Ta-ta…

My girl made this frittata

…the other day. For the uninitiated, according to Wiki, a frittata is an egg-based Italian dish similar to an omelette or crustless quiche or scrambled eggs, enriched with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses or vegetables and according to allrecipes.com, it may be cooked stovetop or in the oven.

No, there was no meat in what my girl cooked that day – she baked hers in the oven. She did make it once before

…and I was of the opinion that it would be nicer with a bit of ham or bacon as in the case of quiches. I guess I’ve always been a meat person and no, she did not add any this time around either, just potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, cheese and egg…

I don’t know what she did differently but the colours sure looked nicer…

…than before.

On the whole, it was nice…

…very mild tasting. Perhaps she can try baking this in shortbread pastry next time for a change – I am quite sure the combination will bring the taste to a whole new level and personally, I do enjoy the crust in pies and quiches.

Wrong is right…

My girl was delighted when the mum told her that she would cook Sarawak laksa last Friday, our no-meat day. Usually, I would be the one doing everything but since she said she would do that, I just let her do it.

She did go out two days earlier as there were things running out in the house and she had to go and buy those. While she was at one of the neighbourhood shops, she simply grabbed one of the laksa sambal paste and it turned out that it was not the usual brand that I would always use. I always stick to the helang (eagle) brand but I’ve heard of people going for the parrot one.

The one that my missus bought was neither one nor the other but the label and the colours are more or less the same as the aforementioned two – I don’t know why they do that! It said A1 but there was no mention of where it was made, just that it was packed by this place here in Sibu. Well, since she had bought it already, she decided to go ahead and use it.

We had most of the ingredients in the freezer…

…so when I got up early that morning, I took them out to defrost – some of the prawns from the 5 kilos I bought that day and the mussels and seafood tofu, left over from our steamboat dinner last month.

My missus also bought some taugeh (bean sprouts) when she went out that day, a bit too early, I must say so I had to remove not only the tails but parts that had turned a little brown. I think those were what was left over from that morning so there were a whole lot of those short bits at the bottom that I just threw away. In the end, after blanching in hot water, there wasn’t all that much left…

…but that was more than enough – after all, we did not need a lot, just a bit for garnishing prior to serving.

I did go out that morning to buy the tofu puffs…

…that my girl seems to like a lot in her laksa. They do give those at the laksa shops and stalls here but no, you will never find anyone doing that in Kuching. It is just not a standard condiment in the dish.

I also bought some daun sup (Chinese celery)…

…that I chopped ready for use later and my missus fried some omelette and sliced…

…but she did not add any salt or msg so it was rather bland.

She soaked some bihun in boiling water to soften and soon, everything was ready. We put everything in a bowl…

…and poured the broth over everything and ate with the sambal belacan my missus pounded and a squeeze of calamansi lime juice…

Yes, it was very nice – the wrong laksa sambal paste that my missus bought turned out all right, after all. I sure would not mind using this brand when I cook this next time.

Scones…

The other day, my girl and her mum made these beauties…

…for afternoon tea.

That brought to mind one of the episodes in the Singapore hit comedy series where the very pretentious, class-conscious sister-in-law, Margaret, was going on and on about these traditional English culinary delights and that prompted Phua Chu Kang to ask the mother, “Ah Ma! What are scones?” LOL!!! This was probably before I went to Plymouth in the UK in 1994 but yes, I did know at the time what scones were, thankfully. I am quite sure, however, that I had never tried any before at the time.

If I remember correctly, the first time, maybe the only time, I had the opportunity to enjoy an authentic traditional Devon cream tea was when we were invited to one during our courtesy visit to the Mayor of Plymouth. It was love at first bite, that first time when I had those extra rich buttery scones with clotted cream and fruit jam. I had coffee, of course – all my life, I have always been a coffee person, not so much into tea.

We do not have any place serving that here, not then and not now…or none that I know of so upon coming home, I never had it again. I think I did see some at some bakeries…

…in town and I did try one or two but no, they came nowhere near. Probably they did not use butter and the texture and everything were not quite there. I never bothered to buy any of those pathetic ones ever again after that.

I did see some when I was in Auckland, New Zealand…

…but I did not order any to try and I did not get to try the ones at the English Tea House in Sandakan either but a cousin of mine in Kuching sent me two…

…very nice ones that were just like the real thing that I had in the UK – I sure loved them a lot even though I did not have them with clotted cream and fruit jam and I kept praising them to the skies. Seeing that, my very dear friend, since deceased, went and bought some…

…for me (in the paper bag) so I was able to have another round of those.

I came across this recipe on Facebook and I sent it to my girl but of course, I did not insist that she made some for me. The headline reads, “Teringin nak makan scone? Wanita tinggal di luar negara ini tunjukan cara. Rupanya guna 3 bahan. Mudah nak buat.” (Translation: Yearning to eat scones? Lady living overseas shows the way. Using 3 ingredients, it seems. Easy to make.)

No, they did not follow that recipe that day, my girl and her mum – they used another one that the latter stumbled upon from somewhere else and of course, we were elated that they turned out so so so good…

The texture was perfect – so crusty and crumbly and with the irresistible rich buttery fragrance, it was virtually impossible to stop at just one or two.

I did see them selling clotted cream once at that supermarket in town but no, we did not bother to go out of our way to go there and buy – they most probably do not have it anymore. We just had the scones with butter and the lovely no-sugar-added roselle jam…

…that my sister-in-law made and gave to us.

I sure enjoyed them to the max and the ladies were no less excited over their success. The fruits of their labour had turned out so well and they kept singing their praises. Hopefully, they will make some more sometime soon in the not-too-distant future.

Make it last…

It didn’t last too long, did it? I bought two small bottles of Bovril, the real thing with “high protein beef paste”…

…in May this year and when we had porridge the other day, I finished the second bottle. That did not even last half a year, it seems…and they did not come cheap, RM25.50 a bottle, over RM50.00 for the two.

I never took note of the price when I bought a bottle before but I can vaguely remember that it was always over RM20.00 each. I remember that one time in 2018 when there was a promotion and I got a bottle for only RM26.00…

…and that came with a small one valued at RM10.50 a bottle absolutely free.

Never mind what the price was, it was very difficult getting hold of any when stocks ran out. I usually got mine from one of my neighbourhood shops and when none was forthcoming and they told me about the ones available at a supermarket in town, I finally managed to grab the two small bottles that I mentioned earlier.

Not long after that, I was at another one of my neighbourhood shops and some guy came and asked if they had any Bovril and they said they had. Initially, he was reluctant to buy as they only had the big bottles (470 gm)…

…but since they did not have anything smaller, he bought one in the end.

I was at that shop again not too long ago and I saw that they only had a few bottles left (though there were still quite a number of bottles of Marmite) so I decided to grab one and store in my pantry. However, I don’t think there is any cause for worry anymore nowadays as I saw that they had fresh stocks at the other neighbourhood shop where I used to get mine before and somebody told me that unlike earlier in the year, it is easily available everywhere now, even in some pharmacies in town.

I wonder if they can get it in Australia now – that day when I shared something on Facebook, my cousin in Perth said that it was not available there, the vegetarian version…

– out of stock! The real beef ones have been banned for a long time now, she said – they have always been very strict about food imports, meat especially, Australia and New Zealand. Of course you will not find any beef in the list of ingredients, just yeast extract like in the case of Marmite but I am not too concerned as they have managed to ensure that the taste stays more or less the same.

They are still made in the UK…

…unlike many products that are now manufactured in Malaysia, MILO, for instance and many will tell you that it is not as nice as the Australian ones which, of course, are a lot more expensive.

Nevertheless, I was rather shocked to see the current price…

…these days. Gosh!!! No wonder they are kept in glass cabinets under lock and key in some shops and supermarkets. That is around £5 in their currency or AUD$10.00 – I wouldn’t know whether the people there would consider that affordable or otherwise.

We sure can feel the pinch here and seeing how the expiry date is not until this month next year, I certainly would not be so generous with it when I toss my Bovril mee sua

…or Bovril mee kua/mee sanggul

…or when I add some to my porridge to make it last for as long as I can.

KIM TAK MINI SUPERMARKET is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the left of the parking area – AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) and LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) are located in that same block to the extreme left and KIM WON CHINESE MEDICAL STORE AND MINI-SUPERMARKET is located on the left of the block of shops to the right with Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) and the Bethel Hair Salon at the other end.

Conditioning…

In my growing up years, whenever I fell ill, my dad would take me to see a doctor. To him, a good doctor would be one who would give an injection for instant relief and recovery. Shudders!!! Otherwise he would say that was a lousy doctor and he would never take me there ever again.

My mum would cook porridge for me to eat, mixed with either Bovril or Marmite – those were the days when we were a British colony, remember? She would fry one or chio (ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret)…

…tear the meat into bits and pieces and sprinkle them all over the porridge and there would also be salted eggs as well. That would be my diet everytime I fell sick so much so that on days when I was not sick and we had porridge, I would also feel that I was under the weather. If I am not wrong, in psychology, this is called behavioral conditioning – we studied about this in ELT (English Language Teaching).

I think this went on till my late teenage days when my friends and I would go dancing at the SRC (Sibu Recreation Club) after which we would go to the hawker stalls on the 1st Floor of the Sibu Central Market, opposite the Palace Theatre in between Market Road & High Street at the time, for supper and we would have porridge. I cannot remember what else we had with the porridge, just the plain fried kangkong (water spinach)…

…that we would order without fail. I wouldn’t know if we were so hungry after all that partying or it was really so very nice.

Years later, when I was living in Kuching, after our dances at places like the Jubilee Hall, we would head to this section of the Open Air Market…

…and yes, no prize for guessing what we had there. Porridge!!! LOL!!! Of course, by then, I had got over this thing about feeling sick everytime I had porridge. As a matter of fact, I actually developed a liking for it so to this very day, I sure wouldn’t mind having that at home on some days.

I blogged about having it for breakfast in the early morning here and also, here and it so happened that the other day, my missus said we would be having porridge for our meals. My girl was delighted – unlike me in my younger days, she enjoys porridge very much.

We had this dish of pork belly steamed with long kiam hu (the fermented salted fish) and ginger…

…and my missus also fried some salted vegetables…

…with marinated pork belly…

We had salted eggs…

…too but this batch was not so much to my liking – they were too salty. Thankfully, they were quite edible – sometimes, the salted eggs turned out so horrible, looking like agar agar in a sickly colour and they had to be thrown away.

I had my porridge with Bovril but actually, it would be nice enough with the sauce from either the pork belly or the salted vegetable dish. My girl enjoys her porridge plain, eaten together with the two dishes that the mum cooked but she did not touch the salted egg – I guess she is not into that so much. I did not see my missus taking out her tau ju (fermented tofu) – she loves eating her porridge with that; perhaps she had run out and there wasn’t any in the fridge.

What about you all? Do you enjoy porridge too? What do you like to eat with it? Pig’s blood, perhaps?…

I sure would love that! LOL!!!

Chicken fried…

Come to think of it, we hardly ever cook our own fried chicken even though we may tapao some from Colonel Sanders or our own Sarawak franchise once in a long while to eat at home. I suppose that is a good thing as fried chicken, though the favourite of many, is not all that healthy and we should limit the number of times and not go for those that frequently.

Instead, we often roast our chicken…

We just marinate a thigh or two or some chicken wings and put them in the oven to roast/bake. This is definitely a lot healthier than deep frying.

That day, my girl had some free time on her hands so she said she would do the cooking for the day. She marinated the chicken thigh with lemon juice, a bit of evaporated milk and some rosemary and Italian herbs and placed it in a baking tray, lined with aluminum foil, to bake in the oven…

It turned out really nice and for dinner, she roasted another one of the same…

We sure enjoyed our meals that day.

Of course, there are so many ways you can marinate the chicken – it is up to your imagination. As a matter of fact, even if you just rub the meat with salt and pepper, it will be very nice already as you can get to enjoy the sweetness of the meat.

We have the chicken steamed when my missus cooks her most delightful chicken rice and she also has some stir-fry recipes for chicken for instance, the one with potatoes in soy sauce or the one with ang chao (the red lees from the making of the traditional Foochow red wine)…

Otherwise, we can always cook curry…

…with it or one of those delightful Malay(sian) dishes.

Sometimes, we cook chicken soup with char bee lau (the fragrant root) or with seng see, dong quai and all the rest (at times, wrapped and steamed…

…like how they do it at the Chinese restaurants) or with our traditional Foochow red wine and lots of ginger and everything else…

…like what I did the other day for the mee sua (thread/strong longevity noodles) for my girl’s birthday.

Talking about the latter, I did not cook all the chicken, just the thighs and the wings so we still had some of the meat leftover. The other day, I took it and cooked chicken soup with it in that exact same way. We are not fond of the meat (breast) but the soup is nutritious and we do enjoy that. There was some leftover and I also found a tub of bihun in the fridge, pre-soaked to soften – my missus fried some one morning and for reasons unknown, she did not fry all of it. I heated up the soup and had it with the bihun

…for my breakfast. It was all right but I think I prefer mee sua or even hung ngang (the thick bihun).

What about all of you? How do you usually cook and eat chicken in your homes?

Never like this…

My girl loves sotong (squid)…

As a matter of fact, I seem to notice that she likes it more than prawns, never mind whether it is the seawater variety (pek hay) or our freshwater prawns (chia chui hay)/tua thow hay (big headed prawns) or udang galah in Malay. We had these very regularly way back then, cooked with egg and ginger in soy sauce…

…or masak kunyit (cooked with turmeric)

Unlike now, it was never like this in my growing up years. I do not recall ever eating sotong at home or outside (not that we dined out a lot way back then) or on days when my dad would bring the tiffin carrier and buy food home for our meals from here. Perhaps my dad did not like its chewy and rubbery texture or perhaps, we just did not fancy it so much in our growing up years. That sure saved my mum the trouble of going through the tedious task of cleaning and preparing them.

Yes, we did get to eat the red cuttlefish whenever we had sotong kangkong (jiew hu eng chai)…

…and we so loved the ones at this Malay guy’s stall outside the Lido Cinema – he would panggang (toast) the cuttlefish over a charcoal fire and then he would hammer it till it was totally mashed and we would enjoy it dipped in his own-made chili dip. That was so good but unfortunately, there’s nobody selling that anymore – there used to be those made using machine and of course, they came nowhere near.

Fast forward to 1973, when I was in Singapore – I was renting a room at a flat in the Katong area and I would walk to a coffee shop at the junction of Telok Kurau Road and East Coast Road where there was an Indian/mamak stall. I used to buy SGD$1.00 sotong cooked in curry or whatever and they would give me so much to eat with rice. It must have been so cheap at the time but in Penang in 2011, I had to fork out RM11.00 for ONE, quite a big one, with the nasi biryani that I had. It sure is not all that cheap anymore these days, around RM20.00 a kilo at my favourite fish & seafood stall near my house.

We used to order it when eating out, what they call the salad sotong

…or the sotong with dried chili…

…but I do not know any place here where they would cook it in that same way as my missus, with turmeric (kunyit) and asam (tamarind) along with a whole lot of other ingredients…

…and yes, we love it this way – it’s really good!

It so happened that my missus was frying some banana fritters that morning and she used a bit of the batter to fry some of the sotong

…and yes, it turned out to be really very nice too.

We do not have anymore in the freezer now – I bought these that day for our steamboat dinner but my missus said she forgot to take them out and anyway, we had a whole lot of things already then. Needless to say, I shall be looking out for some fairly big ones at my favourite fish & seafood stall in my neighbourhood to buy and keep in our freezer so we can have these to enjoy again in days to come.

Trend…

I tried this sparkling new brand of instant noodles…

…the other day, the dried chili shrimp flavour…

I suppose this chili shrimp thing is the current trend like how at one time, maybe even now, there was this salted egg everything!

I bought a tub of the very nice  spicy crispy prawn chili sambal (RM20 for one plastic tub, full)…

…from the coffee shop not far from my house and since then, I have seen quite a lot of people promoting this same thing in bottles. My missus did buy one, dunno from where, and she said she liked it…and ate it all by herself. LOL!!!

This is a Singapore product…

…made in Malaysia…

I did see it at one of the neighbourhood shops that day when I dropped by to grab something. They removed all the other brands from the eye-level shelf and placed all those from this brand there on display. I was attracted by the vibrant colours and the picture of this man…

…whoever he is, obviously a renowned chef somewhere, most likely Singapore.

I don’t know what flavours there are because I did not stop to browse around. That is the problem these days – I would go out to buy something, stop by a shop, grab it and pay for it and rush home, no time to linger when my main concern is to #staysafe #staywell #stayhome. It was my missus, out on her fortnightly outing to stock up on food and supplies in the house who bought a pack and brought it home.

Inside each pack, other than the noodles, there are three sachets…

– one with the seasoning, another with the soy sauce and one more with the oil and the dried chili shrimp.

It said this on the packet…

…but it sure did not look like they were in any way, thin…

…to me. It also said that the noodles were non-fried, whatever that means. I did buy some “non-fried” noodles once and I wasn’t all that thrilled by them but they were not too bad when I tried cooking them another way. One thing’s for sure, they certainly were not the same as your regular instant noodles and they did take a much longer time to cook and even though I did boil the noodles for quite a long time, in the end, they were still very QQ (firm), not soft nor soggy at all.

I did not bother to add any ingredients of my own – I just garnished it with a sprinkling of spring onions and served it with one hard-boiled egg…

…by the side.

My missus said it was nice and she liked it and yes, I would agree with her on that. The dried chili shrimp was not as nice as the aforementioned freshly-made one from the shop but it was good, much nicer than any of those bottled or canned sambal that would have a certain kind of smell that would put me off right away.

Having said that, at RM13.50 for a pack of 5…

…RM2.70 a packet which is more expensive than some of those Singapore brands, not as expensive as some of the others, I certainly would think twice about going back for more.

KIM TAK MINI SUPERMARKET is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the left of the parking area – AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) and LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) are located in that same block to the extreme left.

Slice…

I bought a pack of beef, sliced very thinly (RM10.90)…

…and rolled up. We can get these very easily at the meat shops nowadays, ready for use in your steamboat or shabu-shabu/hotpot or to cook in whichever way you want.

I prefer to buy these beef slices as they are very thin and no matter how you cook it, it will not be tough. In the past, I used to buy the meat, imported from Australia and New Zealand and I really did not know which part would be the best. Besides, slicing it would be such a chore and at the end of the day, the meat was too tough and eating it would be such a struggle.

I was thinking of cooking beef soup with the meat, my late mum’s recipe with beef, Bombay onion, potatoes and lots of peppercorn. However, my missus said she would cook it and told me to just leave the meat there and this was what she came out with…

Yes, it was beef soup all right but I don’t think there was any Bombay onion in it and no, there were no potatoes either but yes, it was very nice with the very strong fragrance and flavour of the beef. By dinner time, all of those had gone into the soup and it was absolutely delicious! The meat became quite bland though but it was all right, dipped in my missus’ own homemade chili and ginger dip.

The lobak (radish) made me think of the Korean galbi tang that I like a lot. I was glad that the beef tasted…like beef. We had the Australian wagyu rolls (RM33.50, 300 gm)…

…for our steamboat dinner that day and though it was very nice, very tender, it did not have that beef taste or if it did, we could not tell at all. Yes, I know some people get put off by the smell of beef, lamb, duck, wild boar and so on but that is the thing that makes them what they are. I know somebody who will tell you that without the unique smell and taste, then it is not what it is supposed to be – no need to waste your time (and money) eating it!

Since we enjoyed the soup and the meat that day, I certainly would want to buy it again, RM10.90 for 300 gm so that would be over RM30.00 a kilo. I think that was more or less the going price many many years ago at that Malay fresh beef stall at the Sibu Central Market.

That day, my missus also cooked this bayam (Chinese spinach) with mee kua (mee sanggul)

…a dish that she said they would cook and enjoy in her family during her growing up years.

CCL FRESH MINI MARKET is located at the end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada).

A whole lot…

I did mention in my previous post here that I was not able to get hold of any pek hay (seawater prawns) from my favourite fish & seafood stall. I did go over to check regularly but unfortunately, the nice lady did not have any, other than the farmed ones (and even those, not all the time) and I was not keen on buying those.

Finally, at long last, last Sunday, I went over to have a look and much to my delight, she did have some very big ones, as well as some small ones. I would usually buy the latter, chor liao (use as ingredient) for cooking vegetables, for instance but not as a main prawn dish.

She said there were only about 4 kilos of the big ones, RM45.00 a kilo but she would sell them to me at only RM40.00, cost price, and asked me to take all of them. It did not look like a lot but when she weighed all that she had, there were way over 5 kilos…and after a brief “discussion”, I agreed to take them all from her for RM210.00.

Of course, I did not want the small ones anymore. She had all the shell and heads removed and was selling them for RM20 per 500 gm and no, they were not deveined so if I were to buy those, I would have to do that myself. That would work out to RM40 a kilo, more or less the same as the aforementioned big ones and since I was already buying a whole lot of those, I did not want those small ones anymore.

I think there were at least over 200 big ones, maybe 300 and there were some small ones too. We cleaned and deveined all of them, packed them in ziplock bags to store in the freezer. Our intention, of course, was to keep them and cook them slowly and seeing how much there were, there probably would be enough to last till Christmas! We’re already into the 2nd week of October so Christmas isn’t that far away!

In the meantime, my missus took out one of the bags – the smaller ones, over 20 of them and cooked…

…the way she would cook those udang galah (freshwater prawns), with sesame oil and lots of garlic.

These were not so big…

…but I would say they were big enough and I was given a really good price. I saw a pack of such prawns, frozen, at our neighbourhood fruits & vegetable sundry shop that day going for over RM40.00. When I looked at the price tag closely, I saw that they were actually RM60 a kilo. Gosh!!! I changed my mind about buying right away!!!

I did buy some taugeh (bean sprouts) from that shop not too long ago and my missus made some kerabu taugeh with some of those and I did take a handful for my char mee that day. I only bought RM2.00 and there was enough left for my missus to make these lovely vegetable fritters…

to go with the prawns that day.

Looking at how the prices of virtually everything are shooting up and up around here, I guess we should be thankful that generally, things are still quite affordable even for an old pensioner with a measly pension like me, thank God for small mercies.

As always, the nice and generous lady wanted to give me this and that but of course, I simply refused! I feel so shy that everytime I drop by her stall, never mind whether I buy something from her or not, she will always want to give me something to take home.

That day, she wanted to give me three slipper lobsters but I said no and then, she tried to persuade me to take some fish heads, great for cooking curry, she said and again, I told her no, thank you very much. It was good enough that she gave me such a good price for the prawns plus what she sells is always very nice and fresh – that alone would make me want to go back again and again.

The fish & seafood stall is located to the right of CCL FRESH MINI MARKET against the wall at that end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada).