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You give love a bad name…

All my life, I was told that these…

Quail eggs 1

…were not good for health owing to their high content of cholesterol.

Well, it did not bother me that much as we very seldom eat them except when we had steamboat at home…

Steamboat

…and those eggs…

Quail eggs 2

…would be one of the many condiments…

Condiments

…that we would make sure we had.

Well, we are familiar with all those conflicting articles about this and that. At one time, they went all out to give our tropical oils a bad name but lately, they are praising coconut and all its by-products to the skies. It was the same with eggs – first they say you must not eat them, then they say it would be all right to have two a week and at one time, they said the danger would be in the yolk so you should just eat the white and after that, they said it would be fine if you would eat the yolk with the white…bla…bla…bla…and now they say lard is good!!!

Anyway, going back to quail eggs, I came across this article that says, and I quote: “Do quail eggs have cholesterol? Yes! The good kind. Quail eggs are rich in HDL cholesterol…” and somebody linked me to this very interesting article on cholesterol. It singled out Dr. Ancel Keys’ 1953 Seven Countries Study, which linked the consumption of dietary fat to coronary heart disease claiming that when Keys published his analysis that claimed to prove this link, he selectively included information from only seven countries, despite having data from 22 countries at his disposal. I don’t know how true this is but I do know for a fact that when some people do their research for their thesis, they would do that or even manipulate the statistics to prove their point.

Well, whatever it is, I do believe that it would be pretty all right if we would just consume anything in moderation…and when it comes to quail eggs, I have not seen them served any other way other than in our steamboat at home or being fried with some green vegetables at a restaurant and even then, I hardly ever see it these days. Considering that we hardly ever eat them, therefore, I am pretty sure that having them once in a blue moon would not bring about very much undue damage to one’s health…but that’s my two cents worth.

For one thing, I did read somewhere that 5 quail eggs would be the equivalent of one chicken egg…and at RM4.40 for 15, it works out to around 30 sen each, almost the same as one chicken egg and one sure would not be able to afford that many! Besides, they are not that easy to come by here – there may be a couple of supermarkets that have them on their shelves here or one would have to go to one stall at the wet market to buy them and that reminds me of the time when I went all the way to get some.

I bought a bagful of them and walked happily back to my car, swinging my arm as I went along. Somehow or other, the bag slipped off my finger and went flying in the air and landed some distance away from where I was. “Omigosh!!!” I thought. “There goes all my quail eggs!” I quickly walked towards the bag and from what I could see through it, there were some that looked intact…still. I rushed forward to pick it up but in my hurry, I could not stop in time and…I stepped on it!!! I was so pissed off that I simply refused to walk back to the market to buy some more. Tsk! Tsk!

What about the rest of you? You like quail eggs? Or are you one of those that have been avoiding it like a plague?

Inside outside…

According to Wikipedia, it is considered  lucky to eat nian gao or (Chinese New) Year cake because the Chinese word 粘 (nián), meaning “sticky”, is identical in sound to 年, meaning “year”, and the word 糕 (gāo), meaning “cake” is identical in sound to 高, meaning “high or tall” so eating nian gao has the symbolism of raising oneself taller in each coming year (年年高升 niánnián gāoshēng).

Well, I did not know that. In my growing up years, we called it t’nee koi or sweet cake in Hokkien and I was told that it was offered to the Kitchen God so when he went back to Heaven, he would say all the sweet things to the Almighty One up there and besides, it was so very sticky so the Kitchen God’s lips would get stuck together and he would not be able to report any bad things that one had done in the course of the year. Hmmm…isn’t there some kind of a conflict in that? If the Kitchen God’s lips were sealed, how would he, on the other hand, be able to report all the sweet things then?

As for it being sticky, I couldn’t agree more and that explained why, all through the years, I never liked it. I found it hard to bite and chew and to swallow and I would feel like I would choke to death, the same thing as when eating those tang yuan (湯圓) or glutinous rice balls or even mochi. My mother would cut it into slices using a string/thread – it was so sticky it was virtually impossible to cut it with a  knife, coat with egg and deep fry but that did not help. I still did not like it much and besides, that made it a little bit oily some more. For this reason, we have never bothered to buy any to eat, come Chinese New Year each year, so I guess you can imagine the Kitchen God going back to report all the juicy stories of all the naughty things we had done in the course of the year. LOL!!!

This year, however, was different! Some kind soul in KL was so nice as to send me her own homemade one…

Nian gao 1

…in the hope that this year, the Almighty One would get to hear some sweet things about me for a change.

See how nice and smooth hers was…

Nian gao 2

…and I did not know whether it was taken straight out of the fridge or what but it was kind of hard and so easy to cut into small slices using a knife. No, I did not have to look for a thread to do that.

A friend of mine said that she wrapped hers with popiah (spring roll) skin and deep fried them “till golden brown” and it was very nice. I did not know what she meant when she warned me not to fry for too long or it would “explode”! Surely one would need to fry for quite a while to get it all nicely browned, right? Anyway, I had no intention of deep-frying mine as I imagined it would turn out something like these…

Meat floss rolls

…rolls of meat floss wrapped in popiah skin and deep fried. My friend who sent me the nian gao she made gave me these too and yes, she made them herself as well.

So what I did was I wrapped the nian gao slices with the popiah skin…

Wrapped

…and put them in the oven to bake. When I could smell the fragrance, I went back into the kitchen to check and oh no!!! Somehow, the nian gao had melted and seeped out of the skin. No, the packets did not explode, thankfully, or the nian gao would be all over the walls of the oven.

It was a little sticky, not too sticky – easy to pull off so I could get them out of the pan onto a plate without leaving any trace of it in the former…and all I had to do was to wrap the nian gao all around on the outside and eat. I guess it did not matter one bit whether it was on the inside or outside, right? This one came out looking pretty good…

Nian gao slices

…and yes, it tasted really very nice and went absolutely well with the very crispy popiah skin.

Well, I enjoyed it so much that I made up my mind right away that if my kind and generous friend would send me another one next year, I would do the exact same thing but maybe, I would use two layers of the popiah skin instead to make sure that the nian gao stays inside.

Now, call it sheer coincidence or what but right after I had enjoyed eating the outcome of my experiment, I went back to check on my Facebook page…and lo and behold! I found out that I had been named one of the winners of a 3-day/2-night hotel stay at Asoke, Bangkok or Patong, Phuket! I had joined a contest around Christmas on Tune Insurance’s Facebook page by just liking it and sharing the poster regarding the contest. Now, was that sheer coincidence or because of the good luck derived from eating the nian gao? LOL!!! Hmmm…the trouble is now I would have to fly to Bangkok or Phuket to use the prize… Sigh!!!!!

Can’t forget you…

My Indonesian blogger friend, the Dentist-Chef, asked what fish it was…

Tangadak

…that we had for our Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner.

Then, the celebrity food blogger in Penang, Ken, asked if that was terubok (toli shad) and no, it wasn’t…nor was it the empurau…or what they call in Mandarin, the Wang Pu Liao (Cannot forget) – the same as in the lyrics of that very popular song from the movie, “Love without end” (不了情) starring the Asian movie queen, the late Lin Dai (林黛)…

Well, I sure would not be able to afford one, the poor ol’ pensioner that I am, no question about that. When my Singapore friend, Alfred, was in town, he snapped this photograph…

Empurau for sale
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…at a shop here and he even went in to have a look…

Empurau, frozen
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…and goodness gracious me!

Empurau, price
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

Just look at the price!!! *faints* That certainly makes me wonder whether it is the price that people will never forget or its very sweet, very smooth, very soft and so very delicious flesh.

They catch these freshwater fish – the empurau, semah and tangadak upriver and yes, I cannot deny that they taste really very good, absolutely out of this world, but I am not particularly fond of the small forked bones that they all have in them. I guess one would have to eat very very slowly to make sure they would not swallow any accidentally and at the same time, enjoy every little bit of the fish to make it worth the price…or get ready to fork out some dough to visit the ENT specialist in town.

I’ve tried the empurau before – they served it at Chinese restaurants before – just a slice of it, steamed, would cost a bomb! And once when I went to Belaga to give a talk to the students at a secondary school there, I had a very small one for dinner, about the size of the aforementioned slice. I hear that these small ones are more affordable and are equally tasty…if and when available. I’ve also enjoyed the ikan semah before – once, a friend went to Kapit and when she came back, she gave me one…and on another occasion, we had it at a dinner that my friend invited me to…and yes, it was very very nice too. From hearsay, I gathered that the empurau is 1st class, the most expensive selling for over RM200 a kg at one time while the semah would be somewhere in the region of RM150-200.

Well, what we had was the tangadak – the third in the class of the most expensive fish found here. I was quite surprised when my missus told me that she bought it at around RM50 a kilo – in the past, those from upriver would be going for at least around RM100-120 a kg. I asked if it was farmed but she said that the seller said no, it was freshly caught from the river. Yes, they do farm these fish now…and if they are from the huge lakes at the Batang Ai electricity dam, they would be just as nice, I am sure but if that is the case, I would expect those to come at very much cheaper prices, don’t you think?

Basically…

When I was at my regular Malay kuih stall that day, I saw they they were selling some bags of yellow noodles, fresh…uncooked. I was told that they were homemade and were very popular. It seems that there is some kind of association that conducts classes/lessons for interested housewives teaching them to make these things. They even learned how to make steamed paos, tie dumplings (chang)…

Bandong kuih stall chang daging

…and all so that basically, they would be able to make for their own consumption and some even make them for sale to supplement their household income. That is really good, I must say – it would enable those stay-at-home-mums to do something and earn a bit of money.

I decided to buy a bag of the noodles (RM2.50 for 1 kg) myself to try. Once, I watched a lady at one of the Malay stalls cooking and she certainly did not do it the way I have seen them doing it at the Chinese ones. Basically, at the latter, they would fry a bit of garlic in oil, throw in the noodles, add the soy sauce and the seasoning, add egg and taugeh (bean sprouts) and that would be it! People always say that the noodles are nice because of the big fire which would give them the nice wok hei fragrance…but I do think the excessive use of msg does play a part as well.

On the other hand, the Malay lady fried the egg first, and then she poured in some sambal (blended ingredients) and some bits of chicken before putting in the noodles…followed by the soy sauce and chili sauce and seasoning and taugeh and what she dished out was very nice too despite the absence of a very big fire (since she was doing it over an ordinary gas stove). No garlic? No shallots? I thought it strange actually but I guess it probably was in the sambal – I had no idea whatsover what she had in that.

Anyway, I did it my own way that morning when I fried half of what I had bought and these were the ingredients I used…

Fried noodles, ingredients

- one shallot, peeled and sliced, three cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped, one chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced, some sawi manis (green vegetables), separating the stalks from the leafy parts, two eggs and calamansi lime and this was the end result…

Fried noodles 1

Prior to cooking, I poured dark mushroom soy over the noodles and added some Thai chili sauce and a spoonful of sugar and mixed everything thoroughly.

I heated some oil in the wok and fried the shallots till golden brown and then, removed them for garnishing later. You may just leave them in the oil if you are not going to bother about presentation upon serving. After that, the garlic went in and once browned, I threw in the stalks of the vegetables to fry for a while (they need to be cooked longer to soften first) and next, the rest of the vegetables, the chili (saving a bit for garnishing as well, if you are thus inclined) and the noodles followed. I did add a bit of water periodically to cook the noodles, a little bit each time, not too much…and finally, I added the eggs. Once everything was done, I dished it all onto a plate and garnished it with the fried shallots, the sliced chili and a bit of chopped spring onions…

Fried noodles 2

…and served.

Yes, it was very nice despite the fact that basically, the ingredients used were very minimal – no meat, no prawns…and no msg! I certainly would not say this was anything like what you can get at the Chinese stalls nor would I say it was mee mamak or fried noodles, Malay-style since I did it quite differently from what I saw the aforementioned lady doing it…but one thing’s for sure, I would want to buy more of the noodles and fry like this too to serve to guests dropping by, come Chinese New Year.

By the way, I really must thank my blogger friend for the very lovely Chinese New Year card that she sent me and also the things she got on her recent trip to Taiwan recently (and not forgetting the lovely postcard she sent me when she was there – that one arrived sometime ago)…

From Sheta

These just arrived yesterday evening via poslaju – it sure is so very sweet and thoughtful of you, thank you again so very much.

At the same time, I would also like to thank my cousin and his wife – the ones whose daughter got married quite recently, for these very nice kueh sepit (or kuih kapit as they are called over in the peninsula)…

Kueh sepit

I gathered that these were homemade, somebody in Oya or Matu, and they were very fragrant and lemak (rich with santan) and no, they did not last till Chinese New Year. Hey! Don’t look at me now!!! Hehehehehehe!!!!

Let the sunshine in…

It has been raining a great deal here in Sarawak and some areas have been flooded rather badly including the Selangau district where my girl’s school is located. Thankfully, hers has been spared and most parts of Sibu as well except for some sections mainly due to the poor drainage in the vicinity and the horrendously heavy downpours that we have been getting lately.

Hopefully, this excessively wet weather will not drag on till Chinese New Year as there are many things to be done and we do need a lot of sunshine if we were to sun and air the carpets prior to laying them out, for instance, or dry the keropok (prawn crackers)…

Drying
*Photo taken using mobile phone camera*

Thankfully, the sun came out the other day and I quickly put out the ones that I got from my Trengganu friends right away. My girl loves these dark ones from the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia and I had already fried one of the two packets they gave me, the one from Kelantan – this second one is from Trengganu.

To fry them, one would need to heat up the wok till it is really hot and then fill it with cooking oil, just the amount needed, and wait till it is hot enough. If it is not hot enough, when you drop in the keropok, it will not expand and rise to the occasion and turn nice and crispy. I’ve been told that with sufficient drying in the sun, it will turn out even better.

Anyway, a lot in the pack were broken so I saved the whole ones and those that were bigger for Chinese New Year and fried the smaller bits and pieces…

Trengganu keropok

…to try. Personally, I find these Trengganu ones very good too – I loved the nice fragrance and taste of the fish and that is the quality we would look for in keropok that would differentiate the men from the boys, so to speak. Some are all flour with loads of salt and msg and hardly any fish or prawn or sotong (squid) flavour – those aren’t good and not worth putting out for guests to enjoy. One thing that I noticed was that they were sliced a lot more thinly than the usual and I actually liked that as well.

I wonder if you all do this at your end. Here, for our Chinese New Year open houses, other than the cakes and cookies and the bak kua, cashew nuts and all kinds of nuts and kuaci (melon seeds) and everything else plus our best own-cooked dishes, should we be thus inclined, we would have keropok as well in one huge cream crackers tin or Tupperware along with the must-have to go with it – the acar timun (cucumber pickle)…

Keropok & acar

My mother-in-law used to make very nice acar and every year, without fail, she would give us one BIG Nescafe bottle, maybe two but she is old now and she doesn’t make it anymore. Last year, I saw on Facebook that my ex-student’s mum was making for sale so I told him I would like to buy a bottle…

Hong's mum's acar

…but when he came home for the festival (from Penang), he delivered it to my house and would not receive payment for it. Such a sweet boy!

Yes, his mum’s acar was really good, just like my mother-in-law’s, so I asked him if I could buy two bottles this year and yes, he said he had informed his mum and she would be reserving two for me. He would send them over to my house, he said, and he had paid his mum for them – the two would be gifts from him to me. Awwwwww!!!!! Some of my boys are so very thoughtful and nice, really.

I have a lot of packets of keropok in the house, actually. This one came from my cousin in Bintulu, homemade…

From Bintulu 1

..and these were from my brother-in-law, also in Bintulu and also homemade…

From Bintulu 2

…and this packet of the Mukah ones was given to us by my sister-in-law when she was home sometime ago from Kuching…

Mukah keropok

…probably the same ones that they would usually serve at this restaurant here

Mukah keropok, served

I wonder if my ex-student’s mum would like one of these…or maybe, I would go out and buy some nice cakes or cookies to give to them….in line with our adat or custom. When people give us something, we would need to balas or give something in return. In Hokkien, we call it lay sor (manners) – never mind, big or small as long as something is given to reciprocate. Of course, it need not be right away, though it would be good if it could be so. One may choose to balas at some later time as and when the opportunity arises.

Lucky star…

Yeah!!! My lucky star must be shining brightly ‘cos I won something in a contest and that’s not something that happens all that often!

aforadio, the online radio station that some of you may be familiar with, was holding a contest – the 12 Days of Christmas on AFO Live whereby listeners would need to share a photograph on Facebook and hashtag the station’s link, that was all! It would have to be a snapshot of one’s favourite dish AND a Christmas tree in one picture though, not just any picture, so I looked into my archives and found this one…

Christmas fruit cake

Ok, there was a fruit cake, the favourite of many, and a Christmas tree…plue a snowman holding a smaller one thrown in for good measure. Absolutely perfect! I promptly submitted that…and waited patiently for the results…and hey, I won! I won! LOL!!!

The postman came honking at my gate yesterday and he handed me this big thing…

From aforadio

…and inside, there was a t-shirt…

aforadio t-shirt

…size S so of course, that is too small for me and no prize for guessing who would be getting it. I love the frame that was in the shape of one of those old school black vinyl records…complete with the record sleeve (cover)!

Then, there was this tote bag  as well…

aforadio tote bag

…which certainly would come in handy when we go out shopping…and it would be so environment-friendly too as we would need any of those plastic bags that they always give out at the shops. Ain’t that great?

Last but not least, there was this…

aforadio prize voucher

- the actual prize for winning the contest, a RM50 voucher to eat at one of the venues sponsoring the contest, Miss Ellie Tea House. Oh? It looks like some of my friends have blogged about this place – here and here. Of course, that’s in KL but I have till March 31st to hop over to make use of it…or I may just give it to anybody who is extra sweet and nice to me. Wink! Wink! Muahahahaha!!!!

In the meantime, I think I have won some other stuff but I have not received them yet so I will just wait till they come. Hopefully, this is an indication of what’s in store in 2015…and the Year of the Goat – lots and lots of good luck!

Read all about it…

How much of what I write in each post do people actually read, I wonder? I would think generally, we are all visually-inclined. We love to see photographs like how as kids, we would love reading comics compared to books with words…words…and more words. I do think, however, that if there are too many photographs, that would lead to an overkill. As they say, too much of a good thing ain’t all that good for you.

On my part, I would usually skim and scan when I hop over to other people’s blogs to browse. I would just skim through everything quickly, speed reading or so to speak and if there is any information that I think I have missed, I would go back and scan for it…or sometimes, I would see somebody mentioning something in his or her comment and I would say, “Hey!!! I didn’t see that!!!” Then, I would go back and look for it.

I have a good memory – I always say that I look like an elephant and I have a memory like one too!!! I would remember what I have read in other blogs should I encounter the same thing again elsewhere. I don’t really know but it seems that not many people are like that. For instance, there are places and things that I have blogged about MANY times and out of the blue, somebody would ask, “Where is this place?” or “What is that?” It’s the same with the photographs I share on Facebook.

Like the other day, I uploaded this photo of some Malay kuihs (cakes) that I had bought for tea…

Malay kuih
*Snapshot taken using mobile phone camera*

These were RM1 for each type, RM4.00 altogether…and then, there were people asking what that brown thing was….or they knew of it, ate it before but they did not know what the name was.

Actually, it was in one or more of my earlier posts but of course, since there are so many, it can be quite tedious to SEARCH for it. You may have noticed that magnifying glass on the right at the top – you can just type, say kompia and click the icon and all the posts that had kompia in them would appear. Of course, if you want to look for this particular kuih, you would need to know the name. It is called kuih ederam

Kuih ederam
*Archive photo*

…here or kuih pederam or kuih deram though there may be those that I’ve seen in some blogs with only one hole in the middle like a doughnut.

The ones here are made using gula apong (attap sugar, our version of palm sugar which is not quite the same as gula Melaka in the peninsula). There was a mini-market around half a mile from my house that we called Sungai Bakong (market) after the stream that flowed by it and whenever my mum needed something, she would pack me off on my bicycle to go there and buy. It is no longer there, of course –  a fire wiped it out completely sometime ago but at the time, there was a Malay man that I used to call Haji who had a stall there and I would buy this kuih from him.  He would always have some kept bottled up in a glass jar and if I remember correctly, it was 5 sen/cent each at the time. Now, they are selling at 3 for RM1.00…with the toasted sesame seeds added. I don’t recall there being any at the time.

Incidentally, there were only two of us in the house that day so we could finish all of what I had bought so I put away the curry puffs and the kuih ederam in the fridge and heated them up in the oven the next morning for breakfast. What I discovered then was that the kuih ederam tasted a whole lot nicer after being toasted. Usually, it would be quite soft and crumbly but the heat in the oven would make the outer part crustier and the kuih very much more fragrant, probably due to the sugar in it being caramelised further, best eaten when it is slightly warm. I certainly would do that again the next time I buy some home.

Anyway, back to the post proper, there are people who would ask again and again where this place…

Bandong shops

…is even though I’ve given the location more than once in my blogposts in the past. When I told them it’s at the shops along Jalan Bandong, then they would ask where along Jalan Bandong. Good grief! Jalan Bandong is a very short road and there is only one small area there with shops – a lot of people would commune there to eat at night and we would do the same too sometimes – for the ayam penyet, pecel lele, satay and ikan bakar. I even shared an aerial map showing the location…

Aerial map: Bandong
*Archive photo*

Ah well…I guess it is easier just to ask.

Then there would be people who have seen things in my blog and when the opportunity arises for them to go for it, they would just ask me via a comment on the current post…or the post in question for the location. I would give the information usually but if it is at a place that I had blogged about before, instead of just repeating myself, I would just provide the link…and at times, one may have to hop, step and jump…via one link to another to get to what one is looking for. Old people tend to repeat themselves, I know…and I may be old but I’m not that old…yet!

Others would contact me by phone or via sms to ask me where in town they would be able to eat this or that – they had read all about it in my blog, they said. Well, if that is so, they can jolly well browse through my blog again to search for themselves but of course, it is a lot easier to call and ask…and if you think they would have the courtesy to ask me if I would like to join them (and of course, I would say no, thank you very much), think again! I am like somebody providing this kind of public service – free for all. Tsk! Tsk!

And the worse would be those who would come and disagree with you and insist something else somewhere would be a whole lot nicer…like the kampua noodles that I like very much here

RTM Cafe kampua
*Archive photo*

…as opposed to the one that seems to be very much more popular here

Hock Lok Hong kampua
*Archive photo*

…or they would insist to no end that a certain brand of instant kampua noodles is a lot better than The Kitchen’s, seeing that I’ve blogged about the latter a lot as if I have vested interest in the enterprise, just to state a few examples…and maybe I am over-sensitive but it come across as if they are implying that I am so so so wrong and they are so so so right even though I have always stated time and time again that one man’s meat is another man’s poison – to each his own!  Note that I NEVER ever say something is THE best – I would always say it is my favourite…or the best, in my opinion. More often than not, it is not what they say but how they say it – they could have just said that they like that one some place else more and suggest that I go and try and that would be more civil and a whole lot more pleasant.

Well, unlike many other bloggers, I’m not making any money out of my blog so who knows, one fine day, when enough is enough, I may just decide to call it quits…for good. As they say, it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.