Under control…

I plant a lot of stuff in my garden that we can use in our cooking.

Of course, we can always go out and buy but they sell, for instance, serai (lemon grass) tied in a bundle for RM2.00 and we may use 2 or 3 stalks only and the rest would be thrown away. It is the same when we buy spring onions, RM2.00 and we can only use so much – keeping the rest in the fridge doesn’t help much. It will wither pretty fast and has to be discarded very soon…and don’t ask me how much they are selling pandan leaves for. I wouldn’t know because I never buy those – I have a lot more in my garden than we can use.

One thing that I did not plant was lengkuas (galangal) and I had a very good reason for that. When we bought our house, the previous owner had it in the backyard and it was growing out of control, even under the fence into my neighbour’s compound. I had to get some people to come to dig it all out, roots and all, to throw away so it would never ever grow again.

Usually, my missus would buy, say, RM2.00 worth, for use and store the rest in the freezer so she could have it as and when needed. We do not use a lot of lengkuas in our cooking, just a bit will do as the strong smell can be quite overpowering. It so happened that the other day, she had run out of it and she had not gone out to buy more so she asked me if I had any in the one that I planted.

Yes, I have it in a pot…

My lengkuas

I planted it when my neighbour harvested his and gave me some and I saw a chunk that was already sprouting. I planted it in a small pot and it grew and grew so I transplanted it into a bigger pot. No, I shall not plant it in the ground as this way, I can keep it under control but perhaps, I should transfer it to be a bigger pot so there may be a lot more beneath the soil.

There are supposed to be a lot more leaves than that but because the pot is so small and the stems grow so straight and so tall, everytime there is a strong wind, it would topple over. Trimming away the leaves seems to help.

So, that day, when my missus asked for it, I went to dig and see and yes, there was a lot! I just cut a chunk for her to use and then I went to get a few big fat stalks of serai and some Thai basil leaves for her.

She needed them to cook this lovely Thai green curry…

Missus' Thai green curry

…for our meals that day.

I don’t know if it is purely psychological but it seems that using these fresh ingredients, whatever one is cooking will turn out a whole lot nicer, compared to using stuff that has been stored in the freezer for ages.

Purse…

Lui pao is a coin purse in Hokkien, lui meaning money and pao is a bag or something along that line. Nui is egg in the dialect so nui pao is an egg purse.

When you go and eat noodles at a stall or shop, the seller may ask you if you want a nui pao to go with it. Unfortunately, what you will get in the end is one fried egg, sunny side up or if some oil is splashed on the yolk, there will not be any “sun” and of course, if it is flipped over, it is “sunny” no more.

To me, a nui pao is where you fold the egg white over the yolk, pushed strategically to one half of the circle so that in the end you will get a semi-circular wrapped-up fried egg that looks more like a purse…

Fried nui pao

In our younger days, sometimes my father would bring a few fresh eggs (yes, way back then, we reared our own chickens for meat and for eggs) to buy Foochow noodles, soup, for the family to enjoy and we were immensely delighted to get to enjoy that special treat with the nui pao

Poached nui pao

…but I never did find out how they went about it. Those poached eggs were perfectly done and no, there were no traces of the egg white swimming in the soup, none at all.

The other morning, I tried cooking that egg purse in traditional Foochow red wine soup with mee sua that my missus does so well, not to be mistaken for the mee sua in the egg drop in traditional Foochow red wine soup – that one is completely different altogether. My girl loves this one so much, her comfort food but I never bothered to find out how the mum did it.

I know she would pound (she said these days, she would just use the grater) to mash the ginger so as to get the “hiam” (that strong pungent taste) out of the root but I am not really a fan of doing it like that because in the course of eating, I do not like biting into those bits of ginger. I would either take a chunk and bruise it or cut the ginger into thin slices. That morning, I opted for the latter.

I fried the ginger in some sesame oil before adding water and the traditional Foochow red wine. Then I put in one chicken stock cube and poached two eggs in the soup (I already cooked the aforementioned fried one earlier) and once done, I poured the soup over some mee sua that I had also cooked earlier and sat down to eat…

Runny yolk

Of course, I made sure that the egg yolk was runny, just the way I would like it.

It was nice but nowhere half as nice as when my missus cooks it. As I have mentioned earlier, she prepares her ginger differently and she said she will fry the eggs in the sesame oil and leave them to cook in the soup. Maybe that would make some difference, I wouldn’t know.

Actually, I cooked this for the three of us for breakfast that morning because I wanted to try the traditional Foochow red wine that I had bought from Peter. He was not in when I dropped by the café so he called me the next morning advising me to check the wine to make sure it was good, otherwise I could take the bottles back to change. He said those had been there for so long, before the lockdown, so he was not sure which batch those came from. Well, the wine was excellent…just that my way of cooking was not up to my missus’ standard. Perhaps I can try again another day and the next time, I shall add the shitake mushrooms, the wolfberries and the red dates – the complete works!!!

Make it look good…

During the COVID-19 MCO/partial lockdown, a cousin of mine in Kuching was cooking all those amazing dishes every day and sharing all the alluring snapshots on Facebook. On one of those days, she came out with her own soto ayam and it sure looked really good and from the comments, it did seem like something to die for.

That, of course, made me wonder as to what it was all about. I had soto ayam before but I cannot remember where or when but like the bakso that I have had here and there, it did not impress me much, usually just something served in nothing more than clear soup seasoned with salt and msg, not anything that I would consider having when I see any at the shops, that’s for sure.

Well, I dropped by here

Sarah

…the other day as I saw it on their menu on their Facebook page.

Yes, there are only a few tables, all placed strategically apart and somebody will take your temperature which you will record in a file, along with your name and contact number…

Precautions

…after which you will sanitise your hands before proceeding to your seat. There wasn’t anybody else besides me and that was why I did not mind stopping by – if it had been crowded, I would have stayed away.

Without a second thought, I ordered the soto ayam (RM6.00)…

Soto ayam

…and it was served in no time at all. I must say it certainly was not a sight to behold – it looks a whole lot nicer on their menu, that’s for sure! Perhaps they could garnish it with chopped spring onions and/or daun sup and a bit of thinly-sliced chili to give it a bit of colour but whatever it is, they do need to work on it to make it look better and a lot more presentable.

Well, as they say, never judge a book by its cover…and the test of the pudding is in the eating. I tried a bit of the soup and it was really good, so very tasty, bursting with the flavours of the serai (lemon grass) and all the herbs and spices that went into the cooking. Perhaps it is not the usual practice to add some greens but I think they do add taugeh (bean sprouts) usually and there was none in the bowl I had.

There were two of these…

Bergedil

…that I thought were chicken cutlets but they were bergedils (potato croquettes). I would prefer them served separately instead of drowning them in the soup like that. Incidentally, I noticed that the bihun looked kind of different like it had been pre-deep fried and not just soaked to soften like what you will get in Sarawak laksa.

There were some shredded chicken, half an egg cut into quarters, fried tofu cut into small cubes, peanuts and a few bits of nasi empit/ketupat (pressed rice cake)…

Other ingredients

On the whole, I thought it was very nice, good till the last drop…

Good till the last drop

…and of course, I must give them due credit for not using those horrible gaudily-coloured bowls and plates.

SARAH ISLAMIC CORNER, the first shop in the block opposite  A-PLUS FOOD CENTRE/RESTAURANT (2.293355, 111.823653), is located among the shops along Jalan Kampung Datu, behind the block of shops (where Fair Price Supermarket, now Fresh & Pay, is) near the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg and Jalan Kampung Nyabor.

Upgrade u…

The other day, when I got my regular computer guy to fix my built-in sound card problem, I told him I would want to upgrade my CPU and he could go ahead and start getting the things/parts required.

He did mention in passing, after I had said that, that the system was lagging and was rather slow and yes, indeed, it was. I would switch on the computer and I could go out for a breath of fresh air and come back before it had completed logging in. Logging out/switching down would take ages as well.

Everything would take quite a while and I just assumed it was my poor wifi connection. The modem is in the living room and my PC is in my computer room – the people who came said it would be faster if I had a wire connection but the wire was out of stock at the time. In the end, I just used a wireless USB modem that I just plugged into the CPU.

I can’t remember when he last upgraded my CPU – that was like so many years ago. Initially, he said he had got everything…

Parts

…except the new hard disk that he was looking for. He said he would be able to do it the following week but I would have to go on using the old hard disk for the time being.

Eventually, he called me to tell me of a change in plans. He would drop by my house to get the CPU on Friday night to work on it…

CPU inside

…over the weekend and he would send it back on Sunday. Much to my delight, he contacted me on Friday night, after he had collected the CPU, to tell me that the hard disk was already available so I could have a brand new one as well.

On Saturday, he called me again, this time to tell me that everything was done, way ahead of schedule and he could send the upgraded CPU back that evening itself…

Windows 11

…and I am so very delighted as to how very fast it is now. I would switch the computer on and it would be on instantly and the same thing when I switch it off – no need to wait for it to go round and round, logging off. Uploading photos is a breeze, just as instant and it is the same with everything else. All in the wink of an eye! Gee!!! I should have upgraded the system long ago!!!

In the meantime, I have one USB audio adapter, no longer of any use as with the upgrading, my CPU now has a new built-in sound card so if anybody wants it, just let me know and I can send it to him or her.

Learning something new…

I saw a very easy way to cook poached eggs on a Youtube video, not this one but it was something quite similar except that the guy was cooking around 10 poached eggs at one go.

I decided to give it a try so I filled two bowls with a bit of water and broke two eggs into them, one each…

Getting the eggs ready

…and promptly put them in the steamer to steam.

In the meantime, I went on to prepare all the things I intended to have for breakfast. I toasted two slices of bread on a grilled pan, buttered them and sliced some tomato thinly to place on top. Then, I pan-grilled one gourmet sausage and a few slices of smoked bacon and once the eggs were ready, I placed them on top of the toasts…

Ready

…and sat down to enjoy my scrumptious meal.

Now, where did I go wrong? Firstly, it was not that easy getting the eggs out of the bowls and I was not careful in doing that – that was why the eggs ended up looking like a total disgrace! I even dropped one topside down and had to salvage it! Besides, I went and did all the other things I had to do and forgot to keep time so the egg yolks were overdone…

Overdone yolks

If you take a look at the video clip, it seems that we are supposed to steam over medium heat for 3-5 minutes only in order to get those beautiful runny to moist yolks. I must keep that in mind for the next time I do it this way again.

Well, even though the eggs did not look all that presentable and the yolks were not exactly the way I would have loved them, I sure enjoyed my breakfast…

My breakfast

…that morning. That looks kind of over-indulgent, don’t you think? Never mind! We do need to pamper ourselves once in a while…especially at my age. LOL!!!

Don’t do it…

Well, some people don’t do it but I do!

In my post yesterday, I said that I was sure I had blogged about preparing paku (another nice wild jungle fern)…

Paku

…for cooking but I have not been able to locate that post. Never mind! Let me show you all over again how to go about it.

Firstly, you have to cut away the bottom half of the stems.  That part is very hard and not edible. You bend the stem midway up till you come to the part that is soft and bends easily – that is where you have to cut…

Cut here

Incidentally, you can keep the leaves in the lower halves that you are going to throw away – those may be eaten, provided they are not too old.

It seems that some people don’t bother to do this but you should slice the stem into halves…

Cut in halves

…and if it is very big, it would be good to cut it into quarters…

Cut in quarters

People seem to enjoy eating sweet potato leaves these days. I used to plant my own and I would only pluck the young leaves to cook and eat. However, I saw at one restaurant where they did not have a choice so what they did was to cut the stems of those leaves into two this same away and everyone liked it a lot more that way. I guess it is the same with paku.

This paku is not as popular as the midin, probably because at most places, they do not bother to do all this and they just cook it like that, plus there are only a few places around town that do it really well – most are not all that nice. I am not all that fond of cutting the ferns into very short lengths, around an inch, either.

Of course, this is more tedious to prepare…

Done

…compared to the midin but it can be cooked in so many ways, all nice and one way would be to do what my missus did that day – use it to prepare this Thai-style salad or kerabu

Kerabu paku

It is so nice that I am quite sure you will go for a second bowl of rice!

A million dreams…

This is our celebrated wild jungle fern, the midin…

Midin

…but somewhere along the line, the name got distorted by the local Chinese and became “million“. It is very popular, a must have when dining at our restaurants probably because it is very nice plus it has a somewhat auspicious name.

When my friend from Singapore came here many years ago, he brought some home. His mum cooked it and it looked really nice in the photograph he sent me – if I am not wrong, she fried it with sambal hay bee (udang kering/dried prawns) but he said it was rather hard in the lower half. I scrutinised the photograph closely and I noticed that they cooked it whole.

Prior to cooking it, you should cut away the lower half especially the part where it was cut/plucked. It would have turned brown/dark…

Dark tips

…and besides, the lower part is hard. Cut around two to three inches from the curls – you should be able to do it very easily and that would be an indication that the midin is young enough, crunchy and delicious. If you have difficulty cutting, it may be a bit too old so move up the knife closer to the curls where it would be easier to cut.

These ferns grow in the wild in the belukar (secondary forest) so you can expect to see a bit of dirt, some of the leaves that have come loose, grass perhaps so you will need to rinse them thoroughly a few times. You may see some with dark spots…

Dark spots

…and you may want to use your knife to get rid of those. Just scrape gently and they will be gone. Actually, you can just rub in between your thumb and your finger and the spots will come off quite easily.

There you are! My missus bought half a kg and I got it all done in no time at all…

Done

She fried it with sambal hay bee (udang kering/dried prawns)…

Cooked

…and there was enough for the three of us for lunch and also for dinner that day.

I noticed that my missus also bought some paku (another type of jungle fern) when I was taking the midin out from the fridge. They do not keep very well and will turn dark in a few days and will not be so nice anymore. That is a lot more tedious to prepare – I think I did blog about it once but I can’t seem to be able to locate the post now. Come back tomorrow – I shall show you how to go about it all over again!

Miss you much…

That day, I dropped by Payung Café because we had run out of the traditional Foochow red wine.

One of Peter’s sisters makes that and everytime she would have to let the mother, the matriarch of the family, taste first. Only when she gives her nod of approval would she be able to leave the bottles at Peter’s café for sale. I have not bought the more-often-than-not-rather-diluted ones (even though they tell you it  is unadulterated and sell it to you at a jacked-up price) sold elsewhere for a long long time now, worse if it is sour!

They had this awesomely stunning display of lotus flowers from the pond at Peter’s house…

Lotus flowers at Payung

…there the day before but when I went the following day, the blooms had withered and it did not look as nice anymore. I guess beauty is like that, only temporary.

While I was there, I decided to buy a few things that I had been missing a lot to take home and enjoy – three months sure is a long long time!

I asked for two tubs of their tempoyak – their very special cooked durian paste…

Payong tempoyak

… and Andy insisted on giving me an extra-spicy one for my missus as he knows jolly well that she would love it to bits. We had that for lunch and yes, it was very spicy and we sure loved it to the max. It certainly took a whole lot of effort on our part not to go for a second plate of rice!

I also bought their special own-made beef bolognese sauce with chunks of the meat, not minced, and lots of fresh tomatoes, garlic, mixed Italian herbs and all the rest. I am not a fan of bolognese elsewhere as more often than not, they come across to me like something straight from a bottle of tomato ketchup.

That evening, my girl cooked our own stock of spaghetti to eat with the sauce…

Payung beef spaghetti bolognese

…and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top. Of course it was so good and my girl was thrilled to no end. There is still another pack of the sauce in the freezer – she can cook herself another round of that lovely beef spaghetti bolognese anytime she feels like it.

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.

Any way I want…

I had some leftover stuff in the fridge the other morning so I decided to fry some bihun for breakfast.

No, I did not want to use my stock of canned clams in soy sauce. My girl used one can to fry her pek koi and when I fried the same the other day, my way, somebody commented on Facebook that I should have used those clams. Honestly, is there a fixed way to cook something – there’s no law that says something must follow some specific recipe, is there? So why can’t I cook it any way I want? Who knows the end result may be just as nice…or even nicer!

I said that I was not about to use up mine as they were difficult to get and he said there were a lot at a supermarket on the other side of town. For one thing, it is located very far away and for another, there was a COVID-19 case not too long ago, a student home from Indonesia, negative throughout his quarantine in Kuching and tested positive when he got back here. Word went round that he dropped by there and the other place right across the traffic lights junction. I do not know if there was any truth in that but I sure would not take the chance and would stay far far away from that area.

Besides, the thing with those clams, when you see any, you’d better grab as many cans as you can. Give it a few days, it will all be sold out and it will take a few months before any new stock will arrive. I bought mine from that food and fruit shop near my house and the  next day, I noticed that they had moved all their stock to the shelf in front (customers are not allowed in the shop and will have to make their purchases over their makeshift counter) and since then, I have not seen any – all sold out, obviously and no new stock has come in yet at this point in time.

Anyway, back to my bihun, I had a lot of celery left from what my girl used for her cottage pie and I also had half a can of luncheon meat after using some of it for sandwiches so those were the ingredients I used…

Ingredients

…and chopped garlic and some of my missus’ blended chili even though there was not much left. For the celery, I picked the stalks with all the leaves and I cut the stalks thinly, leaving the leaves whole. They would all shrink when fried, anyway.

I soaked the bihun in hot water to soften and tossed it with the blended chili, a whole lot of pepper and some leftover seasoning from the instant noodles that I had not too long ago – I only use half usually as I find it a bit too salty when I use the whole sachet. I guess if you do not have that, you can substitute it with those chicken stock granules or salt and msg.

I fried the garlic in oil till golden brown, added the luncheon meat and the thinly-cut stalks of the celery before putting in the bihun. It looked kind of pale so I added a few drops of dark soy sauce…

Frying

…solely for the colour before throwing in the celery leaves.

Lastly, I added two eggs and once fried enough, I dished it all out…

Fried luncheon meat & celery bihun

…and sat down to enjoy the fruit of my labour.

Yes, it was very nice and obviously, my girl loved it – normally she does not eat that much in the  morning but that day, she had a second helping. There was some left so I finished it all off for lunch. As always, nothing went to waste…not if I could help it!

Keep your word…

My girl told me that she promised my sister, her godmother/aunt, that she would make shepherd pie for her upon her request and good grief! She did not tell me until the other day that it was way back in November last year. Well, with the COVID-19 MCO/partial lockdown, she would have a lot more time on her hands and would not have any difficulty getting down to doing it.

I bought three packs of the Aussie wagyu and we ate two for our lunch that day and there was one pack left in the freezer…but of course, using that, it would mean she would be making cottage pie since she would be using beef, not lamb.  Ah well! Beggars can’t be choosers. LOL!!!

I went and bought potatoes, carrot and celery and told my girl that she would be able to make the pie now to keep her word. No, I did not bother to help her – I just let her manage on her own but I think the doting mum did lend a hand and gave her two cents’ worth about the do’s and the don’ts, not that she’s not into making pies a lot herself…or not that I can remember.

Soon, my girl was cooking the filling…

The filling

…and it did smell great with all the herbs and spices that she added.

She also made the mashed potatoes for the pie cover…

The mashed potatoes

…and after sprinkling the top with some parmesan cheese…

With a sprinkling of parmesan cheese

…that I managed to grab hold of, she put it in the oven to bake for a while.

Not long after that, it was done…

Cottage pie

We sent my sister’s share to her house and had this…

Cottage pie, cross-section

…for our lunch when we got home.

Everybody enjoyed it to the max – we thought it was good and yes, my sis sent word that she too thought it was great.