Moonlight…

Chap Goh Meh, literally translated as the 15th night…

Chap Goh Meh Rooster Year

…marked the end of the Chinese New Year festivities for the year.

It was not really due to the fact that we were juggling between taking care of my dad at their house and my mum at the medical centre that we did not have time to cook for our Chap Goh Meh dinner – we usually have steamboat on this auspicious night every year so we decided we would have that again this year…but at my parents’ house so my dad could enjoy it with us.

I bought 1 kilo of our local freshwater prawns, large and that cost me RM60.00 a kilo only to remember later that my dad would not be eating those for fear of a gout attack so we had to keep them to cook and eat ourselves some other time. The extra large ones were going for RM75.00 a kg that day and the medium and anything smaller, RM50.00 and below.

We could not have any of the paper thin slices of meat, pork or beef would be nice, as I do not think my dad would be able to chew those. That was why we only had minced meat balls…

Chap Goh Meh steamboat 1

…and I went and bought one ikan tenggiri (mackerel), over RM20.00 and my missus used that to make her own fish balls which, needless to say, were heaps nicer than anything sold outside especially those factory-made ones.

We also had quail eggs – my girl loves those – and I bought some sea cucumber which cost a bomb, RM120.00 a kilo but it is believed that they have a lot of health benefits. I also got some beef tendons from the same stall at the wet market. Those were cheaper, RM20 a kilo, if I remember correctly and the very nice seller just charged me for a few big ones and he threw in a lot of the bits and pieces into the bag and I went home happily with a bagful of beef tendons. I bought three of the best quality sea cucumber – I understand they were from Papua New Guinea and the guy gave me one extra, from Sabah. Of course, I kept insisting on him picking the softer ones, sea cucumber and beef tendon, so my dad would not have any problem chewing.

Other than those, I also got some dried fresh fish maw, over RM40 a kg, and we also added some bean curd sticks, tofu, wombok or Chinese white cabbage and glass noodles…

Chap Goh Meh steamboat 2

…and my dad was fine with everything except the bean curd sticks which he could not chew. My missus would just soak them in hot water to soften while I would usually boil some water and use the really hot boiling water straight from the kettle so that they would be very much softer.

 I also went and bought some chicken rice…

Chicken rice

…from here as I know jolly well that my dad would want rice at every meal and yes, he enjoyed the steamboat to the max and had two plates of the rice with the lovely clear soup and what was in it.

I was afraid that my dad might not enjoy the steamboat so I went and bought this very big ikan bawal putih (white pomfret)…

Steamed white pomfret

…RM50.00 each (the seller said they had not reduced “the Chinese New Year prices” yet) and had it steamed for him to enjoy. Yes, he did eat quite a bit of it but he was fine with the steamboat, actually and sang its praises the whole time while we were having our dinner that night and he kept saying that it was anytime nicer that the stuff they would usually order from the restaurants outside for such special occasions.

All in all, I would say it certainly was worth the effort going over and having this simple steamboat dinner with my dad.

One down, two to go…

Well, actually, it’s two down…and there’s only one more to go and if you’re all wondering what I am talking about, I bet this will ring a bell…

Bacon delights from Phong Hong
*Archive photo*

– the box of goodies that I received sometime ago from my blogger-friend, Phong Hong.

I tried their bacon jam spread on some baguette slices that I toasted lightly in the oven and it literally swept me off my feet. It was so so so good!!!

In the meantime, I did tune in to the interview conducted by my ol’ friend, Mag, from the TraxxFm days on AFORADIO, the online radio station when she spoke to the people behind this whole thing, John and Georgina…

The story

…and it seems that the name they picked – Five & Two Foods…

Five & Two Foods

…has some biblical implication. It is actually a reference to the 5 loaves and 2 fishes at the Sermon on the Mount and those of you who are familiar with it would know that they were distributed to feed a multitude of five thousand.

From the interview, I gathered that these products are not available on the shelves at the shops and supermarkets and anyone interested would have to order online at their website or Facebook page and they will send it to you, provided you live within the country, only in Malaysia, that is.

Well, I decided to try another one…

The original Bacon Sambal

…the other day and as we had a lot of leftover rice in the fridge, I reckoned I could use the sambal to fry it with.

No, I did not add a lot of ingredients – just a bit of finely-chopped garlic that I fried in a bit of oil till golden brown and then, I added around half a bottle of the sambal and then the rice. After sometime, I tried a bit and found that it was not salty. No!!!! I most certainly would not want to add the rest of what was in the bottle, the precious commodity – who knows when the next one will come my way again! In the end, I just added a few dashes of Thai fish sauce, two eggs and some chopped spring onions and dished it all out…

Bacon sambal fried rice 1

…and garnished it with some sliced chili and what was left of the chopped spring onions…

Bacon sambal fried rice 2

…and served.

It was all right, just that the taste of the sambal was lost in all that rice so much so that one could hardly detect it. I did have what was left with plain rice – just add a bit to the rice and eat and yes, it was a lot nicer this way and I enjoyed it with these crackers…

Bacon sambal with crackers

…too! Just dip one in, scoop out a bit of the sambal

Dip scoop eat

…and eat! Yummmm!!!!

Well, I would say that I liked the taste of the bacon jam a lot, very much more than this sambal which was, at best, all right, not really anything to get me real excited like the last time…and that leaves just one more to go – the Angry Bacon!

Usually…

I did mention in my previous post that my missus had been cooking a few dishes before the whirlwind of events following my mum’s admission into the medical centre after which everything had to be put on hold.

Usually, every year, she would cook some of her specialties to store in separate servings in the fridge so she could take out bit by bit to heat up and serve to guests dropping by especially those from out of town who would have a problem trying to find something to eat outside around this time as most of the shops would be closed.

And usually, without fail, every year, she would ask her family over for lunch or dinner but my mother-in-law had left us earlier last year and my Bintulu brother-in-law would not be coming back. Nonetheless, she insisted on inviting her brother and his family here in Sibu to come over for lunch but of course, this year, we had to make do with what we already had as we did not have the luxury of time to cook more and that, of course, meant that we had most of what we had for our reunion dinner the night before on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

There was the leftover fish…

Steamed fish

…which we were not supposed to finish and had to continue eating the following day. We did not touch the other side so it actually looked as good as new…and we took out the steamed chicken…

Mary's steamed chicken from Flavours
*Niece’s photo on Facebook*

…that I got from my friend, Mary. Everyone loved it a lot and all sang praises of the very nice Thai-style sambal dip that came with it. My girl enjoyed the stock that came out of the meat and she kept drinking it like a soup – that would be where all the wholesome goodness was, the true unadulterated essence of chicken!

Other than those, there were the salad…

Salad

…the kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chicken

…the satay beef…

Satay beef

…the ngor hiang

Ngor hiang
*Niece’s photo on Facebook*

…and the pineapple prawns…

Pineapple prawns
*Niece’s photo on Facebook*

– all that we had for dinner the previous evening and for dessert we had the amik melon that I got from my young friend, Justin, and yes, everybody loved it – so sweet and so juicy and it did not have that green taste and smell of the honey dew and the other melons that I am not all that fond of.

It wasn’t as elaborate as what we used to have in previous years but there was more than enough to go round and everyone enjoyed the lunch very much and of course, it was great to have them around, my in-laws.

Before the day…

It sure was one hectic time for us, driving here and there with things to get done before all the places closed for the Chinese New Year holidays and going in and out of the medical centre to visit my mum and spend some time with her, just to keep her company, not that there was really anything much that we could do.

Despite all that, I insisted on having our own reunion dinner at home in keeping with the tradition even though it was just the three of us – my girl, the mum and I…and we had an early one so we could rush back to the medical centre right after that.

No, I did not want anything fancy – just steamed fish…

Steamed fish

…and rice. All these years, what I heard was that everyone must have fish at the reunion dinner – 年年有“鱼” and it must not be eaten all at one go. One would have to make sure there is some leftover to eat the following day. However, I read somewhere that the fish must be served whole…so fish head curry does not count, I’m afraid, and my missus saw on some television show that we must eat the middle part and not touch the head or the tail – those would have to be left behind to be eaten the next day, New Year’s Day.

I can’t say I am a firm believer nor a staunch follower of all these customs and traditions but I do find all of them somewhat interesting and I do not mind praticising some of them though I would not go out of my way to do so, solely just to keep our heritage – our customs and traditions alive.

My missus also made this salad dish…

Salad

…as well and actually, she had been cooking a few dishes over the past week or so to freeze and keep, waiting for the big day and she insisted in taking out the pre-steamed meat rolls or ngor hiang…or what they call lor bak in the peninsula to fry till they became the much coveted auspicious golden colour…

Ngor hiang

…and there was also the kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chicken

…and the satay beef…

Satay beef

…as well as this asam kunyit (tamarind tumeric) giant freshwater prawn and pineapple dish…

Pineapple prawns

I wouldn’t say it was one grand feast to end the Year of the Monkey but yes, it was a good dinner and fingers crossed, it was decent enough to bring the promise of endless good days ahead in the Year of the Rooster.

How am I supposed to live without you…

All our lives we’ve been taking soy sauce, usually the dark version, and when we came across the mushroom soy in my younger days, we have stuck to it since. Unfortunately, like most other sauces on the shelves in the supermarket, they all contain wheat…

Mushroom soy

…so now that we are on a gluten-free diet, we will not be buying any of those anymore.

I bought this Thai fish sauce…

Thai fish sauce

…sometime ago and yes, it does not contain wheat and yes, it is very nice. In fact, I find it much nicer than the made-in-China “fish gravy” that I used to buy before, more fragrant and tastier. I would use it for my kampung (village-style) fried rice and as far as I know, Thais use it a lot for their exquisitely exotic dishes including their very delightful Pad Thai.

Thanks to Phong Hong, I came to know about the Tamari sauce and we managed to grab a bottle from an organic shop here, RM19.00 a bottle. Then, I spotted this Shouyu

Shoyu & Tamari sauce

…at a shop near my house selling all kinds of organic stuff. It was tagged at RM15.00 a bottle but the guy sold me it to me at RM14.00 without my asking and yes, there’s no wheat in the ingredients…

Shoyu ingredients

…and according to the information on the label…

Wheat and bran in soy sauce

…”…wheat flour and bran…will significantly weaken the aroma of say sauce…”.

Well, we’ve yet to open it to try as right now, we are using the Tamari sauce and as you can see from the badly-stained label, somebody has been making good use of it…while the very much cheaper Thai fish sauce seems somewhat neglected even though they would ask for more air budu whenever we go for the nasi kerabu at our favourite place in town. They taste and smell pretty much the same except that one is more refined and looks a whole lot clearer and cleaner.

I did try frying some rice with lap cheong using the Tamari sauce…

Lap cheong fried rice with Tamari suace 1

…and it turned out very nice…

Lap cheong fried rice with Tamari sauce 2

…I would say. In fact, I never added dark soy sauce when frying rice this way – I don’t like how its strong taste would overpower the fragrance of all the other ingredients used, the very reason why I would never order kampua noodles with dark soy sauce – it is all kicap!

The way things are going, it does look like we can live without a whole lot of things…or at least, we can resort to the alternatives available instead.

The garden…

These came from my garden…

Ladies fingers
*Archive photo*

– the ladies’ fingers that I planted sometime ago and so far, the labour is great but the harvest are few and I would only have enough to boil and eat them with sambal (pounded dip)…

Ladies fingers, ulam
*Archive photo*

However, the other day, I managed to collect enough to fry and these were the ingredients that I pounded…

Ingredients for pounding

…- a shallot, three cloves of garlic, a bit of ginger, kunyit (turmeric) and lengkuas (galangal) and of course, a chili.

Ah yes, I did add some belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Belacan

…too, toasted lightly on a non-stick pan.

I soaked a handful of hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) in water to soften and I pounded those too…

Ingredients, pounded

…and I did get a stalk of serai (lemon grass) from my garden, bruised at the end, as well for the added fragrance and taste.

I sliced the ladies’ fingers thinly…

Ladies fingers, sliced

…and yes, it did not look like much but I had quite a lot of the udang kering – the sambal would go great with rice, with or without anything else. I was wishing the whole time that there was something in the fridge that I could add to it, like baby corn or four-angle beans perhaps, but unfortunately, I could not find anything that would be compatible.

Ok, time to start cooking…so I heated up the oil in the wok and added the pounded ingredients and once, that had turned brown and fragrant enough, I put in the serai, followed by the udang kering. It took quite a while as I only used a little bit of oil but at the price of cooking oil these days, one will have to make do with a lot less and anyway, I guess that is, in fact, a healthy thing to do. Once the sambal was done, I pushed it aside and broke an egg into the wok and scrambled it. I was thinking that this would help make sure that there would be enough to go round. Lastly, I added the ladies’ fingers…and a bit of water sparingly to cook it. Ah yes!!! I did add a teeny weeny bit of soy sauce – my missus said it would make the vegetable less sticky or gooey but don’t add too much, just a little bit will do…or it would be too dark and the end product may not look as nice.

Once it was done, I dished it out and served…

My ladies' fingers, fried with sambal

Well, it did look kind of nice, don’t you think? I know self-praise in no praise but I would say it tasted great and there was more than enough for the three of us (along with a fish, ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret that I fried) for dinner that evening.

Quick and easy…

My girl bought this…

Prima Taste beef rendang with rice 1

…made-in-Singapore product at a supermarket here for only RM3.99 but I guess that was because it was about to expire. I peeled off the price tag to look at the one it was stuck over and the price there was RM9.50.

Unfortunately, she looked at the ingredients and saw that there were things she had to avoid like wheat, oats and barley. Huh??? In a packet of beef rendang with rice? I guess those would be the multi-grains mentioned on the packet…

Prima Taste beef rendang with rice 2

Well, since she would not be able to eat that, I decided to go ahead and give it a try myself.

According to the instructions at the back, I was supposed to immerse it in boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes and I was expecting to find a pouch inside like in the case of their other products but no, there wasn’t any…

What's inside

Oh dear!!! In the end, I just folded the packet closed and boiled it and when the time was up, I emptied the contents onto a plate…

Prima Taste beef rendang with rice 3

Yes, it was very nice! It had the fragrance of all the spices and other ingredients used, the rice was just right, neither hard nor overcooked and soggy and the beef was tender enough for old toothless me. However, at RM9.50, if that is the original price, I think I would go for the same or something similar that is freshly cooked and served like beef curry or masak hitam at the stalls here.

I dropped by the supermarket myself a few days ago and I saw this…

Prima Taste chicken claypot rice

I guess that was on special offer too but the expiry date would not be till December so I have ample time. I have not tried it yet but will do so soon. For one thing, I find their products to my liking, those that I’ve tried and I must say it is so very convenient to have in the house to cook and eat, real quick and easy.