New ones…

Last Sunday morning, Annie’s brother, David, dropped by my house to give me the dumplings he made following two new recipes. He would not tell me what was in each of them – he said he would let me try and see if I could figure out what went into the making.

Well, we went out for lunch that afternoon so it was not until dinner that evening that we got to cook them…

Uncle Q Dumplings 1

…and try.

I think this…

Uncle Q Dumpling 1, filling

…was the one I liked very much. I could not make out the taste other than the fact that it was all meat. My missus said something about their being shitake mushroom in it. The filling tasted great and I was thinking how nice it would be to use it to make gourmet sausages…or perhaps he could wrap the filling with sio bee skin to make sio bee – I sure would want to buy!

My missus liked the other one…

Uncle Q Dumpling 2

…that seemed to have some chili inside…

Uncle Q Dumpling 2, filling

I’m not sure but maybe I got the photos of the two cross-sections confused and what I said was this one should have been the other and vice versa.

My girl, however, did not think much of either one of them. She feels that shui jiao/jiaozi should be what shui jiao/jiaozi should be – minced meat with koo chai (chives) and even though she was fine with the one with cabbage, she was never really all that fond of it.

Incidentally, if anybody wants to buy without prior booking, I think they have the dumplings at the Glory Organic Products shop (beside Golden Star Technology Service Centre) opposite the SESCO Customer Service Centre in the Dewan Suarah area or you can call David at 012-856 2277 or message him via their Facebook page to order and request for home delivery.

Try me one more time…

We have been getting a lot of new variations from the people here and I have tried all of them, never mind if it is red, yellow or green.

This one…

The Kitchen Food zhajiang noodles

…is the latest to hit the shelves but no, I did not buy it – I’ve had zhajiang mian before outside and it did not get me running back for more. That was why when I saw it on the shelves in the shops, I did not bat an eyelid. However, my missus came home one day with a pack and wasted no time in giving it a try.

Zhajiangmian (炸酱面) or Old Beijing noodles with fried bean originated from the Shandong province and is an iconic Northern Chinese dish. Zhajiang sauce is normally made by simmering stir-fried ground pork or beef with salty fermented soybean paste. However, the sauce may vary from province to province and between countries.

I had this one…

Twin Corner zhajiang mian

here and it sure did not look anything like the real thing. No, I was not impressed so I never went back for more.

This…

Noodle House zhajiang mian

…if I remember correctly, was the first time I had zhajiang mian and though it looked a lot more like what it should look like, it did not get me all excited at all.

In the case of this instant one, the bean paste came in one of the three sachets in the pack, along with the seasoning (powder) and the oil. After my missus had tried it, I asked her for her verdict and she did not seem to like it very much. She said she just had it once and the rest of the time, she had the noodles with her own kampua mee ingredients – she liked it better that way.

Well, that morning, I saw there was just one pack left so it was now or never! I had to grab that last one to try otherwise I am quite sure my missus would not be buying anymore and I would never get the chance to try it at all. I did not have any of the ingredients to make my version look anything like the real thing so this was what it…

The Kitchen Food zhajiang noodles with sausage and egg

…looked like in the end.

I cooked the noodles, emptied all the contents in the sachets into a plate and once cooked, I drained the noodles thoroughly before throwing it into the plate and tossing it well with the ingredients. I fried an egg to go with it and there was one gourmet sausage in the freezer, black pepper, so I sliced it thinly and fried the slices on a non-stick pan till nicely done and served them by the side. I garnished the noodles with a sprinkling of chopped spring onion from my garden and sat down to taste the fruit of my labour…

The Kitchen zhajiang noodles, served

No, it certainly did not sweep me off my feet. The bean paste tasted like those black beans that they use to steam with pork ribs at those dim sum places and some may use them for cooking the sauce for fish. I can’t say I liked it much – it sure is a taste that may need a little getting used to.

I guess it is the same as the ones I had outside – I may not be all that thrilled by them but there may be people who like them and may go back for more.

Clear and simple…

In my younger days, we did not have a lot of choices when it comes to cuisines. However, sometimes after eating all those rich and creamy foods in western cuisines, Italian, for one, all the herbs in Thai or Vietnamese food and the spices in Indian cooking as well as some dishes we never heard of before at some Chinese restaurants, I would start to crave for the very simple food I grew up eating.

Some may feel our simple dishes are rather bland and unexciting but I am a simple man. Personally, I do feel that there is beauty in their simplicity and one of my favourites from those long gone days would be fish balls in clear soup…

Fish ball soup 1

Cooking this has never been easier ever since the people in Sarikei started producing frozen fish paste available in packets like this…

Frozen fish paste from Sarikei

In the old days, one would have to make one’s own which would be such a chore and a whole lot of work.

One would have to buy the fish, bay kar (ikan tenggiri/mackerel) no less – I understand there are different types and one is nicer to fry and eat just like that and another is better for making fish balls. The fishmonger may be kind enough to debone or fillet the fish for you, otherwise you will have to do it yourself. Then you will have to scrap the meat off the skin and mince/chop it and pound it even to make it QQ (firm). Finally, you can start cooking your fish balls.

If we did not make our own fish balls, we had to buy the frozen ones from the market or shops. There were some local-made ones that were not too bad but one would need to know where to go and what to buy. Most of the time, the factory-made ones were not good – when you boiled them, they would expand from the size of golf or ping pong balls to the size of tennis balls!!! This was because of the amount of flour in them and the fact that there wasn’t much fish wasn’t too bad – there would be all the preservatives, artificial flavouring, msg and what have you. That is why I am not keen on going to all those steamboat places in town – they give you all the frozen stuff and for the amount of money I have to fork out, I might as well have my own steamboat at home…

Steamboat at home

Cooking this is so easy now – you just take the paste and roll it into balls and drop them into a pot of boiling water. I will usually add a few cloves of garlic for the added taste and to cover the fishy smell and of course, I will add a handful of Tianjin preserved vegetable or what we call tang chai/dong chai (冬菜), rinsed well, after taking the amount required from the pack. I will add some chopped spring onion and daun sup (Chinese celery) to enhance the taste and fragrance of the soup. One may add fried shallots too, if one so desires. When using this paste, there is no need to add any salt and msg – they already have them in the paste. You may add your own pepper if you like that.

Incidentally, I heard some people complaining about the fish paste from Jakar. They were the first to come out with it but lately, I have been buying the one in the above photograph from Sarikei and it is good, no problem at all. Cooking fish ball soup…

Fish ball soup 2

…has never been easier and one can even add tang hoon (glass noodles)…

Tang hoon fish balls

…to it to enjoy. I’ve also heard of one Sibu homemade fish paste that’s very good but I’ve yet to go and buy. Will blog about it when I do.

Chicken…

The other day, I blogged about the Vietnamese flat rice noodles, the beef-flavoured one or as they call it, the phở bò and I did mention that there is also the phở gà, the chicken version of the same…

phở gà

I took a packet to try that day and it is the same inside – the noodles and the three sachets…

Noodles & sachets

…and yes, I did check and found out that the tương ớt in the red sachet was indeed chili sauce.

I boiled some water with a few Thai basil leaves from my garden thrown in and then I added the noodles and the contents of the three sachets. Once done, I poured everything into a bowl…

Served

You can see the bits of meat that came in the big sachet and I also added one fried drummet, left over from what my missus cooked for dinner the previous day. I also boiled an egg, with the egg yolk still runny but it was not all that successful as I think the egg was too fresh and I had a hard time peeling it. In the end, it certainly wasn’t a sight to behold.

I added a bit of my missus’ blended chili & garlic, sprinkled a bit of chopped spring onion from my garden and there you have it!…

Bon appetit

I would say it was very nice but I can’t make a comparison between this one and the beef-flavoured one just like that. I remember that was very nice too but I guess unless I eat both together, I would not be able to tell the subtle differences between the two of them.

My Vietnam…

I love ASEAN cuisines, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Filipino. Unfortunately, we only have some places selling some Indonesian delights and a Thai restaurant that people say has gone downhill since the Thai chefs went home.

No, we do not have any Filipino restaurants here even though many Chinese restaurants in town serve that crispy pata and they call it Philippine pork leg and yes, we have had a Vietnamese place once and a stall in a coffee shop too, but they did not last very long.

That was why I couldn’t wait to check this place out in Miri but unfortunately, I did not think it was all that great. Thankfully, we went to a really good one in Kuching but the way things are going these days, I don’t suppose we will ever get to hop over again to go and eat there.

Well, it so happened that my missus picked up two packets of this…

Instant Vietnamese beef pho

…at the supermarket at the mall round the corner from my house. Boy! Was she excited when she cooked one to try!!! She loved it so much and she told me straight away in no uncertain terms not to blog about it so they would not be sold out (like what happened to the Aussie wagyu that day) and she would be able to rush over and buy some more…which she did and she came home with around a dozen packets of the beef and some of the chicken.

One can easily guess from all that in Vietnamese on the packet that it is made in Vietnam. Phở bò means beef (flat) rice noodles (kway teow) and Hà Nội is Hanoi in Vietnamese, the capital of Vietnam.  The chicken one is phở gà Hà Nội.

Inside the packet, you can find the noodles and three sachets…

Sachets

Inside the red one is something like chili sauce and the gỏi rau, translated to mean vegetable salad, looked like dehydrated spring onion, fried shallots and fried garlic to me. I guess the xương hàm in the big sachet is the seasoning in liquid/sauce form, unlike most where it is usually in powder form and there are small bits of meat in it.

I boiled the noodles in a bit of water, emptied the contents in all the sachets into the pot, added a few Thai basil leaves from my garden and poured everything into a bowl. I served it with a few slices of beef (Aussie wagyu, no less) and some of the chili (from my garden) that I pounded with ginger and lime, garnished generously with chopped spring onion (also from my garden)…

Instant beef pho 1

Yes, I really must say it was so so so good despite being nothing more than just instant noodles.

According to my missus, they’re only RM1.90 a packet…

Instant beef pho

…and the chicken one is also very nice. I certainly will give that a try one of these days.

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Not always right…

Well, I must say that the things growing in my garden do not always turn out right. I have not had much luck planting chilies, for instance. I think I did get to eat a few once and another time, for reasons unknown, all the green chilies just dropped from the plants.

It is the same with the ones I am currently nurturing. I think there were some seeds among the kitchen waste that I buried and they sprouted and flourished and grew really well. So many chilies appeared but eventually, I noticed them starting to rot even before they ripened. That left me with no choice other than to pluck them and get rid of them.

There was this solitary one…

My chili

…however, that turned out really well. Hopefully, there will be a few others coming soon.

My cangkuk manis/mani cai is another thing that I plant that has never been doing all right. At best, I may get a handful of leaves for my masak sayur rebus but it does look a little bit better…

My cangkuk manis

…lately.

That day, I managed to pluck quite a lot…

Cangkuk manis leaves

…not enough for a dish by itself but I could have fried it with some baby corn or pumpkin or sweet potatoes.

In the end, I used it for my fried bihun with those canned clams in soy sauce

Fried bihun with canned clams in soy sauce & cangkuk manis

…for our lunch that day and I threw in that aforementioned chili, sliced thinly, as well.

Ah well!!! As they say, something is better than nothing! LOL!!!

Wasn’t like that…

I don’t know why we seldom cooked ang tao (red bean) – most of the time, we would have let tao (green bean or mung bean) to ciak liang because they are believed to have cooling properties.

After I got married, it became even rarer as my missus has some kind of allergy, dunno if it is psychological or what but everytime she eats anything with or tao sar (black/red bean paste), she feels giddy so she would never touch those red beans. As a matter of fact, she is not really a fan of the green ones or anything with mung bean paste either.

Talk about being incompatible, I, on the other hand, love anything with mung bean paste like those tau sar peah and how I enjoy eating those big and plump ang koo kueh with lots of mung bean paste filling inside and everytime I drop by here, I would order their ang tao peng (iced red bean)…

Thomson Corner ang tao peng

…my favourite in town – they’re very generous with the santan (coconut milk) and the gula Melaka (palm sugar) and I love how their beans are always perfectly done, so soft and mushy and yet, still whole and not all lumped together like some kind of paste.

Now, sometime in the midst of the MCO partial lockdown, I went and bought a packet of red beans but if I remember correctly, it wasn’t like that at all before. There were very red in colour, very beautiful…

ang tao

…while the red beans that I used to know were of a dull red colour and bigger.

I guess there are different varieties. They use the bigger ones…

Swee Kang ang tao peng

…at that popular cendol and ang tao peng place in Kuching. and I am fine with those. If I am not mistaken, the ones in Penang are even bigger…

Penang cendol

…and I am o.k. with those too as long as they are not the salty variety – some places use those huge kidney -shaped red beans that I do not quite enjoy.

Anyway, back to the red beans that I bought, I had a bit left so I soaked them in water and put them in the slow cooker with some pandan leaves, knotted…

Red beans, soaked and pandan leaves

…and added brown sugar to the soup according to taste.

After hours of slow cooking, they were ready but somehow or other, they were not as soft and mushy…

Ang tao, cooked

…as I would like them to be. Even the taste was a bit different, not like the ang tao way back in the good old days. While I was eating it, I was telling myself that I might as well be eating let tao and I would enjoy it  a lot more.

Ah well! At least I’ve managed to finish the whole pack! One thing’s for sure, I shall not be buying anymore ever again – after all, I am the only one in the house eating it so if ever I feel like it, I can simply go to the shops for a bowl, the whole works, and be done with it.

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Two by two…

My girl loved those wraps long ago before she thought she was gluten-intolerant but she stopped buying altogether when she suspected she might be. After going through all the tests, it was found that her suspicions were unfounded. However, for reasons unknown, she never went back to buying them to enjoy anymore.

Well, it so happened that I was at a supermarket here the other day when I spotted this…

MISSION pizza crust

…and of course, I wasted no time at all in grabbing a pack of two to try.

I saw my foodie friend in KL sharing photographs of the pizzas she made on Facebook using these thin crusts and somebody was quick in “splashing cold water” – a dime a dozen, the likes of this – saying that it was nothing more than a thicker version of their wraps.  Never mind! Since I bought it already, we might as well give it a try and be the judge of it ourselves, first hand.

That day, my girl took them and made this seafood one…

Seafood pizza with MISSION pizza crust

…with mussels and tuna using our old school stand-up gas cooker with an oven and it turned out really great. The crust was nicely done, very crispy and fragrant and we sure loved it!

At the same time, she made this one with bacon…

Bacon pizza with MISSION pizza crust

…and I would have loved it a lot more – you simply can’t go wrong with bacon – but she made that using our smaller counter-top oven. It looked kind of pale as the mum said the instruction on the pack said 10 minutes only. Of course, it was not as crispy and we did not think it was all that nice that way – the other one was heaps better!

We enjoyed both of them, nonetheless and yes, should we feel like it again, we sure would go out and buy, no need to use frozen roti canai or one of those for our pizza base anymore.

Garlic…

I saw Sean’s post on the ramen he had that, in his own words, was “pungently swamped with a mega mound of garlic” and when I saw Phong Hong’s black garlic ramen, I knew I just had to give this…

Nissin Ramen Kyushu Black

…a try.

Inside, there were the noodles and three sachets…

Nissin Ramen noodles & sachets

…with the seasoning, the oil and the “special garnish” that turned out to be nothing more than just fried shallots, not the minute slices of narutomaki and dehydrated spring onion that came with the other flavour of these noodles.

I decided I would cook what they call an onsen egg to go with it and that was what I did except that this time around, I boiled a bit of water in a pan with a bit of soy sauce added to roll the peeled egg in so as to have a light brown exterior, not white. I also pan-grilled a few slices of smoked bacon to go with the noodles and I boiled some prawns in water and used the stock for cooking the noodles.

It did take a while longer to cook and once it was done, I poured everything into a bowl with some seaweed slices by the side, the prawns, the onsen egg and the bacon all on top, garnished with some daun sup (Chinese celery) from my garden…

Nissin Ramen Kyushu Black cooked & served

The verdict? Well, I did not think it was anything to get excited about – it sure did not sweep me off my feet. The Tokyo Shoyu that I had earlier definitely had an edge over this one.

I couldn’t believe…

I bought these huge prawns sometime ago, before the RMCO, if I am not mistaken, but we never got round to cooking them…

Big prawns

No, they did not come cheap – RM55.00 a kilo. I think pre-COVID-19, we could get them this big for much less, RM45.00 a kilo. These are hard times, people do not have much money and the irony is the prices of everything are shooting up even though many can ill-afford them.

Anyway, I decided to take them out of the freezer that morning and cook and I was wondering what we could do with them. We had curry prawns not too long ago, tom yam goong prawns…and prawns with pineapples so we would like something different. I remember how my girl loved the claypot fish with yam at the restaurants…

Ruby Restaurant claypot fish

…and I felt we could cook our own nicer version of it with the prawns instead of the cheap fish fillet…and a whole lot of yam.

That was why I went in search of some yam that morning and found a lady selling these pi nang variety…

Pi nang yam

…supposedly of a better quality when it comes to the tuber. She said it was RM12.00 a kilo so I asked for two. She weighed them and calculated how much that was and when she told me it was over RM18.00 but she would let me have them for RM18.00, I almost fainted. I couldn’t believe those two could be so heavy and indeed, they were! Well, my mind was made up so I bought them, anyway and I also grabbed some tofu puffs, a bit of leek and daun sup (Chinese celery) and headed on home.

I told my missus that we had some canned mushrooms in the pantry but she said she did buy some fresh ones that she could use. She also added a couple of potatoes and some carrot and this…

Claypot prawns with yam

…was what we had for our lunch and dinner that day, our one-pot meal of claypot prawns with pi nang yam.

My missus said that one would have been enough, two would be too much so she used one for the above dish and cooked bubur cacar

Bubur cacar

…with the other one and there was still enough left over for some yam fritters. Come to think of it, it wasn’t all that expensive actually.