Get it out of the way…

For the mum’s birthday earlier this month, first thing in the morning, we had the traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup and of course, I had our longevity noodles, the mee sua, with that but that is not gluten-free so my girl had hung ngang (the big bihun)…

Hung ngang

…instead and the mum likewise.

I’ve eaten that outside time and time again but I do not remember cooking it myself and I discovered that one cannot just soak it in hot boiling water like bihun – it will have to be cooked like instant noodles and once, it has turned soft, one would have to rinse it well in running tap water to remove the excess starch or when it has cooled down, it will all stick together in a clump, quite unlike bihun. Ah well, as they say, you learn new things every day and who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. LOL!!!

I only cooked a bit that morning so there was still quite a lot left, two-thirds of what was in one packet and of course, it gets on my nerves everytime I see something sitting idle in a container taking up space in the cabinet or pantry. That was why I took it and cooked it that day, just to get it out of the way.

I wanted to try whipping up what I would call sambal hung ngang, along the same lines as sambal bihun that one can get at some places here but of course, I can’t afford to use our very unique straight Rajang hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

Rajang hay bee

…not at over RM100 a kilo, so I decided to use the very very much cheaper bubuk (dried krill shrimps)…

Bubuk

…instead. I soaked a handful of it in hot water and when it has softened, I pounded it with a little bit of belacan (dried prawn paste) and I also pounded the usual suspects – shallots, garlic, ginger, kunyit (turmeric) , lengkuas (galangal) and cili padi

Pounded ingredients & serai

…and I also got a few stalks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden and bruised them at the ends.

I also found something like fish cake in the freezer, only a bit left so of course, I had to get it out the way too. I sliced those and chopped some spring onions and tore some cangkuk manis leaves, both from my garden and took out two eggs from the fridge for use…

Other ingredients

I fried the pounded ingredients and the serai first till fragrant and then I added the bubuk, followed by the fish cake after which, in went the hung ngang. After mixing the noodles well with the ingredients, the cangkuk manis followed and I added a bit of salt according to taste. Finally, the eggs went in and once done, I sprinkled the chopped spring onions…

My fried bubuk hung ngang

…before taking it all out of the wok.

Yes, it was nice – my missus said it was not as nice as using hay bee/udang kering but I thought it was all right. I particularly liked the fragrance of the ingredients used and there was quite a lot from what was left of the packet of hung ngang, enough for lunch for the two of us, and also our dinner that night, together with the meatballs that I got from the roadside stall in the kampung that day.

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Shopping…

My girl came home last Tuesday to exercise her democratic right the next day and that evening, she cooked this potato gnocchi dish…

Potato gnocchi with bacon & enoki mushrooms & alfredo sauce 1

…with bacon and enoki mushroom and her own-made alfredo sauce…

Potato gnocchi with bacon & enoki mushroom & alfredo sauce 2

…and yes, it turned out really well. We sure enjoyed that!

For dessert, we had this pumpkin sago…

Pumpkin sago

…that the mum cooked. I had been wanting to try that since I saw it in their menu here and it seemed the two ladies, while on one of their outings, stopped there and my girl had that and loved it a lot.

After that delightful dinner, we decided to go and check out this new place…

Country Grocers

…at the mall since renamed Swan Square – it so happened that it had its soft opening on that very day itself. Giant Hypermart used to be here but it has since closed down and this one has taken over the premises.

I saw Adibah

Adibah Noor

…next door and since she kept insisting, “Masuklah! Masuklah!” so I went in and bought a few packets of organic fertilisers for the plants in my garden.

The new grocery store was pretty much the same like any other supermarket except that this one has a lot of stuff from Japan…

Japanese Kit Kat

…and Korea…

Korean products

…and  of course, my girl was thrilled by all the stuff available…

Sauces

She ended up buying these Korean instant porridge…

Korean instant porridge

…that my cousin in Kuching said was nice, abalone and beef.

They had this wagyu beef…

Wagyu beef

…too but of course, I did not buy that, not that price…

Wagyu beef, price

…thank you very much – not something for poor old pensioners like me, that’s for sure.

I was also shocked to see the current price of my favourite Danish butter cookies…

Butter cookies

…these days. Well, there are things I can live without and this would be one of them but of course, if anyone is thinking of what to get me for my birthday or Christmas or for whatever reason, I shall be most happy to accept with both hands wide open! Hehehehehehe!!!!

This is new – the seating area…

Country Grocers, seating area

They did not have it before when Giant was here. I think one can have chap fan/nasi campur (mixed rice), sandwiches, buns and cakes from the bakery or one of these roast chicken…

Country Grocers roast chicken

…or whatever else that they may have there.

There were a lot of people that night – hopefully, business will always be that good so this place will stay open unlike the one before it.

COUNTRY GROCERS (2.325350, 111.85349) is located at the mall where Giant Hypermart used to be, along Jalan Ling Kai Cheng, on your right if you are coming from town, right after SMK Bandar Sibu.

 

A thousand years…

No, this…

Waxed duck

…is not that old but I bought it sometime before Chinese New Year this year. For the uninitiated, this is the traditional Chinese delicacy, one of their preserved meats, the waxed duck.

I cannot recall if I had tried it before myself but what I know is that it will make its appearance once a year, before Chinese New Year. My mum loved it a lot so every year, I would buy for her – she would have it steamed on top of the rice and eat with it or she would have it with porridge.

My missus said that her parents enjoyed it too but they would go a step further. They would add soy sauce and msg and steam and eat. Of course she herself would never touch the thing – she does not eat duck.

Well, earlier this year, before Chinese New Year, I bought one drumstick for my mum – I don’t know if she ate it or not as her appetite was not too good around that time…and I kept one for myself to try. Of course, with all the things going on soon after, I forgot all about it and the other day, as I was rummaging through some of the things in their containers in the fridge, I found it!

I think my missus did cut a bit to fry rice with but it did not leave any impression. I did not feel like I ate anything with it or maybe its taste did not stand out at all so it might as well not have been there. I googled for some recipes that I could follow and I only found the ones for waxed duck claypot rice or lap mei fun (瓦煲蜡味饭) but no, I did not want to cook that as I would be the only one eating since my missus would not touch the meat.

In the end, I decided to do what I would usually do when steaming fish – add thinly-sliced strips of ginger, finely-chopped garlic, bits of cili padi and garnish it with chopped spring onions and some dill from my garden…

Before steaming

…and steam. Yes, I did sprinkle as few drops of soy sauce like what my in-laws used to do but I did not want to add a lot for fear that it would be way too salty as a result. I would have added some daun sup (Chinese celery/parsley) too – I had a plant that was growing pretty well in my garden, despite a lot of people telling me that it was so very difficult to plant, but eventually it called it a day. I have yet to try and have another go at planting it.

This was what it looked like once it was done…

Steamed waxed duck 1

…and I had it with rice for my dinner that night.

So did I enjoy it? I would not say that it swept me off my feet – it had its own unique taste and it was extremely salty! I had to nibble bit by bit and eat with rice like eating salted fish…plus it was very tough!

Steamed waxed duck 2

I must say that I would very much prefer freshly-cooked duck, phak lor (stewed with five-spice powder), roasted or cooked in any other way or even those somewhat expensive slices of smoked duck that are sold at some supermarkets.

Ah well! At least I have tried…and now I know.

Tell me why…

…these are called French beans…

Fried French beans

I did try googling but it all came to naught.

I also don’t know why they are called or kui tao (turtle beans) in Hokkien for they certainly do not look like those. I was thinking that perhaps, the curved ends look like the flippers of those sea creatures but that’s just a wild guess.

I did find out, however, that the way I slice them so very thinly…

French cut

…is called French-cut. According to this guy in his blog, “French-cut is just a fancy term for julienne or thinly sliced.” but no, he did not cut the beans one by one – he used a food processor.

I am not all that fond of the smell/taste of these beans and I find that by cutting them this way and soaking it in water and rinsing it a few times, I would be able to get rid of the smell and like what I said in this post, if there are parts that aren’t suitable for consumption, I can just cut away that part and throw it away. That was in 2013 and I was still adding salt and msg in my cooking, not anymore.

This time around, I cooked it more or less the same way as how I cooked the sugar snap peas that day, except that I did not have to add water (nor the pinch of salt) as those thin slices would cook easily so there was no necessity for me to do that.  I would have added ikan bilis (dried anchovies) or prawns for the sweetness and flavour but I did not – instead, I added the leftover sambal belacan that I pounded to eat with the stewed pork leg that my missus cooked and that was more than enough for a really nice and appetising vegetable dish.

For our meat dish that day, I cooked this beef and potatoes soup…

Beef and potatoes soup 1

That was easy to cook – I just threw in the beef, cut into thin slices, with two whole Bombay onions, peeled, and simmered over low heat till all the juices had come out and then I threw in a handful of peppercorn, one kulit kayu manis (cinnamon stick), a few bunga lawang (star anise), bunga cengkih (cloves) and pelaga (cardamom) and added water and boiled it for hours till the meat was tender and then I added the potatoes and continued cooking till the tuber was cooked. I used the imported Australian red potatoes that day but no, it was not rich and creamy, probably good for curry only.

The soup was very sweet and absolutely delicious with the taste of the beef and the spices…

Beef and potatoes soup 2

No, no salt nor msg was added (and no oil was used in the cooking either) so it did get me wondering as to where the sweetness came from – perhaps it was from the onions. I did not have any daun sup (Chinese celery) in the fridge so I just garnished the dish with the spring onions from my garden, chopped, and served.

She does it best…

My missus cooked this dish of phak lor too kha or stewed pork leg…

Phak lor too kha

…that other day and yes, she does it best – nobody does it better…and yes, she got the meat from that shop round the corner that I blogged about the other day. They do have a lot of things there, no, not everything but a whole lot.

My mum’s pork leg was exactly like that too and my mother-in-law’s as well and there was this old couple running a restaurant in Kanowit when I was there, 1978-1982 – the wife’s stewed pork leg was the same too. I used to go there for my meals, RM60.00 for two meals a day and whenever she cooked this favourite dish of mine, she would serve me the too khai pui (pork leg rice) instead of the regular one meat and one veg plus rice that I would get every meal. They’re all gone now – they have all passed away and sadly, though there are some nice ones at some places in town, they are simply not quite there.

I don’t know how to cook it myself but I did catch some glimpses of my missus at work. Shudders!!! Anything that entails so much work is definitely not for me! LOL!!!

It seemed that she used a whole lot of garlic, some cloves unpeeled, some peeled and finely chopped. Hmmmm…at the price of garlic these days, I am not surprised if the people at the shops would scrimp on it. Besides, theirs tend to be somewhat diluted whereas my missus simmered hers for hours till the meat, skin, tendon and all became nice and soft and tender and the gravy got a bit thick and a little sticky.

But to be fair to those people going all out to make a bit of money, I have tried stewed pork leg cooked by other people but yes, theirs were nice too but no, I did not think I like theirs as much either. I suppose this goes across the board – my mum’s curry is better than your mum’s kind of thing.

Of course, while my missus was working on her stewed pork leg, I pounded some chilies and Bintulu belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Sambal belacan

…to eat the pork leg with. It sure would bring it to a whole level and if you have never tried, it does go very well with siew yoke…or even, boiled pork – just boil the whole chunk, no need for any ingredients, and slice and eat with the sambal. It is so very nice!

Well, since there was the sambal belacan and my missus had so much to do, there wasn’t any need to cook a vegetable dish. We just boiled some ladies’ fingers lightly and had that…

Ulam

ulam-style and what is stewed pork leg without the stewed eggs…

Stewed egg

No, we did not forget those, not at all.

Call your name…

I used to call these snow peas but somebody corrected me and said that the flat ones are snow peas and these sweet plump ones are snap peas and I’ve noticed that some people call them sugar snap peas.

I bought two packets at one of our supermarkets the other day and they were labelled as sweet pea…

Wrong name

I know that’s the baby in Popeye but it seems that it is a flowering plant and the seeds are not exactly edible. According to Wikepedia, “Unlike the edible pea, there is evidence that seeds of members of the genus Lathyrus are toxic if ingested in quantity. A related species, Lathyrus sativus, is grown for human consumption but when it forms a major part of the diet, it causes symptoms of toxicity called lathyrism.

It seems that they do have stringless varieties now but the ones that I bought do not belong to any of those so I had to remove the string from each pod one by one…

Remove the string

I got the ingredients ready – finely chopped garlic and prawns…

Prawns & garlic

…and two eggs.

I heated a bit of oil and when it was hot, I threw in the garlic and fried till it turned golden in colour. I was watching one of those cooking shows on television and the lady said that one must add the garlic to the oil while cold or it will turn bitter. That is utterly rubbish, I thought! Of course, it will be bitter if you burn it so keep stirring and make sure it does not get over-fried/burnt. Once you get the nice desired colour, throw in the wet ingredients – in this case, the prawns. That will instantly stop the cooking of the garlic and you will get the lovely fragrance and taste.

Stir a bit to cook the prawns and then add the snap peas. Add a bit of water to cook them, with a pinch of salt added, and simmer till it dries up. Then add the eggs and mix together well. Once the dish is done, remove it quickly from the wok onto a plate…

Snap peas with prawns & egg 1

…and serve. Note that I did not add any msg or whatever sauce – I guess you can add those if you so desire but I thought it was nice and definitely sweet enough with the prawns and the peas…

Snap peas with prawns and egg 2

…My missus used to cook this with bottled oyster sauce but we have stopped using that owing to the wheat content – it is not gluten-free and besides, there is msg in that.

There you have it! It is so very simple isn’t it? That’s the thing about Chinese cooking . It is very simple, just cut down on the oil, the salt and msg – you do not need those to come out with a really nice dish for your meal.

The older I get…

…the lazier I become.

These days, I feel so lazy to cook something nice for breakfast. I will just have my mug of coffee, Nescafe, no sugar – I am not bothered to go and brew something nicer and maybe have a few biscuits and then, I would go out to water the plants and do the gardening till mid-morning when it gets a bit too hot for me to continue. In the past, I would cook some fried rice or noodles or fry some bihun but the mere thought of it makes me tired already. LOL!!!

The other day, however, there was a lot of leftover rice in the fridge and some sambal belacan and some sambal ikan bilis so I decided to get them out of the way. I fried a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) in a bit of oil, browned one shallot, peeled and sliced, three cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped and then threw in three chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced, followed by the two sambals and then the rice and mixed everything together well. Next, I added two eggs, sprinkled a little bit of salt and thinly sliced Thai basil and spring onions from my garden and it was done…

My sambal fried rice

There was enough for the two of us for breakfast and dinner – we had lunch outside that day.

On other days, either my missus or I would go out and come home with some things we could have for breakfast. I would feel lazy to go out even these days so you would not see me venture all the way to the wet market (the Sibu Central Market) in the early morning.

Thankfully, there is this shop round the corner from my house…

Swee Hung
*Photo from Google Streetview*

…in the next lane.

If I remember correctly, it started off as a fruit shop and it grew and grew. These days, in the early morning, it is a mini-market where one can get fresh meat and fish, fresh vegetables and even things like tofu and taugeh (bean sprouts) and they have a lot of things in their freezer too – as a matter of fact, I got the beef that day from there.

The boss would go to Sarikei every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and come back with a whole lot of things such as some very fresh sweet corn, pineapples and the juiciest and sweetest pomelo, the variety that they call mor-mor phow (hairy pomelo). I loved the Nestum-coated peanut butter mochi that he used to get from there but for reasons unknown, not anymore. There are also those lung ngor (egg cake) and bak koi (egg cake with minced meat and shallots) and the Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits…and so on and so forth. A lot of the stuff that they sell are homemade – people make them at home and leave them there for sale.

I bought these yew char koi or yew tiao

Yew char koi

…there at 60 sen each but unfortunately, they were far from anything like what we used to enjoy before in my growing up years. They tasted all right with kaya (coconut jam)…

With kaya

…but as you can see in the photograph, the texture was all wrong – they looked, to me, like some clogged artery.

The dough is supposed to be very small, finger size and they would use a piece of something like a cutter to make the dent in the middle, lengthwise. Once that is thrown into the hot oil, it will rise to the occasion and will be at least 12 inches long! Inside, there should be a lot of air spaces, crusty or crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When we ate the thing, we would tear it along that aforementioned dent and it would come apart easily, not these ones that I bought the other day. Of course, I would not want to buy anymore the next time I see any at the shop.

On another day, my missus bought these chicken curry puffs…

Curry puff

…and the next morning, I heated them up for breakfast.

I was delighted to see the chicken inside…

Curry puff filling

…when I cut it but my happiness was short-lived. That was all the meat there was inside – the rest of the filling was all potatoes. Yes, it was quite nice, that much I would say, but at RM2.50 each, I think I would much sooner go for a plate of kampua mee with a lot more meat than those miserable bits in the puff.

These were good though – the ma ngee or horse’s hoof…

Ma ngee

…that I bought from the shop, also selling for 60 sen each. I’ve tried others before – there were very small ones, others were hard or not quite the same or the texture was something like doughnut which should not be the case. They are two different things.

I certainly would keep going back to the shop as it is so very convenient and parking is easy and free and if I buy a lot of things, they will help carry all the stuff and put everything in the car…unlike when I go to the market in town and park my car far away and walk all the way there and back again with all my purchases, sweating from every pore.

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. Kim Tak Co. and Ah Kau Cafe are located in the other block on the left.