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Home alone…

My girl and her mum went out that morning so I was home alone…and left to my own devices, I decided to cook lunch.

I still had those Khadijah’s Kitchen’s instant pastes that I received from my cousins. I did not get to use them during Chinese New Year as my missus insisted on cooking her own specialties so those obviously had to wait. I picked the rendang tok

Rendang tok

…and knowing how lazy I am, always taking shortcuts and choosing the easy way out, this…

Easy

…certainly appealled to me in no small measure. However, I did prepare some ingredients of my own…

Own ingredients

- one Bombay onion, finely chopped, one stalk of serai (lemon grass), bruised at the end and a sprig of curry leaves.

I fried the onion in a bit of oil till a little brown before adding the serai and the curry leave and then, the beef, in thin slices. I mixed the meat well with all the ingredients and then, I added the water and the paste. While it was simmering, I decided to peel two potatoes that were lying around in the kitchen, cut them into chunks and throw them into the boiling gravy. When it was almost done, I added a bit of evaporated milk…before I dished it all out into a bowl…

Rendang tok 1

I would say it was very nice but no, it did not come across to me like rendang or those that I have had before. I thought it was something like the curry that my mum and all in the family used to cook which was very nice, drier than other curries. All things considered, we did enjoy it…

Rendang tok 2

…very much, I would say.

For our vegetable dish, I decided to fry some leek with garlic, egg and the lap cheong (Chinese sausage) that I received the other day from my friend, Annie

Ingredients

As you can see, I used one only and sliced it very very thinly for the simple reason that they are very nice and I certainly would not want to finish them all too quickly especially when I do not know when I would be getting some more again. Once you’ve tried this, you would never go back to those terribly dry and hard ones that one can get in the shops here. The mere idea of having to cut it into slices would make me break out in cold sweat…and needless to say, they do not taste as nice as these.

I fried the garlic, finely chopped in a little bit of oil till golden brown before adding the lap cheong, mixing it well with the garlic and frying till the fragrance came out and then I threw in the leek, very thinly sliced. I did add a little bit of water periodically, very very little of it – just enough to let it sizzle and cook the veg…and once done, I added the eggs…plus a pinch of ikan bilis stock for seasoning. Then it was done…

Fried leek 1

I guess I would not need to say anything – one glance at the photograph…

Leek 2

…would say it all. Yes, it was as nice as it looked.

There you go – our lunch as it was served that day…and it was all my own work!

Time is tight…

If you remember from this earlier post, my cousin in Brisbane, Australia sent me this pack of sausages, among a whole lot of other things…

Sausages from Oz

…and it is due to expire soon – 31st March, 2015. I guess kept in the freezer, it is all right to stretch it a bit but as far as possible, I would like to finish them off as soon as possible.

I did cook some for everybody for breakfast

Breakfast 1

…and I had some with my plate of instant mi goreng one morning.

Variety is the spice of life so of course, I would not be serving them the same way till they are all gone. There I was, cracking my head as to how I could serve the sausages…and one morning, I cooked this box of pasta…

Pasta

…that I bought quite a while ago and it had been sitting in the pantry, expiring in May.

This was the breakfast platter I whipped up for my girl that morning…

Breakfast 2

…and she enjoyed it to the max.

I remember when she was small, I made what I called a “chicken in a blanket“. Basically, that was just chicken sausages wrapped in slices of bread and toasted in the oven. It certainly did the trick! She was amused by the name and enjoyed eating it. Unfortunately, while I was taking the pan out of the oven, my hand brushed the grill at the top and I suffered a severe burn, 2nd or 3rd degree, and that took months and months to heal and years before the scar became no longer visible. Sigh!!! The things parents go through for their kids. I did not know then that in fact, there are such things and different ways of making one’s own whatever in a blanket.

Since I had a lot of sausages at hand, I decided that I would use some for my own version of the so-called “piggies in a blanket“. It wasn’t anything fancy – just half a sausage on a bed of very thin tomato slices with a little bit of cheese to hold down the edges once it melted…

Piggy in a blanket

…and a toothpick stuck through it temporarily. I brushed it with a little bit of egg and put that in the oven.

Well, there were some egg and tomato left so I just fried an omelette with those…

Tomato omelette

…and had it with the piggies…

Piggies

So, was it any good? Not really, I would say – nothing spectacular. I guess one can’t expect much – after all, basically, it was something like sausage and cheese with tomato on toast. For one thing, the sausage was salty and the added cheese made it worse…but it wasn’t too bad when eaten together with the lettuce and omelette.

At the time of writing, I only have five of the sausages left. Time is running out but I shouldn’t have any problem finishing them off soon…in one of the above ways for breakfast over the next few days.

Don’t ask…

Don’t ask how much these cost…

Meat pie 1

…if your heart is not strong enough to take it.

I’ve blogged about their sausages…

Sausages

here…and yes, they were very nice indeed. Those were over RM27.00 for 8 at the time but I did mention then that prices might range from over RM30 to RM40, depending on the type/flavour.

Well, my girl and I went loitering around one of the hypermarts in town the other day. Big mistake! In Hokkien, the old folks always say, “Bak chiew ching phai!” (Eyes are very bad) as we tend to be tempted to buy what we see. The best thing, of course, is to just stay at home so we do not see and we will not end up buying anything.

Anyway, my girl spotted them first and I asked if she would like to try them and since that was what she wanted, of course, I bought them for her…without checking the price. As soon as we got home, she said she wanted it for dinner so we popped one into the oven…

Meat pie 2

…and let it bake for an hour. Wowwwwww!!!! The fragrance filled the whole house! It was so very nice…and even before eating it, we could tell that it was going to be really very good.

Finally, it was done…

Meat pie 3

…and when my girl cut into it…

Meat pie 4

…we found that it was all meat in the filling and there was so much of it too! We were kind of wishing they had chunks of meat inside instead of just minced and perhaps, they could have mushrooms too. Nonetheless, it was really very good, as good as the awesome smell we had to endure while it was baking. I don’t know if they have other varieties but we saw two others here – the chicken with mushroom and leek and the black pepper.

Ok, brace yourselves for a shock! I asked my girl if she took note of the price and she said it was…over RM30!!! *faints* That means that one pie like that is over RM15.00. Ok, it was really very nice, nicer than some of the stuff they dish out at some western joints here that may cost a lot more even…and besides, I would think it is perfectly all right to indulge in something like this once in a very long while. After all, we do deserve to pamper ourselves with some really very special treats sometimes, don’t we?

No, I did not help myself to the other one. Since she liked it so much and it truly was very nice, I just let her keep it for another day when she would feel like having it again. I remember when I was young, everytime we had chicken, my brother and I would get a drumstick each and my father would have the wings and then we would go on to the thigh…while my mum had the neck and the parson’s nose (butt) and most of the breast meat. At the time, I thought she actually loved those parts, silly me, so young and innocent…but thinking about it now, it is pretty obvious that it was all because she wanted us to have the best and it gave her such joy to see us eating and enjoying what she had cooked for us – that, I must say, is a true reflection of a parent’s sincere love and sacrifice for the family…and now, it is my turn to do the same.

Incidentally, at this juncture, I would just like to add this little bit to say thank you so very much to my cousin, Yvette, from Perth in Australia for the bag of goodies…

From cousin Yvette

…that she gave to me when she came to town. It sure was lovely to see you again…and nice meeting your hubs and sister-in-law too. All the best & God bless till the next time we see one another again. Cheers, all!

A change…

My girl has grown out of instant noodles, probably as a result of an overdose during her undergraduate days. It seems that she does not fancy the texture and the smell or taste of the noodles anymore.

She does not mind bihun (rice vermicelli) though but the problem is we can hardly find any instant ones around these days. At one time, the Taiwan Tung-i brand was very popular but I thought theirs was too peppery and rather strong on the msg. Even the made-in-Kuching Lee Fah instant Sarawak laksa comes with instant noodles these days – they started off with bihun and for some reason or other, they later switched to noodles as well which, I think, should not be the case as Sarawak laksa is always served with bihun, not noodles. Perhaps they can consider having two options for buyers to choose from. As it is, many would buy and use their own and keep the noodles for something else.

Well, it so happened that I spotted this at the supermarket the other day…

Mamee Chef Gold Recipe instant curry bihun 1

…and of course, I wasted no time in grabbing a pack to try. If it turned out nice, that would be something my girl could stock in her quarters at her school to cook and eat for a change as and when necessary.

Inside each packet, there would be the bihun together with three sachets…

Contents

…one with the curry paste or whatever, another with the seasoning and the third with the so-called non-dairy creamer which I guess, would be the coconut milk powder.

As what I would always do when cooking instant noodles, I boiled the bihun first, drained it well and put it aside. Then, I boiled some water, cooked the meatballs and seafood cake slices – the added ingredients that I had to go with it. I fished them out of the boiling water and then, added the contents of the sachets. Once done, I poured the gravy over the bihun, arranged the extras on top, garnished with chopped spring onions and daun sup and served…

Served

Oh yes! That morning, I also cooked one hard-boiled egg…

Perfect eggs

…and I was delighted that it turned out quite perfect, just the way I would like it.

If you noticed, I used “gravy” instead of “soup” because it turned out kind of thick, something a little like what one would find in lor mee, though not as thick but it was definitely not the usual very watery kind of soup.

I tried it and yes, I must say that it was really very nice. No, I could not detect its seribu rasa (a thousand tastes) but it was indeed very tasty, spicy…and not really lemak (rich) which may put off some people after eating a bit, like in the case of those instant white curry noodles…and yes, considering that I did enjoy it, I certainly would have no second thoughts about getting some for my girl…

You give love a bad name…

All my life, I was told that these…

Quail eggs 1

…were not good for health owing to their high content of cholesterol.

Well, it did not bother me that much as we very seldom eat them except when we had steamboat at home…

Steamboat

…and those eggs…

Quail eggs 2

…would be one of the many condiments…

Condiments

…that we would make sure we had.

Well, we are familiar with all those conflicting articles about this and that. At one time, they went all out to give our tropical oils a bad name but lately, they are praising coconut and all its by-products to the skies. It was the same with eggs – first they say you must not eat them, then they say it would be all right to have two a week and at one time, they said the danger would be in the yolk so you should just eat the white and after that, they said it would be fine if you would eat the yolk with the white…bla…bla…bla…and now they say lard is good!!!

Anyway, going back to quail eggs, I came across this article that says, and I quote: “Do quail eggs have cholesterol? Yes! The good kind. Quail eggs are rich in HDL cholesterol…” and somebody linked me to this very interesting article on cholesterol. It singled out Dr. Ancel Keys’ 1953 Seven Countries Study, which linked the consumption of dietary fat to coronary heart disease claiming that when Keys published his analysis that claimed to prove this link, he selectively included information from only seven countries, despite having data from 22 countries at his disposal. I don’t know how true this is but I do know for a fact that when some people do their research for their thesis, they would do that or even manipulate the statistics to prove their point.

Well, whatever it is, I do believe that it would be pretty all right if we would just consume anything in moderation…and when it comes to quail eggs, I have not seen them served any other way other than in our steamboat at home or being fried with some green vegetables at a restaurant and even then, I hardly ever see it these days. Considering that we hardly ever eat them, therefore, I am pretty sure that having them once in a blue moon would not bring about very much undue damage to one’s health…but that’s my two cents worth.

For one thing, I did read somewhere that 5 quail eggs would be the equivalent of one chicken egg…and at RM4.40 for 15, it works out to around 30 sen each, almost the same as one chicken egg and one sure would not be able to afford that many! Besides, they are not that easy to come by here – there may be a couple of supermarkets that have them on their shelves here or one would have to go to one stall at the wet market to buy them and that reminds me of the time when I went all the way to get some.

I bought a bagful of them and walked happily back to my car, swinging my arm as I went along. Somehow or other, the bag slipped off my finger and went flying in the air and landed some distance away from where I was. “Omigosh!!!” I thought. “There goes all my quail eggs!” I quickly walked towards the bag and from what I could see through it, there were some that looked intact…still. I rushed forward to pick it up but in my hurry, I could not stop in time and…I stepped on it!!! I was so pissed off that I simply refused to walk back to the market to buy some more. Tsk! Tsk!

What about the rest of you? You like quail eggs? Or are you one of those that have been avoiding it like a plague?

The end…

Chap Goh Meh or the 15th Night of the 1st Month of the Chinese Lunar Year marks the end of the festivities held to usher in and welcome the brand new year, and this year is The Year of The Goat. The (extended) family would sit down together once again for a grand dinner, not unlike the Reunion Dinner on the last day of the old year, the eve of Chinese New Year’s Day.

However, the sad thing is these days, families are not so close-knit – not many are staying together in the same house or in the same town and they may be scattered all over the state, country or even the whole world. Some may come home for the festival but with their work commitments, most would have made their way back to their respective stations leaving, perhaps, only the old parents alone at home. Probably it is because of this reason that many do not hold the aforementioned dinner anymore these days…or maybe because everyone would be busy working so they would not have the luxury of time and maybe because the old folks at home are no longer able to cope or to cook, many would just book a table at a restaurant outside and sit down and enjoy the dinner together.

Well, my missus and I have both retired so we would have a lot of time on our hands and I offered to cook this time around seeing that she had done her part for the Reunion Dinner and also for the Chinese New Year’s Day dinner with my in-laws. Of course, one must not expect anything special as I am usually the one taking shortcuts and looking for the easy way out like how I cooked my sambal prawns with petai

Sambal prawns with petai

I also fried the Penang laksa noodles with leek and bak kua (barbecued meat)….

Fried Pennag laksa with leek and bak kua

that I cooked not too long ago and found that it was really very nice. Initially, everyone avoided it, opting for the plain white rice instead, probably thinking that it was the dry version of the celebrated Penang hawker delight so I had to explain that it was the name given to the type of noodles used and it was not anything like that.

I boiled the heads of the prawns and the shell to get the stock with which I cooked a lovely clear soup with Chinese cabbage, meat balls, quail eggs and button mushrooms. I did not remember to take a photograph of it though. Other than that, I had TWO very big ikan buris (or ikan lajong in Iban) in the fridge. I read somewhere that one should not cut the fish served for the Reunion Dinner so in keeping with the tradition, I deep-fried the two whole and even with my not-very-big wok, I managed to do so…

Fried ikan buris

…pretty well, I must say. I did not have a plate big and long enough so I served them in a tray wrapped with aluminium foil together with the sauce that my mum and the rest in the family would prepare to eat with this particular type of fish.

She would pour away the oil used to fry the fish leaving just a little bit in the wok and then she would heat it up again and fry some thinly-sliced  shallots it in. Once done, she would add soy sauce to the oil and shallots and that was it…

Dip for fish

On my part, I did add some sliced fresh chili as well.

My missus did say she was going to fry the leftover ngor hiang and serve but I noticed that she had marinated some chicken wings as well so I guessed she was going to bake those…and when I saw her taking out some more chicken from the freezer, I knew what she was up to. If you know the story of the Arab and the Camel, you would know what happened to the Arab and you can jolly well guess the end of the story.

This was what we had for our dinner that night from one angle…

Chap Goh Meh dinner 1

…and this was from the other angle…

Chap Goh Meh dinner 2

Nothing much, nothing fancy but what mattered most would be the fact that we were able to sit down together with family and friends to eat this significant dinner and enjoy the cheer and delight of one another’s company.

How was your Chap Goh Meh celebration? Care to share?

Secret of giving…

I love the lyrics of this song by Reba McEntire – part of it goes like this:
If there’s just one secret to living, whoever you are
It’s learning the meaning of giving with an open heart…
If you offer the best part of yourself
even when you don’t have anything else
Honest and true, it’ll come back to you –
Love comes back to you…

Much has been said about giving – how in giving, we will receive and what goes around comes around but I do believe that when one gives with one’s heart, the joy and good feelings that one derives from it, the good vibes and the blessings, the strengthening of love and friendship bonds that ensues would be reward enough.

My girl would not be coming home for Chap Goh Meh which fell on a Thursday so I prepared some of the ingredients for her to have a steamboat dinner with her friends/housemates/colleagues at their quarters in the school. That, of course, meant that there would only be the two of us at home – my missus and I so I decided to invite my good friend, Lim, his missus and three children over to my place…and I also told my missus to ask my in-laws over. Everybody would not be home so at their house, there would just be my mother-in-law, the son and the wife – only the 3 of them.

My sister-in-law went and bought these Foochow-style sio bee (meat dumplings)…

Hock Chu Leu sio bee

…from this age-old restaurant in town that has been around for as long as I can remember. She shouldn’t have really as there would more than enough to go round, I was sure, but anyway, it was so sweet and thoughtful of her to go through all that trouble – she said there were long queues that day as everyone was buying some home for their Chap Goh Meh dinner as well.

In the meantime, I told Lim not to bring anything but as always, such things would only fall on deaf ears and they brought us these…

From Lim & family

- biscuits and coffee…and TWO bottles of pek chiew (white wine) from Kuching for cooking kacang ma. Hmmm…I knew they would not come empty-handed and I also knew it was the son’s birthday a few days ago so I prepared an ang pao specially for him and of course, when we get down to cooking some kacang ma chicken, I must remember to send some over to their house to reciprocate.  In Hokkien, we refer to this as oo lai oo khee (got come, got go).

That very evening, I received a call from someone that I knew very well – we used to hang around the same karaoke pub in the 90’s. He is based in Miri now and was home for Chap Goh Meh and the weekend and he dropped over at my house to pass me these…

From Raphael and Amy in Miri

…from my cousin and his very sweet wife in Miri. I love these tau sar peah from there, much nicer than those anywhere else and the khong therng is really very good…

Miri khong therng

…too but I think the nice one that we can get over here…

Sibu khong therng

…has an edge over it. Both have that very nice freshly-ground peanut fragrance unlike the ones sold at the supermarkets but I feel that between the two, the one from Miri is a little sweeter.  Anyway, at least, they can get it very easily there unlike here – that lady will make whenever she is in the mood…and nobody knows when that would be, not even the lady who runs the stall at Medan Mall here selling these and other Foochow delights. I once wanted to place an order for 100 packs and was turned down. Tsk! Tsk!

It rained a bit that evening, very briefly, and the weather that night was very pleasant and cool. I did not look out for the full moon but the fireworks…

Chap Goh Meh fireworks Sibu 2015

…and the firecrackers raged on through the night to mark the end of the Chinese New Year festivities for the year.

Thank you so very very much, all, for everything…and as for our Chap Goh Meh dinner, you’ll read more about it in the next post. Stay tuned!

P.S.:
Gee!!! It was my blog’s 7th anniversary yesterday and I had been so caught up with things around here, all the Chinese New Year festivities, that I did not even realise it until I got this message: “Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!” in my notifications. My! My! Time sure flies…and it’s been seven years already. Let’s drink to more happy years together and lots more anniversaries to come. Cheers!!!