Enjoy it while it lasts…

Yes, my girl has been busy in the kitchen cooking all kinds of dishes while the mum supervises what is going on, telling her the do’s and the don’ts and what not and yes, she does seem to be enjoying it all even though so far, they are all Asian dishes, not those western ones that she would usually cook before.

Her attempt at making apam balik

Melissa's apam balik

…for tea one day did not turn out all that successful. She wanted to make those very thin and crispy ones but I think she added too much batter and they ended up like pancakes. Never mind, they were very nice so we ate it all up – nothing went to waste.

Her spare ribs with black beans…

Melissa's spare ribs with black beans

– one of those items that you may find at a dim sum buffet, was a hit! I would say that it was nicer than any that I had had at a dim sum place anywhere.

This was the fried broccoli…

Melissa's fried broccoli ching chao

ching chao (fried plain with garlic) that she cooked to go with the aforementioned meat dish. The mum went out around a week earlier to stock up on the vegetables in the house and it was already turning yellow at the top and that part had to be shaved and thrown away (like how cauliflower would turn black). They sure do not last very long, do they?

On another day, she cooked this nasi tomato (tomato rice)…

Melissa's nasi tomato

…and the ayam masak merah (red cooked chicken)…

Melissa's ayam masak merah

…and both were top notch. The spices added to the rice made me think of nasi Arab but because of the lockdown/MCO, I don’t know when I will be able to go out to try the ones we have at a couple of places in town.

Now, this was the dish that stole the show…

Melissa's sambal ikan bilis & kentang

– her sambal ikan bilis & kentang (dried anchovies and potatoes in sambal). Except for the ones in curry (and maybe in Chinese soup), I would usually associate potatoes with western cuisine but this was so very very nice. I sure wouldn’t mind more of it, that’s for sure.

My girl also said that there was an Indian uncle at the food stalls across the road from her teacher training institute in Sg Petani, Kedah who cooked very nice potatoes in sardines. Well, we have not started on our canned food yet – still saving them, just in case but when we do start on those, we may give it a try.

There are still 10 days to go till the 14th – hopefully, the lockdown will end then – which means that there is ample time for my girl to go on cooking and enjoy it while it lasts. Once school reopens, I am quite sure she will not have the time for it anymore.

Our own…

We do not eat salted vegetables all that often but I love it with porridge. However, I prefer our own locally-preserved salted vegetables as I feel they are much nicer, a whole lot nicer than the ones from China, Thailand or wherever.

The vegetable sellers at the wet market would  use their unsold greens to make them. I like the kua chai (mustard greens) ones the most but one morning sometime ago, when I was buying fish and prawns at one stall, there was a lady at the next stall and she asked me if I wanted to buy her salted vegetables but hers was a mix of kua chai and chai hua (sawi). I decided to take a kilo, only RM4.00 and since then, we had had it twice.

The other day, I decided to cook the last batch…

Salted vegetables

…and since it was our no-meat Friday, I could not do it the way my missus would usually, with marinated pork belly and whatever other ingredients.

I sliced the salted vegetables very thinly…

Salted vegetables, sliced thinly

…and prepared the ingredients…

Ingredients

I intended to just use ginger and garlic but my missus said there must be shallot and chili too. In place of meat, I had some prawns and also a few fish balls that I made using the Jakar fish paste.

To start off, I fried the ginger in a  bit of oil, followed by the sliced shallot and then, the garlic and chilli. Next, the prawns went in and once they were cooked, the fish balls followed. Lastly, the salted vegetable went in. I added a sprinkling of sugar to counter the saltiness of the vegetables and a bit of water so the dish would not be too dry.

Finally, I dished everything out onto a plate…

Seafood salted vegetables

Yes, it was very nice and went absolutely well with the porridge we had that day, just that it was not all that salty. My missus said that I soaked and rinsed it in water too long, something not that necessary when cooking our own local-made salted vegetables. She said she would just wash them before use and that would be enough.

Poached…

I’ve had quite a bit of success cooking poached eggs before and I must say that no matter how they turned out, my attempts were never as disastrous as this one…

Poached egg disaster

…at one supposedly fine dining café here.

Well, if you check out the youtube videos, there are those that tell you to add salt or vinegar or cooking oil and the eggs must be super fresh. I came across one where the lady cooked poached eggs without all those things and she did it a little differently (I can’t seem to locate it now so I can’t link it here) and the other morning, I decided to give it a try.

Firstly, I filled the saucepan with a bit of water…

Water starting to boil

– not too much as I wouldn’t want the egg to go swimming all over the place. Now, while all the rest would wait till the water had started boiling vigorously, the lady said that as soon as she saw some bubbles in the water, that would be the time to put in the egg.

I broke an egg, straight from the fridge, into a bowl and poured it in…

Egg

They say one must do that and not break the egg and let it drop into the water straight from the shell. The lady did not say anything about stirring the water but I did it anyway, just a bit.

I stirred the water gently too while the egg was cooking and folded the bit of floating egg white around it and yes, I did splash the water over the yolk (gently) to accelerate the cooking. Once done, I took it out using this special ladle with a sieve…

Egg, done

…meant for fishing out the jetsam and flotsam when simmering bone soup.

Yes, it was nicely done with the egg yolk still runny…

Runny egg yolk

I guess those of you who are not so fond of it that way can just cook a little longer till the yolk becomes hard, something like that in hard boiled eggs.

I cooked a packet of instant noodles that morning and had the poached egg with it…

Instant noodles with poached egg

Anybody keen on giving it a try?

Her favourite…

This is Irene’s favourite…

Daddy instant noodles

– our very own made-in-Sibu instant noodles, Daddy instant noodles – chicken flavour and yes, I do like it too except that it is a little bit more expensive than most of the other brands but I guess it is value for money since it is very nice. Their curry flavour is cheaper, more or less like the rest so usually, I would buy that. After all, at the end of the day, it is what it is – instant noodles.

The family pack of 18 packets is now RM15.50 so that works out to over 80 sen each, less than 90 sen. Of course, I never bought that, just the small pack of 5 sometimes but with the partial lockdown or the Restricted Movement/Movement Control Order, I grabbed one to keep in the house in case we run out of things to eat. Originally, it was supposed to end two days ago but unfortunately, it has been extended till the 14th of April.

Inside each packet, you have the noodles and two sachets – the seasoning and the shallot oil…

Noodles and sachets

…and you may have noticed on the wrapper that this is supposed to be a 3-in-1. You can eat it as a snack, dry or soup. My guess is that because it can be eaten as a snack, the noodles are flavoured and hence, the yellow stains on it in the above photograph. Usually, when I cook instant noodles, I would cook the noodles first, drain away the water and cook the soup to pour over it. I find that I cannot do that with this brand because the flavour would be lost and the seasoning in the sachet is not able to save the day.

So what I did that day was I cooked a few fish balls (made using the Jakar fish paste) in some water before adding the noodles, the seasoning and the shallot oil. Once the noodles had softened, I broke an egg into the pot and covered it a while to allow it to cook. It is very easy to poach an egg when cooking instant noodles, unlike when cooking it on its own.

Once done, I poured everything into a bowl, added a bit of lightly blanched cabbage by the side and garnished it with chopped daun sup (Chinese celery)…

Daddy Mee, with fish balls

…and served.

Of course, it was very nice but no, you will not see me eating it again unless the necessity arises – who knows when this lockdown is going to end! Let us pray that it will not drag on any further come the 14th.

I think…

This was on the morning after I got, through the kind courtesy of Annie, my friend in KL, the lovely jiaoxi/shui jiao (meat dumplings) that her brother made for sale at RM14.00 for a pack of 15.

I was outside the house doing my gardening when I heard someone calling. I turned and saw it was Anson, Annie’s nephew – her brother’s son. It sure caught me by surprise as I was so engrossed in my work that I did not hear nor see the car. He was delivering to me two more packs of the dumplings…

Shui jiao, xiao long bao recipe

…but his dad had made them differently this time around and he wanted me to try and see what I think.

I checked my Facebook messages and yes, he did PM me to tell me about them. He modified the recipe for xiao long bao (小笼包) to make this batch so inside, there was the little bit of the nice soup that one would usually find in those steamed buns…

Shui jiao, xiao long bao recipe - inside

…and he even added a prawn to the meat filling!

Yes, it was delicious and I liked how the soup was not too gingery – that is one thing I do not like so much when eating xiao long bao. However, my missus missed the koo chai (chives) in the ones we had the day before and when it comes to these dumplings, my girl prefers the pan-fried ones.

For one thing, I did oil the plate (I will always do that when steaming dumplings, our sio bee, for instance) first before steaming – Annie’s brother did specify that I must steam, not pan fry because of the soup inside. Unfortunately, the skin of some of them got stuck to the plate…

Shui xiao, xiao long bao recipe - steamed

…and came apart so all the soup was lost. Maybe I did not add enough oil or perhaps, we did not steam them right, I wouldn’t know…and I was wondering how come Annie’s brother did not make them looking like xiao long bao so he would be able to sell them as those instead of them looking like jiaoxi on the outside. Of course whatever they looked like did not matter much to us – what was most important was they were very nice and we did enjoy them.

Thank you so much to Annie’s brother for letting me have a go at these and thank you once again to Anson for going through the trouble of sending them over to the house.

She’s my girl…

Ever since my girl got posted to a school in town, she has not been doing much cooking or baking for the simple reason that it is a lot busier here compared to her previous school in the jungle. It does not matter much to her though – she enjoys what she’s doing and she likes her current working environment, her colleagues and all. Well, with the partial lockdown/MCO/RMO, she sure has a lot more time on her hands and yes, she has been busy in the kitchen.

The other day, she cooked this beautiful fish curry…

Melissa's fish curry

bay kar/ikan tenggiri/mackerel no less using the instant curry paste for seafood, our favourite brand and yes, we sure enjoyed it to the max. I guess it does not seem like anything to get excited about but the thing is she is more into other cuisines, not so much our own Asian ones, other than sushi, perhaps, and that was the first time she tried cooking fish curry.

This is a Thai-Chinese dish, the bihun ladna

Melissa's bihun ladna

…or Rad Na ราดหน้า (rice noodles with gravy) except that they use kway teow but of course, we did not have that in the house and at this point in time, it was not all that convenient to go out and buy. Cooking this involves first frying the noodles after which a sauce is quickly made and poured over the noodles. Ladna in English means “Pour on the Face“.

She got to know about this dish in Sg Petani, Kedah but it came across to me like wat tan hor or bihun goreng basah (with sauce/gravy). Yes, it was nice, especially with all the prawns and ingredients added, but I wouldn’t say it got me all excited, not something that I would be dying to have again.

She is more into western delights like this frittata…

melissa's frittata

– an Italian egg-based dish similar to an omelette or a crustless quiche. I guess it is not really vegetarian as there are eggs and cheese among the ingredients alongside the potatoes and the broccoli. We enjoyed it very much but I sure wouldn’t mind if there’s ham or bacon or corned beef in it.

At one time, my girl was baking all kinds of gluten-free bread because she could not eat the regular ones from the bakeries and she missed it quite a lot. There were some that turned out all right while some were total disasters but none was quite the same – like regular and gluten-free pasta. That day, she tried making some dinner rolls…

Melissa's dinner rolls

…and much to her delight and excitement, they were an overwhelming success. Of course she was delirious with joy and since we liked them a lot, I told her to bookmark the recipe so she can make them time and time again for us to eat.

The lockdown was supposed to end today but unfortunately, it has been extended for another two weeks till the 14th of April and nobody knows whether it will be extended further or not then. I suppose my girl will cook some more in the meantime and if she does, I shall feature the fruits of her labour in a later post.

Appreciate…

A thoughtful and generous gesture is always appreciated, well, by me, at least and I do appreciate how, during these difficult times, there are people who always think and care for others and do whatever they can, however, small to help anyone in need.

The other day, somebody shared an appeal on Facebook, purportedly from the Sibu Hospital, asking for donations/contributions and I drove all the way to send some of the things I had stocked up in the house – I wouldn’t have left the house, otherwise and because of that, I had to drop by the shops in the neighbourhood to restock on the stuff that I had given away.

I was quite pissed off when the authorities released a press statement saying that they were quite well-provided for and did not ask for anything. Well, I did what I felt I should do out of my own sincerity but what I did not like was the way they put it – at least, they should add that they appreciated all who had sent them stuff, thank you very much. That would not be so hard to do, right? But I would give them the benefit of the doubt – they were probably so caught up with this dreadful thing to think of much else.

I have always been blessed abundantly – people give me things all the time and yes, I do appreciate it a lot and just the other day, I received an sms from my friend, Annie, in KL telling me that she was giving me some of the jiaoxi/shui jiao (dumplings) her brother made…

Jiaoxi from Annie

…and her nephew would send them over to my house the following day and she added that she had paid for them.

Her brother went into this business once and yes, he did give me some to try but he left town soon afterwards to work here and there and now that he is cooped up in the house owing to the partial lockdown/CMO/RMO, he has gone back to making them again for sale.

I asked his son, Annie’s nephew, when he brought them to my house and he said they are RM14.00 a pack and there are 15 in each one of them, less than RM1 each…

15 in a pack

My missus pan-fried one of the packs right away and in no time at all, we all sat down to enjoy eating them…

Filling

The skin was beautifully done, very nice and smooth and not chewy/rubbery or hard like some that we had had the displeasure of buying and eating and the meat and chives filling was really delicious.

My girl in particular loves these dumplings unlike me. I am not crazy about them but will eat when there is any to be eaten but I sure would not go out of my way for them. I did enjoy these though so if anyone around here enjoys these dumplings…

Dumplings, pan-fried

…and are keen on placing an order for a pack or more to enjoy, they may PM me on Facebook or send me an sms giving me their address, telephone contact and the number of packs they would like and I would convey the orders to Annie’s brother or the nephew. Yes, they will do home delivery, provided the house is not too far away.

Thank you so much, Annie & David, for the dumplings and thanks to you too, Anson, for going through the trouble of sending them over to my house, very much appreciated, indeed.