Small…

The other day, when I was blogging about bak koi, the Chinese steamed egg cake with meat and fried shallots…

Bak koi

…that I enjoy very much,  zmun2 asked if I could get the recipe from my aunt in Kuching, my maternal uncle’s wife – she makes the best bak koi. Unlike those commercially-made ones, she is always very generous with the ingredients.

I was kind of sceptical about doing that as knowing how the old folks work, most likely, my uncle’s wife would not have the recipe. Everything is agak-agak (estimate), the same with my mum during her time.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try and asked my cousin, her daughter, for it and yes, she managed to get it…

Bak koi recipe

…for me. That sure looks ancient! Gee!!! I did not know that printed ink way back then could be smudged. I sure am glad I asked for it for I am very sure that if I did not and I do not post it here, eventually this recipe would be lost forever – our heritage!

Incidentally, small in small onion literally means small. That actually refers to shallots, a direct translation from Chinese. In the Hokkien dialect, we call it chang kia or baby onion and Bombay onion is tua chang, big onion.

I guess if one is not into things savoury and sweet (like Irene in Kuching), if one omits the meat, shallots, soy sauce and msg and the oil for frying and just use the last three in the list of ingredients, instead of the bak koi

Bak koi, close up

…one would end up with the regular Chinese steamed egg cake.

I may give this a try one of these days. Wish me luck, folks!

Back with a vengeance…

The last time we were here was before or in early November last year, so long ago. Well, last Saturday afternoon, my girl went out with her mum and she said she wanted to go and eat sushi. They went to the outlet of one of the Japanese food franchises in town but it was full so they had to abandon the plan and went next door for something else.

When I heard that, I decided to take things into my own hands and announced that we would go for sushi for lunch the following day, Sunday and finally, we went back to that place again after way over half a year! They were very particular about the SOP and where you sit but the place was so very crowded – I would much sooner go some place else but no, we wanted sushi so sushi we would have!

There we were, the three of us, back with a vengeance and knowing that we would not be going out all that much these days and might not be coming back again for some time, I took a whole lot from the carousel for us to enjoy.

This…

Sushi 1

…was nice so I took two plates of that – actually, the shade of the egg was different…

Sushi 2

– probably one was a little overdone and I thought they were different.

These were good too…

Sushi 3

…and we had two plates of those and I liked this one…

Sushi 4

…as well.

My girl did not want any with raw salmon after all the bad press the fish has been getting lately so we did not have any and had unagi

Sushi 5

…instead. The blue plate is more expensive. RM3.70 while the red ones are RM2.80 each.

My missus loves those inari ones in the tofu pouches and she had this…

Sushi 6

…and also this…

Sushi 7

For one thing, I seemed to notice that there wasn’t that much variety to choose from that day unlike on our previous visits. If it was because of COVID-19, that was no excuse at all for them to cut down on the types of sushi made available – the place was crowded, almost full and if there are any plates left on the carousel, those would be the cheap, unimpressive ones that most people would not cast a second glance at.

I had the Shiro ramen (RM12.80)…

Shiro ramen

Everything was drowned in the soup, completely submerged, so I had to meticulously bring the onsen egg, the fried chicken cutlets and the noodles to the surface to take a photograph of it and no, I did not enjoy it much. The broth was way too thick and rich, rather strong on the taste of garlic AND sesame oil. I am no fan of the latter, that’s for sure…plus it did not have any seaweed by the side – I was positive I saw that in the photograph in their menu. It reminded me of this one which I did not enjoy all that much either. All in all, I would just say it was edible, not anything I would want to order again and no, I did not lick the bowl clean – what I would do when something is really so very nice, not at all!

I ordered this kabocha korokke (RM6.80)…

kabocha korokke

– their pumpkin croquettes and yes, they were very nice. Perhaps I can try to cook our own one of these days.

My girl wanted the spider tempura (RM15.80)…

Spider tempura

… with the soft shell crab and all the vegetable fritters and for her main, she ordered her favourite, the unagi don (RM20.40)…

Unagi don

She wasn’t all that happy with it as it was in dire need of more of the very nice sauce from the unagi to go with the plain white rice.

The total came up to RM87.70, RM101.73 inclusive of 6% SST and 10% service charge.

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).

New ones…

Last Sunday morning, Annie’s brother, David, dropped by my house to give me the dumplings he made following two new recipes. He would not tell me what was in each of them – he said he would let me try and see if I could figure out what went into the making.

Well, we went out for lunch that afternoon so it was not until dinner that evening that we got to cook them…

Uncle Q Dumplings 1

…and try.

I think this…

Uncle Q Dumpling 1, filling

…was the one I liked very much. I could not make out the taste other than the fact that it was all meat. My missus said something about their being shitake mushroom in it. The filling tasted great and I was thinking how nice it would be to use it to make gourmet sausages…or perhaps he could wrap the filling with sio bee skin to make sio bee – I sure would want to buy!

My missus liked the other one…

Uncle Q Dumpling 2

…that seemed to have some chili inside…

Uncle Q Dumpling 2, filling

I’m not sure but maybe I got the photos of the two cross-sections confused and what I said was this one should have been the other and vice versa.

My girl, however, did not think much of either one of them. She feels that shui jiao/jiaozi should be what shui jiao/jiaozi should be – minced meat with koo chai (chives) and even though she was fine with the one with cabbage, she was never really all that fond of it.

Incidentally, if anybody wants to buy without prior booking, I think they have the dumplings at the Glory Organic Products shop (beside Golden Star Technology Service Centre) opposite the SESCO Customer Service Centre in the Dewan Suarah area or you can call David at 012-856 2277 or message him via their Facebook page to order and request for home delivery.

Try me one more time…

We have been getting a lot of new variations from the people here and I have tried all of them, never mind if it is red, yellow or green.

This one…

The Kitchen Food zhajiang noodles

…is the latest to hit the shelves but no, I did not buy it – I’ve had zhajiang mian before outside and it did not get me running back for more. That was why when I saw it on the shelves in the shops, I did not bat an eyelid. However, my missus came home one day with a pack and wasted no time in giving it a try.

Zhajiangmian (炸酱面) or Old Beijing noodles with fried bean originated from the Shandong province and is an iconic Northern Chinese dish. Zhajiang sauce is normally made by simmering stir-fried ground pork or beef with salty fermented soybean paste. However, the sauce may vary from province to province and between countries.

I had this one…

Twin Corner zhajiang mian

here and it sure did not look anything like the real thing. No, I was not impressed so I never went back for more.

This…

Noodle House zhajiang mian

…if I remember correctly, was the first time I had zhajiang mian and though it looked a lot more like what it should look like, it did not get me all excited at all.

In the case of this instant one, the bean paste came in one of the three sachets in the pack, along with the seasoning (powder) and the oil. After my missus had tried it, I asked her for her verdict and she did not seem to like it very much. She said she just had it once and the rest of the time, she had the noodles with her own kampua mee ingredients – she liked it better that way.

Well, that morning, I saw there was just one pack left so it was now or never! I had to grab that last one to try otherwise I am quite sure my missus would not be buying anymore and I would never get the chance to try it at all. I did not have any of the ingredients to make my version look anything like the real thing so this was what it…

The Kitchen Food zhajiang noodles with sausage and egg

…looked like in the end.

I cooked the noodles, emptied all the contents in the sachets into a plate and once cooked, I drained the noodles thoroughly before throwing it into the plate and tossing it well with the ingredients. I fried an egg to go with it and there was one gourmet sausage in the freezer, black pepper, so I sliced it thinly and fried the slices on a non-stick pan till nicely done and served them by the side. I garnished the noodles with a sprinkling of chopped spring onion from my garden and sat down to taste the fruit of my labour…

The Kitchen zhajiang noodles, served

No, it certainly did not sweep me off my feet. The bean paste tasted like those black beans that they use to steam with pork ribs at those dim sum places and some may use them for cooking the sauce for fish. I can’t say I liked it much – it sure is a taste that may need a little getting used to.

I guess it is the same as the ones I had outside – I may not be all that thrilled by them but there may be people who like them and may go back for more.

Is this nice?…

When my late parents were still around, fit and healthy and able to travel, they would fly over to New Zealand to be with my brother and his family there. My dad would declare that they would stay there for half a year at least but give them a month or so, they would be home already. My mum should be fine but my dad liked to go out and drop by his friends’ shops in town to chat every morning, go for a bite to eat and he could not do that there – no friends, nowhere to go.

Anyway, everytime they came back, they would bring this…

Arnott's Schotch Finger

…home and they would give me a packet or two. So, was it nice? I would say it was – not as nice as those Scottish shortbread or Kjeldsens’ Danish cookies but yes, they were quite good.

Arnott’s is a popular Australian/New Zealand brand – we do get a lot of their products here, Tim Tam…

Tim Tam red velvet

…especially, which I do not really fancy as all of them are way too sweet. We get all kinds of their biscuits/cookies and snacks here but surprisingly, I have not seen the aforementioned Scotch fingers for a long time now.

Anyway, my girl came home from that supermarket in town that imports anything and everything from places all over the world and she bought two packs of these…

Arnott's Farmbake butter shortbread

…for me to enjoy. I can’t say I was excited as for a long time now, nothing from them had impressed me much but of course, I was thankful that I had something to eat for breakfast or afternoon tea or for my night cap before I turned in for the night.

I opened a pack…

Arnott's butter shortbread, cookies

…to try and much to my delight, the cookies were very nice. They had this pleasant butter fragrance, not as strong as that in Scottish shortbreads but not unlike those lovely Danish cookies and there were quite a lot in a pack. I really hate it when I open a big packet of something nice and there are only half a dozen pieces inside, not even enough for one sitting!

I don’t know how much each pack costs. If it is not too expensive, I may want to buy a few more to keep and enjoy slowly. Otherwise, I shall just wait and hope that my girl will grab some for me the next time she drops by the supermarket. Hehehehehe!!!

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

We are not the same…

I was watching this very popular Singapore food series, the episode where they went to Bintulu in 2018 and it seemed like they enjoyed the food there and at all the places that they went to, most of it, that is.

However, there was one part where they went for some kampua mee and pian sip and the lady had this to say about the latter (7:30): “The portion of meat is really tiny!” but they sure were right when they said that it was different from the Singapore wanton mee.

Pen sip/pian sip or pian nik (扁肉) in Foochow is similar to wanton in how it is minced meat wrapped with skin but that is where the similarity ends. It does not have so much meat – the person making will just smear a very thin layer of it onto the skin like applying butter to bread and wrap it up. After all, it is a noodle dish and one is supposed to enjoy the skin, not so much the meat and talking about the skin, it is soft, thin, white and translucent while wanton skin is thicker, firmer and yellowish. Kiaw in Kuching has more meat but unlike wanton, the skin is a lot more similar.

Having said all that, considering how they are not the same, I really would not compare the two and just enjoy each of them as they are but of course, if they are one and the same thing, then one would tend to make comparisons between those at different shops and stalls – which one is better, why I like this one more, why this one is not as nice and so on and so forth.

Well, I had pian sip (RM3.00)…

Emas Corner cafe baru pian sip

here the other day. I had their kampua mee once, before the COVID-19 lockdown, and I thought it was really good.

Yes, the skin was just right…

Emas Corner cafe baru pian sip, close up

…thin and smooth, not overcooked till over-soft and there was not too much meat plus the guy seemed mighty generous with the chopped spring onion and the fried shallots so those added to the fragrance and the taste of the dish. I wouldn’t say the same about their complimentary soup though, if you get what I mean.

The coffee was great too or to me, at least. It was a bit bitter, not sweet (enough) but I loved it that way.

EMAS CORNER CAFE BARU (2.292229, 111.838162) is located to the extreme right of the blocks of shops along Lorong Tong Sang 1B at the junction of Jalan Tong San and Lorong/Jalan Langsat.

Contrasts…

I do enjoy this Chinese kuih (cake)…

Bak koi

We call it bak koi, bak meaning meat and koi is cake.

There is the yew chang (fried shallots) on top…

yew chang

…and the minced meat sandwiched in between…

Meat

…the layers of egg cake.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think this is our very simple Chinese steamed egg cake (鸡蛋糕) or what we call kay nerng kor, steamed not baked and that is, in fact, slightly sweet with the light fragrance of egg which is why there is this contrast between its sweetness and the savoury taste of the meat in it. For this very reason, the ladies in the house are not particularly fond of it – they are not that comfortable with the contrast between the sweet and the savoury in the cake.

On the other hand, I enjoy it a lot and I would surely buy when I see any at the fruit and food stall near my house. I did blog about it once in 2016 and it was only RM5.50 then. Now, it is RM6.00 for a quarter which means that if I buy one whole cake, it would only be RM24.00 – so much cheaper than all those fancy cakes at the bakeries around town and I do enjoy it…

Bak koi, sliced

…a whole lot more, I must say.

Of course, the ones that my auntie in Kuching makes…

My auntie's bak koi

…are a whole lot nicer, no scrimping on the meat and the fried shallots but this is good enough to appease my craving once in a while. I have not seen it being sold anywhere else around town, only here, so I don’t know if there are others elsewhere that is nicer.

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.

Clear and simple…

In my younger days, we did not have a lot of choices when it comes to cuisines. However, sometimes after eating all those rich and creamy foods in western cuisines, Italian, for one, all the herbs in Thai or Vietnamese food and the spices in Indian cooking as well as some dishes we never heard of before at some Chinese restaurants, I would start to crave for the very simple food I grew up eating.

Some may feel our simple dishes are rather bland and unexciting but I am a simple man. Personally, I do feel that there is beauty in their simplicity and one of my favourites from those long gone days would be fish balls in clear soup…

Fish ball soup 1

Cooking this has never been easier ever since the people in Sarikei started producing frozen fish paste available in packets like this…

Frozen fish paste from Sarikei

In the old days, one would have to make one’s own which would be such a chore and a whole lot of work.

One would have to buy the fish, bay kar (ikan tenggiri/mackerel) no less – I understand there are different types and one is nicer to fry and eat just like that and another is better for making fish balls. The fishmonger may be kind enough to debone or fillet the fish for you, otherwise you will have to do it yourself. Then you will have to scrap the meat off the skin and mince/chop it and pound it even to make it QQ (firm). Finally, you can start cooking your fish balls.

If we did not make our own fish balls, we had to buy the frozen ones from the market or shops. There were some local-made ones that were not too bad but one would need to know where to go and what to buy. Most of the time, the factory-made ones were not good – when you boiled them, they would expand from the size of golf or ping pong balls to the size of tennis balls!!! This was because of the amount of flour in them and the fact that there wasn’t much fish wasn’t too bad – there would be all the preservatives, artificial flavouring, msg and what have you. That is why I am not keen on going to all those steamboat places in town – they give you all the frozen stuff and for the amount of money I have to fork out, I might as well have my own steamboat at home…

Steamboat at home

Cooking this is so easy now – you just take the paste and roll it into balls and drop them into a pot of boiling water. I will usually add a few cloves of garlic for the added taste and to cover the fishy smell and of course, I will add a handful of Tianjin preserved vegetable or what we call tang chai/dong chai (冬菜), rinsed well, after taking the amount required from the pack. I will add some chopped spring onion and daun sup (Chinese celery) to enhance the taste and fragrance of the soup. One may add fried shallots too, if one so desires. When using this paste, there is no need to add any salt and msg – they already have them in the paste. You may add your own pepper if you like that.

Incidentally, I heard some people complaining about the fish paste from Jakar. They were the first to come out with it but lately, I have been buying the one in the above photograph from Sarikei and it is good, no problem at all. Cooking fish ball soup…

Fish ball soup 2

…has never been easier and one can even add tang hoon (glass noodles)…

Tang hoon fish balls

…to it to enjoy. I’ve also heard of one Sibu homemade fish paste that’s very good but I’ve yet to go and buy. Will blog about it when I do.

Rainbow connection…

The stalls here sure look pretty in their rainbow/pride colours, thanks to the effort of the very pro-active and dedicated wakil rakyat of that constituency…

Pelangi Foodkiosk Kampung Nangka
*Pelangi Foodkiosk Kampung Nangka photo*

Before this, it was a DIY kind of thing – each one would bring their own planks and plywood, worn-out recycled canvas banners and what not to build their own stalls and they were such a ghastly sight that I never wanted to set foot there to see what they were selling. They reminded me of the floating toilets all along the river of the kampung houses, those days when they had to build their own for their own use.

Well, I was driving past that very hot morning and I saw that only a few were open. One of them had a sign saying bubur pedas and I stopped there and then to go and buy. Unfortunately, the guy who used to have his stall here said that it was not available that day but he did have it the day before. There was nothing he was selling that tickled my fancy so I decided to walk around to see what the other stalls were selling.

There was one where two very young girls were selling some kuihs and what not and I thought these, wrapped in banana leaves, looked really good so I bought a pack of 5 (RM2.00)…

Banana leaf-wrapped kuih

…and indeed, they were very nice. The skin was soft, not tough and rubbery…

Nice skin

…unlike some that would make you feel like choking when you try to chew and swallow them.

The filling of Gula Melaka-flavoured grated coconut…

Coconut filling

…was very nice too. I certainly would want to buy those again should I happen to drop by and they are available.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about their curry puffs (RM2.00 for a pack of 5)…

Curry puffs

I know of an unimpressive-looking place along Jalan Bandong, across the road from the nasi lemak stall at Bandong Walk where a lady would be selling her curry puffs and doughnuts at 3 for RM1.00 and they are very nice. I’ve gone there to buy from her a few times already – the next time I do that, I must remember to take some snapshots and blog about it.

This was their version of the Chinese steamed yam cake or or koi and yes, it was very nice, absolutely great with Thai chili sauce and only RM2.00 a pack…

Malay steamed cake

…which was a lot cheaper than the nyonya kuihs sold here.

Well, as the song goes, two out of three ain’t bad and yes, I will definitely drop by there time and time again to see what else they have in store. If I am not wrong, that place is busier in the late afternoon and evening with keropok lekor, banana fritters, fried chicken and burger stalls and all.

PELANGI FOODKIOSK KAMPUNG NANGKA (2.311098, 111.820632) is located in front of Wisma Azra at Lorong 8A, Jalan Kampung Nangka, where YS Cafe is.

Online shopping trolley…

You can say that I was kind of paranoid when doing anything online so don’t expect me to do any shopping whatsoever but I did not have a choice when it came to purchasing airline tickets and making hotel reservations – some may require payment upon booking.

Well, I had a problem with my car temperature meter sometime ago but according to my workshop guy, the spare part was not available. The first time around, he managed to get a recycled one, second hand and he fixed it for me. It lasted for a while and then it began to get cranky again. It would not budge unless I slammed the dashboard hard and at times, it did require quite an effort to make it come alive.

Left with no choice, I went browsing around one of those online shopping websites and lo and behold! I found what I wanted!!! I wasted no time at all in making the purchase and waited for it to be delivered. That was on the 31st of October, 2019 and unfortunately, around that time, our national courier had a problem with people hacking their website so I could not track and trace. I could but it looked like the consignment was going all around the country and not coming my way.

Of course, that got me worried as I had no idea whatsoever what was going on and I was not sure whether I would get my order or not. I posted that on Facebook and did get some information on the website being hacked and anyway, they said the poor service was pretty usual and one said I could claim back my money if I did not get it by a certain date. Thankfully, I did…

Car temperature meter

…but to this day, it is still in the box – I have not got the meter replaced as the old one seems to be behaving quite well  so I would just go on using it until the time comes when it calls it a day completely.

No, my shopping did not end there. My garden shears…

BAJA garden shears

…weren’t in very good shape lately so I went back to the hardware store to get a replacement. They cost over RM50, believe you me, and they do not last very long. I think I did buy another one after that time in April last year but this time around, I was informed that it was out of stock and no, they had no idea whether there would be anymore coming.

Again, left with no choice, I logged in online to look for it. There were some German ones that cost a few hundred ringgit, no, thank you! Then, I found these made-in-Taiwan ones…

Made-in-Taiwan garden shears

– RM29.00 only from a supplier in Shah Alam and RM28.50 from one in Perak. I added two from the former and two more from the latter to my shopping trolley or cart, as it is called and promptly paid for them to close the deal. I received both orders within just a couple of days between each delivery.

Yes, I bought extra…

Garden shears, ready to use

…so I can use one until it is not that great anymore, time to throw it away and I can easily replace it with another one as and when necessary.

In the meantime, I’ve looked at some t-shirts and shirts my size…which is quite impossible to get here and if there are any, they are mighty expensive! I’ve ordered a few to see if they are any good but it looks like they are shipping them all the way from China! Well, we’ll see when the things finally come in – if they are any good, I may go back and buy some more. Oh dear!!! I certainly hope it does not get to become a habit, this online shopping thing. LOL!!!