You are a winner…

Congratulations to Payung Café, Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu
*Photo from their Facebook page*

…for winning the 8th Chief Minister’s Environmental Award (CMEA) 2017/2018 in its new category for eateries and food outlets…

Trophy
*Andy’s photo taken at the event*

The presentation ceremony of this special state-level award from the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) was held last night in Kuching.

The café has won the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award twice, once in 2013/2015 and was the 1st runner-up in 2016/2017

Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards

For one thing, I am not sure what exactly the judges for this particular tourism award are looking for. It appeared to me that they were rather fastidious in picking the winners and would look critically at the food, the decor and the ambiance, the cleanliness and all that – in my humble opinion, they seemed to be missing the wood for the trees as personally, I do feel that for an award as such, they should consider as their top priority the appeal to tourists.

As far as I know, many tourists or visitors from abroad and other parts of the country do drop by Payung – its location right behind one of the leading hotels in town is an added advantage and many said they came because of its listing in websites such as Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor…

Trip Advisor

This hawker centre/food court in Kuching is truly deserving of the award, of course – the locals call it the “tourist trap” as many do go there and according to them, dining there isn’t exactly wallet-friendly…but I really wonder if it should be given to a steakhouse in a five-star hotel, for instance. Do tourists come to Sarawak and go for our steaks? I must say they have very much nicer, fresher and juicier…and thicker ones in their own countries like Australia and New Zealand, just to single out two. Instead, one thing they should also look at would be whether they serve any of our own local delights for the tourists to enjoy, dishes uniquely Sarawakian especially, or Malaysian at least, that they will not be able to find in their own country.

Anyway, back to the CMEA, the people at Payung do use a lot of natural stuff for their decor, all the natural plants around the place and the simple fresh flowers for their centrepiece…

Centrepiece

…and all over…

Fresh flowers

…and one can’t miss noticing these coconut palm leaves, sprayed blue…

Coconut leaves, blue

…or green…

Coconut leaves, green
*Photo from their Facebook page*

…so they will last like…forever.

Many complained about the thatched roof…

Thatched roof

…in front as it blocked the sign (see 1st pic) and as a result of that, they had to search high and low before they could find the place and some even gave up in the end.

They also use these dried palm leaves…

Palm leaves

…and rattan basket trays…

Basket trays

…and in some of the photographs, you can see the blue and green benches that they made from discarded wood – I must say that whatever wood that is, it is really good hardwood as those benches are real heavy.

I love this little hut, also made from the aforementioned wood…

Little hut

…and just look at the concrete construction blocks that they use to erect the heavy and sturdy shelves…

Shelves

…instead of going out to buy from the shops…and we all know that the ones these days do not last very long and will have to be thrown away pretty soon.

They do not have anything deep-fried on their menu so they do not use a lot of cooking oil…

Payung counter

…except perhaps for grilling their chicken chops and according to them, they will not reuse the oil…nor will they pour it all down the drain like what they do at many places. Instead, they will give it to the workers to take home and use for their own cooking.

Why, those creative people even made their own Christmas tree one year…

Christmas tree

…using some grass that they found by the roadside somewhere instead of buying the plastic or whatever artificial ones from the shops. They have not put up the decorations this year so I do not know what they have got up their sleeves this time around.

For one thing, the place is not air-conditioned so that is one plus point in their favour as far as being environment-friendly is concerned.

All things considered, I do think that they truly deserve this prestigious award, don’t you agree?

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.

Natural…

I read somewhere online that what is natural is best and what is processed may not be all that good – they were talking about butter and margarine.

Well, the kelulut honey, unlike the commercially processed and produced ones sold at the shops and supermarkets, is definitely 100% natural and my dear friend, my ex-colleague, Carole, is rearing those stingless bees for it. She was also at that wedding dinner that night and she asked me to drop by her house to get it from her.

She has all these hives…

Hives 1

…all over her house compound…

Hives 2

…and the bees are in those rectangular boxes on top.

The hubby opened a couple…

Honeycomb 1

…so I could have a glimpse at the bees and the honeycomb inside…

Honeycomb 2

They planted these flowers, what the Malays call bunga air mata pengantin (bride’s tears), the pink…

Pink

…as well as the white…

White

…variety. If I am not wrong, these are called Mexican creepers and also coral vine, Coralita, bee bush or San Miguelito vine but many people are planting them for the bees so much so that they are starting to call it bunga pengantin kelulut. My neighbour has it growing on his fence in front of the house and it sure attracts a lot of bees, the stingless ones as well as the not-s0-harmless varieties.

I’ve noticed that the bees are also attracted to my dill flowers…

Dill flowers

…which I’m sure will contribute towards bringing the taste of the honey to a whole new level as the flowers are as fragrant as the leaves. I was told recently that in New Zealand, they plant the manuka flowers for their bees so the taste of the manuka honey is pretty consistent unlike the kelulut honey which will depend on what flowers or sources of honey they have access to. I understand that during the fruit season when the trees will all be flowering, the honey will be extra nice.

I told Carole about the bees and my dill flowers and yes, she heard about that too and she showed me the ones she planted – they are still very small; I am sure it would be quite  a while before there will be any flowers.

She gave me a bottle of the honey and I got two more bottles from her – of course, I paid for the fruit of her labour, RM25.00 each…and she also gave me this jar of tempoyak (fermented durian) that she made herself recently…

From Carole

How very timely! My missus just used up our stock of the very much coveted stuff a couple of weeks ago.

Thank you so much, Carole – I sure will drop by again as and when I need any more of the honey.

Something great…

The oregano that I got from my friend/ex-students’ mum/mum-in-law grew really well and was so very productive so I shared a photo on Facebook and asked if anybody would be interested. A friend said that she did not mind some so I repotted a few and sent them over to her house along with a little pot of dill – my dill is flourishing too. She had not got home from work so I passed them to her hubby.

A few days later, when we were in church that night, she passed me this…

Kelulut honey

the kelulut honey from those stingless bees that was the craze at one time – a lot of people were rearing them. It seems that she is keeping those bees as well so she has her own supply of the coveted stuff that is claimed to be even better than the celebrated New Zealand’s manuka honey which does not come cheap…and neither is this kelulut honey – somebody in Singapore said that he bought a 500 ml bottle for SGD50.00! I guess that is why there are people producing it commercially and marketing it now.

I did try a bit – it has its own taste that is not quite like our regular honey and yes, I did like it very much…and I saw in some websites that it has a lot of health benefits, thank you so much to my friend for that big bottle of the coveted stuff – I am sure that would cost a bundle.

In the meantime, one of the seedlings that my neighbour gave me had flowered…

Butterfly pea flower, 1st to bloom 1

the butterfly pea flower (the clitoria ternatea) and of course, that got me real excited and happy…

Butterfly pea flower 1st to bloom 2

It appeared that mine is a single-petal variety and there is also the double-petal one but they say they are the same as far as the health benefits go.

No, I did not pluck it…

Butterfly pea flower 1st to bloom 3

…to make tea right away. I guess I can wait till the plants have grown really big and are flowering in abundance. I noticed that the flower would have withered by the next day but to my delight, another one…

Butterfly pea flower 2nd to bloom

…bloomed.

At the time of writing, another one of the seedlings has flowered as well, just one – the third bloom so far. Fingers crossed, I will be seeing more and more over the next few days…and I can start brewing the tea to drink, great stuff – this flower and also the honey!

Bluer than blue…

Some people, obviously uninitiated, were aghast when they saw my photo(s) of the Kelantanese delight, the nasi kerabu

Nasi kerabu

…because of the blue colour of the rice. No, there was absolutely no cause for alarm as no artificial colouring was used in the cooking.

Since time immemorial, the nyonyas have used the butterfly pea flower (the clitoria ternatea) to stain their peranakan favourites such as their kuihs (cakes), the serimuka or kuih salat, for instance…

Serimuka

…or their changs (meat dumplings)…

Nyonya chang

…and for no particular reason, personally, I do not mind it in small measure like these but not when they colour the rice completely blue. Whatever it is, it does not make much/any difference to the taste…and since it is so easy to use – just add water and you will get the bluer than blue colour for use – and so easy to grow, it does not make any sense if anyone will spend money and go and buy those artificial colouring from the shops.

Well, word has gone round regarding the health benefits of drinking the tea and all of a sudden, everyone is drinking it. Why? Even Starbucks has jumped on the bandwagon and has it in their “new color-changing drink”! And every morning, I would see my neighbour from across the road walking to another neighbour’s house a few doors away to pick the flowers from their creeping plant that is growing all over the fence…to make tea to drink.

It is very easy to plant, it seems and everybody is doing it and it will flower in abundance in no time at all. However, I did not intend to do the same but when my missus came home one day with this…

Butterfly pea flowers

…that she bought at RM3.00 for a small packet of the flowers, I decided it was time that we had our own. I went to my neighbour’s house, the one with it growing all over their fence, to ask her how to go about planting it and the kind and generous lady gave me THREE of the seedlings!

I had nothing growing along the fence at the back of the house but the cement of the drain (Don’t ask me why there is a drain all around my house compound – the previous owner did it, not me!) prevented any access to the soil except at one part so I planted one there…

By the fence

…and I planted one in one corner in the soil close to the drain and put some stilts…

With the aid of stilts

…in the hope that the creepers will creep over them over the drain and go up the fence and I had the third one by the fence that separates my backyard from that of my immediate neighbour, no drain there.

Hopefully, they will grow and start flowering soon enough so we can start drinking the tea…

Butterfly pea flower tea

Everytime I hear your name…

This goes back all the way, if I remember correctly, to two Saturdays ago, at least. We dropped by this place for the nasi kerabu, now available on Saturdays only, but the place was full and everyone did not seem to be eating yet – perhaps, they had not been served and were still waiting. We wasted no time in making our exit and left the place.

We ended up here instead as my girl wanted the Sarawak laksa (RM5.70, small)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa

…and my missus also had the same. Believe it or not, it was only RM4.00 in 2011! Thankfully, it is as nice as ever – without doubt, our favourite in town.

I also ordered the sotong kangkong (RM6.60, small)…

Thomson Corner sotong kangkong

…to share. From what we saw, they have upgraded the running of their business now and are using a computer system…

Thomson Corner computer system

…to keep tabs on everything but personally, I do not think it makes a difference as the service here is always very prompt and efficient – we never had a problem with it all these years.

No, I did not feel like having laksa that day and I ordered their Pattaya chicken rice (RM6.20) which is one of the items on their menu that I rather enjoy. In fact, before I retired and was teaching in the school across the road, I used to hop over to have this time and time again but I am quite sure that they would give a lot more chicken…

Thomson Corner Pattaya chicken rice, chicken

…at the time.

The chicken rice was still as nice…

Thomson Corner Pattaya chicken rice, rice

…with bits of sausage, wrapped in an omelette.

The nasi goreng Pattaya (Pattaya fried rice), fried rice wrapped in an omelette as well and served in this same way…

Thomson Corner Pattaya chicken rice

…is more easily available here – you will find it on the menu in most Malay coffee shops but everytime I hear or see the name, I would think of the seaside resort in Thailand though I never did bother to find out why these dishes are thus called.

Well, I went and googled and I found out that it did not originate in Pattaya or anywhere else in Thailand and it is believed to be Malaysian and is popular in Singapore and Indonesia as well but at the latter, they have their own what-they-call the nasi goreng amplop (enveloped fried rice). I wonder if the term amplop was derived from the English word, envelope.

There was a suggestion that the name evolved from the very popular pad Thai and they believed that they do have a version there where the noodles are wrapped in egg – that probably is similar to our Ah Tor fried kway teow named after the guy here who started cooking the dish that way back in the 60’s and to this day, it is the favourite of many except that he had passed on and the son is carrying on the business though I’ve heard that it is somewhat disappointing and these days, the one here is much nicer.

Unfortunately, that was all the information I could get so the reason why the dishes are called by the names, nasi ayam Pattaya (Pattaya chicken rice) or nasi goreng Pattaya (Pattaya fried rice), still remains a mystery. Can anybody shed some light on this, by any chance?

SIBU THOMSON CORNER (2.296517, 111.840710) is located at Pusat Tanahwang, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road,  in the block of shops to the right of the SHELL petrol station along that road.

Get connected…

It is very easy for those people perched on top of their ivory towers to say that this is the age of technology and that is how education should be these days.

Well, we do not have to go very far, just 99 km away from Sibu town, less than half an hour’s drive from Selangau Bazaar to my girl’s school in the jungle…

SK Sg Sepiring, Selangau

…and it is located right beside the Sibu-Bintulu road, no need to go inland, deep into the forest even.

Using technology to teach in the classroom is out of the question – I even bought a portable LED projector for over RM1K for my girl to use but there is no power socket, no electricity supply for one to use for this purpose so for years now, it has been sitting idle in one of the cabinets in the house. I wonder if it still works!

The teachers have to do a lot of things online, key in all kinds of information, statistics and what not and never mind that I do not really see the purpose but it actually takes them away from what they are supposed to do – TEACH! For one thing, there is no internet connection (and the servers that the ministry is using suck big time) – no Streamyx nor Unifi in those part of the woods so they will have to pay out of their own pockets to subscribe to one of those that may be used in the desolate remote areas here.

Maxis is totally dead while DIGi has a bit of life. Let us look at my connection. If I am sitting inside my girl’s quarters, for instance, there is no line at all, not even a single bar…

No bar

…and of course, if you want to go online, this is what you will get…

Failed to connect

I will have to go to this corner of the building…

Signal available here

…where on good days, there will be a few bars…

Signal available

…and I will be able to go online to do things like checking out my blog or logging into Facebook…

I'm connected

I remember one time I was bringing some students to a public speaking competition at a school right across the river from Kanowit. I found that there was a connection if I were to stand near one palm tree there holding my hand up high. I could call home…but when I lowered my arm to speak, the connection was lost. A friend of mine from Penang posted to a school in the Dalat district said that he would have to climb on top of a cupboard in his quarters to send me an sms.

“This is CELCOM territory!” they would shamelessly and blatantly declare and I have to fork out around RM100 a month for my girl to enjoy the connection and go online using their wireless modem. It used to be pretty ok before but I hear that these days, for reasons unknown, it is also rather shaky, not all that reliable anymore. Shouldn’t they be getting progressively better, not progressively worse? Tsk! Tsk!

This is why when I see those people with their lofty ideas implementing all kinds of programmes and what not, I get very depressed. It is obvious that they do not know very much about us – like how they would change the dates for their meetings according to their whims and fancies and I had to pay the fines for changing the dates of my air ticket bookings…or even if they do, I don’t think they even care…at all and the tragic thing is I do not foresee a time in the future when this is going to change, no way so for heaven’s sake, spare us all that crap – faster and cheaper broadband by 2019, my foot!

Makin’ me look good again…

I sent my car for a thorough bodywork, a complete paint job and all.

It is 24 years old now and the paint was fading in patches, looking pathetically worn and weathered. The left side, at the back, was badly dented

2015

…in 2015 when I went to my girl’s school in the jungle on a Friday to pick her up and take her home – it was pretty obvious that a colleague was in a hurry to go for prayers and probably did not notice my car parked by the side and reversed right into it. To this day, I do not know who it was as nobody ever came to tell me.

The right side was not spared either. I was cruising along one day and decided to change lanes as I wanted to make a u-turn at the traffic lights ahead. Suddenly, somebody rammed me from behind, hitting the car at the side from the back till the passenger’s door, damaging it a lot more severely than what one can see in the above photograph.

It turned out to be the grand-daughter of a relative of mine, right after Form 5 and obviously, a newbie at driving. Never mind, I thought, since we’re family so I offered to pay for whatever repairs that needed to be done. What got me quite pissed me off was the grandma’s remark at that point in time. “Why did you drive so fast?” she said. Gee!!! I was flabbergasted! I could not be sure but I was positive I did not see any car coming and I always use the indicator without fail everytime – the grand-daughter probably stepped on the petrol in a panic instead of the brakes…and if there is a problem with my driving, it is the fact that I am too slow or in the town centre, at least. Old retirees like me are in no hurry to go anywhere…not just yet.

There were, of course, bits of this and that here and there and how they got to be where they were, don’t ask me! I wouldn’t know! Anyway, though the engine was in tip-top shape and I only need to get it serviced regularly – no big problem, no headaches and heartaches, it certainly was not a pleasant sight. The problem was I sold off my other car, the 1st generation SAGA, so I needed this one to go here and there and for my weekend chauffeur duties and I just could not find the time to go and get it done.

Finally, at long last, my Ol’ Faithful went for a makeover and came home looking really good, like brand new…

Looking good again

I decided to stick this…

Wira

…back where it was but I left out the acronym for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional – they do not have it in their latest models either and  it is not even in their logo…

Logo

…anymore.

This was why in the meantime, we did not go out much and spent most of the time at home. I did cook some dishes for my girl, what I felt she would enjoy, like this Sarawak laksa

Sarawak laksa

…on one of the days.

It has been really hot lately and it sure looks like the haze is coming back – hopefully, it will not be too serious. Well, I think there is this belief that green bean soup is cooling and I did cook this bubur kacang hijau (green bean porridge) with sweet potatoes and sago pearls…

Bubur kacang hijau with sweet potatoes & sago pearls

…to enjoy and also in the hope that it might help cool us off a bit.

My girl also did some cooking and made these gluten-free kuih keria

Melissa's kuih keria

…a local sweet potato delight *click link for recipe* and yes, it was very good.

She tried her hand at cooking the Spanish paella…

Melissa's prawn & chicken paella

…with prawns and chicken, substituting the saffron with serbuk kunyit (turmeric powder), and it turned out very nice. I guess one can’t go wrong with prawns but I thought it would be nice to have, instead of the chicken, more varieties of seafood in it, sotong (squid), mussels, clams and the like. I have never had this before so I am in no position to say whether it was anything like the real thing but we did enjoy it and I guess that was all that mattered.