Wrap…

The expression It’s a wrap means something’s finished or completed, over and done and has nothing to do with wrapping anything, presents…or for that matter, zhang/chang (dumplings) but yes, the festival aka The Dragon Boat Festival (端午節) or the Double Fifth Festival as it falls on the the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese Lunar Calendar though most will just refer to it as the Zhang Festival or the ciak zhang (eat dumplings) festival, fell on Thursday last week, the 25th of June, this year.

Come this time every year, everyone will be busy wrapping their own zhangs and going round asking whether everyone else is doing the same and they will declare that theirs is second to none. I do not know how to do it, wrap those dumplings and my missus insists she does not do it very well and will not bother – her late mum was the one doing it before and of course, the daughter would insist the mum’s zhangs were the best.   That is why we are left with no choice – we just have to go out and buy.

I was at the food and fruit shop near my house a couple of days before the festival and the place was flooded with zhangs. I did buy theirs to try before but no, they did not sweep me off my feet. I also bought some from the shop at the end of that same block and even though theirs were nicer, I did not feel they were so good that I would be going back there to grab some more.

The lady boss kept persuading me to buy these (RM3.50 each)…

From Swee Hung

She said that the lady would only make it once a year for sale and hers would not be available on normal days.

Yes, it was very nice with a lot of meat, bits of shitake mushroom and peanuts inside…

From Swee Hung, inside

…but my missus does not like zhangs with peanuts so she didn’t like it much.

In the meantime, I also stopped by the mini market among the Delta Mall area of shops and the lady said that the ones she was selling (RM4.00 each)…

From Puas Hati Mini Market

…were very good, not as good as the ones she used to sell before but that lady was unwell and not able to make any this year.

True to her word, it…

From Puas Hati Mini Market, unwrapped

…was very nice. I thought it was a little bit pricey but there was a lot of meat inside (unlike the RM2.50-3.00 ones that I bought elsewhere before) plus some shitake mushroom as well and if you were lucky, you would get a slice of pork fat too…

From Puas Hati Mini Market, filling

Personally, I did feel that the overall taste was nicer than that of the aforementioned one. Yum yummm!!! LOL!!!

My missus prefers these Chinese Hokkien (some people say they’re Hakka’s) like the ones she ate growing up but not me. I grew up enjoying the nyonya version that my mum used to make without fail every year.  Unfortunately, we cannot buy those nyonya ones here in Sibu, only in Kuching but every year, without fail, my good friend/ex-colleague, Richard would make his own and he would never fail to give me some…

Richard's nyonya changs

…to enjoy, thank you so so much, Richard! You’re the best!

Really, it is so very thoughtful and sweet of him to remember me year in, year out. His are always perfect outside…

Richard's nyonya chang, wrapped

…and inside…

Richard's nyonya chang, unwrapped

…and the taste…

Richard's nyonya chang, inside

…is simply out of this world.

Previously, I would always give a few to my mum – she loved these nyonya zhangs too but since she had passed on, I gave them to my sister and she loved them. In her own words, “Richard’s nyonya zhang is truly very very good!” and that was from someone who has had enjoyed the Kuching ones…and even the ones from Katong in Singapore!

Well, now that we’ve eaten all the zhangs we desired and it’s over and done till next year, we can say quite appropriately, “It’s a wrap!”

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket. Kim Tak Co. and Ak Kau Cafe are located in the other block on the left while  PUAS HATI MINI MARKET (2.311748, 111.845507) is located at No. 12 at the corner of Lorong Taman Seduan 8 to the right of the block where Soon Hock & Chopsticks are located.

Wasn’t it good…

Yes, it was good, our dinner last Sunday, Father’s Day, but of course, it would not be complete if we did not have any dessert.

My girl made me this very nice baked Japanese cheese cake…

Melissa's baked Jaapnese cheese cake

…with a hint of lime for me on Friday but it was not very big and there was nothing left of it by the following day so I decided to go out and buy something we could have for dessert instead.

I dropped by this bakery because I could remember they had tiramisu made in individual servings so it would be quite convenient for me to just buy 4. Unfortunately, when I got there, there was nothing in the display cabinet nor in the fridge – they were all filled with cakes, cakes and more cakes for Father’s Day. The trouble was they were not labelled and there wasn’t anybody I could ask.

Another thing that pissed me off was there were a lot of people and there was no effort whatsoever to observe the SOP. Yes, there were lines on the floor and arrows to tell you to go one way and out the other way for social distancing, not that anybody seemed bothered about it. There was this loud woman who cut in front of me in the queue at the cashier’s counter to ask about something and I glared angrily at her – alarmed, she stepped back a bit but kept on talking in her shrill, high-pitched voice to the staff from a distance. Some people are simply so uncouth, NCAA (no class at all)!

I wanted to buy some dinner rolls too as my girl said she would not be cooking any pasta but I did not feel like walking around the small shop to look for those, not with that kind of crowd around, so I just grabbed some croissants (RM3.00 each)…

C & C Gallery croissants

…instead. I did buy the ones from here a few times before and yes, they were very nice – very flaky and had that pleasant buttery fragrance.

I still had not bought anything for dessert so I went to the bakery opposite. There were not that many people inside, maybe two or three besides me, and there were a whole lot of cakes in the display cabinet and the fridge here too. One very nice lady came up to me and gave her suggestions as to which I could buy even though most of them, if not all, were labelled nicely.

They had one baked Japanese cheese cake, with icing, but I thought it was a too big and in the end, I picked this one, their tiramisu (RM48.00)…

WeLove Bakery tiramisu

…which much to our delight, turned out to be really very good, nicer than the vanilla blueberry that I bought from this same place for Mother’s Day.

Well, when my sister came that evening, she brought along some cut fruit – papaya and this tub of ice cream, their almond pecan passion…

La Cremeria almond pecan passion

…and yes, it was very nice! All of us loved it! We all enjoyed the summer berries yogurt a lot that day and that prompted my missus to grab two more flavours after that – their hazelnut chocolate fantasy and their vanilla cashew delight but unfortunately, we were not all that impressed by the two – nothing that would make them stand out above the rest. Now, there is just the mint temptation that I have not tried yet and word has it that it is very good – I’ll surely grab a tub if I happen to see it at the shops.

As they say, all’s well that ends well! We sure enjoyed the desserts that night and to wrap up the great celebration, my girl went to that supermarket here that imports stuff from countries all over the world and bought me these shortbread and made-in-Poland cookies…

Shortbread & cookies from my girl

…to enjoy. Walkers, of course, needs no introduction and is getting MIGHTY expensive these days, Butterfingers from Australia are more affordable and just as nice. Needless to say, I shall have to nibble slowly to stretch these for as long as I can – they’re too costly to eat the way I used to, finished in no time at all. LOL!!!

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 and WeLove BAKERY, Pedada outlet (2.311098, 111.846125) is located at the corner shoplot, back to back with the Sugar Bun outlet in that area to the left of Delta Mall, Jalan Pedada (now Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai) while TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

Everything as planned…

Well, Father’s Day came and went and we had dinner at home to celebrate, everything as planned.

My missus marinated the rack of lamb the night before and roasted it in the oven for an hour or two…

Roast New Zealand rack of lamb

It was absolutely delicious, you take my word for it, served with roasted potatoes that my girl prepared, and it went so well with the mint sauce…

Mint sauce

…that the mum made using the leaves from the plants I planted in our garden.

The Aussie wagyu beef…

Aussie wagyu beef

…was somewhat disappointing though. It was dry and hard, probably the result of being cooked for too long. The next day, I took the leftovers, cut the meat across the grain into thin slices and threw it into the slow cooker, along with the fried onions by the side and also the roasted potatoes from the lamb dish and it turned out so so so good! In the end, we managed to finish all of it, nothing went to waste.

The half-shell scallops with garlic & vermicelli…

Half shell scallops

…were easy to prepare. We only had to steam it and yes, it was very nice especially with my missus’ blended chili and garlic and lime dip.

My missus cooked this mushroom soup…

Mushroom soup

…for everybody and I made some coleslaw…

Coleslaw

We only ate a bit of it though – there were simply too many things to eat and since it could be kept in the fridge to be eaten slowly, we went for the Ceasar salad…

Ceasar salad

…that my girl made instead. I bought a bottle of Ceasar salad dressing, made in Taiwan, from a supermarket here and it was quite nice.

There were croissants and cake and ice cream for dessert but those will be in tomorrow’s post. You’d stick around, wouldn’t you?

Our turn now…

Well, it’s our turn now – today, the 3rd Sunday in June is Father’s Day. The mums already had their turn on the 2nd Sunday in May and we had a simple steamboat lunch at home to celebrate the auspicious occasion. My girl insists on some kind of celebration today but no, we are not ready to go out for lunch or dinner yet so we will have to come out with something ourselves at home.

Now that they have relaxed the lockdown somewhat, I guess we can have it in the evening – as always, we are inviting my sister to join us and she will be able to go home after that. Before this, everyone would have to be home and must stay home by 7.00 p.m.

We loved the Aussie wagyu steaks that we had not too long ago…

Aussie wagyu steak

…and even though we have finished the three packs that I bought, my missus did manage to grab a few more from another place and we still have some in the freezer. I am not all that keen on having individual steaks again so I am suggesting grilling two slabs only  and cutting the meat into small bite-size pieces for us to share and we can have something else at the same time.

I went to that place that sells all the frozen stuff and bought these…

New Zealand lamb

– one rack of lamb (RM57.04), lamb foreshanks, two in a pack (RM20.71) and a pack of lamb shoulder chops (RM24.47), all New Zealand grass-fed and I told the ladies to pick one and cook for our dinner.

We had the lamb rack in September last year and it was very good…

New ZEaland rack of lamb

…so I think we shall have it again. We did have the lamb shanks not too long ago, for our Christmas dinner.

I also bought a dozen of these scallops (RM12.99 for half a dozen)…

Scallops

…and we can serve those as well.

I’m thinking of having a pasta dish too and of course, we shall be having a salad or two. At this point in time, we have not decided yet what we shall have for dessert. We’ll see! I guess there will be enough to go round and we shall not be going to bed hungry.

A VERY HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all you dads out there! Hopefully, we shall all have a delightful day – after all, it only comes once in a year. Cheers!!!

Safe at home…

Sunday was 1 Syawal, Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Every year, my cousin and his family would invite all of us to his open house but unfortunately, under the current circumstances, we felt it would be best to just sit this one out – #staysafe #stayhome. Hopefully, we can go back to our usual routine next year. We had a lot of leftovers in the fridge that morning so I insisted that we finished everything and we would decide later what we would have for dinner.

We have not been going to church at all ever since the MCO/partial lockdown started in mid-March but we have been following the services online – we usually go for the ones from the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore. I don’t know whose voice that is but he sounds like Brian Richmond from the good ol’days of the infamous Patrick Teoh, Bernard Salosa and all the rest.

Well, that day, we participated in the service at around 12.00 noon and halfway through, my brother-in-law dropped by. One good thing about these online masses is you can click PAUSE and continue when everybody is ready. My missus went out to see and jokingly, I told my girl, “God has sent us our dinner!!!” True enough, he brought us some of the things that my sister-in-law’s Malay friends gave her for Hari Raya.

There was kelupis (glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves) and peanut satay sauce…

Kelupis & satay sauce

…and roti canai and chicken curry…

Roti canai & chicken curry

…and there were these very nice cakes too…

Cakes

My friend, Cikgu Siti, must have given my sister some kelupis too and she gave us one…

More kelupis

She also sent over some of the stuff from my aforementioned cousin and his wonderful wife. There was this chicken curry and some fried noodles…

Mee goreng & more chicken curry

…and ketupat lemak and some cakes as well…

Ketupat lemak and more cakes

…and this fried popiah rolls and maruku combo…

Fried popiah & maruku

…which was so very nice that by the time I was ready to take the photographs or everything, this was all that was left!

We could not share the joy of the festive season in person but we sure can celebrate together in spirit. Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri Maaf Zahir Dan Batin to one and all! God bless always in the year ahead!

I can’t believe my eyes…

Way back in the 80’s, before my girl came along, my missus and I went on a tour to the countries in the Far East – Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. One of the places we went to in Japan was Kobe and we were told that we must not miss eating their Kobe beef – they said it was so very nice, so very tender and came from cows fed with beer! It was not cheap, of course, but we tried, anyway, though I do not recall it sweeping us off our feet.

There also seems to be a lot of excitement around about angus beef too (often misspelt, it seems). They have that here

Bistecca & Bistro sign
*2014 photo*

…still, I think but I have never ordered that as it does not come cheap – this small piece of air-flown Australian beef sirloin with truffle pumpkin mash…

Beef sirloin

…that I had at another place, since-closed-down was a whooping RM42.90 and it wasn’t even angus! Thankfully, that was a special treat from a friend.

Then, wagyu came along and took the world by storm but I read somewhere that it is actually Kobe beef, nothing new! They were selling it at this since-closed-down supermarket

Country Grocer wagyu beef

…for RM60-RM80 a piece, palm size. Shudders!!! Of course, I did not buy any to try, no, thank you!

That was why I couldn’t believe my eyes that morning when I saw these…

Wagyu beef

…at the supermarket (that sells a whole lot of imported stuff) where I got my butter. A pack of two huge slabs selling for between RM20 and RM28.00, is unbelievably cheap! One slab is only RM10-RM14, around what you would have to pay at a coffee shop stall or one of those cheaper cafés and it is not even some very nice beef, dry and hard, as tough as leather and more often than not, drowned with bottled black pepper sauce, not something I would enjoy.

I shared the above photograph on Facebook and somebody commented that it did not look anything like wagyu. “Oh?” I responded, “No streaks of fat?” but he never replied after that. I went and goggled and got this…

Wagyu beef varieties

The one on the extreme right with those streaks of fat is UK’s WagyuFortnum’s Japanese wagyu, the middle one is purebred wagyu from Earl Stonham, also in the UK and the one on the left is crossbred from Ifor Welsh’s wagyu. I guess the Australian ones are more like the latter.

Of course I was thrilled and I quickly grabbed a few packs and headed home. That was on Saturday, May 16th – Teachers’ Day and I told my girl we would have that for lunch the next day. She asked if we could invite my sister to join us and I said, “Of course!” She contacted her and when she asked what the occasion was, my girl told her that it was to celebrate Teachers’ Day. LOL!!!

My missus did most of the cooking (except the mashed potatoes – my girl did that) and she read somewhere that the meat must be defrosted in the vacuum pack and must not be taken out till it was time to cook it. Normally, we would defrost any meat and marinate for a while before cooking. Well, that was what she did, just simply rubbed salt and pepper and some herbs (rosemary), no marinating, and pan-grilled the slabs with cloves of garlic in butter…

Pan-grilled Aussie wagyu

No, we’re no beef connoisseurs and did not bother about all that rare, medium rare and well done hoo-ha. My missus would never touch meat that is still red, not fully cooked and we were fine with it being well done…

Aussie wagyu, well done

When I had my first bite, I was stunned. It was so very nice, tender enough and the taste was absolutely out of this world – not quite like beef like I’ve always known it to taste like. Never mind even if it was like what that guy said – it did not look anything like wagyu, it was so so so delicious!

We had this mushroom soup…

Mushroom soup

…that my missus cooked as well and I bought these garlic buns…

Garlic buns

…from one of the bakeries in town.

My sister stopped by that same supermarket on the way to our house to buy this…

Ice cream

…which we had for dessert. It tastes like those fresh strawberry ice cream in New Zealand or Cameron Highlands, nothing like the regular supermarket strawberry ones…and this one is yogurt ice cream so it is on the sourish side. The ladies loved it!

After that most delightful lunch, I logged into Facebook to share a photograph of what we ate and I said it was so very nice that I would make my way back to the supermarket to grab some more of the beef! Unfortunately, a friend commented and said that after seeing my Facebook post, she went and bought the last two packs! Another said that when she saw it, she asked the hubby to go right away and grab a few packs. Another friend said he got two and another one as well…and I don’t know who else. Gee!!! No wonder it was all sold out so quickly!

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

Pass us by…

Mother’s Day falls on the 2nd Sunday in May every year and over the past few years, we would go out to celebrate a day or two earlier as on Sunday, we would be sending our girl to her school in the jungle and on the way, we would stop by my mum’s resting place to offer flowers and prayers. Well, obviously, we cannot do those things this year with the on-going MCO/partial lockdown.

Prior to the day, my girl asked what we could do to celebrate the special occasion this year and I said, “Nothing!” We would just let the day pass us by like any other day and she did not seem too happy with the idea. In the end, I suggested having a steamboat lunch as there were a few things in the freezer that we could use for that and that was exactly what we had…

Mother's Day steamboat 2020

We had some minced meat and fish paste for the meat and fish balls and my missus did grab two packs of those frozen stuff – one fish tofu stuffed with cheese (the golden cubes) and the other, those imitation crab sticks with something in the middle. I quite enjoy the former but no, I am no fan of those so-called crab sticks.

We were out of prawns as we used the last pack for our tom yam goong that day so I went out early in the morning to the nearby shop. They only had two packs left so I bought both and used one for the steamboat, size 4A, 18 prawns altogether and saved the other pack in the freezer for another day. I also bought a box of New Zealand mussels – there were quite a lot in it so we took out 10 only and saved the rest.

The other things I bought included tang hoon (glass noodles), some shimeji and eryngii mushrooms but my missus did not use the latter – she said we had too much stuff in our steamboat already and I did see some enoki mushrooms but I did not buy those as not too long ago, I read some not very nice news reports online about them. She did not want to include the block of tofu either so that too went into the fridge and of course, I managed to buy some khiew chai (curly vegetable) for a bit of green.

The clear soup from cooking the meat balls and also the fish balls plus the stock from simmering the heads, shell and what not from the prawns was so very good, very sweet and tasty.

I stopped by this bakery to buy their baked Japanese cheesecake but there was none available. The girl said I could order and collect that afternoon and of course, I did not want to do that. I noticed that their fridge was about to burst at the seams already with all the boxes of cakes that people had ordered. In their cooler cabinet, there were only a few choices available – a couple of chocolate cakes, one vanilla and yam and I bought this one…

WeLove vanilla blueberry cake

…vanilla and blueberry. Thankfully, it made up for its looks with its taste and it turned out to be quite good and my girl loved it!

I cooked some pulut hitam and served it with santan (coconut milk) for dessert…

My pulut hitam dessert

….following what this guy did in his youtube video. The thing was he said he cooked one cup of the rice, one serving for one person only so I cooked two cups so there would be enough to go round…and ended up with one pot full, enough to feed an army! Tsk! Tsk!

We had some other things too, just that I forgot to take photographs of them till after we had finished eating.

We invited my sister to join us for the lunch – she is my girl’s godmother – and she bought this so-called lakia mee (Dayak noodles) which is actually spicy fried noodles, dry with a lot of chili…

Happy Points lakia mee

from here. We had not had fried anything from anywhere since the lockdown started and boy, it sure swept us off our feet. We missed it so much!

My missus heated up some leftover meat patties that she made…

Meat patties

…and I also steamed the sio bee

Sin Kiaw sio bee

…that I bought from here some two weeks ago and kept in the freezer all this while.

That was indeed a very nice lunch and we sure enjoyed eating and bonding with one another and I must say I was glad we had something in conjunction with the special occasion in the end because in the course of the day, everyone started posting photographs of their stunning Mother’s Day meals (mostly home delivery, food ordered from somewhere). Everything looked so good, so impressive that it sure put what we had to shame. Ah well! As they say, something is better than nothing – it’s the thought that counts.

WeLove BAKERY, Pedada outlet (2.311098, 111.846125) is located at the corner shoplot where this coffee shop once was, back to back with the Sugar Bun outlet in that area to the left of Delta Mall, Jalan Pedada (now Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai) and HAPPY POINTS CAFE (2.310958, 111.831458) is located along Jalan Dewan Suarah, on your right as you are entering from Jalan Melur, two doors away from the Aroma Bakery so that makes it the fourth shoplot in the block while SIN KIAW CAFE (2.291287, 111.826611) is located along Ramin Way, the first shop on your right as you turn in from Jalan Kampung Nyabor, right behind the petrol station located at the bend.

Not going anywhere…

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers…and congratulations – you have survived the MCO/partial lockdown so far! Anybody going to give away their kids for adoption? LOL!!!

Of course we will not be going anywhere to celebrate, the same as when my missus celebrated her birthday that day, the 6th of May. We just stayed home, safe and sound but my girl cooked the traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup the night before so we could have mee sua

Birthday mee sua

…that morning and I boiled some eggs to go with it.

My brother-in-law and his wife stopped by later that morning and gave us a packet of mee sua (uncooked) and this traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup that they bought from some shop in town…

Traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup

…along with more curry puffs and a butter cake, the same ones as those that he gave us that day. The soup only looked red though – it wasn’t strong on the red wine, none of the very nice fragrance. They probably used the ang chao in the cooking.

That was all we had that day for brunch and for dinner – mee sua and egg. My girl did bake her this marble cake…

Marble cake with coffee liquer

…and upon the mum’s suggestion, she used coffee liquer. I thought it was o.k. but I would prefer chocolate or just coffee for the swirls.

A day or two later, my missus cooked this very delightful lamb curry. She used the usual AI Mountain Globe instant curry paste but she added a lot of ingredients to it. I saw her marinating the meat with curry powder and I heard her saying that she added cumin seeds and all those Indian spices and fresh tomatoes too. I got her the curry leaves and a few stalks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden but she said that she did not use the latter – no serai in the recipe she was following.

It turned out really nice, not quite like the Indian mutton curry that we used to eat here but when the gravy had thickened the next day, it made me think of the Bangladeshi lamb curry that I loved so much here. Sigh!!! I wonder when those favourite places of mine will reopen for business – it has been so long now, almost two months!

My missus also made some roti and though it was pan-fried though, not baked in a traditional stone oven, it did taste very much like naan

roti

I don’t know what recipe she followed but it sure went absolutely well with the curry…

Lamb curry and roti

As far as I can  remember, my mum used shortcrust pastry to make her roti bayee and she pan-fried it as well. However, unlike shortcrust pastry, she sure kneaded it a lot and even slammed the dough on the table – I think that was to get the air out. That was very nice too – perhaps one of these days, I can give it a try and see how it turns out.

My sacrifice…

It’s already the 2nd Friday in Lent today. The penitential season this year started on Ash Wednesday last week, the 26th of February, a day of fasting and abstinence for all Christians. This…

Lent

…may be of some use to anyone who would like a bit more information on what this is all about.

I remember in my growing up years, we would abstain from meat every Friday throughout the year and eat fish instead. Fish was bountiful and cheap in those days but these days, they are very expensive and may be considered a luxury so I would not consider it much of a sacrifice to forego meat for it or prawns or all kinds of seafood, for that matter.

Fasting way back then would mean porridge all day long and fish or salted fish which incidentally, does not come cheap these days either. Ah well! What is cheap these days? I do not have to fast anymore – senior citizens over the age of 60 are exempted but abstinence from meat is a must but anyway, I still try to fast the best I can.

Last Friday, I cooked this…

What I cooked

…for the family for our meals, something light for lunch and dinner. All of us skipped breakfast that morning but the general ruling is we would be allowed two light meals, the amount less than a regular meal on other days and come evening time, we could have a full meal for dinner.

These days, it is very easy for us as we can get fresh fish paste (frozen) from Jakar and Sarikei, mackerel/ikan tenggiri no less…

Fish paste

…and we can use that to make our own fish balls.

I bought some tau kua (bean curd cakes), cut them into halves and cut a slit in them into which I stuffed the fish paste and I deep fried them lightly for use. I used the rest of the fish paste to make fish balls and cooked them with a few cloves of garlic and tang chai (preserved vegetable) in water for the soup and after it had started boiling, I added the stuffed tau kua. I served it with tang hoon (glass noodles) and some khiew chai (curly vegetables) by the side, garnished with some fried sliced shallots and finely chopped daun sup (Chinese celery). I think they have salt and msg in the fish paste so I did not need to add any – the soup was salty and tasty enough.

We had a lot of leftover rice and my missus cooked some kim chi fried rice…

Kim chi fried rice

…for dinner and of course, my girl loved it! No, I did not touch it – I just stuck loyally to my tang hoon in tau kua fish ball soup.

I’m not sure what we’ll be having today but considering how times and things have changed, I do feel that instead of having fish, while abstaining from meat, one can abstain from say…using the smartphone or going online, things that we enjoy, for one day…or more.

The dance…

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva. It marks the night of the heavenly marriage and consummation between Shiva and Parvati and it is also the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance.

There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar on the 13th night/14th day, but around February/March, they celebrate the Maha Shivaratri which means “the Great Night of Shiva”.

No, I did not know all this but that night I was invited by my Indian friends, Andy and Varun, at Payung to a special thali (a set Indian meal) they were hosting to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Unfortunately, all the photographs that I took did not come out well except this one of the poori

Poori

…that we had, a deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour. It went very well with everything that was served on a banana leaf…

Special thali dinner
*Andy’s photo*

…and I even asked for a second helping, another two or three pieces, I can’t remember now.

There seemed to be two main dishes, one that looked like minced meat but cooked using black chickpeas, probably the kala chana curry and the other, the potato bhaji – you can see a bit of that in the above photograph. The other one that you can see in the photograph, top right, is the gajar halwa, an Indian carrot pudding served as a dessert along with the Indian rice kheer, a rice and milk dessert – both of these were slightly sweet, very slightly and I enjoyed them very much.

Varun made a vadai too, not quite the same as the ones that I am accustomed to. He said that was his first attempt as that is a South Indian delicacy and he comes from the north and he did say that they do not serve meals on a banana leaf there either as the plant is not common in the colder climatic conditions unlike the places in the south.

There was a soup using red beans, the bigger version and also an Indian drink that reeked of spices and ginger.

That certainly was a delightful and most interesting evening – we enjoyed the exquisite dinner and the pleasant company…

Thali dinner at Payung
*Andy’s photo*

Thank you so much, Andy & Varun, for inviting us to your celebration of this very special Indian festival.

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.