Bread and butter…

It is not easy to get gluten-free stuff here in Sibu. We do have some difficulty getting gluten-free soy sauce even. I don’t know why but they do not seem all that keen to stock up on those stuff regularly even though they do seem to sell really well and mind you, they sure do not come cheap. When you come across something nice and you rush back to grab some more, more often than not, you will find that it is all sold out and they can’t tell you when there will be another shipment of the stuff, probably never.

I hear it is not as bad in Kuching and talking about that, my dear ol’ friend, Yan, now based in the city, sent me this pack of gluten-free quinoa spaghetti…

Quinoa spaghetti

…for my girl and also these boxes of chickpea and buckwheat pasta…

Chickpea & buckwheat pasta

This jar of organic gluten-free, palm oil-free peanut butter…

Gluten-free organic peanut butter

…is more for me, I guess but I’ve yet to give it a try so I have no idea right now as to how good it is. Gotta go out and get some bread and bananas and fruit jam so I can enjoy some more of those most delightful Elvis Presley sandwiches. LOL!!!

No, that’s not all – there is also this packet of figs…

Figs

I may have eaten figs before though the ones I had may not be organic – if I am not wrong, they have a lot of health benefits.

My girl had had a few successful attempts when it came to making gluten-free cakes not only when using those ingredients that came in a box…

Gluten-free chocolate cake
*Archive photo*

…but also when making them from scratch.

So far, as far as I can recall, she did manage to buy some pretty nice gluten-free cookies and biscuits from off the shelves as well though I don’t think she was ever successful in making her own.

It is the same when it comes to bread except this one

Gluten free bread
*Archive photo*

…also using the ingredients that came in a box, that sure looked like bread but did not taste quite like it while this one…

Gluten-free pizza bread mix
*Archive photo*

…turned out pretty well but there was just enough for two not-very-big pieces of pizza using what was in that one box.

Then there was that one time when she made what is called cloud bread and though I thought it was very nice and quite like bread…

Cloud bread
*Archive photo*

…she never made it again or maybe she did but it was not successful the second time around so that was it!

Well, my brother was home from New Zealand for the 1st Anniversary of our dad’s demise and he brought these…

From New Zealand

…for my girl.

She has yet to try the cake – we reckon it would be something like what I got from my god-son/ex-student, also from New Zealand but she could not wait to try making the bread and it came out looking like this…

Date & walnut bread

She should have used a smaller baking tin but we did not have any – I think it would have been thicker, otherwise.

She toasted a slice, spread some butter and jam on it…

Date and walnut bread toast

…to let me try and yes, it was very nice.

I did try eating it on its own, just like that and I thought it was something like carrot cake, with the nuts and dates in it, minus the carrot and the strong cinnamon taste but yes, it was good, just that it was not like…bread.

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A different way…

In my growing up years, we would always have Bovril or Marmite…

Marmite

…in the house and we usually would eat porridge with those and sometimes, my mum would use those to make soup to go with our meals. I do vaguely recall having them with bread too.

Personally, I liked Marmite more as I thought Bovril had some kind of rusty taste but eventually, especially after I had tasted the latter with noodles

Bovril mee sua with fried egg
*Archive photo*

…my opinion changed somewhat. I seldom buy Marmite anymore these days though because nobody else in the house likes it and it sure does not come cheap even though it is just yeast extract, not beef but then again, it’s the same with Bovril these days though bottles of the real beef or chicken varieties may be available at some supermarkets.

I do know for a fact that there are some very popular dishes at Chinese restaurants, Marmite crab, for instance but I have never tried those and I did see somewhere the other day packets of the instant Marmite whatever that one can use to cook the dishes. Other than with porridge, I’ve had Marmite with butter on bread or cream crackers and I quite enjoy it like that and the other day, I tried noodles with it too.

Well, it so happened that I had some instant noodles in the house – those cheap ones selling for less than RM3.00 for a pack of 6 packets but even though the expiry date was not until next month…

Expiry date

…the bumbu (seasoning) had gone hard so I just threw it away and used the noodles my own way. I actually like their noodles – they take a bit longer to cook and they stay nice and firm like some Korean noodles that I had had before – most instant noodles that will go soft and soggy if you boil them a little too long.

These were the ingredients I prepared…

Ingredients

I fried some sliced shallots in a bit of cooking oil (some would prefer to use lard, I know) – do make sure to turn off the heat once it has started to turn brown otherwise it may end up burnt and will taste bitter. It will continue to cook in the residual heat and will be golden brown soon enough. I also had some sliced spring onion from my garden and I used the chili powder from inside the packets of instant noodles. As for the Marmite, I just added around a teaspoon of it – for one thing, it is salty and besides, I would not want its taste to drown out the fragrances of the other ingredients. You may add a pinch of msg as well if you so desire.

Once I had cooked the noodles, I drained them well and tossed them in all the ingredients and served…

Marmite mee with egg 1

…with one hard-boiled egg.

Of course, you may want to blanch some green vegetables and have them by the side or you can have some thin slices of char siew on top for a more balanced meal but I did not have those in the house so this…

Marmite mee with egg 2

…would have to do for my breakfast that morning.

Yes, I did enjoy that with Marmite instead of Bovril and actually, for the uninitiated, they cook our Sibu kampua mee more or less the same way – the only difference is that they use chio cheng (light soy sauce) instead of those in the preparation.

Can’t compare…

The pad Thai at our favourite Thai restaurant here, dished out by the authentic Thai chef, Jos or his sidekick, Sue…

Flavours Thai Kitchen pad Thai
*Archive photo*

…never failed to please so you can imagine my excitement when I got this…

Pad Thai set from Mary

from Mary when she came back to Sibu from a trip to Thailand.

This…

10 minutes

…sure looked and sounded easy but of course, we should not believe everything we see or hear.

These came inside the packet…

Contents

– the noodles, the pad Thai paste, a sachet of chili powder and two sachets of fish sauce.

The instructions…

Instructions

…said that I must cook the noodles in hot boiling water for 4-5 minutes but in fact, it took me no less than 10 minutes before it was soft enough.

I got the ingredients…

Added ingredients

…ready – more of my leftover prawns, lightly-fried tau kua (firm bean curd) and taugeh (bean sprouts), spring onions and Thai basil leaves from my garden, two eggs and some kacang tumbuk (crushed peanut).

I followed the aforementioned cooking instructions and fried the prawns in a bit of oil and then I added the tau kua and the Thai basil leaves, followed by the noodles and the pad Thai paste and mixed everything well. I only added one sachet of the fish sauce as I felt it was salty enough…and after that, in went the eggs and finally, I added the taugeh and the spring onions. Once done, I dished everything out, garnished with the chili powder and the kacang tumbuk and served…

Cooked and served

I guess we can’t compare this to what is freshly cooked and served by Jos or Sue nor can we expect too much from anything instant, coming in a packet off the supermarket shelves so at best, I would say it was not too bad except that we did not like the texture of the noodles which was kind of coarse, not so soft and smooth so that took away quite a bit of the enjoyment of the dish…

Instant pad Thai

Suffice to say, I would not be all that keen to grab it should I see it on sale anywhere and compared to the Thai Yen Ta Fo the other day, I think I would prefer that to this…and should I feel like having pad Thai anytime any day, I would just hop over to see Jos or Sue and get one of them to cook for me to enjoy piping hot from the wok!

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN (2.292836, 111.828287) is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

Thirty days…

I think it is the general practice among some other races too but I do know for a fact that among the Chinese, a woman who has just given birth must observe a thirty-day confinement period during which there would be a whole lot of do’s and don’ts that she must abide to and she would be served a very nutritious diet to help her recuperate and rejuvenate.

Generally, among the Foochows, the mee sua (longevity noodles) in their traditional red wine chicken soup…

Foochow ang chiew mee sua

…would be the staple food for the convalescing mum during the whole month and that will be served to well-wishers who drop by the house within that period of time to wish them well too. In the dialect, they call it seng ngang. The lay so (good manners/etiquette) would be to bring a live chicken…

Sibu Central Market newspaper chicken

…and/or a tray of eggs or perhaps a bottle of Wincarnis or D.O.M. Benedictine or a box of essence of chicken for the mum as the buah tangan and they would reciprocate by giving the visiting relatives and friends eggs when they leave – in the past, these would be cooked but these days, many choose to give them raw and leave it to the recipients to decide what they want to do with them.

However, among the other dialects in Kuching, the Teochew and the Hakka, for instance, they would not be having mee sua like the Foochows. Instead, they have their own special food, the kacang ma chicken. It is jam-packed with pounded ginger and ginger juice and kacang ma or motherwort leaves and lots of traditional Chinese white wine and yes, I do enjoy it very much.

Unfortunately, it is not easily available here in Sibu, this being a predominantly-Foochow town so I would only get to enjoy it when my missus cooks our own…

Missus' kacang ma chicken

…like what she did the other day or settle for the one available at Payung Café…

Payung kacang ma

That is in the only place in town too if one is into the Hakka lei cha

Payung lei cha

…available at RM6.00 per set for lunch only on Fridays.

Another confinement dish these days, also usually not among the Foochows but the other dialects – the Cantonese in particular, is the black vinegar pork trotters (猪脚醋)…

Black vinegar pork leg

…a post-natal therapeutic dish that is believed to boost immunity and expedite healing. I do enjoy this too and eating it is not a problem as this is gaining popularity here in Sibu, it seems as I do see a lot of stalls at the coffee shops selling it.

So what did you all have during your confinement, all you married ladies with children? I do love all these dishes but from what I gather from some, theirs would not have any salt nor msg and would not taste all that great and besides, eating the same thing every day, day in and day out for thirty days, they wouldn’t mind if they’d never ever eat it again. Do you all share those same sentiments too?

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.

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.

Dilly Dally…

My dill is doing very well in my garden, flourishing away and it sure comes in handy every time I want to cook what we call pa’is ikan

Pa'is ikan buris
*Archive photo*

…or fish wrapped in leaves and grilled over hot charcoal or in my case, in the oven. Incidentally, I’ve tried doing the same thing with udang galah (freshwater prawns) but it turned out somewhat disappointing, nowhere near as nice as with fish, ikan buris especially.

Sometime ago, I noticed that it had started flowering…

Dill, flowering

…and when I shared a photograph on Facebook, somebody said that it would fly all over the place and make such a mess in the event of there being any wind but no, it…

Dill flowers, close up 1

…did not happen that way and is always a delight to look at – those elegant little white flowers…

Dill flowers, close up 2

…on the branches. I went and googled and much to my surprise, though the plant and leaves look the same, the flowers are quite different from the dwarf variety grown in temperature countries.

But talking about the wind, one night, there was a storm and it broke one of the branches of my dill plant so I had no choice but to cut it off. I did not want to throw it away so I trimmed the branch and stuck the cuttings in a bottle of water…

Dill in a bottle

…and much to my surprise, they did survive for a long while and no, the flowers remained and did not fall off and eventually they started to dry up…

Dill flowers, dried 1

I must say that it looks rather nice even when dried…

Dill flowers, dried 2

…and makes a beautiful display of dried flowers for the house, don’t you think?

Not what I thought…

I got this…

Yen Ta Fo

from my dear friend, Mary, sometime ago when she went to Thailand and initially, judging from the name, I was thinking that perhaps, it was the Siamese version of our yong tofu. Obviously, it is not what I thought as this is, in fact, “another Thai favourite noodle soup”…

Description

Inside the box were a packet of bihun and another packet of the Yen Ta Fo paste…

Contents

I followed the instructions at the back…

Instructions

…and soaked the bihun in hot water to soften.

I had some beef balls and shrimps so I boiled those in some water till cooked and then, I fished them out, leaving the stock in the pot. I also heated up one tauhu pok (tofu puf)f in a non-stick pan till golden and crusty on the outside and after that, I cut it into smaller bits to be used later…and I also boiled an egg to go with the noodles.

I emptied the Yen Ta Fo sauce into the pot and brought it to boil. In the meantime, I placed the bihun in a bowl and arranged the beef balls, shrimps, tofu puff and egg along the side before pouring in the soup and garnishing it with thinly sliced Thai basil and sawtooth coriander from my garden…

Served

I would say it was nice…

Thai Yen Ta fo

…something like tomato kway teow but I could not detect any taste of the fermented tofu that is said to give it the red colour which made me wonder if the real thing would be anything like this. I sure would love to try that should I ever get a chance to hop over to Thailand one of these days…