Once bitten, twice shy…

This was on the eve of Chap Goh Meh and my missus was busy in the kitchen preparing for our dinner that night.

I decided to hop over to that Colonel Sanders’ outlet at the mall near my house to buy something for a bite to eat for lunch. I knew jolly well what my girl would like – the nuggets and cheesy wedges and I asked for a piece of their fried chicken, hot and spicy, for the mum. However, the guy told me that two would be the minimum so I agreed to take two instead.

Now, one reason why I wanted to drop by there was because there was something I wanted to try. The ad kept popping up on Facebook and it looked very nice, all packed in a box. I went to their website but I did not see that there. They did have this very nice photograph…

KFC nasi atuk

…of the same thing served in a lovely banana leaf-lined basket though but if you think you will have it served to you like that if you eat this there, dream on!!!

Never mind, I ordered that and asked for just one piece of chicken – I did not want two and was given this and that in different boxes and containers so when I got home, I had to put it all together and this was what it looked like (RM14.90)…

Nasi atuk, in reality

…in reality.

First and foremost, I asked for a drumstick but when I opened the box, I was quite put off to see that the guy had given me the upper part of the thigh. Ah well!!! Count my blessings, he could have given me breast instead!

It was rather obvious that they were not very generous with the sambal unlike what we see in the photo and anyway, it was not very nice so it was no big deal that they gave just a spoonful of it. I loved the super spicy one at McD – this one sure paled in comparison.

We can see VERY clearly in the photograph that the set came with one whole hardboiled egg and it did not matter that what I got was some badly messed-up omelette (I refuse to call that scrambled eggs) but there was so very little of it…

KFC nasi atuk, egg

The rice…

KFC nasi atuk, rice

…wasn’t anything to shout about, the lemak-ness was barely noticeable so all things considered, except for the disastrous fried egg and getting it in a cup (they said I could ask for it in a plate if I would be dining in), I must say that the one I had at McD was heaps better.

As for this one, it is sadly a case of once bitten, twice shy. One thing’s for sure, this is one thing I will never ever order again, thank you very much!!!

KFC DELTA MALL (2.311909, 111.846792) is located on the ground floor of the mall located at Taman Seduan 8, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, formerly Jalan Pedada.

In advance…

So how was your Chap Goh Meh dinner last night? Lots of things to eat and enjoy? We had ours in advance, a day earlier because yesterday was a Friday in the season of Lent, a day of fasting and abstinence. As far as I know, even during “normal” times (before the pandemic), many families went out for dinner the night before for the simple reason that all the restaurants would be full on the actual night.

Yes, I did go out but a couple of days earlier, only to the fruit & food sundry/grocer shop round the corner, to buy a whole fish and had it steamed for the dinner…

Steamed fish

As they say, Nien Nien You Yi! We had the ikan buris in the freezer but my missus does not eat that and there were a few slabs of salmon too but I wanted a whole fish. I sure was glad I did as on the morning of the day proper, there was such a HUGE crowd and I sure wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with all those people.

This ikan bawal putih (white pomfret), supposedly more prestigious than the black (that I do prefer) and the golden varieties, was only RM46.00 which I would consider cheap because I was at a fish stall before Chinese New Year where those were going for between RM60.00 and RM80.00 and the lady told me that around Chinese New Year, I would not get anything less than RM100.00!

I bought three lamb shanks for Christmas last year and my missus cooked two. There was one left in the freezer so I asked her to take it out and cook it…

Lamb shank

…and it was really good, very nice and tender.

We also used whatever we could find in the fridge and freezer for this salad platter…

Salad

…to which we added the traditional salad dressing in the family

Add dressing

My girl cooked this lovely pumpkin soup…

Pumpkin soup

…and my sister brought this VERY nice ice cream for dessert!

No, we did not have much this time around, very simple – just these few dishes for the four of us but still, we only managed to finish the fish! Thankfully, there wasn’t all that much left.

Not ready…

They have lifted the MCO here in Sibu and switched to the more relaxed CMCO though I really wonder why as the cases are not decreasing and new clusters are sprouting out here, there and everywhere.

It seems that they are confining the lockdowns to specific areas with a lot of cases instead of the whole Sibu Division, including all the surrounding districts. As a result of this, it is generally business as usual elsewhere but with strict adherence to the stipulated SOPs (hopefully). I, for one, am not ready to venture out freely just yet and even though dining in is now allowed, I would prefer to keep my distance.

The other day, I saw that we had run out of butter in the house so I went to the nearby shops in the next lane to buy and I purposely went very early, at the break of dawn, so there would not be a lot of people around. The first shop that I went to had just opened and the two employees on the early morning shift were mopping the floor.

Unfortunately, they did not have any, out of stock so I went to the other shop in the vicinity. The boss went to the fridge to have a look and informed me that the brick ones (less than RM15.00 each) were all sold out but they did have the ones in tins, Golden Churn, no less – RM26.00 each so I bought that.

Since I was out already, I decided to go and tapao (takeaway) breakfast for everybody. I got my tiffin carrier from the car boot and went to the back of the coffee shop where the chu char stall was and placed my orders through the back door. I did not know whether there were any customers in the coffee shop or not at the time – I did not bother going in through the front as I was not keen on encountering any fellow human-beings around.

I bought this Foochow fried noodles, the “moon” version (RM4.00)…

Ah Kau Foochow fried noodle, moon

…for myself and my missus. Of course by the time I got home, it would have dried up – the noodles would have soaked up all the sauce/gravy but as a matter of fact, we find that some are very much nicer this way, not all but yes, there are places where we prefer buying the noodles home to enjoy. There are also people who say the same about the kampua mee at some places, not as nice when eaten there, much nicer when taken home to eat.

I bought the char pek koi (RM5.00)…

Ah Kau char pek koi

…for my girl – hers was dry so the aforementioned problem was not applicable here. I wanted to pay the guy RM12.00 for the three but he said the total was RM13.00 as char pek koi is RM5.00 a plate.

He started telling me that a packet of pek koi (rice cake) is over RM4.00, so very expensive so that is why he would have to charge more. No, I did not linger to chat with him – I just paid the money and left quickly. I think this COVID-19 has made me kind of anti-social – I used to enjoy small talk, mingling and chatting with people that I meet, ever strangers but not anymore. Sighhh!!!

AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) is located along Jalan Ruby, off Jalan Lim Han Swee, in the same block as Kim Tak Mini Supermarket, to the extreme left.

Roll…

That day, my missus went out to stock up on the food in the house and my girl asked her to buy a packet of those Mission wraps – onion and chives as she was thinking of making some prawn wraps…

Prawn wrap

…for lunch.

The mum helped heat up the wraps piece by piece…

Mission wrap - onion & chives

…in a non-stick pan and we lined each piece with some lettuce and sweet basil…

Lettuce & sweet basil

My girl spent sometime making this coleslaw…

Coleslaw

…that went in next, followed by the prawns…

Prawns

…that we placed on the bed of coleslaw. My missus coated them with breadcrumbs and deep fried them.

Lastly, after adding a sprinkling of parmesan cheese…

Parmesan cheese

…we wrapped it up and ate.

I would think “roll” would be a more appropriate word than “wrap” though. We were so generous with the filling that it was quite impossible to wrap it up so we just rolled it up, leaving the ends open and ate it like that. We sure enjoyed it very much and no, we did not mind it one bit when the filling fell out – we just picked it up and stuffed it back in. LOL!!!

Who would have thought…

That day, after I had bought the shallots at a shop in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah here, I headed straight back to the car.

Personally, I am not fond of that area, especially the market there as it is always very crowded. Are they different people or the same ones every day? I particularly dislike how they would take their sweet time, stand around chatting with the sellers or their friends, never mind if they are blocking the way…and worse, they do not wait for you to move away first – if there is anything they want, they will cast physical distancing to the wind to just go and grab.

If my friend did not tell me I could get shallots there, I would not have gone there but I sure was glad she did! Why? Well, as I was walking back to the car, I saw these…

Ikan buris

…at a vegetable shop a few doors away, all wrapped up in a plastic bag.

Gosh! Who would have thought that they would be selling them in this part of the woods? I can’t even remember the last time I had any! I used to buy them at the freshwater prawns stalls at the Sibu Central Market (currently closed as there have been a few COVID-19 cases there) which isn’t much better that the one at the Dewan Suarah so of course, I have avoided it like a plague for almost a year now.

These are ikan buris or what we call sai seng in Hokkien, a very sweet, fatty fish, dirt cheap in my younger days but so very expensive now, over RM30 a kilo for the bigger ones. I asked the girl there how much they were selling them for  and Miss Congeniality, she sure wasn’t. Maybe she saw that I was so shabbily dressed (as usual) and she thought I could not afford those…so she gruffly replied, “RM26.00 a kilo!” I calmly told her I would take ALL five of them and it probably was just a little more than a kilo and she asked for RM26.00 something. I paid, grabbed the fish and left!

They were not very big but were quite all right. More often than not, it pained me to see them selling those finger-size ones. They should throw them back into the river to let them grow to a reasonable size. Though they are very rare here (probably because the river here is busier), they tell me there are plenty in the smaller towns like Kanowit and Bintangor (though not cheaper). Unfortunately, inter-district travel is not allowed so driving over to buy is totally out of the question.

My girl loves the fish but she is not fond of the traditional ethnic ways of cooking it, as an ingredient in sayur rebus (boiled vegetables) or masak kunyit (cooked with turmeric). She loved it oven-baked wrapped in kunyit leaves with all the herbs and leaves or just deep-fried, plain.

That day, she chose the latter so of course, that was how we had it…

Ikan buris, deep fried

…on our no-meat Friday last week – three of the five and boy, we sure did enjoy it to the max! They were a bit over-fried but that was perfectly all right as it was extra crispy, so crispy that we could eat the bones!

In the meantime, on another day last week, my missus took out her phak lor ark (braised/stewed five spice duck)…

Phak lor ark

…that she cooked for Chinese New Year but we did not take it out for the reunion dinner on the eve because my sister brought along the one from this chicken rice place in town. Actually I told her to save it for Chap Goh Meh but she said that would be too long and insisted on taking it out. She does not eat duck but my girl and I sure enjoyed it to the max and yes, I loved those stewed eggs!

Talking about Chap Goh Meh, it is just two days away and we have not decided what we would want to do for our dinner that night. What have you all got planned?

I don’t mind…

When I cook instant noodles, I will boil the noodles in water and once done, I will pour the water away before I cook the soup with the seasoning(s) provided and put the noodles in it and serve. That is because I read somewhere  that they coat the noodles with wax and the above process will remove the latter which they claim is a health hazard.

However, I do not do this when cooking my favourite made-in-Sibu Daddy Mee because there is a bit of seasoning coating the noodles…

seasoning coated

…for those eating it as a snack and doing that would wash all that away. As a result, I found that it would not be as nice.

I don’t think I would want to eat it as a snack though – that makes me think of those little packets of junk food that kids love to buy at the school canteen. In the meantime, my loyal follower and regular commentor, Irene, in Kuching insists that this is her favourite brand of instant noodles and she always has some in her pantry and lately, she has been telling me that she likes it dry. In her own words, she said, “I prefer chicken flavour cooked dry than in soup. Just toss with the fried shallot and seasoning, without any extra ingredients needed, it will taste heavenly too.

I was kind of sceptical initially because as I have said earlier, boiling the noodles and draining away all the water would remove the nice taste but nonetheless, I decided to give it a try.

I boiled the noodles in a little bit of water, not too much – just enough to cover it and I emptied half of the sachet of seasoning into it. In the meantime, I got ready the remaining half and the fragrant shallot oil from the other sachet in a plate…

Seasoning, oil and fried shallot

…plus a bit of the fried shallots that I had at hand.

Much to my delight, by the time the mee was cooked, all the water in the saucepan had dried up. I poured everything into the plate and tossed well and served…

Mee Daddy, dry

Yes, it was very nice. something like kampua mee but not exactly as the texture of the noodles was different. However, I found it to be VERY salty – I think since I had added half of the sachet while cooking the noodles, that would be more than enough for me. Perhaps if anyone is cooking it this way, it would be better to just hold on to the remaining seasoning and sprinkle sparingly according to taste.

But the thing is I love the soup very much and eating it dry like this, one would have to forego the enjoyment of that. That was why I decided to try something different from the above.

The second time around, I cooked the noodles in a lot more water, added half the sachet of seasoning and half of the shallot oil and once ready, I poured the soup into a bowl…

Daddy Mee, soup

…and garnished it with my own fried shallots. Unfortunately, I did not have any spring onion at that point in time – adding a sprinkling of that would surely bring the taste to a whole new level.

I tossed the noodles in the remaining shallot oil and served and yes, it was just right this time around, not too salty. I put away the rest of the seasoning in an airtight container for use in some other way some other day. The soup was as nice as I’ve always known it to be, anytime nicer than the plain water plus msg and bits of spring onion that they will give you at the kampua mee shops and stalls.

I sure don’t mind having it this way sometimes for a change and at around RM4.50 for a pack of 5, that works out to only 90 sen a plate, with the delightful soup to go with it. So very cheap, don’t you think?

Onions…

Sometime ago, my missus came home absolutely distressed! There was a shortage of shallots in Sibu, the nice ones from India, or what we call chang kia (baby onion) or bawang merah (red onion) in Malay.

She said she heard there were places selling them for over RM30.00 and of course, she simply refused to buy. If we had to buy, we had to buy, I replied – just use them sparingly but no, she decided she would do without those and use Bombay onions, what we call tua chang or bawang besar in Malay (big onion) instead. Actually, we do not use shallots so much in our cooking. I think we use garlic a lot more, and ginger and Bombay onions too.

Anyway, I was at a sundry shop near my sister’s house and I saw a basketful of orange-coloured oval-shaped shallots and one full of small Bombay onions, more red in colour than usual, and another one with the big ones. I asked the people there and they told me in no uncertain terms, “Mai bay! Mai bay! Bay phang!!!” (Don’t buy! Don’t buy! Not fragrant!) I had not seen any anywhere else since.

It so happened that a friend of mine was sharing a link to some online home-delivery grocer and I clicked to go and have a lot. Much to my surprise, I saw that they had “red onion” so of course, I was interested. I asked my friend and she said she would help me find out. Eventually, she told me to go to a shop in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) here – they are selling them at RM26.00, adding that she only bought half a kg to use sparingly, seeing how it was so very expensive.

I did drop by early one morning to avoid the crowd and bought one kilo of the shallots…

Shallots

They did not look as red so I asked the lady where they came from and she simply ignored me. Good grief!!! With such poor social graces, I was surprised that people would still patronise the shop. I mentioned that on Facebook and yes, a few people agreed that she was kind of proud and my missus said she would never want to go there as the people were so unfriendly.  I saw a basket full of crabs, not very big and initially, I thought of buying. However, seeing that the attitude was so poor, I decided I could go without them and just left!

I shared the above photograph on Facebook and got a lot or responses. One said that she saw some in the town centre, going for RM30.00 a kilo. Another said that these should be the ones from India as the China ones are selling at only RM16.00 a kilo in Bintulu. Another said that in Kuching, the China ones are RM10.00 a kilo, the Thai ones RM18.00. Finally, a paternal cousin of mine dropped by and he said they were from Myanmar but they would be out of stock soon because of the street demonstrations and political unrest there at this point in time like what happened in India where the farmers took to the streets and brought the whole farming economy to a standstill.

Well, I took one and peeled and sliced…

Shallot, peeled and sliced

The fragrance was there but it was barely noticeable. I had to bring it close to the nose before I could detect it.

I fried the slices in a bit of oil…

Frying shallots

…so that I could have some fried shallot and fragrant shallot oil…

Fried shallpt & fragrant shallot oil

…to toss my noodles and while I was doing it, the fragrance filled the whole kitchen. Obviously, it wasn’t too bad after all.

By the way, if you intend to do the same, make sure that you remove the strips of shallot before they are too brown as they will continue to cook in the residual heat. If you wait till they are golden brown, you may end up with some burnt ones.

I’ve planted some and hopefully, some will sprout and I can help myself to my own-grown spring onion soon. Ever since the ones I had ran out and I did not have any more shallots to plant, I had to go without spring onion. I sure miss that!

Nobody around…

The other day, after I had dropped my girl off at school, before 7 in the morning, I decided to drop by here to buy some of their very nice char siew pao (barbecued meat steamed buns) to keep in the fridge and steam and eat whenever we feel like it.

I was very early and much to my delight, there was nobody around, just two or three workers inside the shop starting their work for the day. One of them said they were not ready but I said it was all right as I wanted to buy the buns frozen – I did not intend to eat them that day.

While I was there, I spotted these chai kueh (RM1.00 each)…

Hong Kong Puff chai kueh

…and of course, I simply had to buy and try.

Yes, they were very good – they were big, the skin was perfect and the filling…

Hong Kong Puff chai kueh, filling

…was nice, just that there was no hint of any hay bee/dried prawns in it. I think they were homemade – somebody left them there for sale and I saw some kueh lenggang/ketayap too but I did not buy those.

I could not resist grabbing a few of their sio bee (RM1.20 each)…

Hong Kong Puff Open Air sio bee 1

I was told that they got them from that Open Air Market stall in Kuching.

Yes, I like them very much…

Hong Kong Puff Open Air sio bee 2

…especially their QQ texture, something like the dim sum siew mai. I am not fond of those where I can still feel the texture of the minced meat in them or worse, those mushy ones where they add too much flour or whatever.

Seeing how that part of town is so deserted that early in the morning, I sure wouldn’t mind dropping by again. These days, with the escalating number of COVID-19 cases every day. I would prefer places with nobody or very few people around or to just stay home.

HONG KONG PUFF is located along Ramin Way (2.291180, 111.826634), beside Sin Kiaw Coffee Shop, right behind the Petronas station at Kpg Nyabor Road (formerly Esso) across the road from the HSBC Building, Sibu branch. 

Coming back…

One very popular dish here at the noodle shops and stalls would be the fried bihun (rice vermicelli) with canned clams in soy sauce

AmoFood canned clams in soya saucea

I remember my mum cooking that in my growing up years using those made-in-China Amoy Canning product and though I enjoyed it, it wasn’t anything that you would find me craving for. Eventually, I noticed that it was taken over by this Singapore AmoFood group and was no longer made in China and one fine day, they stopped coming – it was not available anymore.

I searched everywhere, high and low, until a lady at a grocery store told me not to bother as they had stopped production and she asked me to use this

Sunstar clams in soy sauce

…instead and insisted that it was exactly the same. Much to my delight, it was! However, our troubles did not end there. The instant we saw any on the shelves at any shop, we had to grab many cans quickly as once the stock was finished, there would not be any forthcoming for months!!!

The price kept going up too!!! Initially, it was RM3.80 and then it went up to RM4.00 something and the other day, I picked up a few cans at a shop near my house…

RM5.00

…to add to those that I still had in my pantry and it was RM5.00!!! Whoever said that what goes up must come down sure had it all wrong!

In the meantime, I saw some excitement among my Kuching cousins on Facebook. One of them spotted the original AmoFood canned clams in soya sauce there – obviously, it has come back and is now available so of course, everybody wanted a few cans. This time around, it is made in Malaysia, NOT in Singapore anymore. I asked and found out that it was RM6.95 at the Kuching branch of that Sibu supermarket – a friend tells me it is RM6.50 a can here, slightly cheaper. However, in the light of the current COVID-19 situation (and that sure looks like another case of something going up and never coming down), I did not bother to go and check it out. After all, I still have a few cans of the Sunstar ones in the pantry.

Well, it was Ash Wednesday the other day, a day of fasting and abstinence…

Lent, fasting & abstinence

….and I decided I would fry some bihun with a can of those clams and leave it there for anyone who would want to eat, just a bit for the 2 small meatless collations before the 1 regular meatless meal, come evening time.

I went to the back of my garden to harvest my cangkok manis

Cangkok manis leaves

I sure am glad that it is growing really well now and of course, I had to tear the leaves into small bits…

Cangkok manis, shredded & torn

…to bring out the sweetness and to make chewing them easier.

I dropped some bihun into boiling water to soften and chopped some garlic…

Bihun, garlic and chili

…for use. I also sliced one fresh chili (this batch is not spicy at all, good only for colour) and I fried an omelette and sliced that thinly too so that I would be able to use them for garnishing prior to serving the bihun.

I opened the can of clams and poured the sauce all over the bihun

Bihun, sauce added

…mixing it altogether thoroughly so I would not have to do that while frying as this nicer and finer Thai one may pecah-peach or break up into very small bits when fried a bit too long. I also added a bit of dark soy sauce to give it a bit of colour so it would not look too pale.

Once everything was ready, I fried the garlic in oil till golden brown, threw in the cangkok manis to cook, followed by the clams and the bihun. I broke two eggs into the wok, scrambled them well and added them to the noodles and once done, I dished everything out and served…

Fried bihun with canned clams & soy sauce & cangkok manis

…garnished with the aforementioned sliced chili and omelette.

Well, self praise is no praise but I thought that was pretty good. The crowd at the stalls selling this in town here is testament to the fact that this is good and you can give it a try if you have never cooked it before.

Can’t see why…

I tried Maggi goreng or fried instant noodles at a roadside mamak stall in Petaling Jaya a long time ago – my nephew and his housemate (my ex-student) who took me there were both single then. Now they are both happily married, with kids! No, I didn’t think it was great, nothing to shout about and I can’t see why it is so popular to this very day.

You can see it on the menu at most Malay food stalls in town and more often than not, if you look at what is in the cabinet, chances are you will see the Indonesian Mee Sedaap which is  a whole lot cheaper than Maggi, only RM2.90 for a pack of 5. I clicked the above link and watched the Indian guy cooking but there was no commentary so I had no idea what he added which did not look like much actually.

I may have fried my own before but the other day, I decided to do it again…

Fried Daddy Mee

…with the made-in-Sibu Daddy Mee, curry flavour…

Daddy Mee, curry

These were the ingredients that I used…

Ingredients

I cooked the noodles and drained well, mixed it with the seasoning in the sachet and tossed it well before putting it aside.

Next, I fried the chopped garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown before throwing in the prawns. Once cooked, I added the chopped long beans and stir-fried for a while before I put in the noodles. I added the taugeh (bean sprouts) and once I felt it had been fried enough, I dished everything out onto a plate…

Fried Daddy Mee, served

…and served, garnished with a sprinkling of fried shallots and chopped daun sup (Chinese celery).

No, I still can’t see why people seem to like it so much. Despite my adding some prawns, I did not think it tasted great. For one thing, I should have used half of the seasoning in the sachet – it was VERY salty or maybe I should have added an egg or two. That could have brought the taste to a whole new level.

This Korean guy likes it both ways but personally, on my part, I would much sooner have it as a soup dish…

Daddy Mee, curry - soup

…and enjoy it a whole lot more. This Sibu brand is one of my favourites when it comes to instant noodles, curry flavour but these people seem to swear by the one from Maggi and that Korean guy enjoys it a lot as well – perhaps I should grab a pack from the shop one of these days and give it a try.