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.

Heads/tails…

Mee sua/suah, literally translated as string or thread noodles, is our traditional local Foochow longevity noodles, a must-eat on one’s birthday for a life that is as long as the noodles. In my younger days, I did hear people saying that one must slurp everything down and not bite the noodles lest one would end up shortening one’s life but of course, nobody bothers about this age-old superstition anymore.

These days, I am the only one in the house eating it as it is made from wheat flour and is thus, not gluten-free. That is why on birthdays and other special occasions, my girl would have to settle for hung ngang (big bihun)…

Hung ngang in traditional red wine chicken soup

…instead but with the same traditional red wine chicken soup.

For some people, buying the noodles is not as easy as it seems – there are those who will only buy the head (mee sua thow) or the tail (mee sua boi) – I cannot, for the dear life of me, remember which the more coveted part is. It seems that they prefer the finer, thinner part which they would insist is nicer but I am not really particular – to me, head or tail, as long as it is mee sua, it is nice.

Well, the other day, I ran out of my stock of the noodles so I went to one of the shops round the corner from my house to buy some more. I’ve bought this…

Bag full of mee sua

…before – one big bag for RM10.00 and it looks like the price has gone up to RM11.50 now. Ah well! What hasn’t? Of course I did not buy that – there will be too much in that one bag and I would probably take ages to finish all that is in it.

I’ve also bought this brand…

Mee sua, brand 1

…before and yes, it was good enough for me but there did not seem as much in one packet (RM3.90) as this brand (RM4.30)…

Mee sua, brand 2

…so in the end, I bought the latter.

I cooked some of the traditional red wine chicken soup…

Traditional red wine chicken soup

…that day with ginger and lots of red wine and I added some wolfberries and dried dates (cut to let the sweetness come out) and some dried shitake mushroom.

Needless to say, the mee sua

Mee sua in traditional red wine chicken soup

…eaten with the rich, flavourful and very nutritious soup, was so so good.

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.

King…

Raja in Malay means “king” and ulam is the Malay word for vegetables, fruit or herbs eaten raw with sambal belacan (dried prawn paste chili dip) as an accompaniment to rice…

Ulam raja & sambal belacan
*Archive photo*

…so ulam raja would mean the king of all those stuff eaten in such a manner.

I’ve been planting these ulam raja plants for a while now but I never had the variety with those purplish pink flowers. A friend of mine all the way in Mukah did give me some seedlings once but none of them survived.

Not too long ago, my missus went to her friend’s house and she had a lot of this particular variety so she gave my missus a whole lot of the seeds. I wasted no time at all in planting them but out of so very many seeds, in the end, I only got around 3-4 plants…

Ulam raja plants
*Archive photo*

…and that was around May. Thankfully, those have been growing very well since so imagine my delight when I spotted the flower…

Ulam raja flower, pink 1

…appearing!

I really love the shade of pink and its winning combination with the yellow and brown and the green around it…

Ulam raja flower, pink 2

…and I can’t wait for the other buds to bloom as well.

I don’t think it has fully bloomed yet but from the look of it…

Ulam raja flower, pink 3

…it is not going to be very big unlike the yellow ones…

Ulam raja flower, yellow
*Archive photo*

…that I also got from my friend in Mukah. Those were big and they flourished and bloomed so well but in time, the plants grew old and they all died and sadly, all my attempts to plant some more using the seeds were not successful so now I do not have any of those anymore.

I do not have any of those orange ones…

Ulam raja flower, orange
*Archive photo*

…either now – I got the seedling from my friend, Peter, the PAYUNG CAFÉ boss and the flowers were smaller too but it sure looks like these are even smaller, about the size of a 10 sen coin. We’ll see…