Where’d you go…

In my post the other day, I blogged about the outbreak at the Pasai Siong cluster and how Sibu came to be declared a red zone. There were 37 cases initially and over 90 cases in the subsequent two days and almost 150 cases the third day, over 400 cases already at the time of writing.

This is so very shocking and that is not all. Using MySejahtera, they are able to keep track of where you go and that was what they did in the cases of those tested positive. Every day, they would release lists of places those people had been to and one of them in the list is this shop…

Kim Tak

…in my neighbourhood.

This was once very popular because of the availability of most anything and everything and the competitive prices so much so that come Chinese New Year, people would come from miles around and the road would be jammed and you would see all the cars parked all along the side of the narrow road.

It is not as popular now – as a matter of fact, it has been downsized a bit. I, for one, would buy my eggs there and once in a while, I may pick up a loaf of bread or  a thing or two. I think I am more of a regular at the fruit and food shop at the end of the other block to the right and thankfully, it is not in the list.

It seems that somebody dropped by this particular shop on a certain day (if I remember correctly, it was on 10th January, Sunday) at 2 something in the afternoon, a rather unusual time to be shopping – probably just stopping by to grab something and if you happened to be there on the same day and especially around that same time, you would have to go for a swab test to make sure that you had not been infected.

No, that was the day of my sister’s birthday gathering in the evening and we were here for lunch and at home the rest of the time so we did not go there. I can’t remember when I went there, possibly a few days earlier to stock up on eggs, canned food, instant noodles and everything when the number of cases in the country was mounting and I had a feeling that there was going to be a lockdown.

I bought two packs of these Malaysian-made biscuits…

TIGER susu

…that I do enjoy a lot. When my bed-ridden mum was still around, on days when she did not have an appetite, we would give her these, the susu ones. I guess that is all carbs and sugar but at least, she would be eating something, better than nothing.

At the same time, I also picked up a pack of the original…

TIGER original

For one thing, they’re a whole lot cheaper than those imported biscuits which are super expensive and may not be that great. The ladies in the house bought me those celebrated Scottish shortbread for Christmas, almost RM20.00 a box and only a few pieces inside…plus they did not seem to be as nice as before. They got me two boxes, almost RM50.00 – with that kind of money, they could have got me a roast chicken or a roast duck and still have change and I would enjoy it a whole lot more.

Talking about shortbread, my cousin in Melbourne says these Foochow  shortbread – that’s what she calls them, the Mooncake Festival biscuits (pek guek tong chiew peah)…

Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits

…are anytime nicer than the Scottish ones. Well, they are nice, especially the ones with the lovely fragrance and taste of lard and I happened to be at the shop in the block next to the aforementioned (this one was not on the list) early on Monday morning…and thank goodness I did not hop next door to look around. There were only three packets left, probably leftovers from the festival earlier last year, expiring on the 31st…so I grabbed all of them to enjoy. After all, we would not be getting anymore until the festival this year…that is if things get better and return to normal, more or less and we shall be able to get them again.

The business owners of all those places were supposed to close for 14 days and have them sanitised from top to bottom but I don’t think many of them would bother. The only thing we can do in the light of things in this present situation would be to just stay home and if, for whatever reason we simply have to go out, we must make sure we have our masks on at all times, sanitise often and wash our hands thoroughly…and bathe once we get home. Better be safe than sorry!!!

I’ll try anything…

I blogged about these leaves…

Daun hempedu bumi 1

…a few times before like here in 2016 , for instance or here in 2008. You can click those links to read all about them.

They are still growing in abundance here and there all over my garden, at times flourishing and doing very well while at other times, they seem to be struggling to stay alive and I really do not know why. All I can do is to sit back and watch and hope for the best.

Well, it so happened that I stumbled upon this Bloomberg article that reported that Thailand’s health ministry had approved the use of the herbal plant extract to treat early stages of Covid-19  as an alternative treatment to reduce the severity of the outbreak and at a time like this, I’ll try anything!

I used to pluck them to brew tea with them and drink loyally without fail every day but lately, I have not been that motivated even when I see a lot sprouting here and there and growing beautifully…

Daun hempedu bumi 2

In Chinese (Hokkien), we say “ching pui“, meaning very fat or very fertile.

After reading that article about what is happening in Thailand, I am inspired once again to go back to my daily ritual and yes, I  have been plucking those leaves every morning now and drinking the tea.

I seem to notice evidences of flowers and seeds appearing which, I’m afraid, is not a good sign. When there is too much of these, those plants will not thrive so well and it will be difficult to find big succulent leaves for my morning tea. The only consolation is I’ve seen new plants sprouting out elsewhere so hopefully, there will not be a break in the chain and fingers crossed, I will not run out of those leaves eventually.

Benefits…

In my recent posts, I mentioned how I was plucking my butterfly pea flowers all along the fence at the back of my house and giving them to my friends at Payung and also to another friend who said she wanted them.

Somebody commented somewhere that I could make tea with them as they would be good for my eyes. Well, I have no problem with my eyes, not dependent on glasses still even at 68 going on 69 but anyway, I went and googled and came across this link that listed the health benefits of these flowers

Health beenefits of the butterfly pea flower

I also read somewhere that I must pluck the flowers or else they will wither and grow seeds and the leaves will not grow well. No wonder I noticed that my plants were not looking too good, all the dead vines, all dried up, with lots of seeds dangling from them. Ever since I have been plucking them every day and drying them…

Butterfly pea flowers, ready for drying

…the leaves have started to grow pretty well and generally, it is looking good again. Another thing that struck me is how after plucking all the flowers in a day, they would bloom with a vengeance the very next day and I would be getting more and more!

According to my friends at Payung, they could keep them in the fridge for a few days but I guess because I have been sending a whole lot to them every day, I heard they have resorted to boiling them in water to get the colour and storing that for use eventually when they cook their nasi kerabu. They probably can use them to brew tea to serve to customers but at a terrible time like this in our current deplorable situation, around 100 cases a day, I don’t think they will have a lot of customers dropping by.

My cousin in Brisbane grows these flowers too and she says that she stores them in the freezer and takes out the number she needs to boil. She says that by boiling, one will get a bluer than blue colour and it will kill whatever toxins there may be.

To dry the petals, I would pull out the middle part…

Remove middle part

I read somewhere that that part should not be consumed. My missus said she saw online that some people may be allergic to the pollen in that part of the flower and that is why, nothing too serious. Having done that, I would arrange the petals nicely as in the above photograph to dry. If I just dump them all in a basket and put them out in the sun, they would all stick together in clumps and it would be hard to pull them apart.

I don’t know how much they are selling this at the market but I did see at a supermarket here once these dried petals being sold in small packets of 300 gm each for RM13.50. Needless to say, at the time, I was shocked by the fact that it was so expensive. However, after drying all the flowers I plucked for around a week, I can now understand why – after all this time and effort, I have only managed to collect this much…

Dried butterfly pea flowers

It is such a chore but I guess good things don’t come easy.

Red zone…

Sibu has been declared a red zone on Saturday following this case at Pasai Siong where a girl came home from Johore via KL (and Kuching too, if I remember correctly) to attend her father’s funeral.

I guess she was not to blame as she tested negative all the way and by the last test that turned out positive, it was already too late. At that point in time, this so-called super spreader had infected 37 others.

One thing about these ethnic groups here, when there is a wedding, a festival or whatever event, even a funeral, everyone in the longhouse and all the longhouses around would commune to drink and feast away, casting whatever SOP and physical distancing to the wind. In another cluster recently, they were celebrating Christmas at the longhouse.

Instantly, the roads were deserted Saturday night and according to Andy, there wasn’t a single customer at Payung…

Payung backdrop

…the whole night through. We went there for lunch on Sunday and there were noticeably fewer cars on the road but we did see some coffee shops that were full of people. There wasn’t anybody else at Payung but we still went through the SOP and maintained our physical distancing.

My girl wanted the beef spaghetti bolognese (RM17.00)…

Beef spaghetti bolognese

…which she enjoyed tremendously after not eating it for so long. I am not fond of bolognese in general but their own-made sauce with fresh tomatoes here is da’ bomb!

My missus had their green curry chicken (RM16.00, with rice)…

Green curry chicken

…and the serving that Andy gave her was so huge that he had to give the extra gravy separately in another bowl.

I was keen on going there as I wanted to try their nasi kerabu (RM12.00)…

Payung nasi Kerabu

The first and the last time I had it, Peter sent it to my house and I had not had the chance to eat it since. Yes, the rice was nicely tinted blue using the colour from the butterfly pea flowers from my garden that I had been sending to them regularly. If you go and eat this at most of the Malay shops and stalls, you will be horrified at the sight of their shade of blue, the result of using artificial colouring!

It seemed that they added a bit of santan (coconut milk) and dunno what else to the rice to enhance its taste so it did not come across like the blue-coloured plain rice that you will get elsewhere.

Having said that, elsewhere, they serve this with a piece of meat, chicken usually, or fish but you do not get that here even though Peter did tell me once that there is fish in the kerisik

Kerisik, saled fish & ikan bilis

…and they do give some fried ikan bilis (anchovies) and these salted fish that I do enjoy. I was thinking that they can make some mini version of their very nice otak-otak and serve it by the side for a few ringgit more – that would probably bring the dish to a whole new level. Otherwise, this is almost vegetarian, not quite something down my alley even though it was very nice and I did enjoy it. I would say that the serving was HUGE, enough for two to share.

My girl wanted their jelly pisang (RM9.00)…

Jelly pisang

…for dessert and asked for it to be served in a bowl instead of the usual tall glass as it would be easier to eat it this way.

That certainly was a delightful lunch and as we were leaving, I was glad to see a young couple dropping by for lunch. A number of places here have closed down and the way things are going, there would be some more, I’m sure.

I don’t know when we would be dropping by here again – the way things are going, we would most likely prefer to stay at home but I did tapao some of their dishes to store in the freezer to heat up and eat whenever we feel like it and incidentally, I just saw that we can order food delivery at 0165787614 or call Andy, 01153375498 and they will send via Grab (RM5.00 within Sibu) – payments can be made via Sarawak Pay. Do give them a tinkle if you are thus inclined!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

Do you want to know…

This is a follow-up post to the one on the lovely croissants the other day. Well, if anyone is interested, they are only RM7.20 for a pack of 4, just 1.80 each. That is so much cheaper than the ones here or here but I guess these are a bit smaller.

In that post, I mentioned that I had the croissant with some leftover Korean luncheon meat that was so very nice, not salty and with the usual fragrance and taste. That prompted some people to ask what brand it was and how much it cost. Well, I did not have the slightest idea as it was my missus who bought that – twice and because we enjoyed it so much, that day she went back to that supermarket to get some more and if you were one of those who wanted to know, this should answer all your questions.

Some West Malaysian friends asked if it was Lotte and the answer is no, the one we had earlier wasn’t that brand but this time around, my missus bought two brands…

Korean luncheon meat

…one of which was Lotte (RM12.50)…

Lotte

…thank goodness for the stickers because everything on the can is in Korean and it’s all Greek to me.

The other brand (RM13.95)…

Sajo

…was what we had and it was very good. We’ll get down to trying the Lotte one soon.

They are a whole lot cheaper than SPAM, also available here, and a whole lot nicer. Incidentally, they have SPAM in Korea too! My flight attendant friend gave me a can

Korean SPAM

…once but only the can was Korean. It was made in the US and it was SPAM, nothing more, nothing less – not nice, so salty!

We also tried a small can of this canned ham…

Korean canned ham

…not too long ago and since it was very nice, this time around, my missus bought some more (RM14.50)…

DongWon

Yes, I know they sure do not come cheap (I hear they are cheaper if you order via SHOPEE), though cheaper than SPAM and many of the imported brands of luncheon meat (I would not touch the China ones with a 10-foot pole, thank you very much) so I guess it is best if we restrict ourselves to eating these once in a while only. After all, people always say that processed meat and canned foods aren’t so good for health.

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

What a day…

In the peninsula, they have Tenaga Nasional (National Energy) while in Sarawak, we have our Sarawak Energy or what we still call SESCO to this day as that was what it was called before, the Sarawak Electric Supply Corporation.

I bought our house in 1988 and I don’t know what special arrangements my dad made with the former owner and all these years to this very day, we have been paying for the electricity bills issued to his name.

However, it seems that SESCO is switching to e-billing so I clicked the link and went to the website to register. The first thing they asked for was my name (according to my MyKad) and I hesitated – should I just type my name or the former owner’s name? In the end, I decided to go and change it once for all to avoid any complications in future.

I contacted my ex-student from a previous school, now an officer at SESCO, Sibu and she told me to go over to the office which I did. When I got there, she said that she had checked the contract and found out that the guy, wherever he is now (after he sold the house to me, I heard that he moved to Johore to manage a bank there), has a lot of contracts to his name (I guess he owns a lot of property) so they cannot transfer his deposit to me – I would have to have a new contract drawn up registered in my name.

Everything went well – I had to pay the deposit (RM500.00) plus another RM150.00 connection charges for meter fee and RM10.00 stamping fee. They told me they would come to my house to fix a new meter…

New SESCO meter

…a digital one, the following morning – the existing meter was as old as the hills. Ah yes! My ex-student gave me another complimentary umbrella, the same as the one she gave me sometime ago when I went to the office regarding my auto debit and yes, they registered for me so I shall get my bills via email from now on.

The next day, I waited and waited and waited but there was no sign of them and finally at around noon, they showed up  and got the job done in no time at all. I watched them at work and I was amazed by how they had to take a lot of photographs of the old meter and the new one from all kinds of angles and one was busy the whole time doing whatever he was doing on his laptop and after they were done, it took him quite a while in the car to come out with the form for me to sign – he said the printer was slow. Good grief!!! In the old days, they would just come and change and all documentation, report and what not would be done when they got back to the office…and they say with all this modern technology, our lives would be a whole lot easier? Hmmmm!!!

Unfortunately, the story does not end there. They turned off the main switch outside so they could do the work and once they finished, they switched it back on. It turned out that my UNIFI modem refused to reboot – the TM light at the side came on but none of the little ones appeared. The other two, whatever they were, looked all right.

I called their 1-100 number and got to speak to a machine. She gave me 4 options but none seemed to be what I was looking for. I called the TM service centre number but nobody answered and I kept being redirected to their voice mailbox. In the end, I gave up and drove to their office. Who says with technology, things are a whole lot easier these days. Tsk! Tsk!

Luck was on my side! There was nobody at the office, just the security guard and a sweet young girl at her table with her monitor right in front of her. Yes, she was very nice and friendly and I did not have a problem at all in lodging my report. She told me the people would go to my house that afternoon or to the latest, the next morning. I had no choice but to go home…and wait. By the time I was done by around 1.00 p.m., I saw that a queue was starting to form right behind me.

The technicians showed up very soon at around 2.00 something and they changed the modem to a brand new one…

New UNIFI modem

…free of charge. When I first registered and got connected, the whole set was all silvery chrome in colour and looked impressive. Over the years, they have changed the other two (I think one is a router and the other small one is for the online TV) so now I have three odd ones, all looking different. Ah well! As long as they work fine, that would be the most important.

I asked them what happened and they said that we did not switch it off when the SESCO guys turned off the main switch outside and when they turned it back on, the power surge caused it to go kaput. I give them canned drinks to take back and a tip in appreciation of their prompt response for them to go for tea.

Gosh!!! All this is just one day…and what a day it was!

Growing in my garden…

I’ve been plucking my butterfly pea flowers…

Butterfly pea flowers

…and sending them over to my friends at Payung for their nasi kerabu.

I read somewhere that the flowers must be plucked or once they wither, they will produce seeds and the leaves will not grow luxuriantly anymore. No wonder I saw dried leafless vines with lots of seeds dangling from them. I am supposed to take the seeds, remove the “dead” vines and plant afresh. Well, the good news is ever since I started plucking the flowers and the seeds and removing those unwanted vines, new leaves have appeared and it is starting to look good again…and yes, I do pluck the pods and take out the seeds so if anyone would like to plant their own, they can always get them from me too…anytime.

One thing about the flowers, they seem to come back with a vengeance. I pluck all of them one day, more will bloom the very next day, even more than the day before. Of course, those people at Payung will not need so much so if anyone would like them to use for the natural colour in their nasi kerabu or nyonya kuihs…or their drinks or whatever, they can drop by my place to get them, free of charge.

The wife of an ex-student of mine saw my Facebook posts on the leaves and asked for some so I told her to come over to my house and I gave her the ones I plucked that day plus the seeds. The following evening, she PM-ed to tell me that she was on the way to my house and she gave me these…

Fong's serimuka

the rice tinted with the natural colouring from the flowers (her second attempt at making the kuih, she said) and she also gave me these chicken quiches…

Fong's chicken quiches

…that she made. Thank you so much, Fong & Henry.

In the meantime, my Brazilian spinach…

Brazilian spinach

…is growing very well too, so well that I’ve been harvesting it ever so often and giving bags and bags of it to my neighbour (they shrink badly in the process of cooking) – she says her grandchildren love it! If I am not wrong, they use it at Payung for their herbs salad so perhaps one of these days, I can give them some too. For one thing, I do not use pesticides, 100% organic, so some of the leaves would be quite badly eaten by whatever and would have holes all over. I would just cut and throw those away even though my missus said that I should not do that. Since the pests will eat it, she said, it should be good for us too – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. LOL!!!

I planted some sweet potato leaves sometime ago and they grew rampantly and went completely out of control. We ate and ate till we got quite tired of it so I got rid of all of it. After all this while, I felt like eating it again and that day, I bought a bundle from my neighbourhood shop. We ate the leaves and I planted the stalks/stems. They seem to be growing pretty well…

Sweet potato leaves

Hopefully, we can harvest and eat our own-grown sweet potato leaves soon.

I saw that FINALLY my cangkok manis

Cangkok manis

…is thriving not too badly so I decided to harvest the leaves to cook and eat. At the same time, I selected the bigger, sturdier stems/stalks and pushed them into the ground in the hope that they will sprout leaves so we shall have even more to enjoy the next time around.

I thought there was not enough for a dish so I went to buy some baby corn and sweet potatoes to cook sayur masak lemak (vegetables cooked with santan/coconut milk). It turned out that there was enough to cook on its own so we just fried it with egg…

Fried cangkok manis & baby corn with egg

…but we did throw in a packet of the baby corn.

Not too bad, don’t you think? At least I am getting something back from all those things growing in my garden after all my effort day in and day out.

Light…

My good friend/ex-classmate, Robert and his wife, Angela, kept telling me that the croissants from those chicken pie people

Hiestand mini French croissants

…were very nice and encouraged me to go and buy to try. They said they were very light with thin, crispy and flaky layers unlike many that we can find at many bakeries here in Sibu – they only look like croissants but the similarity ends there.

I am not particularly fond of that supermarket as it is very popular and more often than not, there are a lot of people there. Yes, they are very strict with the SOP when you enter and also at the cashiers’ counters. However, it is not a very big place and inside, it is a free-for-all. I cannot stand people who cannot wait their turn, wait for me to take what I want and move on. They would cast all physical distancing to the wind and simply edge up close to you to see/get what is on the shelves. Sometimes I had that urge to take off my mask and purposely cough in their faces, silly nincompoops!!!

My missus would drop by at least once a week and usually, my girl would tag along. That day when they bought the Australian PAMPAS brand filo pastry (and also their shortcrust pastry) there, they also bought a pack of the aforementioned croissants…

Croissants

…four in a pack.

They took two and heated them up in the oven and tried and yes, they loved it a lot and were praising it to the skies! I did not bother and after a few days, it got them wondering as to why I did not go and eat the two left in the fridge.

Well, I am not into eating them straight, just like that and i did not want to waste them by eating them with just peanut butter and butter. In the end, I had them with some leftover luncheon meat fried with sliced onion and egg…

With Korean luncheon meat, onion & egg

Yes, the croissants were really very nice and so was the Korean luncheon meat.

My missus bought a tin from the Korean store affiliated to this supermarket and much to her delight, it was really very very good…and that’s not because she is so into anything and everything Korean. It has that lovely luncheon meat fragrance and taste and the best thing is it is not salty, unlike Porkies, definitely a whole lot nicer than SPAM.

I did not take a photograph of the Korean luncheon meat though but don’t worry. This was the second time my missus bought a can and I am very sure she will be buying some more. The next time around, I shall grab a can and cook and feature it specially in its own blogpost.

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

The Hope of Christmas…

It’s Christmas Day, 2020…

Christmas 2020
*My girl’s DIY Christmas crib using recycled stuff*

I guess unlike those before, this one is not one to bring a lot of cheer and celebration after almost one whole year of living in dread and fear, following the COVID-19 pandemic breakout around March.

I only received four Christmas cards this year, thank you so much to all of them for the effort and their thoughtful and meaningful gestures. Well, I did not send out any myself, just three to the older folks in the family, all residing in Kuching and I was delighted that they reached them safe and sound.

My cousin in Cheras, Selangor sent me this pop-up Christmas tree…

Pop-up Christmas tree frrom Cheras, Selangor

…and I got these lovely ones from my cousins in Kuching…

From Tabuan Laru, Kuching

From Kumpang, Kuching

I certainly was surprised to get one…

From Brisbane, Australia

…from my cousin in Brisbane, Australia too. Our Malaysian postal services made an announcement sometime back that we can’t send anything overseas so I was thinking that would include cards and letters as well.

Every year, as December approaches, I would be keeping track of all the Christmas commercials as and when they appear. I’ve always loved the ones from the UK and sometimes, the Philippines too but this year, I was not really overwhelmed by any of them. Eventually, I stumbled upon this one…

…that I absolutely love and surprise, surprise – it’s from Malaysia!!! You can click the link and watch but be forewarned – make sure you have a box of tissue paper beside you. It is so relevant in these difficult times that we are going through and watching it really touched me deeply. “No one knows when these trying times will finally come to an end but…we believe that things will get better.” Well, for that, we pray.

There are a few new Christmas songs this year but only a couple fit into the context of the situation we all are in. I would say that my favourite is this one…

Some extracts from the beautiful lyrics go like this:
…Cause right now the world looks nothing like those innocent Decembers…
…These days, peace on earth is hard to find.

And I need You to remind me one more time…
You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart…
…May the sick find healing’s touch…
…And may every heart make room for you, the One who came to save us.

Even though things do not seem to be getting any better, let Christmas fill our hearts with hope, the hope that all this will be over soon.
A Blessed Christmas, everyone. Joy to the world, peace, love and goodwill to all mankind!

What you call that…

I know phong peah, almond filling wrapped in the bland layered pastry. My late parents loved that so everytime we went to Kuching, we would go to that shop at Padungan to buy some or if we heard of anybody coming to Sibu, we would ask them to buy for them.

Then there is heong peah, the best being the ones from Perak, anytime nicer than Penang’s tambun biscuits. The first time I ate that was when a friend brought me some homemade ones from the pasar malam (night market) in Taiping – the treacle maltose filling inside was still moist and sticky, so very nice! Since then, I have not seen any that comes close but over the years, I still kept on buying. My late dad used to enjoy it very much, the crusty, fragrant skin so I would buy for him to enjoy and everytime a friend gave me a pack or two, I would give to him as well.

Way back in 2011, I came across this ma ti so from Kuching which was actually heong peah to me just that those were not very nice. Well, according to this guy, heong peah (香饼) in Cantonese and beh teh soh (马蹄酥) in Hokkien or whatever are one and the same thing.

Anyway, whatever you call that, we can now buy our own Sibu-made ones…

Sibu heong peah

…wrapped individually like this…

Individually wrapped

I hear these are home-made and normally, they are sold at the market packed in plastic containers so you will have no choice but to buy the whole lot. They are only 50 sen each so if there are 20, you only need to fork out RM10.00 for a pack…but take my word for it! These are so nice that they would be gone in no time at all!!!

The skin is crusty, flaky and fragrant, not hard like some of the factory-made brands…

Sibu-made heong peah, filling

…and the filling is moist, not dry.

I bought one bag full that day, RM10.00 and you can bet I would be buying some more again soon.