I couldn’t believe my eyes…

I had just finished my lunch yesterday so I went upstairs like what I would do every day for my afternoon siesta. However, before I could doze off, I heard a car stopping at our gate so I got up and went to the window to have a look.

I saw a young man passing a HUGE box…

…to my missus.

I quickly went downstairs to see what that was. “It’s from Noodle House lǎo bǎn/老板 (boss)…

…the guy said,” my missus told me.

Gosh!!! “That must be from Anthony of Nica Plus,” I said. He gave me this awesome gift of gelato mooncakes and gelato for the Mooncake Festival in September last year.

I opened the specially-designed gift box to look at what was inside and I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw all those packs of awesome pre-marinated ready-to-grill/cook dishes that he had given me.

There were two packs of this rosemary & garlic lamb…

…and two of this kambing perap istimewa (special marinated lamb)…

…as well.

There were also two each of the teriyaki chicken wings…

…and two of the honey chicken wings…

Other than the aforementioned, there was a pack of kung pao chicken…

…and these Malaysian delights, the beef rendang

…the daging masak hitam

…and the curry chicken…

…and there were two bottles of their own-made sambal

…some more. Gosh!

Like what I said when I shared these photographs on Facebook, “I must have done a lot of good deeds in my previous life to deserve all these awesome pre-marinated goodies!” Now, it sure looks like we do not have to cook anything for our reunion dinner anymore – we can just pick what we like and grill and serve…and I am pretty sure there will be some that we can keep for Chap Goh Meh as well.

My friend, Yan, commented on my Facebook post. She said, “Just hopped over. Very reasonably priced!” She must have checked out their post on this on their Facebook page – the CNY 2022 Family Prosperity Set is only RM168 and all that I got (minus the two bottles of sambal) is their CNY 2022 Family Premium set, RM228 only. Wowwwww!!!! I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with my friend, so reasonably priced indeed!

Honestly, I really can’t thank you enough, Anthony Ting, for your very generous gift for Chinese New Year. May you and all at Nica Plus, Nica Gelateria and Noodle House be abundantly blessed with lots of happiness, good fortune & prosperity in The Year of the Tiger!!! Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!

NICA+ or NICA PLUS (2.296883,111.825859) as it is called, is located at No, 18 & 20 Lorong Intan 6, on the ground floor of the block of shops to the right of the Old Sing Kwong Supermarket (Kin Orient Plaza) along Jalan Tun Abang Hj Openg, directly below the Kimchee Korean Bar.BQ restaurant on the first floor. For orders and inquiries, please WhatsApp Nica Plus https://wa.me/60167945449.

Don’t wait…

I dropped by Payung Café the other day because they have started taking orders for Chinese New Year…

…and like what I’ve done in previous years, I wanted to book some of my favourites here. If you’re thinking of doing the same, don’t wait! Do drop by to place your orders or call them. I simply cannot understand why one would want to slave for hours/days/weeks in the kitchen when one can just go and buy something just as nice or perhaps, ever nicer.

Their decorations for the forthcoming festival were up already…

…and of course, you can get to see those delightful floral displays…

…at every table.

I was feeling a little hungry but it was Friday so I was not able to order their meat dishes plus I only wanted something light, a pasta dish perhaps. I was tossed between their belimbing prawn spaghetti or their tom yam prawn spaghetti and in the end, I settled for the latter…

The former will have to wait till another day and anyway, we just had it, minus the pasta, not too long ago.

I am sure if you take a look at the serai (lemon grass), the lengkuas (galangal) and the daun limau perut (kaffir lime leaves) in the dish…

…plus the onions and tomatoes, you can jolly well imagine the fragrances of all these contributing to make this dish…

…so absolutely awesome, to say the least. Elsewhere, they probably would just use the bottled tom yam paste to cook something for you, as simple as that.

While I was waiting for my order, Andy passed me this…

…to munch. He probably got them from one of his girlfriends – it seems that a lot of people like to make these tidbits for Chinese New Year and if I am not wrong, these were chicken or prawn floss in wanton skin, tied into a knot and deep fried.

I told him what I wanted and paid for my orders in advance. I said I would collect them in the afternoon of Chinese New Year’s Eve and take them home, still warm so we could enjoy them for our reunion dinner straight away, no need to go through the chore of warming them up first. I don’t know how much the tom yam prawn spaghetti was (probably RM17.00) because the very nice guy insisted that it was on the house.

Incidentally, according to Andy, they will be open that night (and throughout Chinese New Year) so if you are looking for a place to eat (or hang out) – I guess most places, Chinese restaurants especially, will be closed – you can always drop by here. In fact, you can even arrange to have your reunion dinner here but of course, at a time like this, you will have to limit the number of people and sit at least one metre apart, unlike that time when I had mine in the afternoon of Chinese New Year’s Eve with my in-laws here. It sure was good and won the praises of all and sundry!!!

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.

Quiet celebration…

The other day, Thursday, the 13th of January, was my sister’s birthday so of course, we had our longevity noodles, the mee sua

…in the traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup. She got this very nice free range kampung chicken so it was kind of skinny and small but no worries! There was more than enough to go round = there were not that many of us.

Usually, in the past, she would celebrate her birthday at some place outside and she would also invite some of her friends. With all the SOPs and physical distancing, a maximum of 5 per table, one metre apart and what not, we told her to go ahead – we would not mind sitting this one out but she said she did not plan on doing that. She said that she would just tapao a few dishes and bring them over to our house for a simple and quiet celebration.

I went out and bought this fresh mango sponge (RM48.00)…

…for her from this bakery near my house so we could have the usual birthday wish and cutting of the cake accompanied by the singing of the Happy Birthday song.

For the food, my sister went to this restaurant where she celebrated her birthday in 2020 and bought this awesome crab platter…

Gosh!!! It had been so very long since the last time we had this crustacean and boy, we really enjoyed ourselves to the max.

My girl did mention to her aunt that she would prefer sotong (squid)…

…to prawns so there was this fried squid dish with mayonnaise that looked somewhat pale but it tasted great.

We already had mee sua that morning so she opted for their Foochow fried noodles…

…for a change and yes, they did it pretty well too.

The aforementioned birthday cake turned out really good…

…with the fresh mango cubes and the fragrance of mango in the sponge and the fresh mango cream. I loved it a lot but I had to confine myself to just two slices to avoid an overdose of sugar.

I also took out these lovely kek lapis slices…

…that I bought from this bakery here. Obviously, these are samples of the variety of layer cakes that they have for sale for Chinese New Year. There were (going clockwise from the left) prune, yam, matcha/red bean, san cha (haw flakes), vanilla (the traditional Indonesian kek lapis) and in the middle, the expresso cheese.

I did not tell my sis that we would be having these cakes so she came bringing along these…

from here that she got from her helper.

I can’t remember the last time we had the double chocolate mille crepe…

– usually, we would go for the rum & raisin or the tiramisu but my girl loves chocolate and she insisted on having that instead of all the other cakes and yes, she enjoyed it immensely! We did not try the other one – my girl said that it probably was their salted caramel cheese.

There you have it! Our simple and quiet celebration of my sister’s birthday and needless to say, it was no less meaningful and we sure had a great dinner together and enjoyed all the cakes as well.

MJ HU SEAFOOD RESTAURANT(2.291971, 111.834740) is located along Lorong Mahsuri 2, the second shop on the left after Kuching Cafe, opposite Bateras Supermarket and C&C GALLERY (2.311247, 111.846177) is located at No.24, Lot 62, Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai among the shops in Pusat Pedada at the extreme end of the block of shops to the right of Delta Mall, back entrance while LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) is located along Jalan Ruby in the same block of shops as Kim Tak Co., right next to Ah Kau Cafe at the end of the block to the left and NICA+ or NICA PLUS (2.296883,111.825859) as it is called, is located on the ground floor of the block of shops to the right of the Old Sing Kwong Supermarket (Kin Orient Plaza) along Jalan Tun Abang Hj Openg, directly below the KIMCHEE KOREAN BAR.BQ restaurant on the first floor.

12 days of Christmas…

The postal service here is absolutely atrocious, so much so that many have resorted to sending ordinary letters and cards via courier service, not that it is any better plus it is so very expensive even though it is just within our own country. Of course, it is even worse these days as it has been raining quite a lot here and on rainy days, the postman will not be going round at all. Obviously, he will melt! Tsk! Tsk!

My cousin, Yvette, in Perth, Australia who, without fail, will send me a card every year, was saying that hers must have got lost along the way seeing that I did not say anything about receiving it. Well, thankfully, at long last, the beautiful Christmas card…

…finally arrived on Tuesday, the 11th Day of Christmas. In her own words, it made it just in time, still within the 12 days of Christmas.

This is what it looks like, inside looking out…

…through the very intricate festive paper cutting and just like the one she sent me in 2017

…this one is also in aid of a good cause…

I love buying and sending cards that are in aid of some charity like the ones by the Mouth and Foot Artists. – I do get those from them regularly and of course, I would send them a cheque or pay them online.

Thank you so much, cousin Yvette, hubby Steven and all loved ones in Perth, Australia. I hope you all had a Blessed and Joyful Christmas and a Wonderful New Year and here’s wishing you all Kong Hee Fatt Choy/Qong Xi Fa Cai, a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year in advance.

Remember how we started…

I do remember that New Year’s Day last year (2021) fell on a Friday so we had Bovril mee sua instead of our usual – the longevity noodles served in traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup to start off the brand new year.

Well, this year, it was on a Saturday but no, we did not have it first thing in the morning as usually, I am the only one in the house who gets up at the break of dawn. We had it…

…for lunch instead and yes, we did invite my sister to join us.

Incidentally, I came across this article online: New Year’s food traditions around the world and at No. 6 is soba noodles from Japan. According to the writer, “In Japanese households, families eat buckwheat soba noodles, or toshikoshi soba, at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the year gone by and welcome the year to come. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and the long noodles symbolize longevity and prosperity.

That sure sounds similar to our Chinese (Foochow) traditional practice of eating mee sua on New Year’s Day, something we would do without fail every year and also during Chinese New Year, as well as on birthdays, weddings, engagements and anniversaries.

Moving away from the mee sua, I got these bottles of sambal

…from my sis. She bought them from a friend who was selling these at a church fund-raising food sale in Kuching and she passed them to me to let me have a go. They are made at Kota Samarahan in Kuching, DOKU brand from the Doku Biotechnology Industries Sdn. Bhd. there (tel.: +60198880612).

I tried the sambal serai ikan bilis (lemon grass & dried anchovies)…

…on toast…

…and yes, I loved it!

However, I thought it was a bit too sweet, something like acar limau (lime pickle) so I should go slow on it…

…considering that I am on a low-sugar diet.

I did try the other bottle, the sambal with bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and it was not sweet, more to the savoury side but one may be put off by the taste and fragrance of the flower – I would say it is an acquired taste. We are used to it and actually, my missus prefers this one to the other.

She took it to cook this meat dish…

…that day and boy, it was really awesome, so very nice! It had that exotic taste typical of Thai or Vietnamese cuisines and we sure loved it a lot!

Now, there’s only half a bottle left – I wonder if these sambals are available at our local stores or not. Both do not have that unpleasant smell that I can usually detect in factory-made sambals, never mind canned or bottled – that is why I would not buy those as the smell puts me off. The only bone that I have to pick with these two is how come the ikan bilis (dried anchovies) in that first one is so black in colour.

Better like that…

We went out for dinner the other evening on New Year’s Eve so my missus could just sit and relax and enjoy the meal with the rest of us instead of slaving away in the kitchen the whole day and even after the dinner, there was all the cleaning and washing up to be done. I am sure everyone would agree that it would be heaps better like that.

Initially, I planned to go out to tapao our favourites from here, there and everywhere for the dinner but after our lunch that day, my girl was complaining that she felt thirsty the whole afternoon. My missus and I did not feel that there was a lot of msg in the dishes but perhaps, because we hardly add any, if at all, to our own cooking at home, she is no longer used to it. That was why I suggested going some place where they do not use so much of “the white stuff” and since my girl loves Indian cuisine a lot, we ended up here for our very delightful New Year’s Eve dinner.

The biryani rice from their authentic North Indian chef is my girl’s favourite; in fact, it is the only one in town that she enjoys.

We ordered this set (RM19.00)…

…with the awesome Indian butter chicken curry…

…and also the one with the gorgeous masala lamb curry (RM23.00)…

…for the four of us (yes, we asked my sister to join us) to share. Personally, I prefer the latter but my girl insisted that both were good.

Just in case the rice wasn’t quite enough, I ordered two pieces of naan (RM2.50 each)…

… that we could enjoy with the gravy in the aforementioned dishes or this aloo gobi masala (RM12.00)…

…that lovely Indian vegetable curry dish with cauliflower and potatoes.

At the same time, I also asked for the tandoori chicken (RM15.00)…

…to make sure there was enough meat to go round, and also their fried fish (RM11.00)…

I shouldn’t have bothered about the latter as it was just mackerel (bay kar/ikan tenggiri) coated with batter and deep-fried, nothing spectacular, nothing quintessentially Indian.

My missus wanted the tofu isi/stuffed tofu puffs (RM13.00)…

…from the Indonesian menu so of course, we had those as well. They were very nice with the tang hoon/glass noodles and whatever else inside…

…and we loved the crusty outside, best when piping hot from the wok, served with Thai chili sauce.

My girl had their Indian ginger tea while my missus had teh tarek (pulled tea) and my sister, their fresh soursop. As for me, I was so disciplined, obediently sticking to my low-sugar diet so I just asked for warm drinking water. The total for everything added up to RM124.50 and as always, the nice boss rounded it up and collected RM120.00 only from me.

We sure enjoyed the dinner especially when we had been craving for those Indian delights for so long now – the last time we were here was in April, I think.

The boss reserved for us a table in the inner section of the restaurant, with nobody else around. That was so thoughtful of him – he said that if we were to sit at the regular section, there might be other customers coming in so this way, it would ensure that there were no close or casual contacts with anybody else that evening. All this while, my girl simply refused to go out to eat but she was quite comfortable with the arrangement that night. I am pretty sure that if I were to suggest coming here to eat again, she would jump at the opportunity.

The CAFE IND (2.290813, 111.829294) is located along Laichee Lane, right behind one block of shops facing the main road (Jalan Kampung Nyabor) where the Bank Simpanan Nasional, Sibu branch (2.290561, 111.829071), is.

It’s been a year…

In my blogpost two years ago, I said that 2019 was “not too bad a year but looking at it now, after two dreadful years, it was truly an awesome year filled with smiles and laughter, so much joy, so much happiness.

I have not been all that well so these days, I do not do that much gardening anymore. However, I can say, in all honesty, that I am getting on all right just that I am now on a low-carb, low-sugar diet and I’m off smoking for good (I’ve gone off alcoholic drinks for years and years now) but I have to faithfully take the doctor’s prescriptions for this and that. Thankfully, my regular test results have been good, nothing to get overly worried about, praise the Lord.

This year, we haven’t been out and about all that much. Except for when we had to top up on our food supplies…

…and basic household needs as well as my prescriptions, we just stayed at home…

…most of the time. We confined ourselves to the shops in our neighbourhood, places near our house…

…that are convenient and not crowded, no traffic jam and easy parking and all and except for the few times when I went out…

…we just ate at home. Surprisingly, time went flying by even though nothing much ever happens, just our usual daily routine.

If the figures they give us daily are anything to go by, things sure have improved by leaps and bounds. Here in Sibu specifically and in Sarawak in general, we only have a single-digit total number of cases each day. Hopefully, it will stay that way even though we may not be completely free of the scourge. Nonetheless, we cannot go back to the way it was – we still have to #staysafe to #staywell, put on masks…

…when we go out, observe social distancing, avoid crowded places and stay home as far as possible, the so-called “new normal“. As soon as the borders were open, a lot of people were going here, there and everywhere but no, we chose to stay put – we are quite happy the way it is.

We did not start 2021 all that optimistically and no, I am not getting my hopes up too high for the year that is to come either. As the new year begins, let us say a prayer for the repose of the souls of our dearly departed, all our family members and friends who have left us last year and of course, I shall go on praying day by day that the Good Lord will continue to bless and protect us in the days ahead.

May He keep us safe always throughout the coming year, 2022…

…and for all it’s worth, a Happy New Year, everyone!

Used to be mine…

In the past, everytime we had popiah (spring rolls) at home, I would be the one doing all the work to prepare all the ingredients and cook them for the filling and also everything else. My missus did do it once but I would not say her version of it swept me off my feet.

Well, we had a popiah dinner once again that day for the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival and yes, she said she would like to give it a go once again. Come dinner time, everything was ready so we sat down to roll our own popiah to enjoy.

Firstly, I lined my popiah skin with lettuce…

…before I added some of the omelette that my missus fried and cut into strips…

…followed by my missus’ own-made chili and garlic blend…

…after which, I added the cooked filling…

…before adding some more of the chili…

…for that extra kick.

Last but not least, I sprinkled some kacang tumbuk (crushed peanut) all over the filling…

…bef9re rolling it up like this…

…and eating it. Yes, it…

…was very very nice!!! It tasted different from her previous attempt – whatever she did differently this time around sure did the trick! It did not taste quite like what I would usually come out with – perhaps, she followed some different recipe but I would admit it was good.

We just had popiah not too long ago and seeing how she can do it very well now, I sure would not mind letting go and leaving it to her to do it her way. LOL!!!

Nothing fancy…

We had dinner at home on Christmas Day this year, 2021, nothing fancy, just something simple for the three of us, plus my sister – we invited her to join us as well, so there were four of us altogether.

No, we did not have turkey as the ladies do not fancy the texture of the meat – like breast meat, they say so I went out and bought one pretty big chicken and my missus roasted it…

…and served it on a bed of roasted potatoes, carrots and celery for the dinner.

I do not know all those fancy names that the seller was telling me in Mandarin but this was supposed to be one of the better quality varieties of the poultry. I remember he pointed out to me something like a spur just above the claws at the back of the feet/leg.

This was supposed to be the stuffing…

…but my missus baked it separately and it came across like a cross between ngor hiang (meat rolls) and one of those gourmet sausages.

We had this freshy-made mushroom soup…

…that evening too. I did not know that my missus was going to cook that, otherwise I could have bought some baguette or garlic bread to go with it.

So as to include something a bit more filling, we also had this aglio olio spaghetti…

…with prawns and last but not least, we had this salad platter…

…with our family’s traditional dressing, following the recipe handed down a long long time ago by my late maternal aunt and there has not been any turning back since!

For dessert, my sister brought along this very nice blueberry cheesecake that her friend gave her…

…and the very intoxicating Christmas fruit pudding…

…that our cousin in Kuching made and couriered to her. They used to give me that too but I told them not to do so this year as I am currently on a low-sugar diet.

There you have it, our simple Christmas dinner this year! Now we have to start thinking about what we shall have on New Year’s Eve since we do not intend to go out some place to eat as no matter what, our minds are made up and we are #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome.

The hope for better days… 

It’s Christmas, 2021 today and for all it’s worth, a very Blessed and Happy Christmas…

…from us…

…here in Sibu to all of you wherever you may be. Joy to the world!

It hasn’t been a very good year, has it? Just like last year, we joined the church service online – we are still #stayingsafe #stayingwell and #stayinghome, nothing much else that we can do other than to hope and pray for better days ahead.

I did not send any Christmas cards this year. Last year, I had some stamps in the house so I was able to send a few to the older ones in my family. I did not have to enter the small and crowded post office – I could just drop them into the post box outside. I can’t do that this year as I do not have any more stamps even though I still have a lot of Christmas cards, the ones that I bought and also those from the Mouth & Foot Artists. Hopefully, by this time next year, I can get back to my routine of sending a card to all and sundry – I must say that I did derive a lot of pleasure from doing that.

I received this Santa door sign via courier service from my cousin in KL and earlier this week, this lovely Christmas card…

…came in the mail from another cousin of mine in Kuching…

…thank you so much to her for keeping me and my family in her thoughts.

And just when I thought I shall not be getting anymore this year, another beautiful Christmas card came in yesterday, the one in the first photograph above, just in time for the joyous occasion. Thank you so much to all of you too, Uncle Paul, Auntie Irene and cousins Sabrina, Imelda and Jude in Kuching. At a time like this, it sure means a lot to know that there are people some place somewhere who are thinking of us and wishing us well.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the 21st of December, it was the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival and everyone enjoyed eating the tang yuan (汤圆), the glutinous rice balls, that is.

I guess most people were having those colourful ones served in sweet syrup…

…and this year, I managed to get hold of a tub at our neighbourhood fruits and vegetables sundry shop in the next lane from my house…

…at only RM3.00 each. I never used to like these as they were always so chewy, so rubbery that they were very difficult to chew and to swallow, so much so that I felt like choking when eating the balls. However, these were really very nice – whoever made them did a really good job. I had no problem eating them plus the syrup had this lovely pandan (screwpine leaves) fragrance and was not really sweet.

At the same time, I also bought these…

…from the shop -the special flour mix and the crushed peanut.

I rolled the flour mix into balls…

…and dropped them into hot boiling water to cook. It is very easy actually – once, you see the balls floating up to the top, you would know they are ready.

I mixed the crushed peanut with a bit of low GI sugar in a bowl and once the balls were cooked, I fished them out of the water and drained them well before dropping them into the bowl…

…and coating them well with the peanut and the sugar.

All these years, somebody else would do the cooking, my late mum a long time ago and later, my missus or somebody would buy some from the wet market – I just ate. Of course I was mighty pleased with myself. I sure did a very good job…

…and everybody enjoyed the tang yuan that I made.

They say these peanut-coated ones are the Foochow version and I must say it is slowly gaining popularity – more and more people are saying that they prefer them like this. There is also the savoury Hakka version but looking at the photos, I am not sure whether I will like them that way, the plain chewy/rubbery balls and other ingredients in some clear soup. Well, if you have tried it before and you like it, do let us know in your comment below, thanks.

Well, New Year’s Day is just a week away. Fingers crossed, our prayers will be answered and our hope for better days ahead will come true! Let us pray!