Grow…

In my blogpost the other day, I mentioned that the ladies in the house have started planting vegetables and flowers while I, on the other hand, have not been all that active lately in our garden and in that post, I did share some photographs of the flowers that they planted and are blossoming.

As for the vegetables, I did say somewhere that I cleared some of the plots that used to be occupied by my Brazilian spinach, seeing how nobody seemed to want to eat it. In one of them, my girl planted some ladies’ fingers…

…and much to her delight, one started flowering and eventually, it started to bear fruit…

We did not see any more flowers after that but it does look like more ladies’ fingers…

…are on the way.

I did plant the vegetable once and it grew really well but there were so many that in the end, we got quite sick of eating it. That was why when the plants had passed their time, I did not bother to replant and other than that, I never wanted to buy any more ladies’ fingers at the market and the shops for a long while.

My girl planted brinjal…

…too but only three of the seeds she planted sprouted and seem to be growing all right. At this point in time, there is no way of telling whether we will get anything out of them or not. I did plant some once but one fine day, the pests came and all that were left were the stalks and the stems.

In the meantime, my missus’ sweet basil is growing really well, flowering…

…like nobody’s business. I must say that they are very pretty…

…very nice to look at, a lovely change from my otherwise quite flowerless garden.

Never saw them before…

Two days before the so-called full lockdown here in Sarawak, after they had made the announcement of the date but nothing much else so we did not know exactly how “full” the lockdown would be, my missus was kind of worried as we had not been buying a lot of things to keep in the house. Most of the time, we would just buy from the neighbourhood shops in the next lane from my house and sometimes, my missus might venture a little bit further away to the bigger supermarkets for things not available around here.

That was why she went out that afternoon and came back with boxes and boxes of stuff. Well, it turned out that things would be pretty much the same as usual, no need to panic – we can still go out and buy whatever we want/need but she did say that when she was done and was about to come home, she noticed a lot of people creeping out of the woodworks and heading to the shops too. Great minds think alike, I guess?

Anyway, that day, from one of the boxes, I picked out this…

…to try. I don’t know if this is new or perhaps it has been around but I never bothered to pay much attention to what is on the shelves. Everytime I felt like having cream crackers, I would just grab a pack or two of these…

…my favourite, and go.

As far as Julie’s products were concerned, I love their cheese crackers, plain and their peanut sandwich so I would buy those sometimes – I’m not a fan of their cheese sandwich. Their cheese crackers come in handy when I am making meat balls or bergedil – I would crush a few pieces and add to the mixture together with an egg to serve as a binding agent and sometimes, I would coat them with the crushed cheese crackers in place of bread crumbs. I guess these (cream) crackers may be used for this same purpose.

I took a few pieces of these “butter crackers”…

…to try with butter and peanut butter…

…and also with kaya (coconut jam). I thought it was all right, nothing to get excited about, nothing to make it stand out from the rest.

However, one morning, for want of something to eat, I took out a slice from the airtight container and started eating it just like that, nothing added and I was pleasantly surprised that it was very nice, not as flaky and crispy nor as oily/creamy as Hup Seng’s but good enough and I particularly loved how it was refreshingly light, not sweet, not salty, just right. I suppose when I added peanut butter or kaya with a whole lot of butter, they drowned out the beauty of this very light and pleasant taste of the cracker.

There are still two packs of Julie’s crackers in one of the boxes, their cream crackers and their “golden crackers”. I will certainly give those a try and will blog about them if there is anything that makes them stand a head above the rest, like these butter ones.

KIM TAK CO. is located along Jalan Ruby to the right of that same block of shops as LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) and Ah Kau Cafe.

While you wait…

That day, the mum was going out to stock up on food and stuff and my girl asked her to buy those crunchy crispy coated peanuts…

…that they will give you at the Chinese restaurants for you to munch while you wait for the other guests to arrive and for the banquet to start.

Unfortunately, she came home with not very good news. She said that she went to a few supermarkets and shops but she could not find any being sold at any of them.

A few days later, I happened to drop by this fresh mini market…

…and I saw these…

I wasn’t sure if those were the ones but I grabbed two packets, anyway.

Later, I stopped by one of the shops in the next lane in my neighbourhood and I saw this…

…so I bought a packet. This one sure looks more like what they used to serve at the restaurants and that got me thinking – when did they start giving us these?

I remember all throughout my growing up years, they would give us shelled peanuts…

…or kuaci (pumpkin seeds), either the black or the white ones…

Of course, it would get very messy at the end of the banquet – you will find all the shell scattered all over the table and on the floor. I suppose serving these coated shell-less ones was a pretty good idea – they would not dirty the place like that.

Going back to the ones I bought, do not be deceived by the Stars & the Stripes. They have nothing to do whatsoever with the USA. In fact, it is a Tong Garden product, made in Johore and not in China and I was in our living room that day when I spotted a packet, already open but not yet finished. I decided to take it and give it a try.

Much to my delight, it was VERY nice, a cut above the ones they give you at the Chinese restaurants!!! They did say on the pack that they’re kacang bersalut rempah, translation: spice coated peanuts and true enough, I could detect the very pleasant hint of the spices used. I enjoyed it so much that I finished all of it but no, I am not going to open the other packet – I’ll leave that to my girl and no, at the time of writing, she has not open the other pack so I cannot at this point in time say what that one is like.

More recently these days, at the restaurants, they may serve you these braised peanuts…

…instead – tasty and soft, great for the toothless, sold in cans and easily available at most shops and supermarkets. My missus will usually buy a few to keep in the pantry for anyone to open and enjoy when we feel like it.

CCL FRESH MINI MARKET is located at that end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, on your right if you go in via the entrance where San Len Tyres is located, just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall and KIM WON CHINESE MEDICAL STORE & MINI SUPERMARKET is located along Jalan Ruby to the left of that same block of shops as Swee Hung & Bethel Hair Salon.

It was nice…

The other day, after I had bought the fish I wanted at the stall by the wall

…I went into the grocery store right beside it to pick up a few things. I did not intend to buy a lot so I did not grab a basket to use.

While I was queuing up at the cashier’s counter, making sure that I observed the required physical distancing, the young girl in front of me saw my balancing act with the things I had grabbed and she went to the front of the shop to get a basket to pass to me. The old man in front of her bought six cans of what looked like baked beans and he did not have a basket either and she also got one for him. I must say that was very sweet and thoughtful of her – the world would be a much better place to live in if there are more like her.

I spotted this…

…during my brief stop at the shop and I was thinking that perhaps, my girl would like it so of course, without a second thought, I bought it for her to try.

Inside the beautiful paper cup with the lovely sarong/batek design, there were the rice noodles which turned out to be hor fun/kway teow, not bihun

…and there were two sachets, a big one with the sauce/gravy and a small one with the dehydrated spring onions and whatever else.

One is supposed to just pour hot water to cook the noodles and add everything in the sachets but no, the mum would not hear of that! She insisted on cooking the noodles and when she was done…

…only then did my girl sit down to eat.

Yes, it was very nice with a slight sourish taste, not quite like the celebrated Katong nyonya curry laksa which tastes like masak lemak and neither was it like curry mee as we know it nor the curry laksa at that franchise place. Let’s just say it is in a class of its own. My girl loved the taste in general and she particularly loved the hor fun/kway teow. There was quite a lot in that bowl and she did not manage to finish all of it so I did that for her.

I don’t know if there are others available – there were only two at the shop and I also bought the other one…

We’ve yet to try this one so I can’t say much about it at this point in time.

Of course if I were to cook either one for myself to eat, I would add some prawns perhaps and an egg too and some bean sprouts and I would garnish it with some chopped spring onions and/or daun sup (Chinese celery) plus thin strips of fresh chili for the added colours but at the end of the day, even though it was nice, at RM6.50 a bowl, I probably would not be buying this all that often.

CCL FRESH MINI MARKET is at that end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, on your right if you go in via the junction where San Len Tyres is located, just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall.

Plants…

I have not been very active lately with my gardening – I just spend my time weeding and watering, trimming and getting rid of some of the things that are growing a bit too old and are not flourishing.

My butterfly pea flower is doing all right, all along the fence in my backyard. Every morning, I would go and pluck all the flowers and give to my neighbour – she wants to dry them and keep for her daughters who are living elsewhere, not in Sibu. I was doing that myself once and I managed to collect one bottle full. In the end, I gave it to Melissa’s coursemate who is currently teaching in Sibu. I also gave him some seedlings and some seeds that I had collected.

Well, the other day, he shared with me this photograph…

…on Facebook. He said something about it not doing too well initially but it looked like it managed to pull through and should be flourishing from now on. It’s not difficult to plant, not at all and that makes me wonder why those people in the nasi kerabu and Malay kuih businesses would not plant for their own use – instead, they choose to use artificial colouring.

I’ve seen photographs in food blogs and online recipes where they use the flowers for the colouring and I noticed that they used the dried ones. As far as I know, they do not come cheap – I saw it once at a supermarket, RM13.50 for 300 gm! In my neighbour’s words, good things do not come easy and only when we do it ourselves, we would not know how difficult it is. We dry a lot and end up with just a little. I wonder how much she has managed to collect so far. It certainly is a lot easier to plant one’s own and use the fresh flowers.

Going back to Melissa’s coursemate, in his post, he was discussing with his friends, complaining about how their kunyit (turmeric) and serai (lemon grass) never flowered. I’ve yet to see my serai doing that but my kunyit flowers…

…all the time, one after another, sometimes two or three at one go. They say I am very lucky because it is not something that happens so easily and frequently.

For want of something to do during this pandemic that does not look like it is ever going to end, the ladies in the house have started planting vegetables and flowers. I, for one, will not bother to grow anything that is not edible. We’ve yet to get to eat any of the vegetables but I must say that the flowers do look rather pretty.

My girl planted some succulents that do not need much watering and attention and they started flowering…

…in no time at all…

The mum planted this…

…that looks like a daisy but the plant looks kind of different from anything I’ve seen before.

Well, I don’t have to plant any – just like the papaya trees that popped out of nowhere, time and again, there will be plants appearing out of the blue and the other day, I spotted these lovely flowers…

…by the fence. Truly, God works in mysterious ways…

Not too much…

The other day, I blogged about eating bananas and before that, I also discussed whether it is all right to eat sweet corn too, paying special attention to how they may affect an individual’s blood sugar level. This time around, I want to check out if papayas are all right or not.

Well, this website says that the good news is that papaya is safe to eat BUT fruits are naturally sweet, and since consuming sugar affects blood sugar levels, some people might think that fruits are off-limits. But fruit is actually part of a healthy diet, and it’s OK to eat in moderation.

It goes on to say that papaya isn’t only a good choice for people with diabetes because of its medium GI – eating papaya might also lower your blood sugar. According to some reports, papaya may have a hypoglycemic effect on the body. The fruit contains flavonoids, which are natural antioxidants that may help regulate blood sugar.

Of course, they did add one last word that one should take note of: Moderation is key, though. Try to eat only one or two pieces of fruit per day. It sure looks like it is all right to eat but not too much.

Talking about papayas, I went and bought one the other day and peeled it and cut it into bite-size chunks, ready for consumption.

To start off, I cut off the top of the papaya…

…and after that, I cut it into halves, lengthwise…

Next, I removed all the seeds…

Most people would continue cutting it lengthwise into smaller segments before going on to peel the skin. I am not into that because I am not very gentle and may end up squeezing the fruit too hard and do some damage to it.

Instead, I would cut it into shorter lengths like this…

This way, I would be able to cut off the skin…

…without having to hold on to it tightly.

When he was still around, my late dad would insist that the Indon helper cut away that kind of mushy layer inside the fruit that the seeds would cling to and as they say, like father like son! So, as you can see, I would cut it away …

…too. I wonder how many people would do this – my missus doesn’t bother and actually, I did read somewhere that it is good for health, just that I do not remember what it is good for. By the way, I hear the seeds have some health benefits too!

There you are! My papaya, nicely peeled and cut…

…ready for the eating.

This one that I bought was quite big and I had to fork out a bit over RM7.00 for it. I would say it was well worth it as it was very sweet and was not strong on that papaya smell so everybody in the house enjoyed it very much. Of course, I only ate a bit, not too much!

So far, I think I read somewhere that watermelons aren’t so good and pineapples too even though many are talking about how they are good for people with coughs.

Good timing…

Two crucial ingredients in cooking kampua mee are the shallot oil for the tossing and the fried shallots for the garnishing…

Some people will insist on using lard but regular cooking oil will do fine – as long as it is used to fry sliced shallots first for that special fragrance before use. The people at the kampua mee stalls will tell you that they mix the two these days as lard is mighty expensive now so they cannot just use it, unadulterated. That is why many will tell you that the mee at one place is better, nicer than all the rest and most of the time, it is purely because of its stronger lard fragrance.

However, not everyone gets their fried shallots perfectly done. Frying the sliced shallots…

…requires good timing. Once it starts to turn brown, remove it from the oil. Many will wait till it has turned a beautiful golden brown before turning off the fire. It will continue cooking in the residual heat of the hot oil and the pan and will end up burnt. You can see a little bit overdone in the above photograph – I was a bit slow because I was taking photographs of the process at the same time.

From what I have seen at some of the kampua mee stalls, instead of slicing by hand, they just throw the shallots into a food processor. In the end, you get all the minute bits that make the plate of noodles look somewhat messy and dirty. Other than that, at the prices of shallots these days, they may not even bother to garnish with those at all.

I would take the fried shallots out of the oil before using the shallot oil to toss the noodles…

…because when mixed with all the other ingredients and everything, they may turn soggy, not crispy anymore and not quite to my liking. That morning, I added a spoonful of Bovril, a teaspoon of dark soy sauce, pepper, a pinch of msg and some chopped daun sup (Chinese celery) to the shallot oil.

I bought some mee pok (flat noodles) because I could not find any old-school mee kua at my neighbourhood shops. The texture and the taste of the latter are different, much nicer and they are a bit darker, their shade of yellow plus they take a much longer time to cook, something like spaghetti.

Well, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers so I just grabbed what I could lay my hands on and that morning, I cooked two pieces…

…in the saucepan.

Once cooked, I rinsed the noodles thoroughly in water, room temperature, a few times to get rid of the excess starch and then I added the hot water from the boiler and put the saucepan back on the gas stove to heat it up so the noodles would not be served cold.

Making sure that I had drained them really well, I added them to the ingredients in the pan…

…and tossed everything together.

Finally, I garnished the noodles with the fried shallots I had prepared earlier and some more chopped daun sup

…and my Bovril mee was ready!

Yes, it sure was good especially after not having enjoyed it for a very long time. I had not had it all this while because Bovril was out of stock here for an extended period of time, probably due to the problem with shipping during this pandemic, and when I heard that they had it at a few places in town, I was not all that keen on rushing over to grab a bottle or two but I finally did so that day and I sure am glad that I did!

Strong enough…

Are you strong enough to unscrew the lid of your bottle of Bovril…

…when you take it out of the fridge, cold?

In my younger days, the lid was made of metal and when it could not be opened, my dad would heat it over the gas cooker fire. Metals expand and after a while, it would open quite easily. Now, it is made of plastic so doing something like that is definitely out of the question.

When I was in Auckland, New Zealand, my friend there was grumbling at how she simply could not open her jar of Bovril and everytime, she would have to enlist the help of her strong and handsome hunk, her knight in shining armour – her hubby, that is, to do it for her. I told her I knew of a way to do that and showed her how to go about it.

You will have to put the bottle under running tap water…

…for a while, say around 30 seconds. It does not matter if the whole bottle gets submerged as it is airtight so the water will not get in. However, when you take it out of the water, make sure that you wipe it completely dry before you open it so the water will not get into the bottle and dilute the Bovril inside.

You should be able to unscrew the lid and open the bottle with ease but if there is a problem with that, just repeat the above process and you will be able to get it done…

…eventually.

Once open, you will be able to use the Bovril for whatever you have planned. In my case, more often than not, it will be to toss the noodles for my Bovril mee

…for our breakfast.

That morning, there was just a little bowl left so I had that reheated for my lunch. There was some leftover rice in the fridge so the ladies were able to cook kim chi fried rice with the latest batch that my missus made and they enjoyed that to the max!

A bit of…

I have mentioned a number of times that I am not into those expensive imported fruits that many seem to love so much. As a matter of fact, I am not really into fruits except for perhaps, bananas and sometimes, papayas as well. However, I was told to avoid eating bananas because of its high sugar content and for that reason, I have not had any for a long time.

There are many types of bananas and I am not into most of them. One that I particularly like is the one that we call in Hokkien, kayleng chio (Musa x acuminata)

…but it is very hard to come by. When there is any, usually, they are so very green so you would have to buy and wait for them to ripen and turn yellow. The problem is when that happens, they will ripen so quickly and will turn black and over-ripe in a short period of time rendering all the bananas quite inedible as a result.

Generally, this variety is smaller than many of the others, the chay geh (cavendish) especially and it is not so sweet. In fact, when it is not ripe enough, it may be siap siap – I don’t know how they say that in English.

I like to consume a lot of vegetables, green leafy ones, in particular, for the roughage and when I did not get enough, I used to buy these bananas to eat but having heard what I was told. it seemed that I should not do that anymore and just to confirm everything, I went and googled in search of more information on this.

This website says: Despite being a healthy fruit, bananas are pretty high in both carbs and sugar, which are the main nutrients that raise blood sugar levels. It goes on to say that one way of determining how a carb-containing food will affect blood sugars is by looking at its glycemic index (GI) and overall, bananas score between low and medium on the GI scale (between 42 to 62, depending on the ripeness). Low GI foods are absorbed more slowly and cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, rather than large spikes.

It seems that the bottom line is one may be allowed to eat bananas, depending on the size, a small one should be fine and I suppose, the number as well. One per day or every two days should be all right, not likely to cause a lot of damage.

This website says that bananas are low in saturated fat and sodium, nutrient-dense, and rich in fiber. They are also a key source of potassium, a mineral that helps balance sodium levels in the blood and bananas also have a good mix of other nutrients, including vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium and vitamin C. It also advises pairing banana with a “healthy” fat or protein source – eating a banana alongside a source of unsaturated fat such as peanut butter can have a positive impact on blood sugar as well as boost the flavour.

Peanut butter? The first time I saw anyone eating bananas with peanut butter was when my half-Kiwi nephew from Auckland, New Zealand came to Sibu. He had that with bread for his breakfast. Eventually, I discovered that those were the two basic ingredients in my favourite sandwich – the Elvis Presley sandwich…but that had jam and bacon in it too, the whole works. Ooooo…that was absolutely out of this world, so very nice but of course, gone are the days when I could indulge in such heavenly delights.

These days, this…

…will just have to do – no bread allowed because of the carbs and the hidden sugars and this too, will have to be restricted to once every two days or so. Sighhh!!!

P.S.
In case anyone is wondering, I check my blood sugar very regularly, at one time, every day and it was usually around 6 – 7 something, non-fasting, sometimes creeping up to 8 or 9, and last Saturday, it was 5.4. I guess there is no cause for alarm but of course, it pays to be careful, very very careful.

Get down to it…

I was grumbling on Facebook that I had run out of Bovril and there wasn’t any stock in town. Eventually, friends started telling me that they managed to buy it at the supermarket here and it is also available in the one in the kampung area but I had been avoiding both since they appeared quite regularly in the daily list of places visited by COVID-19 positive cases and one was so nice as to PM me saying that he saw people unloading the newly-arrived stock at a shop here and that one was never in the list. Unfortunately, that shop is in a high risk area that I have been avoiding for a long time. Why, I was even thinking of purchasing it online!

Well, one day led to another and with Hari Raya coming up, I had no choice but to venture to the supermarket that stocks up on all the nice imported stuff last Saturday morning to buy some gifts for my cousin and his family who will be celebrating this auspicious occasion and I decided to get down to buying a bottle of Bovril while I was there.

I managed to grab, not one but TWO bottles…

…of what I had been waiting to lay my hands on all this time.

This is the real beef variety…

…unlike the regular ones so of course, it did not come cheap…

It looks like it will not be due for expiry till the end of May, 2022…

…and not the 22nd of May. I guess it will not last that long especially when they are rather small, those two bottles and there was only one size at the supermarket that day.

Gosh!!! It was so crowded that morning! Yes, they insisted that everyone followed the SOPs when entering and when paying at the cashiers’ counters, but inside, it was a free-for-all. The place was not big and they placed all those boxes of stuff for sale along the narrow alleys leaving enough space for one person to walk through on either side of the boxes…but there were some shoppers taking their sweet time looking at everything on the shelves, taking them down to have a closer look one by one and worse, some just stood there and talked and talked and talked, so inconsiderate.

I wasted no time at all in simply grabbing a few things I thought my cousin and his family might like – dates, the ones still on the stalks and those with honey, Kjeldsens’ butter cookies, Ferrero Rocher – the white ones…and ran out of the place as soon as I could.

Some people did tell me that I should not go there on weekends, best to go in the middle of some very hot weekday afternoon when many are working and the rest would not venture out in the heat.

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