Lights…

It was some two weeks ago when there was a blackout here in Sibu. It was not very long, less than two hours from around 4.00 to 6.00 p.m. and it was still bright at the time so we could go outside where it was cooler but when that happens in the night, even though there may be the pleasant night breeze outside, one would have to fight with the mosquitoes and whatever that would be lurking in the dark.

Two days later, it happened again early in the night around 7.00 p.m. but that one was quite brief, around half an hour only, thank God!

I have the electricity board’s technical assistance number on speed dial so everytime that happened, I would call them right away. One had to be fast or one would never be able to get through – the line would be engaged and I wouldn’t know if some other people were calling or they just left the receiver off the hook. Tsk! Tsk!

These days, when you call that number, you would get through to their customer service and firstly, the answering machine would tell you to press 1 for English, 2 for Malay…and then if you want to report a blackout, you would need to press a certain number and so on and so forth. Finally, when all that has been done, they will tell you, “Sorry, all our lines are busy. Please hold!” So you would have to wait and wait and wait and listen to some horrible music and I was thinking, perhaps they should play some relevant songs instead like this one, for instance…

If I am not wrong, the people running that service are in Kuching and they would ask and say a lot of things and at the end of it all, they would just tell you that they would inform the people concerned. When? Don’t ask me…but what I can tell you is that if you are calling on your mobile, that would cost you quite a bit. Thankfully, I have free landline calls using the complimentary cordless phone that came with my internet package so go ahead – say what you want, take your time!

Coming back to the blackout, I was thinking of buying a fan that would run on rechargeable battery. I bought this one…

Emergency fan & light
*Archive photo*

…some two years ago for my girl to take to her school in the jungle. They have electricity there but are dependent on generators and those would break down sometimes. Thankfully, there had not been any need to use it and one fine day, she told me it was not working anymore. I heard somewhere that these things have to be used regularly or they would just call it quits for no reason whatsoever. Ah well! What can one expect for RM15.00 only and from something made in China some more? For this very reason, I did not want to get one of the same for her or for myself.

I remember seeing a box fan with a fluorescent light by the side at a shop in Selangau that time when my girl first went over to teach in one of the schools in that district…and I was looking and thinking of buying one for her but the mum went nag…nag…nag…so I just walked away and abandoned the whole idea. I was contemplating on going back there to see if they would still be selling it there but in the meantime, I decided to drop by the electrical shop a few doors away when we went here for lunch (we were there early, around one hour before opening time) that day and yes, they had this…

Fan

…tagged at RM145.00 but they were willing to let me have it for RM125.00. I told them I would be getting two and they reduced it further to RM120.00 each.

It is made in China too but these days, what isn’t? For one thing, you will only use it in the event of a blackout, sitting right in front of the 12-inch fan…

12-inch

…enjoying the wind while waiting for power to be restored and if it is in the night, there are these LED lights as well…

Lights

…so you would not be sitting in the dark and I do think it would be quite safe since it will not be running on electricity, just the battery in it. For one thing, it is very quiet unlike the aforementioned cheap one – I used that when there was a blackout before my girl took it to her school and I wanted to have a nap but the noise was so loud that it kept me awake the whole time. I guess when something is THAT cheap, one has no cause for complaint.

Of course, this one needs recharging as well! According to the manual, full recharging the first time would take some 12-15 hours and even if you do not use it, you would need to recharge for around 8 hours every 3 months. When it is recharging, the red light…

Charging

…will come on and according to the people at the shop, it will go off when fully recharged. So far we have not waited that long to see it happen. LOL!!!

Well, if anyone is interested in getting one…

Fan, in box

…as well, you can drop by the electrical shop at Laichee Lane here (2.290842, 111.829440) to see if they have any more stock. I hear blackouts are a lot more frequent in Kuching and Miri and a lot worse in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah…and thank God for small mercies, it isn’t so bad here but still, it pays to be prepared. In Malay, there is a saying, “Sediakan payung sebelum hujan!” (Get ready the umbrella before it rains!)

I choose…

Of course, there is no panggang like Kate’s panggang and by the way, that is the name we call it in our family after the lady who used to go round on a bicycle selling them. Don’t go round the kueh stalls in the kampungs asking for Kate’s panggang – they would not know what on earth you’re talking about. They call it by the name of the person making them, a Haji something but somehow or other, I just can’t seem to remember it even though those sellers have told me more than once.

The old man had retired, the younger ones in the family are making them now but unfortunately, they do not make them on a regular basis so you would have to be very lucky to stumble upon any for sale. They are going for RM1.10 each, the rest are priced at RM1.00 only so chances are if you come across any priced as such, those would be the ones to grab. The last time I managed to get some, it was at this kueh stall at the end of Kpg. Hilir beside the SEDC hawker stalls, opposite the MDS Supermarket at Simpang Tiga here…and that was quite a long time ago, still as nice as ever but they somehow looked thinner and shorter.

Now why am I bringing this up, you may ask? Well, when my Kuching cousins were in town, that afternoon when they dropped by my house for the popiah lunch, I saw that they had with them two leftover panggangs in a plastic bag and they looked so green and clean. “Eyewwwwww!!!” I exclaimed, “Those can’t possibly be nice!” The ones in Kuching are like these that I came across in Bintulu…

Bintulu sambal panggang
*Archive photo*

They have sambal inside and yes, they do taste nice if the sambal inside is nice but once I had some from Kuching with a whole lot of sambal and very little pulut (glutinous rice) so that was some sort of an overkill. Not nice. You just can’t go overboard with these things, really.

Those do not need much panggang-ing as there is the sambal to give it its taste to go with the pulut but our pulut panggangs here are not the same. Yes, lately, we do have the ones with sambal as well but true-blue panggang eaters will not settle for anything less than the real thing – the kosong (no filling) ones…and when buying, one must know how to tell the good ones from those mediocre or not-so-good ones sold all over.

Firstly, the banana leaves must be badly burnt and black…

Pulut panggang 1

– that would be an indication that it has been well-panggang-ed over a hot charcoal fire. That is essential to give it that smoked fragrance without which the panggang will be nothing more than salted pulut wrapped in banana leaf, nothing to get excited about.

You can also take one and smell it. My missus finds that disgusting and would grumble that the sellers would not be happy about me doing that. Well, if I cannot detect the much-coveted panggang-ed fragrance at all, I would just put it back – no point wasting my time and money…and calories.

Then when you open one up, it should be nice and oily…

Pulut panggang 2

…not dry and clean. In Kate’s ones, you may detect some traces of the santan (coconut milk) which would go to show how lemak it is. Now that is another thing in panggang that separates the boys from the men. It must be lemak enough and that is what makes Kate’s stand out way above the rest – those are extra lemak and of course, extra nice! I sure would not mind forking out that extra 10 sen just for that!

If you look at the pulut, you may detect a slight tint of gold…

Pulut panggang 3

That must be very slight and not brown, the result of over-panggang-ing, in which case the pulut would be hard and not all that palatable at all. In the case of this one, you can see that the tint is only on the outside…

Pulut panggang 4

…very superficial so it is perfectly all right and may be considered as having been very nicely done actually.

Many would prefer to eat this pulut panggang on its own and enjoy its slightly salty and very lemak taste plus the panggang-ed fragrance but with my sweet tooth, I would rather have it with kaya (coconut jam)…

Pulut panggang 5

…or condensed milk or to the very least, sugar.

I bought this one at RM1.00 each and I found that it was pretty good – no, not as nice as Kate’s but good enough. After all, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

Catch us if you can…

This current craze…

…is so popular that there have been claims that people hooked on it have got themselves involved in traffic accidents though there are also reports that deny that.

I haven’t the slightest idea what that is all about as I do not own a smartphone so I am not able to download that to check it out. However, I am no stranger to that cartoon character, or characters for that matter, as when my girl was little, she was so much into it. Gee!!! To this day, she can still remember the lyrics and sing the theme song! What I do know is if you have the application, you can go round looking for all those characters…

Gotta catch 'em all 1

…and catch them all…

Gotta catch 'em all

I bought this…

Pokemon Collector's File 1

…for my girl, first produced in 1995 and when I checked the dates, this one was the 2000 batch so that means it is already 16 years old, not quite an antique or a collector’s item yet, I suppose…

Pokemon Collector's File 2

I wonder how much I would get for this if I put it up for sale on eBay.

There are lots of things in the collector’s file such as this colourful poster…

Pokemon poster

…stickers…

Pokemon stickers

…and puzzles and games…

Find the Pokemon

Can you find the Pokemon? Do you know all their names?

And talking about their names, there was this report the other day that parents are naming their kids after those Pokemon characters. I do hope they know the characters well enough to pick a good one and as a matter of fact, they are all listed in this file with a brief description of each of them…

Snorlax

I wouldn’t mind picking this cute one…

Cute Pokeman

…if I had a kid to name. What about you? Pikachu? Hey, that rhymes!!! LOL!!!

Well, fads and trends come and go. Let’s just wait and see how long this one will last. In the meantime, are you one of those going round and catching them too?

What did I do wrong…

Well, firstly, I did not pronounce it right.

I always called it “pho” as in Phong Hong…or when somebody throws a tile in mahjong and you have two identical ones in your hand, and you shout, “Phong!!!” and quickly grab that tile to form a set of three.

Then my girl told me it should have the f-sound as in philosophy…and I guess she knew better as she had a Vietnamese friend in Wellington with a Filipino wife and nothing beats getting it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. In fact, it is not even pronounced something like for – if you click this link to go to the website and click the listen link there, you will find that it sounds something like far, the intonation going a little upwards at the end. Ah well!!! Guess one is never too old to learn new things, right? LOL!!!

Now, some of you may recall that I did buy a packet of the dried flat rice noodles – the one in a green packet and I cooked that not too long ago. It turned out all right, not quite there but it was good enough. I did mention in that post that there is another brand being sold in town, in a red packet and I would want to buy that to try as well, and I did…

bánh phở 1

…and it’s a product of Vietnam…

product of Vietnam

…true and true. Of course, we do have dried versions of our own noodles at the shops too but some people would insist they would not be as nice as the fresh ones but when it comes to this bánh phở, we do not have any fresh ones so this will have to do.

I had a glimpse at the instructions at the back and it said to boil for 6 to 8 minutes. Boil! 6 to 8 minutes? Oh me! Oh my! No wonder the ones I bought and cooked before were not all that satisfactory, not really fine and smooth. I would just soak in hot water like what people usually do to soften bihun (rice vermicelli) prior to cooking. No wonder I thought it was not quite like hor fun or kway teow (flat rice noodles) and more like bihun.

So this time around, I did as instructed and after boiling, I rinsed in “fresh water” as stated in the instructions and loosened the strands before draining them well. Then, I added a bit of soy sauce, not too much as I did not want it too dark, a sprinkling of sugar (a teaspoon) and pepper…

With soy sauce, sugar and pepper

…and I mixed them altogether well.

These were the ingredients I prepared to fry the bánh phở

Ingredients

– sliced shallots and chili, chopped garlic and spring onions. sliced sausages and some fishballs.

I fried the shallots and garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown, added the chili and the sausages and fishballs and when they were good and ready, I put in the pre-seasoned bánh phở. Finally, I broke two eggs and mixed them well with everything in the wok before adding the spring onions and dishing everything out…

Fried bánh phở 1

There you are! It sure doesn’t look too bad, does it? Well, I would say it tasted very good too – maybe not all that salty enough but no, I would not want to add more soy sauce and get it all black. Perhaps a little salt would be fine but it was all right the way it was – I could enjoy the taste and fragrance of all the ingredients that went into the cooking and with my missus’ extra-hot blended chili dip, that sure gave it an extra kick.

I only cooked half of what was in the packet…

Fried bánh phở 2

…but when I get round to cooking the rest of it, I think I would check one of those pad thai recipes and get all the ingredients ready to cook it that way – hopefully, it will be just as nice as some that I’ve enjoyed so much at some Thai restaurants here and there.

Different day…

We had not been here ever since that time when we dropped by on a Sunday and I was put off by the poor service and what we were served that day.

We did drive by frequently though (my house is just round the corner) and we noticed that it was open on Tuesdays which used to be their off day and they were closed on Mondays instead. True enough, when we dropped by the other day, we saw this sign…

Colourful Cafe sign

…there which means that they only open in the morning on Sundays and the shop is closed Sunday night and every Monday. If I am not wrong, I do not think they open the whole day – usually, it is from 7.00 a.m. till 2.00 p.m. and they open again in the evening at around 6.00 p.m. till 10 or 11.

A friend of mine was also grumbling to me that day about their smaller servings…and I thought my experience that Sunday was just an isolated case and it was because of the crowd and they were so busy that the servings were not consistent, not as much as what we would get usually. She said that she used to order one plate of fried kway teow and there was enough for her to share with her kid but when she went recently, there was so little on the plate that she had to let her kid have all of it and order another one for herself.

Well, that morning, both my missus and I ordered their nasi lemak and she wanted hers with beef curry…

Colourful Cafe nasi lemak with beef curry

It looked all right this time around – there was quite a lot of the sambal and even though it did not look like there was a lot of beef, they sure were very generous with the gravy…

Colourful Cafe beef curry

I did wish they were not all that messy though.

I did not want to take the chance of getting just a spoonful of masak hitam beef like the last time so I asked for the chicken wing – after all, a wing is a wing and surely they would not be giving me just the drumette or the rest of it and yes, I did get the whole wing…

Colourful Cafe chicken wing

…and yes, I got a whole lot of the sambal

Colourful Cafe nasi lemak chicken wing

 …as well. It was a little spicy that day, just the way I like it.

It so happened that my neighbour and his wife were there too that morning for brunch and both of them had the Sarawak laksa – it looked all right, the serving. I did not think they got less than usual so I guess things are pretty much back to normal…so it is all right to drop by here again but maybe, not on a Sunday.

The guy there who was making the drinks, including the horrible coffee that I had, was nowhere to be seen. My guess is they have terminated his service and what I had that morning, my kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) was to me, good enough.

My neighbour and his wife finished eating first and as they were leaving, they told us that they had settled our bill for us. That was so kind and generous of them, thank you, Robert  and missus. Hopefully, we’ll bump into the two of you again some place someday. Hehehehehe!!!!

The old courthouse…

Gee!!! I didn’t know there actually is a song by this name…but thankfully, unlike the one in the song, they are keeping this beauty, this precious heritage of colonial architecture…

The old courthouse, Kuching

– the old courthouse in Kuching with the Brooke Memorial right in front…

The old courthouse, monument

If I remember correctly, there was a Lebanese restaurant here once but now, it has been taken over by some people and they sure are putting it to good use and at this point in time, it is an outlet of one Penang franchise.

This is the courtyard…

Old Courthouse, courtyard

…surrounded by all the buildings around it…

Old Courthouse, one of the wings

…filled with all kinds of antiques and stuff like this intricately-crafted table…

Old courthouse, antique table

…for instance, or these old suitcases and drawers…

Old Courthouse, old suitcases and drawers

…and this display cabinet…

Old Courthouse, antique display cabinet

…and all the things inherited from the state judiciary that once had its offices here in these buildings.

It looks like they have live entertainment at one of the sections…

Old Courthouse, live entertainment

…but probably only at night as there was nothing on when I was there at around noon that day. However, if you are musically inclined, I guess you are more than welcome to go ahead and make your own music here…

Old Courthouse, music corner

…with your own group of friends.

After my breakfast plus our brunch that morning, I did not want to have any lunch that day but my cousin insisted on taking me here…

China House, Kuching

…where we met up with another cousin…for cakes…

China House, Kuching cakes & stuff

…and coffee.

I wanted their scones, RM12.00 for a set of two, but they were out of fruit jam and were in the process of coming out with freshly-made ones and I did not want to wait so I went for a slice of their quiche…

China House, mushroom quiche

…instead. It was all right…

China House mushroom quiche, slice

…as nice as a mushroom quiche could be, just that I would prefer those with lots of ham or bacon or both.

I can’t remember what cake this was now…

China House, cake

…but this…

China House apple, rum & raisin

…was their apple, rum and raisin (contains alcohol) and yes, it was very nice and so was their ginger cake…

China House ginger cake

Well, I would say they were all very nice…sweet, of course, but nice.

Then two more cousins and the daughters of one of them joined us so we had more cakes to sample. Somebody ordered the carrot cake…

Carrot cake

…and I remember this was what they called the lumberjack…

China House lumberjack

…and if I am not wrong, this was the lemon curd pistachio…

China House lemon curd pistachio

…and this one, the passion fruit lemon sponge…

China House passion fruit lemon sponge

I had their coffee, black with a special request for it to be extra strong but unlike the cakes, I’m afraid it did not impress me much.

Yes, there is definitely more than just cakes and coffee here so if you do not have a sweet tooth, perhaps you would want to drop by here for lunch or dinner instead and enjoy looking at all the interesting things all over the place and be part of Sarawak’s illustrious history.

For old times’ sake…

When I was in Kuching for my nephew’s wedding, I took the opportunity to walk around the area around the hotel where I was staying…for old times’ sake.

This hotel…

Riverside Majestic Hotel, Kuching

…where I’ve stayed before a few times, is located right across the road from mine in what was called “The Golden Triangle” of the city. The Hilton, where my nephew’s grand wedding reception was held, is right behind it (with Tune Hotel right across the road) and the Pullman’s a stone’s throw away. There is a shopping mall adjoining this hotel but I did not manage to go and check it out.

I did drop by here…

Sarawak Plaza, Kuching

…though – the Sarawak Plaza and it actually looked kind of sad, nothing like what it used to be. I guess most would flock to the very much bigger and more impressive malls in other parts of the city  plus maybe it was because of the Gawai and the public holiday that weekend so there was hardly any life there…except at the fast food franchise outlets by the side to the extreme right. If anyone is interested, yes, that eat-all-you-can Hartz chicken buffet place is still there on the lower ground floor but I did  not bother going down to check their current prices.

Well, having said all that, believe it or not, I actually managed to buy something from the gift shop there – these cuties…

Luggage tags from the Sarawak Plaza Kuching

I thought they were so cute and simply could not resist grabbing a few to take home. I wish they had not missed out the apostrophe though. Sigh!!!

Things weren’t much better at this Tun Jugah mall…

Tun Jugah, Kuching

…opposite. The hair salon was packed, probably because it was the weekend and a public holiday but other than that, there was hardly anybody except for a sprinkling at the bookstore and the food gallery…

Tun Jugah, food gallery 1

Maybe it was that time of the year – even this favourite Sarawak/Kuching laksa place…

Chong Choon, Kuching

…that some insist is the best in the city, nicer than Anthony Bourdain’s favourite, was closed so there were only two or three stalls open at the food gallery…or maybe on any other day, there are only those few, I wouldn’t know. I used to enjoy some of what they had here a long time ago but this time around, I did not see anything that would be worth wasting my calories on. There were some employees at the stalls, chatting away and none of them paid me any attention when I was walking around. Why, they did not even bother to clear the tables…

Tun Jugah, Kuching food galelry 2

…where there were customers earlier! They have done up the place very nicely so it was kind of sad to see how things have changed, so different from how busy it was, the way it used to be.

This is another hotel a little up the road…

Abell Hotel, Kuching

…of that same name, the name of the 3rd Governor of Sarawak during those colonial times. It is newer than those established ones around but I have never stayed there before so I do not know how good it is. I used to love going to that eatery on the ground floor when it was at its former location a long time ago but I have not been there since they moved here.

There used to be a cinema, the Capitol, here – since demolished, and at the block of shops right beside it, there was one…

Chicken rice shop

…that was so very popular for its chicken rice. They told me that the current people are not the ones who were there before – the original people have moved to a shop towards the other end of this same block but I did not notice it when I was walking around that morning.

However, I do know for a fact that the people at this barbecue meat place…

BBQ specialist, Kuching 1

…were formerly the celebrated ones at the shop across the  road from the Capitol and the Odeon Cinema was right beside it. They are here now…

BBQ specialist, Kuching 2

…still enjoying brisk business and so is that “tim sam” place next door. The latter used to be beside the Pavilion, facing the Kuching General Post Office – both of which are beautiful buildings of colonial architecture. Personally, I am no fan of their pao, sio bee and har kao (that’s all they have, just these three things) but obviously, everybody else does not agree with me for the place was packed to the brim, as always, that morning.

A short distance away is this totem pole…

Totem pole, Padungan

…with what looks like Fort Magherita on top and yes, there are more cats here – you will get to see lots all over the city.

I went along the road and took a shortcut through one of the small lanes to that Sarawak laksa place that I have mentioned earlier and since it was closed, I moved on from there to this hotel…

Longhouse Hotel Kuching

…a short distance away. This used to be one of the leading hotels in town alongside the Aurora (now Merdeka Palace) and the Borneo Hotel but today, it is a pale shadow of its old self. My friends used to work at the coffee house there, now a coffee shop, and I used to hang out there with them. On Saturdays in the mid-70’s, there would be a live band performing and needless to say, I would be there rockin’ and rollin’ the night away.

Going round the corner, I spotted this hotel…

Padungan Hotel Kuching

I am pretty sure there was a bank here. I don’t think it was the HSBC – I think it was the OCBC. Can somebody in the know confirm this, please? What I do remember vividly is that there was a man who would set up his stall at the corner in front every night, selling char kway teow and we would walk over from the hotel regularly to buy, “Char kway teow gor kak, kway teow chay chay, nui chay chay, taugeh chay chay!!!” (fried flat rice noodles 50 sen, lots of the noodles, lots of egg and lots of bean sprouts) Yes, it was only 50 sen then, believe it or not and no, the guy knew us very well so he would just laugh it off everytime we said that.

I did walk further in search of one particular shop but that would be in tomorrow’s post…and if you go around the area behind that plaza in the 2nd photograph above, you will get some nice views of the Sarawak River like the ones in my earlier posts here or here and you may even get to see these colourful fishing boats…

Kuching, fishing boats

…at the wharf where the ill-fated MV Rajah Mas and Pulau Kidjang used to berth a long long time ago. I used to come to Kuching then using the former (I never did go on the latter) for only RM10.00, deck fare…but unfortunately, there is no way I can do that all over again…for old times’ sake.