They say…

Pasta originated from China, they say – Marco Polo brought it back when he returned from his travels. Well, whether that is true of not, to me, they are all different kinds of noodles. Even here alone, there are so many varieties – our kampua noodles, the kolo mee in Kuching and wantan mee are all different in texture and taste and of course, the different ways of preparation and serving make that even more so.

This version of dried noodles, the mee kua

Mee kua

…that is widely available here sure looks similar to linguine, doesn’t it? Of course I would not go so far as to say that they are the same – obviously, by virtue of the ingredients used in the making and probably the process as well, they are not but I had some in the house and I decided to cook it differently from the usual to see how it turned out.

Like pasta, this mee kua takes a longer time to boil unlike the rest here and after I had done that, I rinsed it in cold water to remove whatever excess starch there was and to stop any further cooking from the residual heat. I still had this packet of spices…

Burrito spice mix

…so I added two teaspoons of that and some chopped sweet basil from my ailing plant plus a pinch of salt and some pepper…

Ready to toss

…and tossed everything together.

I fried some chopped garlic in two tablespoons of cooking oil in my ceramic pan (Yes, I’ve used it already and I love it!!!) till golden brown and then I added some chopped pepperoni…

Garlic & pepperoni

…for some added taste. Once I could detect the fragrance from these two ingredients, I added the pre-tossed noodles into the pan and mixed everything together and served…

Breakfast is served

…with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top.

Well, it was nice but I would much sooner have it my old school way – tossed with shallot oil, chopped spring onions, dark soy sauce and a pinch of msg and of course, with Bovril, that would bring the taste to a whole new level…just that I cannot afford it now. Believe it or not, you see bottles of that (and Marmite too) at the shops and supermarkets kept under lock and key, right next to the cans of New Moon abalone!!! Sigh!!! The way the prices are going, there are many things we will just have to learn to live without like, for instance, at RM110.00 a kilo, it sure looks like I am not going to have any bak kua (barbecued meat) this year… Sobssss!!!!

First day of the year…

Of course, we started off the first day of the year with the Foochow longevity noodles in chicken soup with lots of ginger and the traditional red wine…

New Year mee sua
*Recycled pic*

…that I cooked specially for the day and we had a very nice lunch that afternoon here.

With my niece home from Singapore for the New Year weekend, my in-laws invited us out to dinner at our regular place in town these days. We decided not to order the nice prawns with young coconut in the very nice gravy served in a coconut and opted for something different for a change – the “fragrant sour” prawns…

Tung Seng fragrant sour prawns

…which we all enjoyed but I still think the latter is nicer. For one thing, eating that, one would not need to struggle with the shell. Yes, I am kind of lazy when eating.

We had this again though…

Tung Seng pork with cincaluk dip

– the pork served with cincaluk (fermented shrimps) dip, one dish we would usually order when eating here and we also had this tofu with minced meat…

Tung Seng tofu with minced meat

…that we had had before, though I do not quite remember when exactly and for our vegetable dish, we had their Four Heavenly Kings…

Tung Seng Four Heavenly Kings

– the assortment of beans and brinjal and young corn. I would say that I liked the colours of the one here – it seemed a lot greener than the same dish at all the other places.

As for the soup, my niece wanted the Foochow-style tofu soup with canned oysters…

Tung Seng Foochow tofu soup

…and my brother-in-law wanted to try their Hock Chew char mee ( Foochow fried noodles)…

Tung Seng Foochow fried noodles

…so we had that as well and both were pretty good too.

Thank you so much to my in-laws for the lovely dinner, after which we went straight home to have an early night as early the next morning, we had to send my girl back to her school for the new academic year. They had a staff meeting at 9.30 a.m. on Saturday, the 2nd of January and the pupils reported the following day, the 3rd and lessons started right away on Monday, 4th.

We left home while it was still dark, 6 something in the morning and we did stop by Selangau on the way, reaching the school in good time at around 8.30 a.m. I did fry some bihun with canned clams in soy sauce for our lunch…and I bought some kampua noodles at Selangau to help tide us over till lunch. Gosh!!! It is RM3.20 a plate there!!! Here in Sibu, it is usually RM2.80 and to the most, at a few places, they may ask for RM3.00.

Oh me oh my!!! The whole bazaar was literally buried in gold! It sure seems that they are having a bountiful harvest this time around and everywhere, left, right and centre, you will see the golden fruit – our wild durian, the buah pakan/pakon

Buah pakan or pakon 1

…selling at 3/4 or 5 for RM10.00, depending on the sizes. Other than the market and on the pavement outside the shops, every few hundred metres all along the road from the pekan (bazaar) to my girl’s school and probably beyond, you can see makeshift stalls where they sell the fruit.

Of course, my missus bought a lot – like me, she is not into durian but she loves this very much and she bought some for my niece to enjoy too before she left town to go back to Singapore the next day. My niece shared the photograph on Facebook and declared that she had one whole fruit all to herself right away…

Buah pakan or pakon 2

She sure loves it too!!!

Well, the holidays are over and it is back to the usual routine…but it would not be long before the schools will take a one-week break for Chinese New Year, come February and knowing how time seems to fly these days, that would come real soon – of that, I’m pretty sure.

Make me a channel of your peace…

It’s past midnight…

Clock

…which means that it’s New Year’s Day, 2016. So what are the resolutions that you have made?

On my part, I resolve to live one day at a time and for these, I humbly pray…

Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in You

Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy

Love

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of Your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive

Giving...
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life…

Happy New Year to one and all…

Longevity mee sua for 2016

…God’s abundant Blessings be upon us all on this day and every day in the year ahead.

Welcome to the jungle…

My uncle and his family and everybody who came that day drove all the way from Kuching and like what I used to do before here and also here, they stopped by the little bazaars and towns along the way and by the time they reached Sibu, they had already bought quite a lot of stuff including things that came from our jungle where they grow wild and are sold by some ethnic women at those places, and are not that easily available in the big towns and cities in the state.

He gave me this durian mantak (unripened durian)…

Durian mantak

…to cook for my mum. I’ve cooked a more complicated version here once but my mum prefers it simple so this time around, I did it the way she likes it.

It is actually very easy. All you have to do is to remove the seeds and cut the flesh into bite-size chunks…

Seeds removed

My mum does not like it cut too small so that explains the rather big size of the pieces ready to be cooked.

To start off, you need to cook the stock. Just boil some water in which you put these ingredients…

Ingredients

– a bit of belacan (dried prawn paste), a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and chili. Simmer awhile to let the flavours come out of the ingredients before putting in the durian chunks.

Bring it back to boil and let it simmer for sometime and soon, it…

Durian mantak rebus

…is ready to be served, no added salt and no msg required.

My uncle also brought me these seeds…

Buah pelajo

…that are actually the kernel of what we call buah pelajo here. Probably that is in Melanau or Sarawak Malay for it appears that some people know them as melinjo or maybe that is in the national language. There are quite a lot of differences between the two, like for instance, we call an aeroplane bilun here but that is a balloon to them and their plane is kapal terbang, literally translated as flying ship.

I also cooked these in a similar way, what we call our sayur rebus (boiled vegetables) in our ethnic Melanau kampung-style cooking. As in the above with the durian mantak, I had the belacan and the chili but this time around, I had left out the ikan bilis as I had some prawns…

Udang galah

…and wanted to use those instead.

What I did was, I boiled the belacan and the chili for the stock before adding the seeds, leaving it to boil for a while before I added the prawns. I brought it back to boil and let it simmer some more to bring out the taste and sweetness of the crustaceans. Then I added some baby corn…

Paku & baby corn

…and added a pinch of salt since I did not use a lot of belacan nor did I add any ikan bilis so it would not be salty enough. When everything was almost done, I dropped in the paku (wild jungle fern) and turned off the heat the instant the soup started boiling again. Do not leave the paku to boil in the soup too long as it will become discoloured and will not look nor taste as nice.

This soup is best served piping hot…

Sayur rebus buah pelajo with paku, jagung & prawns

…and goes absolutely well with rice and yes, it is msg-free.

Since it is not easy to get those seeds, we would have to do without those usually but we can cook a lot of other things this same way and it will taste just as great.

Follow the crowd…

People say that if a place is crowded, the food is bound to be good. Well, we’ve been to this place…

Kong Ma Ma

…a number of times before and there have been hits and misses but for one thing, most of the time, in the morning, there will be a lot of people here, especially on Sundays.

I was there again last Sunday but this time around, I noticed that things weren’t exactly the same as before. The fat guy at the chu-char (cook & fry) place at the back was nowhere to be seen and they have set up a brick counter/bar there and are using that area to make the drinks. Other than the Malay lady, I am not sure whether the people at the other stalls are the same ones or not. I did not order anything from her but instead, I ordered this minced pork and fish bihun (RM5.00)…

Minced pork & fish bihun

…from the second stall, the one behind the kampua noodle stall. It was all right – I did not think it was really great and the soup was rather murky, not as clear as I would like it to be.

My missus ordered their Foochow fried noodles (RM3.80)…

Foochow fried noodles

…that came drowning in the sauce/gravy. They could have just poured in an adequate amount and thrown away the rest.

My girl wanted the fried pek koi or rice cakes (RM4.00)…

Char pek koi

…that looked very different when she had it before that time when the fat chef was still around. Well, both of them said what they ordered were nice so I guess that was all that mattered.

I did try a bit of the pek koi but I thought there was way too much msg in it for my liking. It took a long time coming and in the meantime, I had finished my bihun…and I felt like going to answer nature’s call so I made my way to the washroom. It was not exactly clean, kind of wet and there was a lot of paper in the toilet bowl. When I was done, I flushed and the water came up like it was not going to stop…and I quickly made a run for it. I did not stay to see whether it overflowed or not. Then, I noticed that the guy doing the cooking was stationed in the area right in front of the toilets – he did not look like he was Chinese, kind of dark in complexion but that was perfectly all right by me as long as he could cook well. What put me off was that he had a cigarette in his mouth the whole time he was cooking…and I made up my mind there and then that I would never go back there again or if ever I do so, I would not order anything from that particular stall.

For dinner that evening, I decided to cook two of the boxes of goodies

Goodies from the US

…that I got from my ex-student, Raphael, when he was home from the US.

I followed the instructions faithfully and when it was done, the potatoes looked like this…

Potatoes 1

…but it was still creamy inside…

Potatoes 2

We thought it tasted very nice but it was rather salty.

Personally, albeit it being over-salty, I liked the taste of the sauce more than what was in the pasta…

Pasta

…but my girl loved the pasta so very much. In fact, by the time we all had our fill, there was only a little left so I said that we would just throw it away but she would not hear of it. She kept all of what was left, microwaved it the next morning and had it for breakfast. She said that the taste, the smell, everything reminded her of what she used to have in Wellington, New Zealand and she misses everything there so much. Perhaps one of these days, we can go there again on a holiday…

The other one…

I bought two bottles of the Australian-made salad dressing a couple of months back and I blogged about the ranch dressing here. We’ve finished that bottle already so we have started on the other one…

Ceasar dressing

…the creamy parmesan Ceasar dressing. Hmmmm….fit for a king like who? King Arthur? Hehehehehe!!!!!!

I made my own salad that day and to do that, I lined the bowl with some imported crispy lettuce…

Lettuce

These fresh, green leaves are very nice but of course, they do not come cheap, around RM9.00 but you’d get a whole lot of it.

Next, I added some tomatoes…

Tomatoes

…core and seeds removed and cut into small bits and pieces.

I peeled and cut two potatoes into little cubes and boiled them till soft…

Potatoes

…and I added those to the salad.

I also boiled an egg, peeled it and cut it into small chunks to go into the dish as well…

Egg

 I opened the bottle of salad dressing and poured it all around before I added the croutons…

Croutons

…that I had made by cutting away the crust from the sides of the slices of bread that we had and cutting them into little cubes before putting them in the oven to toast them for a while.

Lastly, I sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top and served…

Parmesan cheese

Of course, one would need to toss everything together, mixing them all thoroughly well with the dressing before eating.

So what did I think of it? I can’t remember exactly but I would think it was more or less the same as the ranch dressing, a tad too sour and very watery unlike the regular ones that one would get from other brands. On the whole, it was nice enough but I still think I prefer the one that has been in my family for years and years now. Perhaps if I can get some kacang tumbuk (rolled crushed peanut cakes) and add that to it, the fragrance of the peanut and the sweetness of the sugar in the cake would bring the taste to a whole new level, one that I would enjoy a lot more.

In & out…

We stopped by here for brunch that day and my girl and the mum had the peri-peri chicken rice (RM9.00)…

Peri-peri chicken rice

…while I had the Moroccan chicken rice (RM9.00)…

Moroccan chicken rice

…and yes, they were both very nice as always. I’ve blogged about these and this place a few times before and no, only the chicken is the same. The two kinds of rice are different both in taste and appearance – the peri-peri is of a very much lighter shade though they do look kind of similar in the photographs.

Many have dropped by and they all loved what they had and they kept telling me that I should give the guy’s banana smoothie (RM3.50)…

Banana smoothie

…a try. Indeed, I have been here so many times but I never thought of giving that a shot. For one thing, I seem to feel rather sleepy whenever I drink anything with milk in it, probably psychological more than anything else. Well, I did order it that day and yes, it was very good – very thick and rich. I think the guy had a lot of bananas in it.

It is the dabai (and durian) season now – the whole town is flooded with these fruits and others. I saw that they had that at the nasi campur (mixed rice) stall that day so I ordered some to go with the rice. They did not come cheap, 4 for RM1.00 and it turned out that the ones they had were not very nice. Thankfully, I only asked for RM2.00.

I bought some very nice ones a while ago but we had been eating out a lot so we did not have the chance to enjoy them and they were starting to wrinkle. That was why I soaked them in salt water to preserve them. These preserved ones are great with porridge but I usually use them for my dabai fried rice…and that was what I cooked the other morning for breakfast…

Dabai fried rice

I sure enjoyed that and it went absolutely well with the cincaluk (fermented shrimps) dip by the side.

In the meantime, we did stay in sometimes and other than the stuff that I may whip up time and again for breakfast, I did manage to do a little bit of cooking at home – like my ikan masak kunyit (fish cooked with turmeric)…

ikan masak kunyit

…for instance. It would be great with ikan buris or ikan keli (catfish) or prawns but the other day, I had some very fresh ikan tenggiri (mackerel) so I just used that instead.

You have the pound the sliced chilies and turmeric (kunyit)…

Chili and turmeric

…till really very fine…

Pounded really fine

…or later, you will find all the bits floating in your soup. That is why you just cannot use a blender as you will find the chili seeds and everything swimming around when you dilute it with water…

Soup base

Add these ingredients…

Other ingredients

– a bit of belacan (dried prawn paste), a few stalks of serai (lemon grass) and a few pieces of asam keping (tamarind slices) and bring it to boil and you will get a very nice sour and spicy soup base.

Put in the fish and some brinjal…

Brinjal

…and bring it back to boil. Simmer till the brinjal is cooked and the sweetness and taste have come out of the fish. You may add salt and seasoning, if you wish but I find it nice enough as it is. As you can see, it is really very healthy – no salt, no msg (other than the little that may be in the belacan)…and no oil.

Serve it hot…

Ikan masak kunyit

…with rice and that obviously makes a delightful balanced meal with protein (the fish), vegetables (the brinjal) and carbohydrates (the rice) so there is no need to cook anything else. Anybody keen on giving this a try?