Not much left…

We did not have much left from lunch that day so I decided to fry what was left of the packet of bánh phở for dinner.

I had one kilo of pek hay (white prawns), the seawater variety of the crustaceans in the freezer, peeled and de-veined and divided into four tubs for use as and when necessary. The biggest one of the lot was selling for RM15.00 a kg that morning when I went to the market. There were some really huge ones going for RM45.00 a kg but no, thank you – I can live without those.

One thing I’ve noticed is how the seller(s) would place all the big ones on top and when you ask for a kilo, he or she would use the plate to scoop the ones buried below for you and more often than not, those would be much smaller plus there would be all that water that would also go onto the weighing scale. Then, to make up the weight required, he or she would take those from the sides in between the trays – I would not know what those are, probably some even smaller ones, the rejects. Yes, I’ve seen that often enough to assume that it is the regular practice but no, I never bothered to make a scene and did not say a thing.

To be fair, there are the likes of these everywhere. Once, I bought some buah pakon (wild durians). I picked the ones I wanted and put them in a plastic bag and paid for them. Then I went to get my car so I would not have to carry them so far and I thought the guy was so nice as to help me carry and put the bag full of the fruit in the boot. When I got home, I found that they had been switched and I got all the not-so-good ones.

And haven’t we had our fair share of those errant teachers who bluffed their way through day in and day out, not bothered to put in any effort at all in their work, and laughed all the way to the bank at the end of every month? Well, God is all seeing, all knowing and what goes around comes around – they will get their due “reward” one day.

Anyway, back to the prawns that I bought, I only used one of the four tubs so that means it would be less than RM4.00…and I also took one of the very nice wine-infused lap cheong (Chinese sausage) from my friend, Annie, in KL and sliced it very thinly for use…

Char kway teow ingredients

…and two of the fresh-from-the-farm kampung eggs, a whole tray of them that I got from my friend – thanks so much for them, Mary. My girl would take those to her jungle school to enjoy but she did not take all so we would help ourselves to the ones left for breakfast…

Instant noodles with kampung eggs and prawns

…for instance, like this one that I had with my instant noodles with prawns added. It certainly looks like there is some truth in what they say that it is very difficult to peel really very fresh eggs and look at the mess that I made! That sure speaks volumes about the ones from the shops and supermarkets – I never had a problem peeling those!

Other than the prawns and the eggs, I had some sliced shallots and chopped garlic, pounded fresh chilies – two of them, taugeh (bean sprouts) and I did not have any kuchai (chives) so more for the colour, I used the spring onions that are growing abundantly in my garden and of course, though not the same, those would render their own fragrance and taste. Don’t worry about the chilies – that is also for the colour. I bought some HUGE ones and no, they are not spicy hot, not at all, what a let-down!

Yes, I boiled the noodles and then I tossed it with some dark soy sauce and pepper…

Noodles

…and after frying the shallots and the garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown, I added the chili, lap cheong slices and prawns and after those, in went the noodles and the spring onions and the eggs. Lastly, I added the taugeh, making sure that I would not overcook them and once ready, I dished everything out…

Fried noodles 1

…and served.

That sure was a lot, enough for at least 5 or 6 plates, normal coffee shop stall serving…

Fried noodles 2

…and it tasted all right – a bit sweet and a little too strong on the lap cheong and it drowned out all the taste and sweetness of the prawns. Perhaps I should have added half only. Now I see the wisdom of those people at the stalls and shops when they only add two or three very thin slices to their plate of fried kway teow.

What was most disappointing was the fact that the chilies were absolutely hopeless so we had to add some more while eating – my missus’ special extra-spicy blended chili in a bottle in the fridge to give that much-needed kick…

Fried noodles 3

No, I did not try cooking my own pad thai like I said I would. I was thinking that now that we can get to enjoy the very nice one here, I can always drop by and have it there instead of having to go through the trouble of whipping up my own.

There wasn’t much left after dinner that evening but yes, there was a bit that I could save for breakfast the following morning.

It was such a good day…

It actually started the night before when my friend/ex-classmate, Robert and his wife, Angela, drove all the way to my house to give me this…

Angela's nasi lemak sambal

– the nasi lemak sambal that the latter made. I was a little under the weather – down with flu and a terrible cough, probably from the gardening I was doing for a couple of hours one late afternoon – the heat and the exhaustion must have done me in. Otherwise, I would have loved to cook some nasi lemak of my own to go with it and since I was not feeling up to it, I just had that with rice, a bit at a time…or for ulam with cut cucumber, nice!

The very next day, I was at my parents’ house – it is our daily routine to go and visit them and spend some time there every morning – when I got a call from Robert telling me that they were having tom yam at Mary’s place and she was inviting me to join them for that. So there I went with my missus for our brunch that morning and we were served this very nice white tom yam fish soup…

Flavours Thai Kitchen white tom yam fish soup 1

I wonder what fish that was…

Flavours Thai Kitchen white tom yam fish soup 2

…but yes, it was nice and I so loved the slightly sour and very fragrant soup. It would have been perfect with bihun, I think. We were given a bowl of sliced cili padi to add ourselves should we like it extra hot and of course, my missus helped herself to a lot of that.

Mary also got Jos, her Thai chef, to fry this plate of kway teow

Flavours Thai Kitchen fried kway teow

…for us. I had this before when I dropped by here for lunch and yes, I thought it was nice but we were so full that day so I had to have it tapao-ed to take home.

When my Kuching cousins were in town, I had to go to the market early in the morning to collect the skin I had ordered for our popiah lunch and I saw two ikan buris at a stall and I quickly grabbed both. This river fish is not easy to come by these days. In the end, I decided to give them to my cousins to take home to Kuching – I don’t think they can get those there – so I had none left for myself.

Well, as they say, what goes around comes around…and my brother-in-law dropped by my house in the afternoon to give me FIVE of the fish! He said something about my sister-in-law buying them or somebody gave them to her. They were not as big but would be perfect for our kampung-style sayur rebus

Ikan buris sayur rebus
*Archive photo*

I cooked two the other day, pais-style (wrapped in banana leaf and grilled) but I did it my own way using kunyit (turmeric) leaves instead. The miserable ones I have in my garden are very small so I could only place one on top of the fish and one  at the bottom after rubbing the fish with salt and placing some daun kesum and strips of ginger on top and wrapping it all up in aluminium foil….and then, I put them in the oven to bake…

Oven-baked ikan buris

They turned out really very nice – the fish was so fresh and sweet and was absolutely delicious and my girl loved it so much! Like ikan pansoh (ethnic fish cooked in bamboo), she said – that must be because of the daun kesum. Yum yummmm!!!!!

My brother-in-law also brought a few of these…

Ang koo kueh

– the yellow version of the ang koo kueh with the skin made with pumpkin and hence, the colour. They have been buying these regularly from a stall at Rejang Park here (I hear they also have the red ones) and for once, I am so very happy that the skin is thin and not hard or rubbery and there is so much mung bean filling in it…

Ang koo kueh, inside

Now that we can get our own very nice ones here, there is no need to go over to Kuching for these anymore.

And if you think that was it for the day, no, there was more to come! That evening, the Youngs dropped by my house and Stephanie gave me more of my favourite – the marble cupcakes to enjoy…

Stephanie's marble cheese cakes

…and also these old-school delight…

Old school ice cream potong

No, this was after my time – I am a lot older than that. Hehehehehe!!!!

They also gave me this cheese layer cake…

Cheese layer cake

…that the mum made and boy, it was so very very nice – step aside, Lavender!

Thank you so much, everybody, for everything – it sure was such a good day indeed!

In and out…

When my Kuching cousins were in town, I had them come over to my house for lunch, nothing special – just a simple get-together at home. I went to the market and got some fresh popiah skin…

Popiah skin
*SK Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…so we could have some of my homemade popiah

Popiah lunch
*SK Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…and I also got hold of some freshwater prawns and my missus fried them…

Freshwater prawns
*SK Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…for them to enjoy as well.

Other than those, I also managed to buy some of our Sibu Foochow sio bee

Sibu Foochow sio bee
*SK Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…from this restaurant and for dessert, we had these delights

Stephanie's teatime delights
*SK Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…from my ex-student, Stephanie and I brewed a pot of our Sibu Mui Hock coffee to go with those.

After lunch, we went over to a Melanau cousin’s place here as it so happened that he was holding his Hari Raya open house that very same day and they sure were so very happy to see one another again – it had been some time since they last got to meet…and they got to meet a lot of our other Melanau next-of-kin there too – it sure was like an episode from the TV show, Jejak Kasih. (literally translated as: tracing one’s lost love). We did stay there for quite a while to enjoy the food, take lots of photographs and chat, catching up with all that had transpired in one another’s lives all these years.

By evening, we were still very full so we opted for a very light dinner here. I didn’t think they were all that thrilled by what we had and I would say I was kind of disappointed somewhat too. The ayam panggang (barbecued chicken)…

cabeijo ayam panggang

…was good, thankfully! There had been instances before when it was way overdone and the meat was hard and dry…and of course, when I was placing the orders, I kept reminding the nice young boy that I would like a freshly-barbecued one and not one that would not be all that palatable.

The fish…

cabeijo fish

…was all right too but it did appear rather small, around the size of the palm of my hand…and fish here is more expensive than chicken, barbecued or fried.

And talking about fried chicken…

cabeijo ayam gurih

…firstly, that thigh was rather miserably small and secondly, the texture of the meat was something like the chicken we had here – and that is the very reason why I have never gone back to that place again.

Other than that, I thought they were not as generous as before with their sambals which somehow, did not come across as all that great anymore either.

One of my cousins loved the midin goreng (fried wild jungle fern)…

cabeijo midin goreng

She said that she could not find any place in Kuching that could cook the fern well and she loved the sauce in this one too. I did not think it was all that nice and crunchy though and I do feel that there are quite a few Chinese restaurants around town that can do a much better job than this.

But of course, credit has to be given where credit is due and yes, the paku kerabu

cabeijo paku kerabu

…was as nice as always and yes, they were not using those small ikan bilis with the beady eyes and I don’t know whether it was my imagination or what but I thought the serving was a little smaller than the many times when I had this same dish before.

All in all, I don’t know if they have some new chefs/cooks on the job or what but if this is what they have to offer now, quite unlike what we have had on our previous visits, I would say it was at best, a decently all right dinner – nothing impressive, nothing to shout about and not anything I would want to bring visitors to town to again – they probably would enjoy what they have at some other places around town like here or here, for instance, a whole lot more.

That’s my kind of night…

I had a call from my friend and ex-classmate,  Robert, on Wednesday last week inviting me to his house…

Chef & wine

…that night for dinner. He said that his missus, Angela, would be cooking and this would be an opportunity for me to sample it. Now, who could turn down an invitation like that? So of course, I accepted and made sure I got there on time – he lives on the other side of town, not all that near by our local standards.

Besides me and my other half, they had invited a few other guests including our dear friend, Mary, from the Thai restaurant in town, and a few other regular dining companions of ours.

There was this very lovely steamed chicken…

Steamed chicken

…and the rice…

Chicken rice

…and we also got to enjoy the ulam with the very special sambal

Ulam & sambal

…that everyone loved to the max. Hey!!! I tried the ulam raja once and I did not really like it so I just had the blanched paku (wild jungle fern). After much friendly persuasion, I gave it one more try and I loved it! Hmmm…you would get to see it now at our dinner table from now on – word has it that those leaves have a lot of health benefits.

It so happened that I went to the market that morning and bought a whole lot of buah emplam, a local fruit from the mango family that is very sour, for my missus to make the sambal and we brought some…

Buah emplam sambal

…there to share. It was a hit too!

There was this vegetable dish…

Vegetables

…but I kept going back for more of the buah petai (stink beans) with udang kering (dried prawns)…

Petai

– I sure enjoyed that!

I have not had the salt-baked fish dish for a long time – the last time was in Bintulu in 2014 and at one place here also in 2014 and it was not very nice and before that, after that first time in KL, I had a really good one here but I never went back for more as the restaurant is quite a distance away, on the other side of town as well…and to my delight, Angela cooked one that night…

Salt-baked terubok 1

…and while all the rest would use our Batang Ai tilapia, she used the much-coveted ikan terubok (longtail shad)…

Salt-baked terubok 2

As a matter of fact, I was looking for it at the market that morning but could not see any and needless to say, I enjoyed that very much and had quite a bit more than my fair share. Hehehehe!!!

I also loved the wonderful black vinegar pork trotter that Angela cooked but unfortunately, the photos came out blur and for dessert, she made one of my favourite nyonya kuehs, steamed tapioca cake…

Tapioca cake

…that one can hardly find around here and of course, that sure made a fitting end to the superb dinner.

Thank you so much, Robert and Angela, I sure had a great time – great food, great company, who could ask for more?

What’s new…

…from Stephanie? Remember my ex-student who made those delightful mushroom pies and cheese tarts…and also the chicken pies?

Well, she dropped by my place recently to give me these marble cupcakes…

Marble cupcakes

…to try.

Wowwww!!! They were very very nice…

Marble cupcake

…with the most delightful buttery fragrance, not very sweet and really fine on the inside…

Marble cupcake, inside 1

…so very soft and nice. She was just trying them out at the time, not really for sale then but when she was good and ready, I wasted no time in ordering some more…

Marble cake, inside 2

…to enjoy for my afternoon tea. She is selling them at RM7.50 for 6 so that works out to RM1.25 each which, of course, is not cheap compared to some of the ones sold at the shops and supermarkets but those are not really worth the calories plus at those prices, one can tell right away that they do not use real butter. On the other hand, there are those cakes at the bakeries and some of those branded coffee places and yes, some MAY be nice but no, they are by no means, cheap – certainly not all that affordable for the likes of me.

Then, the other day, I got these…

Cheese butter cupcakes
*Stephanie’s photo on Facebook*

…from her. I did take some photographs of them but somehow, they did not come out well so I’ve taken the liberty of pinching her snapshots on Facebook – butter cake on the inside…

Cheese butter cupcakes, inside
*Stephanie’s photo on Facebook*

…with grated cheese toppings.

Between the two, I would prefer the marble ones with the added cocoa powder taste of the swirls in them.

Thank you so much, Stephanie, for letting me sample some of your delightful cupcakes – I love them to bits and rest assured you have one very loyal customer here, me!

Here and there…

It was my mother-in-law’s birthday on Sunday and we had a little celebration at their house on Satuday night, just the immediate family including my sister-in-law from Kuching and my brother-in-law and his wife from Bintulu plus the grandson from KL and the grand-daughter from Singapore.

In previous years, we would all go out to some restaurant outside but this year, my mother-in-law is no longer all that mobile and considering the hassle of getting her there just to eat and all the way back again, we decided to have the dinner at home instead.

My in-laws went and ordered a few dishes from here and there, including these Foochow sio bee (RM1.60 each)…

Hock Chiu Leu sio bee

…from here and also a few dishes from here, such as the sweet and sour fish fillet…

Sweet and sour fish fillet

…and these huge freshwater prawns (RM90.00)…

Freshwater prawns

…as well as the sea cucumber soup and my brother-in-law’s favourite egg omelette with lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and when they said that they paid RM150.00 for all those, I knew that most of that went to the prawns – those things are a killer really!

They also got the mee mamak and this curry bihun

Curry bihun

…from this restaurant but we did not go out to get anything as my missus said she would want to cook a few dishes of her own.

Her kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chicken

…was a hit all round and my mother-in-law especially enjoyed it so much! Unfortunately, like our daging masak hitam, it is not all that photogenic for any snapshot to do it much justice.

Her asparagus with sambal udang kering (dried prawns)…

Sambal asparagus

…were very nice too and she also cooked this chicken curry…

Chicken curry

…another of my in-laws’ favourites everytime they came to dinner at our house. At the end of the day, I would say that nothing beats one’s own home-cooked delights, that’s for sure.

It was a simple celebration, nothing grand but it was indeed most meaningful and an opportunity to get together with one’s loved ones to share the joy on a very special and auspicious occasion.

What did I do wrong…

Well, firstly, I did not pronounce it right.

I always called it “pho” as in Phong Hong…or when somebody throws a tile in mahjong and you have two identical ones in your hand, and you shout, “Phong!!!” and quickly grab that tile to form a set of three.

Then my girl told me it should have the f-sound as in philosophy…and I guess she knew better as she had a Vietnamese friend in Wellington with a Filipino wife and nothing beats getting it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. In fact, it is not even pronounced something like for – if you click this link to go to the website and click the listen link there, you will find that it sounds something like far, the intonation going a little upwards at the end. Ah well!!! Guess one is never too old to learn new things, right? LOL!!!

Now, some of you may recall that I did buy a packet of the dried flat rice noodles – the one in a green packet and I cooked that not too long ago. It turned out all right, not quite there but it was good enough. I did mention in that post that there is another brand being sold in town, in a red packet and I would want to buy that to try as well, and I did…

bánh phở 1

…and it’s a product of Vietnam…

product of Vietnam

…true and true. Of course, we do have dried versions of our own noodles at the shops too but some people would insist they would not be as nice as the fresh ones but when it comes to this bánh phở, we do not have any fresh ones so this will have to do.

I had a glimpse at the instructions at the back and it said to boil for 6 to 8 minutes. Boil! 6 to 8 minutes? Oh me! Oh my! No wonder the ones I bought and cooked before were not all that satisfactory, not really fine and smooth. I would just soak in hot water like what people usually do to soften bihun (rice vermicelli) prior to cooking. No wonder I thought it was not quite like hor fun or kway teow (flat rice noodles) and more like bihun.

So this time around, I did as instructed and after boiling, I rinsed in “fresh water” as stated in the instructions and loosened the strands before draining them well. Then, I added a bit of soy sauce, not too much as I did not want it too dark, a sprinkling of sugar (a teaspoon) and pepper…

With soy sauce, sugar and pepper

…and I mixed them altogether well.

These were the ingredients I prepared to fry the bánh phở

Ingredients

– sliced shallots and chili, chopped garlic and spring onions. sliced sausages and some fishballs.

I fried the shallots and garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown, added the chili and the sausages and fishballs and when they were good and ready, I put in the pre-seasoned bánh phở. Finally, I broke two eggs and mixed them well with everything in the wok before adding the spring onions and dishing everything out…

Fried bánh phở 1

There you are! It sure doesn’t look too bad, does it? Well, I would say it tasted very good too – maybe not all that salty enough but no, I would not want to add more soy sauce and get it all black. Perhaps a little salt would be fine but it was all right the way it was – I could enjoy the taste and fragrance of all the ingredients that went into the cooking and with my missus’ extra-hot blended chili dip, that sure gave it an extra kick.

I only cooked half of what was in the packet…

Fried bánh phở 2

…but when I get round to cooking the rest of it, I think I would check one of those pad thai recipes and get all the ingredients ready to cook it that way – hopefully, it will be just as nice as some that I’ve enjoyed so much at some Thai restaurants here and there.