Bluer than blue…

Some people, obviously uninitiated, were aghast when they saw my photo(s) of the Kelantanese delight, the nasi kerabu

Nasi kerabu

…because of the blue colour of the rice. No, there was absolutely no cause for alarm as no artificial colouring was used in the cooking.

Since time immemorial, the nyonyas have used the butterfly pea flower (the clitoria ternatea) to stain their peranakan favourites such as their kuihs (cakes), the serimuka or kuih salat, for instance…

Serimuka

…or their changs (meat dumplings)…

Nyonya chang

…and for no particular reason, personally, I do not mind it in small measure like these but not when they colour the rice completely blue. Whatever it is, it does not make much/any difference to the taste…and since it is so easy to use – just add water and you will get the bluer than blue colour for use – and so easy to grow, it does not make any sense if anyone will spend money and go and buy those artificial colouring from the shops.

Well, word has gone round regarding the health benefits of drinking the tea and all of a sudden, everyone is drinking it. Why? Even Starbucks has jumped on the bandwagon and has it in their “new color-changing drink”! And every morning, I would see my neighbour from across the road walking to another neighbour’s house a few doors away to pick the flowers from their creeping plant that is growing all over the fence…to make tea to drink.

It is very easy to plant, it seems and everybody is doing it and it will flower in abundance in no time at all. However, I did not intend to do the same but when my missus came home one day with this…

Butterfly pea flowers

…that she bought at RM3.00 for a small packet of the flowers, I decided it was time that we had our own. I went to my neighbour’s house, the one with it growing all over their fence, to ask her how to go about planting it and the kind and generous lady gave me THREE of the seedlings!

I had nothing growing along the fence at the back of the house but the cement of the drain (Don’t ask me why there is a drain all around my house compound – the previous owner did it, not me!) prevented any access to the soil except at one part so I planted one there…

By the fence

…and I planted one in one corner in the soil close to the drain and put some stilts…

With the aid of stilts

…in the hope that the creepers will creep over them over the drain and go up the fence and I had the third one by the fence that separates my backyard from that of my immediate neighbour, no drain there.

Hopefully, they will grow and start flowering soon enough so we can start drinking the tea…

Butterfly pea flower tea

Everytime I hear your name…

This goes back all the way, if I remember correctly, to two Saturdays ago, at least. We dropped by this place for the nasi kerabu, now available on Saturdays only, but the place was full and everyone did not seem to be eating yet – perhaps, they had not been served and were still waiting. We wasted no time in making our exit and left the place.

We ended up here instead as my girl wanted the Sarawak laksa (RM5.70, small)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa

…and my missus also had the same. Believe it or not, it was only RM4.00 in 2011! Thankfully, it is as nice as ever – without doubt, our favourite in town.

I also ordered the sotong kangkong (RM6.60, small)…

Thomson Corner sotong kangkong

…to share. From what we saw, they have upgraded the running of their business now and are using a computer system…

Thomson Corner computer system

…to keep tabs on everything but personally, I do not think it makes a difference as the service here is always very prompt and efficient – we never had a problem with it all these years.

No, I did not feel like having laksa that day and I ordered their Pattaya chicken rice (RM6.20) which is one of the items on their menu that I rather enjoy. In fact, before I retired and was teaching in the school across the road, I used to hop over to have this time and time again but I am quite sure that they would give a lot more chicken…

Thomson Corner Pattaya chicken rice, chicken

…at the time.

The chicken rice was still as nice…

Thomson Corner Pattaya chicken rice, rice

…with bits of sausage, wrapped in an omelette.

The nasi goreng Pattaya (Pattaya fried rice), fried rice wrapped in an omelette as well and served in this same way…

Thomson Corner Pattaya chicken rice

…is more easily available here – you will find it on the menu in most Malay coffee shops but everytime I hear or see the name, I would think of the seaside resort in Thailand though I never did bother to find out why these dishes are thus called.

Well, I went and googled and I found out that it did not originate in Pattaya or anywhere else in Thailand and it is believed to be Malaysian and is popular in Singapore and Indonesia as well but at the latter, they have their own what-they-call the nasi goreng amplop (enveloped fried rice). I wonder if the term amplop was derived from the English word, envelope.

There was a suggestion that the name evolved from the very popular pad Thai and they believed that they do have a version there where the noodles are wrapped in egg – that probably is similar to our Ah Tor fried kway teow named after the guy here who started cooking the dish that way back in the 60’s and to this day, it is the favourite of many except that he had passed on and the son is carrying on the business though I’ve heard that it is somewhat disappointing and these days, the one here is much nicer.

Unfortunately, that was all the information I could get so the reason why the dishes are called by the names, nasi ayam Pattaya (Pattaya chicken rice) or nasi goreng Pattaya (Pattaya fried rice), still remains a mystery. Can anybody shed some light on this, by any chance?

SIBU THOMSON CORNER (2.296517, 111.840710) is located at Pusat Tanahwang, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road,  in the block of shops to the right of the SHELL petrol station along that road.

Get connected…

It is very easy for those people perched on top of their ivory towers to say that this is the age of technology and that is how education should be these days.

Well, we do not have to go very far, just 99 km away from Sibu town, less than half an hour’s drive from Selangau Bazaar to my girl’s school in the jungle…

SK Sg Sepiring, Selangau

…and it is located right beside the Sibu-Bintulu road, no need to go inland, deep into the forest even.

Using technology to teach in the classroom is out of the question – I even bought a portable LED projector for over RM1K for my girl to use but there is no power socket, no electricity supply for one to use for this purpose so for years now, it has been sitting idle in one of the cabinets in the house. I wonder if it still works!

The teachers have to do a lot of things online, key in all kinds of information, statistics and what not and never mind that I do not really see the purpose but it actually takes them away from what they are supposed to do – TEACH! For one thing, there is no internet connection (and the servers that the ministry is using suck big time) – no Streamyx nor Unifi in those part of the woods so they will have to pay out of their own pockets to subscribe to one of those that may be used in the desolate remote areas here.

Maxis is totally dead while DIGi has a bit of life. Let us look at my connection. If I am sitting inside my girl’s quarters, for instance, there is no line at all, not even a single bar…

No bar

…and of course, if you want to go online, this is what you will get…

Failed to connect

I will have to go to this corner of the building…

Signal available here

…where on good days, there will be a few bars…

Signal available

…and I will be able to go online to do things like checking out my blog or logging into Facebook…

I'm connected

I remember one time I was bringing some students to a public speaking competition at a school right across the river from Kanowit. I found that there was a connection if I were to stand near one palm tree there holding my hand up high. I could call home…but when I lowered my arm to speak, the connection was lost. A friend of mine from Penang posted to a school in the Dalat district said that he would have to climb on top of a cupboard in his quarters to send me an sms.

“This is CELCOM territory!” they would shamelessly and blatantly declare and I have to fork out around RM100 a month for my girl to enjoy the connection and go online using their wireless modem. It used to be pretty ok before but I hear that these days, for reasons unknown, it is also rather shaky, not all that reliable anymore. Shouldn’t they be getting progressively better, not progressively worse? Tsk! Tsk!

This is why when I see those people with their lofty ideas implementing all kinds of programmes and what not, I get very depressed. It is obvious that they do not know very much about us – like how they would change the dates for their meetings according to their whims and fancies and I had to pay the fines for changing the dates of my air ticket bookings…or even if they do, I don’t think they even care…at all and the tragic thing is I do not foresee a time in the future when this is going to change, no way so for heaven’s sake, spare us all that crap – faster and cheaper broadband by 2019, my foot!

Makin’ me look good again…

I sent my car for a thorough bodywork, a complete paint job and all.

It is 24 years old now and the paint was fading in patches, looking pathetically worn and weathered. The left side, at the back, was badly dented

2015

…in 2015 when I went to my girl’s school in the jungle on a Friday to pick her up and take her home – it was pretty obvious that a colleague was in a hurry to go for prayers and probably did not notice my car parked by the side and reversed right into it. To this day, I do not know who it was as nobody ever came to tell me.

The right side was not spared either. I was cruising along one day and decided to change lanes as I wanted to make a u-turn at the traffic lights ahead. Suddenly, somebody rammed me from behind, hitting the car at the side from the back till the passenger’s door, damaging it a lot more severely than what one can see in the above photograph.

It turned out to be the grand-daughter of a relative of mine, right after Form 5 and obviously, a newbie at driving. Never mind, I thought, since we’re family so I offered to pay for whatever repairs that needed to be done. What got me quite pissed me off was the grandma’s remark at that point in time. “Why did you drive so fast?” she said. Gee!!! I was flabbergasted! I could not be sure but I was positive I did not see any car coming and I always use the indicator without fail everytime – the grand-daughter probably stepped on the petrol in a panic instead of the brakes…and if there is a problem with my driving, it is the fact that I am too slow or in the town centre, at least. Old retirees like me are in no hurry to go anywhere…not just yet.

There were, of course, bits of this and that here and there and how they got to be where they were, don’t ask me! I wouldn’t know! Anyway, though the engine was in tip-top shape and I only need to get it serviced regularly – no big problem, no headaches and heartaches, it certainly was not a pleasant sight. The problem was I sold off my other car, the 1st generation SAGA, so I needed this one to go here and there and for my weekend chauffeur duties and I just could not find the time to go and get it done.

Finally, at long last, my Ol’ Faithful went for a makeover and came home looking really good, like brand new…

Looking good again

I decided to stick this…

Wira

…back where it was but I left out the acronym for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional – they do not have it in their latest models either and  it is not even in their logo…

Logo

…anymore.

This was why in the meantime, we did not go out much and spent most of the time at home. I did cook some dishes for my girl, what I felt she would enjoy, like this Sarawak laksa

Sarawak laksa

…on one of the days.

It has been really hot lately and it sure looks like the haze is coming back – hopefully, it will not be too serious. Well, I think there is this belief that green bean soup is cooling and I did cook this bubur kacang hijau (green bean porridge) with sweet potatoes and sago pearls…

Bubur kacang hijau with sweet potatoes & sago pearls

…to enjoy and also in the hope that it might help cool us off a bit.

My girl also did some cooking and made these gluten-free kuih keria

Melissa's kuih keria

…a local sweet potato delight *click link for recipe* and yes, it was very good.

She tried her hand at cooking the Spanish paella…

Melissa's prawn & chicken paella

…with prawns and chicken, substituting the saffron with serbuk kunyit (turmeric powder), and it turned out very nice. I guess one can’t go wrong with prawns but I thought it would be nice to have, instead of the chicken, more varieties of seafood in it, sotong (squid), mussels, clams and the like. I have never had this before so I am in no position to say whether it was anything like the real thing but we did enjoy it and I guess that was all that mattered.

For me…

My friend contacted me the other day asking for my address as she wanted to send me some things.

I remember teaching two or three of her sisters before and I even visited her family home across river in the 80’s with my students at the time but I do not recall teaching her – maybe I didn’t.

Anyway, she passed me this can of corned beef…

Papua New Guinea corned beef

…to try, made in Papua New Guinea…

Made in Papua New Guinea

Her hubby works there, she said.

I checked the ingredients and it did say that there would be “traces of wheat”…

Ingredients

…so I guess my girl would not be able to eat it and I would have to wait till when she’s not at home before cooking it to see if it’s any good.

My friend also gave me this plant…

Snake plant

…from her garden. I guess this one is related to what they call the mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant. I did buy a pot once but it eventually withered away and died. No, not everything that I plant will flourish – I do have had quite a few disasters actually. It is claimed that this plant improves air quality. The optimal place to keep this relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance plant is the bedroom, because it converts CO2 into oxygen at night. I guess I will let it grow a bit bigger first before I do that – keep it in the bedroom or inside the house.

Thank you so much, Teresa – it is indeed most thoughtful and generous of you and thank you also for going through the trouble of sending them over to my house. I am indeed most obliged.

This is us…

Yes, this is us! Our culture, our heritage which should be preserved and cherished and kudos to the organisers for doing a great job in holding this event…

Borneo Cultural Festival arch

…every year – the Borneo Cultural Festival.

This year’s was from the 19th until the 28th of July and one of the main attractions would be this Melanau swing, called the itut

Itut

I was there early that evening so the people had not got into the swing of things yet, so to speak. If I am not wrong, it is called by different names depending on the locality where the Melanaus come from, one of which is the tibow. One thing peculiar about the Melanau language is that if you are from different parts of the Rejang Basin, the Melanau that you speak may be quite different – like what we here in Sibu speak compared to those in Matu or Oya…or Dalat and Mukah.

I did drop by this place…

Rumah Melanau

…but it was still closed so I did not get to go in but I did manage to get a photograph of these mannequins dressed in the traditional Melanau costumes…

Melanau traditional costumes

…through the window and this is one of the Chinese booths…

Chinese booth

…and no, there was nothing going on at the time when I was there.

All the food stalls were in the thick of things already though and there were a lot of people around buying whatever they fancied. This is one of the many ethnic/Iban stalls selling their traditional pansoh (food cooked in bamboo) and barbecued pork belly…

Pansoh & babi panggang

It seems to be a popular practice here to marinate the meat with the red coloured asamboi (sour plums) giving it that horrendous colour, even the chicken wings and what not at a lot of places. Personally, I would prefer that they do not do so like at this stall…

Babi panggang

…where the meat would be barbecued till a lovely shade of brown.

I saw these…

Roast pork trotters

…at another stall but no, they were definitely not of our authentic Borneo origin. My missus did buy a bit to try…

Cooking

…and she said that they told her it was Italian or something…and yes, she loved it!

This strictly-not-halal pork burger stall…

Burger Babi

…caught my attention – the boys were certainly very nice and friendly but no, I did not grab one of theirs nor this giant one…

Giant burger

…the size of a seat cushion, that I saw at another stall.

I thought the tempura seafood in a cup…

Tempura seafood

…looked very good but they could not tell me if any wheat flour was used in the making so I did not buy that either nor did I buy any of these that I saw at a vegetarian stall…

Vegetarian

…whatever that was. I did buy something from there though, this serimuka

Serimuka

…that looked really nice. However, it was not lemak enough for me and had a sort of herbal taste to it, something remotely like the guilinggao (tortoise/turtle jelly) so at best I would say it was all right but no, I certainly did not go running back there for more.

These chang (glutinous rice dumplings)…

Chang

…looked very nice and big but at that price, I decided I would not take the chance.

There was somebody making the tee peang

Tee peang

…with meat filling too and one handsome boy was frying the char koay kak (Chinese fried carrot cake) while the guy beside him was cooking some bihun kueh or something…

Handsome boy & his koay kak

Even though it rained earlier that afternoon and it was not that hot, I still felt the heat and was sweating uncomfortably and did not feel like eating anything. That was why I did not buy anything in the end but I must say I was very impressed by all that I saw.

One year, I dropped by and saw a whole lot of deep-fried stuff – those Taiwanese street food kind of thing and I was quite disgusted as this festival should be a showcase of our own culture and should have a lot of our local culinary delights…and those days, what they had at their stalls looked like things they had bought at the pasar malam (night market) and brought over to sell at marked up prices. This year, I did see a lot of things being made or cooked on the spot.

I’ve heard a lot of people grumbling that the festival was just slightly over a week long and should be extended to two weeks or even a month. This year’s did coincide with a long weekend, July 22nd being a public holiday here but it probably would be nice if, in future, the dates are planned to include the school holidays so people from other parts of the state or the country can come as well.

Got a new one…

I spotted this…

Starfresh corned beef

…on the shelves at one of the supermarkets in town the other day. I guess it is a new one as I have not seen it anywhere else before. One good thing is the price – it is a little less than RM10.00 which is more or less like what I would have to fork out for my regular brand…

Linkz corned beef

This one that I used to like before…

Mili corned beef

…has inched past the RM10.00 mark already and besides, it is “whiter” which probably means that it has a lot more fat plus it is more mushy, not quite as nice, and since price is no longer a consideration as far as it is concerned, I would not be all that keen to buy it anymore.

Of course there are other brands that are nice too but they are way over RM10.00, too expensive for the likes of me.

To try this new one out, I peeled one potato and cut it into cubes…

Potatoes

I don’t know what potato it was – we depend solely on the vegetable seller by the side of the building here in the afternoon. He will tell us if it is good and the ones my missus bought from him that day were huge! That was just one potato and there was so much of it…and yes, it was very nice and creamy, exactly what we will look for in potatoes.

I boiled it till soft…

Potatoes, boiled

…and drained it well. That would save me the trouble of waiting for the potatoes to cook while cooking the corned beef.

I peeled and sliced some Bombay onions…

Bombay onions, peeled and sliced

…and opened the can of corned beef and mashed it…

Corned beef, out of the can

…with a fork. I thought it looked finer, more mashed than the others – if you are into coarse corned beef, you can try the New Zealand one, Palm Tree brand or something. Theirs is like pulled meat – you can actually see the strips of beef but of course, it does not come cheap, not at all.

I also felt that this one looked very red, no traces of white like this one…

Corned beef with fat

…which obviously has a lot more fat and when it is so fat, I would just fry and melt the oil to cook the dish. I guess I can’t do the same with this one.

That was why I fried the onions in a little bit of oil…

Fry the onion

…till it all came apart and had softened a bit before I added the corned beef…

Add the corned beef

…and mixed everything well.

When the beef was done – it would have turned a slightly darker shade of red than when it just came out of the can, I added the potatoes…

Add the potatoes

…and after stir-frying a little bit more, I dished everything out onto a plate…

Corned beef with Bombay onions and potatoes

…and served.

You can add some more ingredients to enhance the taste if you are thus inclined. Some chili would be nice to give it that extra kick but I was cooking it the way my mum did – my dad was a true-blue Foochow, no chili in the food…and in fact, we were brought up that way too. I only started to appreciate and enjoy chili in the 70’s when I was already in my twenties.

Other things that I have in mind would be some curry leaves or chopped Chinese celery and perhaps. some Thai basil leaves would be great as well. I’d probably try it another day since I have lots growing in my garden.