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It was fun while it lasted…

Gee!!! Time sure flies, doesn’t it? School has resumed for a week now and my girl will be home for the weekend today.

This was last Friday when we dropped by the supermarket about 200 metres away from my parents’ house. Other than the convenience, I do like the place – not overly big and one can get most of what one wants plus the vicinity is not congested, parking is easy and free. For one thing, they have a wide selection of fresh vegetables and I do mean fresh. If you drop by when they open at 8 in the morning, you will see all the empty shelves and the workers packing the new arrival for the day – it is that fresh!

Well, after my girl had bought all her supplies for the week to come, we just went to the hawker stalls opposite for our lunch. This time around, we decided to try the nasi campur (mixed rice) here…

Stall No. 6

My girl and the mum shared this (RM5.00)…

Nasi campur 1

 – the masak hitam (black-cooked) beef, the sambal terung (brinjal) and the pumpkin.

I also ordered the ulam (RM1.00)…

Ulam

…for them. Unfortunately, I have not acquired the taste for those ulam raja leaves so I did not get to enjoy that.

I had these selections in my platter (RM7.00)…

Nasi campur 2

– the assam fish, the pumpkin and ladies’ fingers and one salted egg and yes, I did enjoy what I had.

We did not go for the Moroccan or pili-pili [sic] rice this time around but I saw that the African guy had some sandwiches for sale at his stall…

Sandwiches

…and I bought the egg (RM2.00) and the barbecued chicken (RM3.00) but at best, I would say they were all right. I think I’ve had nicer ones at some of the bakeries in town though I cannot remember the prices and I never took note of the prices for the ones at my regular Malay kuih stall at Bandong plus I have never bought those at the latter to try either, not when there are so many nice things there to pick and choose.

The next morning, we had to wake up really early and by 5 something, we were already on our way to my girl’s school. It was pitch dark, really very very dark and I had to go very much slower than usual. I noticed that I could not see if there was a turning right ahead along that very winding road until I came quite near to it. Thankfully, there were not that many vehicles on the road at that time of day and we got there before 7.30 a.m. – in time for her extra class for her Year 6 pupils at 8.00 a.m. My missus and I stayed there to clean up her quarters, empty for two weeks already, and when my girl came back during the lunch break at noon, we had lunch together after which her mum and I left and headed home.

We did not go anywhere for the holidays but we sure did spend a lot of time together and yes, it was fun while it lasted.

Moving away from the post proper, I would like to say a BIG thank you to Claire for this beautiful postcard…

From Claire

…that came in yesterday – all the way from the US of A! It certainly is so very thoughtful of you to take sometime off to go and pick such a lovely one, scribble a message…

Message

…and post it to me. That, I must say, is very much appreciated. Problem with the internet connection there? I thought we would only encounter such things in Third World countries like here. Never mind, it’s the thought that counts and as long as I am always on your mind – Hey!!! That’s one of my favourite karaoke numbers…(song starts at 4:10) –

…that is all that matters. Wink! Wink! Enjoy yourself there, take care and God bless.

Coming soon…

Malaysia is a land of festivals. After Christmas and ushering in the new year, we had Chinese New Year…and coming soon, at the end of this month, those of us in Sarawak will be celebrating the Gawai Dayak Festival while the Sabahans will be celebrating theirs – the Harvest or Kaamatan Festival.

I heard that the decor at this megamall in town is up and it is very nice so I made it a point to drop by and have a look…

Gawai decor 1

It certainly is very well done…

Gawai decor 2

…don’t you think?

The brass gongs sure look like real…

Brass gongs

…but of course, the sape

Sape

…isn’t anything like the real thing. This is the ethnic stringed-instrument or guitar, if you choose to classify it as such – the sounds are really so very pleasant and soothing.

They have all kinds of very unique and enchanting musical instruments, these ethnic races in the state of Sarawak and thanks to Sada Borneo who were in the reality talent show recently, many would have been enthralled by some of them…

…including the sape, I’m sure. As a matter of fact, I had never seen nor heard a few of those that they played before myself and was spellbound and so very impressed by the captivating sounds of each of them. Unfortunately, they did not garner enough votes to make it into the finals but at  least, they were the only Malaysian act to get that far in the competition and they did give a lot of people an insight into what’s in store here in Sarawak, musically and culturally, that is.

Back to the decor at the mall, they also have a bit at the entrance…

Star MegaMall entrance 1

…to wish everyone Selamat Hari Gawai Dayak

Star MegaMall entrance 2

They did a really good job for Christmas last year…

Christmas 2014 at Star MegaMall
*Archive photo*

…and the year before…

Christmas 2013 at Star MgeMall
*Archive photo*

…and for Chinese New Year…

Chinese New Year 2015 Star MegaMall
*Archive photo*

…earlier this year too and they have done it again. I must say that they do deserve a pat on the back for their good work everytime.

Vino de amor…

The name of this place…

La Vino

…reminds me of this song…

…which, it seems, is the vocal version of this must-learn and must-play piece of all my friends in the 70’s who were into the classical guitar but it has a slightly different name, the Romance de Amor/Amour.

Well, I did mention in an earlier post that I did not cook anything special over the weekend when my girl came home so I decided to take her out for a special treat instead. We dropped by here once before when they first started but they were not open for lunch then and somehow or other, we never came back.

Of course, she was delighted when I mentioned that we would be going for pizza…

Salmon pizza

…and that one with a whole lot of salmon came at a whooping RM48.00. Never mind, as long as she enjoyed it and she loves salmon, that girl of mine!

We also ordered their potato roestti (RM22.00)…

potato roestti

…with sausages…

with sausages

…to try.

It was all right – we wouldn’t mind the potato a little softer but we thought the bigger sausage…

Sausage 1

…was very nice and we were wondering if they made the sausages themselves as the chorizo-like one…

Sausage 2

…tasted quite different from the ones I brought back from New Zealand but I loved it, maybe because it had a taste that I am more accustomed to – slightly like those at the char siew barbecued pork stalls…and I do enjoy those.

I saw the beef kway teow Reanaclaire had in Adelaide and that reminded me of a very nice one here that I had a long time ago. I don’t think they have it there anymore as the boss had retired and I am not sure if the current people are still whipping up the dish but I vaguely recall having it at another place that I have not been to for ages and was contemplating upon dropping by to see if they still serve that there. Then, I saw it in the menu (RM16.00)…

Beef kway teow

…and wasted no time in placing our order for it. It was good, with lots of beef, nice and tender despite the fact that I did spot a slice…

Beef

…that was not cut across the grain.

We did enjoy what we had – the servings were huge and what we had were pretty good all right plus the service was great. The place was very crowded though and very noisy…and rather hot. I have read complaints about the latter on Facebook and I thought perhaps it was because of its open kitchen concept and their wood-fired oven…

Pizza oven

…was right in front. We had that at the Italian place we went to in Auckland but it was an open place, not enclosed and air-conditioned and of course, the temperate weather there was so much cooler and nicer so we did not feel the heat at all.

Well, if you ask me, as far as the place, ambiance and taste are concerned, I think I prefer the other one.

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?

Hallelujah…

I used to love this song a lot but then everyone in every singing competition was singing it and eventually, I grew sick and tired of it, sheer overkill…though I did think the priest did a pretty good rendition at a wedding service in Ireland sometime ago. Then, just the other day, I came across this Christmas version…

…and it sure gave a new life and a new feel to it and it really moved me…a lot! I thought that was really beautiful and the lyrics tell of the story behind Christmas:

I’ve heard about this baby boy who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn to find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay so in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night to see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said – You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Emmanuel and Savior, Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east to Bethlehem, the wise men three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You and to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh, they gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me, this baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You, that rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah

Like many other festivals and special occasions, Christmas may seem to have lost its significance but I do think that it does not really matter as long as it’s a time for joyous celebration…

Christmas in Sibu 1
*Christmas in Sibu 1 – Helen‘s photo on Facebook*

…a time for giving and forgiving…

Christmas in Sibu 2
*Christmas in Sibu 2 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…never mind that it has been over-commercialised – the giving of gifts to one’s much-loved family and friends is reminiscent of what the Three Wise Men did…

Christmas in Sibu 3
*Christmas in Sibu 3 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…and whatever it is, it’s a joy shared with one and all, never mind the colour or creed…

Christmas in Sibu 4
*Christmas in Sibu 4 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…and that is something very clearly seen in the events held right here in good ol’ Sibu town with the Annual Christmas Tree Decoration at the town square…

Christmas in Sibu 5
*Christmas in Sibu 5 – Helen’s photo on Facebook*

…and the Christmas Parade all over our little town…

Christmas in Sibu 6
*Christmas in Sibu 6 – friend’s photo on Facebook*

…and we can get to see all the people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion, making their way to the town centre to join in the festivities and taking photographs to share on the social media.

There are moans and groans about putting Christ back into Christmas but in my humble opinion, all these would be exactly what Christmas stands for – love, hope, peace and goodwill to all mankind. Let us put aside all differences and not spoil the mood by harping on all those age-old issues – honestly, I do think there is a time and a place for everything and you can go ahead and ruin your own, if you choose but don’t drag everybody else down with you – and share these very special Christmas gifts with one another…

Christmas gifts
*image from a Christmas card*

…and wish everybody…A BLESSED CHRISTMAS…or HAPPY HOLIDAYS, whichever may apply.

Cheers to all, May God bless all of us!

The singer not the song…

I wonder how many of you know her name – Khadijah Ibrahim and her songs. Well, for the uninitiated, she was a very popular singer in the local Malaysian/Malay music scene way back in the 70’s and 80’s, I think and in fact, she still sings…

…though not on a regular basis, I guess, not since she left the country to venture into the food business in New Zealand where she was running her Malaysian restaurant for a number of years. Of course, there’s no place like home and eventually, she came back to her homeland and to date, she is still involved in her restaurant enterprise – Khadijah’s Kitchen, located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor and it seems there is one as well in Setapak. Well, if you remember from this earlier post of mine, she has gone into distributing her special pastes for cooking all kinds of Malay/nyonya dishes as well.

I was saving them for some special occasion like Christmas or Chinese New year but since I had two boxes of this…

Khadijah's Kitchen's chicken kapitan 1

…I thought I would just go ahead and try one first.

The pastes are so easy to use – you just mix with water and boil, add the meat and bring it back to boil and simmer for 30 minutes, no oil added…

Khadijah's Kitchen's chicken kapitan 2
*Oopsss!!! Spotted a typo there!!!*

Isn’t that so very easy?

Of course, not one to follow recipes and instructions, I did add a sprig of curry leaves and one stalk of serai (lemon grass), bruised but yes, it is stated on the box that one can add some extra ingredients to make it “taste even better”…

Khadijah's Kitchen chicken kapitan 3
*I think there’s a grammatical error there*

I even added a bit of milk, two tablespoons, just before I dished everything out and served. Now, don’t you think this looks absolutely gorgeous?…

Khadijah's Kitchen chicken kapitan 4

So was it as nice as it looked?

I would say it was very good…

Khadijah's Kitchen chicken kapitan 5

It looked like the usual curry but no, I did not think it tasted the same – something like a cross between the usual and asam curry or something like that. Actually, it is kind of hard to put my finger on the difference so let’s just say that this was good and anything this hassle-free and easy to cook is sure to get my double thumbs up anytime!

Oh yes, I love potatoes in curry so I just could not resist adding some when I was cooking this…

Khadijah's Kitchen chicken kapitan 6

…and perhaps, I would go all the way and add all the suggested ingredients when I cook the other box.

It’s a beautiful day…

It had been raining quite a bit for a while now but that day, it was bright and sunny, a beautiful day indeed for a wedding.

There we were, all gathered at the church for the solemnisation of the union in Holy Matrimony of my niece, Jessica and her groom, Conelius. As soon as the bride had arrived in the bridal sedan…

Bridal sedan

…the father of  the bride walked her up the aisle to the altar where he handed over his daughter’s hand in marriage to the groom…

Over to you

I love church weddings…

At the altar

– to me, they’re so romantic, so beautiful.

After the vows were made and the rings were exchanged, culminating with a kiss, and the certificate was signed, the couple…

Happily married

…walked out of the church as man and wife.

There was a lunch reception at the groom’s house…

At the lunch reception

…and true to the close-knit communal kampung spirit, the neighbour let the family use their house and compound for the purpose as their own house might not be big enough to accommodate everybody. Usually, at such occasions, the whole kampung would show up to wish the newly-weds well.

Actually, they had something going on in the house after the bride and groom arrived but I did not stick around for that…as I had to go home for a quick nap and get ready for the big event that evening. I was given the honour of being the em-cee or master of ceremony at the wedding banquet here…

At the ballroom

…that evening, you see, and at my age, I had to make sure that I was fully-recharged to last the whole evening. LOL!!!

Owing to this, I was pre-occupied all evening and did not have the chance to take any photographs other than these…

Wedding cake

…that I took when I arrived…

For the toast

…before the whole event started…

Door gifts

Everything went well, I guess, starting from the grand entrance of the bride and the groom for which I had picked this very beautiful song…

…the English part of the song, that is, where the very beautiful lyrics go like this:
Stay beside me, stay beside me
Say you’ll never leave me
How I love you, how I love you
How I need you – please, believe me
In your arms, I found my heaven,
and your lips have done their part.
IL MONDO – your love is all I need in my world
Let tender kisses plead in my world
How could I ever live without you?
IL MONDO – my heart belongs to you – so take it
and promise me, you´ll never break it!
Say you’ll stay here in my arms!

Congratulations once again, Jessica & Conelius and may your lives together as man and wife be filled with lots of love and abundant happiness…and congratulations also to the proud and happy parents on this very joyful and auspicious occasion. Cheers!!!