Finders keepers…

With Sibu in the yellow zone now, I decided that I should go out once again to stock up on food in the house. I planned to go to the Sibu Central Market after I had dropped off my girl at school but I changed my mind and headed to the one beside the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) instead.

I bought two big 2-inch thick slabs of phak thik poh (tripletail fish or patipok or kuku laut in Malay, 打铁婆,松鲷 in Chinese), literally translated as the blacksmith’s wife, a very nice fish and two pretty big ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret). The total came up to RM104.00 and I asked the guy to round it up to RM100.00 but he said he could give me a discount, RM102.00 and yes, I did have RM2.00 loose change and I passed that to him with a RM100.00 note We had one piece of the phak thik poh for lunch and dinner that day – we had that at a restaurant before and we sure loved it and we had not had it since.

Having said that, I think I prefer ngor hu (threadfin/午鱼) – we still have that in the freezer. I bought one whole fish from the fruit and food shop in my neighbourhood –  they said it was small, just over RM100 only for it and they wanted to sell it at one go. I went ahead and bought it but it sure wasn’t small – we have been eating it bit by bit for quite sometime now and there are still a few slabs left, four, at least. I thought it was expensive at the time but considering that we have been able to stretch it so far for so long and enjoying it to the max, it sure is worth it!

Much to my disappointment that morning, there was not a single prawn at all the fish and seafood stalls at that market. One of them had a tray of some miserable farmed ones but no, thank you! The texture is completely out and one can easily taste the difference!

On my way home, I stopped at the aforementioned shop to see if they had any. No, the lady boss said, they did not have any then but she called somebody and she told me that they would send some 10 kg over at around 10.00 a.m. She took my handphone number from me and told me that she would call me when they arrived…which she did and I went over quickly and grabbed a little over 2 kg…

Prawns 2 kg

…of those lovely crustaceans.

The son was packing them for sale – usually, they would sell these prawns in packs of RM30-40 but he said I could just take what I wanted in a plastic bag and pay according to the weight – RM60.00 a kg. and that was what I did.

I went and picked the BIG ones…

Big as a spoon

…and the boy kept telling me not to do that – if I picked all the big ones, they would have to charge accordingly, a different price. They did not do that, of course – they’re very nice people there and all in all, I took slightly over 2 kg, a little over RM120.00. I paid the boss two RM100 notes and he gave me the change and I went home happily after that.

I counted 20 extra big ones…

XL

…22 big ones…

L

…and 18 medium-sized ones…

M

…60 altogether so that roughly worked out to RM2.00 each, so much cheaper than the RM28.00 for a plate of 4, RM7.00 each that we had here that night, so shockingly expensive!!!

Of course, as soon as I got home, I had to go through the chore of getting them done before putting them away in the freezer. I would cut away the legs…

Legs

…and those four peculiar-shaped ones…

Forelegs

…in front below the head but leaving the rest intact. Then I would cut off the tip of the head and remove the black sac…

Black sac

…inside. That is bitter so if you do not remove it and you happen to eat it in the head, it may spoil your enjoyment of the prawn.

Lastly, I would cut a slit along the back to remove the vein…

Devein

…and that was it, all done…

Done!

I put all of them in a plastic tub…

Ready to freeze

…and filled it with water before putting it in the freezer to freeze so eventually, all the prawns would all be frozen in a  block of ice.

My friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, told me once that it would be better to leave the shell intact or the prawns would shrink badly in the process of cooking so you would not have very much left to serve. I managed to put together two plastic tubs for freezing, one with the XL prawns and the other with the L ones…and I also have another tub of the L ones that I managed to buy a couple of days earlier – the last one available that day.

As for the M ones, I removed all the heads and shell and deveined them to keep in sets of 3 for use when frying vegetables. Just 3 would be enough to give your dish that special sweetness to bring it to a whole new level. Like I always say, you just can’t go wrong with prawns!!!

Now, while I was busy with the prawns, the lady boss called me again to tell me that I had dropped a RM100.00 note in their shop and asked me to go over and collect it…which I did. They found it on the floor so they checked their CCTV and saw that it was mine. It’s not so much the money but the fact that there are people who are willing to go through the trouble to find out whose money it is and go through the trouble of returning it!!! I’m sure many will not be bothered to do so and will just keep it, finders keepers, losers weepers!

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.

Hot cakes

This place…

Plastic bag

…sure needs no introduction as it appears that everyone seems to know about it.

It is located right beside a budget hotel…

Huong Hiong Confectionary

…with all the big hotels all around in that same area and visitors to Sibu would always stop there to buy the lung ngor/kay nerng kor (egg cake) and declare that theirs are the best in town.

I’ve tried them before but no, I was not all that impressed – personally, I do prefer the ones…

Dewan Suarah shop lung ngor

here. Some people did say that I would have to eat them piping hot from the oven – only then would I be able to taste how nice theirs are.

I had the impression that they started off as a small shop (with a different name)…

Humble beginning?

…right beside the celebrated dianpianngu place in town and then they opened this branch here but some insist they are not the same people, I wouldn’t know. Not too long ago, I noticed that they had rented a small place beside the TOTO shop a stone’s throw away and there were some Muslim ladies there doing the baking and I did see them transporting the fruits of their labour to the shop on the other side.

Well, it so happened that somebody treated my sister to one of their paos (steamed buns) and she loved it so much that she rushed there to buy but unfortunately, they were all sold out. Yes, they have gone into making paos now, chicken ones as this is a pork-free place and many of their employees are Muslims – this way, they would be able to sell their stuff to everyone regardless of race or religion.

Finally, the other day, my sister stopped by at around 7.00 a.m. in the morning and managed to buy some from them – the char siew pao (RM2.00 each)…

Huong Hiong char siew pao

…and the bak pao (RM2.00 each)…

Huong Hiong bak pao

The latter had egg inside, one-eighth of it unlike others where they give one-sixteenth or sometimes, you only realise there is egg in the bun when you see traces of the yolk in the filling.

Yes, both were very nice and I liked how they had chunks of meat inside – I hate those made with minced meat and whatever else that they press into a ball or a patty and wrap that inside the pao. My missus, for one, would not eat those. The skin was very nice too so all things considered, I sure wouldn’t mind going there to buy sometimes…but of course, I would have to go real early. Word has it that they sell like hot cakes and will all be sold out in a couple of hours!

Huong Hiong Confectionary 芳香(詩巫)餅家 is located off Jalan Bengkel, beside Victoria Inn on one side and the circular building (the SEDC Medan Niaga Tanahmas) that houses all the Malay stalls on the other, to the right of the New Capital Restaurant.

Things have changed…

The other day, my friend in KL, the hubby of one of the bloggers who came that day, shared some photographs on Facebook and tagged me. There was this kampua mee place…

Ah Ma Sarawak kampua mee

…that he stumbled upon at some place called Bandar Sungai Long and he went and tried…

Ah Ma Sarawak kampua mee, the noodles

He wasn’t all that impressed, it seemed as a friend asked him for his verdict and he just said, “OK, can be better!

Well, with the minced meat added, it sure did not look like Sibu kampua mee, more like Kuching kolo mee even though they insist in their shop sign that they’re “original Sibu“, with the Sarawak flag thrown in for good measure. Other than that, when they serve kampua mee here, they will give you bottled chili sauce in a small saucer. That looked like the sambal belacan for Sarawak laksa – maybe my friend got it all mixed up as he did have the laksa as well.

My friend, Annie, in KL went to this one…

Ex-Sunway kampua mee

…at its new location in PJ. The guy used to be somewhere in Sunway, much to the delight of the students from Sarawak at the college/university there. My nephew from Bintulu said they would always go there to eat so they did not miss home and kampua mee all that much.

Just like the previous one, this one too has minced meat, something you will not find in authentic kampua mee since time immemorial but things have changed and you will find minced meat in your bowl of noodles at some places here in Sibu

Rasa Sayang kampua mee

Another thing you will not find a lot of in kampua mee here would be the fried shallots and chopped spring onion that they use to garnish the dish…

Ah Kow's son kampua, Polyclinic

…except for this one, perhaps…

Liang Yew kampua mee

They was widely known for their generous sprinkling of their fried shallots that they kept tightly closed in a milk or Milo tin to keep it nice and crispy. Once, when my uncle and his family from Kuching were in town and we stopped by there for the noodles, my uncle went to ask why they did not give so much anymore and the old guy replied that shallots were way too expensive these days so they had to cut down on it.

In the 50’s, a plate of kampua mee cost 50 cents only, with meat and 30 cents, without meat and they would open their shops/stalls at the break of dawn and stay open till late at night. If you dropped by mid-afternoon, they would willingly turn up their fire to get the water boiling to cook you a plate. These days, even before noon, they would be cleaning up and closing for the day already and some will open around 6.00 p.m. in the evening till around 10.

In those good old days, a common sight at these kampua mee stalls in the afternoon would be their giant kuali/wok of pork fat. With a lot more time on their hands, they would grab the chance to render the lard for their use. After they had the oil they needed, they would use it to fry the peeled and thinly sliced shallots…and the fragrance would fill the air. I do not know if the ones today still do that – we certainly do not get to see them doing it in public like that. For one thing, when I asked at one place here, the guy told me that lard is too expensive these days so they would mix it with cooking oil…

Soon Hock pian sip mee

Obviously, that is why a lot of kampua mee here these days lacks the fragrance of the shallot pork oil – I would not be surprised if some do not bother to use it at all!

I also know that at some places, they use a food processor to chop the shallots so after frying, there will be all the minute bits and when tossed with the noodles, it would be such a mess and not a pleasant sight to behold. Some places will do the tossing in a bowl and transfer the noodles onto a plate and serve – others do not bother and it looks kind of messy/dirty. Obviously, a lot of people do not mind about the “presentation” – they just eat.

Long ago, kampua mee was served with boiled meat, dyed red so what we got would be kind of pinkish orange…

Kampu amee, old school meat

Eventually, there was a ban on the colouring used. The practice stopped for a while but it seems that many are doing it again…

Boiled pork, dyed red

Perhaps, they are now using some kind of permitted dye, I wouldn’t know. Some places will use stewed pork instead – I sure would not mind that…

Kampua mee, stewed pork

I cannot remember exactly what kampua mee was like in my younger days – no matter how authentic they insist theirs is today, it sure is not the same anymore. Long ago, they used locally-made (or at least, that was I thought they were) chio cheng (light soy sauce) in a jar and locally-made chili sauce, also in a jar. I remember my late cousin would always want to go to the washroom after eating the noodles tossed in the chili sauce…but once and once only. What they use today sure aren’t as nice so of course, what you get will be different from what we had before. They are all from West Malaysia or China, all in bottles…or when they buy in bulk, in big rectangular kerosene tins.

Even the noodles may be different these days – kampua mee is handmade, thicker and straight while kolo mee is machine made, thinner and more curly – but they are used interchangeably these days and some people may prefer one over the other which may not be what we used to enjoy long ago.

Well, say what you want. Time passes, things change. These days, there are so many coffee shops, so many kampua mee stalls. Don’t be surprised that the kampua mee at one place may be different from the one right next door. We just take each one as it is – no need to make a fuss and as long as it is nice (enough), we will go and enjoy it, no point hanging on to what’s past, knowing that things will never be the same again.

Take advantage…

The other day, the people at the fruit and food shop near my house asked me to buy these mooncakes from Sarikei…

Sing Hing Leong traditional mooncakes

Yes, I am quite familiar with this bakery. I would buy their lung ngor (Foochow egg cake)…

Sing Hing Leong lung ngor

…sometimes. I wouldn’t say they’re the best but they’re good enough for me.

Their pek guek tong chiew pia (eighth month autumn festival biscuit), the Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits…

Pek guek pia

…are not to my liking though (I prefer another brand, also from Sarikei) as theirs do not contain lard but as far as I know they’re very well-marketed, available even in Kuching. I guess most people are not that fussy about what they eat – as long as it is nice, that is good enough for them.

Inside the paper wrapping, the mooncakes are wrapped in plastic…

Wrapped in plastic

Now, that was not what we had in my younger days. In the past, they would be wrapped with white paper – which, of course, is a whole lot more environment-friendly than using plastic. Personally, I feel kite paper is a good substitute.

This is the pek tau sar (mung bean paste)…

Traditional moonckae pek tau sar

I don’t know if this was available when I was small – probably not. Every year, my dad would buy home the or tau sar (the black red bean paste) ones for us to enjoy…and those Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits, of course. There was another variety, the mixed nuts with bits of pork fat and whatever inside. Nobody liked that so my dad never bought any home. These days, there are all kinds available, most of which have strayed so far from what would be traditionally acceptable. I would go for the lotus paste ones, with or without salted egg yolk – we never had that either in the past.

There are four inside so at RM14.00 a tube, that works out to RM3.50 each. That, of course, is a whole lot cheaper than those ridiculously astronomical prices that we have to fork out for those renowned names brought over from the peninsular but still, that got me thinking.

If one tau sar peah is 80 sen a piece and if we stack two, one on top of the other, that will be RM1.60 altogether. Since the filling is the same, both pek tau sar, what is it in the skin or the process of making these mooncakes that justifies the price? Are they jumping on the bandwagon, taking advantage of the festival and cashing in on the special occasion to make more than they should? If that is what they are doing, may God forgive them!!!

This is my favourite Sibu homemade one…

Sibu homemade mooncake, pek tao sar

…which is even more expensive, RM6.00 each but one can feel the difference in the quality, how fine the filling and skin are. I enjoyed them last year and I liked them so much that when I went over to Kuching, I even bought some for my uncle and cousins and their families there. They were not available earlier and even when they just made their appearance the other morning, there weren’t many to choose from when I dropped by – hopefully, the one making will come out with my favourite, the hēi zhīma (黑芝麻) – black sesame, soon.

Surprisingly, my girl is not that enthusiastic about these nicer ones from Sibu – she likes the cheap(er) Sarikei ones even though she is not really a fan of the Bintangor tau sar peah. I guess those are the ones that I shall be buying from now on for the festival.

These mooncakes are available at SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to the Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Teach me…

In the good old days, nobody went to schools or colleges to learn the culinary arts.

If it was a family business, they helped out at the shop or stall and picked up the skills from their parents or elders, the ones who would teach them everything. If they were working for somebody, they would start from the bottom with the menial tasks like peeling and slicing onions, cutting the vegetables and what not and with the teaching and guidance from their peers and seniors, they eventually graduated into the actual cooking.

No, there were no qualified or certified chefs then, no Michelin stars, nothing – just real hard work, sweat and toil and true grit but were they able to dish out really awesome dishes? That, of course, goes without saying and some of the dishes were so good that none today, even with their list of credentials, could replicate.

All this came to mind when we went out for dinner here…

Hai Bing Seafood, new

…last Friday night to celebrate my girl’s birthday.

This is the sparkling new branch of this old place

Hai Bing Coffee Shop, original

…that has been around for such a long time but nothing has changed there since Day 1, this dark, unimpressive place with no decor whatsoever to shout about but what it lacked in appearance, it more than made up for it with the awesome dishes they serve here, notably its crabs – second to none. Why, as a matter or fact, my West Malaysian blogger-friends loved it so much and chose it to be, in their opinion, the best in town!

The new place is very nice, very spacious – I love its simplicity, not horrendously over-decorated like some places and it is so white, so clinically clean. They do not have a lot of tables, those marble top ones with simple but beautifully-designed chairs, which I feel is a good thing at this point in time. Even if they had a full house, there would still be a lot of spaces in between the tables to swing a cat! There were at least 10 tables that night but it did not feel like there were so many people – otherwise, I would have left and gone some place else.

Of course we HAD to have the crabs and for a change, I ordered the Singapore chili crab (RM120.00)…

Hai Bing Singapore chili crab

…instead of their usual style that everyone here is very familiar with. I asked what their going price for crabs was and the young man said RM120.00. Gosh!!! And I thought what I bought that day at RM80.00 a kg was expensive – and those were huge ones. What we had that night were rather small, nothing much to eat and it certainly did not taste anything like those very nice ones I had way back in 1973 at Bedok or Changi with French baquette to dip into the wonderful gravy to enjoy.

No, we did not have any of those loaves, just golden-fried mantao (RM4.00 for a set of 4)…

Hai Bing Seafood, golden fried mantao

Well, there were 6 of us so I had to request for 2 sets so there would be enough to go round.

According to the guy, this is the chef’s signature dish, his golden beancurd (RM15.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood, golden tofu

…and yes, we all thought it was nice. The tofu was yellowish, not white, inside so my guess was that it was their own-made egg tofu or what people call Japanese tofu. I would say that it was like something you can expect at a classy Chinese restaurant, most likely in a hotel or some Hong Kong franchise – not that great but not entirely all that shabby either.

Their Thai-style Mango three-layer pork (RM20.00)…

Thai-styl mango three-layer pork

…was all right but nowhere near the Thai-style mango chicken here – that one there is definitely a class above this one. Why, this one did not even look half as nice. As a matter of fact, for a place like this, I would expect more effort in their presentation, not the dump-in-the-plate-and-serve impression that I got.

My girl said the salty crusty prawns (RM58.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood salty crusty prawns

…were nice but the rest felt there are a lot of places around town that can do it a whole lot better than this and a whole lot more cheaply too even when they use those huge udang galah (freshwater prawns) like this place here.

We had two vegetable dishes, the baby kai lan, ching chao/fried plain (RM15.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood baby kai lan ching chao

…and the sambal kangkong (RM15.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood sambal kangkong

…both of which I did not get to try as there were so many things to eat but the ladies said they were o.k.

They also loved the zao cai fresh fish soup (RM25.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood zao cai fresh fish soup

…but good grief!!! It was so so so very sour that I had a sip and left the rest in the bowl. My brother-in-law shared the exact same sentiments. I guess guys do not like sour things all that much but honestly, if it was dependent on the preserved vegetables for its sour taste, it would not be so sour, no way! I don’t know what was added to it and personally, I did not think it tasted anything like our traditional Foochow zao cai soup, far from it!

While we were eating, I saw the chef stepping out of the kitchen to have a look at the customers enjoying what he had dished out. He was dressed in his white chef uniform, complete with his tall chef hat. I am quite sure he has all the formal qualifications of a chef to show but I’m afraid I did not think what we had that night, on the whole, was anything to shout about, nothing to get us rushing back for more.

The aforementioned guy, who took our orders, happened to be that same guy at the very nice chicken rice place (they’re all inter-related, one way or another) and he did ask me how the food was and I was very straightforward and honest in my reply, “Much nicer at the old place!” Indeed, what we can get there or at any cheap restaurant or chu char (cook & fry) stall in a coffee shop from the cooks doing all the cooking, not professional qualified chefs, would be a whole lot nicer.

It did not matter that the bill, inclusive of rice and drinks, came up to RM290.00 but I had my hopes up high, hoping that it would be so good as I wanted something really very special to celebrate my girl’s birthday. Unfortunately, what we had kind of dampened our happy mood over those two days but at least we tried and now we know. Maybe we did not know what to order as looking at the photographs on their Facebook page, some of the dishes look really good. Would we take the chance to go back there again to try? Probably not. Once bitten, twice shy!

HAI BING SEAFOOD since 1980 (2.290414, 111.820900) is located at No. 5, Lorong Lau King Howe 1. Tel. No.: 084-311975.

Best in the west…

That morning, when I had the fried kway teow with prawns and cockles here, I saw some nice colourful boxes placed on a table by the side. When I was done, I walked over to have a look.

They turned out to be products from this place in the west of the country, Penang, to be exact. It is listed among the 5 recommended places in this website to get your Penang local products. I saw they had the celebrated tambun biscuits and something else, I can’t quite remember now, either tau sar peah or heong peah. I don’t think it’s the latter as those would usually come in big foil packs, not small dainty boxes.

However, it was this box that caught my attention, the only one left…

Ban Heang

– their box of mooncakes…

Ban Heang mooncakes

It seems you can buy direct online from them…

Ban Heang details

…or via those online shopping websites like Lazada and Shopee. The thing is I got that box for only RM20.00 but it costs more online and if I am not wrong, the prices stated do not include shopping/postal charges.

The lady rattled through all the six different flavours of the mooncakes and I only managed to catch three – the one in the middle on the left was lotus paste…

Ban Heang mooncake lotus paste

…and on the right, there was or tao sar (red bean paste) at the top and durian…

Ban Heang mooncake, durian

…at the bottom.

That was why I shared the photograph of the mooncakes on Facebook to seek the help of all and sundry. The response was swift and I got all the information I wanted in no time at all. At the top on the left was the coconut and at the bottom, pandan/jade. The one in the middle on the right was white coffee.

Thankfully, they were inexpensive, quite affordable unlike the others that we get from the peninsula but generally, we were not impressed as most were rather hard and dry except for the pandan/jade. Surprisingly, the one that I thought I would like the least – the coconut and left till last turned out to be the nicest of the lot. The pandan-flavoured (green colour) grated coconut inside was not hard, not dry and tasted very nice.

The lady said this box was the last one but if anyone is interested in the other products from this renowned bakery in Penang, there were some still available at the time, dunno now.

BAN HEANG (M) Sdn. Bhd. (萬香餅家) is located at No. 200, Macalister Road in Penang and you may get some of their products here at GRAND WONDERFUL FOOD COURT (2.309601, 111.845163) which is located along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, on your left just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall. You can also go in via Lorong Pipit 4, turning left into the lane at the junction where Starbucks Sibu is located and go straight ahead from there.

Size too small…

My late father was a businessman in his time.

I remember he used to sell Mercury outboard engines and that came as no surprise as he was a renowned speedboat racer and swept the top prizes at all the regattas in the colonial days, the F1 of speedboat racing at the time. He ordered his special speedboat, aptly named Typhoon, all the way from Singapore and of course, he knew those engines inside out. That was why he was able to sell them and service and repair them himself. Others may be selling outboard engines too, not the same brand – my father was the sole-concessionaire, but other brands such as Johnson and Evinrude and their after-sales service sucked big time!

He also sold lawn mowers. I cannot remember the brand that he sold initially but in the later years, he was selling Masport, made in New Zealand. Other than that, he also sold Norge refrigerators and York air conditioners. Of course, air conditioners in those days were the window unit type, not the more popular split unit type that we are more familiar with these days.

For the uninitiated, York has been taken over by the Japanese air conditioner company, Daikin, now. I am not so sure but maybe you can buy either brand these days and they are both the same and their remote controls may be used interchangeably.

I have both York and Daikin at home and the remote control for the one in the master bedroom was misbehaving for a long time now. I asked the guy who sells and cleans air conditioners if he had a spare for sale and he said yes, but it would cost over RM50.00. I asked him if I could buy one at those discount stores and he said yes but they would not last very long. That was why I asked him for one but the days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years and for reasons unknown, he never delivered it to my house.

Well, that temperamental remote control recovered so we could use it again for a long time until one fine day it decided to start its mischief again. We had to share the one for the air conditioner in my girl’s bedroom and in the end, I decided that enough was enough and I went and bought one online…

York & Daikin air conditioners remote controls

Ooopsss!!! It was the “wrong” brand but that was not a problem at all, It could be used and that was all that mattered. The best part was this was only RM8.00, RM17.01, inclusive of postal charges.

I also ordered another one…

York remote control with batteries

…similar to the one in my girl’s room, just in case and this one was RM11.49, RM20.50 inclusive of batteries and postage.

My orders were delivered in no time at all and by the way, if you see strangers in fancy cars at your gate these days, those would most probably be the runners doing the deliveries for the national courier service and I heard that some private companies use their services too.

Just when I thought everything was going on so well with my online shopping, something did not turn out right. I have a problem buying t-shirts and shorts my size and all that I’ve been using are all tattered and torn and falling apart and I was delighted to see that they were available online in extra-large sizes.

I ordered two white t-shirts (around RM7.00 each) and two sets, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts (RM23.50 each), 4XL…

4XL

…to be on the safe side even though those that I usually use are only 3XL.

Later when I checked in the online shopping website, I saw that they were being sent from China! The t-shirts and one of the sets came through KL and arrived via one courier company and I had to drive all the way to the other side of town to get them myself. I had a tough time locating the warehouse as there was just a small sign on the fence – I drove straight in and went round and round inside because I did not see it initially! I did read the reviews that their service was not good – somebody waited for four days and did not get what he/she was waiting for.

The other set arrived around a week later. It went through Kota Kinabalu and when it got into town, somebody from the national courier service delivered it to my house.

The problem was when I opened all the parcels, all the t-shirts and shorts were way too small, so small that my girl could wear them quite comfortably and I am about twice her size! The two sets were actually quite nice so I gave them to her and now I have two white t-shirts to give away – I think they will look very nice on someone who frequents the gym regularly with all the bulges in all the right places to show! Anyone interested?

I’m afraid that has put me off online shopping for now, no more, thank you very much!

Open it up…

Like it or not, we do stock up on quite a lot of canned food in our pantry and this is even more so with the COVID-19 pandemic and the  lockdown over the last few months.

Opening a can has never been easier as these days, with most of them, we can easily pull the ring on top to open it up. Unfortunately, there are still some canned products that do not come with that easy-to-open ring and I am very sure that in such cases, the day will come when many will not be able to open a can of whatever.

It so happened that the other day, my missus bought a loaf of sandwich bread and I decided I would make some sardine sandwiches for breakfast. I searched high and low for the can opener that I always used but it was nowhere to be found. Usually, I would use the one with handles to squeeze the blade into the side at the top of the can and then I would turn the screw to move it…

Blade and screw

…along the edge to open it.

When my missus got up that morning and I asked her, she said she had no idea what happened to it and insisted that she would only use this one…

Can & bottle opener 1

…whenever she had to open any cans. Horror of horrors! Don’t ask me to use that! At best, I would be able to use it to open a bottle, not a can.

There was this…

Can and bottle opener 2

…in one of the drawers in the kitchen cabinet and I am quite sure I would be able to use it though I have not done so for years and years now. In the end, I just abandoned the idea and had the bread with butter and kaya instead.

Later that morning, she rummaged through the drawers in the kitchen cabinet and found this…

Can & bottle opener description

That sure sounds good, doesn’t it?

Very impressive…

Warranty

…I must say.

No, she did not buy it. After all, she does not use this kind of can openers and my girl didn’t buy it either – she hardly buys anything, least of all, a can opener. That rules everybody out except me and yes, there is every possibility that I bought it. I probably thought it was rather cute…

Can and bottle opener 3

…and that orange colour would stand out in a clutter of kitchen tools and appliances. It would be difficult to misplace it, I’m sure plus it was only RM10.50 each. Pretty cheap for something so nice, you reckon?

We were…

…born when Sarawak was a British colony, subjects of the Queen of England. My birth certificate even has a postage stamp with the head of King George VI who passed away in February that very year when I was born, 1952.

Later, we were brainwashed to think that the colonist took advantage of the colonies and bought their products at very low prices and used them as dumping grounds for their exports.

Yes, we had a lot of British products – cars, for instance, were from the Ford Company and Vauxhall and the mini Austins were very popular. We had continental cars too, the favourite being the or kui chia (turtle car), the Volkswagen. Cars from Japan made their appearance later but they were frowned upon – anything that would spoil easily at the time including children that fell sick frequently would be called Ji-pun hoi (Japanese product).

There were made-in-England food products too including Bovril and Marmite, and even the curry powder…

Made in England curry powder

…that we used at the time. To this day, we still hear people lamenting as to how the made-in-England Milo in the good ol’ days was so much nicer than what we have today.

We had all kinds of biscuits from names like Huntley & Palmers or Jacobs. There were gems, marie and a favourite of mine, Nice – pronounced niece as in that place in France. According to Wiki, it is a plain or coconut-flavoured biscuit, thin, rectangular in shape, with rounded bumps on the edges, and lightly covered with a scattering of large sugar crystals, often with the word “NICE” imprinted on top in sans-serif capital letters.

We can still get those biscuits these days but no, they all seem to pale in comparison like the Nice from Australia…

Nice

…and the gems and the marie biscuits, most probably local-made, that we can get very easily here and of course, we have our own cream crackers…

Cream crackers

now, a whole lot nicer than Jacobs but then again, those Jacobs products are not made in England anymore.

Even Osborne biscuits are made locally now, by Julie’s and all the rest. As a matter of fact, I never heard of it in my growing up years. We had those oval, hard-as-a-rock, bland/tasteless biscuits that we called Cabin. I vaguely remember the name being embossed on each biscuit – that is why when people these days talk about roti kaben, I know exactly what they are talking about while those younger ones simply cannot understand why everyone calls those Osborne biscuits roti kaben – well, this is the reason.

I did not know of Osborne biscuits until after I got married. My missus enjoys eating them so she would buy some to keep in the house to eat. Even when my mum steamed those Cabin biscuits in coconut milk with pandan leaves added, what they call bubur roti kaben, till soft and soggy, I was never a fan.

We still can get a lot of made-in-England biscuits here, more often than not, a lot nicer than the rest but to be fair, some are really over-rated and we do have some nice local-made biscuits as well, maybe even nicer ones minus the snob appeal since they are not imported from countries overseas.

These…

Ping Pong coconut biscuits

…remind me of Nice biscuits except that they are not coated with sugar…

Ping Pong coconut biscuit

…and of course, the name is not embossed on them and needless to say, they are not as nice but they’re not too bad, I would say.

What about you? What biscuits do you enjoy?

One of the ways…

I shared a photo of the noodles I had for breakfast that morning…

Mee Daddy dry 1

…and in the caption, I asked, “So what’s this that I had for breakfast?” Somebody commented, “Nice kolo mee!” and though it did not look like Kuching kolo mee as we know it these days, it did look a bit like some of those that I had a long time ago and enjoyed to the max.

These days, if you go to eat kolo mee in Kuching, at best, you will get some char siew and some minced meat on top – they do not even give you those light-blanched green vegetables (sawi) anymore, it seems. That is exactly what you will get when you go and eat kampua mee at some places in Sibu, even though long long ago, in  my growing up years, they never gave minced meat, just a few of those very very thin slices of boiled pork, coloured pinkish orange…

Traditional Sibu kampua mee

…on top.

My friend/ex-student, Louis, went and tapaoed this packet of kolo mee

Louis' kolo mee, Kuching

…from somewhere in Kuching and I thought it looked really good, just like those I enjoyed before in the early and mid-70’s. You would get a couple of pieces of char siew and boiled meat and a bit of minced meat with your noodles, a prawn (shell removed, leaving just the tail) and a fish ball or two and a few thin fish cake slices…and at times, you might even get an inch-long pork intestine and a thin slice of liver.

I do not remember exactly where I had something like this, probably at the stall at Lao Ya Keng in Kuching – further inside, near the stage – definitely not the one there today! Or maybe I had that at one of the coffee shops along Carpenter Street. I don’t know where one can get to eat kolo mee like that these days, maybe at Kim Joo…or Noodle Descendants but no, the last time I was at these places, I did not think they were quite the same.

Anyway, going back to the noodles that I cooked for breakfast, I cannot remember where or when exactly but the last time I featured our made-in-Sibu Mee Daddy, somebody said that she always had it dry, like kampua mee, never in soup. Oh? I know they suggest three ways…

Mee Daddy 3-in-1

…soup, dry or as a snack but all this time, I always had it in soup and it reminds me of our chin th’ng mee or kampua mee served in clear soup…

Sibu chin th'ng mee

…so I decided to give it a try to see if it would be any good that way.

I emptied the contents of the sachets into a plate – the oil and half of the seasoning powder only, cooked the noodles, drained it well and tossed everything well together.

I boiled some prawns, fishballs and thinly-sliced fish cake and grilled some slices of smoked bacon for the toppings and added an egg as well and I garnished it generously with chopped spring onion from my garden and served…

Mee Daddy dry 2

Hmmm…it was nice but I think I should have mixed the seasoning powder well with the oil till it dissolved in it and maybe it could do with a little bit more oil – a teaspoon of the shallot oil that my sister gave me that day would be nice.

Having said that, no, it did not taste anything like kampua mee – it was quite nice, that much I would say but if you are craving for kampua mee, I honestly do not think this would help. At the end of the day, I still prefer this in soup. Period!