Any better…

No, I know for sure that this…

Prima Taste mee siam goreng paste 1

…can never be better than this – the nyonya mee siam but then again, I guess they are two different things altogether. I got both from my friend from Singapore and the other day, I decided to fry some bihun using the above.

I have tried something from this same company before but I do recall the packet being very small. Well, my Bintangor friend, now staying and teaching in Banting, Selangor, tried the paste and was praising it to the skies but no, I was not impressed at all.

This would be something like what I had here…

Nyonya Colours fried mee siam
*Archive photo*

– fried mee siam and though I quite enjoy it, I would much sooner go for the nyonya version. So, what’s stopping me, you may ask? Well, for one thing, I do not have all the ingredients to make sure it comes as close as possible to the real thing and another reason, of course, was that the last time I did it, I thought it was a whole lot of work…so I guess I will just wait till some special occasion when I would take out that very precious box of the ready-to-cook sauce and use. After all, it is almost RM20.00 a box here – the price alone does make it special, don’t you think? And that does not include all the ingredients, all those prawns and all.

So where did I go wrong the first time around? Well, my friend had udang galah (freshwater prawns) in hers and needless to say, one can never go wrong with those crustaceans. They are cheaper in Bintangor and everytime she went home, the parents would buy kilos and kilos for her to enjoy so you would see prawns all the time in the photos that she would share on Facebook. Humphhhh!!! Show off! Hehehehehe!!!!

On my part, I just used it and fried the bihun the same way I would fry much anything else, rice or noodles…but this time around, I noticed that they had some specific instructions at the back of the packet…

Prima Taste mee siam goreng paste 2

…so I followed those…as far as I could. I did Step 1 and 2 though I did add a stalk of serai (lemon grass) to it for added fragrance.

Then came Step 3. Add the eggs so soon? I always add the eggs last, never mind whether I am frying noodles or rice…so, I left the eggs till the end and instead, I added the prawns. I would have added them in Step 1 or here so that the sweetness would go into the sauce or the oil and subsequently, onto the bihun. Unfortunately, I was using these cheap tiny frozen shrimps…


…that I found in the freezer – RM5.00 for a packet at the supermarket and they were completely tasteless! I’ve seen these being used at the stalls for the mee goreng or the char kway teow or whatever – I guess at the prices they are going for, one can’t possibly expect them to use the regular ones, not even the very small ones.

I did not have any chives in the fridge so I had to do without those but I did add a bit of very thinly-sliced Thai basil and once it was done, I dished everything out and served…

Mee siam with Prima Taste paste

So was it any good? Any better than the previous time?

Yes, it was nice, more or less like my tom yam bihun, but a bit mild and that was probably because I used too much bihun. They never stated how much, not that I noticed, just “serves 1-2” and I used three pieces of the bihun, this brand…

A1 bihun
*Archive photo*

I’ll make sure I’ll cook just two with the remaining packet that I have in the pantry.

Nothing to it…

My girl and I bought this…

Smooth tofu

…for our steamboat dinner that night of the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) or the Zhōngqiū Jié, also known as the Mooncake Festival on 15th last but the mum decided not to include it as there were simply too many things already for us to finish…and yes, true enough, we didn’t manage to eat everything.

My girl likes these that we can buy at our local supermarkets a lot more than our own Sibu-made ones sold at the wet market in town. They are softer and silkier and smoother…and they definitely will not have that smoky smell that we may get sometimes with our own tofu when they do not make it well.

I guess everyone would know by now my beta noire – how I just can’t stand seeing thing sitting idle in the fridge for too long so I just had to take it out and cook it. Incidentally, it says on the pack to “keep freeze 2°C – 5°C” [SIC] but I see them all the time at the supermarkets on the slightly chilled shelves and not in the freezer. Is it that cold or cold enough the way they are displayed?

Anyway, I did not feel like having soup that day so I decided to do it like how they do it in the restaurants…

Tofu with minced meat & salted fish
*Archive photo*

– with minced meat and salted fish but of course, mine would be very much simpler, I guess. Nothing to it, really! These were the ingredients that I prepared for use…


I did not have any salted fish in the house so I substituted it with ikan bilis (dried anchovies) that I fried till golden brown…

Fried ikan bilis

…and then crushed it all up with my batu lesung (mortar and pestle).

Using the same oil, I fried the ginger slices before throwing in the sliced chili and minced meat and then I added dark soy sauce and a bit of sugar to counter-balance the salty taste and finally, I added the crushed fried ikan bilis before pouring everything over the tofu that I had taken out and placed on a plate.

I steamed it for a while as I was not too sure about having the tofu cold and once done, I garnished it with some chopped spring onions…

Tofu with minced meat & ikan bilis 1

…and served.

Yes, it was very nice…

Tofu with minced meat and ikan bilis 2

…but no, it was not like those at the restaurants. For one thing, the ikan bilis did not taste anything like salted fish but it was nice in its own way and perhaps, I could have added some thinly-sliced dried shitake mushroom as well. I am pretty sure we have some somewhere in the house.

Ok, now that I’ve got the tofu out of the way, let’s see what else I can find sitting in the fridge…

In a different way…

This is our own made-in-Sibu Daddy Mee…

Daddy Mee

…instant noodles. There has been a slight improvement, I noticed – the packaging is now some kind of thin aluminium foil not the flimsy plastic that they had in the past but other than that, it is still the same.

In case you’re wondering, the 3-in-1 does not mean there are three things you can get in one packet though there are the noodles and a sachet of seasoning plus a little pack of shallot oil inside. What it actually means is that you can have it in three different ways – in soup, dry or just eat it like that as a snack.

I rather like the soup version – it brings to mind the ching th’ng mee (noodles in clear soup)…

Ching th'ng mee
*Archive photo*

…available at all the kampua noodle stalls in town, minus the meat, of course, unless you add your own.

However, I did try serving it dry not too long ago and I thought it was nice. My missus was never a fan – she insisted the noodles tasted like some kind of plain biscuit but she did seem to enjoy it like this…

Daddy Mee, dry

…tossed with half the sachet of seasoning (do not use the whole packet or it will be too salty), the shallot oil plus a bit of the ABC Extra Hot Chili Sauce and garnished with chopped spring onions and sliced cili padi.

For one thing, people keep saying that when eating instant noodles, one must boil the noodles first and drain before adding to the soup. This way, that is taken care of as you would have done that before tossing with the ingredients.

Moving on from there, this is a different way of cooking that some of you may not be familiar with. Like how the ethnic population here have their pansoh – meat or seafood cooked in bamboo tubes over a hot charcoal fire, we have our masak kuden, masak meaning cook and kuden, if I am not wrong, refers to the pot. I am not sure if it is Melanau but it has been in my maternal side of the family for as long as I can remember. This is a very simple kampung-style cooking method whereby you line the bottom of the pot with banana leaf, rub the fish with salt and place it on top, cover the pot and put it over a very very small fire to slow cook until the juices come out and the fish is cooked.

I did not have any banana leaf so I used kunyit (turmeric) leaves instead and I could not resist throwing in a bit of ginger and daun kesum

Masak kuden

It was raining that day, otherwise I would have gone out to set some serai (lemon grass) as well.

I’ve baked fish with these ingredients wrapped in aluminium foil before and it was very nice too but of course, in the old days, they did not have an electric oven so traditionally, this was how they did it. What would separate the men from the boys would be the type of fish used and how fresh it is.

Last but not least, I was going to fry some leftover rice that I spotted sitting in the fridge that morning but it turned out that there was tang hoon (glass noodles) in one of the plastic tubs, not rice and I went ahead and fried that instead…with belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Fried belacan tang hoon

…and it turned out really nice – I thought it was nicer than rice or bihun (rice vermicelli), a welcome change indeed.

I do think that sometimes, it is good to stray away from the well-trodden paths and do things in a different way instead of following the same ol’ boring recipes day in and day out. What do you think?

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…


…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…


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


– 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?