Loud and clear…

I was born a British subject by virtue of the fact that Sarawak was at the time a British colony and during that time, we used to get imported stuff from the UK. I remember how I enjoyed those Nice biscuits from Huntley & Palmers but unfortunately, we do not get anything from them anymore these days. It had been quite a while since I last had any Nice biscuits and the other day, my girl spotted these at a supermarket here (RM7.90)…

Arnotts Nice biscuits

No, they’re from Australia, the other side of the world and yes, I do recall the sugar coating…

Arnotts Nice biscuit

…but somehow or other, I was not really impressed by this one. I don’t know but maybe we were so deprived in those days that it seemed so very nice or perhaps, things today are not longer like what they used to be.

One thing I particularly like about these imported products is how they tell you exactly what they contain…

Imported products ingredients

…and they highlight the offensive ingredients in bold for the benefit of those who may be allergic to them.

You can see another example here on a carton of the imported Australian milk…

Devondale milk gluten free

…that I am drinking right now…and here, it states in no uncertain terms that it contains full cream milk…

Devondale full cream milk

…and nothing else.

On the other hand, let’s look at this packet of noodles (RM9.90)…

Penang-made millet noodles

…made in Bukit Mertajam, Penang that I bought at another supermarket here that day. I do know for a fact that millet is ok for those who are gluten sensitive/intolerant and the name of the product is the only clue as to what they are made of. Now, the question is…what else? We haven’t the slightest idea as nothing is mentioned in that little label. I thought there is a ruling that the ingredients must be specified in all manufactured food products? I even logged into their website to see what I could find there – nothing! Seeing that we are not entirely sure whether it is safe for my girl or not, in the end, we decided that it would be best for her not to consume it.

Going back to the milk, these days, I will usually buy this one from New Zealand…

Meadow Fresh New Zealand milk
*Archive photo*

…at RM5 something a carton. It certainly makes a lot more sense buying this instead of the Malaysian-made UHT milk that may set you back by some RM7 or RM8 a carton. Just the other day, I noticed that the New Zealand one was on offer – RM4.90 only a carton but I had already bought a box of the Australian one…

Devondale new packaging

…at another supermarket, also selling at RM4.90 a carton.

A long long time ago when this brand first hit the shelves here, it was only RM1.00 a carton…and people would cart boxes and boxes home including those from Kuching. Not only was it cheap, they said but it was much nicer and creamier than our local ones.

After sometime, they changed their packaging and it looked like this…

Devondale old packaging
*Archive photo*

…and now, they have changed the packaging again…with a new easier-to-open cap…

Devondale new cap

…than the ring that they had before and also the thin aluminium foil that we find in other brands, so thin that it is quite a chore to get the loose end out.

No, as you can see from the expiry date, they are not going cheap because it is almost due, and probably it is a lot cheaper than in Australia itself, after conversion. You can’t blame me for not supporting our own Malaysian industries, can you?

Wishing you well…

Congratulations and wishing you all the very best, Rosaline, on the recent grand opening of your business venture…

Ruai Cafe, Bintulu - address

…at this shop…

Ruai Dayak Cafe, Bintulu - shop

…in Bintulu.

Rosaline was my student in Kanowit way back in the late 70’s or early 80’s when I was teaching at a secondary school there, 1978 – 1982. You can see her in this photograph (in dark blue)…

Getting ready

…and it looks like they are stuffing the bamboo tubes to cook the very nice pansoh meat or fish.

For the uninitiated, the ruai is the common room or corridor inside a longhouse…

Ruai in a longhouse
*Archive photo*

…outside the biliks where each individual family stays. This would be where the longhouse folks would hold their celebration during festivals like the Gawai Dayak when there will be a lot of feasting, drinking and dancing…

Dancing in a longhouse
*Archive photo: from my Singapore friend, Alfred’s album on Facebook*

Of course, with a name like that, you can expect to enjoy all the Dayak ethnic delights at Rosaline’s shop such this paku (wild jungle fern)…

Ruai Dayak Cafe paku

…and this one – I’m not sure what that is, probably ensabi…

Ruai Dayak Cafe ensabi

…that some call sawi Dayak.

I managed to get some photographs from Rosaline’s Facebook page to share here and this looks like kacang ma chicken…

Ruai Dayak Cafe kacang ma

…and this meat dish…

Ruao Dayak Cafe meat

…sure looks good!

You can click this link to visit their Facebook page…for more photographs and there is even a video clip of somebody at the shop playing the sape, their traditional “guitar”…

I, for one, enjoy such ethnic native cuisine a lot and I sure would love to drop by and try, if only I were in Bintulu.

Far and wide…

Yesterday, I blogged about a place in Singapore where those in the island republic could drop by for the much coveted Sarawak Sibu kampua noodles, especially the ones from here who are currently residing there.

Well, an ex-student of mine from Kanowit where I was teaching, 1978 – 1982, who is now working in Kuala Lumpur shared this photograph of what he had…

Pandan Jaya kampua and pian sip 1

…on Facebook. Now that looked really good, the bowl of kampua mee and the pian sip on top.

Oh my!!! It certainly is spreading far and wide these days, as far as Australia, don’t play-play! You do not even have to fly all the way to Sibu to eat this anymore, it seems. Gone are the days when you could not even get it in Kuching and my friends in college in the mid-70’s used to moan and groan and complain about the Kuching kolo mee, craving for our own Sibu kampua mee all the time.

I asked my ex-student where he had that but he did not know the details. He did forward to me this photograph of the stall…

Pandan Jaya kampua stall

…though. I guess these were his own photographs. He did share with me some snapshots of the very nice kolo mee he had at Pantai Indah but I googled and found out that he got those from somebody’s blog so I would not include them in mine.

I am not sure but it looked like he went back the very next day and this was what he had…

Pandan Jaya kampua & pian sip 2

…the second time around and he got me the address:
Restoran Pertama
Jalan Pandan 2/3, Pandan Jaya

I went and googled and got this…

Restoran Pertama Pandan Jaya

…street view pic of the place (3.134424, 101.740939).

So if there is anybody from here craving for this hometown delight, he or she can drop by this shop to give it a shot…or if anyone who is keen on sampling, this probably would be a good place to head to – I hear that man is from Sibu, unlike the Foochow-speaking Miri guy in yesterday’s post.

Addicted to you…

Kampua (noodles) and kompia are synonymous with Sibu. As a matter of fact, I have heard stories of people who had been away for a while even if it was just for a week-long tour and the moment they touched down, they would head straight to the coffee shop for their kampua fix before heading home.

Needless to say, those who live and work elsewhere, when they come home, for instance, when they come back for Chinese New Year, they would go and eat like there is no tomorrow. I’ve seen some stopping by so many places and sharing the photographs on Facebook of the kampua noodles that they had eaten…all in one morning, believe it or not!

Well, my friend in Singapore, the one originally from Sibu who was here briefly over one weekend not too long ago, contacted me via Facebook, all excited about this kampua mee stall…

Sarawak Sibu Kampua Mee, Singapore
*Friend’s photograph*

…that she came across in Singapore.

She said that the guy…

Kampua mee guy, Singapore
*Friend’s photograph*

…is from Miri and speaks Foochow and makes his own noodles. She gave his kampua mee an 8 out of 10 but she did not like the pian sip though as she found the skin rather thick. According to the guy, she said, he used those factory-made ones so of course, those would not meet the standard of discerning pian sip lovers.

I shared their link on Facebook and tagged those friends of mine in Singapore and in no time at all, one went to try and sent me this photograph that he took of the stall…

Sarawak Sibu Kampua Mee stall
*Friend’s photograph on Facebook*

…and the  things he ate…

Sarawak Sibu Kampua Mee kampua & pian sip
*Friend’s photograph on Facebook*

The kampua mee

Kampua mee, Singapore
*Friend’s photograph on Facebook*

…got his nod of approval, very authentic, he said, just like any of the original ones that one would get to enjoy in Sibu but he too was not so thrilled by the pian sip as he found the skin too thick for his liking. We also buy the skin here from the stalls at the wet market and they are also sold at most/supermarkets in town. I don’t know if it would help but I’ve seen at a lot of stalls here people sitting down by the side rolling the pian sip skin sheet by sheet to make them thinner so it would be nice and translucent when cooked…like the ones that I enjoy very much here.

It seems that they have a lot of variations, deviating far and wide from the original, and of course, the die-hard true blue kampua mee lovers would frown on those. Perhaps it is to cater to the taste of Singaporeans and others who may not be so attached to what is authentic and would not mind trying the rest which may be more to their liking. Well, if anybody is interested in dropping by to give it a try, this is the location:
151115 Singapore
…and you can click this link to view their Facebook page to see what’s in store…and incidentally, I hear that you can put in a special request for the “Sibu chili sauce” to go with your kampua mee, otherwise you will get the regular ones.

Go, go ahead and try and let me know how you find it, whether it is to your liking or not.

Who dunnit…

I was mighty pleased when I spotted some buds…

Ulam raja bud

…appearing on my ulam raja plant. Gee!!! So far, I only knew that the leaves were edible and eating them would bring a whole lot of health benefits but little did I know at that point in time that it would flower.

I thought it would look like a mini-version of the chrysanthemum, yellow in colour, but my blogger-friend commented on my photograph on Facebook and said that it would be pink. So I went and googled and saw this – it was a nice shade of pinkish purple, very pretty!

However, when it bloomed, it was indeed yellow…

Ulam raja flower 1

…and never mind the difference, it was very pretty too. It seems there are two varieties actually and the one with yellow flowers has longer leaves or something.

It looked like there were a lot of seeds…

Ulam raja flower 2

…and some people started asking me for them. I would not know how to go about collecting those but somebody said that I would have to wait till the flower had dried up and withered and then I could take the seeds.

It was very lasting, the flower – I think it was in full bloom for at least three days and on the morning of the fourth day, I was aghast when I woke up and saw this…

Ulam raja flower 3

Drats!!! Now, who could have done that? The petals were almost all gone and the seeds as well!!! Was it the wind? Or was it those birds in my garden? When I first planted the two seedlings that I got from Peter – he just pulled two out from one of the pots at his café to give to me, those feathered creatures got to them, leaving behind a tiny little sprig. I managed to salvage that and kept it under cover for a long while till the plant was big enough – let them come and eat, there would be enough leaves to spare.

It is now over a meter high and that is why when somebody suggested cutting away the flowers so more branches would grow, I said no way would I do something like that! Why on earth would I want more branches when we have more than enough for us to enjoy…and for the birds too! Let the flowers bloom and I can find pleasure in looking at them in all their glory.

There is another one now…

Ulam raja flower 4

…though I don’t know if I can get any seeds from it this time around and yet another bud has appeared too – obviously, there will be another flower soon.

Fingers crossed!!!

Is it really the same?…

Well, no, not really.

In an old recipe book that I bought for my missus a long long time ago, they call it “Chinese sponge cake“…

Chinese sponge cake

I think we call it kay nerng kor here or egg cake, the same name that we use to call these…

Foochow egg cake, lung ngor
*Archive photo*

…but even if basically the ingredients are the same, the one that we called lung ngor in Foochow, is baked in an oven and the other is steamed.

The Malays have their kuih bahulu

Malay kuih bahulu
*Archive photo*

…but I do not know if they are baked in an electric oven now as well or they still use the traditional brass molds and bake the cake over burning hot charcoal. I remember in the old days they came in various designs and I particularly remember the one in the shape of a fish.

Then there is this variation of the steamed egg cake or kay nerng kor – what we call bak koi or meat cake…

Bak koi 1

My aunt in Kuching, or my maternal uncle’s wife, to be exact, makes the nicest bak koi

Aunt's ownmade bak koi
*Archive photo*

…but she is in Kuching and I am here in Sibu so I will only get to enjoy hers when I go over…or sometimes, she will send to me when there is somebody coming over here.

What makes this different from the usual plain steamed kay nerng kor would be the minced meat in the middle and the fried shallots on top…

Bak koi 2

…but of course, the ones that my aunt makes would be far nicer, very very far as she would be so much more generous with those two added ingredients.

Well, I guess beggars can’t be choosers so I will just have to be happy with the one I can get here (2.316156, 111.840448) at the fruit & vegetable shop along Jalan Ruby, sharing a shop lot with a hair salon at the other end of the block where Kim Won Chinese Medical Store is, where I buy those nice Sarikei Nestum-coated with peanut butter filling mochi. A quarter of the whole thing like this…

Bak koi

…is selling for RM5.50 each and though it may not be THE best, I would say it is pretty nice.

In a different way…

This is our own made-in-Sibu Daddy Mee…

Daddy Mee

…instant noodles. There has been a slight improvement, I noticed – the packaging is now some kind of thin aluminium foil not the flimsy plastic that they had in the past but other than that, it is still the same.

In case you’re wondering, the 3-in-1 does not mean there are three things you can get in one packet though there are the noodles and a sachet of seasoning plus a little pack of shallot oil inside. What it actually means is that you can have it in three different ways – in soup, dry or just eat it like that as a snack.

I rather like the soup version – it brings to mind the ching th’ng mee (noodles in clear soup)…

Ching th'ng mee
*Archive photo*

…available at all the kampua noodle stalls in town, minus the meat, of course, unless you add your own.

However, I did try serving it dry not too long ago and I thought it was nice. My missus was never a fan – she insisted the noodles tasted like some kind of plain biscuit but she did seem to enjoy it like this…

Daddy Mee, dry

…tossed with half the sachet of seasoning (do not use the whole packet or it will be too salty), the shallot oil plus a bit of the ABC Extra Hot Chili Sauce and garnished with chopped spring onions and sliced cili padi.

For one thing, people keep saying that when eating instant noodles, one must boil the noodles first and drain before adding to the soup. This way, that is taken care of as you would have done that before tossing with the ingredients.

Moving on from there, this is a different way of cooking that some of you may not be familiar with. Like how the ethnic population here have their pansoh – meat or seafood cooked in bamboo tubes over a hot charcoal fire, we have our masak kuden, masak meaning cook and kuden, if I am not wrong, refers to the pot. I am not sure if it is Melanau but it has been in my maternal side of the family for as long as I can remember. This is a very simple kampung-style cooking method whereby you line the bottom of the pot with banana leaf, rub the fish with salt and place it on top, cover the pot and put it over a very very small fire to slow cook until the juices come out and the fish is cooked.

I did not have any banana leaf so I used kunyit (turmeric) leaves instead and I could not resist throwing in a bit of ginger and daun kesum

Masak kuden

It was raining that day, otherwise I would have gone out to set some serai (lemon grass) as well.

I’ve baked fish with these ingredients wrapped in aluminium foil before and it was very nice too but of course, in the old days, they did not have an electric oven so traditionally, this was how they did it. What would separate the men from the boys would be the type of fish used and how fresh it is.

Last but not least, I was going to fry some leftover rice that I spotted sitting in the fridge that morning but it turned out that there was tang hoon (glass noodles) in one of the plastic tubs, not rice and I went ahead and fried that instead…with belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Fried belacan tang hoon

…and it turned out really nice – I thought it was nicer than rice or bihun (rice vermicelli), a welcome change indeed.

I do think that sometimes, it is good to stray away from the well-trodden paths and do things in a different way instead of following the same ol’ boring recipes day in and day out. What do you think?