I don’t like it…

Gosh!!! I can’t remember the last time I cooked something! My health was not so good and I would get tired even if it was something simple like cooking a packet of instant noodles. That was why most of the time, I would buy things like steamed paos (buns) or kuihs or bread and buns for breakfast instead of cooking my own.

Eventually, I got better and cooking instant noodles would not wear me out anymore and I have been warming up my bottle of Brands’ Essence of Chicken (with cordyceps) and preparing my own half-boiled/cooked eggs every morning, my sources of protein and the other day, I manage to fry this plate of noodles…

…using this…

…that my niece brought back from Singapore to give to us. Well, obviously ‘all natural” and “air dried” are not “non-fried” like these noodles…

…that we can get here. They’re not the same.

My missus took a packet and cooked – she served it with some soup that she had in the fridge and she said it was not nice. She did not elaborate further so I did not know exactly in what way it was not good.

That morning, I took two packets…

…to try because it did not look like there was a lot in one. I had to boil the noodles first till soft and in the meantime, I got these ingredients…

…ready – some garlic, peeled and chopped, three freshly-cut cili padi, one lap cheong (Chinese sausage/臘腸), skin-removed and sliced and some spring onions, cut into short strips or chopped.

Once the noodles were soft enough, I drained them well and tossed them in soy sauce, msg and a sprinkling of pepper…

I fried the garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown before throwing in the cili padi and the lap cheong, followed by the noodles. Finally, I added two eggs and mixed thoroughly. Once I felt everything was cooked enough, I dished it all out onto a plate…

…and served.

Well, it tasted all right but I was quite sure that if I had added some prawns and a handful of taugeh (bean sprouts), that would bring the taste to a whole new level. I did not really like the noodles though – I found it a little hard/too firm in texture like some of the handmade ones at the noodle stalls here, not really nice and soft and smooth like our kway teow.

Plenty…

Yes, we had our Reunion Dinner at home last Saturday evening – my missus insisted on cooking for everybody herself instead of going out somewhere for the very auspicious feast. We asked my in-laws – my brother-in-law, his wife and my niece, home for the occasion from Singapore, to join us and of course, my sister as well, seven of us altogether.

As they say, Nian Nian You Yu (年年有魚) or abundance year after year, so we had this steamed barramundi…

…and this sweet and sour or chio (ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret)…

…both served whole, like how they say it should be done. Filleted fish don’t count, I’m afraid. They also say that we must not finish all the fish – there should be some left over to be eaten over the subsequent days. Well, we did have some of that barramudi left but by the end of the dinner that night, there was nothing left of the or chio, other than the bones. My missus must have done a very good job with it – not even the sauce was left.

She also made some ngó͘-hiang (meat rolls) or lor bak as it is called at some places in the peninsula…

Traditionally, they symbolize wealth and prosperity probably because of its golden colour after frying plus all that meat, with prawn or crab meat added, inside.

My girl asked for this – our giant freshwater prawns with pineapples cooked with kunyit (turmeric) and everything else…

Without the prawns, it is something like the very delicious Malay dish, the pajeri nenas.

For our vegetable dish, we had this broccoli with mushrooms…

…and my missus threw in the abalone (New Moon brand) that her niece brought home from Singapore and we had this very lovely refreshing fish maw soup…

…with quail eggs. I did buy some sea cucumber but she forgot to throw them in. I guess those will have to wait till some other day then.

I bought this super-intoxicating kacang ma chicken…

…from Payung and needless to say, it was a hit. Andy gave me some pomelo salad…

…to which I added some Mandarins/ponkam and served and we also grilled the lamb chops…

…that Anthony & Nica Plus gave me that day. Yes, they enjoyed them very much but I did not touch it this time around as I have to abstain from red meat. Everyone sang praises of the one with rosemary and garlic.

My sister got this traditional Chinese salt-baked chicken…

…from a friend and she brought it along to share with all of us.

Goodness gracious me! There sure was plenty…

…to go around that night, don’t you think?

Believe it or not, we finished almost everything – there was only a bit left so there was no need for us to struggle to finish off the leftovers in the days that followed. Hopefully, that is the foreshadowing of what lies ahead for us in the Year of the Rabbit, everything in abundance, ciak pa pa (eat to our hearts’ content), fingers crossed!

In a box…

My favourite fish and seafood stall not far from my house is no longer there. The boy told me that Madam Lau has retired, not running the business anymore but I do know that she had a stall at the central market and if I am not wrong, she also had one in the vicinity of the Sunday Market as well but I don’t go to those two places so I am not sure if she is doing it there or not.

This particular stall was on the narrow pavement against the wall of the building and customers would stand by the side of the road to pick and buy the fish. Many would park their cars illegally along the road on the opposite side even though there were ample parking spaces round the corner in front of the building.

It did not matter one bit though because there were hardly any cars passing through – those that did never had a problem, not at all so there would be no reason for the town authorities to force them to close down the stall. Just go round the kampung any time of day and you will see all the stalls by the roadside selling all kinds of things and all the cars parked illegally along the already VERY congested and narrow road to go and buy and nothing ever happens to them!

Now, the fish stall has moved to the front of the shop/supermarket – perhaps they have taken over but one young boy would still be there every morning to attend to the customers. The only difference now is once done, you will have to take your purchases to the cashier’s counter inside the supermarket to pay for them.

I have not dropped by for a long time now so I am not sure what fish they are selling these days. As far as I know, they have three types of farmed fish from the Batang Ai hydro-electricity lakes – the tilapia, ikan sultan and the barramundi (ikan siakap). They harvest them and send them over regularly so you can be sure they are very fresh, no mud smell at all. I liked to buy the barramundi – all of them would be of a standard weight, 600 gm, all the same…and the boy would clean it and do the butterfly cut for me, ready for steaming.

Well, I was browsing around one of the supermarkets here the other day when I saw this…

As far as I know, Malaysia exports this fish to Australia and those people overseas would not eat fish, bones and all, and would rather go for those pre-filleted ones. I assumed this was farmed from the last part that said, “Our hand-cut fillets are flash-frozen within hours of harvest, locking in the freshness and flavour.

Much to my surprise though, this did not come from Batang Ai. Instead, it came all the way from Perak in West Malaysia…

…selling at around RM20.00 a box, two pieces inside…

…400 gm altogether. My cousin in Bintulu said that they were selling this fish a little cheaper at around RM40.00 for a kilo there but theirs were plastic-wrapped, not in nice boxes like this. The fresh ones from Batang Ai are selling for around RM28.00 a kilo but they are whole fish, not filleted.

My missus steamed it for our meals the other day…

…and yes, I would say that it…

…was very nice, no unpleasant fishy smell, no bones, all fish! Personally, I felt the Batang Ai ones that we had before were nicer – smaller but smoother and silkier but these are so very convenient. We can just keep a few boxes in the freezer and take out to cook whenever we feel like having fish, no need to go through all that hassle of cleaning the fish prior to cooking and no need to worry about the bones when eating.

There were only two boxes left at the supermarket and we grabbed both of them. I don’t know if they will replenish the stock or not – that is the problem here. Once something is sold out, you may never get to see it again.

Quiet Christmas…

Unlike those wonderful days in my younger years, we had a quiet Christmas, no open house, nothing, just a simple lunch, all in the family.

We took out the asam pedas oxtail…

…that my cousin brought all the way from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to give to me and it was really very very good! He said that he went to the hotel known far and wide for this dish but they said that theirs was not ready at the time so he went to what they said was the original chef, the guy behind the recipe at the hotel, who has since left to branch out on his own.

I enjoyed it so much that I could not resist going for a second helping of rice. It went so very well with the rich and thick and super-delicious gravy. I know! I know! I should abstain from red meat but never mind! After all, it was Christmas! The oxtail was fall off the bone tender and was simply out of this world!

My missus also grilled the gourmet sausages…

…that she bought from here when we stopped by there that day for lunch and yes, they were very nice too. Yes, I should refrain from eating processed meat too but they did claim that theirs were free from preservatives, no nitrates or whatever…and anyway, I only took a bit.

My missus did not go out marketing but she managed to put together this bowl of salad…

…and we had our family’s traditional salad dressing to toss it with and it sure was good, better than most, if not all, of the salads at the cafés and restaurants in town.

My girl cooked this very nice mushroom soup…

…which was definitely as good as the better ones around town and as always, we asked my sister to join the three of us for our simple lunch that day. She brought along this pumpkin cake loaf with cinnamon cream cheese frosting & a little sprinkle of chocolate flakes…

…that we could enjoy for dessert. It was sweet, of course! I’m sure with pumpkin as the main ingredient, it would be sweet even without adding any sugar. Anyway, I just had a slice, that was all.

Ooopsss!!! I forgot completely about the panettone that my cousin made and gave to me. It sure looks like I shall have to save that for New Year’s Eve…or for Chinese New Year – that’s just round the corner, mind you!

Red green yellow…

I blogged about the Ayam Brand green curry paste sometime last month and my faithful and most regular follower, Irene, in Kuching happened to see it at a supermarket there.

Without a second thought, she grabbed it and cooked one whole chicken using the paste from two of the three containers in the box. Much to her delight, everyone in the family loved it so much and she happily declared that she would be cooking it again for Chinese New Year in January, no more of our regular curry for everybody this time around. Yes, I would say it was this nice!

Well, the other day, my missus came home with this…

…also from that same brand. I did see that before, the name and the photos but I never paid much attention as I just assumed it was our regular curry as opposed to their green curry (kaeng khiao wan) which would be something totally different altogether.

Obviously, it isn’t! It’s another version of Thai curry, more popular known as kaeng phet in their language, different from the massaman curry (kaeng matsaman) that I do enjoy a lot as well.

My missus gave it a try right away and came out with this dish of the red curry

…with potatoes added but she was quite disappointed with it. She did not think it was anything special and added that she would very much prefer our own style of curry.

I thought, however, that even though it was something quite different, it…

…was very nice, bursting with all the flavours of all the ingredients that went into the making of the paste…

– also three in a box like the green one.

I went and googled to look at the recipes and it appeared that the most common one would be to cook this red chicken curry with squash (pumpkin) but personally, I had the feeling that it would be nice with a bit of fresh pineapple, short strips of long bean and tofu.

I did see in one website where they gave the advice that it would be easier to just use the ready-made paste available everywhere at the shops and supermarkets because there are simply too many ingredients, and it would be a hassle to try and cook it…

…from scratch. Anyway, we do the same whenever we cook curry these days – just use the instant paste and yes, that is just as nice, if not nicer, without having to go through the chore of preparing all the ingredients needed.

Incidentally, my missus said that there is also the paste for Thai yellow curry (kaeng lueang). I certainly will blog about it when she gets round to cooking it so you’ll stick around for that, won’t you?

Pale green…

We used to have a couple of Thai restaurants in town but not anymore. Of course, anything and everything tom yam is available here, there and everywhere at the coffee shops, cafés and restaurants but you will not be able to find anything more than that so easily.

Thankfully, my missus can cook her very own Thai green curry from scratch, as nice as the one we would order sometimes here…

…at Payung Café, complete with the terung pipit and all. I even ordered it by the kilo…

…for my Chinese New Year reunion dinner and open house – yes, it is that good!

Well, here’s a bit of good news for those of you who love Thai green curry! You can buy this instant paste…

…available in the shops in boxes, three packs in one…

…and you can use them one by one if you are not cooking that much at one go.

It is so very easy to cook – just follow the instructions on the box…

…and with just one pack, you can have a delightful bowl of Thai green curry to enjoy.

This was what was left, after one meal for the three of us, of what my missus cooked using one pack…

You can take my word for it – it was very nice and you can go and buy the terung pipit from the ethnic section at the Sibu Central Market to throw in for the complete works. Yes, the colour was kind of pale – perhaps, if you add a bit of blended green chili, you would be able to get a nicer shade of green.

Go ahead! Give it a try! Bon appetit!!!

White and red…

This is the 2nd pack that my girl has bought…

…to enjoy. My missus was telling me that she prefers the regular instant kampua mee with dark soy sauce from the Kitchen Food people but our girl feels otherwise. That is why I would see them buying two packs at a time, one the instant kampua mee for the mum and the other, this instant Kuching kolo mee for the daughter, both with dark soy sauce – to each her own!

Black kolo mee? Correct me if I am wrong but I only know of the white version…

…and there is the red version too…

…but I am pretty sure there is no black kolo mee, just kampua mee, white…

…or black or with dark soy sauce, that is…

…or red…

…especially the ones from Kanowit that I love so much!

There are four packets…

…in a pack of these instant ones and I would say that at least, they got the noodles…

…right. They are VERY thin and very curly, the result of the noodles being machine-made. These days, you may find that the kampua mee around here isn’t very different but the purists or the die-hards – those true blue kampua mee aficionados like my friend, Annie in KL, will insist on the traditionally handmade ones that are straight and thicker too.

Somebody mentioned in his comment the other day that in the process of cooking, they do not dip the kampua mee in cold water to remove the excess starch so the noodles will not be so sticky/gooey and will not stick together in a clump. I first noticed people doing that at St Michael’s Canteen in Kuching in the 70’s where the guy had a pail of water by his side so he would cook the noodles in boiling water in the cauldron and then he would drain them and dip them into the cold water in the pail for a while – he did this at least twice everytime.

Well, they do that with kampua mee too these days – you can see that at many of the stalls all over Sibu and that was what I did too that morning. I boiled the noodles in hot water till soft and drained them well before rinsing them under cold running water, straight from the tap…

…and after that, I added boiling water to heat up the noodles all over again before tossing them well with the shallot oil/lard and the dark soy sauce in the two sachets provided and sprinkling some chopped spring onions on top…

I did not have any char siew or minced meat or whatever to serve the noodles with so I just added a few slices of tomato for the colour…

…and one half-boiled egg…

…by the side.

Of course it did not taste anything like kolo mee – I would have to get ready some fried garlic oil and a bit of golden-brown fried garlic for tossing with everything else in the oil and for garnishing and I sure wouldn’t mind the typical kolo mee dip – the pickled sliced green and/or red chili in vinegar…

…to mix it altogether for a hint of that in the noodles. As it is, I would say that at this point in time, the only thing kolo mee about it is the size of the noodles and how curly they are.

THE KITCHEN FOOD shop (2.304994, 111.847404)…

…home of the original, the one & only Sibu instant kampua, is located in the Sibu Bus Terminal area at Lorong 7A, Jalan Pahlawan, right next to the UOB Bank there.

I wasn’t there…

One of the three schools where I taught – the one where I retired in 2007 after teaching there for 15 years, celebrated her 120th Anniversary last Saturday night. I was invited but I decided not to go.

I cannot imagine parking my car in the multi-storey car park and then walking all the way to the lifts on a certain floor and taking one to the floor where the event was being held and walking all the way to the ballroom…and everytime I had to go to the washroom, I would have to walk so far from one end of the building to the other – usually, the ballroom and the washroom on any particular floor are located far apart.

A lot of people were taken by surprise – I suppose they do not read my blog or they would have come across all the hints about my condition for quite sometime now…and the nasty fall that I had so I am not all that keen on venturing very far all that much these days. My sister was there – she studied Form 6 in that school and she accepted the ang pao from the School Board of Directors for retired teachers and staff members over the years…

…on my behalf. It sure is nice to know that I have not been forgotten, not a case of out of sight, out of mind…after all the blood, sweat and tears that I put into the years of service in that school, thank you all so much!

I guess now, I can afford to go and buy a few kilos of the buah dabai (black olives)…

…to enjoy. LOL!!! The ones from Durin that I bought the other day from the nearby shop round the corner from my house were really good but I only grabbed half a kilo, enough for a day – two meals.

I was telling some people about how difficult it is to bring the fruit over to West Malaysia even when you are carrying it in an open bag by hand all the way. You have to wrap it in newspapers (they seem to work wonders in preserving the fruit, don’t ask me how or why) and you cannot simply throw it in your suitcase or box, hand carried or checked-in. Needless to say, wrapping it up and sending it by courier service is totally out of the question.

Long, long ago, the fruit was available in Central Sarawak only (amazing how so many things were found here only and not in other parts of the state) but these days, they have planted the trees here, there and everywhere so it is now sold in the other towns and cities. Recently, word had it that the fruits from trees around Kapit and Song had come out. I saw on Facebook people selling the dabai from Song at RM40.00, RM45.00 or RM50.00 a kilo. Theirs are reputed to be nicer, the best of the best, so to speak. The ones I bought that day came from Durin, lower down the river, nearer to Sibu and they were only RM38.00 a kilo.

We loved it a lot, my girl especially, so I went back to the shop in the hope of getting some more. “Come tomorrow!” they told me. “None today!” The next day, it was the same ol’ story and the next and the next… Somebody told me to go and get those from the Sibu Central Market where they were selling them at that same price. In the end, after so many futile attempts to get them at the shop, we made our way to the market.

My missus managed to buy half a kilo from an ex-student of mine in Chung Hua, Ing Hua, who has been selling fruits at the market all these years. I would buy dabai from him only, nobody else and he knew if what he was selling was good or otherwise. If what he had for a certain day was not that great, he would go and get from the others selling dabai at the market as well.

That day, my missus said that he took out some hidden somewhere underneath all the baskets and boxes and he gave all of them to her, more than half a kilo, he said but he took only RM25.00 in payment – it was RM50.00 a kilo. She never asked him whether they came from Song or elsewhere.

Of course, we could not wait to prepare a handful…

…for dinner that evening, tossed in a bit of soy sauce and brown sugar like what I did the other day. They turned out to be so very good, almost like the Durin ones that day – very rich (lemak), the flesh yellowish in colour and the skin, very thin…

It would have been even better if the flesh had been a bit thicker but on the whole, if these were nicer, the difference would be so minimal that it would be very difficult to tell.

My missus managed to buy a bundle of daun empasa (tapioca/cassava leaves) or what we call daun bandong, or daun ubi as they call it in the peninsula and cooked that to enjoy with the buah dabai

…and yes, it was so good, a whole lot nicer than what they serve at a few places serving such local ethnic dishes here in town. Frankly, this is my kind of food, what I truly enjoy having for our meals and it would take quite a bit of self control to refrain from going for a second plate of rice!

Let’s see what you got…

November 2nd that day was All Soul’s Day and I left the house at dawn to go for the early morning service in church to pray for the repose of the souls of our dearly beloved.

I was on my way back to the house at around 7.45, before 8.00 a.m. and I was feeling hungry as I did not have anything for breakfast earlier. That was why I decided to stop at the fruits and vegetables sundry shop along the way in the next lane from my house to see what they had.

I saw two packs of mantao (steamed plain buns) and I grabbed both of them right away. No price for guessing what I would be having for breakfast and tea over the next few days. Yes, I did ask them for the price this time around – they are RM2.80 for a pack of 6, over 40 sen per mantao.

I spotted a packet of kampua mee (kosong/no meat)…

…selling for RM1.50 each. They used to sell those at 50 sen each at school canteens and yes, they were very popular among the students. They would just push the noodles out through the open end of the plastic bag and eat it like a bun or a cake.

Of course, they did not have all those fried shallots and definitely not at the prices they are selling them these days. The people making this for sale were very generous and yes, they fried their own. I would not have liked it one bit if they had used the factory-made ones sold in plastic packs at the supermarkets – some may have an offensive smell even!!!

I was glad when I took the noodles out and I found that the stands were not stuck together in a clump…

I was able to loosen them easily and yes, I thought it was all right which is more than what I would say about some of those at the coffee shops and kampua mee stalls all over town. I wonder how much they are selling their kosong now – I think it used to be RM2.00 a plate but now that the price of kampua mee has been going up and up and up, I bet they are charging a lot more for that even though no pork is involved, just a bit of lard perhaps.

While I was at the shop, I also saw some dabai (black olives)…

…from Durin. Actually, they have been around for a very long time now but much as I do enjoy them, the good ones, a lot, I did not bother to go and buy. They were selling them at such ridiculously high prices, RM50.00 a kilo or more, mind you!

When they were only RM20 a kilo, I was already grumbling. I saw this newspaper report where the YB (the honourable) was praising the ones that are in season now in Kapit, going for RM80.00 a kilo! At that price, he can go ahead and buy and eat all of them himself till kingdom come – at the salaries/allowances these politicians are getting, they sure can afford it, NOT ME!!! Tsk! Tsk!

These weren’t too bad, not THAT expensive so I asked for half a kilo and took it home. I cooked a few right away and was delighted that they turned soft pretty fast. Some not-so-good ones would take forever and yet, there would be some as hard as rocks! I tossed them with soy sauce and a bit of brown sugar…

…and sat down to enjoy them.

These were not very big (but bigger than the dabai seluang), the flesh was not as thick as I would have liked it to be…

…but it was very yellow and very lemak (rich). In short, I would say they were really VERY good – no regrets buying them at all…and I sure would want to buy some more should I see them again the next time I stop by the shop.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441)…

…is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Grow as we go…

My missus and my daughter went to some event at the church sometime ago – I think there was a food fair and jumble sale or something and some guy had a terung dayak (lakia kio) seedling. They wanted to buy from him but he said he would just give it to them. According to him, it might or might not grow and even if it did, it might not bear fruit at all.

They took it home and planted it and yes, it grew and it grew and the other day, I saw that there were a lot of fruits on it, some of them already yellow (ripening)…

I took the above photograph and shared it on Facebook and it attracted a lot of comments. Some said that they tried planting it but it never grew or did not grow well. Others said that it did but died eventually while there were some who said that theirs never bore any fruit. One added that they fetch a very good price at the market these days and indeed, it has been like that for some time now – not easily available and quite expensive!

Needless to say, my missus was immensely pleased that her effort had not been in vain. They’re…

…God’s gifts, she kept repeating!

Also known as the terung assam, it is related to the brinjal or eggplant family even though it seems to resemble a tomato a lot more and it is supposed to be sour. Unfortunately, some of those that we buy from the market these days are not – according to one seller, it is because of the overuse or abuse of fertilisers.

The easiest way to cook it would be to boil some ikan bilis (dried anchovies), a bit of belacan (dried prawn paste) and a chilli or two in water. Simmer to let the taste and fragrance come out of the aforementioned ingredients before throwing in the terung Dayak, cut into wedges like this…

I’ve been told not to remove the seeds – I think they said that is where the sourish taste and richness come from. Continue simmering till soft and the skin has come off a bit at the edges and it is done. There is no need to add any salt or msg as the anchovies and belacan would be salty and would have enough of that coveted umami taste.

In place of the anchovies or in addition to them, you may wish to add a few prawns, preferably our freshwater udang galah (giant prawns), or a fish or two, perhaps…

That will surely bring the taste to a whole new level. The serai (lemon grass) is optional – you may want to throw that in for the added fragrance. Some folks like cooking them with smoked dried fish (salai ikan) too…

*At the Lepau (ethnic) Restaurant in Kuching*

– I, for one, do not mind eating it like that but I am not all that fond of the burnt/smoked smell of the dried fish.

In the meantime, my missus also has a lot of vegetables in our garden and she also harvested these…

…that morning. It sure is nice to be able to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour, don’t you think?

STOP PRESS:
Extra! Extra!
We gave two to a friend and I guess she cooked them more or less the same way as I have described above – with fish and she quickly sent word to me, sounding very delighted and excited, with this gorgeous photograph attached…

*Friend’s snapshot forwarded via Facebook*

…to let us know that they were really very good, very sour and very nice.

I told my missus that and she quickly cooked some…

…for our soup dish and indeed, we loved it so much! So sour, no need to resort to adding asam keping like what we often had to in the past when cooking the ones we bought from the market.

We are certainly looking forward to harvesting more of the fruits so we can cook and enjoy them to the max!