Grease…

I saw the movie in KL many many years ago. I think it was 1978 and an embarrassing thing happened.  I managed to find my way to Bukit Bintang and there I went looking for the Cathay Cinema. I walked and walked but there was no sign of the place and I decided to stop a young Indian girl to ask where the cinema was. She stared at me with that strange look on her face, turned and walked away. “Gee!” I thought, “KL girls sure are unfriendly!”

I continued walking and just a few steps away, there it was! The cinema that I was searching for. No wonder the girl reacted that way. She probably thought I was trying to be fresh or something as the cinema was right round the corner. Well, I got to watch the movie for the first time there…and yes, I watched it again when it came to Sibu and a lot more times after that…and never failed to enjoy it again and again.

Fast forward to 1994, I managed to get to watch the stage musical at the Dominion Theatre at West End, London…

Grease at West End, London 1

It was truly an unforgettable experience. Everyone knew the words to the songs and were singing along and many even got up and danced…

Grease at West End London 2

Debbie Gibson was Sandy in that one – those of you who are older (though not as old as I am) would remember her in “Lost in your eyes” that was a hit around here in the 80’s.

Well, Fox did a remake of the musical on Sunday, January 31st (Monday, 1st February here) and the live telecast certainly was very well-received with a whole lot of raving reviews in the mass media. I have not seen the whole thing but as far as the songs go, I personally feel that there are a few hits like this one…

…and this one that made me want to get up and dance (…as if I still could! Sobsss!!!) and this was very good too…

Unfortunately, when it was time for the song that I liked best in the show (one of my regular karaoke favourites)…

…the sound was a little off but I still enjoyed it a lot.

On the down side, I like Frankie Valli’s rendition of the theme song a lot more than Jessis J’s and I did not think Boyz II Men did a better job than Frankie Avalon while this, in my opinion, paled in comparison to Sha Na Na’s livelier rendition of the song…and I prefer Travolta and Olivia’s to this one…

…plus the fact that the lips were totally out of sync with the lyrics of the song sure did not help one bit but I would say that Julianne Hough sure made a really pretty Sandy, as pretty or maybe even more so than Olivia…and by the way, fans of Mario Lopez would be delighted to see him in the show as Vince Fontaine. I wonder if he would make a better Danny Zuko.

We do have a couple of Fox channels on our satelite tv here but I don’t think we could get to watch this here. Well, if they ever get to show it anytime soon, I sure wouldn’t want to miss it. What about you?

Believe…

I have been taking these leaves…

Daun hempedu bumi 1

…for a long long time now, way before I retired. I did blog about it here once, if anyone is interested.

They seem to be very hard to plant though. If you see a seedling sprouting out somewhere and you decide to transplant it nicely at a proper place, you can be sure it will wither and die very quickly. That is why I would just let it grow anywhere it appears and pluck the leaves (a friend of a friend said it must be an odd number, 3, 5, 7…but she said she heard it elsewhere and did not know why) every morning to brew and drink.

Lately, however, it seemed to sprout all over the place – in the flower pots…

Daun hempedu bumi 2

…and all the cracks and crevices…

Daun hempedu bumi 3

…so at this point in time, I have an abundant supply for my daily cuppa, once a day…though I did see somewhere that it is recommended that one should have it three times a day.

The problem is after a while, the plants will start to produce seeds and flower…

Daun hempedu bumi 4

…and the leaves that appear are very much smaller, I don’t know why. That was why when they appeared all over the place, I decided to pluck the leaves and dry them in the sun…

Daun hempedu bumi 5

…to keep so I would not have to worry about the supply running out. However, the “tea” that I brewed using those tasted kind of peculiar. Maybe that was due to fermentation or I did not dry the leaves long enough so in the end, I just threw it all away.

I don’t know if they still do that in Sarikei or not but at one time, I was getting a friend there to buy for me – the leaves, dried and crushed and put into capsules. I can’t remember exactly now but I think it was selling at RM13.00 for 100 or was it 50 capsules? I also heard that they did the same at a Chinese medical store here and were selling them at RM1.00 each. I went and googled and I found that these capsules are actually available elsewhere…

Hempedu bumi extract

I don’t know what extract they are talking about – maybe they get the juice from the leaves and put that in the capsules, not the dried and crushed leaves, but they do claim that they do bring a whole lot of the same positive effects that people are saying these “king of bitters” can bring about.

For one thing, I’ve read claims that it helps detoxify one’s body so if one is on some kind of medication, then one should not be taking these leaves, the same thing with lobak putih (white radish), they say. People say that it cleanses away all the tok (poisons) in your body. Yes, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback regarding the leaves but yes, I have also heard people saying that they have no effect on them as well. I guess like medicines and medical treatments in general, they may work on some but not on others…

Worth it…

This takes a lot more time and effort but I do think it is worth it as it is nicer and looks a lot more impressive…

Chinese New Year lantern 1

…than the ones in this earlier post.

I saw it in the newspapers a long time ago, back in the 90’s, and I made quite a few then, following the steps and instructions given. However, it required a lot of ang pao packets so I had to go round the banks to ask for as many as I could lay my hands on.

If one were to follow the original faithfully, one would need 36 ang pao packets to make one lantern but I have modified it a bit and for each, I would only need 24…so if you were to make two lanterns, you would have saved enough to make a third one.

If the paper used for the ang pao packets is not hard enough, you may need to cut cards to place inside each of them…

Step 1

…so that your lantern would be able to stand upright and not go all limp and look quite awful as a result of that.

In the original, you will have to make triangles, 12 horizontal and 12 vertical and you glue them all together to make the hexagon for the top and a taller, narrower one for the bottom before putting the two parts together.

Instead of that, I stapled two packets together to make the figure 7, the top for the side and the “leg” for the rib in the lantern…

Step 2

Keep doing it…

Step 3

…till you have six sides and six ribs. Use sellotape to join the ribs together in the middle before you seal off the last side in the hexagon…

Top

Put that aside and proceed to make the bottom part of the lantern. Stick two ang pao packets together like this…

Step 4

– the one with the flap open is for the rib and the other one is for the side. Again, you will need six sides and six ribs…

Step 5

…and join them altogether like this…

Bottom

This will be the hexagon for the bottom part of the lantern.

In the original, one was told to apply glue to the flaps to stick the bottom hexagon to the ribs in the top part and I guess that can be done here as well but I do think it would be good to reinforce that with sellotape and/or staples.

Attach the string to hang it up with and the tail…and there you have it…

Chinese New Year lantern 2

…a lantern for your Chinese New Year decoration.

Don’t you think this one is nice?

Squares…

Do you still have last year’s ang pao packets or those from the previous years?

If they have the astrological animals in the Chinese horoscope…

Outdated ang pao packets

…they will not be all that relevant any longer this year. Like last year, for instance, it was the goat…and you will have to keep till the  next cycle, till the next Year of the Goat, around 12 years from now, before you can use them.

Of course you can keep them if you want but if you’re thinking of throwing them away, perhaps you would want to use them to make decorative lanterns to hang around the house instead. There are all kinds of lanterns that you can make using ang pao packets but many can be quite complicated and you may need quite a lot. This one is actually very simple to make and to produce one, you only need three of those packets.

Cut each of them into two like this…

Cut into two

…so from the three packets, you will get six squares.

Fold the corners inwards to the centre like this…

Fold in corners

Staple a string to the centre of one of them like this…

Staple string to top square

…and of course, since this is for Chinese New Year, it would be best to use a red string…and that is for the top of your lantern – to hang it up later.

If you want your lantern to look more beautiful, you can get those “tails” from the shops and staple that to the centre of another square for the bottom of your lantern…

For bottom of lantern

Staple the corners of four of those squares together like this…

Staple corners

…for the sides and once that has been done, staple the top to the top corners of those squares…

Staple top

…and the bottom…

Staple bottom

…to the bottom, of course.

Make as many as you need and if you would like some smaller ones for a bit of variety, you can cut each of those squares into four and use them to make the mini versions of the same.

Hang them where appropriate…

CNY decor
*Archive photo*

…and of course, since these are paper lanterns, you should not put them out in the open, exposed to the sun and the rain.

There you have it! It’s very simple really and the best part, of course, would be the fact that you do not need to fork out a whole lot of money to buy those pricey decorative items to beautify your house for the festive season.

Rise…

I googled and found out that bangkit in Malay means rise and this is what we call kuih bangkit

Kuih bangkit
*Archive photo*

If I am not wrong, it is made from sago flour and the quality of the flour is of vital importance in order to make really good ones. Those days when they used to make it at home, some might not be so white, sort of yellow or brown in colour and some might have a not-so-pleasant smell to it. Other than that, there is also the question of how much santan (coconut milk) is added, how thick and rich it is.

My missus bought these…

Made-in-Singapore kueh bangkit

…at a supermarket here, made in Singapore and it was not expensive. However, I could hardly taste any of the much desired coconut fragrance in it, far from being anything like the real thing.

In my younger days, my mum and aunties and also my maternal grandma would make our own. We would all converge at my grandma’s house and all of them would work together to make the most delightful kuih bangkit. They would make the dough and use a brass mold to stamp out the flowers and I would help clip the “designs” on top using these brass pincers…

Brass pincers
*Archive photo*

…and once ready, they would be baked painstakingly to perfection in this brass oven…

Antique brass oven
*Archive photo*

…over a hot charcoal fire with some of the embers placed on top of the thing as well. Of course, the connoisseurs would tell you that the ones these days, baked in an electric oven, would come nowhere near the ones that we used to enjoy so much a long long time ago.

A few years ago, I heard that the ones at the nyonya stall at one of the leading shopping malls in Kuching had very nice ones…

Kuching kuih bangkit
*Archive photo*

I think the stall is still there though I have not heard of anyone dropping by to grab their Chinese New Year cookies lately so I do not know if they are still making them.

Meanwhile, here in Sibu, I stumbled upon these…

Payung Cafe kuih bangkit 1

…very nice ones…

Payung Cafe kuih bangkit 2

No, they did not make them themselves. I was told that they were only helping a friend out, selling them  for him or her.

No, they do not look quite like the ones we used to make…

Payung kuih bangkit 3

– the shape of the flower mold is not the same and it does not have the clipped patterns on top either. Obviously, they have used a flower mold and that was it!

However, they are very nice. The moment you open the jar, the whiff of the rich santan fragrance will sweep you off your feet, definitely a lot nicer than the ones my missus bought from the supermarket and nicer than some that I have had, available here and there at any time of year. They do not come cheap though – RM22.00 a jar and if you buy 10 jars, you will get one free! Well, if you are interested, you can drop by the café where they have samples for you to try and you only need to buy only if you think it is really that good and value for money, no obligation whatsoever…but you’d better hurry before it runs out – they’re selling like hot cakes, so to speak. LOL!!!

Everything has changed…

It has been said that Sungai Merah was where the early Foochow settlers who arrived in Sibu from Fuzou in southern China from 1901 to 1903 landed. In my growing-up years, the bazaar comprised a few rows of double-storey wooden shophouses but by the 1970s, some had been replaced by concrete buildings and a row in the centre of the bazaar met this same fate when it was burnt down in 1985. The last row of wooden shops that housed the stalls selling local fruits, was demolished in August, 2009 to make way for the present 3-storey block of concrete shophouses where this coffee shop is located.

The bridge crossing the river linking one side of the bazaar to the other is still where it has always been but of course, it does not look quite the same now. This school and church was set up by the Catholic mission in 1927…

Hua Hin school & church
*Archive photo*

The school premises is still being used though I am not too sure about the church as there is now a bigger and more modern church, St Teresa’s, for the Catholics in the parish.

This is the wet market…

Sg Merah market

…in Sungai Merah as it stands today. I am not too sure but I think it stands where it has always stood all these years though restoration works might have changed its appearance a little.

I remember quite sometime ago, before I retired, I used to do some work for the exam office in the Education Department and one morning, the officer in charge took me here for breakfast and though I did enjoy the Foochow fried noodles from a stall at the back of the market, I was quite put off by the stench from the chicken stalls a little to the front.

Well, I went strolling around the vicinity the other morning and I spotted the stall, still going strong. Of course, I took a seat and ordered a plate (RM3.50)…

Sungai Merah market Foochow fried noodles 1

Hmmmm…it looks like the noodles here are cheaper than many other places in town where it can go up to RM3.80 or RM4.00 or more these days and the best part was that there were a lot of ingredients in it – meat, liver and so on…

Sungai Merah market Foochow fried noodles 2

…unlike elsewhere where one would be hard-pressed to find anything noticeable at all.

I would say it was nice and I sure would not mind stopping by for it again should I happen to be around these parts anytime in the future…but then again, there are lots of coffee shops around here and I may want to try those instead. We’ll see.

Not in that way…

People say that my favourite kampua mee in town is not really authentic, more a cross between Sibu kampua and Kuching kolo mee and I wouldn’t say that I disagree. In my humble opinion, I do feel that there are slight variations between the popular ones in town. They may not be exactly the same but one thing that they have in common is that they are nice or to some people, at least, so each would have its own following.

However, there are some that have strayed off the beaten path and are actually quite different from the real thing. This pandan-flavoured kampua mee

Pandan kampua
*Archive photo*

…that I had once wasn’t too bad – it was still quite close but this tom yam one…

Tom yam kampua
*Archive photo*

…was a little too way out, I feel, as whatever hint of the real kampua mee flavour was completely drowned out by the strong tom yam taste and I would say it is the same in the case of this ang chao kampua mee

Ang chao kampua mee
*Archive photo*

…that my missus had sometime ago.

I had the kampua mee here once and despite the absence of lard, this being a pork-free place, I thought it was very nice though I did not quite care for the rather tasteless trips of shredded chicken. As a matter of fact, when I was there the other morning, I noticed quite a number of people ordering the kampua mee without the meat so my guess is that many, like me, like it enough to want to have it again…without the chicken.

I did not order that though – instead, I decided to give their beef curry kampua mee (RM5.00)…

Colourful beef curry kampua

…a try. I did not expect it to be served this way as in the photograph on the wall, it was in a plate with the curry by the side.

I quickly dug out the noodles…

The mee

…to see if it was anything like kampua mee as we know it but no, it tasted quite different even without mixing it altogether with the curry gravy. It was very tasty, very fragrant – I may be wrong but I did detect a hint of serai (lemon grass) in  it. All in all, it was very nice but it was different – something nice that one may consider having for a change sometimes but if it is the authentic kampua mee taste that you are looking for, I do not think you will find it in this bowl of noodles unlike the black pepper beef kampua

Noodle House black pepper beef kampua
*Archive photo*

here. I always thought that the noodles did have the original taste of kampua mee and together with the black pepper beef, it sure was a winning combination.

Moving away from the topic of kampua noodles, how are your preparations for Chinese New  Year so far? I’ve been very busy spring cleaning, throwing away some unwanted stuff, dusting and wiping, rearranging this and that and everything. Of course I am no spring chicken anymore so I go about it very slowly, doing a little bit each day…and I would say I am making very good progress.

I don’t know if my missus is going to do any baking and cooking or not – I keep telling her not to as we are getting on in years and it would be best to just go out and buy and relax, take things easy and enjoy the festive season but I am pretty sure all my well-intended words would just fall on deaf ears. Women can be quite stubborn sometimes…and they are more prone to following their hearts, not their minds and stick to doing what they feel like doing, never mind what others say.

Anyway, she came home the other day with a jar/tub of pineapple tarts (RM12.70)…

Pineapple tarts

…from the supermarket at the mall near our house. To the Chinese, the pineapple is something very auspicious. Some would have fresh pineapples in the house or those potted plants with the miniature pineapples…and then, of course, there are those pineapple decorations that they hang in the house come Chinese New Year and also the huge, not-very-nice-looking paper ones that they hang outside the house in place of lanterns. The reason behind this is that ong in Hokkien means luck and lai means come so pineapple or ong lai means that luck is coming!

No, I do not have all those things in my house but yes, I wouldn’t mind having some pineapple tarts to serve to well-wishers who care to come calling…and I do enjoy eating them myself, if they are any good. Now, these made-in-Muar  tarts that my missus bought were really very very nice – the jam is soft and moist and the pastry is crumbly, not hard…and they’re very big too! I would say they are nicer than the nice ones that I got from Kuching (RM18.00) and are cheaper as well. I don’t know if there are any more at the supermarket – perhaps they have some more stock that they have not taken out yet but if they haven’t, don’t bother going there to buy as the very next day, I went back there and grabbed all that they had. You will have to drop by my house come Chinese New Year if you want to sample some. Hehehehehe!!!!