Soon…

It’s coming soon – the Zhang or Rice Dumpling Festival also known as the Dragon Boat or the Duan Wu Festival.

This year, it will fall on the 9th of June and everywhere, all over town, you will see people selling the dried bamboo leaves and the grass to tie the dumplings with. These would have to be soaked first before use and I would prefer the grass to those plastic nylon strings. All this while, there has been talk about the danger of boiling plastic and rumour had it that some people would melt plastic bags in the oil to fry the banana fritters (pisang goreng) and stuff to make them crispier and to prevent them from going limp after a while…and that made me wonder – wouldn’t boiling the dumplings tied with those strings for hours pose a danger to health as well?

As for the leaves, I heard that the dumplings wrapped in these bamboo leaves would keep longer – the ones wrapped in pandan (screwpine) leaves tend to go bad very quickly. That is why sometimes, you will see the dumplings wrapped with the bamboo leaf inside and the pandan leaves on the outside. I guess if you just wrap them in the bamboo leaves and add lots of pandan in the water while boiling, you can still get the much coveted fragrance as well.

We do have what we call the Hokkien Zhang all over town here – the dark coloured ones with the sauce from the stewed pork cooked and used for the filling but these days, those that I had bought, at RM2.50 each, turned out to be most disappointing. The taste was there but there would not be any sign of any meat in it. If you go for the salted egg ones, RM3.50 each, I think, you would be able to detect the taste of the salted egg but if you think you will get to see the salted egg yolk be it half of it or a quarter, dream on! As a matter of fact, salted egg isn’t all that expensive – around RM1.00 only for one whole egg. My missus loves this type but for me, it will have to be the nyonya zhang, no less – the ones with smaller chunks of meat, a little sweet (some people add finely-chopped water chestnuts but my friend, Richard, said he used winter melon or one of those sweet fruits) and the wonderful fragrance of ketumbar (coriander).

And talking about Richard, he dropped by my house the other night to pass me these…

Nyonya zhang from Richard

– his own homemade nyonya zhang, bless him for being always so considerate and so thoughtful as to remember me this time every year. He did not make any last year for some reason and this was the year before…and this was in 2013 and so on and so forth.

Of course, his would have a whole lot of meat inside…

Richard's nyonya zhang, lots of meat inside

…compared to those commercially-made Hokkien zhang and we can’t get these nyonya ones here, not at all, so that makes his extra special. I have seen some of those being sold outside in all shapes and sizes and even the tying with the grass string was so unsightly messy…and they do not even taste good! Probably everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, cashing on this festive season to catch unsuspecting victims who would end up buying as they do have much choice, being unable to make their own.

Of course, Richard’s has that perfect triangular cone, a true beauty…

Perfect cone

…and a testimony to his expert skill in tying these dumplings and see how the glutinous rice does not stick to the leaf…

Richard's nyonya zhang, does not stick to the leaf

…unlike some that I have bought from outside and I would have to scrape the rice off the leaf with a spoon to eat.

No, no, I did not eat them all at one go. The next morning, I just heated up two, one for me…

Richard's nyonya zhang

…and one for my missus for temporary relief, to appease the craving. I’m keeping the rest in the fridge for the actual day – otherwise, I will not have any to enjoy when the festival comes around.

Thank you so very much, Richard, for your lovely zhangs. It sure is an exclusively special honour and my utmost pleasure to receive them from you each year.

Little bit later…

Last Thursday morning, I was up and about as usual, boiled water, made coffee and breakfast and then I went outside to water the plants when I noticed that I had a flat tyre – rear wheel, left side. There was just a little bit of air left and thankfully, it was enough for me to drive to the shop quickly to get it fixed. They found a nail stuck in it. RM7.00.

As soon as I got there, it started to rain heavily and when I got home, my missus said that my girl was unwell and asked us to go and get her to go and see a doctor. She had been down with a severe flu and cough for a week or two now…and when we reached the school, she had a slight fever as well. It rained most of the way there and back and I sure was relieved and so very thankful that it wasn’t along the way in the pouring rain in the middle of nowhere that I had the flat tyre – over the years, I have often seen many cars in such a predicament and also many stranded halfway with engine trouble and what not. Truly, God is merciful, praise the Lord!

So all weekend we were home mostly, letting my girl take all the medication prescribed by the doctor and have a good rest in the hope that she would recover quickly. That was why I did not manage to go back here to return the plate that Mary had used to let me take the lovely grilled ikan keli home. That had to wait a little bit later before I could get down to doing that. By Sunday, my girl was slightly better though not fully recovered but she wanted to go back to the school and get back to work so we sent here all the way as usual.

On the way back, we stopped by the market at Selangau Bazaar and got some very nice buah emplam that I wanted to give to Mary. That evening…

Evening at Sibu town

…after the evening mass at the cathedral in town, we went to return the aforementioned plate to Mary and pass her the fruits and have dinner there.

This looked like a nice cosy corner…

Flavours Thai Kitchen

…but it was booked that night so we had to take another table instead.

To our surprise, we were served this…

Buah emplam appetiser

…as an appetiser – the buah emplam, peeled and nicely sliced…

Buah emplam, peeled and sliced

…using some special knife or peeler or shredder and that certainly gave it a classier look than how we would simply cut it into chunks of all odd shapes and sizes. We had it with this very nice rojak sauce…

Rojak sauce dip

…that Mary said she got from Penang…and yes, we certainly enjoyed that very much.

Then, Mary served us this – her Norwegian sardine tosazu

Flavours Thai Kitchen tosazu

No, it’s not on their menu – she made that for herself and gave us a bit to let us try. We’ve never had it anywhere before and we loved it a lot but of course, my missus had to have it with the sliced fresh chili provided and she too enjoyed it very much.

We had the pineapple fried rice (RM13.90)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen pineapple fried rice

…single serving but it was big, more than enough for two and there were generous chunks of chicken in it and cashew nuts too. It certainly was a whole lot nicer (and very much cheaper too) than the one we had here though I must say I had had something here before that had an edge over it but unfortunately, the owner decided to wind up the business and the place was closed down unceremoniously and the authentic lady Thai chef had to go back to her own country.

Mary asked us to try the chef’s fried long beans (RM10.50)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen fried long beans

…cut diagonally like what I would usually do with French beans and not long beans and cooked with lots of garlic and a few daun limau perut plus whatever sauce he used in the cooking, probably fish sauce – the Thais use that a lot. It was very good and my missus said the whole cloves of garlic in it tasted great too!

Now, one reason why we did not quite finish the fried rice, leaving just a little bit behind, was because we enjoyed the pad thai (RM13.90)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen pad thai

…so very much. One just can’t go wrong with prawns and there were so many in it! I never expected that even the raw taugeh (bean sprouts) by the side would taste so good when mixed with the fried noodles. My ex-student and friend, Andrew, went and had this too and he too praised it to the skies but he did add that he missed having the peanuts that one would usually find in pad thai. This is one dish I certainly would want to order again…and again…each time I go back there.

The total came up to RM38.30 – there was free flow of iced water but in fact, just that plate of pad thai and a vegetable dish, less than RM25.00, would have been enough for a pleasant dinner for two…or you may opt for the som tam or mango salad instead. We have yet to try the green curry – Mary said it was sold out the night before, Saturday, and they had yet to get down to making the paste…and I wonder if they have my favourite Thai dessert, the mango sticky rice. Will find out the next time I drop by…

Spoke too soon…

I said I would not want to go back there again and I guess I spoke too soon as it so happened that I had no choice and was at that same restaurant with my family for dinner the very next evening! Tsk! Tsk! LOL!!!

Well, my niece (my brother-in-law’s daughter), the one working in Singapore, flew home to vote and also to celebrate Mother’s Day with her grandma and mum and my missus (her aunt)…and also the latter’s birthday. They wanted to book a table here but it was full and it was full here too – the boss said we could go and wait at around 7.00 p.m. Those who had booked for 6.00 p.m. might have finished by then and we probably would be able to grab a table. My brother-in-law was not keen on the idea especially with my mother-in-law coming and she is not all that mobile at this point in time. So, that left them with no choice…and there we all were that night but my mother-in-law had a last minute change of heart and she did not join us.

For my missus’ birthday, my niece brought home this assortment of cakes from Cedele in Singapore…

Cakes from Cedele, Singapore

…but it fell apart in the course of all that travelling – from Singapore to KL and then to Sibu. The one with the candle on top was the banana something which wasn’t banana cake actually. It turned out to be just chocolate cake and in the cream in between the top and bottom halves were slices of fresh bananas. The green one next to it, anti-clockwise, was the gula Melaka and I loved that one – I think the cake was pandan and it kind of reminded me of nyonya kuehs which I have a soft spot for. Next was the double chocolate, the same chocolate cake with lots of chocolate cream and chocolate all over, followed by two big slices of the carrot cake that we had the last time and the ones with the yellow stripes on top were the sea salt and again, it was the chocolate cake but this time, the cream on top had sea salt in it so it was very lightly salty and not all that sweet. Generally, I found that they were all too sweet and/or too rich with all that cream that I could barely manage one slice if I were to eat it on my own – but sampling a bit of each was fine.

Ok, so there we were back at “that restaurant” and since it was partly a birthday celebration, we had their fried mee sua (longevity noodles)…

Ming Mei Shi fried mee sua

…which was all right, a little moist – just a little and no, it was not anything to get me jumping up and down with delight.

This, however…

Ming Mei Shi braised pork belly

…has been my favourite ever since they first opened their doors and started this restaurant – their signature dish, the braised pork belly served with these steamed buns…

Ming Mei Shi steamed buns

…and yes, it was as good as ever…

Ming Mei Shi braised pork belly in steamed bun

…and I just could not resist having one…and another…and just one more! Forgive me for I have sinned…but I had been good all this while and had not had any for quite a long time now. Hehehehehe!!!

We also had the hot and sour (Szechuan)  soup…

Ming Mei Shi hot & sour soup

…but I just had a sip before I realised that those thin strips could be bamboo shoots so I just left the rest untouched. I did think, however, that what we had here was nicer, more sourish and tastier.

The sweet and sour fish fillet…

Ming Mei Shi sweet and sour fish fillet

…was not nice – especially since the batter coating had gone all soggy and other than the aforementioned, we also had these two dishes that we had the night before – their bean combo, the Four Heavenly Kings…

Ming Mei Shi bean combo

…and the butter prawns…

Ming Mei Shi butter prawns

I guess they just ordered it like that and did not request for the creamy version so this was what we got.

We did not order any rice and when we got there, the waitress said that there were so many people and therefore, we had a choice of either plain water or Chinese tea and those were the drinks we had that night…and the bill came up to a whooping total of RM180.00, double of what we paid for our dinner here not too long ago…but no, I shall not say it again as with my mulut masin, I might just find myself back there again sooner than I thought I would.

Election Day…

In the past, I would go around lunch time or later in the afternoon when there would not be so many people but this time around, we went quite early – around 10 o’ clock in the morning. Of course it was very hot at the time – these days, it is extremely hot here in the morning and in the afternoon, it would rain cats and dogs and I sure would not want to brave anything like the storm we had a few days earlier to go and vote.

It was my girl’s first time so of course, she was very excited. She used our current address when she registered so her polling centre was a different one from ours. My missus’ and mine was from a long time ago when we were staying some place else.

We drove to her centre and she went in to cast her vote after which, we proceeded to our centre to cast ours. Hey!!! My good friend, Lim, was the presiding officer in the voting room – it seems that every election, they would recruit all the teachers to do all the work but of course, before I retired, I simply refused to accept the appointment. I could imagine being at a centre where they kept requesting for a recount – I would be stuck there like…forever!!!

When all was done, we went for brunch. There were not all that many cars on the road except in areas where there were polling centres but we could not find a parking space to go here so we had to go some place else.

We had not gone back to this place for a while now, probably not since around the end-of-year school holidays last year and I quite missed their fried noodles. That was why I ordered one plate of their Foochow fried mee with added char siew (RM5.00)…

Y2K Foochow fried mee

…to share.

Their sweet and sour fish fillet is my girl’s favourite but we decided not to have that and went for their lemon chicken…

Y2K lemon chicken

…instead, another dish here that my girl loves a lot. It did look a lot more yellowish than when we had this same dish before but unlike some other places, it did not have the smell of the artificial lemon essence which would have put us off instantly. Whatever it was, the next time we order this, I would surely make it a point to tell them to use only fresh lemon juice and we would not want whatever it was that they used to give it that yellow colour. The chicken was good, nice and crusty but of course, for such dishes, it would be best to eat it on the spot before the sauce turns the batter soft and soggy.

For our vegetable dish, my girl picked the cangkuk manis fried with egg…

Y2K fried cangkuk manis with egg

…and I asked for another meat dish – their fried pork belly with salted fish and dried chili…

Y2K fried pork belly with salted fish and dried chili 1

They did not use what we call the long kiam hu and had the dry type instead. It did not matter much though as it tasted very good…

Y2K fried pork belly with salted fish and dried chili 2

…and I loved it when I bit into the bits of the crusty salted fish.

The total for the food (excluding the noodles) and rice came up to only RM40.00 altogether for the three of us. I felt that was quite reasonable and most importantly, we thought that was a delightful meal and we sure enjoyed it a lot.

Used to be better…

I was thinking of checking out one new place in town, western, that night on my missus’ birthday but my girl said she felt like having rice and dishes and suggested going here…

Ming Mei Shi Restaurant, Sibu

…for dinner instead and of course, her wish was my command.

I had read comments on Facebook about how expensive this place had become and how the food served was not always nice anymore. I did feel the things getting a little pricey even before they moved here from the old place but quality control was always consistent – we did enjoy what we had, most of the time at least.

Anyway, since it was my missus’ birthday, I thought we should go to some place nice…

Ming Mei Shi, ground floor

…and a little more grand…

Ming Mei Shi, chandelier

…than our usual haunts, never mind that it might be a little more expensive and fingers crossed, hopefully, the food would be good…plus, this would be a chance for me to check out their new premises…

Ming Mei Shi, shop sign

– I had not been here since they moved.

My girl wanted this…

Four Heavenly Kings

…their combination of four types of beans fried with sambal belacan (dried prawn paste) but it turned out to be just long beans, ladies fingers, brinjal and baby corn so it was not really all beans, actually. I thought it tasted all right and so was this dish of asparagus…

Asparagus with inogi

…that I also ordered. Unfortunately, my girl was recovering from a flu that she had in the course of the week but she was getting much better already. Still, she had a bit of a stuffed nose that night and could not really taste what she ate. Everything came across as rather salty to her, nothing more and nothing less.

We also ordered our favourite, the creamy butter prawns…

Butter prawns

…and this was probably the third time they got our order wrong. We specifically said we would want the “wet” version and yet, it came out dry. If ever we were to go back again, which is highly unlikely, I would insist on them taking it back and cooking it again, the way we would like it.

We wanted steamed fish and they did not have our favourite, the lajong and the chief waitress who took our orders suggested their ngor hu, whatever that is called in English or Malay. This was what it looked like…

Steamed fish 1

…not a very pleasant sight, I must say, and I expected one or two slices of the fish which can be rather big sometimes but what we got in the end was one whole fish…

Steamed fish 2

…and thankfully, it was not a very big one. It would have been very nice but unfortunately, I think it was not all that fresh, probably kept frozen for quite a while already so it tasted bland, not sweet at all and not all that nice…so I had to resort to dipping it in soy sauce which I would never do with anything that tastes great.

Of course, with the fish and the prawns which were quite big, very fresh and firm and succulent, we did not expect the meal to be all that cheap and the total for all the food, rice and drinks came up to RM99.90, RM105.90 with GST.

Stunned by the price and somewhat disappointed with what we had, and rather put off by the songs by some Chinese singers in some kind of a reality show on those television screens blasting in our ears the whole time we were there through the huge loudspeakers all over the not-very-big place on the ground floor (may be good for around 15 tables or so only), we left as soon as we could and adjourned somewhere else for dessert in the hope that we might find a little consolation…but that will be in the next post!

My woman, my woman, my wife…

I wonder how many of you know this song…

– one of my old-time favourites! I love the pleasantly soothing melody and the beautiful lyrics in particular.

Well, if you’re wondering about the relevance, it was my missus’ birthday last Friday and of course, we had to have the longevity noodles, the mee sua, in chicken soup with our traditional Foochow red wine…

Birthday longevity noodles

…first thing in the morning and no, Ken, we did not miss out the eggs and I had TWO of them! LOL!!!

I went out and bought a cake for her…

Birthday cake 1

…from this bakery – I wanted the Black Bavaria that my friend gave me for my birthday once and it was very nice but they did not have it that morning so I settled for this one…

Birthday cake 2

…something with hazelnut, lots of that in the cream in between the layers.

Our girl was coming home that afternoon and we waited for her so my missus could cut the cake with all of us together, singing the birthday song and all. It was very nice – not sweet at all and very light and since it was small, maybe a 6-inch square only, we did not have to struggle to finish the whole thing.

That evening, we went out for dinner here…

Ming Mei Shi Restaurant, new premises

This used to be one of our favourite Chinese restaurants in town – they have moved to their new own-owned premises now but that will have to wait till the next post. Stick around!

Storm…

It has been very very hot here every day till around mid-afternoon and then it would rain, usually quite heavily so it would be nice and cool by nightfall.

However, last Wednesday, it was so very terrible! The storm was really frightening! The extremely loud thunder shook the house and I could hear the house and car alarms of those with more sensitive ones going off. Thankfully, mine were all right and thankfully too, despite the severe lightning strikes, the switch on the electric meter board outside the house did not trip. I heard many did not bother to switch it back on and had to go without electricity till the storm eased. The lightning was so fiercely bright that I was afraid it might strike me and burn me to cinders…so I stayed inside the house, all doors and windows closed, safe and sound!

The rain poured so very heavily and because of the volume of water, it could not flow along the gutters and out through the pipes and downspouts into the drains so I could see the wall of water falling off the edge of the roof like a massive waterfall! Of course the drains were filled in no time at all and the water overflowed over the road and into my house compound…

Flash flood 1
*Antique handphone camera photograph*

The level was around 1 foot at the fence in front and 6 inches at my car porch. It reached my main door and was about to go into the house and I was ready to move everything a little higher in our split-level ground floor…and I prayed and I prayed and miraculously, it stopped.

Only a  little bit went in – I could feel that the bottom aluminium rail/frame was a little wet and I had to wipe it dry. That probably was because of that Hilux that drove in at top speed and out again creating a lot of waves as a result. I just cannot understand why people just have to drive around whenever there is a flood, enjoying looking at people in their misery, and taking photographs to share on social media…and bashing the authorities, blaming them for everything as if it was their fault that it rained so abnormally heavily. Perhaps they should ask God whether it was because of their sinful ways that there was such an absolutely furious storm that day…and whether it is high time that they change their ways.

Some of the pails and stuff outside the house went floating around…

Flash flood 2
*Antique handphone camera photograph*

 – there was no real damage, thank God! I really don’t mind the rain even if it is heavy but hopefully, such a drastic storm would not recur.

Going back to the heat that we would have to endure for a good part of the day, I went and bought these…

Walls Fruttare ice cream

…for a little bit of welcome relief. My girl bought the strawberry ones…

Walls Fruittare, strawberry

…once and I quite enjoyed it. Well, this time around, I also bought two of the banana ones…

Wakks Fruttare, banana

…to try and it was pretty good. It tasted like those big green ones that we call chay gay (green teeth). I don’t know what those are called in English or Malay but we never ate those growing up as my dad said it was too cold and would lead to asthma attacks. Of course I have outgrown the ailment so these days, I do buy that variety as well and I do like them as well.

I don’t know if those were bits of bananas…

Bananas

…but it says on the wrapper that they use real fruit…

Real fruit

…in the making.

At RM2.50 each, they are cheaper than the Magnum ones and I like how soft they are with the creamy texture of ice cream, but on a stick. They do melt very quickly though so I had to take the photographs as fast as I could and start eating.

I really wonder how much longer this blistering weather is going to last…but thank goodness we do get quite a bit of rain but please, God, no more storms, thank you very much!