Not this year…

It’s the 1st of January, 2018, so a very Happy New Year, all.

Everything is  rather low-key for us this year as my dad passed away in July last year and with all due respect, according to Chinese tradition, as it has not been a year, we should not be celebrating these festive seasons and the same goes to the coming Chinese New Year in February.

Anyway, since my girl is gluten-intolerant, we have not been baking cakes and cookies at all these days, never mind what special occasion it may be, unlike in the past. She did bring home quite a lot of gluten-free products from her recent trip to KL and the other day, she tried baking this one…

Melinda's gluten-free goodies

…and made some blueberry lemon cupcakes that we could eat ourselves.

While she was baking them…

2 easy steps

…the fragrance filled the whole house and when she took them out of the oven, they sure looked great…

Gluten-free cupcake

…on the outside.

Inside, however, there were a lot of holes…

Gluten-free cupcake, inside

…and the texture was somewhat different from regular cakes. Thankfully, though they were not quite the same as cakes that we are all familiar with, they were very nice and it did not take us long to finish all of them.

On Christmas Eve, we just had dinner early, just the three of us, a simple one with baked salmon, topped with garlic and dill and with a squeeze of lemon juice…

Christmas Eve dinner, salmon

…and roast pork with potatoes and peri-peri sauce…

Christmas Eve dinner, pork

…plus this salad with egg and crispy bits of bacon added…

Christmas Eve dinner, salad

…because we wanted to go to church hours before the time so that we would be able to grab some seats. Usually, at all the services around Christmas (and Easter), the churches would be packed to the brim with those once-a-year Christians creeping out of the woodworks..

The next day, Christmas Day, we dropped by the Coffee Garden at this hotel for lunch. I had their set lunch with lemon beef (RM9.00, exclusive of GST, with a complimentary drink and soup)…

Christmas lunch, lemon beef

…which was all right, not anything that would get me rushing back for more. The meat was all right, tender enough and not tough at all. I thought it would be something like lemon chicken but no, it had a taste of its own and actually, I didn’t think I could not detect much lemon in the sauce.

My missus had their fried kway teow with crab meat (RM10.00, exclusive of GST)…

Christmas lunch, fried kway teow with crab meat

…and it turned out that there was barely any – only the bits of imitation crab sticks were more prominent in the dish. I guess she was not all that impressed by it as she did not say anything nor did she insist that my girl tried a bit – she would do that all the time if she had anything nice whenever we ate out.

My girl had their mixed grill (RM19.00, exclusive of GST)…

Christmas lunch, mixed grill

She thought the beef was tough and the chicken was breast but she liked the lamb and the coleslaw and all in all, she did enjoy her pick.

After that, we adjourned some place else for dessert but that would be in my next post.

THE COFFEE GARDEN is located at The Garden Hotel ((2.288894, 111.831139) along Jalan Kampung Nyabor at its junction with Jalan Huo Ping.

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The passenger…

Tumpang in Malay means to hitch a ride or get a lift from somebody and as I was browsing through some blogs, I came across something called nasi tumpang.

According to Wikepedia, it is a rice dish that originates from Kelantan comprising rice with different layers of dishes wrapped in a cone shape with banana leaf. Traditionally, it was the staple food for travellers or farmers in Kelantan to bring to work. I guess if I eat that, I would be the penumpang then, the passenger. LOL!!!

Jokes aside, I noted that it was available here , formerly known by a different name, and since my girl was in KL at the time, staying around there, I asked to to buy one home for me to try and she got me two…

Upeh nasi tumpang

…one fish (RM9.00) and the other, prawn (RM10.00).

I tried the fish one first…

Nasi tumpang, inside

I guess the rice was pressed into the cone so it was something like ketupat or nasi impit which I rather like so I did not have a problem with that.

The fish…

Nasi tumpang, fish

…was nice – I don’t know exactly what fish it was, probably ikan tongkol but yes, I liked it. However, when eating it, one would have to be careful with the bones…

Nasi tumpang, fish bones

I did come across a piece of tauhu pok (tofu puff) in it as well but it was the serunding

Nasi tumpang, serunding

…in the lower part of the cone that I enjoyed a lot. I think it was shrimp, I’m not too sure – in the aforementioned article, it said beef or fish.

I had tried the prawn one as well but I think I would prefer the fish – I thought it tasted better. There were two small prawns in it and a stamp-sized piece of egg/omelette. The serunding part was the same as what was in the one with the fish.

My girl saw something online about them having nasi tumpang here as well that would be nicer than the ones that she bought for me but she went twice – the first time it was not available and the second time, it was not ready. In the end, she just gave up and settled for this one instead. Too bad I did not get to try that other one – it does look nicer in the photographs in that blog.

I wouldn’t say it swept me off my feet though. It did not stand out as something unique or special that is quite different from anything and everything else like the Kelantanese nasi kerabu or laksam  but at least I’ve tried and I know what it is now.

I did tell my girl to go and look for gluten-free products while she was there to buy and cart home and yes, she was thrilled to see a lot of what she wanted, so much so that she was on the verge of tears, tears of joy, that is.

This was one of the many…

Australian-made Yes You Can gluten-free product

…that she managed to get hold of and she used that to make her own pizza…

Melissa's gluten-free pizza

…enough for just two pieces of this size. It was very nice and all of us enjoyed it very much. She had not had pizza for a long long time but thankfully, we can get this gluten-free spaghetti here…

Gluten-free spaghetti

…and the other day, the nice Payung Café boss, Peter, gave her some of his mushroom pasta sauce and she was able to enjoy it with the aforementioned pasta…

Gluten-free pasta with mushroom sauce & bacon

…adding her own bacon to it. Unfortunately, what we can get here is few and far between, nothing much really…and knowing that the budget airline is rather strict with the baggage allowance these days, I told her not to get me anything while she was in KL.

Yes, the mum did bring home a whole lot of edibles from here, there and everywhere but it was my girl who bought some croissants from Lavender and these…

M&S all butter biscuits and shortbread fingers

…specially for me, knowing how I love those M&S all butter biscuits and Scottish shortbread as well. Isn’t she so very thoughtful and sweet?

I remember in 1986, when I was in KL for a year, I used to grab the Scottish shortbread from their sole outlet at Bukit Bintang Plaza, so many different kinds in all shapes and sizes going for only RM2.00 a pack when the expiry dates drew near. Then, there was none available for a long time.

Personally, I did not like any of their other biscuits until they came out with those all butter ones so of course I was delighted to get those as well. I am nibbling them very very slowly, bit by bit, to stretch them for as long as I can! LOL!!!

Once a year…

My uncle and his wife, my auntie and their children, my cousins, would drive all the way from Kuching once a year without fail every year. They were here on his 75th birthday in 2015 and last year, they came again…and again this year.

They would stop at towns or bazaars along the way to buy the fruits but this year was a disappointment. The fruits were not out yet but they did manage to get me these buah engkala or buak terbulus in Melanau

Buah engkala/terbulus

from Jakar where they stopped for the celebrated prawn noodles and they drove into Sarikei too but all they got was this unripe durian

Derian mantak

They did bring me a whole lot of things from Kuching though. I asked for a bottle of tuak, the traditional ethnic rice wine – my aunt is actually of Iban descent and she just made a fresh batch in October and brought me one bottle and another bottle, a vintage dating back to 2015…

Tuak

She also made me a whole lot of nyonya changs…

Nyonya chang

She and my mum and also my aunt, her 2nd sister since deceased, were the ones who knew how to make them and now, she and my aunt’s daughter-in-law now residing in Miri are the only ones left who are able to do so…and she is actually an Iban! I hang my head in shame!

One of their daughters could not come with them, only two of my cousins were here but she sent me this huge loaf of no-knead bread

No-knead bread

…that she made herself. That was indeed a great achievement considering that she has never ever been a kitchen person her entire life.

It was very nice and went so well with the lovely Saudi Arabian (made in Riyadh) cheese that I had in my fridge and my extra-creamy scrambled eggs…

Bread with Arabian cheese and scrambled eggs

…and it was good too, toasted and eaten with a generous spread of butter and raspberry jam…

Bread with butter and raspberry jam

She went to Korea on a holiday not too long ago and she gave me this cute fridge magnet…

Fridge magnet from Korea

…from there.

Another cousin in Kuching made some tempoyak (fermented durian)…

Tempoyak

…and sent me a bottle through them just when I was running out of the precious stuff stored in my fridge.

Thank you so much, everybody, for all the goodies. It sure looked like Santa came early this year!

Paper…

My girl enjoys popiah (spring roll) but unfortunately, the skin, being made from wheat, is not gluten-free. Anyway, we can’t get good freshly-made popiah skin here anymore and we would have to use the factory made ones available at the shops and supermarkets that we are not particularly fond of.

Thankfully, we have the bánh tráng or Vietnamese rice paper wrappers…

Banh trang 1

…but these can be quite hard to come by. We did manage to get a pack here and there but the people concerned do not seem bothered to restock once they are all sold out. We got this one from my niece, the one working in Singapore, who bought it in Vietnam for her parents but they did not know how to go about using and eating it so they gave it all to us…

Banh trang 2

It is not difficult actually – you just dip it in water…

Dip in water

…and place it on a plate, preferably a flat one. It will become soft…and somewhat sticky so one would have to be careful when peeling it off the plate and rolling it up.

I had it before in KL/PJ and when we were in Wellington, my girl and her coursemates’ Vietnamese friend invited us to the house for this.

No, this time around, we did not follow any authentic Vietnamese goi cuon recipe – we just cooked the filling that we would usually have in our popiah

Popiah filling

…and we also prepared these prawns, thinly-sliced omelette and crushed peanuts…

Additional ingredients

We placed everything in the rice paper wrapper, already soaked to soften…

Place in rice paper wrapper

…and added the lovely super hot chili sauce from Payung Café

Payung super hot chili sauce
*Archive photo*

…and the crushed peanut…

Top with chili sauce & crushed peanut

…before rolling it up…

...roll it up...

…and eating it…

...and eat it...

Yes, it was very nice and the next day, we had some filling left so we had it again and this time, I went and bought some lettuce that we could use to line the bottom before piling all the ingredients on top and we also added some Thai basil leaves that are growing abundantly in my garden. That sure brought the taste to a whole new level.

If I remember correctly, once we had it with siew yoke and kim chi and lettuce leaves plus some hoisin and peanut butter sauce and it was very nice too. My point here is we do not have to follow what the Vietnamese do – it is up to our imagination how we can use the rice paper wrapper.

Better than I thought it’d be…

I bought these packs of instant noodles…

Ibumie mi goreng sambal udang

…at a supermarket the other day for the simple reason that it was selling at RM3.90 for a pack of 5 packets and the cheapest available (a different brand) was RM2.90 but I saw that one would get a spoon with this one. I did not think much of it; I thought it would be one of those cheap spoons that would bend when you try to use it to eat some meat that is a little too tough but I felt RM1.00 extra for that is quite all right.

I took two packs, thinking that I would have a pair, and went to pay for them at the cashier’s counter and asked for the free gifts…only to be told that they were inside. Gee!!! I really must learn to read everything more carefully.

When I got home, I saw on the pack that one would get either a spoon or a fork and by some stroke of good luck, I got a pair…

Free gift fork and spoon

…and they were really very nice. I liked the design with the gold pattern on them. I must say that RM1.00 for each of them is very cheap!

I was in for another pleasant surprise when I cooked the noodles…

Mi goreng sambal udang, cooked 1

…and had it with a fried egg, sunny side up, and some leftover roast chicken, garnished with some finely chopped Chinese celery/parsley (daun sup) from my garden. They were very nice with a hint of the udang kering/hay bee (dried prawns) in the ingredients provided inside each packet.

I wouldn’t mind buying more…

Mi goreng sambal udang, cooked 2

…should I feel the urge to stock up again but I guess I would just have to be happy with a set of the lovely fork and spoon. I sure would not go and buy 10 more packs so that I would have a nice set of 6. It would probably take forever for me to finish 50 packs of the instant noodles, never mind how nice they are.

She’s got it…

The 17th of September is my girl’s birthday and that was last Sunday so of course, the mum cooked the chicken soup with the traditional Foochow red wine and we had that with hung ngang (the big bihun) instead of mee sua as the latter is not gluten free.

There was a lot of the noodles left over and I fried it for breakfast the other morning, with Thai fish sauce…

Gluten-free fried hung ngang

…instead of soy sauce which contains wheat and is not gluten free as well.

We could not order any cake from outside for her special day – they are all made from wheat and are not gluten-free and she did try making her own a few times before but it had not been very successful.

However, this time around, she managed to pass with flying colours – her Japanese baked cheese cake came out really well and she and her mum did the decoration with whipped cream and fresh strawberries…

Mel's own-made birthday cake

…so she did have a birthday cake…

Happy birthday

…to cut and enjoy after all.

Finally, she has succeeded in making a cake with the soft cake texture…

Melissa's Japanese baked cheese cake with icing & strawberries

…unlike some of her failed attempts before, and it tasted very nice too. The light brown colour was because she decided to use brown sugar instead of the regular sugar.

Incidentally, last weekend, she also used this cheese sauce…

Cheese sauce from Australia

…that my cousin brought all the way from Melbourne, Australia to give to me to cook some broccoli…

Broccoli cheese

…that I had in the fridge. There wasn’t all that much left so the mum asked her to add some sweet baby corn as well to come out with this lovely broccoli casserole…

Broccoli casserole

Yes, it was very nice and we all enjoyed it but being a carnivore, I thought it would be nicer to add some bacon or ham to it. That, I’m sure would bring the taste to a whole new level.

Well, her birthday was on a Sunday so we could not go out for a celebration of any kind. After enjoying the noodles and the cake that morning, we had to be on our way already, sending her back to her school in the jungle.

Take my time…

I cooked some fish curry not too long ago and my girl loved it! I did mention in my post at the time that I only used half of the packet of instant curry paste and half of the can of coconut cream so the other day, I took them out of the freezer to cook some more…

My fish curry, bawal hitam

…but this time with ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret). However, I did not have most of the ingredients that I added before, just some brinjal and tofu puffs.  Nonetheless, it was good and once again, my girl enjoyed it very much.

I can’t remember exactly now but it was definitely several months ago when I bought this pack of beef satay…

CCK beef satay

…20 sticks altogether…

20 sticks

…from a supermarket here. It was so long ago that I cannot even remember the price but I guess it was not expensive, otherwise I would not have bought it.

It is a product of our local Sibu company that imports and sells all those frozen stuff here, there and everywhere – I even saw their shop…

CCK in Seremban
*Archive photo*

…in the peninsula in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.

My girl asked me a couple of times why I had not cooked them yet, knowing how I can’t seem to stand seeing things sitting idle in the freezer or fridge or in the pantry but this time was an exception to the rule. Somehow or other, I was taking my time and did not seem to feel the urge to get down to it.

The sticks of satay were all pre-marinated so I did not have to go through the chore of doing that but they were frozen…

Frozen

…and I had to take them out earlier to let them defrost slowly.

No, I did not grill them over hot burning charcoal in a barbecue pit – I just used a pan…

Grill in a pan

…basking them with cooking oil using some of the stalks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden, ends bruised well, and turning them over time and again, like how I would often see them doing it at the stalls.

I made sure that some parts were well-grilled…

Well-grilled

…and slightly burnt on the outside, still o.k. on the inside. That would give the satay the added fragrance and taste.

Once they were done, I served them with some canned satay peanut sauce…

Served with peanut sauce

…that I bought, Sunstar Brand. This is the brand that we use these days, not as good as the one we used to love, but it is not too bad. For reasons unknown, the company has seen it fit to stop producing the very nice satay peanut sauce even though I do see some of their other products like canned chicken curry, for instance, being sold at the supermarkets and shops.

As for the satay, for one thing, the chunks of beef were very thick and it was quite tender, not tough at all, unlike the ones sold at the shops and stalls. I have already given up buying any from them as it would be a struggle trying to eat theirs – just like leather, unlike their chicken or lamb!

On top of that, it tasted very nice and we certainly enjoyed them very much. I sure wouldn’t mind buying some more and you can be sure that the next time around, I would not be taking my sweet time in getting down to cooking them.