One only…

Yes, I did go to the fruit & vegetable sundry shop in the next lane from my house to buy ONE mooncake, just one – one only…

For one thing, these things are sweet and I am presently on a low sugar diet so I should not be eating them. Well, I bought one so as to preserve the tradition, our culture, our heritage of eating mooncakes in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival.

I like these local homemade ones especially those with the black sesame filling…

…but unfortunately, the person making did not make any this year so I had no choice but to settle for the pek tau sar (mung bean paste)…

For whatever reason, my missus cannot eat the red bean paste ones as everytime she eats anything with that filling, she will feel giddy and her head will start spinning. Probably, it’s some kind of allergy. They only have these two types of filling plus another one with the kuaci (melon seeds), peanut and all kinds of seeds – I never liked that one since young so of course, I did not bother to buy it.

The mooncake…

…was selling at RM6.00 each which was a whole lot cheaper than those branded ones “imported” from West Malaysia. I did not see any at the neighbourhood shops and I have not ventured to the major supermarkets in town so I do not know if they had those there or not this year. They used to sell them there but times are hard and probably, they did not order any for fear that nobody will buy and they will end up stuck with boxes and boxes of those.

Sadly, these local ones seemed to have dropped in quality this year. I do not mind it one bit if the traditional mooncake skin is thick – you can see from the above photos that it was not that thick before. As a matter of fact, I actually enjoy eating the pastry used to make the skin. Some people make such a fuss, insisting that it must be paper thin and frankly, if that is the case, they might as well eat the filling and forget about the skin completely.

Unfortunately, the skin of the one I bought that day was a bit coarse and rather hard and dry, not as nice as I remember it to be…and it was quite sweet. If I throw in another 50 sen, I can go and buy my favourite Sibu Foochow pek guek tong chiew peah (Eighth Month Mid-Autumn Festival biscuits) which would not be so sweet and I would have a lot more to enjoy.

Incidentally, I was watching a show on “Festival Foods” on the AEC Channel on TV and the episode was on the Mooncake Festival. Much to my surprise, they were showing them making the mengandungi-lemak-babi 面茶 (miàn chá)/ 福州 (Foochow) cookies

Photo from their Facebook page

…somewhere in West Malaysia. I went and googled and found the Facebook page of a biscuit factory in Ayer Tawar New Village in Perak and yes, they make those biskut tikus (rat tail biscuits) too. We also have those here but we’re not fans of the biscuits. That is why I never buy them nor have I blogged about them.

Ah well! Like what I said right from the start, this was to preserve the tradition, our culture, our heritage so I guess it is perfectly all right, buying and eating one only once a year.

These mooncakes were available at SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) which is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to the Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Pop up…

Today, the 21st of September, Tuesday, is the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), more commonly known as the Mooncake Festival.

No, we’re not having any kind of celebration this year, not even a special dinner – something that we usually would not miss in previous years. With this pandemic raging on and on, we really are not in the mood for much of anything.

Why! I did not even go and buy myself a mooncake to enjoy!!! For one thing, I am on a low-sugar diet and those mooncakes are super sweet, never mind that some of them claim to be low sugar – honestly, I can’t tell the difference. However, that does not mean that I did not get to eat any at all.

The other day, out of the blue, I had these beautiful gelato mooncakes…

…delivered to my house, a special gift from my friend, the proprietor of this place and all the rest.

We tried the pistachio with raspberry yolk…

…that very evening and it was so so so good!

But no, that did not give me an excuse to cast caution to the wind and feast on all of them. I would just nibble a bit to see what it tasted like and the ladies enjoyed the rest and that day, on my girl’s birthday, I took out the remaining three in the box…

…and we had them for our after-dinner dessert, killing two birds with one stone – to celebrate the birthday and the festival simultaneously.

Yes, in keeping with the tradition, I did go and buy our pek guek tong chiew peah

…the traditional Sibu Foochow Eighth Month Mid-Autumn Festival biscuits to nibble and my missus did bring home another two packets, if I remember correctly. Gone are the days when I would finish off one packet in one sitting – these days, I would have to limit myself to just two or three pieces at a time.

Other than the gift of gelato mooncakes, I had another surprise the other day around a week before the festival. The postman delivered this…

…to the house – a greeting card for The Mooncake Festival and a really beautiful pop-up one…

…at that.

I don’t know if it is a specially ordered, custom-made one…

…as I have never seen them selling greeting cards for the Mooncake Festival anywhere before.

That awesome card…

…came all the way from Sungai Petani in Kedah from my young and handsome friend, Nick, who came to visit me here in Sibu in 2017. Gosh!!! That was so long ago!

Thank you so much, Nick! It really is so sweet of you to remember me and keep me in your thoughts at a time like this and it sure made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. A very Happy and Blessed Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival to you and all your loved ones too…and here’s wishing the same to everybody as well on this very auspicious day. #staysafe #staywell Cheers!!!

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!!!

Not the day…

My girl’s birthday was on Friday, the 17th of September but it was our no-meat day so we decided to put everything off till the next day, the 18th which, because the people at the registration office messed it up, is the actual date on her birth certificate and her MyKad.

No, we did not plan to hold a grand celebration, not when we are #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome but of course, our traditional Foochow longevity noodles, the mee sua

…would be a must, no question about that!

I’ve blogged about cooking this before, once, at least…but never mind, let’s go through it all over again. I went out a day earlier to buy the special best quality chicken – they were out of the pua chai kay (half breed chicken) but they gave me a few choices, all just as nice, they said and I chose one.

As soon as I got home, I picked out the parts of the chicken with the meat that we would prefer and marinated it with our traditional Foochow red wine…

…and kept it in the fridge overnight.

When I got up early the next morning, I got the ingredients ready and started cooking the soup.

Firstly, I got some ginger…

…ready. This locally-grown ginger is a whole lot better than the very clean, dehydrated white ones, a lot more “hiam” and fragrant in comparison.

I soaked some dried shitake mushrooms to soften…

…and later, I had to cut away the stalks. Those are hard and not very palatable.

At the same time, I also soaked some dried wolfberries and red dates…

…and after a while, I was ready to start cooking.

I heated up some sesame oil in the wok and threw in the ginger, bruised…

…and let it fry till the fragrance came out.

After that, I put in the chicken…

…and yes, I poured in all the wine that was used to marinate the meat.

After frying till all the juices came out and the meat had absorbed the wine, I added the soaked ingredients…

Yes, I poured in all the water used in the soaking so as to retain the fragrances and tastes.

Finally, I added the water…

…and put in one chicken stock cube instead of salt and msg and after bringing the soup to boil, I let it simmer for some time. The longer you simmer, the sweeter and nicer the soup!

I cooked the mee sua for the three of us and poured the soup all over the noodles…

…and served them with the meat and also the egg…

…from those that I had cooked…

It is the traditional Foochow practice to have hardboiled eggs alongside the mee sua. Some would colour them red, following the age-old practice – in the old days, they would only colour them red for the birthdays of the sons/males in the family but these days, they do not bother to differentiate between the sexes.

Yes, we sure enjoyed what we had that morning and as you can see, Foochow cooking is generally very simple, easy to cook and very nice to eat.

Separated…

It was my sister-in-law’s birthday last Wednesday and in the past, without fail every year, her daughter, my niece, working in Singapore would fly home the weekend before to celebrate this special day with her parents and of course, we would always be invited. This was the last time when we managed to get together, in 2019.

Because of the pandemic, she did not come back last year and of course, she could not make it this year as well. People say the world is getting smaller – we can fly here and there anytime we want but in the face of the current situation, things have changed. There are so many restrictions, very expensive and very limited flights, if there are any at all so much so that families that are separated because of work or whatever commitments can no longer get together whenever they want to. That is so very sad.

Even without my niece around, we could not even go out for a special dinner on the day in question. Yes, we are in Phase 3 now and dining in is allowed but no, we are not taking any chances. With the Delta variant rampantly active and the increasing number of cases daily despite the number fully-vaccinated in the town and state, it is best to just #staysafe #staywell #stayhome.

Of course we did not let the day go past unnoticed. I gave my sister-in-law an ang pao and my missus cooked het my brother-in-law’s favourite, chicken curry and my girl made some potato bread to go with it.

My brother-in-law went and ordered her a cake, our favourite from Marcus…

…no less with the coating of crushed peanut all along the side…

…the way his daughter loves it even though she is not home to enjoy that with the rest of us.

Of course it was perfectly done, that same high standard that Marcus’ cakes would always live up to over the years…and of course, I cannot over-indulge and give in to the temptation to feast on it like before now that I am on a low-carb low-sugar diet so I just had to limit myself to that one slice. How sad!

In the meantime, my sister-in-law also gave us this swiss roll…

My missus said something about her friend giving it to her or something like that. I went and googled and found out that this…

…is actually a home-based business. I browsed through their Facebook page and had a look at their menu. This…

…it seemed, was their black sesame (RM5.50). Just as with the aforementioned cake from Marcus, I had to restrict myself to just one slice only even though I found that it was not sweet at all. Yes, I would say that it was nice but I found the texture of the cake a bit too fine and dense. One consolation would be the fact that it is cheaper than the ones here that I like a lot.

You can order a special homemade MARCUS’ CAKE via telephone at 084-311333 and collect it on the day at the time agreed upon from his house at No. 6B. Lorong Delta 3, Delta Estate (2.305015, 111.826185) and HOPE GOURMET PASTRY HOUSE is located at No. 8B, Lorong Ulu Sg Merah 21 (Tel. No. 0199842289 / 0193963128).

In the blink of an eye…

This is the last in a series of blogposts on my weekend trip to London in November, 1994. Indeed, it was a whirlwind visit, just over one weekend and it was over in the blink of an eye.

When we got up on Friday morning after our first night at the Malaysia House, the first thing we all did was to head downstairs to the basement for a truly Malaysian breakfast at the canteen there. Needless to say, after around two months in the UK, the nasi lemak tasted like heaven, absolutely something to die for!

I heard the others talking about waiting for some big shot to show up, the guy in charge of the Malaysian students in the UK. I don’t know if he was the ambassador or something but they said he managed the Malaysia House where we were staying. Of course, I had no intention of doing that so I went outside, giving the rest the impression that I was just going out for a bit of fresh air.

I walked to Regent Street and hopped on a double decker tour bus…

…and climbed on top and sat there in the open air and went on a tour of all the places of interest in the city.

I saw all of them – the Tower Bridge…

…Trafalgar Square, Westminister Abbey and all the rest. We even went past No. 10, Downing Street and Hard Rock Cafe, London too!

Actually, this was a hop on hop off bus and I could get off anywhere I liked to take photographs and get on the next one that came along but those were the days before the smartphone and selfies were unheard of…and I jolly well would not want to take photos without me in them for remembrance, just snapshots of sceneries – I might as well go and buy some postcards if I wanted those.

I ended the tour at Piccadilly Circus – that was where I stopped by a booking agent’s office and bought the tickets to the two musicals that I watched in a day that weekend in London. I also stopped by Planet Hollywood, London and bought a t-shirt from there – of course, I was the envy of all who saw me using it when I came back to Malaysia but personally, I preferred this cheap one…

…that I bought at a roadside stall at Regent Street.

Before I left the vicinity, I went to see what they had at The Rock Circus, the pop music spin-off of Madame Tussaud’s there. I sure enjoyed myself very much especially how when I walked near an exhibit…

…I would hear the popular songs by that singer or singers

…or groups.

After I was done there, I walked to Soho/Chinatown which people said was the red light district of London. No, I did not see anything (s)exciting at all or maybe I was not looking in all the right places. The only interesting thing that I stumbled upon there was an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for only £2 at a Chinese restaurant. That was cheap and of course, I walked right in!

Unfortunately, what they were serving was most disappointing – what we call the F4 dinners at school parties. For the uninitiated, F4 was a very popular Taiwanese boy band at one time and an F4 dinner would have 4 choices – Fried rice, Fried noodles, Fried bihun and Fried kway teow but they did not have that last one, just another noodle dish instead and they called it Singapore Fried noodles. The difference was that those noodle dishes that we had at the school parties were quite nice but no, I would not say the same about these that I had in London for want of a whole lot of ingredients. They were all so bland, absolutely tasteless, so much so that I suspected they did not add any salt or msg even.

Thankfully, there was another option – fried chicken wings and of course, I feasted on those to eat my fill and get my money’s worth. I don’t remember anything else that transpired that day. I probably went back to my room at the Malaysia House and had an early night – I did not get to sleep the whole night the night before all the way in the coach from Plymouth to London.

The next morning, I sneaked off again and made my way to Madame Tussaud’s which actually was not very far away, walking distance. When I got there, I was shocked to see the queue…

…but thankfully, they were very fast and the line was moving the whole time! In no time at all, I was already inside the building where I met the Royal Family…

…and a whole lot of famous people and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor…

…and all the rest. Personally, because I am more into music, I actually enjoyed The Rock Circus that I went to the day before more.

I went to watch the two musicals that afternoon and night and the next morning, I chanced upon a sexy model in her lingerie along Regent or was it Oxford Street and before I knew it, we were in the coach once more, on our way back to Plymouth. I guess it wasn’t much, really but at least, I’ve been to London – been there, done that! THE END.

Two in one…

I did blog about this before, briefly, but never mind – I don’t think I included all the juicy bits then! LOL!!!

Back to my weekend in London, England, 1994, on my first day there, Friday, I was in the vicinity of the Piccadilly Circus when I spotted a booking agent’s office among the shops close by. I approached the guy there quickly and asked for a ticket to Miss Saigon, the matinee the following day, Saturday. I was not all that keen on venturing out alone at night in a strange land. He said that would not be a problem at all and he collected £25 from me after which he told me that I would have to go back there the next day to collect it.

I went back the next day but he said that he could not get the ticket for the matinee, only for the show that night but he was willing to refund me the money. No, my mind was made up – Miss Saigon, I wanted to see so Miss Saigon I would get to see! I took the ticket from him and walked away.

Then, I turned and went back to the booking agent and asked him if there was any other show that I could watch since I had the afternoon free.

What do you have on mind?” he asked.

Phantom?” I replied and he burst out laughing, so amused by my response.

Come back next year!” he said.

He told me he had a ticket for Grease at the Dominion Theatre, not far away from where we were. walking distance and the show was about to start. He would give it to me at face value, £28.50 and yes, I took the offer. The next minute, I was on my way to the theatre – the guy walked with me most of the way to make sure I would not get lost and would get there in time.

There I was, seated so near to the stage…

…when I started having second thoughts. What was I doing there? I had watched the movie so many times in the cinema and on video tape and I knew all the songs. The exchange rate was only RM3.50 to a £ at the time – still, that came up to RM99.75 for the ticket but as soon as the show started, whatever reservation I had disappeared into thin air.

It sure was a fun show – everyone was clapping, cheering, singing and dancing away and of course, I happily joined in. This was the first musical I had watched in my entire life and it sure was an unforgettable experience! What I did not know then – I found out much later while browsing online – was that Debbie Gibson was playing the part of Sandy! Those of you who are familiar of the pop songs of the 80’s would probably know her big hit, Lost in your eyes.

It was dark already when I came out of the theatre – it was late autumn, coming to winter so it got dark very quickly. I had to rush back to Malaysia House (where we were staying) to bathe and change and head to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for Miss Saigon

…that same night.

As I was walking, a car pulled up by the side of the road right beside me. I saw a lady at the wheel and I thought it was one of those in our group. Probably she had been to see her relatives or friends residing in London and had borrowed a car and wanted to give me a lift. I approached the car, passenger side and the lady screened down the window. She was not very young, definitely no spring chicken, all dressed up in a fur coat.

I need company!” she cooed, seductively.

No, thank you!” I fumbled with my reply and quickly turned and went on my way as fast as I could. In my panic, I took the wrong turning at the junction ahead but luckily, I realised it soon enough so I went back the way I came and finally, got to Malaysia House, safe and sound. Phew!!!

In no time at all, I was on my way to the theatre and yes, I made it in ample time before the show started. There I was, perched high up in the gallery – we were given binoculars but I did not bother to use them and yes, I enjoyed it tremendously!

It was an epic drama…

…and I loved every minute of it right from the moment it started. I loved all the songs and luckily, I did not know them at the time so I was not singing my heart out – I would probably have done that if I had gone to see The Phantom. No, it wasn’t Lea Salonga anymore, playing the part of Kim but if I am not wrong, John Barrowman was Chris at the time. Anyway, I wouldn’t know him even if I knew it was him then. I only got to know him much later via Youtube.

When it came to the part when Kim had to say goodbye to her son, suddenly I missed my little girl back home in Sibu and the dam burst and I cried buckets!!! The young girl sitting beside me must be wondering why but at that parting scene where Kim shot herself and Chris came back into the house and they said their last goodbye, I saw the girl crying her eyeballs out! My friend in Auckland, New Zealand went to watch when the musical opened there and after she saw it, she grumbled that I did not tell her it was so so so sad. I guess she too cried her heart out! LOL!!!

It was already past 11 after the show ended and this “Cinderella” had to rush back to Malaysia House before they locked the door at midnight. Luckily, the couple behind me helped me and got me my ticket for the London Underground (I paid them, of course) – the machine rejected all the British currency I had with me! Yes, I made it just in time (many could not believe I had never been to London before seeing how I could get around without any problem whatsoever) and that was indeed a truly memorable day, one that I will never ever forget – TWO musicals in ONE day, believe it or not!

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in watching Miss Saigon, you can try these links in two parts, Part One and Part Two, on Youtube or you can try this link, for the better and clearer production than any you can find on Youtube, with Eva Noblezada as Kim and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi in the 25th Anniversary Gala Performance at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. Do make sure you have a box of tissue paper beside you and don’t say I did not warn you!

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.

Luckily…

Last Sunday afternoon, Father’s Day, I had to go out for a while and despite my attempt to rush back quickly, I did not manage to escape getting caught in the sudden downpour. That was why I had to wash the car once I reached home.

It was around 4.oo p.m. and still raining with a bit of thunder and lightning, just a bit, when my girl came out to tell me that there was a sudden blackout. I saw my neighbour coming out to look at his meter so I guess they were in that same predicament.

Oh dear!!! Like what I had mentioned in yesterday’s post, we were planning to have a steamboat dinner and for that, we would always use the electric multi cooker…

…that I bought in Kuching many many years ago when my girl was still little for over RM200.00.- and it has served us well all this time. Things made in the past are certainly of a better quality than the ones today – those that we buy nowadays do not seem to last very long.

I was not unduly worried as we have one of those mini gas cookers using those aerosol gas canisters. My girl was using that when she was at her school in the jungle and when she moved back to town. we took it back with us and all the unused canisters of gas. We could take that out and use it instead and I guess we could light some candles and eat in the dark…and as it was raining, it was not hot that evening and anyway, we have three of those fans that run on both electricity and rechargeable batteries so we could take them out and use. I bought two for my girl to use in the jungle school where blackouts were frequent and may last for days and weeks and I kept one at home in case of an emergency.

In the meantime, I quickly called my ex-student who holds a managerial post – customer service at our local electricity board, Sibu office and she was so surprised as everything was all right at her house. She said she would check and call me back which she did to inform me that the people were on the way to check the sub-station for my area and work on the problem right away. It did not take very long, around half an hour, maybe, when power was restored, praise the Lord! We were thus able to have our steamboat dinner as planned!

As you can see in the above photograph, we had sweet corn, fish maw, bean curd sticks and quail eggs already in the multi-cooker and my missus also bought these thinly sliced pork and beef for shabu-shabu or hotpots…

…at one of the meat shops. There are so many of them these days, all over town. They use machines to slice the meat while frozen so they are able to get them in such paper-thin slices.

She also bought these mussels and cuttlefish…

…and threw in some of the prawns that we have in the freezer to use as ingredient like when we fry vegetables for one. I have not gone to my favourite fish & seafood stall for sometime now as I bought a whole lot of fish at one go. We just ate the last ikan terubok on Friday and and there are still a few or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret in the freezer. That was why we did not have any fish paste so we did not make any fish balls for our steamboat.

We also had these mushrooms, baby corn and lettuce…

…to throw into our steamboat and instead of tang hoon (glass noodles) that we would usually add, my girl wanted this udon

…that my sister gave to her the other day instead. Well, she did like it a lot, that much I would say.

We sure enjoyed our steamboat dinner to the max that evening, dipping everything in the super tasty chili dip…

…that my missus made. That was so good!

I must say that I had a great Father’s Day that day despite that little hitch with the brief blackout in the afternoon. Luckily, it did not last very long.