2

…or this one…

Sushi 3

I also ordered this unagi cheese maki (RM13.00)…

Unagi cheese maki

…and yes, we all thought it was very nice.

The yasai (vegetable) tempura (RM6.80)…

Yasai tempura

…was all right and like the last time we had those with the not-all-that-nice soft shell crab, the pumpkin was the nicest while the rest of the vegetables were just so-so. There was a lot more actually but by the time I got around to snapping a photograph of it, my girl and the mum had already helped themselves to a couple of pieces from the basket.

I ordered a mackerel dish and I thought I would need some rice to go with it so I ordered the plain curry rice (RM8.80)…

Plain curry rice

The curry was not bad, a little spicy and went well with the rice and knowing how my girl likes the miso soup, I have the complimentary bowl to her to enjoy.

Instead of the mackerel that we wanted, we got this instead – their fried ebi (11.80)…

Fried ebi

We should have checked the order chit once they had keyed in our orders but we did not…and when I pointed out to the girl that they had got it wrong, she wanted to take it back but I said it was all right. We would just have that and go for the mackerel another time. Now, wasn’t I nice? Hehehehehe!!!

I did not think the prawns, like the aforementioned soft shell crab,  were anything to shout about though – they were rather bland, quite tasteless and even dipping it in the sauce that came with the dish did not help much.

The total for all that we had came up to RM82.70 (inclusive of 10% service charge) and my girl insisted on paying for it this time around. She sure is such a sweet girl, really.

SUSHI MENTAI, Sibu (2.303279, 111.843161) is located at Wisma Sri Minyak, Lot 3065, S/L4, No. 23&25, Ground Floor, Pedada Lane 7 (Now Jalan Dr. Wong Soon Kai).

Ready or not…

First and foremost, I would like to thank my friend, Nick, for the lovely Chinese New Year card that he sent me…

CNY greeting card

…all the way from Sg Petani, Kedah. I did not send any this year – as they say, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It sure looks like this is the only one I will get this year – generally people are not into sending greeting cards anymore. How sad!

Well, Chinese New Year is just around a week away. How are the preparations going? As for us, we are not celebrating this year as it has not been a year since my mum’s passing but my friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, asked me to drop by that day as he wanted to give me the very nice kueh bangkit

Payung kueh bangkit

…the homemade sago biscuits from somebody in Mukah. He has been stocking up on these and selling them for a few years now and I’ve noticed that despite the spiralling prices of things these days, he is still selling them at the same price as in previous years, RM22.00 a jar even as far back as in 2016!

Yes, the decorations are up for the festive season – all the trees are gaily decorated…

Payung CNY decor 1

…and there are more hanging from the ceiling…

Payung CNY decor 2

…to give the place that special feel of celebration…

Payung CNY decor 3

…around this time of year.

If you are not going to cook much for your reunion dinner or Chinese New Year open house, you can order some of the lovely dishes from here like what I would do every year – it sure saves a whole lot of trouble when you do not have to cook everything yourself.

The lamb dishes are RM68.00 a kilo so you can pick one of our favourites, their Bangladeshi lamb curry…

Payung Bangladeshi lamb curry

…or lamb masala or both.

The chicken dishes are cheaper, at RM58.00 a kilo and you can grab their butter chicken…

Payung butter chicken

…or their green curry or kacangma chicken or their Payung chicken, the one with the thick yogurt and green peppers sauce.

I hear they will be closed on the 1st day of Chinese New Year only – it will be business as usual on the eve and also on the 2nd day onwards.

Incidentally, somebody PM-ed me via Facebook asking me where to get the best traditional Foochow red wine in town and I told him/her to get it here at Payung. Peter’s sister makes it and once approved by the mum, the matriarch in the family, only then will they put it up for sale at only RM10.00 a bottle. They sell the unadulterated ones at that same price elsewhere and even though they claim that no water is added, theirs seem to pale in comparison.

I have been buying the ones made by Peter’s sis and it does seem that our chicken soup with traditional Foochow red wine is very much nicer, as good as what we would enjoy at Payung but of course, it is not on their regular menu! Why! I even bought two bottles home myself when I went to pick up the kueh bangkit…and I still have one more in the house. I hear they only have a few bottles left, 4, if I am not wrong but if anyone is interested, they can always order the number of bottles that they want and Peter’s sis can make a fresh batch to be collected after 4 or 5 days.

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.

Golden…

This is the kim chio

Kim chio

…and though it sounds a bit like banana in Hokkien, it is literally translated to mean golden pomfret. I do not know why it is not as popular as its white counterpart, the pek chio, considering that gold is auspicious to the Chinese. Personally, I am not really a fan of the pek chio – for one thing, it is extremely expensive and though the flesh is finer and smoother, I find it somewhat mild or bland. I prefer the cheaper black pomfret or the or chio for its stronger taste.

I was never crazy about the kim chio either but one Friday, I went to the shop near my house and it was all they had so I bought one. It turned out really nice so I went back and bought some more to stock up for the coming Chinese New Year. Word has it that as the season draws near, all the sellers will hoard all the “good” fish so as to sell them at exorbitant jacked-up prices especially on the eve of the festival.

The problem with buying fish from that shop is that they do not gut or clean the fish for you so you will have to do it yourself. If you buy fish from the fishmonger these days, you can ask them to do it. I saw a video clip on youtube where they asked some young girls to do that and good grief!!! All of them could not do it and they struggled through the whole process like it was something utterly disgusting. There is one part in this Chinese New Year commercial too where the wife instructed the hubby to do that (0:55) and I found it rather amusing – it sure brought a smile to my face as I watched that.

Well, if you are wondering, yes, I can do it myself. First, you have to scrape the fish holding the knife vertically and even though pomfrets do not seem to have any visible scales, you will be able to see it more clearly…

Scraping

…when you do that.

You may just leave the fins by the side if you wish but I will always cut them off…

Side fins

To remove the insides of the fish, pierce through this hole underneath…

Hole

…with a knife or kitchen scissors and cut a slit…

Slit

…so you can pull out everything. Some people will cut a slit close to the side on one side of the fish but I am not all that fond of that. I feel this looks much nicer.

Rinse clean but usually I will save the water to pour over the plants in my garden and I will bury everything underground – that will also help make it more fertile. Even if you get the fishmonger to clean the fish for you, you still have to rinse it well to make sure it is really clean and everything has been removed. For some fish, I would also cut and remove the black stuff (they say it is the blood) along the bones inside.

You can remove the gills…

Gills

…by pulling them out through the flaps by the side of the head.

Finally, you cut slits…

Slits

…on both sides of the fish and it is ready for garnishing.

Chinese cooking is very simple but I guess I would go a step further when I cook. I added finely chopped garlic – they say that will remove the fishy smell – very thinly sliced ginger, chilies and the stalks of my daun sup (Chinese celery) and I will place the leaves on top…

Garnished

…and lastly, you may add a dash of oyster sauce (my missus does that) but I prefer a bit of fish sauce, diluted a bit as it can be rather salty. It is now ready for steaming.

Steam it for around 15-20 minutes and it is done! If you are cooking for guests, the leaves will not look nice after steaming so do remove them and place fresh leaves to make it look a lot more presentable. I think for the Teochew version, they also add thin strips of salted vegetable and tofu.