Not like before…

Today, the 12th of July, 2018 marks the 1st Anniversary of my dad’s passing from this world. We shall be making our way to our girl’s school in the jungle this morning and on the way back, we shall stop by his resting place to offer flowers and prayers and tonight, there will be prayers at the house together with our relatives and friends.

Things are certainly not like before any longer since he and my mother left us. In the past, my girl would come home on Friday afternoon every week and on Saturday morning, we would go over to the house to spend some time with my mum – she, of course, was always delighted to see her dear grand-daughter. In fact, all week, she would be asking about her. Sometimes, we would take my father out for noodles or wherever he wanted to go.

Usually we would stop by somewhere for lunch before coming home but we do not do that anymore. My girl would come home as usual on Friday and she and the mum would go out to buy stuff- her rations for the coming week and we would have dinner at home that evening and breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day, Saturday as well. We would go for the sunset service in church that night and the next morning, the mum would cook up a storm in the kitchen – all the things that the daughter would enjoy to just heat up and eat in the course of the week ahead.

Last Sunday morning, when I woke up, I could detect the wonderful fragrance of something cooking – it was her beef stew in the slow cooker, left overnight and no, she didn’t stop there. Instead, she went a step further and covered it with mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and mozarella cheese and put it in the oven to bake. We had her very nice version of the cottage pie…

Missus' cottage pie

…for our early lunch that day before we left the house to send our girl back.

Yes, we sure enjoyed it a lot…

Beef stew filling

…and the beef, after the whole night in the slow cooker…

Beef

…was tender and very much to my liking.

She also made this pumpkin & sweet potato soup…

Pumpkin & sweet potato soup

My girl enjoys these thick, rich and creamy soups so the mum makes them quite frequently for her to take along to her school too.

This pie, an individual serving of it…

Cottage pie, individual serving

…was specially for her to take with her that day.

I would say Sunday is pretty much the same as always but not our Saturdays these days and we sure do not eat out all that much anymore, not like before.

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On this day…

I cannot recall when we actually went out for dinner on the actual day for Father’s Day. It is on the 3rd Sunday in June every year and my girl would have gone back to her school in the jungle by then and we  can’t celebrate it a night earlier as on Saturday, we would usually go for the evening service in church.

This year is a little different as the ministry chose to push the mid-year holidays till later to include the Hari Raya Festival, never mind that the ethnic races in Sabah and Sarawak were left in the lurch as their Kaamatan and Gawai festivals used to be right in the middle of the holidays every year around the end of May till the beginning of June so they did not get to enjoy the luxury this time around.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining – Father’s Day happened to fall within the two-week holidays so finally, we were able to go out for dinner on the actual day to celebrate and I was asked to choose the venue and no prize for guessing which one I picked…

Payung Cafe by night

For this special occasion, they had these arrangements of leaves…

Payung Cafe table centrepiece

…on every table but personally, I think I would prefer their little bowls of frangipani and other simple flowers floating in some water and their little lights…

Payung Cafe floral & light decor
*Archive photo*

…that would help create the very pleasant and lovely romantic ambiance that places this place a cut above all the rest.

My girl brought her own pasta as she wanted the spaghetti with their very nice original beef bolognese sauce (RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe beef spaghetti bolognese

…and yes, she enjoyed it very much.

When we did that the previous time, we were given a discount of RM7.00 but they were so very very busy that night – there were so many people and one of their staff did not show up for work and my girl did not ask for it when she went to pay the bill. Of course, it did not matter, not in the least – after all, they are such nice people and what is a few ringgit between friends plus we always get some very “special” treatment everytime we drop by here.

I decided to go western as well since my girl was having the spaghetti bolognese so I chose their butter chicken spaghetti (RM19.00)…

Payung Cafe butter chicken spaghetti

I had that before and yes, I did enjoy it then but I suggested deboning the chicken when serving it with pasta as opposed to when it is served as a dish with rice. They did say they would do it but they have not done so – maybe it is not so convenient to cook the dish in two different ways, one with the bones and the other without.

Following our footsteps, the mum picked their chicken chop (RM25.00)…

Payung Cafe chicken chop

…and I also ordered their mashed potatoes (RM8.00) and mushroom soup (RM6.00)…

Payung Cafe mashed potatoes & mushroom soup

…to share.

For our dessert, we had their Kahlúa ice cream (RM10.00)…

Payung Cafe Kahlua ice cream

Normally, there would be two or three of those long cylindrical wafers stuck into the ice cream but those would not be gluten-free so I asked them to leave those out.

Despite the crowd, service was prompt and we did not have to wait too long for our orders. However, I must say that I felt exhausted just watching them rushing here and there to take the orders, cook the food and serve – I certainly would not have the stamina to last very long if I were in their shoes. I think as far as possible, I would prefer to go on nights when they are less busy, with time to spare for a bit of chit-chat and other niceties and I can get to enjoy the scrumptious selections on their menu in a more relaxing and conducive environment.

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

Get together…

A very Happy Dragon Boat Festival (端午节[duān wǔ jié]) to all celebrating this auspicious occasion in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

I guess by now, many would have made their own or bought those traditional  chang/zongzi (meat dumplings)  to enjoy. I was so blessed as my friends made their own that day and sent some to my house and without fail, like what he would do every year, my dear friend, Richard, made his out-of-this world nyonya chang

Nyonya chang from Richard

…and gave me some too. Thank you so so much, all.

Every year for many years now, without fail, I would blog about the ones Richard gave me and I think I also shared the photos on Facebook and my cousins in Kuching were green with envy, One of them said, “Anay ho mia!” or so very lucky, literally meaning “such a good life” as I was able to get to enjoy the nyonya chang from someone in Ah Hiok Ee’s family. Ah Hiok Ee (Auntie Ah Hiok) was a close family friend renowned locally for her cooking and baking – my mum would buy her cookies for Christmas or Chinese New Year and I would be sent on my bicycle to go and collect from her house.

Well, my cousin was in luck this year as they were in town when Richard sent his much-coveted dumplings over and the instant she saw my photos on Facebook, she asked right away, “Any more tomorrow?” They had planned to drop by my house in the afternoon the following day to just sit around, chit chat and gossip and what not.

When I was young, my mum would cycle to my maternal grandma’s house in Kampung Nangka here and she would always let me tag along. She and her mum and sisters (my aunts) would sit on the floor, chewing sirih (betel nut leaves) and buah pinang (areca nut)…and roll their own tobacco in the very very thin paper made for the purpose and smoke. They would talk and laugh while I just sat by the side and listened to their interesting exchanges. Somehow or other, I  did not find it boring, not at all.

Come tea time, they would brew a pot of coffee, Mui Hock, no less, and they would take all kinds of things out of the cupboard, tins and containers for us to eat and enjoy. There might not be anything really special since those visits were usually made unannounced but somehow or other, even the cream crackers or loti kaben (Cabin crackers, now Osborne) tasted so good when shared in such delightful company.

I loved it when they had the salai ikan (smoked fish) or prawns that we would eat with sagu’ (sago pellets) – my maternal grandma was a Melanau and without fail, they would have that in the house…and we had some kind of tea along those same lines that day when my cousins from Kuching dropped by my house.

Of course, I had to serve them Richard’s nyonya chang

Sharing Richard's nyonya chang
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…just two (Hehehehehe!!!), cut up to share so there would be enough to go round and boy, they absolutely swept them off their feet.

They praised it to the skies and were so very impressed that the meat was cut into tiny cubes, not minced meat from the blender or bought from the market and also by the winter melon added, cut into minute cubes as well…

Richard's nyonya chang, inside

It certainly was a labour of love  on Richard’s part and it sure paid off…and of course, his were bigger and there was a whole lot more meat filling than any that one can dream of when buying the ones commercially made and sold in Kuching, Singapore, Malacca or anywhere else, for that matter.

Unlike at my grandma’s kampung house, I did not have much to offer so I went to the shop round the corner and bought these Foochow traditional delights, the ma ngee (horse’s hoof)…

Ma Ngee
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…and yes, they agreed that the ones available there in the afternoon were pretty good and we also had our Sibu Foochow shortbread, the Pek Guek Tong Chiew pia, those traditional Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits.

However, even though limited compared to what we would get to enjoy at my grandma’s house – why, I did not even have Mui Hock coffee, only Nescafe – it sure brought back fond memories of those wonderful days in the years gone by. The world has grown smaller, they say but never have families grown so far apart compared to those times in the past – on my part, I was glad to have some time to spend together with my cousins that day, just like in the good old days…or almost, at least and I look forward to any opportunity to do something like this again. As the lyrics in the children’s song go, “The more we get together, the happier we will be!

New found love…

First and foremost, allow me to extend my greetings on this very special and auspicious occasion to my dear and loved ones in the family and also to all my friends…

Hari Raya 2018

Tangan dihulur, maaf dipinta
Erat hubungan sesama kita
Semoga gembira di hari yang mulia ini
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Maaf zahir dan batin.

Earlier this week, Monday, the 11th of June was the 100th Day of my dear mum’s demise and this coming Sunday is Father’s Day so other than the prayers together with our relatives and friends at the house that night, that morning, we made our way to the memorial park…

Nirvana

…bringing flowers and to offer some prayers…

100th Day/Father's Day 2018

…before we made our way back to town.

We stopped by some place for brunch before sending my sis home and then we went to pick my cousins from Kuching at their hotel. It was near lunchtime by then and they wanted to go to the must-go not-to-be-missed place here so we took them there and we just had a bit as we were already quite full after the brunch we had earlier.

They wanted their favourite here, the belimbing prawns (RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns

…and Peter, the boss, was so very nice as always and went out of his way to cook specially for us this huge serving! The people at the next table saw it and said they wanted that too but of course, their serving was very much smaller. I told Peter that if they complained, he could tell them that we ordered a double/triple. LOL!!!

They also wanted the otak-otak (RM13.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe otak-otak

…that they liked a lot and the jelly pisang (RM9.00)…

Payung Cafe jelly pisang

…which they served in a bowl so that it would be a lot easier to stir and mix everything together compared to having it in a tall glass.

I suggested ordering the Payung fish (RM15.00, with rice)

Payung fish 1

…the ikan keli (catfish) cooked in soy sauce with a bit of taucheo (fermented beans), garlic, ginger and lots of serai (lemon grass)…and chili too. Initially, they were somewhat reluctant for fear of being disappointed as we used to cook this ourselves at home and like how we would go to some nyonya restaurants and order dishes we can cook ourselves, we end up feeling shortchanged in the end.

In the end, they agreed so we had that…

Payung Fish 2
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…and it sure bowled them over – it was so very good and they enjoyed it to the max, finishing all the fish and the sauce leaving behind only the stalks of serai and what have you. That sure was a new found love at the very first bite and I am pretty sure that the next time they come here, they would want to have that again.

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.

Too hot…

I finally went to check out the Ramadan Bazaar, the main one at the Sibu Town Square. Gosh!!! That one is really very big, so very many stalls, selling so many different kinds of food.

There are different kinds of barbecued chicken, the regular ones…

Ayam panggang 1

…and this one is a little special…

Ayam panggang 2

…but I can’t remember in what way now. There were so many things to see it was really mind-boggling!

There’s the ikan panggang (barbecued fish)…

ikan panggang

and you have the usual ikan bakar (grilled fish on a hot plate)…

ikan bakar

…and the sotong as well…

Sotong bakar

…and of course, there is the satay

Satay

…and oh my goodness!!! I could not believe my eyes when I saw them basking the meat on skewers with cooking oil using paint brushes!!! No, they were not those special kitchen brushes for egg-washing our pastries – they were the ones one would use to paint the house! And wasn’t there a scandal not too long ago regarding the hair used to make those brushes? Tsk! Tsk! The traditional way of using sticks of serai (lemon grass), bruised at the ends would give added fragrance and flavour to the meat – I certainly would not settle for anything else, much less those paint brushes!!!

One thing I noticed when I was there was the integration of the cultures here with stalls selling kampua mee and shumai/sio bee (meat dumplings – chicken, of course) and I think I did see a stall selling kompia and chu nu miang, if I remember correctly  and they even have this Hainanese chicken rice…

Hainanese chicken rice

…and I did see somebody selling the traditional ethnic Dayak ayam pansoh (chicken cooked in bamboo) too!

It was a blistering hot evening even though it was already around 5 and somehow the heat and humidity gets to a person and one would not have the appetite or the craving to want to eat anything. That was what happened to me, I guess so I did not buy anything in the end except this kelupis

Kelupis

…that I do enjoy with kaya (coconut jam)…

Kelupis with kaya

I have not seen this being sold elsewhere but for a while now, when I did get to see any, I noticed that the people had resorted to using nylon strings to tie the thing and since then, I have not been all that keen to buy any to eat.

Of course, there were all kinds of traditional kuehs, a lot of cucurs (deep fried fritters) and our renowned kek lapis (layer cake) Sarawak…

Kek lapis Sarawak dll

…and all the rest but other than the kelupis, none tickled my fancy.

I saw my friends from Sri Pelita there…

Friends from Sri Pelita

…and believe it or not, they had this HUGE cauldron of nasi biryani

Sri Pelita nasi biryani

…and according to the guy, that would be the amount they would cook every day…and every day, it would be completely sold out!!!

He also told me they had ayam berempah and I thought I would come back later to buy for our dinner that night and I also thought these prawns…

Udang galah

…at another stall looked really good, RM2.50 each and one could buy some to go with rice but after walking through the whole bazaar, I was feeling hot and uncomfortable and the thought of going back all the way to the stalls did not seem all that appealling so we headed back to the car and went on our way to have a nice dinner in a cooler and more conducive environment.

Not too soon…

It certainly was a pleasant surprise that evening when my friends dropped by my house to give me these…

Hokkien chang 1

What? It’s the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节[duān wǔ jié]) already? That’s the time every year when we will eat these chang/zongzi (meat dumplings) but these days, they are available all year round so one can enjoy them anytime, no need to wait for the festival to come around.

Theirs is the Chinese or what we call Hokkien chang…

Hokkien chang 2

…not the nyonya ones that my dear friend, Richard, would make and give me every year. My mum loved his a lot so I would always give her a few from the ones that I got – in fact, Richard, always so very considerate, would set aside some specially for my mum. Sadly, she would not be around anymore this year to enjoy those – if Richard will be making any and giving me some, that is.

Needless to say, these own home-made ones would be heaps nicer than those sold in the town. Those may taste all right but other than being rather expensive these days, the meat filling is hardly visible to the naked eye. When one makes one’s own at home, one can add chunks of meat…

Meat filling

…according to one’s heart’s desire and one has the prerogative, like my friend’s health-conscious missus who made these, to use only lean meat. I sure do not mind a bit of fat though – it makes the chang more oily and somewhat nicer and for those of you who are shuddering at the mere thought of eating pork fat, perhaps you should read this article – it is not as bad as you think. As a matter of fact, it is ranked among the Top 10 most nutritious foods, believe it or not.

There is a bit of shitake mushroom inside too and I could taste the delightful taste of hay bee (dried prawns) and true enough, I spotted one…

Hay bee

…in the dumpling. Don’t ever dream of finding anything of the sort in those commercially-sold ones.

I also love it when there is chestnut…

Chestnut

…inside and also one salted egg yolk but no, my friend did not add that.

The last time I bought one of those sold at the shops, I could detect the salted egg yolk taste but no, I could not see any evidence of its presence in the dumpling…and mind you, the ones with salted egg yolks cost a bomb! Needless to say, you would not catch me buying any anymore, never ever.

For one thing, I’ve noticed that these days, a lot of people here are using nylon strings to tie their chang and I am not too sure what harm that may cause to one’s health. From what I’ve heard, this traditional dried grass breaks easily so it is quite tedious to use but unfortunately, we all know that plastic is bad when used to serve hot food so imagine, these strings being boiled for such a long time while one is cooking the chang.

I googled to check the date and I found out that the Dragon Boat Festival will be on the 18th of June this year, three days after Hari Raya Aidilifitri, tentatively expected to fall on the 15th instant. It is not too soon actually – we are already into the 2nd week of Ramadan and soon the fasting month will come to an end and right after the Hari Raya festivities, the Chinese will be celebrating this festival so if you intend to make your own chang

Hokkien chang 3

…perhaps you should get down to it soon. Thank you so much to my thoughtful and generous friends for giving me some of theirs – I sure enjoyed them very much…and if there is anyone else who would like to let me try the fruits of their labour, rest assured that I would welcome them eagerly with my two hands wide open. LOL!!!

Two days in a row…

When we were at the Bandong Ramadan Bazaar on the 2nd Day of Ramadan, I did walk past this stall…

Eko Corner nasi kuning ayam berempah

…and the very nice and friendly lady caught sight of me. She could still recognise me even though we hardly ever get to meet except at this time of the year. She asked if I wanted her nasi kuning ayam berempah but I said it was Friday and we were not eating meat that day. Smiling away very pleasantly, she replied, “Tak apa! Datanglah esok!” (Never mind, come tomorrow!)  and that was what I did the very next day and of course, that meant that we were there two days in a row!

I did not take note of the price the previous day and when I saw that it was still RM5.00, the same since 2015, I must say that I was very surprised considering that everything has gone up in price by leaps and bounds since then. They seemed to have “downsize” somewhat though – the chicken rendang and the sambal options were no longer available so all one would get here would be their nasi kuning (yellow rice)…

Nasi kuning

…and their ayam berempah (chicken with spices)…

Ayam berempah

…and this tofu and long beans combo…

Tofu and long beans

…plus some sambal cili (chili dip).

When I ate it that evening, I was kind of disappointed as it did not taste as nice as before and looking at my old post, it seemed that they had some sambal tempeh then but not anymore. I added some of the tempeh left over from the day before and somehow or other, that brought it to a whole new level and I really enjoyed it after that.

This stall next to it…

Nasi kak wok stall

…seemed to enjoy brisk business but I did try their nasi kak wok once and no, it did not sweep me off my feet. However, it sure looked like they had a wide range of options one could choose from…

Nasi kak wok stall, menu

…now so perhaps, the next time I drop by this bazaar again, I would buy something from them to try.

While I was there, I saw somebody selling buah kurma (dates), boxes and boxes of them displayed on a table outside his little shop and they were all the celebrated Yusuf Taiyoob ones…

Buah kurma, Yusuf Taiyoob

My friend, Merryn, seemed to love them so much and would feast on those come Ramadan every year. Even my girl knew of it – she said she saw the commercial on tv, the one with the girl whispering, “Yusuf Taiyoob!!!…Yusuf Taiyoob!!! I bought the moist-looking ones, those with honey – the rest were all on their tangkai (stems) and looked kind of dry so they did not appeal to me. I tried them after dinner that evening and yes, it was very nice and my girl loved them too so I packed some from the box (500 gm/RM13.00) for her to take to her school in the jungle and enjoy them there.

In the meantime, my missus went to this stall across the road from the nasi kuning ayam berempah and the nasi kak wok ones selling sotong bakar (grilled squid)…

Sotong bakar

…and ikan bakar (grilled fish)…

Ikan bakar

It looked like they only had ikan pari (sting ray) but that was fine with us – my girl likes it…so the mum bought a slab for her to take back to her school to eat in the course of the week.

The next day, on our way back from my girl’s school, we did pass by this Ramadan bazaar around 10 miles from town but it looked very crowded – there were so many cars parked till very far away alongside the road so we did not bother to stop by – after all, my main intention was to bring my girl around to see if there was anything she fancied and since she had gone back to the school for the week, there wasn’t much of a point then. Maybe when we go and pick her this Friday and if they are open already by the time  we are on our way back, we will go and see what they have in store this year.

THE BANDONG RAMADAN BAZAAR (2.314192, 111.825581) is located around the shops at Jalan Bandong and all along Bandong Walk, somewhere around the primary schools and the surau in the vicinity.