Take your pick…

It was my brother-in-law’s birthday yesterday so of course, my niece, the one working in Singapore, flew home last weekend for a little celebration in advance and on Saturday night, they picked to come here for dinner.

Of course I have blogged about this place and the dishes available here many times already. My brother-in-law got to pick his favourite dishes and without fail, wherever we may go for dinner, there would be the sweet and sour fish fillet…

Ruby Restaurant sweet and sour fish fillet

…which was good that night. I think we had it pre-ordered once and probably they cooked it way ahead of time so by the time it was served, the batter coating of the fish slices had gone all soggy so it was not all that nice.

He also picked this fried omelette with bits of century egg…

Ruby Restaurant omelette with century egg

…and sliced Bombay onions and a bit of leek in it, something that he always complains they can never replicate at home. Hmmmm…he has yet to try mine. Hehehehehe!!!!

There was also this dish of what we call Sabah yeu chai

Ruby Restaurant Sabah yeu chai

…whatever it is called in English. They like it very much and would always order it when we go out for dinner but it is not really my favourite. I would much sooner stick to our good ol’ cangkuk manis with egg or midin with belacan.

I am very sure we had ordered this before – the pork with dried chili and salted fish and lots of ginger and onion…

Ruby Restaurant claypot pork with salted fish, dried chili

…but I do not recall them serving it in a claypot placed on top of a food warmer with a fire down below. Maybe for smaller servings, they would dispense with that as everything would be gone in no time at all.

This is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the butter scotch prawn balls…

Ruby Restaurant butter scotch prawn balls

…and their salad tofu…

Ruby Restaurant salad tofu

…own-made, with dried prawns in the bean curd, served with mayonnaise is another popular dish here.

I’ve never had this before – their hot and sour soup…

Ruby Restaurant hot and sour soup

…and my guess is that is what usually people call the Szechuan soup. We enjoyed that – it was a nice change from our usual sea cucumber or Foochow-style tofu soup.

There you have it, our simple celebration that night and nothing beats getting together with loved ones, be it family or friends, to share the joy of a special occasion.

The end of it all…

They will announce the winner of the last season of this reality singing competition…

The final season

…today, Friday morning here and Thursday night in the USA after 15 seasons.

We did not get to see the first two seasons when the show started in 2002 as we did not have the show on the local television stations in our country at the time. That meant that we did not get to see the first-ever winner, Kelly Clarkson, one of the most successful of the lot, who gave this heart-wrenching performance when she guest-starred in one of the shows in this final season…and of course, we did not get to see Ruben Studdard either, who despite the win after beating Clay Aiken to second place, never really got off the ground.

Yes, after so many years, so many have won and so many have not managed to make it big in the music world and looking at some of those voted to become the winners, I certainly am not surprised as most, in my opinion, were really quite forgettable. On the other hand, there were others that I thought were really good but they were unceremoniously booted out, many even before they got anywhere near the finals.

So what about you? Have you watched the show at sometime or another? Who do you remember? Any memorable performances? I must say I do have a few like this one, for instance…

…who lost to the other guy by that same name in the finale.

I don’t think many would remember this lady…

…who was up against the likes of the eventual winner, Fantasia Barrino and also the very successful, Jennifer Hudson and this guy didn’t make it into the grand finale either…

…in Season 5 but he was on the recent Fox Live musical, The Passion, aired on Palm Sunday, playing the part of Judas Iscariot. Well, like many of the rest, he did not need to win either as he did have an impressive track record after he dropped out of the competition…and the same goes to this guy…

…that I was quite sure would win that year but didn’t…and how could this Filipino power pack of talent…

…not win? Tsk! Tsk!

Towards the later years, I did not watch the show that faithfully like I did initially and I do know of many who stopped following it as well, many out of frustration that some of the really good ones did not win or worse, were kicked out early in the show.

However, I did keep up with the updates online and I did watch some of the clips on youtube…and now that it has come to an end, I must say that I do feel a little sad but then again, there are lots of shows along these same lines here, there and everywhere all over the world. After all, as in the words of William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Fairground…

There was a fun and food fair here last week probably held in conjunction with the launching of the Visit Sibu Year 2017 and if I am not mistaken, it is still going on right now until the Ching Ming weekend, 3rd April.

My girl and the mum did go the Friday the week before when she came back from her school for the week-long holidays but they said that they went early at around 5 something so most of the stalls were still closed and it looked like there were not that many compared to the food fairs in previous years.

That was why when we went again, we made sure we did not go so early, this time at around 6.30 p.m. There was this old-school Ferris wheel…

Ferris wheel 1

…that thrilled us to no end way back then in the 50’s. I would have thought they would have something a lot more interesting and exciting these days. I don’t recall having this…

Ferris wheel 2

…in our time but I guess that is more or less the same thing as the Ferris wheel, possibly a little more exciting with the feet dangling precariously over the edge in the air like that. We did have the carousel or the merry-go-round where we could ride  the horses and go round and round and they did not have that. I did see a small one with what looked like aeroplanes or spaceships – I guess in principle, that is the one and the same thing.

There was also a big area with all the Doraemon-themed rubber inflatables, probably all the slides but I did not bother to go closer to check. There were also those bumper cars that you can enjoy in air-conditioned comfort at the amusement centres in the malls and a lot of those fun-fair games stalls, nothing much to shout about really.

As for the food stalls, we stopped by this one…

Gabriel's Mexican chicken quesadillas 1

…but seeing that it was so expensive, RM10.00 each, I was not all that keen on buying…

Gabriel's Mexican chicken quesadillas 2

…but my missus insisted so she bought one…

Gabriel's Mexican chicken quesadillas 3

…for us to try. It was nice, period.

On the other side, there was a stall where they made these Chinese chive pancakes…

Chinese chive pancakes 1

They were selling for only RM3.00 each…

Chinese chive pancakes 2

…and they even had free samples for anyone interested in tasting it but we had no intention of buying so we did not bother.

I spotted this lady from the hawker centre near my house selling her satay and there were a whole lot of others selling all those Sibu Foochow delights…

Sibu Foochow delights

Ma ngee

…and those selling burgers, Taiwanese sausages…

Taiwanese sausages

…and so on and so forth. There was even a stall selling these pies

John's Pies

…but no, I did not grab any. The boy said they were still in the process of heating them up and I would have to wait for at least half an hour. I just told him I could always drop by the shop anytime for those should I feel like having any and left.

We stopped by this stall…

One of the stalls

…that my girl and the mum went to on their earlier visit. The fried or koi (yam cake) was not good but the sio pao

Sio pao

…was not too bad, chunks of meat inside, even though the outer appearance sure needed a lot of improvement and I would say the same about the curry puffs…

Curry puffs

…too. Well, the ladies wanted to go back there as they bought the Sibu Foochow sio bee

Sibu Foohow sio bee

…as well that day and they turned out to be very nice plus they were only 60 sen each, a whole lot cheaper than elsewhere…and my girl wanted to buy some of the frozen ones to take back to her school to eat there.

On the whole, I found it all rather unexciting and most disappointing. If it was intended to promote Sibu for the Visit Sibu Year 2017, they should have handpicked the very best in town to set up their stalls here – the best Sibu kampua noodles, the best kompia, dianpianngu and all the attractions…like how when they had a Penang food fair some place, they would get the best cendol people, the best char kway teow sellers to go and showcase the best of the best in the state…and not leave it to any Tom, Dick or Harry to set up the stalls according to their whims and fancies. If this is all I can expect to find in such future events, don’t count on seeing me there ever again, thank you very much.

Life is sweet…

I got a notification from wordpress yesterday, wishing me a Happy Anniversary! Oh? The day went past without my noticing it, 7th March (it was the 7th in the US yesterday) which means that I’ve been doing this for 8 years now, beginning in 2008 and still going strong, I guess – coming up to 3,000 posts and almost 2 million views, with over 360,000 visitors and a current total of over 80,000 comments. Not bad, eh, this old guy? Wink! Wink!

Well, coincidentally, we dropped by this place…

Nica gelateria, Sibu 1

…in town so perhaps I can consider that to be a mini-celebration of sorts. This is not exactly new and by now, many would have dropped by here already – it had its soft opening quite sometime ago before Chinese New Year.

All this while, I had never had the chance to go and check it though but on Monday, I had to drive all the way to get my girl from her school as she is having something on here in Sibu – yesterday and today. She was supposed to follow a colleague back, one who commutes daily as his family is in Sibu but he took the day off because the kid was down with fever. When we came back to town, I asked my girl if she would like some gelato and she did!

So there we were…

Nica gelateria, Sibu 2

…my first time here. This is actually an extension of or a spin-off from this place that I do like and frequent quite a lot. Obviously, they have been doing so well that they have decided to set up a new place specialising in macarons…

Macarons

…mille crepes…

Mille crepes

…cakes and coffee…

Coffee

…and of course, gelato…

Gelato

My girl did stop by a couple of weeks ago and she bought three scoops home – the salted caramel, cream cheese and pistachio and yes, we did enjoy all of them very much, a lot more than the ones we had here sometime ago.

This time around, I chose the Volcano Gelato (RM19.80)…

Volcano Gelato

…3 scoops and I picked the cream cheese, banana and salted caramel.

My girl went and poured the chocolate in long thin lines on the gelato…

Chocolate

…and it hardened instantly…

Hard

…upon contact with the cold. Hmmmmm…interesting!

For one thing, the way it was served, one would need to eat the two scoops on top first before one will be able to get to the scoop at the bottom and for another, I do think they would need to look into their quality control – we loved the salted caramel before but this time around, we found it a tad too salty and there was only a slight hint of the caramel taste. The cream cheese was nice and I loved the banana!

My girl has the double scoop Brussel waffle (RM17.80)…

Double scoop Brussel waffle

…and she opted for her favourites – the cream cheese and the salted caramel but of course, the latter was a disappointment that day…and we did not like the waffle either. I did hear word going round that the waffles here were not nice and a friend mentioned on Facebook that theirs are not the regular ones that we know and love. He said that theirs are “yeasted waffles”, whatever those are and when he had it, the smell of yeast was so very strong that he did not enjoy it at all. Well, it was not strong on the yeast when we had it but it was salty and not anything we would want to have again.

My missus had the clown gelato (RM15.80)…

Clown gelato

…and she loved the mango flavour that she picked.

Actually, you can sample all the flavours available…

Tonda

…before deciding on what you want. They are kept in this display freezer called the tonda (I understand there are only 2 in the country, one in KL and the other one here so that means it is the only one in East Malaysia) at a specific temperature…

Digital thermometer

…and they will let you try each of them on those little plastic spoons like at those ice cream places. I actually liked the teh tarek (the brown one) but they were running out of that at the time so I did not order it…while the peanut butter made me think of me poking my finger into the bottle and taking out some to eat just like that. They do not have this for the proper freezing process required at the old place so that was why the gelato I had there was served hard and I had to wait a bit before I could eat and enjoy it.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was taking a photograph of the digital thermometer. The digits kept running and changing and when I looked at the real thing, the figures were, in fact, constant. I asked the guy and he did not know about this – he even tried with his smartphone camera and yes, that same thing happened too! Actually, it was negative something, – 14 or somewhere around there. If I am not wrong, they did say that ideally, it should be kept constantly at -12.

I did order their coffee, the long black, cold (RM7.90) and I thought it was good but no, we did not order any of the lattes or whatever. Iced water was on the house and yes, they do charge the 6% GST here…unfortunately.

Well, if you are wondering what the differences between gelato and ice cream are – no, they are not the same, you can take a look at this chart here…

Gelato facts

…that I got from their Facebook page. Well, others may want to differ but I would prefer it with macaron, the way I had it once at the old place…

The only thing that matters…

If you were a teenager or in your twenties in the 70’s, you would probably know this rock band that took its name from a character in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. No, I was not into their songs, hits or otherwise, until I heard this one…

…which has remained a favourite of mine to this day.

Indeed, I was surprised to come across a contestant in a local talent show a couple of years ago named Uriah, pronounced you-rai-yah, and boy was he good! Of course he won in the end – the Astro Star Quest Chinese Singing Competition that year. This handsome young man…

Uriah See live in Sibu 1

…from Pontian, Johore whose mother, a piano music teacher, came from Sabah here in East Malaysia, went on to win the TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship in Hong Kong that same year, beating the best from China, the US, Australia, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand. Now that was quite an accomplishment wasn’t it?

I saw some fishtail banners along the roads here publicising his show last Friday and it was in the newspapers too so when my girl came home that afternoon, I asked her if she would want to go and watch and she did – this would be a welcome change from our usual routine, a chance for her to unwind and relax a bit after the dreary and gruelling week at her school…so there we were that night for his live performance at a mall…

Uriah See live in Sibu 2

…in town. Gee!!! The last time I saw a singer perform live at a mall was Singapore’s Tracy Huang way back in 1973 at one place along Orchard Road, just imagine that!

Uriah kicked off his show with the rousing theme song from the movie Ola Bola. I didn’t know this one, only this slower one by Sarawak’s own Zee Avi, that was on television day in, day out way before the movie was released – it was screened during Chinese New Year and by the time I was free to go and watch, it wasn’t showing anymore. That’s how it is here in Sibu. Those genres that I like will never get shown here and if they do, it will not be for long.

This was the very pretty and eloquent emcee…

Uriah See live in Sibu 3

…for the show and for his second number, Uriah did a really impressive cover of Josh Groban’s You raise me up

Uriah See live in Sibu 4

…followed by his rendition of John Legend’s hit, All of me

– one of the songs that he sang in the competition on television.

He also played the violin…

Uriah See live in Sibu 5

…when he sang his own original composition, The only thing that matters, the Mandarin version…

Incidentally, the  music video was filmed on location in Melbourne, Australia.

I was kind of disappointed he did not sing it in English…

– he penned the lyrics for this one himself, available online on amazon.co.uk…but never mind, we certainly enjoyed the one-hour performance that night. If he were to come for a full concert, I certainly would love to go and enjoy more of the very nice songs…

…from this very talented young man.

The party’s over…

My girl’s school took the day off on Monday for Chap Goh Meh – in fact, if I am not wrong, all the schools here had their cuti peristiwa (occasional holiday) on that day. No, they would not need to replace it on a Saturday. Every school is given four occasional holidays and they can use them for some cultural or religious festivals or events that is not a public holiday…and this was one of them for the year. I hear the next one will be on Easter Monday and Good Friday being a holiday here, it will be an extra long long weekend.

However, classes would resume the very next day so we had no choice but to send my girl back to her school on that very day which meant that we could not have our dinner on the actual night. She probably could have applied for one day cuti rehat khas (some special leave, not too sure what they call it in English now) – every officer is entitled to seven days in a year and may apply in the event of a marriage, a convocation or death in the immediate family and things like that but that girl of mine would not hear of it! She is always so serious in her work so taking leave is out of the question, even when she is sick. Tsk! Tsk!

That was why we had our Chap Goh Meh dinner a day earlier on Sunday night instead. No, we did not have anything special – just a simple steamboat dinner…

Steamboat dinner at home

…at home with all the usual stuff – fresh meat balls, fish balls, sweet corn on the cob, green vegetables and baby corn, quail eggs and so on…but I did go and get those big prawns to go into the soup. My missus also went and got some crabs…

Crabs

– RM40.oo a kg for these small ones and some scallops and sotong (squid) as well and I did get a box of New Zealand mussels and a bit of salmon too…

Others

My girl loves those imitation crab sticks which are definitely not my favourite, so the mum went and bought a packet. I think this was a wrong brand, not the kind that my girl enjoys so we ended up throwing all of them away.

It was raining all day that day but luckily, it stopped towards evening so I was able to catch a glimpse of the full moon that night…

The moon

…or almost. The next day was fine and sunny, lucky us, so it was a pleasant and enjoyable drive all the way to my girl’s school and back…and good grief! The firecrackers and fireworks started around mid-afternoon and went on and on and on into the night.

So Chinese New Year came and went and it was time to take down the decorations

Clean

Somehow it was so much fun putting them up while taking down could be so very tedious and tiring. Thankfully, it would be one whole year, more or less, before I would have to go through all of that again.

Seasons in the sun…

I am not really into fruits – most of the time, I’d just go for the common ones like bananas and papayas, none of those (expensive) imported ones that my girl loves very much.

In my younger days, we would look forward to the end of the year when those seasonal fruits would make their appearance and we would feast on those…and the doctors, not only the fruit sellers, would be the ones laughing all the way to the bank as the clinics would be packed with people coming down with coughs, sniffles, fever and all kinds of ailments. That would be the landas season, the time when the rain would come, bringing the flood…and we sure enjoyed ourselves swimming and playing in the water all day till we ended up all wrinkled like a dried prune. Those were the days – the times of our lives!

These days, I do not go for the durians…

Durians
*Phil’s photo on Facebook*

…anymore as after eating a lot, I would feel flushed or feverish. They say we can fill the shell with water and drink after eating the fruit and that would get rid of the “heatiness” though I have never tried…and yes, it does seem that they are no longer seasonal, not like before.

We just had a bountiful harvest around the end of last year right through to the new year though the fruits that time around were not all that good and the flesh was hard in places – they said it was because there was a flood and some said it was because of the prolonged haze. I would eat if somebody buys and gives to me but I would not go out to get my own (though my missus did go and buy some to make tempoyak, fermented durian – as there were so many and they were quite cheap around that time). I do enjoy the buah pakan/pakon, the wild variety…

Buah pakan or pakon 1
*Archive photo*

…though. They say this…

Buah pakan or pakon 2
*Archive photo*

…comes out after the season for the regular durians is over and true enough, we had a lot after the previous durian season. My missus loves these so she would go out and buy a lot and I would eat – I think it is not as “heaty” so I do not feel sick after feasting on these.

Too bad we did not get to see any durian flowers being sold or we would have bought some to cook…

Fried durian flowers
*Archive photo*

…and enjoy! I love those!

Dabais or what we call or kana (black olives) in Hokkien

Dabai

…used to be seasonal too but like the durian, after its round around the end of last year, we see a lot making their appearance at the market again going for RM18.00 a kg or RM20 for some bigger ones. There are cheaper ones as well but I guess those would not be so nice. I only like these if they are very fleshy and very lemak (rich, this being an oily fruit) and yes, the ones my missus bought the other day were very good.

She also bought some lenggeng, the yellow variety…

Yellow lenggeng

…at RM10.00 a kg. Some people prefer these as they say they are more fragrant than the green ones…

Lenggeng, green

…but I prefer the latter as they are fleshier and not as sweet. These are also called mata kuching (cat’s eyes) and it belongs to the longan family, if I am not wrong and like the rambutans as well, they are also “heaty” so one should refrain from eating too much in one sitting.

I don’t think these jambu air or chui jambu in Hokkien…

Jambu air
*Phil’s photo on Facebook*

…are seasonal – there are people around here planting some hybrids of the fruit and we seem to get them all year round. I am not a fan of those and especially at those prices that they are selling them for these days, I would not bother buying, not at all.

When I was young, we had a tree in our garden. I never did like them nor those hard-as-a-rock green guavas, the smaller local variety with the pink flesh inside and a lot of seeds and the much bigger what-they-called the Jee pun jambu (Japanese jambu) that my mum also grew. We would eat these jambu air with those serng boi (preserved sour plums) or asamboi

Asamboi

…or we would make our own dip of soy sauce, belacan (dried prawn paste), sugar and chili. We also had a tree of another variety of the jambu – the round red ones that looked like apples or what they call the jambu bol or Malay apple – I quite enjoyed those.

These are seasonal too – the buah engkala or what we call bua’ terbulus

Bua' terbulus

…but I don’t think it has made its appearance this time around after the fruit season around the end of last year. I do enjoy these and I sure would want to buy if there are any good ones at the market.

Well, with our economy in pretty bad shape, I guess it is good that these fruits, including the wild ones,  are available for sale – it sure would help those people tide over these troubled times in the hope of better days ahead:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
Truly, God is merciful…