Not much to look at…

I spotted these packets of instant noodles…

…in the house so I asked my missus what those were and why, despite the brand being pretty well-known, they looked so plain and unappealing.

She said that they came in one big jumbo pack – I have no idea what that looked like as she had thrown away the wrapper. I guess this was their way to cut cost as they would be able to save a bit on the printing.

I took one to cook and try and this…

…was what I came out with.

I did mention in an earlier blogpost that this is a Korean brand…

…but looking at the rampant use of a foreign language that is Greek to me, one can jolly well guess that this is made in Vietnam and thankfully, there are a few words in English…

…for the likes of people like me.

Inside, other than the noodles, there are two sachets…

– one with the seasoning and the other with the dehydrated vegetables.

I boiled some prawns and used the stock to cook the noodles, subsequently emptying the contents of the sachets into the soup.

Once done, I poured it all into a bowl…

…and garnished it with the aforementioned prawns by the side along with slices of a tomato from our garden, one half-boiled/cooked egg and I sprinkled some chopped spring onion (also from our garden) all over it and served it with a sprig of daun sup (Chinese celery and that came from our garden too), stuck in it.

Yes, it was very nice. There was a hint of spiciness in the soup, noticeable but no, I would not say it was up to our level of tolerance. I would say that I enjoyed it…

…but in comparison, I prefer the clam one that I tried once, the chow chor one with the so-called “smell of the sea” but if this one is very much cheaper, then I would just settle for it instead. At the end of the day, it is what it is – instant noodles!

While we can…

I was in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) here that day to check out the yew char koi stall there. I never liked going to that area because it was and still is always crowded in the morning with people going there to do their marketing and shopping and to have their breakfast and at the height of the pandemic, I avoided it like a plague!

Now that the situation seemed a whole lot better, that morning, I decided to walk around to see if there was anything I would want to buy. That was how we ended up having a feast of crabs…

…for our dinner that evening.

We just had crabs that day on my sister’s birthday after such a long time since the previous time we had it on my girl’s birthday in 2020 but that morning, I spotted a basket full of those lovely crustaceans at one of the shops there selling for RM65.00 a kilo.

I asked the guy for three of the biggest ones – it was a little bit more actually but he rounded it up to RM96.00 and I quickly took them home for my missus to prepare and cook…

I asked my sister to join us that evening but she had something on with her friends. In the end, we had all of it…

…ourselves and of course, we enjoyed it to the max.

What we had on those two aforementioned occasions were both way over RM100.00 so this was very much cheaper and there was a whole lot more too.

While I was there, I also saw some fairly large sotong (squid) going for RM35.00 a kilo. They were bigger than the medium-sized ones that I usually buy from my favourite fish & seafood stall in my neighbourhood (RM30.00 a kilo) but the other day, the ones there were way too small so I did not want to buy those. I took all that they had and paid RM60.00 for them – I suppose there were less than 2 kilos altogether. My missus spent most of the morning cleaning and scouring them before putting them away in the freezer, ready for Chinese New Year. For some reason, my girl loves these sotong a lot more than prawns.

I was delighted to see that they had midin (wild jungle fern)…

…too, selling at RM13.00 a kilo. They do not seem to have this at our neighbourhood shops anymore. It has been so very long since the last time they had crabs for sale there as well, not since July 2020! Of course, I asked for half a kilo of the midin and took it home.

My girl helped the mum to pluck only the nice and tender top part of each fern and the latter cooked it with sambal hay bee (udang kering/dried prawns) and belacan (dried prawn paste) to go with the crabs…

…for our dinner that evening.

I paid RM7.00 for the midin – it was a bit more than half a kilo but still, it was so very cheap. There was a lot of it, more than double of what we got for our RM10.00 a plate of the ferns here (or at any other place for that matter) that day.

Yes, there were still a lot of people that morning but at least, everyone had their masks on even though they did not seem too worried about keeping their distance but with the situation seemingly very much under control at this point in time, I sure would not mind going to this part of the woods again and again to see what other goodies I may stumble upon there…while I can.

e-Like Mart (2.310257, 111.831069)…

…is located at No. 6, Taman Damai, Jalan Tun Abg Hj Openg at the far end of the block of shops facing the back of the Civic Centre wet market.

Don’t look down on me…

We call this fish bak chi‘…

I do not know its name in English or Malay but my missus would buy it quite frequently a long time ago when she used to do her marketing at the central market but ever since the pandemic broke out, we have not set foot on that high risk place so we have not had this for almost two years now.

According to her, in her growing up years, they would eat this fish all the time for the simple reason that it was very cheap and they all enjoyed it – all of them loved it and I must say that I would agree with them. Don’t look down on it because even though it is cheap, it tastes real good and if you fry it a little bit longer till it is more crispy, you can eat most of it, the fins and all, leaving behind only the big bone in the middle. I do enjoy its crispiness and that special taste along with it a lot.

There may be some of those smaller fish like the kembong and all the rest…

…at my favourite fish & seafood stall but my girl does not seem to like those so I would not buy them. That was why when I saw them at the Malay stalls, I would buy one or two…

…for myself to “buang gian” (appease the craving).

She does like bak chi’ to some extent but they are very small and I cannot imagine cleaning them one by one. That was why when I saw some at the aforementioned stall the other day, I asked the nice lady if she could clean it for me and she said that would not be a problem.

I asked for 1 kilo (RM10.00 only) and got 20 of them, so cheap! I expected her to pass them to her helper, a nice young boy, to cut and clean out the insides but no, she did it herself…and I was stunned when I saw how she simply plucked off the heads of each fish violently…and that was it! When I got home, my missus was delighted that I had bought her favourite bak chi’ and when I told her what the lady did, she said that was the way they would do it, no need to cut and clean one by one inside out.

My missus just rinsed all of them well and deep fried them…

– there was enough for the three of us for lunch that day and also for dinner.

Actually, I dropped by the stall that day to see how the lady was doing. I noticed that usually, the stall was not open lately. For one thing, it had been raining a lot and besides, I did see those warnings regarding strong winds and stormy seas so I guess under such conditions, the fishermen could not go out to sea. She seemed to be doing all right, lots of fish that day and I still have my stock of prawns that I bought from her not too long ago, enough to last till after Chinese New Year so I did not want to buy anything else that morning, other than the bak chi’.

I saw her taking out one of the huge storage styrofoam containers and opening it and I was stunned when she put a packet of this…

…in my bag with my fish. “For you, for Chinese New Year!” she said.

Oh dear!!! I thought that was so embarrassing but she insisted and would not take “no” for an answer. Left with no choice, I just said thank you so much and took it home – perhaps, we shall have that for our Chinese New Year’s Eve Reunion dinner, may the Good Lord bless her and all her loved ones abundantly in the year ahead. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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).

Quiet celebration…

The other day, Thursday, the 13th of January, was my sister’s birthday so of course, we had our longevity noodles, the mee sua

…in the traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup. She got this very nice free range kampung chicken so it was kind of skinny and small but no worries! There was more than enough to go round = there were not that many of us.

Usually, in the past, she would celebrate her birthday at some place outside and she would also invite some of her friends. With all the SOPs and physical distancing, a maximum of 5 per table, one metre apart and what not, we told her to go ahead – we would not mind sitting this one out but she said she did not plan on doing that. She said that she would just tapao a few dishes and bring them over to our house for a simple and quiet celebration.

I went out and bought this fresh mango sponge (RM48.00)…

…for her from this bakery near my house so we could have the usual birthday wish and cutting of the cake accompanied by the singing of the Happy Birthday song.

For the food, my sister went to this restaurant where she celebrated her birthday in 2020 and bought this awesome crab platter…

Gosh!!! It had been so very long since the last time we had this crustacean and boy, we really enjoyed ourselves to the max.

My girl did mention to her aunt that she would prefer sotong (squid)…

…to prawns so there was this fried squid dish with mayonnaise that looked somewhat pale but it tasted great.

We already had mee sua that morning so she opted for their Foochow fried noodles…

…for a change and yes, they did it pretty well too.

The aforementioned birthday cake turned out really good…

…with the fresh mango cubes and the fragrance of mango in the sponge and the fresh mango cream. I loved it a lot but I had to confine myself to just two slices to avoid an overdose of sugar.

I also took out these lovely kek lapis slices…

…that I bought from this bakery here. Obviously, these are samples of the variety of layer cakes that they have for sale for Chinese New Year. There were (going clockwise from the left) prune, yam, matcha/red bean, san cha (haw flakes), vanilla (the traditional Indonesian kek lapis) and in the middle, the expresso cheese.

I did not tell my sis that we would be having these cakes so she came bringing along these…

from here that she got from her helper.

I can’t remember the last time we had the double chocolate mille crepe…

– usually, we would go for the rum & raisin or the tiramisu but my girl loves chocolate and she insisted on having that instead of all the other cakes and yes, she enjoyed it immensely! We did not try the other one – my girl said that it probably was their salted caramel cheese.

There you have it! Our simple and quiet celebration of my sister’s birthday and needless to say, it was no less meaningful and we sure had a great dinner together and enjoyed all the cakes as well.

MJ HU SEAFOOD RESTAURANT(2.291971, 111.834740) is located along Lorong Mahsuri 2, the second shop on the left after Kuching Cafe, opposite Bateras Supermarket and C&C GALLERY (2.311247, 111.846177) is located at No.24, Lot 62, Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai among the shops in Pusat Pedada at the extreme end of the block of shops to the right of Delta Mall, back entrance while LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) is located along Jalan Ruby in the same block of shops as Kim Tak Co., right next to Ah Kau Cafe at the end of the block to the left and NICA+ or NICA PLUS (2.296883,111.825859) as it is called, is located on the ground floor of the block of shops to the right of the Old Sing Kwong Supermarket (Kin Orient Plaza) along Jalan Tun Abang Hj Openg, directly below the KIMCHEE KOREAN BAR.BQ restaurant on the first floor.

French connection…

Long, long ago, our lives were very simple. We did not have much of anything beyond our basic needs. Yes, we had bread and buns but I only came across this…

…in 1973 when I went over to Singapore.

They called it “French loaf” and it was hard and crusty. They served it with sup kambing (mutton soup) at the Indian shops or with their celebrated Singapore chili crab at their seafood restaurants at places like Bedok. We dipped the slices in the soup or gravy to soak and to soften and ate.

I only got to know its other name…

…more recently, not that long ago.

The guy at this bakery doesn’t use that name – he calls it a French loaf. I guess if he uses baquette instead, some customers may have a problem pronouncing it and will come out with their own peculiar versions. Have you heard the one about the guy who went to a restaurant and ordered a quiche? LOL!!!

Personally, I feel that the ones from that bakery are slightly harder and a bit more crusty than this one that I bought from here, not like the ones in the good ol’ days in Singapore – those were so hard that it could be used as a lethal weapon. LOL!!! I don’t know if it is available at the other bakeries in town but I sure am glad that these two do not come across as regular bread made in that longish cylindrical shape and are a little bit like the baguette that I used to know.

Now, how do I usually eat it? For one thing, we can cut it into short lengths, cut slits in them and stuff them with whatever filling we fancy to make our own Vietnamese banh mi. but usually, I will just slice it diagonally and toast the slices and eat it just like that or with any bread spread I fancy and not too long ago, I made some sprinkle toasts with it.

The other day, my girl made these garlic toasts…

…for her breakfast. She applied butter on the slices that I had cut, sprinkled chopped garlic, cheese and parsley on top and put them in the oven to toast till the cheese had melted and had turned into a lovely golden colour…

Yes, she enjoyed it done this way.

As far as I know, the guys here get theirs by special order, done the way they like them (I think they come in shorter lengths) for their toasted garlic bread served with their very nice chicken sauce…

They do not cut the loaf diagonally like I do so theirs are round, not so long.

What about you? How do you usually enjoy yours?

Will do…

We decided to have a simple dinner for Christmas that day – a main dish and a salad to go with it, a pasta dish and dessert and we had a soup too. It turned out that we did have an extra dish that evening, nothing much but still, in the end, it was quite a lot of work, to say the least – all that preparation and cooking and the cleaning and washing up afterwards. That was why we decided to go some place quiet for a nice dinner on New Year’s Eve – we had no intention of going through all that all over again.

However, that was dinner and we still had to have something for lunch that day. I went out to Bandong in the kampung area in the hope of getting some nasi lemak but unfortunately, all the places there were closed. Gee!!! In the morning of New Year’s Eve? They certainly started their New Year celebration real early!!!

Left without a choice, I decided to cook something, anything would do as long as we could have a bite to eat to tide us over till dinner time. There were still a few pieces of the Thai instant kway teow after we had some for our Vietnamese pho on my birthday that day so I decided to fry it.

Firstly, I boiled it in water till soft after which, I rinsed it under running tap water to remove any excess starch and after draining it well, I tossed it with a bit of cooking oil (also to prevent the noodles from sticking together) and some dark soy sauce before adding a whole lot of chopped spring onions…

…and some seasoning. I chose to do all these at this initial stage so I would not have to toss it too much to mix everything together well while frying just in case that might cause the noodles to break into small unsightly bits.

I had these ingredients…

…for the frying part – my missus’ chopped garlic, some carrot that I found in the fridge so I had it julienned and a handful of prawns.

I fried the garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown before throwing in the prawns followed by the carrot. Once cooked, I added two eggs – usually, I would add the eggs last when frying noodles or rice but I thought I would do something different for a change.

Lastly, I added the noodles and mixed everything together well…

Once done, I dished everything out…

…and we all sat down for our lunch.

Yes, it was nice except that the noodles weren’t anything like kway teow or bihun – it was more like those factory-made dried egg noodles but it was good enough to get us through till dinner time.

Remember how we started…

I do remember that New Year’s Day last year (2021) fell on a Friday so we had Bovril mee sua instead of our usual – the longevity noodles served in traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup to start off the brand new year.

Well, this year, it was on a Saturday but no, we did not have it first thing in the morning as usually, I am the only one in the house who gets up at the break of dawn. We had it…

…for lunch instead and yes, we did invite my sister to join us.

Incidentally, I came across this article online: New Year’s food traditions around the world and at No. 6 is soba noodles from Japan. According to the writer, “In Japanese households, families eat buckwheat soba noodles, or toshikoshi soba, at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the year gone by and welcome the year to come. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and the long noodles symbolize longevity and prosperity.

That sure sounds similar to our Chinese (Foochow) traditional practice of eating mee sua on New Year’s Day, something we would do without fail every year and also during Chinese New Year, as well as on birthdays, weddings, engagements and anniversaries.

Moving away from the mee sua, I got these bottles of sambal

…from my sis. She bought them from a friend who was selling these at a church fund-raising food sale in Kuching and she passed them to me to let me have a go. They are made at Kota Samarahan in Kuching, DOKU brand from the Doku Biotechnology Industries Sdn. Bhd. there (tel.: +60198880612).

I tried the sambal serai ikan bilis (lemon grass & dried anchovies)…

…on toast…

…and yes, I loved it!

However, I thought it was a bit too sweet, something like acar limau (lime pickle) so I should go slow on it…

…considering that I am on a low-sugar diet.

I did try the other bottle, the sambal with bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and it was not sweet, more to the savoury side but one may be put off by the taste and fragrance of the flower – I would say it is an acquired taste. We are used to it and actually, my missus prefers this one to the other.

She took it to cook this meat dish…

…that day and boy, it was really awesome, so very nice! It had that exotic taste typical of Thai or Vietnamese cuisines and we sure loved it a lot!

Now, there’s only half a bottle left – I wonder if these sambals are available at our local stores or not. Both do not have that unpleasant smell that I can usually detect in factory-made sambals, never mind canned or bottled – that is why I would not buy those as the smell puts me off. The only bone that I have to pick with these two is how come the ikan bilis (dried anchovies) in that first one is so black in colour.

Portuguese love…

The other day, when I was at this coffee shop, I went over to the shop next door to buy the chai kueh. My girl enjoys it a lot so I bought a few packs at one go to keep in the fridge so I can steam some in the morning for her to eat for breakfast.

In the meantime, I went over to see what they had in the glass display counter at the shop…

…and I saw that they had some lovely looking Portuguese egg tarts…

I remember I did try them before when this shop first opened (they were only RM2.50 each at the time) but even though I did feel they were all right, not quite there but were good enough, I never went back for more. Perhaps I was put off by the price – I could go for a plate of kampua mee for that kind of money then and their very nice char siew pao was less than RM2.00 each (not anymore).

Eventually, we were able to get really good ones at this place not far from my house so we would just buy those from there. For reasons unknown, the people making those awesome egg tarts and everything else disappeared – I have no idea why they called it a day and whether they had gone some place else to do their business. Nobody at that shop would disclose any information whatsoever regarding them.

I saw my foodie friend sharing photographs of the ones he bought here a few times and praising them to the skies so I thought I would give them a second chance. Goodness gracious me!!! They are now RM3.30 each – kampua mee is currently RM3.50 a plate!

I asked for three and the young boy packed them nicely for me to take away. I did not pay much attention to what he was doing, otherwise I would have asked him to take those that were more nicely torched.

The pastry…

…was very nice but I noticed a moist, not so well-baked layer at the bottom. I gathered from those Masterchef shows that this would happen if you do not blind bake your pastry first.

The egg custard…

…was really good, very rich and creamy and not too sweet but I was thinking that perhaps at that price…or maybe for around 20 sen more, they could be a bit more generous with it – they barely filled half of the pastry cup.

My girl tried and yes, she loved it!!! That, of course, means that despite everything that I have said, I will surely buy some more should I happen to be passing by this place again.

And talking about my girl, the other afternoon, she made these English crumpets…

For the uninitiated, “crumpets are English griddle cakes made from flour, milk/water and yeast and are traditionally eaten for breakfast or with afternoon tea.  They’re soft and somewhat spongy in texture and their crowning feature are the dozens of tiny holes that dot the surface…

…allowing whatever you spread on them to soak down into them, making each and every bite an unforgettable one.

Yes, they were nice – we had them piping hot from the pan with butter and honey but since my girl said she would want to have some for her breakfast the next morning, I only had one – the recipe was good for 8 pieces only and anyway, personally, I think I prefer scones. I wonder when she is going to make some more for me to enjoy.

HONG KONG PUFF is located along Ramin Way (2.291180, 111.826634), beside Sin Kiaw Coffee Shop, right behind the Petronas station at Kpg Nyabor Road (formerly Esso) across the road from the HSBC Building, Sibu branch. 

Used to be mine…

In the past, everytime we had popiah (spring rolls) at home, I would be the one doing all the work to prepare all the ingredients and cook them for the filling and also everything else. My missus did do it once but I would not say her version of it swept me off my feet.

Well, we had a popiah dinner once again that day for the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival and yes, she said she would like to give it a go once again. Come dinner time, everything was ready so we sat down to roll our own popiah to enjoy.

Firstly, I lined my popiah skin with lettuce…

…before I added some of the omelette that my missus fried and cut into strips…

…followed by my missus’ own-made chili and garlic blend…

…after which, I added the cooked filling…

…before adding some more of the chili…

…for that extra kick.

Last but not least, I sprinkled some kacang tumbuk (crushed peanut) all over the filling…

…bef9re rolling it up like this…

…and eating it. Yes, it…

…was very very nice!!! It tasted different from her previous attempt – whatever she did differently this time around sure did the trick! It did not taste quite like what I would usually come out with – perhaps, she followed some different recipe but I would admit it was good.

We just had popiah not too long ago and seeing how she can do it very well now, I sure would not mind letting go and leaving it to her to do it her way. LOL!!!

Not time yet…

I was surprised when I saw my missus making it…

…the other day because it was not time yet to do that. Normally, she would be making this Sarawak acar timun (cucumber pickle) around Chinese New Year, maybe a week or two before the festival but it is still over a month away.

Maybe because we have been getting a lot of rain lately, the cucumbers are growing very well so they are in abundance right now. Usually, come Chinese New Year, possibly because everyone is making this acar, there will be an acute shortage.

It is really quite labour intensive with all that cutting, the cucumber, carrot and everything else into long thin strips and they will have to be put out in the sun to dry a bit so it will be nice and crispy/crunchy.

It did look like quite a lot but once it was done, my missus only managed to come out with these four bottles…

Of course, we are keeping them till Chinese New Year – pickles…

…can keep really well so there will not be a problem with that and anyway, we will be keeping it in the fridge.

Of course, we did try a bit before putting it away and that called for some keropok (prawn crackers). The typical Sarawakian practice is to eat acar with keropok

…and luckily, we still had a pack…

…in the house, left over from last Chinese New Year, due to expire in 2023.

I quickly took it out to dry in the sun…

They say that if you do not do that, your keropok will not rise to the occasion when fried and it will not be nice and crispy.

That afternoon, I went to take it in to fry but my missus had beaten me to it. There was enough to fill two big Tupperware containers like this…

…and yes, we did try it with the acar and it was very very nice!

Of course, we must exercise a bit of self-control and not over-indulge. Otherwise, we would not have any acar left, come Chinese New Year. LOL!!!