In the air tonight…

I did mention in my previous post that my girl and the mum went out shopping last Friday and among the things that they carted home that afternoon was this air fryer…

We have one in the house – my niece, the one working in Singapore, gave my missus a small one and my missus have been using it quite a lot since. The problem with that one is the size – I think it is more suitable for people who are single. That was why more often than not, I would see my missus cooking something two or three times so that there would be enough for the three of us.

This one is big enough to roast one whole chicken of not more than 1.8 kilo. We have never tried doing that with the small one, of course and the other day, my missus used this new one to cook two chicken thighs and sweet potatoes…

…enough for our lunch and dinner, no need to do it two or three times like before.

You can read this online article here on the health benefits and the risks of using an air fryer. What is very obvious so far is how convenient it is to use and also how one can save a lot on cooking oil – the price is going up and up these days, it seems.

This particular brand is currently on promotion, selling for RM1.4K and it comes with a free gift…

…of this box of classy silverware…

I guess it is not cheap but considering that I am saving over RM200 a week on cigarettes, around RM1,000 a month and the same on TOTO since I stopped buying completely once the pandemic broke out plus I do save a bundle on petrol #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome all this while, I do have a bit of cash that I can spare and seeing how it made my missus so very happy, I would say it was a very good buy.

Dates…

It will be the fasting month of Ramadan soon – they are going to look at the moon on the 1st of April, if I am not mistaken and yes, those lovely preserved dates…

…have started appearing at the shops and supermarkets in town.

Last Friday, my girl and the mum went out shopping to stock up on supplies and buy whatever they fancied and they bought a few boxes of this brand…

…for me to eat and enjoy…

This is not the brand that I used to buy but yes, I did buy some before and yes, I thought they were good too.

For one thing though, these dates are very sweet, probably not because of any sugar (or honey) added but anyway, I went and googled just to be sure. This website says: “A person with diabetes should consume dates in moderation—up to three dates per day.” For one thing, I am following a low sugar diet and so far, my blood sugar level is under control which, of course, means that I am not a diabetic. Of course, at my age, I should not throw caution to the wind and since the website says 3, then 3, it shall be, no more, no less.

They also list a lot of benefits one can derive from consuming dates, namely they help fight fatigue, improve insulin production, improve digestion, maintain blood sugar levels, reduce vision loss and boost metabolism. They do not come cheap, of course – over RM10.00 a box, so good or otherwise, you will not find me feasting on them like there is no tomorrow.

In the meantime, my sister dropped by my house to pass me a pack of these steamed buns (mantao)…

…made in that special shape that we may see in some Chinese restaurants when served with their awesome dong po rou (stewed pork belly). I shared the photograph on Facebook and a friend said that they came from Ah Pui’s pao shop at Jalan Lanang.

One difference was the presence of the fried shallots in the buns and because of that, eating them with kaya (coconut jam) or peanut butter or fruit jam was out of the question. It probably would go well with stewed pork but since I did not have any in the house, I tried having it with the lovely sambal

from my dear friend, Mandy, in KL Yes, they went very well together and I sure enjoyed eating it this way.

Essence…

In our childhood days, we were made to take all sorts of things. There was the milky white Scott’s Emulsion with the picture of a fisherman and a HUGE fish as big as him on his back. Then, there was the horrible Waterbury’s Compound that tasted like rusty metal.

Come examination time, my mum would wake us up at the break of dawn to get us to do our last-minute revision. She would open a bottle of Brand’s Essence of Chicken and divide it into two, add hot water and make my brother and I drink all of it. They seemed to believe that it was good for the brain and would make the children smart and besides, it would also energise anyone who drank it.

I actually liked it a lot so on some days, I would “help myself” to a bottle from the ones in the pantry to drink! If my mum noticed the missing bottles at the time, she never said anything. LOL!!!

We never drank it anymore once we were no longer in school. People would give my dad boxes and boxes on special occasions, birthdays and for whatever reason and on days when he thought he felt lethargic, he would take a bottle to drink and dunno whether it was all psychological or what but he would feel better after that.

All these years, I only bought a box or two for family and friends who were sick or in hospital for some surgery or those who had just given birth. I never had it myself again until that day when my friend, Yan, gave me a box…

…for my birthday and I actually enjoyed it a lot! Of course, I went a bit slow with the six bottles so it did last for a while.

Well, the other day, my doctor said I would need to take more protein, egg white, fish and all those and I thought this essence of chicken would help in some small way, at least. So I went and bought a box of 24…

…the ones with cordyceps. They also have the ones with tangkwei but I did hear that that is great for ladies, not for men. I picked this as I read somewhere that cordyceps are good for the kidneys.

The bottle seems a bit smaller now and these days, it has a plastic cap…

The cap used to be metal/aluminum with a liver red rubber lining.

I would open the cap and stand the bottle in hot boiling water…

…to heat up the contents and then I would drink it straight from the bottle.

The taste of this one with cordyceps needed a bit of getting used to but after the initial sips, I was fine with it. I still feel that I prefer the original though so when I have finished this box, I would just go for that. I can easily buy cordyceps in capsules at the Chinese medical stores, anyway.

Cover up…

Whenever I go out, I will always wear a mask even if it is only for a while, say when I drop by some place for a few minutes to buy something and after that, I will throw it away without a second thought. That is why I keep these…

…handy.

They aren’t very expensive, over a ringgit each and it seems that they are better than those cloth masks that people will wash and use again and again. According to an article that I read, “A study that was just published in the journal, Science, analyzed data from 342,183 adults in Bangladesh and found that surgical masks were 95 percent effective at filtering out virus particles, compared with 37 percent for cloth face masks.

These come in various colours and the pharmacy that I frequent stocks up on those. I was rather amused that day when I picked up a box of blue for myself and a box of pink for the ladies in the house. The boss kept telling me that I had taken a box of pink masks – I guess he could not imagine this old man wearing those in that bright colour. LOL!!!

He himself uses these…

…which he says are good enough to be worn on their own, no need to resort to wearing double masks. According to him, they are manufactured following some Korean technology.

Needless to say, they are very expensive…

…but I can’t remember the exact price now..

I guess they would be good for use at crowded places but no, we’ve been #stayingsafe and #stayingwell, #stayinghome most of the time and we avoid crowded places like a plague. I did buy a box though just in case school resumes now that Sarawak has gone into Phase 4 and my girl will have to go back to her classes of some over 30 pupils each – I would consider those as crowded, no doubt about it so when that time comes, she can put on these masks, one per day.

I did buy the Korean originals too…

…from one of my neighbourhood shops and they are more or less that same price as well.

The aforementioned article mentions that cloth masks are our 1918 pandemic technology, used 100 years ago whereas these days, we have the technology — the high filtration, electrostatically charged, meltblown [masks like KF94s, KN95s and N95s] — and we should use those.

I also grabbed a box of the cheaper Korean ones…

…from that same shop. These, like those colourful ones above, should be good enough for use…

…under normal circumstances.

This article says that with the increasing airborne spread of the coronavirus, it is important to improve the fit of masks and their filtration — making enhancements that go beyond old, loose, cloth face coverings that became popular in 2020. It also says that Omicron is twice as infectious, and an encounter that you could have tolerated for Delta may well infect you with Omicron. Knowing this, it is worth upgrading the protection you get from your mask.

Despite what the so-called “experts” in our country tell us, the article goes on to say this: The best masks are N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. Don’t wear an additional face covering on top of these masks. Of course, the bottom line is one must put on these masks properly. I find it quite distressing to see people wearing them with their noses uncovered…or worse, with them hanging under their chins.

Even when going some place to eat, I will keep my mask on till the food arrives and take it off only when I start eating and I will put it back on as soon as I have finished. Most people will just take their masks off as soon as they sit down…and will put them on again when they are about to leave the place.

As I have mentioned earlier, Sarawak has entered its Phase 4 now since Monday so I guess that means the situation here is presently a whole lot better than months ago. Each day, here in Sibu, there is a single-digit number of cases and hopefully, it will stay that way or better still, if there is none at all. The onus, of course, is on everyone to make sure they cover up (wear masks), observe physical distancing and do not go here and there unless there is a need for it and avoid crowded places at all times. #kitajagakita

Pretty…

My missus went out on Friday two weeks ago – she did not go out last week as we still had a lot of things in the house – and came back with these pretty bowls…

…that came free with this toothpaste…

…one when you buy a box with two tubes inside.

I love the pleasant colours of the yellow one…

…and also the green…

…and she also got the blue as well.

Unfortunately, she did not get the red one so we do not have the complete set at this point in time. I think the next time I go out, I shall stop by the shop to get that – I have this weakness for free gifts and I would like to have the complete sets. I love the set that I have of the Four Seasons plates that came free once with this toothpaste too.

Incidentally, I read somewhere sometime ago that with this pandemic that is going on and on like it is never going to end, we should have individual servings of soups unlike how we usually have it, Asian/Chinese style, in a big bowl and everybody will help themselves to it. These bowls are perfect for this, just the right size – not too much of the soup and no need for any refill. Of course, we must have separate serving spoons for each dish too. As a matter of fact, this is one good practice, very hygienic, that should be practised regardless whether or not there is a pandemic.

Trendy…

It seems to be the trend these days – this salted egg anything and everything.

We had the lau sar pao, the salted egg custard steamed buns (黃金流沙包)…

Lau sar pao

…and those salted egg yolk mooncakes…

Salted egg yolk mooncakes

…and at one time, over in the peninsula, there was a whole lot of commotion over some salted egg croissants but the excitement dissipated soon enough and there are salted egg dishes served in restaurants – our favourites include the fried salted egg pumpkin and this creamy salted egg prawn balls

Salted egg creamy prawns

…and this salted egg bitter gourd…

Salted egg bitter gourd

…and the salted egg spare ribs

Salted egg spare ribs

…as well and there are salted egg snacks too such as those packets of salted egg fish skin, for instance.

More recently, this salted egg instant mi goreng (fried noodles)…

Salted egg instant mi goreng

…appeared on the market and I did see a few friends sharing photographs of it on Facebook and of course, I wasted no time in asking how it was. Unfortunately, I did not get any response.

Well, the other day, I saw some at the mini-supermarket near my house, four packets for RM6.00 (RM1.50 each) so I bought them to try. I guess everyone would know only too well that this brand comes from Indonesia…

Made in Indonesia

…and in a packet, you will find the “curly” noodles and two sachets of seasoning…

Sachets

…or three, depending on how you look at it.

I was puzzled by the “solid ingredients” and was wondering if that one contained those dehydrated vegetables that I would need to boil to soften. When I cut it open, it turned out to be the bumbu (seasoning)…

Seasoning & chili

…and I could detect the smell of salted egg in it.

However, the sauce in the other sachet seemed rather strong with the smell of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) so my guess would be that they had fish sauce in it and when tossed altogether with the noodles…

Cooked...

…it drowned out whatever smell of salted egg that was there at the beginning.

All in all, I would say it tasted all right – I had it with my kerabu taugeh (pickled bean sprouts) by the side, garnished with a sprinkling of chopped fresh spring onions from my garden, and a fried egg…

...and served

…that I fried using my fairly new marble-coated frying pan. I have since avoided using my non-stick pans after I saw some articles on how they might be bad for health. As they say, better be safe than sorry!

Anyway, back to the noodles, at that price, I do think that I would just stick to the regular ones, seeing how it is not anything that would get me rushing back to the store for more.

Something great…

The oregano that I got from my friend/ex-students’ mum/mum-in-law grew really well and was so very productive so I shared a photo on Facebook and asked if anybody would be interested. A friend said that she did not mind some so I repotted a few and sent them over to her house along with a little pot of dill – my dill is flourishing too. She had not got home from work so I passed them to her hubby.

A few days later, when we were in church that night, she passed me this…

Kelulut honey

the kelulut honey from those stingless bees that was the craze at one time – a lot of people were rearing them. It seems that she is keeping those bees as well so she has her own supply of the coveted stuff that is claimed to be even better than the celebrated New Zealand’s manuka honey which does not come cheap…and neither is this kelulut honey – somebody in Singapore said that he bought a 500 ml bottle for SGD50.00! I guess that is why there are people producing it commercially and marketing it now.

I did try a bit – it has its own taste that is not quite like our regular honey and yes, I did like it very much…and I saw in some websites that it has a lot of health benefits, thank you so much to my friend for that big bottle of the coveted stuff – I am sure that would cost a bundle.

In the meantime, one of the seedlings that my neighbour gave me had flowered…

Butterfly pea flower, 1st to bloom 1

the butterfly pea flower (the clitoria ternatea) and of course, that got me real excited and happy…

Butterfly pea flower 1st to bloom 2

It appeared that mine is a single-petal variety and there is also the double-petal one but they say they are the same as far as the health benefits go.

No, I did not pluck it…

Butterfly pea flower 1st to bloom 3

…to make tea right away. I guess I can wait till the plants have grown really big and are flowering in abundance. I noticed that the flower would have withered by the next day but to my delight, another one…

Butterfly pea flower 2nd to bloom

…bloomed.

At the time of writing, another one of the seedlings has flowered as well, just one – the third bloom so far. Fingers crossed, I will be seeing more and more over the next few days…and I can start brewing the tea to drink, great stuff – this flower and also the honey!

Mashup…

This post comprises a mashup of things that aren’t quite enough for separate posts on their own.

First and foremost, I must say thank you so so much once again to my very sweet and generous friend, Mary, for giving me these…

From Mary

…sets of easy-to-cook instant Thai delights. At this point in time, I am not sure when I will be using them to whip up those dishes yet – for one thing, I will have to go and buy some basic ingredients first but of course, when I do so, I will surely blog about it and give my true and honest review of the product.

In the meantime, I had some of those frozen beef balls in the freezer, Rambly’s, I think, and one morning, I took them out to cook my own version of the Indonesian bakso

Bakso 1

…using another packet of the noodles that I still had after cooking my Marmite mee that day.

There wasn’t much beef taste in the soup so I added a teaspoon of Marmite and a bit of salt and it turned out pretty nice. I also broke an egg into the boiling soup and the thinly sliced sawtooth coriander (刺芫荽 or ci yan sui/ketumbar Java) from my garden…

Bakso 2

…sure brought the taste to a whole new level.

Feeling inspired, I went and bought a packet of frozen minced beef to try and cook this same dish but it was disastrous. I think there was way too much fat in the beef so though it tasted all right, it turned out quite inedible and in the end, we just tried a bit and threw most of it away. One thing’s for sure, I will never buy those packets of minced beef sold at the supermarkets ever again. Once bitten, twice shy!

When we moved into our house in the late 80’s, the previous owner left a lot of plants behind, discarded, some in broken pots, others growing rampantly wild so we had to clear up the mess. However, we did save some that we could salvage and there was this one pot of aloe vera. You can read up on all the (health) benefits and uses of the plant here and according to this website, this is a plant used in the rituals against bad luck and envy, as it is said to be one of the strongest to fight against bad vibes. It is known for attracting prosperity and positive energy anywhere in the home where it is located. Many people believe that when the aloe vera plant grows…it is attracting good luck. If it fades, it is because it has absorbed the negative energies and has protected us.

The plant grew and multiplied in that one pot and I did transfer some into individual pots and they went on multiplying so I got some more pots for them. I have this very big one…

Aloe vera 1

…the mother plant, in my living room now and I took one to my girl’s quarters in her school in the jungle. For one thing, it is claimed that it is an air purifier and will absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen.

After all the repotting that I did, other than the big one in the house, I also have these four…

Alor vera 2

…and a few smaller ones as well. I sure wouldn’t mind giving them away, not all, of course, if anyone is interested.

Love will keep us alive…

This jasmine tree…

My jasmine tree

…that my late father planted in my garden many many years ago, along with the rambutan tree in the backyard, does not seem to be doing very well. It was doing all right all these years even when the branches were covered with wild orchids, moss and parasitic plants. I did make an effort to clear away all those that time when they came to rescue my rambutan tree.

What I found out was there were these HUGE black ants, what we grew up calling padak, infesting the roots of the tree and somebody told me that I could buy one pesticide and mix with boiling water to pour over the roots of the tree and that would get rid of the ants. In the meantime, I had no choice but to saw away the dead branches one by one…

Sawn branches

My problem is I have those daun hempedu bumi  leaves growing all around the roots and every morning, I would go and pluck a few leaves to brew tea with hot boiling water and drink because of all the medicinal benefits of those very bitter leaves. Of course I would not want to drink it anymore if I had poured the toxic pesticide all around.

These leaves are not easy to plant, it seems. The plants will just appear anywhere and everywhere by themselves and if you take them to plant them nicely in a more orderly manner at a proper place, chances are they will eventually wither and die.

I guess I have not much choice so I have tried transplanting the seedlings at a safe place, far away from the jasmine tree and it does look like they are getting on fine…

Daun hempedu bumi

Once they are big enough, it will be time for me to embark on my mission to get rid of those ants.

The tree has bloomed time and time again and once, the whole tree turned white with all the flowers and the fragrance filled the whole neighbourhood. It would be sad to see it wither away – I guess in the meantime, I will just have to treat it well and hope for the best.

So what’s new in my garden these days? Well, not much really but I have planted this sawtooth coriander…

Sawtooth coriander

…that I picked up at the wet market one morning, a whole bunch of the plant, 5 altogether, I think, including the roots for only RM1.00. I planted all of them and I am glad to see them doing very well including this one that I planted in between some bricks – there was a Thai basil plant there before and despite the rather unlikely location, it grew really well too. I wonder why.

For the uninitiated, if you do not know what sawtooth coriander leaves are, these are similar in taste and smell to the daun ketumbar used to garnish a whole lot of dishes in Kuching like their Sarawak laksa

Kuching laksa
*Friend’s photo on Facebook, edited*

…for instance, or their oyster omelette/pancake…or their butter prawns. They are very popular among the people there but it is very hard to come by here. I remember once some folks were having a popiah party and they actually had those leaves air-flown from Kuching!

Generally, people are put off by the smell – they say it smells of bed bugs but I do feel it is an acquired taste and now that I have learnt to take that, I actually quite like it these days. It is used a lot  in the Thai dishes here…and they also use it here and not too long ago, I stumbled upon it being used for the beef noodles…

Restoran Muhajirin beef noodles

here.

My ulam raja plants have all called it a day, the ones with the orange and the yellow flowers but my missus got the seeds for a different variety from a friend and I planted them…

My ulam raja

…and some have sprouted and are growing pretty well. Hopefully, I will get to see the purplish pink flowers soon.

Generally, all my plants are doing very well especially now that I am spending a lot more time taking care of them every morning and late afternoon or evening. Hopefully, the love that they are getting will keep them alive!

Get used to it…

The results of the numerous tests have all come in, tests for celiac disease and what not and thankfully, they are all negative, praise the Lord. In the meantime, after avoiding wheat and other gluten-containing products, the symptoms have disappeared – things like the horrifying rashes on the back, constant migraine and body aches, excessive gas and gastric problems, irregular bowel movement – sometimes constipation and sometimes diarrhoea, always falling sick…and racing pulse rate up to over 120 per minute!

That was why when my girl came home after school closed for the year-end holidays, looking as thin as a rake, so sickly and so very stressed out and depressed, I told her it would just be something we would need to get used to, a change in lifestyle and diet and everything would be all right – think positive…and happy! There are people with all kinds of allergies and sicknesses and they would have to avoid certain things at all cost. I knew someone who was allergic to protein and could not even drink soya bean milk or eat vegetables like bean sprouts, long beans and all those and of course, eggs and all kinds of meat and seafood would be out of the question.

Well, things are getting better. Of course, sometimes we forget…like when we went for chicken rice here

Mei Le chicken rice

…that day, I ordered the stewed eggs…

Mei Le stewed eggs

…which had soy sauce (there is wheat in the ingredients) and she was about to eat it too when the mum who remembered said that she shouldn’t.

I don’t know what sauce they poured over the meat…

Mei Le roast chicken & roast pork

…probably plum sauce and all the fat that had dripped down in the course of roasting but to be safe, the next time we eat here or anywhere else, I would have to tell them to leave out the sauce…completely. Thankfully, my girl was all right after eating that so my guess is she is more gluten sensitive or intolerant so if she avoids the offensive stuff most of the time, just a little bit shouldn’t bring any drastically serious consequence but of course, it is best avoided.

Everything was fine here that day when she had the bryani rice with mutton curry (RM8.00) as always…and the mum had the nasi campur with one meat and two vegetables (RM6.00) while I had this (RM9.00)…

Sri Pelita nasi bryani campur

– their bryani rice with a piece of papadum by the side but with sambal chicken…

Sri Pelita sambal chicken

…and sambal egg plus a bit of paku (wild jungle fern) instead of one of the many curries available there. Wowwwww!!!! The sambal, both the chicken and the egg, was so very nice but so very very hot even for someone like me – definitely not something for the faint-hearted, I must say!

But when we dropped by here…

Ruby Restaurant
*the shadow on the wall inside, the result of the reflection of the bright sunlight on the windscreen of the car parked in front, of the name stuck to the restaurant’s glass door*

…for lunch that day, I ordered the sweet potato leaves, ching chao (fried plain)…

Ruby Restaurant sweet potato leaves

…and I was wondering why there was a bit of sauce in it, black in colour. I tasted it – it came across like there was some of our traditional Foochow red wine, no soy sauce. My girl had that and she enjoyed it…and no, there were no reactions after that.

There was no problem, of course, with the bitter gourd with salted egg…

Ruby Restaurant salted egg bitter gourd

…and I ordered fish, steamed…

Ruby Restaurant steamed tapah with red wine

…with red wine as usually the fried ones would be coated in wheat flour and fried before cooking. That slab of tapah cost a bomb – RM35.00 and it would not have been so bad if it had been really very nice. They do have a lot of very nice dishes here, which probably explains why there were so many people – a full house, lunch time on a week day! Unfortunately, we would have to refrain from ordering most of those dishes now, but, in my honest opinion, you can give their steamed tapah (dunno about the other varieties of fish) a miss.

So, as one can see, actually it isn’t so bad, after all…and we are coping very well with it – as a matter of fact, my girl is looking less thinner now and a lot happier! Still a few weeks left to the holidays and till Christmas!