Come visit me…

Hari Raya Aidilfitri came and went and of course, there was that traditional practice of holding open houses to welcome family members and friends to share the joy.

We did not go “visiting”, that’s the usual word used to refer to the practice of dropping by houses of relatives and friends on such auspicious occasions, till mid-afternoon at around 3.00 p.m.

We went to my girl’s good friend’s house first and we stayed for quite a long while, chit-chatting and enjoying the cakes and the biscuits. We were also served the fragrant nasi

Nasi

…cooked using the long-grained basmati rice and it went so well with the very nice curry…

Curry

…and the acar (pickles)…

Acar

…and there was this kelupis

Kelupis

…too – I sure enjoyed that with the daging masak hitam (beef)…

Masak hitam

After that, we adjourned to my girl’s colleagues house and as soon as we got there, a storm blew up and it poured cats and dogs so we just stayed there till the rain eased a little.

In the meantime, we sat and enjoyed the biscuits and the cakes and also the food served…and chatted away happily. It was getting late by the time we could make a move so we decided to call it a day and did not go to any more houses in the end.

Triangles…

The Duanwu Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival, commonly called the (Bak) Chang Festival, falls on Friday, the 7th of June this year which is today. The Chinese eat zongzi or chang on this special day because they are considered a symbol of luck, as the pronunciation of zong is very similar to the pronunciation of zhong (中). This character has a positive connotation, used in words such as 中奖 (winning a prize).

Every year, without fail, my dear friend, Richard, would give me his exclusive home-made nyonya chang

Nyonya chang from Richard

…I guess if you are a regular follower of my blog, you would know that there is no way we can buy these here.

We can go out and buy the not-so-nice (the ones here, that is) Hokkien chang or the pillow-shaped Cantonese chang but one just can’t expect too much from those commercially made ones plus they do not come cheap. Often, I would buy some home and end up rather disappointed and I get really put off to see them tying the dumplings with nylon string and boiling it in the water for so long until the rice is cooked.

Richard, on the other hand, does not scrimp on the ingredients like that so you can see a lot of meat in his changs…

Filling

…and if you are observant enough, you will notice that he does not use pre-minced meat from the butcher or the shop – he will painstakingly cut the meat into tiny little cubes for the filling, the way it should be. More often than not, when eating the ones outside, you may be hard pressed to find some meat inside. These days, you may find a teeny-weeny piece, mostly fat or traces of minced meat, barely visible to the naked eye.

Rest assured that if it is Richard’s chang, you can bet that it is as perfect as it looks – see how symmetrical it is on the outside…

Richard's chang outside

…and also on the inside…

Richard's chang inside

Thank you so much, Richard, for remembering me again this year. Truly, yours are second to none…and a Happy Duanwu Festival to you and all your loved ones. Hopefully, we will all 中奖 after feasting on your lovely changs and here’s wishing everyone the same as well.

Extra…

This…

Mee Daddy 3-in-1 X-tra

…was my late father’s favourite when he was still around. On some days, he would get the helper to cook him a bowl for breakfast and on some nights, he might cook it for his supper himself. I do like it a lot too but I am not very particular about which brand I eat and usually, I will just go for the cheaper ones.

For one thing, it is more expensive than most, if not all, of the rest, over RM4.00 for a pack of five while there are many others going for around RM3 something and I do know of some Indonesian ones selling for around RM2.80…and at times, there may be 6 in a pack even.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when there is no necessity for them to pay for transport and shipment, I cannot understand why, when it is made right here in Sibu…

Made in Sibu

…it cannot be a little cheaper. Is it because flour costs more here since we have to import that from elsewhere?

Anyway, I spotted the word x-tra on the packaging the other day and I was wondering what that was all about so I grabbed a pack and took it home. There is nothing on the packet to explain what that extra-something is and my guess is that there is more noodles in this one than in the regular packet. I do know for a fact that some people would need two packets – one will not be enough.

Of course, these days, when I cook instant noodles, I will boil the noodles first and then drain away the water and after that, I will rinse it well. In the meantime, I will boil some more water, empty the sachet(s) of seasoning and whatever into it and add the noodles before serving. I’ve read articles online about how they coat the noodles with wax or whatever and cooking it this way will remove it and render it less harmful to health.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons why we should not consume instant noodles too often but looking at the shelves and shelves of these at the supermarkets, it sure looks like people simply do not give a damn. These days, the Korean ones, though a whole lot more expensive, are very popular.

Anyway, back to how I cook instant noodles, usually I would just use half of the seasoning which I am sure contains a lot of salt and msg and throw away the rest. However, with this brand, I would use all of it…

Contents

…as I find that it is not as salty as the rest and I do not feel the msg overload all that much. There is also a sachet of onion oil (Oooppsss!!! I got it upside down in the photograph!) or shallot oil as I usually call it and of course, I would add all of it for the fragrance and the flavour and when I cook it the other morning, I also sprinkled a bit of chopped spring onion from my garden on top…

Mee Daddy, cooked & served

…before serving.

I had it with a lightly-grilled sausage and egg and some sawi manis so I would say that was quite  a balanced meal. don’t you think? There are carbohydrates, protein and vegetables – not all carbohydrates like when people just eat it on its own.

Whatever it is, it is best not to consume this way too often and in my case, I will just stock up some in the pantry for days when there is  nothing else to eat in the house.

Look no further…

I did mention the other day in my post that the lady at the grocery store told me that this…

SUNSTAR clams in soya sauce
*Archive photo*

…would be the same as the made-in-China clams in soy sauce that for reasons unknown have disappeared from the shelves here – word has it that they have ceased production. She said that it would be exactly the same, also with those very tiny bits of clam inside…

Inside

…and incidentally, it says in Malay on the label, “Kepah dalam kicap” so don’t go looking for kerang or cockles as I did try one brand and even though it tasted all right, no, it was not the same, not at all. I sure was delighted when I opened the can and saw that it did look the same and the fragrance was the same too. Of course, the test of the pudding was in the eating so I had to cook it first before I could confirm anything.

These were the ingredients I used…

Ingredients

…some shallots, peeled and sliced, a few cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped and a whole lot of spring onions flourishing in my garden. They usually add cangkok manis, shredded/torn, and I had a bit from the plants in my garden which do not seem to be growing too well but just the other day, my missus harvested all the leaves to cook sayur rebus with some baby corn that she bought. I spotted some leftover long beans fried with egg in the fridge so I just took that and threw it in instead.

I soaked the bihun in hot water first to soften and after draining it well, I added everything from inside the can and mixed thoroughly. As what I would usually do, I fried the shallots and garlic in some oil till golden brown before adding the long beans. Next, I drained away any excess water/sauce in the bihun and added it to what was already in the wok and after stir-frying for some time, I added the spring onions…and lastly, an egg plus a bit of salt and msg according to taste…

Done

That sure was a lot of bihun, enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner…

Fried bihun with canned clams in soya sauce

…and I was very happy that it tasted exactly like how it should taste like and my missus shared the exact same sentiments. Of course, you are entitled to how you may feel about it and if you go and buy a can to try and you think differently, don’t blame me!  As far as I am concerned, I certainly will not be going round looking for the made-in-China ones no more and I think I will go back to the shop one of these days to stock up on the clams, this brand, in case they get sold out and will no longer be available.

KEDAI RUNCIT HEW KEE HONG (2.307562, 111.824969) is the grocery store, the first one in the blocks of shops on your right as you turn into Lorong Delta 10 from Jalan Delta.

Home cooked…

Sometimes, when we get back into town after picking up my girl from her school in the jungle on Fridays, we would stop by some place for a very late lunch like what we did here or here or here. The problem is that it will be around 2-3.00 p.m. then and most places would be closed (they will reopen around 6 for dinner) and especially considering that we abstain from meat on Fridays, there are not many places we can go to or things that we can eat.

The other option would be to cook our own food and once we get home, we will heat everything up and eat. That would mean that we would have to cook a day earlier – my missus likes cooking the dishes the night before or at times, I would cook in the morning – I always get up very early on most days, anyway.

These days, we can get frozen fish paste from that fruit & vegetable (and everything else) shop near my house to make fish balls and cook the soup…

Fish ball soup

That sure saves a whole lot of trouble and the fish balls made from the paste…

Fish balls

…are as good as any. The people at the shop will say that it is made from bay ka (ikan tenggiri/mackerel), no less – as far as we are concerned, as long as it is nice, it is fine by us.

Well, other than the soup, the other day, my missus also cooked this claypot fish…

Fish casserole

…except that she cooked it in  a casserole using the filleted fish that she bought from the fishmonger sometime ago and of course, it was very nice. We’re not keen on buying those cheap frozen fish fillet (dory) which isn’t too bad if it is just bland but at times, the texture may be jelly-like or worse, it may have an unpleasant smell. There were tofu puffs, leek, quail eggs, brinjal, mushroom in the dish and that alone may be considered a complete dish on its own.

That sure was a nice change from eating out…and even when we stop some place to eat outside, though it may be less of a hassle, at times, we really do not know what to eat and at other times, we may not really enjoy what we end up having in the end. All that trouble that we will have to go through to have our own home-cooked lunch for our girl when she comes home at the end of the week can be really rewarding and worthwhile when we see her enjoying herself to the max.

Shades of blue…

My missus can’t make chang (meat dumpling). Ummm…let me rephrase that! She can’t tie chang very well – her previous attempts did not turn out too badly but the dumplings came out in all shapes and sizes. I guess she did not have much practice because my late mother-in-law would do it all by herself and my missus would taste those commercially-made and sold ones and would, without fail, declare outright that her mum’s were the best!

However, they only made the Chinese Hokkien chang unlike my late mum and others in my family – they would make the nyonya variety with ketumbar (coriander seeds). We can’t get those here in Sibu but I would get them every year from my good friend/ex-colleague, Richard or from my uncle’s wife in Kuching or buy those available there. My brother used to buy the ones from Katong in Singapore too when in transit everytime he came home.

Well, it so happened that the other day, I saw my missus busy making chang in the kitchen and much to my surprise, she was making those nyonya ones and they turned out really well…

Nyonya chang 1

…perfect cones, all of them…

Nyonya chang 2

I tried one…

Nyonya chang 3

…and I noticed that it was half white and the other half was a light shade of blue. Obviously, she had made use of the butterfly pea flowers now growing abundantly along the back fence of my garden and we would harvest the flowers every morning (and some of my mint leaves too) to brew a pot of the delightful tea to drink.

I did ask her why she made them like that and she said that she saw people doing it that way in some instructional video. So far, I’ve seen those not dyed at all or dyed completely blue or just stained lightly here and there. Of course, it did not matter one bit as it was just the colour and did not affect the taste in any way, unlike the little piece of pandan that she put inside – the fragrance of the leaf sure brought the taste to a whole new level.

Yes, the meat filling…

Nyonya chang 4

…was great, a little sweet with the addition of the dried winter melon (冬瓜糖) and yes, I must say that I sure did enjoy eating those changs that my missus made a lot! Yum yummm!!!

Of course it was a whole lot of work and those of us who do not know how to tie those dumplings would take the easy way out and cook it in a baking tray, the glutinous rice with a layer of the filling in between. I told her that she could cook the glutinous rice and the filling the way her mum would do it for her Hokkien chang (yes, my missus does not have a problem with that, just the tying) and cook it in aluminum foil cups like Lo Mai Gai (糯米鸡). That way, she would not have to go through the tedious task of tying the dumplings.

Once upon a time…

These are our Rajang hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

Rajang hay bee

As you can see, they are straight, not like all the other udang kering from other parts of the country/world. The people have to painstakingly arrange the prawns in line one by one so the end product will be straight.

Once upon a time – yes, it does seem so very long ago, they were quite affordable and my mum would make the sambal quite often. Of course, she would make quite a lot at one go and store them in (Nescafe) bottles for us to eat slowly. When I was some place else, not at home, she would make and send to me a bottle or two whenever there was somebody to send it through. I guess she reckoned I could always eat it with rice…and with some cut cucumber, that would be a balanced meal by itself.

These days, these prawns are way over RM100 a kg so I do not make the sambal that often. Besides, they are harder – dunno if this is true but they tell me that now it is factory-made and machine-dried and maybe, they steam them too long so they are no longer as sweet and nice as those during our growing up years.

I did blog about making this sambal hay bee/udang kering a long time ago when I was still using my handphone camera and that was more or less what I did the other day when I felt like making some.

I pounded the ingredients…

Pounded ingredients

…and the dried prawns…

Hay bee, pounded

…after soaking in hot water to soften a little and to rinse them clean. I must say it was no easy task as they are a lot harder these days but using the blender is out of the question. My good friends’ mum, Auntie Mary, the dear ol’ lady, may she rest in peace, once told me she would not pound till too fine as she would prefer some little bits to give it some bite and to chew on when eating and enjoying.

The preparation of the ingredients may be quite tedious but the cooking is very easy. Just fry the pounded ingredients in quite a lot of oil (the pounded dried prawns will soak it all up later so make sure there is enough), throw in the serai (lemon grass)…

Cooking

…and when nicely browned and fragrant, add the pounded dried prawns. Add some curry leaves and if you want, you can add sugar, salt and msg too.  Keep stirring till nice and crusty and golden brown before dishing it all out…

My sambal hay bee

We loved it so much, great with rice and we even had it on bread. Yes, you read it right, bread! As a matter of fact, I had not had it that way for so long that yesterday, I went out and bought a loaf and after applying a layer of butter on a slice, I added the sambal

Sambal hay bee on buttered bread

…and ate. Oh boy! That tasted so so so good! I had not had it this way for so long, maybe not since I was a kid or a teenager that I had forgotten completely how good that tasted, a whole lot nicer than with rice, take my word of it!

This should last for a couple of days and looking at how the prices of everything are going up and up and up, I guess I will be having this again not that soon in the near future. Sighhh!!!