I love them both…

My girl loves them both, not me – kim chi and tofu so that was why when I spotted this…

MR KIMCHI tofu kimchi snack

…at that supermarket in town, the one that brings in all the imported stuff from countries all over the world, I wasted no time at all in grabbing two packs to take home for her to enjoy. She and her mum love anything Korean…

Made in Korea

…and this was made there. Anything and everything Korean is very expensive but much to my surprise, this was only RM1.75 a pack. She did finish one and after some time, I saw the 2nd one sitting there, opened but not finished so I took it and tried. I am not into such tidbits aka junk food but I actually thought it was very nice.

So, what is it actually?…

What is tofu kimchi?

I could not taste the tofu in it though – maybe it was mixed with the wheat flour and whatever else to get the batter and fried. Thankfully, the seasoning – the salt and the msg – was not as strong as in the other junk food available…like for instance, I’ve tried some potato chips from Australia or wherever and they were extremely salty!!! Definitely not for human consumption, if you asked me! This one was all right but if there was any taste of kim chi in it, it was so light that I could hardly detect it (and perhaps that was why I liked it – I am no fan of kim chi!).

Well, it so happened that one of her outings to stock up on food and stuff in the house, my missus brought home another pack. Obviously my girl was not going to eat that especially when the mum bought her a whole lot of other options so no prize for guessing who opened it…

Tofu kimchi

…and finished it all by himself. LOL!!!

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

Preserve…

I had just blogged about the very nice salted vegetables I bought from one lady at the Sibu Central Market here when I saw this photograph being shared on Facebook…

Salted vegetables, made in Thailand

…of some ladies working, waist-deep in water, washing the vegetables to make those salted ones. Needless to say, I was horrified and I told my missus that I would never ever buy the ones sold outside anymore.

I did read in one of the comments that the photograph was taken some 10 years ago in Thailand and somebody did mention to me that our local ones are made at home on a very small scale so one would not see anything like that.

In the meantime, my dear friend, Mary, gave me a whole lot of vegetables

Vegetables from Mary

…when she sent over the very lovely chocolate cake that her daughter made.

We ate the kangkong and the bayam and I decided to use the sawi to make salted vegetables. I browsed through some videos on youtube and many looked like a lot of work so of course, they did not tickle my fancy. Finally, I chanced upon this one that sure looked easy.

I told my missus about my plan and she said she would do it so I asked her to take a look at that video clip. In the end, she decided to follow it so firstly, she blanched the vegetables in hot water till the colour became a bit greener after which she soaked it in salt water with chunks of lengkuas (galangal) added to it…

Preserving

For one thing, it must be stored in an airtight glass container and kept till it started fermenting and changed colour…

Preserved

I don’t know why she did it but over a week later, she transferred it to this coffee bottle. Maybe it was because it was ready and she removed the lengkuas but kept in vegetables in the salted water till she was ready to cook it.

When she finally took it and cooked it with pork belly…

Fried salted vegetables with pork belly

…that day, all of us loved it so much! Yes, it was very nice and had that special fragrance of salted vegetables and no, it was not too salty, just nice.

I think the next time around, I would buy kua chai (mustard greens) for this – when we bought those at the market, we would prefer the ones made from this type of vegetable more than sawi.

Majority…

Thank you all over again, David, for the new batch of your sambal ikan bilis

David's sambal ikan bilis

…and thanks once again to you, Anson, for sending it over to my house.

We loved the one that first time around but we thought it was not spicy enough so this time around, David made sure it was spicier. Yes, I could feel it but no, it was not up to our level but then again, the majority would not be able to handle spiciness our level, of that I am very sure. I must say that this was just nice, not not spicy at all and not too spicy either.

I guess the majority would eat this sambal with nasi lemak or rice and when it is so nice, there is always that temptation to go for a second helping. It goes very well with bread too or kompia or mantao. You can buy those that the school kids called Doraemon or what some call Malaysian burger – they are deep fried mini buns with this sambal ikan bilis and very thin slices of cucumber inside – I used to enjoy that a lot when they first appeared at the Malay kuih stalls.

Well, I had none of the above for breakfast so I had it with cream crackers…

Sambal ikan bilia with cream crackers

…and yes, it was really nice and of course, I could not stop at one – I went on and on and enjoyed the combination to the max.

And talking about cream crackers, what is your favourite brand? I love this one, extra crispy and tastes nicer and I just discovered that day that they now sell them in individual packs of three…

Hup Seng Cream Crackers, individual packs

Why three, I wonder? Usually we would use two to make a “sandwich” with peanut butter, kaya or jam…or in my case, with sambal ikan bilis and then there would be the odd one out so one would have to open another pack and end up eating three “sandwiches” or go for a double decker…

Cream crackers sambal ikan bilis double decker

…if one does not want to eat so much.

Anyway, back to the sambal ikan bilis, you can place your order via their Facebook page/Messenger or you can send a message to +6012-856 2277 on WhatsApp. It is selling at RM30.00 for around ½ kg and while you are at it, perhaps you would like to order the shui jiao/jiaoxi, chives or cabbage at RM14.00 a pack for 15 pieces. Home delivery is available if you do not stay too far away.

What’s real…

On one of those few occasions when I went to the nearby shop to stock up on food and stuff, I saw that they had some nice-looking shallots…

Shallots

They’re real ones, the lady owner said – “chin chin air chang kia“, in Hokkien so of course, I grabbed two packs of them and took them home.

Not too long ago, we had a problem getting hold of these, the ones from India, my missus said – there was none available in town. Eventually, some appeared in the shops but those were from other countries, probably Indonesia or China, in different shades and shapes and even though they were all right for cooking, I could not plant them for the spring onions.

We did not have to buy from the market for years and years as the ones I planted grew so very well…

My spring onions

…and I kept replacing the ones I harvested with new bulbs of shallots so there was a never ending supply.

Unfortunately, when those ran out and I replaced them with those shallots from the other countries, they did sprout but what came out was thin and withered before it could grow much bigger…

Thin & withered

I dug it out and saw that it sprouted roots…

Roots

…lots of them but unfortunately, most that I planted did not produce leaves. That was why I was quite jealous when I saw Phong Hong showing off her spring onions. LOL!!!

Well, I got rid of all of them, turned the soil in the pot thoroughly and added some organic compost before planting those “real” shallots. After around 4-5 days, less than a week, some of them started sprouting…

Sprouting

Fingers crossed, I shall have my regular supply of spring onions again soon.

See the signs…

I blogged about Rev. Monsignor Father Michael Lee’s organic compost here not very long ago when I started seeing signs that my plants were doing much better than before. Now, around a month later, it is quite clear that the compost is doing most of my plants a lot of good.

My spider plant has been around some three years now ever since my friend gave it to me. I’ve planted it here and there and yes, it survived but I have never seen it looking so good…

Spider plant

…until now.

These ferns…

Ferns

…that I plucked from among the weeds growing wild along the fence at the back of the house are flourishing as well.

I got this oregano…

Oregano

from another friend and I have never seen the leaves so big! They were not growing all that well but they did not die unlike the ones with the white borders that she also gave me as well.

She also gave me some mint and that too has been doing all right…

Mint

…never better!

At one time, there were some balsam plants, pink flowers, growing here and there in my garden. I don’t know where they came from – probably my missus got them from somewhere but eventually, they were not growing well and all of them just withered away. Not too long ago, I spotted a little seedling growing among my other plants and by now, it is much bigger and yes, the leaves are very big and looking good…

Balsam

…and my kunyit (turmeric)…

Kunyit

…right beside it as well. I used the big leaves to wrap fish for baking in the oven but lately, they were way too small for that and they turned yellow way too soon and withered away. I sure am glad to see them coming back in all their glory.

My Thai basil has always been unpredictable but they are doing fine now…

Thai basil

…and sprouting seedlings all over. I do not need that much but I just let them grow. The flowers attract the small bees that hover around them every day and my dill beside it is doing very well too.

With the partial lockdown/Movement Control Order now extended till the end of April, I don’t think the Laudato Si’ Canteen is open so I guess one would have to wait awhile before he or she can go and buy this organic compost there.

Appreciate…

A thoughtful and generous gesture is always appreciated, well, by me, at least and I do appreciate how, during these difficult times, there are people who always think and care for others and do whatever they can, however, small to help anyone in need.

The other day, somebody shared an appeal on Facebook, purportedly from the Sibu Hospital, asking for donations/contributions and I drove all the way to send some of the things I had stocked up in the house – I wouldn’t have left the house, otherwise and because of that, I had to drop by the shops in the neighbourhood to restock on the stuff that I had given away.

I was quite pissed off when the authorities released a press statement saying that they were quite well-provided for and did not ask for anything. Well, I did what I felt I should do out of my own sincerity but what I did not like was the way they put it – at least, they should add that they appreciated all who had sent them stuff, thank you very much. That would not be so hard to do, right? But I would give them the benefit of the doubt – they were probably so caught up with this dreadful thing to think of much else.

I have always been blessed abundantly – people give me things all the time and yes, I do appreciate it a lot and just the other day, I received an sms from my friend, Annie, in KL telling me that she was giving me some of the jiaoxi/shui jiao (dumplings) her brother made…

Jiaoxi from Annie

…and her nephew would send them over to my house the following day and she added that she had paid for them.

Her brother went into this business once and yes, he did give me some to try but he left town soon afterwards to work here and there and now that he is cooped up in the house owing to the partial lockdown/CMO/RMO, he has gone back to making them again for sale.

I asked his son, Annie’s nephew, when he brought them to my house and he said they are RM14.00 a pack and there are 15 in each one of them, less than RM1 each…

15 in a pack

My missus pan-fried one of the packs right away and in no time at all, we all sat down to enjoy eating them…

Filling

The skin was beautifully done, very nice and smooth and not chewy/rubbery or hard like some that we had had the displeasure of buying and eating and the meat and chives filling was really delicious.

My girl in particular loves these dumplings unlike me. I am not crazy about them but will eat when there is any to be eaten but I sure would not go out of my way for them. I did enjoy these though so if anyone around here enjoys these dumplings…

Dumplings, pan-fried

…and are keen on placing an order for a pack or more to enjoy, they may PM me on Facebook or send me an sms giving me their address, telephone contact and the number of packs they would like and I would convey the orders to Annie’s brother or the nephew. Yes, they will do home delivery, provided the house is not too far away.

Thank you so much, Annie & David, for the dumplings and thanks to you too, Anson, for going through the trouble of sending them over to my house, very much appreciated, indeed.

Hopefully…

My herbs circle…

My herbs circle
*Archive photo*

…was doing great at the start. Everything I planted flourished but eventually, things started to change and almost everything shrank and withered and died – my oregano, my sawtooth coriander, my daun sup (Chinese parsley), even my dill and my curry leaves. Only the serai (lemon grass) was growing well, so well that I had to keep trimming it ever so often.

Well, recently, I heard of this brainchild of Monsignor Father Michael Lee of the Catholic Diocese here in Sibu. He was making this organic compost…

Organic compost

…for sale in 1 kg packs for RM4.00, using these recycled resealable tea bags…

Recycled resealable bags

That sure is good for the environment – waste not, want not!

I went and bought a few packs for my plants to help him a bit in his venture and after using it for a few weeks, I am glad to note that my herbs circle is coming back to life.

The curry leaves look good…

Curry leaves

…sprouting new branches from the stump and my dill too…

Dill

I planted some Thai basil seedlings…

Thai basil

…but I can’t tell right now how they will fare.

My girl’s wild onions never died but they did not seem to be doing so well either, so scrawny, barely surviving…

Wild onions

…and likewise, my mint…

Mint

…has been spreading far and wide but the leaves are very small unlike the ones that I have in the pots kept in the shade.

I am also using this compost for my rambutan tree at the back of my house and much to my delight, it is sprouting new leaves and branches and looking really good. I certainly hope that I shall be able to say the same about my herbs circle soon…and yes, I shall return those recycled resealable bags to be reused. We must do what we can, however little, for the environment.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested, he or she can buy this organic compost at the Laudato Si’ Canteen at the Catholic Centre but of course, that will have to wait till this partial lockdown or Restricted Movement/Movement Control Order comes to an end. The sad thing is that it was announced yesterday that it would be extended till the 14th of next month, April, Lord have mercy!!!

LAUDATO SI’ CANTEEN (2.287292, 111.832110) is located in what was previously known as the Catholic Centre in the compound of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Jalan Lanang and St Rita’s Primary School, Jalan Bukit Assek.

My sacrifice…

It’s already the 2nd Friday in Lent today. The penitential season this year started on Ash Wednesday last week, the 26th of February, a day of fasting and abstinence for all Christians. This…

Lent

…may be of some use to anyone who would like a bit more information on what this is all about.

I remember in my growing up years, we would abstain from meat every Friday throughout the year and eat fish instead. Fish was bountiful and cheap in those days but these days, they are very expensive and may be considered a luxury so I would not consider it much of a sacrifice to forego meat for it or prawns or all kinds of seafood, for that matter.

Fasting way back then would mean porridge all day long and fish or salted fish which incidentally, does not come cheap these days either. Ah well! What is cheap these days? I do not have to fast anymore – senior citizens over the age of 60 are exempted but abstinence from meat is a must but anyway, I still try to fast the best I can.

Last Friday, I cooked this…

What I cooked

…for the family for our meals, something light for lunch and dinner. All of us skipped breakfast that morning but the general ruling is we would be allowed two light meals, the amount less than a regular meal on other days and come evening time, we could have a full meal for dinner.

These days, it is very easy for us as we can get fresh fish paste (frozen) from Jakar and Sarikei, mackerel/ikan tenggiri no less…

Fish paste

…and we can use that to make our own fish balls.

I bought some tau kua (bean curd cakes), cut them into halves and cut a slit in them into which I stuffed the fish paste and I deep fried them lightly for use. I used the rest of the fish paste to make fish balls and cooked them with a few cloves of garlic and tang chai (preserved vegetable) in water for the soup and after it had started boiling, I added the stuffed tau kua. I served it with tang hoon (glass noodles) and some khiew chai (curly vegetables) by the side, garnished with some fried sliced shallots and finely chopped daun sup (Chinese celery). I think they have salt and msg in the fish paste so I did not need to add any – the soup was salty and tasty enough.

We had a lot of leftover rice and my missus cooked some kim chi fried rice…

Kim chi fried rice

…for dinner and of course, my girl loved it! No, I did not touch it – I just stuck loyally to my tang hoon in tau kua fish ball soup.

I’m not sure what we’ll be having today but considering how times and things have changed, I do feel that instead of having fish, while abstaining from meat, one can abstain from say…using the smartphone or going online, things that we enjoy, for one day…or more.

The dance…

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva. It marks the night of the heavenly marriage and consummation between Shiva and Parvati and it is also the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance.

There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar on the 13th night/14th day, but around February/March, they celebrate the Maha Shivaratri which means “the Great Night of Shiva”.

No, I did not know all this but that night I was invited by my Indian friends, Andy and Varun, at Payung to a special thali (a set Indian meal) they were hosting to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Unfortunately, all the photographs that I took did not come out well except this one of the poori

Poori

…that we had, a deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour. It went very well with everything that was served on a banana leaf…

Special thali dinner
*Andy’s photo*

…and I even asked for a second helping, another two or three pieces, I can’t remember now.

There seemed to be two main dishes, one that looked like minced meat but cooked using black chickpeas, probably the kala chana curry and the other, the potato bhaji – you can see a bit of that in the above photograph. The other one that you can see in the photograph, top right, is the gajar halwa, an Indian carrot pudding served as a dessert along with the Indian rice kheer, a rice and milk dessert – both of these were slightly sweet, very slightly and I enjoyed them very much.

Varun made a vadai too, not quite the same as the ones that I am accustomed to. He said that was his first attempt as that is a South Indian delicacy and he comes from the north and he did say that they do not serve meals on a banana leaf there either as the plant is not common in the colder climatic conditions unlike the places in the south.

There was a soup using red beans, the bigger version and also an Indian drink that reeked of spices and ginger.

That certainly was a delightful and most interesting evening – we enjoyed the exquisite dinner and the pleasant company…

Thali dinner at Payung
*Andy’s photo*

Thank you so much, Andy & Varun, for inviting us to your celebration of this very special Indian festival.

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.

Reminded…

I had the meat porridge with century egg here not too long ago and I thought it was very good. In the meantime, I heard that their nasi lemak is very popular so I just had to make my way back there to try.

When I got there that morning, the rice was just ready and the guy was scooping a bowl of it for somebody’s takeaway. I asked him if it had a lot of santan (coconut milk) in it and he said, no, there was no santan used in the cooking as a lot of people would like to tapao it and it might go bad. Of course, I made up my mind there and then that I did not want to order that, no, thank you!

I asked what else they had and he rattled through a whole list of things and finally, I settled for what he called “hung ngang long” (RM6.00)…

Civic Cafe hung ngang long 1

I am a Foochow but my maternal grandma was Melanau and for reasons unknown, I grew up speaking Hokkien at home – all my aunties and uncles and I spoke Hokkien among ourselves while my grandma when she was still around would speak Melanau to me and I would speak Sarawak Malay to her and we both understood each other perfectly!

I never did pick up the Foochow dialect, supposedly my mother tongue. In fact, these days, I can communicate a lot better in Mandarin, not in that dialect – the intonation, pronunciation and everything is quite difficult to master but I do know that hung ngang is the big bihun that looks like the noodles in Penang asam laksa but no, the texture and taste are different.

I thought that long is egg so I guessed that would be the noodles in egg drop soup. The egg is dropped into the boiling soup, cooked with lots of ginger and traditional Foochow red wine and the end result would be the yolk still soft and runny, something like poached egg but the  white would be all over the soup. My missus would cook that sometimes, served with mee sua, and my girl loves it and in my discussion recently on Facebook, a friend said that her mum used to cook that as a remedy for menstrual pains. If I am not wrong, it is the ginger!

What I was served…

Civic Cafe hung ngang long

…was nothing of the sort – it looked like the traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup with hung ngang instead of mee sua but it tasted very different and yes, it was very nice!

In my aforementioned discussion on Facebook, I was reminded of what my 2nd maternal aunt would send to our house everytime one of her daughters or daughters-in-law gave birth, one big pot of it and it turned out to be this – hung ngang long! I never knew what it was called – I just ate!

Yes, it is different from the usual bowl of mee sua in traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup as other than those, there would be some other ingredients added – I remember there was the kim chiam (golden needles), knotted and the mok mee (black fungus) and according to my friend, Annie, in KL, there would be the teck ann or canned oysters as well.

I must say that I enjoyed it a lot and I loved the egg used…

Egg

– this would be one of those Omega-3 or kampung eggs with its orange yolk. I’m not really a fan of hung ngang though so when I go back there for more of this, perhaps I could ask for mee sua instead. We’ll see…

CIVIC CAFE (2.310423, 111.8312260, formerly Wonderful Cafe, is located at No. 30, Jalan Dewan Suarah, right beside the Sibu Civic Centre.