Not a sound…

The other day, I was watching a Youtube video, enjoying myself, when suddenly there was no sound. Oh dear, I thought! My antique speakers have finally called it a day.

I first started using them in 2011 when the set that came with my desktop computer conked out. They actually came with the first computer we had – my missus bought it in the 90’s when my girl was little for her to play games. I loved the sound reproduction with the sensurround stereo effect, something that the newer set did not have.

I quickly called my computer guy and he came over to my house to check. It did not take him very long – he was able to detect the fault in an instant. The built-in sound card was spoilt so he went to the shop at the nearby mall to get a spare. Unfortunately, it was out of stock and during this COVID-19 time, they did not know when there would be new stock coming in. He asked for the USB audio adapter but that too was not available.

In the end, he came back to my house empty-handed. That afternoon, he called to tell me that a friend had a second-hand sound card so he could come to fix it for me. Unfortunately, after hours working on trying to install a compatible driver, he gave up and decided to return the sound card to whoever he got it from. In the meantime, another friend called back (he had phoned him earlier) and he said he had the USB audio adapter…and even though his shop was closed that day, he was going there to get something and if my computer guy could meet him there, he would be able to sell him one.

Off he went and finally, he came back with this (RM50.00)…

USB sound adapter

…which he plugged into my CPU… …and he plugged the audio jack of the loudspeakers into it and the USB (of the loudspeakers) into the CPU as well…

Plugged in

…and lo and behold! There was sound!!!

I wanted to try and use my old loudspeakers but he advised against it as they might be faulty and had caused the sound card to be damaged. In the end, I asked him to get me a new pair of speakers (RM55.00)…

New set of loudspeakers

…which worked very well though the sound reproduction was not as nice as that of the old set. This one was USB-powered, unlike the old one which had a plug and I had to plug that into a power socket and switch on the electricity for it to work.

Perhaps if I had gone for a better (and more expensive) set, it would be better but never mind! As long as there is sound…

My new loudspeakers

…and as long as I do not have to watch “silent movies”, I’m fine with it.

He’s not there…

The other day, I was feeling like having some char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles) and was thinking of going here to tapao the lady’s very nice Penang char kway teow or sambal kway teow to take home and enjoy.

However, that coffee shop was a little out of the way from where I was at that point in time and since I was driving past this place, I decided I would stop there to buy the Penang char kway teow from the stall there – my missus and my brother-in-law like it a lot and I’ve had it a few times and I feel it is pretty decent – best eaten there.

Unfortunately, the stall was not open. It was all packed up nicely and pushed to the side, shackled and looking like it had not open for a long long time. Usually, when it was not open, it was not open – the stall would be left standing there, empty, that was all. They would not go to the extent of doing all that. Perhaps the guy had gone back to Penang, I wouldn’t know.

Anyway, since I was already there, I decided to just go to the chu char (cook & fry) stall at the back of the adjoining coffee shop and tapao some stuff from there.

I tried the fried chao chai hung ngang (big bihun with preserved vegetables) here a long time ago but I wasn’t exactly thrilled by it. Still, when I heard that they served that at the next stall here, I was planning to go back there and try. Unfortunately, before I could get down to doing that, COVID-19 struck so to this day, I have yet to do so.

I placed my order for the fried noodles at the aforementioned stall but when I saw that they had fried chao chai hung ngang (RM5.00)…

Jiali Cafe fried chao chai hung ngang

…I said that I wanted that too.

My girl had a bit of it and she said it was all right, not anything to get excited about and personally, she would much sooner go for the soup version. I tried it too and yes, I share those same sentiments about it. I guess it would pretty much be the same at all the stalls around town selling this – I doubt there is any that will get me jumping with delight.

In response to my post the other day, there were some comments on takeaways. Certain things are fine when you tapao it – chicken rice for instance, nasi lemak or nasi campur and all the rest from the Malay stalls and shops too but at Chinese chu-char places and restaurants, they usually coat the meat and seafood with flour and deep fry first and then they will cook the sauce and pour that all over it. By the time you get home, it would have gone all soggy and would not be all that palatable any longer.

As for the Foochow fried noodles (RM4.00)…

Foochow fried noodles

…I bought that morning, as you can see, the noodles had all bloated up after soaking all the gravy/sauce. Our yellow noodles is alkaline-free and does not have that smell that puts off a lot of people but they are prone to turning soft and soggy in soups. It is not so bad fried with gravy/sauce added and actually, it varies from place to place – the ones at some places may even taste a whole lot nicer when you buy them home and this happens.

As for this one here, in my missus’ words, it was all right, no wok hei fragrance, not really nice but there are others elsewhere that are a lot worse.

JIALI CAFE (2.292140, 111.841524) is located among the shops behind Medan Mall, Jalan Wong King Huo, a few doors away to the right of Junction Cafe,  facing the road leading to the Medan Hotel there.

Go green…

The other day, I blogged about how I cooked pulut hitam (black glutinous rice) using a slow cooker. Today, I shall show you how to cook let tao (green beans/mung beans) the same way, more or less.

Unlike when cooking pulut hitam, you do not have to soak the beans overnight or for 3-4 hours ahead of cooking. Just take a cup and wash and rinse the beans well and they are ready…

Green/mung beans

…to be cooked.

The knotted pandan (screwpine) leaves are a must for the much coveted fragrance and once again, I am using gula Melaka (palm sugar)…

Pandan and gula Melaka

– you can add more of the sugar if you like it sweeter.

Just put everything in the slow cooker, fill it with a whole lot of water like cooking porridge and turn it on. After around 4 hours, the beans would have bloated and are broken up…

Done

…which, of course, means that they are cooked.

For reasons unknown, the ladies in the house will only drink the water so I poured most of it into a container to be put in the fridge – it is always nicer chilled.

I added a cup of milk powder to what was left in the slow cooker so I could have this very rich and creamy dessert…

Rich & creamy

I tried this with the pulut hitam that day and it turned out to be much nicer than adding santan or evaporated/fresh milk. However, even though they insist there is no sugar in milk powder, I found the combination rather sweet so you can dilute it a bit if you are not thus inclined.

It certainly is a lot easier and convenient to use a slow cooker. You do not have to stand by and keep an eye on it in case it starts boiling over, making a mess of your cooker top plus it does take quite a long time too if you are cooking it this way.

We did not have any sago pearls in the house – otherwise, it would be nice to cook those and add to the above. I must remember to buy some for the next time I cook this.

Thin…

Po’ in Hokkien means thin (nipis) as in a thin piece of paper, for example, not thin (kurus) as in describing a person. Mee po’, therefore, is a bowl of flat and very thin noodles.

I remember the ones I used to enjoy a lot in Singapore way back in 1973. The noodles were very thin, of course, a darker shade of yellow/orange in colour – probably due to the egg used in the making or the alkaline added, chewy and almost translucent. You can click this link to go to my friend’s blog to see what looks quite like the mee po’ I used to have in the island republic. I wanted to “borrow” the photograph to share here but I have forgotten how to log into DISQUS and comment to seek his permission. For one thing, it was the only thing they had there that was closest to Sibu kampua mee or Kuching kolo mee.

Anyway, fast forward to the other day when my Bintulu cousin posted a photograph of the spicy vinegar instant kampua she had on Facebook and a Kuching cousin commented that she had the mee pok and it was good. Somewhere along the line, for reasons unknown, mee po’ has evolved into mee pok and it so happened that my missus grabbed a pack of the latter when she went out shopping the other day…

Sibu instant mee pok

…so of course, I took a packet to try.

Like all their other products, there are two sachets inside…

Sachets

…one with the shallot oil (lard), the other with the soy sauce and in this case, it was the dark version.

As always, I emptied the contents of the sachets onto a plate and boiled the noodles and because they seemed rather thick unlike the thin round kampua mee, I let it simmer for a minute longer, around 3 altogether. Once done, I drained it well and tossed it with the ingredients provided. I had it with a few thin pan-fried slices of the leftover Aussie wagyu beef in the fridge from the soup that my missus cooked the day before…

The Kitchen Food Sibu instant meepok

…garnished with a sprinkling of spring onions from my garden.

No, it wasn’t like the mee pok at the kampua mee stalls – those are thinner and they are actually kampua mee, flattened and renamed mee pok and of course, they are a far cry from the ones I had in Singapore. This one was thicker, more chewy and more like our old-time traditional  mee kua/mee sanggul though not exactly but closer to that than the kampua mee pok…and if you are waiting for my verdict, I would say, yes, it was nice. I enjoyed it!

THE KITCHEN FOOD shop (2.304994, 111.847404), home of the original, the one & only Sibu instant kampua, is located in the Sibu Bus Terminal area at Lorong 7A, Jalan Pahlawan, right next to the UOB Bank there.

Overnight…

The other day, I blogged about how my girl cooked pek koi (white rice cake) and after that, I noticed that there was a little bit left, sitting there on the kitchen counter looking at me day in and day out and of course, I had the urge to take what was left and cook it and be done with it. The problem was I did not know how to go about it.

I think I did try once a long long time ago and it was hard so I had to just get rid of it. Yes, I heard, since time immemorial, that the rice cake must be soaked overnight and I think I did that then. I hear that these days, there are brands that do not need soaking and I did not know if this was one of them or not. I went and googled – some said overnight, some said two hours, some said use warm water, one just poured it from the pack into the pan (I think she used a Korean brand) and one boiled it first.

In the end, I decided to just do it my way. I soaked it in boiling water…

Soaking

…for sometime but when I found that the slices had gone all sticky, though still hard and were sticking together, I changed the water quickly, using room temperature water this time around and I peeled the slices apart. I waited and nothing seemed to be happening…and I changed the water a few times. Eventually they did seem softer so I drained away the water and repeated the boiling water routine another time.

My girl fried hers with those canned clams in soy sauce like how I would fry bihun sometimes – some of the shops do it that way too so I decided I would do it differently even though I still have 5 cans of the clams in the pantry.

I drained the pek koi well and tossed it in dark soy sauce, adding a sprinkling of sugar to counter-balance the saltiness. I also got the other ingredients…

Ingredients

…ready – some prawns, six cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped, one chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced and some chives that I found in the fridge, cut into short strips. Later I decided to add a bit of my girl’s skinny wild onions and I cut them into short strips like the chives too and I was ready to roll!

I fried the garlic in oil till golden brown before adding the chili and the prawns. Once the prawns were cooked, I threw in the chives and the wild onions and then, I added the pek koi. Once I felt it had been fried enough, I broke an egg into the pan and mixed everything together well.

After stirring for a bit, I dished everything out onto a plate…

My char pek koi

There wasn’t all that much left – enough for one serving so I decided not to eat it and saved it for my girl for her breakfast when she woke up that morning – she loves pek koi! Usually she does not eat that much in the morning but this was the exception to the rule – nothing left for me to pao boi (finish what’s left) when I came in after my gardening that morning.

I did try a couple of slices and yes, it was very very nice – nicer than at the shops and stalls and one thing I noticed was that after cooking, the pek koi had gone softer, just the right texture. I think I’ll grab another pack the next time I go out and I’ll give this one more try…but of course, I must soak it overnight the next time around!

Incidentally, I bought those prawns from the sellers by the side of the building where this hotel is located and they were really fresh, so very nice. They had two types, one Mukah prawns that looked a little smaller and were quite colourless, selling for RM35.00 a kilo and the other, bigger and reddish, at RM30.00 a kilo. They said those were “sea prawns” and for reasons unknown, they did not seem keen on getting me to buy those so I bought the Mukah ones and I sure was glad I did!

Safe at home…

Sunday was 1 Syawal, Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Every year, my cousin and his family would invite all of us to his open house but unfortunately, under the current circumstances, we felt it would be best to just sit this one out – #staysafe #stayhome. Hopefully, we can go back to our usual routine next year. We had a lot of leftovers in the fridge that morning so I insisted that we finished everything and we would decide later what we would have for dinner.

We have not been going to church at all ever since the MCO/partial lockdown started in mid-March but we have been following the services online – we usually go for the ones from the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore. I don’t know whose voice that is but he sounds like Brian Richmond from the good ol’days of the infamous Patrick Teoh, Bernard Salosa and all the rest.

Well, that day, we participated in the service at around 12.00 noon and halfway through, my brother-in-law dropped by. One good thing about these online masses is you can click PAUSE and continue when everybody is ready. My missus went out to see and jokingly, I told my girl, “God has sent us our dinner!!!” True enough, he brought us some of the things that my sister-in-law’s Malay friends gave her for Hari Raya.

There was kelupis (glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves) and peanut satay sauce…

Kelupis & satay sauce

…and roti canai and chicken curry…

Roti canai & chicken curry

…and there were these very nice cakes too…

Cakes

My friend, Cikgu Siti, must have given my sister some kelupis too and she gave us one…

More kelupis

She also sent over some of the stuff from my aforementioned cousin and his wonderful wife. There was this chicken curry and some fried noodles…

Mee goreng & more chicken curry

…and ketupat lemak and some cakes as well…

Ketupat lemak and more cakes

…and this fried popiah rolls and maruku combo…

Fried popiah & maruku

…which was so very nice that by the time I was ready to take the photographs or everything, this was all that was left!

We could not share the joy of the festive season in person but we sure can celebrate together in spirit. Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri Maaf Zahir Dan Batin to one and all! God bless always in the year ahead!

Come on in…

FINALLY…after over two months, Payung Café decided to open its doors and resume business again. Come on in, everybody!

No, I did not rush there right away to enjoy all the dishes that I loved so well but I did have the intention of ordering some of them to takeaway and enjoy eating them at home even though I do feel everything is best eaten on the spot, piping hot from the stove.

As far as I know, they did carry out a thorough disinfecting process prior to reopening and as for social distancing, that place was never really crowded, anyway and the tables are few and far apart – their big tables for six would be just right for four, if you stick to the 2-metre rule and if you have more than four, you can always ask them to join the tables, no problem at all – plenty to go round.

I also heard that they now open at 8.30 a.m. (usually, 9.30-10.00 a.m.) and they do open on Sundays, formerly their off day. Like before, lei cha is served every Friday and they may have it on other days as well, depending on the demand but what caught my attention was their Facebook post last Friday regarding their chicken biryani. Varun, their authentic North Indian chef, did give us a tub when he dropped by our house during Chinese New Year and we loved it, my girl especially. Of course, we could not eat that on our no-meat day, Friday so I reserved sets for three (RM20.00 each) and collected them the next day, Saturday.

When I opened the tub with the rice…

Payung chicken biryani rice

…the overwhelming fragrances of the exotic spices used in the cooking blew me away!

It came with this chicken dish…

Chicken for the biryani rice

…which looked like curry but was not curry. It had its own taste and had a whole lot of cashew nuts in the gravy and yes, it was so very nice!

The chicken biryani came with these two accompaniments…

Shorba & mint chutney

…the shorba and the mint chutney. The former is a nutty vegetarian lentil soup and we all enjoyed it though I was of the feeling that the chicken dish was quite enough to go with the rice.

The ladies loved the mint chutney which was on the sourish side and actually, my missus says she prefers the biryani rice here. I would say they are different – both good in their own ways, my girl said and anytime nicer than those thus named at the Malay shops and stalls. Well, like I always say, to each his or her own!

Yes, all in all, we did enjoy our lunch and there was so much of everything that we had the same for dinner that evening! Of course, if we were to have it there, one look at it…

Payung Cafe's chicken biryani with shorba & mint chutney

…would sweep us off our feet already even before we start eating it. Somehow or other, a lovely presentation does help in making a dish a lot more enjoyable.

I did hear some talk about them having this as a weekend special and yes, that would be very nice – available on Saturdays and maybe, Sundays as well and leave Fridays to those lei cha lovers, present company not included, thank you very much! LOL!!!

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.

It’s not right for you…

I dropped by this bakery in town to buy their pineapple cookies…

Big Thumb ong lai ko

At one time, people coming back from Taiwan would cart boxes and boxes home to give to family and friends. I used to buy a lot of those too once, come every Chinese New Year, as it would be an auspicious gift for the occasion, ong meaning king or good luck in Hokkien and ong lai (pineapple) seems to denote that the (Heavenly) King  or good luck is coming. I guess that is why they call it…

Prosperity cookies

However, when I got home, I noticed that there was no halal logo on the box which would mean that it would not be right to give it to my Muslim relatives and friends for Hari Raya. In the end, I decided to just keep the boxes that I had bought to eat myself or give to some other people.

I asked the lady how many there were inside and she said they were 6, 6 big ones and she added that they do not make the small ones anymore…

Big and small

I was not sure how big the big ones were but since she said that, I guessed I had no choice and bought the number of boxes that I wanted. They are RM18.00 a box now – it used to be around RM10.00 when they first came into the scene. Obviously, good luck comes at a price, not something cheap and definitely not for free.

When I opened a box, much to my delight, there were these small ones…

Small ones

…inside and yes, they were still very nice but no, they looked very different from when they first started making them in 2014 or maybe, those were the big ones, I wouldn’t know.

The pastry was nice and crumbly and the pineapple jam filling was moist, not hard and dry…

Lovely pastry and jam filling

I suppose if I am not giving them to anybody, I can just enjoy these myself slowly – at that price, I don’t think I shall, for no obvious reason, be buying them again.

BIG THUMB BAKERY (2.293889, 111.826492) is located at No.71-73, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

Easier that way…

When I shared the photograph of my pulut hitam (black glutinous rice) dessert…

Pulut hitam dessert

…that day, a number of people were keen on knowing how to cook it.  Well, there’s nothing to it, really – it is so very easy and of course, it is a lot easier using a slow cooker instead of boiling and having to keep vigil at all times.

I had a look at this video clip on Youtube for a rough idea as to how to go about it. The guy said he was cooking one cup for one serving and since there were four of us that day, I cooked two cups and ended up with enough to feed an army. One cup is more than enough unless you are going to feed a multitude of 5,000! LOL!!!

It is best to soak the rice overnight…

Soak the rice

…but I forget to do that so I did what the guy said and soaked it for 3-4 hours when I got up that morning.

You will need some pandan leaves, knotted and sugar – I decided to use gula Melaka this time around in the hope that it will give it that distinct peranakan/nyonya dessert taste…

Pandan & gula Melaka

I only added a bit as I did not want it to be too sweet – you may add double that amount if you would like it sweeter. I also added around a teaspoon of salt, like what the guy did, though I do not know exactly why. LOL!!!

I drained the rice and rinsed it well and then, I put everything in the slow cooker, added a whole lot of water (like cooking porridge) and turned it on…

Cook in slow cooker

The guy in the video cooked his over a gas stove and he said that would take around an hour.

I went outside to do my gardening, my usual morning routine and when I came back inside around 2-3 hours later, it was done…

Pulut hitam, cooked

…all nicely swollen and bloated up. In some video clips that I saw, they suggested adding cornflour to thicken the soup. God forbid! It was thick enough as it was – I guess it must be the starchiness from the pulut.

If you want to serve it as a dessert at a party, lunch of dinner, you can add the santan (c0c0nut milk) just before you serve it, like what I did, so it will look nicer. Do not add too early as the soup may absorb the santan and it will end up looking kind of blotted.

However, if you are cooking it for your own home consumption, you can add the santan right away, half a can should be enough, mix well and it will look like this…

Pulut hitam, santan added

It did not taste any different from the last time I cooked it using regular cane sugar or if it did, I really could not tell.

See! I told you there’s nothing to it, so very easy to cook…and if I can do it, so can you.

Black…

When I stopped by my neighbourhood shop/mini-supermarket that day and bought the box of dates from Tunisia, the lady boss of the fruit and food shop at the far end in the other block of shops there happened to drop by as well. When she saw me, she said there were packed dishes available at her shop and asked me to go over and have a look.

I bought the beef rendang from those people here not too long ago but we did not think it was all that nice, definitely not something we would want to buy again. This time around, I saw that there was curry but it did not look all that nice either. The boss suggested that but I told him that in my opinion, we would be able to cook better. I did not want the stewed pork as well – we can cook our own too – but I do think it would be nice to have that with mantao.

That left me with just one more choice – the black vinegar pork leg/trotter. I had that the first time when my good friend, Lim’s wife just gave birth and the confinement lady cooked that. Not to be outdone, my missus went and cooked that soon after and yes, she could do it very well – hers was just as nice or maybe even better! Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, she never cooked it again. In the meantime, I had had it here and there – there are people selling it at a few places around town.

Well, after seeing what zmun2 had and drooling all over hers, in the end, I simply could not resist buying a tub (RM30.00)…

Black vinegar pork leg

– at least, that would save my missus the trouble of having to cook something for a day.

It did not look like a lot, not quite enough for two meals – lunch and dinner so I boiled some eggs…

Eggs

…to stew in the sauce when heating up the dish. See my nicely-peeled eggs, Phong Hong! LOL!!!

Yes, there was just enough…

Black vinegar pork leg with stewed eggs

…for our lunch and our dinner that day and yes, I did enjoy it very much. It was a little on the sweet side and I thought it could do with a little bit more black vinegar but on the whole, it was quite all right the way it was. I sure would not mind buying that again the next time I see it at the shop.

OPPS KOPITIAM (2.294073, 111.827333) is located off Jalan Keranji, among the shops opposite the Sibu Public Library while 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.