I give to you…

No, I never intended to buy this…

Prima Taste fish soup La mian

…for myself. I actually bought a few packets to give to somebody but she simply would not accept anything from me so in the end, I had to take everything home and eat it all myself.

This is the celebrated made-in-Singapore brand – the curry and the laksa versions were rated the best or among the very best in the ramenrater’s blog and this fish soup version also got a 5 out of 5 review. My niece did give us a packet once and my missus ate it – she said it was very nice and I think I did buy some for my girl to enjoy at her school once…or maybe twice and yes, she did say that she enjoyed it. I do not recall ever eating it myself though and if I did, I do not remember reviewing it.

Well, there are two sachets in each packet…

Sachets

…and I could detect the smell of the sesame oil in (B), the fish soup spice oil so if you are not a fan of that, perhaps you should just leave it out. I am not crazy about it either but it is not really strong so one can hardly detect it all that much.

As usual, I boiled the noodles first and then drained away all the water…

Noodles

It takes a lot longer to cook than the regular instant noodles – I don’t know if this is like some Korean ones that they were telling me about – it may be boiled for a long time and it will not become overcooked or soft and soggy.

After that, I boiled a little bit of water and emptied the contents of the two sachets into it before adding the noodles and when it had resumed boiling, I poured everything out into a bowl, garnished it with a little bit of chopped spring onions…

Prima Taste fish soup la mian, served 1

…from my garden and served.

The soup wasn’t exactly clear – it was a bit milky but not as milky as those fish noodles one would find in some shops. Yes, I did boil an egg to go with it…

Egg, hard-boiled

…and I am sure that if I had added some extra ingredients like fish slices, prawns or sotong (squid), those would definitely go a very long way in enhancing the overall taste.

On its own, I thought it…

Prima Taste fish soup la mian, served 2

…was all right, nothing really sensational to merit the price it is currently selling for and I would much sooner go for something a whole lot cheaper and perhaps, very much nicer as well. For one thing, unlike the curry or the laksa, one does not feel jelak halfway through owing to the richness of the cloyingly rich milky soup.

I do not remember exactly but I believe they are currently selling at some RM7.00-8.00 a packet at a supermarket here. Others may feel otherwise but on my part, I do think that with that kind of money, I can easily buy two packs of 5 packets each of these, for instance, and have a good enough breakfast to start the day.

Little bit of this, little bit of that…

I was down with a cough around two weeks ago. It was not really bad, worse at night when I was trying to sleep, but I had this lump in my throat that hurt terribly when I swallowed. Because of that, I had to go for a soft diet most of the time – porridge, and to go with it, I went out and bought myself a bottle of Bovril.

I have not bought Bovril nor Marmite for a long long time now as they are really not all that affordable anymore. Well, now that I had that in the house, one morning, I cooked some Bovril mee sua

Bovril mee sua

I missed eating that!

As a result of my ill health, I had to miss my alma mater’s annual reunion this year held on Saturday – for once, they invited the retired teachers and I got an invitation to attend. I missed the one last year too but I did go to the one in 2013 and also in 2014. However, I did not feel up to it when the day finally came so I had no choice but to miss it again this year. A cousin of mine in Kuching flew in for the event and she brought me this bak koi

Bak koi from aunt

…that her mum made for me. That certainly was so sweet and nice of her, thank you so very much, Auntie and thanks to you too, coz, for carting it all the way.

Incidentally, the other day, I spotted this red-leafed hibiscus hybrid…

Red-leafed hibiscus

…outside my neighbour’s house and I thought that was very nice. I’ve blogged about the different varieties here and also here but this was the first time that I had seen one with red leaves. Has anybody seen anything like this before?

We had not been here for quite a while now for the simple reason that we had not come across anything there that was worth going back for but I heard that the beef noodles lady who was here previously had moved to a stall in the food court…

Beef noodles stall at Bateras Food Court

If I am not mistaken, she is related to the guy here, our favourite beef noodles place in town, and they all started off here a long time ago.

We decided to drop by after the church service on Sunday morning and my missus had the dry noodles…

Bateras Food Court dry noodles with beef soup

…with a bowl of beef soup. Obviously, they are not using kampua mee and have replaced that with their handmade noodles instead. You have the choice either to have it white (with light soy sauce) or black (with dark soy sauce). According to her, she prefers what we would usually have at our regular place.

In fact, we also shared the same sentiments regarding what we had – my girl had the beef noodles, soup…

Bateras Food Court beef noodles, soup

…while I had the mixed version…

Bateras Food Court mixed beef noodles, soup 1

…the one with beef plus tripe and tendons…

Bateras Food Court, mixed beef noodles, soup

…and they all cost the same – RM6.00 each.

However, minus all the parking woes plus the fact that it is free here…and the food court is more spacious, not so crowded and congested, we might just decide to come here instead should we feel like having this again.

Incidentally, I found that many of the stalls that were there previously had closed down and had been replaced by some other people including the very familiar char kway teow guy, the brother of the guy whose son used to be here a long time ago…and he sure seemed to be getting a whole lot of business – perhaps I would order something from his stall next time.

All dried up…

This is pian sip, the soup version of the meat dumplings…

Pian sip, soup
*Archive photo*

…the way we grew up eating them.

When I was young, we seldom ate out. Our house was not within walking distance and we could only get to town on a bicycle or by bus. Walking was completely out of the question. That was why we only got to eat at a coffee shop after the Sunday service in church and most of the time, we would go for the once-a-week treat of kampua noodles so the pian sip, soup had to take a back seat.

I did ask for the pian sip for a change on a few rare occasions and I can remember how hot it was and how I invariably ended up having to endure a burnt tongue the rest of the day. Perhaps that was why somebody came out with the idea of serving the dumplings dry…

Pian sip, dry
*Archive photo*

…or maybe they had them that way before, just that we did not know of it then.

Called kiaw in Kuching, ours are different from the wanton dumplings elsewhere – the skin is different. These days, you can buy it any day anytime at the wet market in town from the stalls selling tofu and taugeh (bean sprouts). I remember going to buy it once at a shop opposite the fire station here and one would have to buy by the kilo…and obviously, that would be a whole lot of skin! I don’t know if it was available at the market or not then but what I do know is at that time, one could buy the dried version of the skin…

Dried pian sip skin

…to cook at home and that was what my mum did quite regularly.

I have not eaten that for a long, long time now – ever since I got married or ever since we started living on our own. Maybe my missus never used to cook that – her house was a couple of minutes from the town so I guess whenever she felt like eating pian sip, she could just walk to the nearest coffee shop for that – no need to go through the hassle of cooking one’s own, those days when kampua noodles was 50 cents a plate, 30 cents without meat and my guess is a big bowl of pian sip at the time would be 50 cents as well.

The other day, I felt like cooking that so I went and bought a packet…

Dried pian sip skin, one packet

…from the shop near my house and no, it is not all that cheap at RM3.20 a packet, considering that you can get a pack of 5 packets of instant noodles for just a little bit more than that, less than RM4.00.

First, I boiled some water in a pot, half-filled, before adding 3 cloves of garlic and some meatballs…

Garlic and meatballs

…and when it had resumed boiling, I added a bit of chicken stock cube (in place of msg) and two tablespoons of fish sauce (in place of light soy sauce – we do not have that in the house). I let it simmer for a while to let the taste of the meat and everything come out and go into the soup…

Meatballs and soup

…before turning off the heat. Of course, there is no way of wrapping the meat in the skin so this is the only way one can go about cooking it.

I chopped some spring onions that I had growing outside our house and fried some sliced shallots in a bit of oil till golden brown…

Garnishings

…and put those aside for garnishing later. I also drizzled a bit of the shallot oil onto the soup for that delightful fragrance. Of course, it would be great if I had used lard instead of our regular cooking oil but I did not have any.

My mum would cook the dried pian sip skin in the soup and it would be all right come lunch time, still a lot of soup but we usually had one big pot of it and by dinnertime, it would have all dried up and all we had left to eat would be the skin and the meat, no soup. That was why I boiled the skin separately till soft and then place it in a bowl before adding the soup and the meatballs and garnishing…

Dried pian sip skin soup 1

There you are! It sure looked great, don’t you think? Well, take my word for it – it tasted great too…

Dried pian sip skin soup

…especially for someone like me who would enjoy anything in nice clear bone-stock soup.

Incidentally, I found that I had to boil the skin for quite a while. Initially, when it had turned soft, it would still be a little chewy, something along the same line as kueh chap, not quite like pian sip. Cooked pian sip skin is so very very soft and smooth one can just swallow without much chewing – just let it slide down your throat.

Of course, now that fresh pian sip skin is so easily available, one might as well go for that and wrap the meat inside, the way it should be. These dried ones would probably be good for sending to people elsewhere, especially the ones overseas who may happen to be craving for it…plus this would be a lot easier to keep for use.

FOOTNOTE:
Gee!!! This is my 3,000th post…with over 1,900,000 views and over 80,000 comments. Not too bad, eh? For a small-time blogger from a small town where nothing much ever happens. Thank you all for your support – keep dropping by and do feel free to comment…anytime. Always love to hear from you…and yes, a very Blessed Easter to one and all!

She did that…

My late aunt, the eldest of the siblings and the matriarch in the family after my maternal grandma passed away, used to cook steamed minced pork with soy sauce and she would always add an egg on top. I remember I enjoyed that a lot but I never asked how she did that and how I could go about doing the same.

My missus would cook the same at home a little differently, following her own family recipe. If I am not wrong, she would add chopped Bombay onion and thinly sliced shitake mushrooms…and what we call tang chai aka tianjin preserved vegetables (which I can’t say I am all that fond of) and the dish would taste exactly the same everytime unlike me and my half-baked efforts at cooking anything.

Anyway, we had some leftover plain porridge the other morning from the night before so I decided to steam a bit of minced pork with cincalukthe same way that I cooked the chicken the other day with those fermented shrimps and tuak, our traditional ethnic rice wine. Of course, I had run out of the wine so I decided to do without it.

Firstly, I mixed the minced meat with some cincaluk, a few slices of ginger, one stick of serai, cut into two and bruised…and some daun kesum (laksa leaves)…

Steamed minced pork with cincaluk 1

Oopsss!!! I forgot all about the chili, but never mind – we can dab our own pounded chili later if we would like it hot.

After that, I broke an egg into the bowl…

Steamed minced pork with cincaluk 2

…and mixed it well with everything in it. This was to bind everything together in the process of steaming. I steamed that for around 15-20 minutes and then I took it out to add the egg on top. Once I had done that, I put it back into the steamer to continue with the steaming till the egg was cooked…

Steamed minced pork with cincaluk 3

Hmmm….I do not recall what my late aunt’s used to look like – I can only remember how I enjoyed eating it. For one thing, since she used dark soy sauce, there was a lot more contrast and hers did not look so pale. I should have added a bit of chili and/or sprinkled some chopped spring onion for that badly-needed colour.

The egg looked like it was overdone but when I checked, I found that it was all right, the yolk was still runny…

Steamed minced meat with cincaluk 4

…inside.

It tasted great but I missed the tuak – with the wine, the chicken had an edge over this dish…

Steamed minced pork with cincaluk 5

…so the next time I cook this, perhaps I should try adding some traditional white cooking wine – the one we use for cooking kacang ma chicken. I am pretty sure it would be nicer.

Anyway, since I still had some minced meat left, yesterday, I decided to cook this dish the way my late aunt did it – no onion, no tang chai, no wine. I just marinated the meat with soy sauce, a bit of sugar and pepper and cornflour. Don’t ask me about the cornflour – I went and browsed through some recipes and saw that they added that, that or tapioca flour. I also read that they mixed the white of the egg with the meat and left the yolk to be placed on top like this…

Steamed pork with egg

I should have done it my own way – add one whole egg and mix with the meat and break another egg on top…and I could not resist adding lots of chopped spring onions seeing that I’ve a lot growing out of a pot outside.

It tasted really great though – I sure would want to try again and I’ll make sure that I get it right next time.

Just a passing glance…

I saw this at a shop near my house that day…

Adabi rendang powder 1

This was my mum’s favourite brand when it came to curry powder, those days when she was still cooking. I cast one passing glance at the back and saw the word kerisik (toasted grated coconut)…

Adabi rendang powder

…so without a second thought, I bought two packets, RM1.00 each, as they were not very big, thinking that now I would be able to try cooking rendang without having to go and buy a packet of kerisik and ending up stuck with the rest of it after using just a bit.

I still had one of the three packs of fresh beef…

Fresh beef from Perth
*Archive photo*

…that my Perth friend, who reads my blog regularly, gave me when he came home for Chinese New Year. I marinated the steaks in one with just salt and pepper and some thyme, all pre-sliced, and grilled them in a pan and yes, they were so very nice and tender, really really fresh. I opened another pack and tried cooking beef stew with it after looking at some youtube videos as to how I would be able to get it nice and brown but no, with all that spluttering, I decided to cut that part of the cooking short so the stew was rather pale even though it tasted great. I had one big pack left and despite my resolution not to cook curry and the like with it as all the spices and ingredients would drown out the nice beef taste, I went ahead and used it for my rendang.

When I got home, I looked at the packet again and horror of horrors!!! It was powder, not one of those instant pastes. *Cold sweat!* Then only did I realise my mistake – the kerisik mentioned was one of the items in the recipe, not the ingredients of what was in the packet. What? 10-15 shallots??? Goodness gracious me!!! And such a long list too! No wonder Malaysian/Malay dishes taste so nice – they really go all out, obviously.

Ah well!!! Since I had bought it already, I might as well give it a try. I cut the beef steaks into bite-size pieces and marinated it with the powder…

Beef, marinated

…after which, I put that in the fridge while I got everything else ready.

Of course, I did not use 10-15 shallots, just around 5 or 6…and 3-4 cloves of garlic, a chunk of ginger, one stick of serai (lemon grass) and a few slices of lengkuas (galangal). Two inches of garlic again? Inches? I think there was something wrong with the recipe but no, as always, I did not follow it faithfully and I added some kunyit (turmeric) and chili, no mention of those in the list…

Ingredients for pounding

…and I pounded everything till it was fine enough…

Pounded ingredients

Of course it would be easier with a blender but no, I never use that plus I did not find doing this all that difficult at all. I sure had a lot of training when I was helping my mum in the kitchen everytime she cooked curry – and yes, she would like it a little finer than this.

I heated up a bit of oil to fry the pounded ingredients till golden brown and after that, the sticks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden, bruised at the ends, went in plus the beef, mixing everything together well before I covered the wok to let the meat cook until all the juices had come out, adding a bit of water periodically when it got a little too dry. Two pieces of turmeric (kunyit) leaf, it said in the recipe. That sure is mind-boggling. Do I use the big ones…or the medium or the small? In the end, I picked two medium-sized leaves from what I had growing in the garden (they never get to be all that big, anyway) and sliced them thinly before throwing them into the wok. I did add a sprig of curry leaves as well as I did not have any kafir lime leaves (daun limau purut).

After letting it simmer for a while, I tried a bit of the gravy and boy, it sure was very nice!!! Of course, it had to be nice considering all those ingredients that went into it. However, that was not the end! There were still some ingredients that had not gone in yet. I added a bit of santan (coconut milk), just around half a cup…and the colour changed – I think it looked very much nicer without the santan. I tasted the gravy again and yes, it was nice, just not salty and though I would be fine with it like that, I added a pinch.

The recipe said I had to add asam jawa (tamarind paste) – no, even though I did have some in the fridge, I did not bother…and some gula Melaka (palm sugar). I added some and tasted again – no, I did not think that made it nicer. I sure would leave it out should I be cooking this again. I let it simmer a while longer to get the meat to be more tender before I dished everything out…

Beef rendang 1

…and served.

Now, don’t you think that looked absolutely gorgeous?

Beef rendang 2

Well, it tasted really good too…

Beef rendang 3

…and my girl who is not really into any curry and the like using those instant pastes – she says the taste does not go into the meat – loved it!

I still have another packet of the powder left so I will have to do this again…one more time. Maybe I’ll try chicken next time.

In between…

This is Pekan Stapang

Stapang

…or Stapang Bazaar, located halfway in between Sibu and Selangau and in comparison, it is a lot smaller than the two of them. However, the location makes it an ideal stop if you urgently need a toilet break. Go right in after the single row of a couple of blocks of shops on your right and you will get to the public toilet…

Stapang public toilet

…facing the playground…

Selangau playground

Be forewarned, however, that it is 30 sen per entry unlike the others in Sibu or Selangau where you only need to fork out 20 sen per entry. There is a lady stationed there and my guess is her duties include keeping the place clean so yes, it is clean unlike some public toilets even in the big towns and cities.

This is the market…

Stapang market

…and being a weekday that day when I had to send my girl back to her school after attending something here for two days, there were not many sellers around, just a few ethnic women selling some jungle produce and stuff. I think it is a lot busier on Sunday mornings.

I saw a man selling some rather fresh-looking wild boar meat at only RM20.00 a kg but my missus was not at all keen. Well, for one thing, she is not fond of the meat but neither is she all that fond of duck, lamb and quite a lot of other things. In the end, I did not buy and we left the bazaar, heading back to Sibu.

I did not go straight home though. Since we were free, I decided to drive to Sibu Jaya, a township a little to the left of the Sibu Airport. If you turn right and go straight ahead, you will eventually get to Sibu town proper, 15 miles away. I’ve been there a few times but my missus just went once a long long time ago when they first started developing the place as some kind of low-cost housing residential area with a few shops…and of course, it did not look nice at all. That was why when anyone talked about this place, she would insist on how miserably horrible it was but I do feel that lately, they have done quite a great deal and a good job at that. To me, it does look nicer (and perhaps, bigger as well) than some of the towns around here like Bintangor or Kanowit…or perhaps even Sarikei and Kapit.

When we got there, we saw blocks and blocks of shophouses, mostly under construction but a few facing the original town centre have been occupied. Gee, I thought! This place is getting bigger and bigger! I saw a bank but I am not too sure if there is more than one and yes, there is a big KFC outlet even…which is more than what I can say about three of the aforementioned towns!

We stopped by the ethnic jungle produce market and I saw a couple selling ikan keli (catfish). They said that those were caught, not the farmed ones. The bigger ones were RM20 a kg while they also had smaller ones going for RM15 only. The lady was willing to cut and clean for me so I asked her to pick big three nice ones for me – they turned out to be exactly 1 kg!

My missus does not eat these either but yes, she can cook them…

Ikan keli

…very well. This is the Chinese/Foochow style with soy sauce, lots of ginger and garlic and lemon grass and all and because we did not have any bottle of brandy in the pantry, already opened, my missus added whiskey instead – lots of it! These fresh ones really taste a lot nicer than the farmed ones – we get a lot of those at the markets here…and of course, the way my missus cooked it, I enjoyed it to the max!

I picked a few pieces and saved them for my girl – she loves ikan keli too, especially when cooked this way – she would be coming home again the following day, Friday so I would want her to enjoy it too.

Scarborough Fair…

No, I did not go to Scarborough nor did I go to any fair, just that the lyrics of the song go like this:
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme

and that day, when I wanted to cook a slab of salmon that I had in the freezer, I rubbed the skin with some salt and pepper and some rosemary and thyme…

Salmon

…and that brought the second line in the wordings to mind but no, I did not use any parsley or sage even though I do have those two spices in my rack.

I bought two pieces of the fish here, one a little smaller – around two-thirds of this one, I think – sometime ago before our Chap Goh Meh steamboat dinner. I can’t remember how much they cost now but the most expensive item in the list that day was the box of mussels, RM35.00, which was quite reasonable as there were so many of them in it so my guess is that the two pieces of salmon cost a little less than that.

Well, if we go for a salmon dish outside, it may cost a bomb like this one that my girl had once, RM38.00 and it was burnt, the skin part, that is…

Burnt salmon
*Archive photo*

…and this slice at the since-closed-down place…

Salmon dish
*Archive photo*

…set me back by RM39.90 so it certainly makes a lot more sense to go and buy and cook our own.

Well, the problem is quite frankly, I did not know how to cook the fish as I had never cooked it before so I went and watch a video clip on youtube. It seemed that after drying it well, I would have to fry it skin side down in hot oil…

Frying

…and in the meantime, I would have to splash the oil onto the top side to cook it. Once the skin was crispy enough and nicely done, I had to move the fish to let it stand and cook a bit on its sides and that was it!

I was afraid that it would be overcooked…

Salmon, served

…and my girl would not like that. That was what happened when the mum cooked the other slice prior to this. We’re so used to deep-frying ikan bawal (pomfret), kembong or whatever – just throw in and let it fry!

I thought the top half did look a little too well-done…

Top half

…but the bottom section seemed quite o.k…

Bottom half

Well, my girl had that for her dinner and she loved the crispy skin and she said no, it was not overcooked, just nice. Phewwwwwww!!! However, we could not detect the scent or fragrance of the rosemary and thyme…unfortunately.

I still had three of the mussels left so I cut them into halves to fry some thinly-sliced leek with egg…

Fried leek with mussels and egg

…and yes, it was very nice. This one wasn’t much of a problem, not at all.

I think I’ve cooked all that I bought before Chinese New Year and Chap Goh Meh now…finally!