Conditioning…

In my growing up years, whenever I fell ill, my dad would take me to see a doctor. To him, a good doctor would be one who would give an injection for instant relief and recovery. Shudders!!! Otherwise he would say that was a lousy doctor and he would never take me there ever again.

My mum would cook porridge for me to eat, mixed with either Bovril or Marmite – those were the days when we were a British colony, remember? She would fry one or chio (ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret)…

…tear the meat into bits and pieces and sprinkle them all over the porridge and there would also be salted eggs as well. That would be my diet everytime I fell sick so much so that on days when I was not sick and we had porridge, I would also feel that I was under the weather. If I am not wrong, in psychology, this is called behavioral conditioning – we studied about this in ELT (English Language Teaching).

I think this went on till my late teenage days when my friends and I would go dancing at the SRC (Sibu Recreation Club) after which we would go to the hawker stalls on the 1st Floor of the Sibu Central Market, opposite the Palace Theatre in between Market Road & High Street at the time, for supper and we would have porridge. I cannot remember what else we had with the porridge, just the plain fried kangkong (water spinach)…

…that we would order without fail. I wouldn’t know if we were so hungry after all that partying or it was really so very nice.

Years later, when I was living in Kuching, after our dances at places like the Jubilee Hall, we would head to this section of the Open Air Market…

…and yes, no prize for guessing what we had there. Porridge!!! LOL!!! Of course, by then, I had got over this thing about feeling sick everytime I had porridge. As a matter of fact, I actually developed a liking for it so to this very day, I sure wouldn’t mind having that at home on some days.

I blogged about having it for breakfast in the early morning here and also, here and it so happened that the other day, my missus said we would be having porridge for our meals. My girl was delighted – unlike me in my younger days, she enjoys porridge very much.

We had this dish of pork belly steamed with long kiam hu (the fermented salted fish) and ginger…

…and my missus also fried some salted vegetables…

…with marinated pork belly…

We had salted eggs…

…too but this batch was not so much to my liking – they were too salty. Thankfully, they were quite edible – sometimes, the salted eggs turned out so horrible, looking like agar agar in a sickly colour and they had to be thrown away.

I had my porridge with Bovril but actually, it would be nice enough with the sauce from either the pork belly or the salted vegetable dish. My girl enjoys her porridge plain, eaten together with the two dishes that the mum cooked but she did not touch the salted egg – I guess she is not into that so much. I did not see my missus taking out her tau ju (fermented tofu) – she loves eating her porridge with that; perhaps she had run out and there wasn’t any in the fridge.

What about you all? Do you enjoy porridge too? What do you like to eat with it? Pig’s blood, perhaps?…

I sure would love that! LOL!!!

My dream came true…

I saw some of my blogger friends sharing photographs of their black vinegar pork trotter/leg and of course, that got me drooling away and wishing that I could get to enjoy it too. Why, one of them even shared the recipe in her blog!

There are a few places here selling that – here and also here on Sundays only and here as well. As a matter of fact, I did buy the one from that last place from the neighbourhood fruits and vegetables sundry shop in the next lane from my house. At one time, they left a few tubs there for sale and I did get to buy one to try…

…and yes, it was very nice.

I was thinking of going to one of those places to tapao home to enjoy but I was not that keen on going out and venturing here and there, not with the pandemic raging on like nobody’s business! That was why I kept putting it off one day after another!

Imagine my delight that day when I saw that my missus had cooked it…

…for us. Of course, hers is second to none and likewise, her phak lor too kha (braised five-spice pork leg) as well.

There was a coffee shop/restaurant in Kanowit where I used to go for my meals. The lady boss could cook it in that exact same way -she’s no longer around, of course. My guess is it was because she was Hokkien or some other dialect, not Foochow. Both my mum and my mother-in-law could cook it that same way too but sadly, I’ve yet to come across a place here that can cook it half as nice as them.

Ooooo…I so loved how my missus also went and added some hardboiled eggs to the stew. Those are one of my weaknesses – I love them so much!!! But the best thing about the dish was how my missus had taken the trouble to simmer it long enough so the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and the skin was so soft, so jelly-like that it melted in the mouth. Eating that sure felt like heaven, you can take my word for it!

I did buy some mantao (steamed buns) from the aforementioned shop sometime ago to keep in the fridge to take out and steam in the morning to heat up and eat for our breakfast so of course, we took a few of them out…

…to eat with the pork trotter and the sauce…

Boy! that was so so so good!!!

Now that I have had my fill of that one dish that I was dreaming of, I guess I shall not be craving for it…for a while! LOL!!!

And the boat sails by…

Yes, like what I said in an earlier post, we had a steamboat dinner on Saturday night, the 18th of September, in conjunction with my girl’s birthday. There were 4 of us altogether – we invited her godmother/aunt, my sister, to join us.

We had the usual suspects…

…nothing new, except for the Foochow fish balls (top right) available frozen from this place here. Perhaps some of you would remember how people would stand in line to buy them whenever there was a food fair in town. We do not have to venture so far now – they are selling these at the fruit & vegetable sundry shop in the next lane round the corner from my house.

Also available at that same shop now is this fish paste – I noticed a Sibu address on the packet but I wouldn’t know whether it was made here or they merely packed it for sale. One thing that caught my attention was that they had pork in the list of ingredients and yes, the fish balls that my missus made using the paste (top left) were very nice. I got the prawns (the ones from Sabah, shell & vein removed), the New Zealand mussels and the seafood tofu (bottom right and left) from there too.

I got this Australian wagyu beef (RM33.50)…

…very thinly sliced, from the fresh mart behind my favourite fish & seafood stall in the neighbourhood and of course, we must have some vegetables…

…in our steamboat and some tang hoon (glass noodles) and spring onions…

…too. I don’t know what spring onions those were that my missus bought – they were huge but sadly, they were not fragrant, not nice at all.

I did buy some sotong (squid) not too long ago and a pack of frozen boiled scallops (RM18.00) too but my missus said she forgot and did not take them out of the freezer so we would have to keep those for another day.

The soup that she prepared…

…using the innards and the unwanted parts of the chicken (head, Parson’s nose, neck, claws/feet and innards) that I bought that day to cook the mee sua and of course, pork bones as well was absolutely awesome – so sweet, so flavourful, so very nice! To start off, she brought it to boil in our multi-purpose cooker with some fish maw, bean curd sticks and sweet corn in it.

When we were all seated at the table, we added as much of everything…

…as we could and put back the lid and waited for it to boil before we started eating and as we ate, we added more of everything else and ate till we were full.

Other than the aforementioned spring onions, I did not like the meat balls my missus made because of the ingredients she added. I prefer plain minced meat rolled into balls, unadulterated. Other than that, I thought the beef was disappointing too. Yes, it was very nice and tender, no problem with that but it did not have that strong beef smell/fragrance that I would look for when going for beef noodles or any beef soup dishes. Other than those, everything else was fine.

I also mentioned in another earlier post that for dessert, we had the rest of the gelato mooncakes…

…that my friend sent to me.

I’m not a fan of snow skin so the two by the side on the right and on the left did not excite me much. I loved the durian…

…with gianduia/gianduja, a chocolate spread containing about 30% hazelnut paste, invented in Turin during Napoleon’s regency (1796–1814), reputed to be Nutella’s sophisticated older cousin. Personally, I would rank the pistachio ice cream with the raspberry yolk, the first one we tried that day, as the Numero Uno and this one comes in as a close second.

So there you have it! Our very simple steamboat dinner at home to celebrate my girl’s birthday and the Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival, 2021. #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

Eat me…

No, we did not order a cake from Marcus nor did we go and buy one from anywhere for my girl’s birthday on Friday, 17th September. We’re #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome, you see.

Instead, the mum went and baked a butter cake…

…and my girl did the whipped cream icing, tinted lightly blue using the butterfly pea flowers from my garden and the mum went and plucked some of the blooms and leaves to place on top…

It did not look too bad, don’t you think?

It tasted really great, reduced sugar and my girl did not add any to the whipped cream icing but still, I restricted myself to just a few slices. Gotta have a lot of self-control these days.

For the same reason as to why we did not get her a cake, we did not go out to buy any presents for her either – we just gave her ang paos. She also got those from her godmother/aunt, my sister, that is and also my in-laws and yes, they did go through the trouble to buy her a few things as well.

That afternoon, it sure was a pleasant surprise when a car pulled up at our gate. It was her very good friend, Dayang who did give her a cake last year too and yes, we did invite her to join us when my girl celebrated her birthday at the Thai restaurant, our favourite in town.

She dropped by to give her this cheese and tomato pizza…

…her favourite at that home-based Malay eatery in the kampung serving western cuisine including pizzas and pasta. I’ve never been there before because it is a small place – I do not fancy going there to dine with my car parked by the side of the small and narrow lane but as far as I know, it is very popular – a lot of people frequent that place and they would share photos of what they have there on Facebook, all of which look pretty good, frankly speaking.

The pizza was very nice, very generous with the cheese but I prefer thin crust and I’m afraid it wasn’t.

Other than that, my girl’s friend also gave her this…

Eat me!!! That reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.

Inside the box was this croissant sandwich…

…from this very popular place in town, another place that I’ve never been to. Oopsss!!! It was our no-meat Friday but never mind! We made it an exception for my girl since it was her birthday and yes, she did enjoy it.

We did have a steamboat dinner as well on Saturday evening, the 18th but I may or may not blog about it as it would be pretty much the usual – we have had many steamboat dinners before so you can expect that we had more or less the same things. We’ll see!

I hope you had a decently happy and wonderful birthday, love – the best we can do at a time like this. May God bless and protect you abundantly each passing day in the year ahead. Cheers!!!

The one I love…

Last Sunday, we had spaghetti aglio olio…

…for lunch.

I think I did mention in an earlier post that I prefer our local noodles to these Italian pasta. The texture is different and regardless of whatever name, shape or size, it has its own taste or for that matter, the lack of it and it is heavily dependent on the sauces/gravy added but more often than not, they have to be cooked from scratch – the bottled ones aren’t anything to shout about.

I had spaghetti bolognese…

…at a number of places here but the sauce came across to me like something straight from a bottle of ketchup and was not anything I would get excited about. I only like the freshly-made bolognese sauce at Payung Café here with fresh tomatoes and Italian herbs, beef…

…or mushroom…

I am not into those creamy ones either, be it carbonara…

…or alfredo…

…or whatever but I do enjoy it with squid ink…

…with the lovely “smell of the sea”, my girl calls it.

All thing considered, when eating out, if I had to order pasta for myself, I would go for the aglio olio…

I do enjoy that, those that I’ve had here, there and everywhere.

I tried the Bovril spaghetti…

here and I quite liked it but I would very much prefer that with our local noodles…

here plus the latter was a whole lot cheaper, being located in a coffee shop.

Anyway, back to the spaghetti aglio olio that we had that day, my missus cooked it with lots of garlic and the leftover New Zealand mussels…

from the other day with lots of cherry tomatoes and the sweet basil that she planted in our garden.

Yes, I sure enjoyed that…

…very much.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

Sunday lunch…

For our lunch on Sunday, we had the second-to-none kacangma chicken…

…from Payung Café. I will always buy a few servings to store in our freezer and my missus will take it out whenever she feels like it to heat up and serve. This time around, however, though it was very nice, I felt that it could do with a little bit more of the Chinese white wine. Whenever we eat there, we will always ask for more of it and they will happily oblige…and yes, they are very generous with it!

One of the guys did tell me that day that the problem with this homemade wine would be how some may be excellent but on some days, the ones from the same person making may fail to impress. In other words, there is a need for better quality control.

Of course, since we were not eating it there, we could not ask for more of the wine. Actually, there is no problem at all if one chooses to dine in there as there are very few customers – plenty of room for social/physical distancing. That day, when I went to buy the kacangma chicken, there was just one couple having their lunch there. According to Andy, they drop by quite regularly and the lady will always order their kacangma chicken. It sure looks like it’s her favourite!

My girl is not really into kacangma chicken so she asked her mum to fry her one of the fish fillet…

…from this company. We still have two boxes…

…in the freezer and she wanted a slice…

…from the former.

I’ve seen a lot of fellow-bloggers blogging about this brand of frozen fish products and I just assumed it is imported. When I checked the box to see that day, I found out that it is actually a Malaysian product. I don’t know the prices – my missus was the one buying them – but if it is local, I guess it shouldn’t be too expensive.

I checked the type of fish used and it was pollock. My girl liked it and I did try a bit as well. I thought it was nice but as far as the taste and texture go, I prefer the New Zealand hoki fish fillet…

…at our Sarawak’s own fast food franchise that we do like a lot!

My missus also cooked this beautiful vegetable curry…

…and I also bought half a kilo of the dabai from the neighbourhood shop in the next lane to go with our meals.

That sure was a lovely lunch and yes, we had enough left for dinner as well. Who says we have to eat out to enjoy a delightful meal? Surely this is as good or even nicer than any anywhere!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

I did that…

I did that before! I planted a whole lot of ladies’ fingers, 10 plants altogether in 2016 and yes, when they started to bear fruit, we had a tough time trying to eat them all. Eventually, we grew so sick of the vegetable that I did not care if I would never ever see it again. As a matter of fact, I refused to buy it whenever I went marketing.

Well, the other day, I did blog about how my girl and the mum have taken to planting vegetables, brinjal AND ladies’ fingers!!! So far, we have yet to see any brinjal but, yes, the ladies’ fingers have started to flower…

…and bear fruit…

The first two they harvested were way over a foot long – they did not know what variety it was that they planted and they thought it was the currently very popular extra-long ones. Unfortunately, they were not and the two were way too old, so old that they were very hard and totally not edible.

Having learnt their lesson, the second time around, they harvested around five when they were less than 6 inches long…

…and those were perfect! We certainly enjoyed eating them very much.

I sure am glad that they are bearing fruit…

…around this point in time when we are not all that keen on going out. With these growing in my backyard, we can pluck them to cook for our vegetable dish time and time again while happily staying home.

There aren’t many ways to eat them though. Most of the time, we will slice them and fry with sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

…or we will steam or lightly boil them and ulam with sambal belacan (dried prawn paste)…

…and yes, we’ve thrown them, along with some brinjal and pineapple slices into our fish (head) curry…

…too.

So far, we’ve never tried stuffing them with fish paste to cook yong tofu style…

Perhaps we can try doing that when the brinjal plants start to bear fruit as well.

Here’s where the story ends…

It had its humble beginning in the 70’s as The Blue Splendour Restaurant occupying two shoplots on the first floor in the block of shops directly opposite the Sarawak House/Premier Hotel. Many would agree that the food served there was among the best in town, if not THE best. I held my wedding reception there and later, my late parents celebrated their Golden Jubilee there as well.

When the Wisma Sanyan, Sarawak’s tallest building at the time, was completed, it moved there. taking up most of the 5th Floor. Yes, it became really big and was the venue of many grand dinners. I checked my archive and I only have this post on my ex-colleague’s son’s wedding banquet held there and this one where I was invited to my friends’ mum’s 80th birthday bash. The business flourished; any opportunity we had to host a dinner, we would have it there until one day, for some personal reasons, best kept private, the owner decided to call it a day and closed down the place.

I think it was in 2010 when this place was open…

…and much to our delight, the chief chef from the Blue Splendour Restaurant was the one behind it, along with his wife, the very friendly Captain of the waiting staff in the old place and of course, we were delighted that the food served at this new place…

…was just as nice, perhaps even nicer than the old place so just as in the old place, whatever reason I had to host a dinner…

…I would not hesitate to make a reservation…

…there.

One of the main attractions here was this irresistible dong po pork belly (东坡肉)…

…served with mantao (steamed dumplings)…

I would definitely order it everytime I had the opportunity, definitely something not to be missed. There are other places serving stewed pork belly with mantao

…like this too but no, none of them came anywhere near theirs.

I loved this fish dish…

…so much but it was too big to order that everytime we dined there. Of course. whenever we had a dinner for 10, I would not miss this dish, that was for sure!

Their creamy butter prawns…

…were really good too. My girl loved it so much so it was on our must-order list everytime we dropped by.

I think it was in 2016 when they moved to a new place, their own building…

…a stone’s throw away from their former location. Probably it was too big for them to handle but when we went there, twice, we felt that generally, the quality of the food had dropped and the prices were more expensive than before so we stopped going.

It was only in 2019 when my friend told me that I could go there again as the quality of the food was as good as before and the prices were more affordable too that I went back again and yes, it was great – just like before. Why, when my cousin came home from Sydney, Australia that year around Christmas, I took him for lunch there and he loved it!

Unfortunately, our happiness was short-lived because the other day, they announced on social media that they would open till the 30th of June only. That is indeed absolutely tragic!!!

I guess with the pandemic going on and on like it is never going to end, there is really no point in carrying on. Unlike many other people, they would not have to pay rental for the use of their premises since they own the place but for a restaurant this big, they would have a whole lot of cooks and waiting staff working for them. Since dining in is not allowed for so long already, it is really not feasible to keep the place running and paying all their salaries/wages for nothing.

I guess this is where the story ends and to the people at The Blue Splendour and later, the Ming Mei Shi Restaurant, thank you for the years of great food and wonderful memories!

名美食大酒家 Ming Mei Shi Restaurant (2.293896, 111.836528) is located at 25,27,29, Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 1A in the Fortune Commercial Centre, the area of shops behind the Rejang Medical Centre, right beside the Doraemon Supermarket there.

How I miss you…

The pandemic has dragged on and on for so long now and one thing that I do miss a lot would be our traditional Chinese full course sit-down banquet.

In Hokkien, we call it “ciak chiew” (direct translation: eat wine) even though a teetotaller like me would not touch a drop, that’s for sure. In the old days, there would be a bottle of brandy (V.S.O.P) on every table and some bottles of beer and soft drinks for anyone thus inclined to help themselves. At the current prices of those hard liquor these days, we do not get to see that anymore.

Way back then, there would be 12 courses, at least, the last two being our traditional Foochow sio bee (meat dumplings)…

…and Foochow fried noodles…

…because many of the guests, usually all in the family, lived very far in the interior (sua par – direct translation: jungle) and the mode of transport being not very well developed in those days, it was considered as having good manners to make sure that they would not go hungry on the way home.

The banquet would start with what is called The Four Seasons elsewhere except that here, we would be served a whole lot more than just four…

We called it the leng pua (cold dish) as at the time, the selections in the plate comprised cold cuts of meat. I remember specifically the thin slices of char siew pig’s tongue – I loved that a lot!

Eventually, somebody came out with the sio pua (hot dish)…

…and since then, diners would have a choice when making the reservations – whether they would want it cold or hot.

The second dish would be the soup and in the old days, it was fashionable to serve sharks’ fins soup, the bigger the fins, the more its snob appeal. Of course, that is frowned upon these days so something else is served instead. A popular substitute would be the very nutritious ginseng black chicken soup…

There must be a fish dish, usually very fresh pek chio (white/silver pomfret), steamed but when they did not have any that was all that fresh, they would fry it and serve with some kind of sauce, sweet and sour, for instance…

Personally, I would prefer the fish done this way.

Pork may come next, or maybe, it would be served after the poultry dishes. In the old days, it would always be sweet and sour pork but these days, it may be cooked in other ways…

Other than the chicken in the soup, there would be a chicken dish. In the old days, it was just roast chicken…

…buried under a whole lot of keropok (prawn crackers) and being a little kid at the time, no prize for guessing what would get all my attention.

A popular alternative and one that would be considered a little bit more special would be the steamed chicken with ginseng and other herbs wrapped in aluminum foil…

The sauce, I must say, is simply awesome and full of wholesome goodness!

Sometimes, you may be served duck instead…

…or in some cases, you may get a combo of the two – chicken and duck in a plate.

There would be a vegetable dish, mixed vegetables (chap chai or what people call chak kin or something like that), perhaps depending on how much one had paid for the banquet. That might come in a yam basket…

…and if one was served a platter of broccoli with huge sea cucumber (and beef tendon)…

…it would be quite obvious that the host had paid quite a substantial sum for the meal.

These days, when the platter of prawns…

…whichever way they may do it, is served, that means that you have come to the end of the dinner.

Dessert in the old days would definitely be the peach and longan combo…

…something that would be long-awaited by the kids at the dinner but these days, you may get a plate of Chinese pancake and a fruit platter…

…instead. That peach and longan dessert is no longer something kids would die for especially now that we can buy them in cans at any supermarket or grocery store and they may end up sitting in the pantry and nobody wants to eat it. Times sure have changed.

The pandemic has dragged on and on and sadly, the end is nowhere in sight. At one time, when dining in was still allowed, they had 5 per table with fewer and smaller servings. How pathetic!!! The way things are going, it sure does not look like we will ever get to ciak chiew and enjoy the traditional full course sit-down Chinese banquet the way we have enjoyed it all our lives ever again.

Busy…

I had to go some place that morning as there was something I had to attend to and my girl had some professional matters to settle in school so I said I would drop her off there at around 9.00 a.m. and pick her up later.

I was still caught up with what I had to do when she sent word that she might need more time as there were some complications and I replied her, telling her that I might take longer than expected too so it was perfectly all right. It turned out that I could not reach an agreement over the matter so I decided to take my business elsewhere and settle it there on more favourable terms as far as I was concerned. Everything worked out well in the end and by the time, I was done, it was already 11.30 a.m.

My missus had a routine appointment with the doctor at the polyclinic that same morning so she announced that she would not be cooking lunch and asked us to take care of ourselves. That was why I decided to go to this outlet of our Sarawak’s own fast food franchise at the other end of the block of shops where I was at that point in time to buy two lunch sets…

…for my girl and I.

Each set comprised one fish fillet, the New Zealand hoki

…one fried chicken – I chose the spicy…

…their very nice savoury rice…

…and some cucumber pickle.

Actually, for the piece of broasted chicken, the girl asked if I wanted the original or the spicy and I wanted the former and she said that in that case, I would have to wait. I changed my mind instantly and asked for the spicy instead – they had two pieces available then.

I must say that I enjoyed the chicken very much especially considering that not only was it not oily, it was not fat as well unlike the ones at Colonel Sanders’ where it may be dripping in oil and you may be able to see the layers of yellow fat under the skin. The fish fillet here is everybody’s favourite but lately, everyone has been grumbling that the slice has been shrinking, getting smaller by the day. It did come with a bit of mayo and a wedge of lime though.

The lunch set…

…sure did not come cheap though. I remember seeing the price on the menu – RM10.50 per set but obviously, I saw wrongly or maybe that was the one with the fish fillet but without the chicken – it was RM29.60 for two, RM14.80 each, RM31.40 altogether with the 6% SST added.

Looking on the bright side, however, it was very fast and convenient – just order, pay and take that home to sit down and enjoy and yes, I would say that we did enjoy it very much.

SUGAR BUN@PEDADA, the Delta Mall outlet (2.310929, 111.846391), is located facing Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai, in the block of shops on the left – ASTRO Sibu is the first shop in the block on the right.