Puff, the magic dragon…

Would you believe it if I tell you that this song by Peter, Paul and Mary was actually banned on national radio? To me, it sounds like some kiddie song but some smart aleck somewhere interpreted it as having some drug connotations. Well, this isn’t going to be a post about the song or the singers nor is it going to be about dragons and drugs…but about curry puffs! LOL!!!

I love the ones from the char siew pao shop at Kai Joo Lane in Kuching…and they used to sell very nice home-made ones at one of the stalls at Rejang Park. I also managed to buy some from that Chopsticks chicken rice shop that were not too bad either – they sometimes have them in the morning. These would be the baked ones with curry-flavoured meat inside.

I never liked those fried ones at the Malay stalls until I came across these…

Bandong's curry puffs

They do not look very nice, that I would admit…but the pastry tastes good and the potatoes inside have that very nice flavour of curry. The best part, of course, is the fact that they are selling them at 4 for RM1.00 only. I got them from my regular Bandong kuih-muih stall a while back and I kept going back for more. By the way, if you’re heading there too, do not buy those that are selling at 3 for RM1.00. They say that they are more expensive because the pastry is nicer as it is layered, but it does not taste as nice and the sweet potato filling has hardly any curry taste at all.

Talking about kuih-muih, I also tried these the other day…

Bandong's durian serimuka

They’re something like serimuka with pulut (glutinous rice) on the bottom half…and the custard layer at the top is made from durian. Not bad, not bad at all…and you can get those at 3 for RM1.00.

And since we’re talking about food in the Bandong area here, the food stall that opens only around lunchtime is really doing very well these days. It is getting very crowded if you go during lunch break and should you go a little later at around 1 or a bit later, most of the things would have been sold out!

I am not surprised by the good response it is getting as the food is nice and relatively cheap, like these assam prawns that I bought from there…

Bandong's assam prawns

Those were all they had left, so I just sapu habis (swept it clean)…for only RM14.00 – one big bowl of prawns which would cost some RM20.00 a kilo at the market – uncooked. They were very fresh, the flesh very firm and sweet…but I found it a bit too (chilli) hot, though yummy.

I bought these ladies’ fingers for only RM3.00…

Bandong's ladies' fingers

…and together with the sup tulang (bone soup), also RM3.00, that would make a complete mean for 3 or 4 persons…

Bandong lunch

Not bad at all, don’t you think? Value for money…

Isabella…

This karaoke joint has been in business for a few months now…

Isabella karaoke pub

…and everytime I pass by the place, the one-time monster hit of the group called Search would come to mind. I remember the torturous hours at the Spice Bazaar karaoke pub here when all the Amy-wannabes would screech the whole night through sounding like they were being strangled by ghosts (dicekik hantu) or something.

I did not think the song was that great until I came across this revamped version some years later…

The guy conducting the orchestra looks like THE Johari Salleh – some of you may know him from his days with RTM.

Before this, the only Malay rock songs that I liked were “Kamelia” and “Sejuta Wajah” by the Godfather of Rock, Ramli Sarip who was with a band called Sweet Charity at the time…and I also loved Gersang’s “Suratan Takdir” and “Masih ku terasa” (featuring Man Bai who went solo eventually and is best known for his very popular “Kau Ilhamku“). But it was not until “Isabella” that Malay rock songs really made it big in the local music scene.

Then, all kinds of rock groups appeared, crawling out of the woodworks – one of them being Wings with the then very slim and good looking Awie. One of their best known hits would, of course, be “Sejati“. Others include Iklim with “Suci dalam debu” and Spring and their “Sampai Hati“. Maybe some of you have your own personal favourites from that era?

Lately, I have been out of touch with the Malay music scene. Though there have been some songs that I love, I don’t think any of them belongs to this rock genre. I wonder if the Malay pop rock as I knew it at the time, is still alive and kicking….

Oh gosh! Talking about all those Malay songs is making me crave for some sumptuous Malay breakfast. I think I’ll just hop over after this to Peter’s Cafe in Sungai Antu for that old lady’s nasi lemak special…

Peter's Cafe nasi lemak special

Yum! Yum!…..LOL!!!

Breakfast in America…

I had this album on cassette tape sometime ago by a group called Supertramp – Breakfast in America…and that was one of the songs in it…

I won’t be surprised if you’ve never heard the song before and yet you thought it sounded familiar. Recently, there was this group called the Gym Class Heroes that incorporated it into their song: “Cupid’s Chokehold“. But personally, on that Supertramp album, I prefer “The Logical Song“.

Anyway, I was just wondering whether the Americans have something like this for breakfast…

American breakfast 1

Well, when you order an American breakfast breakfast here, this is more or less what you will get. It is RM4.00 at Thomson Corner, opposite Sacred Heart School but if you go at certain times in the morning on Monday to Friday, there is a discounted price of RM3.50.

I had to send my car to some place nearby last Saturday morning for the air conditioner to be serviced, so while waiting, I decided to give it a try…

American breakfast 2

Nothing great, and I particularly did not care much for the sausages they used. I think there are far better ones available at the supermarkets around here but then again, I guess they are probably more expensive. For RM4.00, I would much sooner have something else at the same place or elsewhere.

And talking about breakfast, if you may recall, Stella brought me some condensed milk all the way from Australia – one can of it and some more in a tube. I received a call later that same Saturday from a reporter-friend from the Borneo Post asking for permission to reproduce that particular post of mine in their newspaper. Of course, I gave him the green light…and a while later, he called again saying that there was a problem with the photographs owing to their low resolution. I told him that they were taken using my cheap, old handphone, so if they could not make do with those, then they would just have to look for something else elsewhere…

But they did manage somehow and it came out in the newspaper on Monday morning…

From the Blogging World

Good grief! They printed everything as it was in my post. I do wish they had edited it and removed the irrelevant parts, for instance where I digressed from the condensed milk to talk about the XXXL shirt that Stella bought me. It was all there!!! Anyway, what’s done cannot be undone, so I guess I’ll just have to let it be.

So what did you all have for breakfast today?

Leaves that are green…

“A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe…. What a terrible future!”

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860–1904)
“Letter to A.S. Suvorin”
October 18, 1888

My father gave me a rambutan tree which I planted at the back of the house. I published two posts on it sometime ago- here and another one, here. And my father also gave me this tree…

Tree 1

It was less than a metre high when I planted it beside the house. Like the rambutan tree, it did not grow any bigger for a very long time. Time passed and yet it remained the same size – but it did not die. Some people told me that it was because the ground was too hard. I had bought the house second-hand, so I guess the soil had settled and hardened over the years.

Then suddenly, it grew…and grew. Today, it is very big and though it isn’t much to look at, at least, it provides shade from the afternoon/evening sun and ever so often, it would flower…

Tree 2

– little white flowers with petals so delicate that should you try to cut the stems, all of them would drop off instantly. So sticking them in a vase for display to beautify the house is out of the question. But the flowers give out a very pleasant fragrance that fills the air that may be detected even from far.

Ever so often, I would see little bees and insects fluttering from flower to flower and on more than one occasion, I have found some dried, deserted bird’s nests among the branches.

Tree 3

All things considered, it may not be like one of those impressive and attractive plants but it has its own purposes being there – providing shade against the hot sun, giving food to the bees and shelter to the birds…and above all that, it contributes to the conservation of our environment as it helps balance the eco-system by absorbing carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen.

Yan quoted this African proverb in her recent post:
“When you plant a tree, never plant only one. Plant three – one for shade, one for fruit, one for beauty.”
So, in a way, my father had given me a tree for shade and one for fruit. He did give me a pomegranate (buah delima) tree too and like the other two trees, it struggled to survive. It did not die either – the leaves were sparse and yet ever so often, it would flower – beautiful red flowers and then, it would bear fruit. We did not like to eat the fruits, so they would just ripen and rot and drop to the ground eventually. However, it looked so miserably scrawny and pathetic that in the end, my missus got rid of it…Sigh!

Anyway, talking about trees reminds me of this old Chinese favourite of mine. I used to know how to play the chords on the guitar:

Happy listening, and do have a great week ahead!

Pieces (2)…

I love fish and chips…but what I have had at some places are not really nice while at other places, they may be good but can be very expensive and the portions vary – sometimes, one plate may not be enough for me.

Well, I stumbled upon this at The Marketplace – the supermarket at Delta Mall here…

Fish fillet 1

Yes, it’s fish fillet as in actual or real fish and not one of those boxes of some breaded rubbery slices that they claim to be fish. Inside, you get five huge pieces…

Fish fillet 2

No, you do not need to defrost them; just heat up the oil in a wok and fry them till golden brown…

Fish fillet 3

Of course, if you want them exactly like in the hotel restaurants, you will have to fry your own chips and make your own coleslaw and tartar sauce. The best part is that each fillet is only RM2.00 plus as one whole box costs around RM10.00 or so which is definitely not enough for one plate of that outside where you have to pay much more for just one piece!

They also have a box of mixed terrayaki seafood with prawns, cuttlefish, fish and scallops. I bought one of that when my daughter was home and fried the whole lot for her. She loved it. I tried a bit and thought it was nice too! This one’s slightly more expensive…but only by a ringgit or two. In fact, my daughter took some photographs, but unfortunately, she never got round to posting them in her blog.

And talking about pieces, I’ve always loved Three Dog Night’s “Pieces of April”…and I came across this version by Dave Loggins who actually wrote the song and recorded it later…TWICE but never made it big with it…

Personally, I still prefer Three Dog Night’s version…and all the memories linked to the song that go all the way back to 1973… Sigh!!!

Bad Day…

What a day it was – last Friday! Farrah Fawcett, best known for her role as one of the Charlie’s Angels in the popular TV series in the early days of television in Sarawak/Malaysia, passed away of rectum cancer…

Farah Fawcett

…and then there was the shocking news that Wacko Jacko Michael Jackson had died of cardiac arrest at the age of 50. I’ve never been a real fan of the King of Pop, as he is often called, but I do not mind some of his songs – solo or with his brothers. I think my favourite by him is this very poignant-sounding one: “She’s out of my life” and I feel having his song performed by the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey and the evergreen and ever-handsome Richard Clayderman would indeed a fitting tribute to the superstar…

I’m afraid the song actually starts much later in the video clip at 5:20 as Richard was playing one of his hits in the first part of it…and still, in my opinion, nobody does it better than Michael himself in his original rendition of the song. Even Gloria Gaynor (I’ve the cd where she does a cover of the song) and Josh Groban is outclassed…and that certainly says a lot about the immense talent of The Gloved One! One thing’s for sure – he may be gone but he will always be remembered, immortalised in his songs.

It was on that same day that I went out for lunch with my ex-student, Xavier, as he would be leaving for his further studies the following day. We went to the Ark but were greeted by some disappointing news the instant we sat down. We noticed that the western dishes on the menu had been cancelled and when we enquired about that, the waiter said that the old chef had left…and the new one just reported for duty two days before.

I ordered the mee siam and this was what I got…

The Ark's

@#$%&*!!! That was no mee siam, for heaven’s sake – just some miserable fried mihun. It tasted so ordinary and was extremely oily, especially towards the bottom. Why, even based on the presentation alone, that chef would have flunked miserably! I really wonder what his credentials are…

Xavier ordered the Korean beef rice and got the rice and this plate of kimchi and stuff…

The Ark's Korean beef rice 1

I am never a fan of kimchi, so I did not bother to try…but Xavier said that it sucked. That plate of cucumber was quite all right but was too spicy hot. He also got this plate of beef…

The Ark's Korean beef rice 2

I tried a slice and I think my simple homecooked fried beef with soy sauce, ginger and wine tastes a lot better.

I wonder where the previous chef has gone to… If this is what the new one has to offer, I don’t think I will ever go there again and take my word for it, everybody – all of you should stay away too!

What I go to school for…

Most people would regard me as an old SHS student but actually, I was in St Mary’s Primary School along Race Course Road (now Jalan Awang Ramli Amit) from Primary 1 to Primary 6. It was a co-ed school about half a mile from my house, so I would cycle to school or walk (and sometimes hitch a ride on somebody’s beca or trishaw).

Then I went to Sacred Heart Secondary School, an all-boys school, at its former location along the notorious Mission Road in the town, 1 and 1/2 miles from my house, so going on foot was out of the question. Then it moved to where it stands presently along Oya Road, another 1 and 1/2 miles from the town. Roughly, that would mean that I had to cycle 3 miles to go to school, one way – 6 miles a day and if we had to go back in the afternoon for something, that would be doubled.

I was not very active in the school. Being a boys’ school, the emphasis was on sports and games like rugby and hockey, and I was not into those things. Most of my friends then were from other schools, people who shared the same interests – radio-listening and requesting and going for parties and dances. I remember when I was in Form 2, I joined a singing competition in the school. I chose to sing the Rolling Stones’ “As tears go by”…but I was so nervous that I could not get a single note right and was unceremoniously booted out of the audition even before I finished the whole song! Poor me! My singing career ended before it even got off the ground! LOL!!! There was a Christmas concert and I was in the choir and also had a very small part in the play – “A Christmas Carol” and that was all.

The most memorable event was when a big group of us (led by Brother James, the rugby coach then) from the two Form 5 classes (yes, there were only two – one science and the other arts) went on a river cruise in a wooden motor launch to the Rejang Delta to trek to the Jerijeh Lighthouse (I never got there though! Stopped halfway! LOL!!!) – eating and sleeping and having a whole lot of fun on board.

Back in those days, only those in the science stream could stay in SHS for Form 6 while those in the arts stream had to go to Methodist Secondary School along Queensway (now Jalan Tun Abg Hj Openg) and I was in this block for two years – Lower 6 and Upper 6, on the upper floor…

Old school

I was more active here and took part in debates, had a bigger role in a play that we staged for the Sibu-level drama festival and there were lots of outings, parties and dances like those organised by the Sixth Form Society…and being a co-ed school, there were girls!

I remember Ming Choo and her friends in Form 4; their classroom was in the block directly opposite mine and we all sat at the windows, making signals at one another while the lessons were going on. Hehehehehe!!!! When I was in Lower 6, the girls next door (Upper 6) were very friendly and a whole lot of fun, so I was hanging out with them most of the time, much to the disgust of the boys in their class. I remember towards the end of the year when the Higher School Certificate (HSC) Examination was drawing near, the girls were somewhat emotional about parting ways and were singing this song…

We were having our lesson next door and were quite distracted, so our teacher, Mr Johnson, went over and told the girls, “Very sweet, girls! Very sweet indeed! But we would like to concentrate on our lesson next door.” We had teachers from overseas then – two Americans, Mr Johnson (if I’m not mistaken, he came from the states) and Mr Funk and an Australian, Mr Gregory who taught us Economics.

Ah well…those were the days!

Too young…

I guess most of you would be too young to know this, but the first singer from Sarawak to release a recording in English was Rose Iwanaga and her group called The Avengers, and their first hit from their first EP – an extended play record of four songs – was this cover of Nat King Cole’s “Too Young”….

Actually, if I remember correctly, she was not supposed to be the first. There was another Kuching singer named Janice Wee, but her father passed away when she was expected to go to Singapore to do the recording with The Avengers. So to fulfil their contract with the company, the band had roped in Rose as a substitute. As they say, the show must go on.

Eventually, Janice went to Singapore and recorded her own EP with the Singapore group, The Boys (of Naomi and the Boys), and the best known song from it, of course, would be this one entitled “That one boy”…

I met Rose and the Avengers when they came to Sibu to perform live at the Palace Theatre. In the band, there were two brothers – Peter and Jimmy Ho and a tall guy named James Ong and the non-Chinese drummer, Jalek Zula.

Rose’s father, a friendly man of Japanese descent, once worked at SESCO at the bill collection centre at the Electra House in Kuching. He came to Sibu with them, so I got to meet him and when I was in Kuching in the 70s, I used to stop by the office to say hello.

I only saw Rose again once many years after that first time at some St Joseph’s Cathedral parish dinner that was held at St Joseph’s Secondary School across the road. I hear she is still singing today with some band that performs mostly oldies…but I’ve yet to catch them in action.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I do not think there have been any English recording artistes since then, though we may have a number in Malay or Chinese or the local languages…until this girl who actually came from Miri but later moved to KL, and I gather that she is currently very popular in the US – Zee Avi. I like this one by her but it is not her single, “Bitter Heart” or one of her English recordings…

The name of the song is “Kantoi” and it is sung in a mixture of Malay and English, reminiscent of some of the songs by the legendary P. Ramlee. I find it lively and catchy and ideal for some sing-along sessions. Well, do give it a listen and let me know what you think…

She’s leaving home…

I love this song by the Beatles…and I’ve used it before in my English Language lessons to teach social issues…

It’s about this girl running away from home…and these were the things the parents said:

We gave her most of our lives
Sacrificed most of our lives
We gave her everything money could buy…

…Daddy our baby’s gone
Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly?
How could she do this to me?

We never thought of ourselves
Never a thought for ourselves
We struggled hard all our lives to get by…

Well, the answer lies in this line: “She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years. Bye, bye!” I love the message in the song – that parents in their selfish daily pursuit of material wealth should always remember that their child needs more than that – they need love, especially in their formative growing up years.

My daughter is leaving home today but not in the way as portrayed in the song. After three weeks at home – spending quality time together and bonding, eating or just going for a walk or a drive together, it is time for her to go back to the institute in Sungai Petani, Kedah for the final semester in her 1st year. Next year, she’ll be going even further away – to Wellington in New Zealand. Sigh!

Everytime I look at my wife’s potted plant at my house, another favourite song of mine comes to mind – Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly kisses”

Butterfly kisses 1

I remember I bought the cassette tape with that song at Mahkota Parade in Malacca many many years ago when I was there for a meeting and staying at the hotel next door.  I am sure most of you know the song which is about a father bringing up a daughter – from childhood to adulthood up till the day she got married but anyway, here’s the video clip for the benefit of those who have never heard the song before…

My daughter does not like this song though. As a matter of fact, she does not like any of those parent-child songs where the child gets married in the end as she wants to stay and take care of her parents forever. Well, time passes, things change, so we’ll never really know…

Butterfly kisses 2

As in the closing lines of the song:
I couldn’t ask God for more than this is what love is
I know I’ve got to let her go but I’ll always remember
Every hug in the mornin’ and butterfly kisses…

Makes me wonder…

The other day, I dropped by my regular Bandong stall and bought a packet of Mee Jawa (RM2.50) for breakfast…

Mee Jawa 1

It tasted delicious but was somewhat cold – just a minute in the microwave would go a long way to enhance the overall satisfaction, I’m sure. A few days earlier, I had a plate of Mee Singapore at Balkis but it was a real disappointment. It was just some fried noodles with bits of beef and I think they got it a bit burnt. I have tasted better at a lot of other places.

Anyway, all these names make me wonder as to whether those dishes actually originate from the places in their names or not. Sarawak aka Kuching Laksa originates from Kuching/Sarawak, that’s for sure…and Laksa Penang likewise…or Kajang Satay for that matter. In this same way, Mee Jawa is originally an Indonesian delicacy…but I read in somebody’s blog that Mee Bandung is in no way connected to Bandung or Indonesia. It seems that it actually originated from Muar, Johore. Perhaps, those of you in the know would like to provide further details regarding this?

Well, back to the Mee Jawa, because it was so nice, yesterday, I decided to go back and buy two packets – one for me and one for my daughter – for lunch…but the doting grandfather went and bought this char siew kampua and shrimp wanton (from Lot 10 kopitiam, Ramin Way) for my daughter…

Char siew kampua with shrimp wanton

…so I had no choice but to eat both packets of the Mee Jawa myself…

Mee Jawa 2

Sure am glad that this doesn’t happen every day…but then again, I guess it wouldn’t make much of a difference to my figure, would it? LOL!!!

Now, this has nothing to do with the post, but it so happened that I stumbled upon a cover of one of my favourite P. Ramlee songs – Madu Tiga by some guy called Muhammad Dhani…

Maybe I’m biased but I think his rendition of the song is kinda flat in places and lacks the appeal of the simplicity and sincerity of the original. As for the video clip, I have to say that it is sheer crap, plus it is an insult to people who are horizontally-challenged! It certainly makes me wonder why at this ultra-modern day and age, they seem to lack the creativity and imagination to come up with something that can be more entertaining and is not an insult to one’s intelligence…