Two-way…

I saw on Facebook that Mary’s sweet & beautiful daughter, just like the mum, would be making some cheesecakes for sale for Christmas. I remember she did give me one once with lots of chocolate but no, I am not so into cheesecakes.

A few days later, I spotted another post and this time around, she would be making pies! Aha!!! I would want those! She made me an apple pie for my birthday that day and it was so good – it sure put those miserable ones at that franchise place to shame. Of course, this is partly a matter of giving and taking, a two-way thing or in Hokkien, we say oo lai oo khi (got come, got go)…and considering that they have been giving me things all this while, the least I could do to reciprocate was to show a little bit of support.

I asked for a box of each type, three…

Pies from Mary's girl

…altogether.

There were these chicken ones…

Chicken pies

…with its very nice filling, so generous with the meat…

Chicken pie filling

…and these beef and pumpkin ones…

Beef and pumpkin pies

…which were a little on the sweet side, probably because of the pumpkin…

Beef & pumpkin filling

…in them.

Last but not least, there were those awesome apple ones…

Apple pies

I remember in 1994, when I was at Marjons, Plymouth in the UK, the housekeeper (who looked like Susan Boyle before she became famous) gave me a box of mince pies. She told me that traditionally, they would eat them around Christmas as because of the shape, the pie symbolises the manger where Baby Jesus lay in the stable after He was born. Silly me, I thought there was minced meat in them but no, there was fruit mince instead. Well, we can’t get those here, not in Sibu and I thought these apple pies would make a great substitute, what do you think?

I can’t remember the prices now – they were over RM30.00 per box of 4 so that worked out to around RM8.00 per pie. I paid RM106.00 for all the three boxes, freshly baked, hot from the oven.

Moving on, it was the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, when I got a call from Bubu, my girl’s coursemate. He was posted here in 2013 and has been teaching here since. He and his family could not go home to Terengganu because there are only two “government-approved flights” per week and those that they booked were cancelled over and over again so they just gave up and decided to stay here for the holidays.

I understand that if you go to the airline website, there are a whole lot of flights and you can book any one of them…just that they would not be flying! This is absolutely ridiculous!!! Besides, when they come back, they would have to go through the tests and the 14-day quarantine and these would not be free for non-Sarawakians, RM2,400 per person so for the three of them, he would have to fork out over RM7,000 altogether.

That was why they drove to Sarikei the other day and I did hear them say that they would be going to Kuching the following week, putting the holidays to good use.

They went to this bakery in Sarikei that they said was very popular and they bought me these butter milk buns…

Butter milk buns from Honeybee, Sarikei

…and this assortment…

Buns fom Honeybee Sarikei

…as well, thank you so much.

As far as the texture of the bread went, I would say that it was pretty much the same as most of the modern-day bakeries here in Sibu, not old school like the roti paun I bought at the kampung stall that day. Having said that, I must say that the filling is a cut above many that I have eaten here. The butter milk filling, for instance, is more fragrant and not so dry as some of those here. I loved the custard filling that that nice-looking cylindrical bun and the spicy meat floss on top of the one on the right was really good. I don’t think I ever came across anything like that here. The big one was meat floss and chicken sausages and whatever else, nice too but I think that would not be so hard to find here.

I wanted to give them some made-in-Mukah keropok udang that I bought the other day but I could not see any halal logo on the label so I aborted the idea in the end. I also had some boxes of the Indonesian-made pasta in the house. I’ve bought some more to keep since my girl enjoys eating the cheese bolognese one so I gave those instead. Bubu’s wife said that the son loves pasta so he probably will enjoy it.

HONEYBEE BAKERY (2.130238, 111.518739) is just next to SugarBun Sarikei at No. 75, Jalan Masjid Lama.

So this is Christmas…

There wasn’t much to look forward to this Christmas. My sister was on duty in church on Christmas Eve so we decided to have our dinner on the evening of the actual day. The rest of us attended the service online.

On Christmas morning, I took out the Christmas fruit pudding…

Auntie Irene's Christmas fruit pudding

…that my aunt in Kuching gave me last year when we were there. I had kept it in the freezer all this time and yes, it was as good as new after I had defrosted it and instead of steaming it, I baked it a bit in the oven. That certainly brought back so many pleasant memories of my childhood days.

It is a steamed cake actually – my mum would make one BIG one every year using the Kjeldsens’ butter cookies tin, the biggest size, to serve to family and friends who dropped by during our Christmas open house. My aunt, my maternal uncle’s wife actually, has carried on that family tradition and would make it every year.

Other than this pudding, my mum would make cakes – butter cake, Milo and marble, Golden Churn, no less. Back in those days, things were very simple so at the time, we did not have all those fancy cakes that we see today but I must say they were just as nice, if not nicer! We did not have any electrical appliances then so your truly was the “official” manual egg beater using that spring-like contraption that looked something like the shock absorbers in our cars.

My mum would make some lovely cookies too and my role would be to put that bit of cherry in the centre of the kuih dahlia…and I would be keeping my fingers crossed the whole time, wishing and hoping that a tray would be overdone, a shade darker than it should be and yes, in the end, I would get to enjoy those rejects without having to wait for the festival before we could get to eat any. Hehehehehe!!!

Of course, she would cook her special curry that everyone would, without fail, flock to the house every year to enjoy with her “kuih bayee” – her pan-fried version of naan or something like that and when that ran out, there would be this plain sandwich bread from one shop here called Kim Guan Siang to go with the curry.

Well, other than eating that Christmas fruit pudding, there wasn’t much else the whole day till our dinner that evening. I wanted to buy a turkey from a hotel in town, over RM350.00 a bird, I think (my missus said it was over RM200 each, uncooked, at one of the local supermarkets) but the ladies were against the idea and said that they would roast a chicken…

Christmas dinner roast chicken

…instead. They do not really enjoy turkey plus one would be way too big for us to finish.

They said they would cook a seafood paella

Christmas dinner seafood paella

…and I was of the idea that we would just have a salad dish and that would be enough for the 4 of us. Obviously, the ladies had other things on their mind.

I wanted to buy a rack of lamb but the ones at the shop that day were so so HUGE and so was the leg of lamb. I bought those racks at least twice before and they were very nice, just the right size and to everyone’s liking. I ended up buying three lamb shanks, two smaller ones and another one a bit bigger. My missus said she would cook them so I suggested taking the bigger one – that would be more than enough but as you can see…

Christmas dinner lamb shanks

…that fell on deaf ears and even with the two smaller ones, we only managed to finish one and had to keep the other one for another day.

No, that wasn’t all! My missus took the two packs in the freezer that were left of the New Zealand striploin beef that I bought sometime ago and pan-grilled the slices…

Christmas dinner pan-grilled beef striploin

Unfortunately, it was overdone and turned out rather hard and on the dry side.

My girl made mashed potatoes and coleslaw to go with all that meat and tiramisu

Christmas dinner tiramisu

…for dessert.

That sure was a delightful dinner and seeing how terrible things have been, we sure were thankful that we were able to get together and enjoy the food and company for yet another year. It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow and at the time of writing, we have not decided what we would be having for dinner. We’d probably have something lighter and less of a hassle to prepare, a steamboat dinner perhaps.

When I was small, New Year’s Eve would be a steamboat event at my maternal grandma’s house at Queensway before they moved it to Kampung Bandong here. Way back then, there were only those charcoal ones and that afternoon, everyone would gather to make all the preparations.

My auntie, the since deceased oldest uncle’s wife, would be the one slicing the New Moon abalone very very thinly so there would be enough to go round but she would not have any second thoughts about giving me a few slices to enjoy, straight from the tin – they always spoilt me rotten, they did. Somehow or other, it was so very nice then, the fragrance would fill the air once the can was opened unlike the burn-a-hole-in-your-pocket ones (same brand) these days – why, they are on display at a supermarket here in a cabinet under lock and key!

Come dinner time, all would have bathed and dressed up nicely to gather at the long dinner table – there were so many of us, can’t remember how many steamboats we had but I can remember vividly the beautiful blue & white Chinese ceramic crockery with dragon designs that we used. These days, the extended family is  a thing of the past – members of the family are scattered all over and getting everyone together like in those days gone by would not be so easy. Things are simply not the same any longer. Sad.

Might as well…

After our lunch that day, it so happened that we went to that part of town that we seldom venture to and I decided that I might as well stop by here and buy some stuff for dinner so we would not need to rush home and cook.

Of course, I bought their nasi kerabu with ayam percik

Nasi kerabu ayam percik

…for my missus – her favourite and I would say that it is even more so these days as it seemed super extra spicy!

My girl did mention once that she would like to try their nasi dagang

Nasi dagang

…some day so I bought that too.

However, she had a change of heart when she saw the nasi tomato with ayam masak merah

Nasi tomato ayam masak merah

…that I thought I would want to try. She said it was very nice but it was not the best she had had. She insisted she could do it better!

I had the nasi dagang before when the lady boss treated me to it to let me try and yes, I quite enjoyed it. My missus is not into it as she does not like the texture of the ikan tongkol – that is the fish they use in the curry.

I did not ask for the breakdown of the prices but the total came up to RM20.00, less than AUD/NZS/SGD7.00, for a wonderful meal for the three of us!

PERMAI FOOD COURT (2.297141, 111.896163) is located among the newer shops to the section on the right of Jalan Permai, somewhere opposite the Sibu General Hospital, off Lorong Ulu Oya 11, off Jalan Ulu Oya, to the right of the Permai Hotel there.

The other…

My girl wanted biryani rice for lunch that day so of course, we made our way back to that same ol’ place, our favourite in town when it comes to Indian or Indonesian cuisines.

The previous time we were here, she had it with their Indian butter tandoori chicken so this time, she had the other favourite of hers…

Masala mutton & biryani rice
*photo taken by my girl using her smartphone*

– the masala mutton/lamb and biryani rice combination (RM21.00).

She also ordered this cheese aloo gobi naan (RM12.00)…

Cheese aloo gobi naan

…with the lovely mashed cauliflower and potato filling to share.

The mum wanted the tandoori garlic naan (RM5.00)…

Tandoori garlic naan
*Archive photo*

…and she asked for the aforementioned  butter tandoori chicken (RM15.50)…

Tandoori butter chicken
*Archive photo*

…to go with it.

I decided to try something from the Indonesian menu and ordered the ayam bakar berempah rice (RM14.50)...

Ayam bakar berempah with kerabu and rice

The chicken was very nice, very different from the ayam berempah at the Malay shops and stalls – theirs are dry whereas this one had a lovely coating of its very delightful sauce. I let my girl try and yes, she agreed that it was very nice too.

We were still seated inside owing to the SOP requirements and taking snapshots in the dim conditions can be quite challenging. I tried using the torch in my antique smartphone and it did not turn out too bad – a lot nicer than trying to shoot in the dark, I must say.

My girl insisted on picking up the tab and the bill came up to RM74.00 but the nice and generous boss gave her RM30.00 change for the RM100.00 that she paid.

The CAFE IND (2.290813, 111.829294) is located along Laichee Lane, right behind one block of shops facing the main road (Jalan Kampung Nyabor) where the Bank Simpanan Nasional, Sibu branch (2.290561, 111.829071), is.

From afar…

My good friend/ex-classmate, Robert, stays on the other side of town, so very far away and needless to say, I hardly ever venture to that part of the woods.

I got a call from him one morning to confirm that I was home – well, I most certainly would be home these days as I would not want to venture out unless absolutely necessary.

It turned out that his missus, Angela, made these lovely chai kueh

Chai kueh from Robert & Angela

…and they wanted to give me some to try. Gosh!!! She even went through the trouble of garnishing them with some fried chopped garlic – that, of course, brought the taste to a whole new level and she also made some delightful chili sauce to eat them with.

I tried one…

Chai kueh, inside

…for “the phototaking session” and that one had mangkuang/sengkuang filling with a hint of hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) and it was so very nice!

What we did not know then…and we only found out later when we sat down to enjoy them for tea that afternoon…was that there were two types of filling – I think there was yam in the other one and yes, it was very nice too. Having said that, I would say that old habits die hard and we prefer the slight crunchiness of the mangkuang/sengkuang filling and its more familiar taste that we are more used to.

Thank you so much, Robert & Angela – that was so very kind and thoughtful of you two and thank you especially for  driving all the way from your house to mine just to send these to me, much obliged, really!

Never ending…

When it comes to instant noodles, you can find a never ending array of choices that you really do not know which to pick.

Well, if it is the packaging you are looking for, you may be attracted by the psychedelic colours of this one…

Myojoy mee goreng Thai tom yam flavour

I may be wrong but at one time, I was under the impression that this was a Japanese company and I did like some of their instant noodles before. Perhaps, this Singapore company…

Singapore product made in Indonesia

…has bought it over and no, they do not make them in that little red dot – this is made in Indonesia.

I did blog about some of their other flavours and varieties that we did enjoy before like this one and also this one but we did not see this one before so our guess is that it is probably new.

Inside this one, you can find the noodles and two sachets…

Myojoy noodles and sachets

…one with the seasoning and the other with the fragrant oil.

I boiled the noodles till cooked, emptied the contents of the sachets onto a plate, drained the noodles and tossed well with the ingredients provided, garnished with a sprinkling of chopped spring onions from my garden and served…

Served

I also had some leftover deep-fried breaded chicken chop slices and I fried an egg to go with it.

Yes, it was very nice. I loved the pleasant Thai tom yam flavour, slightly sourish, not overwhelming, not too strong – just right. However, I did not think it was spicy at all even though they did state that on the packet.

My girl bought a pack of this from the supermarket near our house and she cannot remember the price. Of course, being from Singapore, it would be more expensive than our Malaysian or the Indonesian ones, cheaper than the Korean ones, that’s for sure!

DELTA – THE MARKETPLACE (2.311968, 111.847043) is located in the basement of the Delta Mall, Taman Seduan 8, Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada).

The Hope of Christmas…

It’s Christmas Day, 2020…

Christmas 2020
*My girl’s DIY Christmas crib using recycled stuff*

I guess unlike those before, this one is not one to bring a lot of cheer and celebration after almost one whole year of living in dread and fear, following the COVID-19 pandemic breakout around March.

I only received four Christmas cards this year, thank you so much to all of them for the effort and their thoughtful and meaningful gestures. Well, I did not send out any myself, just three to the older folks in the family, all residing in Kuching and I was delighted that they reached them safe and sound.

My cousin in Cheras, Selangor sent me this pop-up Christmas tree…

Pop-up Christmas tree frrom Cheras, Selangor

…and I got these lovely ones from my cousins in Kuching…

From Tabuan Laru, Kuching

From Kumpang, Kuching

I certainly was surprised to get one…

From Brisbane, Australia

…from my cousin in Brisbane, Australia too. Our Malaysian postal services made an announcement sometime back that we can’t send anything overseas so I was thinking that would include cards and letters as well.

Every year, as December approaches, I would be keeping track of all the Christmas commercials as and when they appear. I’ve always loved the ones from the UK and sometimes, the Philippines too but this year, I was not really overwhelmed by any of them. Eventually, I stumbled upon this one…

…that I absolutely love and surprise, surprise – it’s from Malaysia!!! You can click the link and watch but be forewarned – make sure you have a box of tissue paper beside you. It is so relevant in these difficult times that we are going through and watching it really touched me deeply. “No one knows when these trying times will finally come to an end but…we believe that things will get better.” Well, for that, we pray.

There are a few new Christmas songs this year but only a couple fit into the context of the situation we all are in. I would say that my favourite is this one…

Some extracts from the beautiful lyrics go like this:
…Cause right now the world looks nothing like those innocent Decembers…
…These days, peace on earth is hard to find.

And I need You to remind me one more time…
You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart…
…May the sick find healing’s touch…
…And may every heart make room for you, the One who came to save us.

Even though things do not seem to be getting any better, let Christmas fill our hearts with hope, the hope that all this will be over soon.
A Blessed Christmas, everyone. Joy to the world, peace, love and goodwill to all mankind!

What you call that…

I know phong peah, almond filling wrapped in the bland layered pastry. My late parents loved that so everytime we went to Kuching, we would go to that shop at Padungan to buy some or if we heard of anybody coming to Sibu, we would ask them to buy for them.

Then there is heong peah, the best being the ones from Perak, anytime nicer than Penang’s tambun biscuits. The first time I ate that was when a friend brought me some homemade ones from the pasar malam (night market) in Taiping – the treacle maltose filling inside was still moist and sticky, so very nice! Since then, I have not seen any that comes close but over the years, I still kept on buying. My late dad used to enjoy it very much, the crusty, fragrant skin so I would buy for him to enjoy and everytime a friend gave me a pack or two, I would give to him as well.

Way back in 2011, I came across this ma ti so from Kuching which was actually heong peah to me just that those were not very nice. Well, according to this guy, heong peah (香饼) in Cantonese and beh teh soh (马蹄酥) in Hokkien or whatever are one and the same thing.

Anyway, whatever you call that, we can now buy our own Sibu-made ones…

Sibu heong peah

…wrapped individually like this…

Individually wrapped

I hear these are home-made and normally, they are sold at the market packed in plastic containers so you will have no choice but to buy the whole lot. They are only 50 sen each so if there are 20, you only need to fork out RM10.00 for a pack…but take my word for it! These are so nice that they would be gone in no time at all!!!

The skin is crusty, flaky and fragrant, not hard like some of the factory-made brands…

Sibu-made heong peah, filling

…and the filling is moist, not dry.

I bought one bag full that day, RM10.00 and you can bet I would be buying some more again soon.

Through thick and thin…

The other day, I blogged about the very nice fish (and egg) burger from that Sibu’s own franchise which was so nice that I did buy some more a second time when I saw it again.

Well, I was at my neighbourhood shop and I saw these (4 for RM2.00)…

4 for RM2.00

Yes, I did mention before that they now make their own chu nu miang, the softer and very lightly sweet version of our Foochow bagel, the kompia. I was saying that there is no way they would be able to slice the regular ones to make burgers – those have become SO very small and SO thin, unlike these. Of course they are 3 for RM1.00, almost 4o sen each (kompia is now 2 for RM1.00 at some places) but I would much sooner pay around 10 sen more for these bigger and thicker ones…

Bigger & thicker

You can pop it in the oven for a bit if you like it a little bit crusty on top. That was exactly what I did that day and after slicing it into halves, I placed a slice of butter and salami, pre-grilled in a non-stick pan, in it…

Pepperoni chu nu miang burger

I don’t know where my girl bought these that I found in the freezer but they’re just the right size for the chu nu miang and I must say I enjoyed it to the max. Very very nice! Of course I could have added a slice of omelette or tomato or a piece of lettuce, all of which would be very nice too, I’m sure. The possibilities are endless!!!

I also tried it with butter and peanut butter…

Chu nu miang with butter and peanut butter

…and yes, that was good as well!

A loaf of bread is around RM3.00 these days, RM4.00 wholemeal and we’re not really into it unless somebody takes it to make some gourmet sandwiches or French toast and by the time we’re halfway through, it would have gone mouldy. It sure makes a lot more sense to buy two packets of these instead, gone in no time at all.

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.

Try that too…

The other day, I blogged about the steamed paos that my ex-student managed to buy in Sarikei and brought all the way back for me. She got me the kaya butter and the char siew.

Way back in July, when I saw the video clip featuring these buns and I read somewhere that it would be available at one particular supermarket here, I quickly went there to see but unfortunately, there was none…and for a long time, I did not see any buns in the steamer everytime I drove past. Well, I was driving past the supermarket that day and yes, I saw the steamer filled with buns. I did not stop as I did not have the time but a few days later, I went back there again with the sole intention of buying the paos.

Yes, I bought the kaya butter ones again – everyone enjoyed those very much. My ex-student said they were RM1.20 each but that day, I had to fork out RM1.30 for one. I guess we need to pay for the transport charges plus surely the people here would want to make a bit of profit as well.

I did not want to buy the char siew as I wanted to try the chicken mushroom ones (RM1.80 each)…

Grace's chicken mushroom pao 1

The char siew ones were nice but the filling was not quite like the kind-of-sweet regular char siew pao filling and it turned out that these chicken mushroom ones…

Grace's chicken mushroom pao 2

…did not taste anything like any that I had before either.

Yes, it was nice – I liked how the meat was in chunks, not minced but there was no egg inside. I love the egg in steamed paos! The skin was as good as usual but personally, I prefer those homemade pork ones at that shop near my house even though they are not as generous with the filling and theirs are actually RM2.00 each!

I guess I shall be going back to buy some more but I’d probably be sticking to the kaya butter ones  – they’re really good.

GRACE’s ARK 恩典芳舟, the bakery (2.122346, 111.521718) is located at No. 33, Jalan Entiba in Sarikei. The steamed paos are available in Sibu at the DORAEMON SUPERMARKET (2.293838, 111.836819), located in the area of shops around Jalan Chew Siik Hiong, off Jalan Langsat and 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.