Don’t look down on me…

We call this fish bak chi‘…

I do not know its name in English or Malay but my missus would buy it quite frequently a long time ago when she used to do her marketing at the central market but ever since the pandemic broke out, we have not set foot on that high risk place so we have not had this for almost two years now.

According to her, in her growing up years, they would eat this fish all the time for the simple reason that it was very cheap and they all enjoyed it – all of them loved it and I must say that I would agree with them. Don’t look down on it because even though it is cheap, it tastes real good and if you fry it a little bit longer till it is more crispy, you can eat most of it, the fins and all, leaving behind only the big bone in the middle. I do enjoy its crispiness and that special taste along with it a lot.

There may be some of those smaller fish like the kembong and all the rest…

…at my favourite fish & seafood stall but my girl does not seem to like those so I would not buy them. That was why when I saw them at the Malay stalls, I would buy one or two…

…for myself to “buang gian” (appease the craving).

She does like bak chi’ to some extent but they are very small and I cannot imagine cleaning them one by one. That was why when I saw some at the aforementioned stall the other day, I asked the nice lady if she could clean it for me and she said that would not be a problem.

I asked for 1 kilo (RM10.00 only) and got 20 of them, so cheap! I expected her to pass them to her helper, a nice young boy, to cut and clean out the insides but no, she did it herself…and I was stunned when I saw how she simply plucked off the heads of each fish violently…and that was it! When I got home, my missus was delighted that I had bought her favourite bak chi’ and when I told her what the lady did, she said that was the way they would do it, no need to cut and clean one by one inside out.

My missus just rinsed all of them well and deep fried them…

– there was enough for the three of us for lunch that day and also for dinner.

Actually, I dropped by the stall that day to see how the lady was doing. I noticed that usually, the stall was not open lately. For one thing, it had been raining a lot and besides, I did see those warnings regarding strong winds and stormy seas so I guess under such conditions, the fishermen could not go out to sea. She seemed to be doing all right, lots of fish that day and I still have my stock of prawns that I bought from her not too long ago, enough to last till after Chinese New Year so I did not want to buy anything else that morning, other than the bak chi’.

I saw her taking out one of the huge storage styrofoam containers and opening it and I was stunned when she put a packet of this…

…in my bag with my fish. “For you, for Chinese New Year!” she said.

Oh dear!!! I thought that was so embarrassing but she insisted and would not take “no” for an answer. Left with no choice, I just said thank you so much and took it home – perhaps, we shall have that for our Chinese New Year’s Eve Reunion dinner, may the Good Lord bless her and all her loved ones abundantly in the year ahead. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

The fish & seafood stall is located to the right of CCL FRESH MINI MARKET against the wall at that end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada).

Out of nowhere…

Over the years, we have had things sprouting out of nowhere in our garden.

There was a noni tree which probably came from a house three doors away – I’ve seen the tree in their garden. It grew very well and was bearing fruits, lots of them. My missus happily plucked them and made enzyme with them and made me drink. Those of you who are familiar with the fruit would know how smelly it is – the enzyme is not much better. Thankfully, the tree was getting to be too big so I got rid of it. Phewww!!!

I had no idea where the avocado tree growing very near the house came from either. My cousin in Kuching sent me a photo of theirs, a couple of years old and it was so big! I quickly got rid of mine but last year when my cousin and the rest of the family were enjoying the fruits of their labour, I wished I had kept my tree. Perhaps I could have moved it away from the house.

I had a few papaya trees but I could jolly well guess that they sprouted out of the seeds that I buried in my garden, together with the skin everytime I peeled one. Unfortunately, they flowered but there was no fruit, not even one so they too eventually faced the axe.

This watermelon plant…

…probably came out of the seeds that I buried as well but the last time we had any was quite sometime ago – it sure took a long time to emerge.

There are a few small fruits growing on the vines at this point in time but the problem is we do not know when exactly is the right time to harvest them…

…and eat. Unlike other fruits that will change colour or become softer, watermelons will remain pretty much the same. I guess we will just wait a bit till they have grown a bit bigger.

My girl planted these cherry tomatoes…

…and the fruits have started to appear. She did eat a few and she said they were very nice, very sweet and crispy. I’ve never seen this variety before – the fruits are oval-shaped…

…not round.

The mum planted these regular ones…

…and they have eaten the fruits too, also sweet and crispy. These must be the Cameron Highlands variety that I used to buy at a supermarket here except that those were very big, much bigger than these. Never mind, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

She also planted some chili…

…but I am not getting my hopes up too high. I also planted a lot once and yes, they grew really well and produced a whole lot of chilies. Unfortunately, before they ripened, they would start rotting on the inside and drop off one by one. I think I did get to eat one or two, that was all.

They were very successful with their ladies’ fingers and brinjal and kangkong. My cangkok manis that was struggling to stay alive is thriving really very well under their care and at this point in time, my missus has planted some sweet potato leaves too. I planted a lot at one time…

…but they went out of control and we grew tired of eating it so I got rid of them.

Yes, the prices of vegetables (and most everything else) have been going up and up but no, I still think it is a lot easier to just go and buy. As far as planting one’s own goes, I guess it is very convenient to just go out into the garden to harvest and it is a lot healthier too as we do not use any chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Besides, it can be quite therapeutic, being kind of relaxing and is thus a great way to pass the time plus it is in a way a good form of exercise too.

12 days of Christmas…

The postal service here is absolutely atrocious, so much so that many have resorted to sending ordinary letters and cards via courier service, not that it is any better plus it is so very expensive even though it is just within our own country. Of course, it is even worse these days as it has been raining quite a lot here and on rainy days, the postman will not be going round at all. Obviously, he will melt! Tsk! Tsk!

My cousin, Yvette, in Perth, Australia who, without fail, will send me a card every year, was saying that hers must have got lost along the way seeing that I did not say anything about receiving it. Well, thankfully, at long last, the beautiful Christmas card…

…finally arrived on Tuesday, the 11th Day of Christmas. In her own words, it made it just in time, still within the 12 days of Christmas.

This is what it looks like, inside looking out…

…through the very intricate festive paper cutting and just like the one she sent me in 2017

…this one is also in aid of a good cause…

I love buying and sending cards that are in aid of some charity like the ones by the Mouth and Foot Artists. – I do get those from them regularly and of course, I would send them a cheque or pay them online.

Thank you so much, cousin Yvette, hubby Steven and all loved ones in Perth, Australia. I hope you all had a Blessed and Joyful Christmas and a Wonderful New Year and here’s wishing you all Kong Hee Fatt Choy/Qong Xi Fa Cai, a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year in advance.

French connection…

Long, long ago, our lives were very simple. We did not have much of anything beyond our basic needs. Yes, we had bread and buns but I only came across this…

…in 1973 when I went over to Singapore.

They called it “French loaf” and it was hard and crusty. They served it with sup kambing (mutton soup) at the Indian shops or with their celebrated Singapore chili crab at their seafood restaurants at places like Bedok. We dipped the slices in the soup or gravy to soak and to soften and ate.

I only got to know its other name…

…more recently, not that long ago.

The guy at this bakery doesn’t use that name – he calls it a French loaf. I guess if he uses baquette instead, some customers may have a problem pronouncing it and will come out with their own peculiar versions. Have you heard the one about the guy who went to a restaurant and ordered a quiche? LOL!!!

Personally, I feel that the ones from that bakery are slightly harder and a bit more crusty than this one that I bought from here, not like the ones in the good ol’ days in Singapore – those were so hard that it could be used as a lethal weapon. LOL!!! I don’t know if it is available at the other bakeries in town but I sure am glad that these two do not come across as regular bread made in that longish cylindrical shape and are a little bit like the baguette that I used to know.

Now, how do I usually eat it? For one thing, we can cut it into short lengths, cut slits in them and stuff them with whatever filling we fancy to make our own Vietnamese banh mi. but usually, I will just slice it diagonally and toast the slices and eat it just like that or with any bread spread I fancy and not too long ago, I made some sprinkle toasts with it.

The other day, my girl made these garlic toasts…

…for her breakfast. She applied butter on the slices that I had cut, sprinkled chopped garlic, cheese and parsley on top and put them in the oven to toast till the cheese had melted and had turned into a lovely golden colour…

Yes, she enjoyed it done this way.

As far as I know, the guys here get theirs by special order, done the way they like them (I think they come in shorter lengths) for their toasted garlic bread served with their very nice chicken sauce…

They do not cut the loaf diagonally like I do so theirs are round, not so long.

What about you? How do you usually enjoy yours?

Cover up…

Whenever I go out, I will always wear a mask even if it is only for a while, say when I drop by some place for a few minutes to buy something and after that, I will throw it away without a second thought. That is why I keep these…

…handy.

They aren’t very expensive, over a ringgit each and it seems that they are better than those cloth masks that people will wash and use again and again. According to an article that I read, “A study that was just published in the journal, Science, analyzed data from 342,183 adults in Bangladesh and found that surgical masks were 95 percent effective at filtering out virus particles, compared with 37 percent for cloth face masks.

These come in various colours and the pharmacy that I frequent stocks up on those. I was rather amused that day when I picked up a box of blue for myself and a box of pink for the ladies in the house. The boss kept telling me that I had taken a box of pink masks – I guess he could not imagine this old man wearing those in that bright colour. LOL!!!

He himself uses these…

…which he says are good enough to be worn on their own, no need to resort to wearing double masks. According to him, they are manufactured following some Korean technology.

Needless to say, they are very expensive…

…but I can’t remember the exact price now..

I guess they would be good for use at crowded places but no, we’ve been #stayingsafe and #stayingwell, #stayinghome most of the time and we avoid crowded places like a plague. I did buy a box though just in case school resumes now that Sarawak has gone into Phase 4 and my girl will have to go back to her classes of some over 30 pupils each – I would consider those as crowded, no doubt about it so when that time comes, she can put on these masks, one per day.

I did buy the Korean originals too…

…from one of my neighbourhood shops and they are more or less that same price as well.

The aforementioned article mentions that cloth masks are our 1918 pandemic technology, used 100 years ago whereas these days, we have the technology — the high filtration, electrostatically charged, meltblown [masks like KF94s, KN95s and N95s] — and we should use those.

I also grabbed a box of the cheaper Korean ones…

…from that same shop. These, like those colourful ones above, should be good enough for use…

…under normal circumstances.

This article says that with the increasing airborne spread of the coronavirus, it is important to improve the fit of masks and their filtration — making enhancements that go beyond old, loose, cloth face coverings that became popular in 2020. It also says that Omicron is twice as infectious, and an encounter that you could have tolerated for Delta may well infect you with Omicron. Knowing this, it is worth upgrading the protection you get from your mask.

Despite what the so-called “experts” in our country tell us, the article goes on to say this: The best masks are N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. Don’t wear an additional face covering on top of these masks. Of course, the bottom line is one must put on these masks properly. I find it quite distressing to see people wearing them with their noses uncovered…or worse, with them hanging under their chins.

Even when going some place to eat, I will keep my mask on till the food arrives and take it off only when I start eating and I will put it back on as soon as I have finished. Most people will just take their masks off as soon as they sit down…and will put them on again when they are about to leave the place.

As I have mentioned earlier, Sarawak has entered its Phase 4 now since Monday so I guess that means the situation here is presently a whole lot better than months ago. Each day, here in Sibu, there is a single-digit number of cases and hopefully, it will stay that way or better still, if there is none at all. The onus, of course, is on everyone to make sure they cover up (wear masks), observe physical distancing and do not go here and there unless there is a need for it and avoid crowded places at all times. #kitajagakita

It’s been a year…

In my blogpost two years ago, I said that 2019 was “not too bad a year but looking at it now, after two dreadful years, it was truly an awesome year filled with smiles and laughter, so much joy, so much happiness.

I have not been all that well so these days, I do not do that much gardening anymore. However, I can say, in all honesty, that I am getting on all right just that I am now on a low-carb, low-sugar diet and I’m off smoking for good (I’ve gone off alcoholic drinks for years and years now) but I have to faithfully take the doctor’s prescriptions for this and that. Thankfully, my regular test results have been good, nothing to get overly worried about, praise the Lord.

This year, we haven’t been out and about all that much. Except for when we had to top up on our food supplies…

…and basic household needs as well as my prescriptions, we just stayed at home…

…most of the time. We confined ourselves to the shops in our neighbourhood, places near our house…

…that are convenient and not crowded, no traffic jam and easy parking and all and except for the few times when I went out…

…we just ate at home. Surprisingly, time went flying by even though nothing much ever happens, just our usual daily routine.

If the figures they give us daily are anything to go by, things sure have improved by leaps and bounds. Here in Sibu specifically and in Sarawak in general, we only have a single-digit total number of cases each day. Hopefully, it will stay that way even though we may not be completely free of the scourge. Nonetheless, we cannot go back to the way it was – we still have to #staysafe to #staywell, put on masks…

…when we go out, observe social distancing, avoid crowded places and stay home as far as possible, the so-called “new normal“. As soon as the borders were open, a lot of people were going here, there and everywhere but no, we chose to stay put – we are quite happy the way it is.

We did not start 2021 all that optimistically and no, I am not getting my hopes up too high for the year that is to come either. As the new year begins, let us say a prayer for the repose of the souls of our dearly departed, all our family members and friends who have left us last year and of course, I shall go on praying day by day that the Good Lord will continue to bless and protect us in the days ahead.

May He keep us safe always throughout the coming year, 2022…

…and for all it’s worth, a Happy New Year, everyone!

The hope for better days… 

It’s Christmas, 2021 today and for all it’s worth, a very Blessed and Happy Christmas…

…from us…

…here in Sibu to all of you wherever you may be. Joy to the world!

It hasn’t been a very good year, has it? Just like last year, we joined the church service online – we are still #stayingsafe #stayingwell and #stayinghome, nothing much else that we can do other than to hope and pray for better days ahead.

I did not send any Christmas cards this year. Last year, I had some stamps in the house so I was able to send a few to the older ones in my family. I did not have to enter the small and crowded post office – I could just drop them into the post box outside. I can’t do that this year as I do not have any more stamps even though I still have a lot of Christmas cards, the ones that I bought and also those from the Mouth & Foot Artists. Hopefully, by this time next year, I can get back to my routine of sending a card to all and sundry – I must say that I did derive a lot of pleasure from doing that.

I received this Santa door sign via courier service from my cousin in KL and earlier this week, this lovely Christmas card…

…came in the mail from another cousin of mine in Kuching…

…thank you so much to her for keeping me and my family in her thoughts.

And just when I thought I shall not be getting anymore this year, another beautiful Christmas card came in yesterday, the one in the first photograph above, just in time for the joyous occasion. Thank you so much to all of you too, Uncle Paul, Auntie Irene and cousins Sabrina, Imelda and Jude in Kuching. At a time like this, it sure means a lot to know that there are people some place somewhere who are thinking of us and wishing us well.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the 21st of December, it was the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival and everyone enjoyed eating the tang yuan (汤圆), the glutinous rice balls, that is.

I guess most people were having those colourful ones served in sweet syrup…

…and this year, I managed to get hold of a tub at our neighbourhood fruits and vegetables sundry shop in the next lane from my house…

…at only RM3.00 each. I never used to like these as they were always so chewy, so rubbery that they were very difficult to chew and to swallow, so much so that I felt like choking when eating the balls. However, these were really very nice – whoever made them did a really good job. I had no problem eating them plus the syrup had this lovely pandan (screwpine leaves) fragrance and was not really sweet.

At the same time, I also bought these…

…from the shop -the special flour mix and the crushed peanut.

I rolled the flour mix into balls…

…and dropped them into hot boiling water to cook. It is very easy actually – once, you see the balls floating up to the top, you would know they are ready.

I mixed the crushed peanut with a bit of low GI sugar in a bowl and once the balls were cooked, I fished them out of the water and drained them well before dropping them into the bowl…

…and coating them well with the peanut and the sugar.

All these years, somebody else would do the cooking, my late mum a long time ago and later, my missus or somebody would buy some from the wet market – I just ate. Of course I was mighty pleased with myself. I sure did a very good job…

…and everybody enjoyed the tang yuan that I made.

They say these peanut-coated ones are the Foochow version and I must say it is slowly gaining popularity – more and more people are saying that they prefer them like this. There is also the savoury Hakka version but looking at the photos, I am not sure whether I will like them that way, the plain chewy/rubbery balls and other ingredients in some clear soup. Well, if you have tried it before and you like it, do let us know in your comment below, thanks.

Well, New Year’s Day is just a week away. Fingers crossed, our prayers will be answered and our hope for better days ahead will come true! Let us pray!

Sprinkle…

A long time ago, I had some bread in the house, a few slices of a sandwich loaf but I did not have any peanut butter, fruit jam or kaya (coconut jam) and I did not feel like boiling or frying some eggs to make an egg sandwich…

I could remember what my mum used to do in my growing up years. She would toast the bread, apply butter to it and sprinkle some sugar on top for us to eat it like that and yes, I could recall how we used to enjoy that. I decided to do that exact same thing that morning after which I took some photographs and shared them on my Facebook page.

I did not expect the excitement that ensued. Many of my family members and friends commented that they grew up eating that and loved it so much, adding that they had not had it for a long time so they couldn’t wait to rush out to buy some bread and make that for themselves. That certainly took me by surprise as I thought we were the only ones eating that as the last resort when there was not much else in the house.

Well, the other day, I bought a baguette/French loaf from a bakery in town, thinking that my girl would want to make some banh mi

…for our Vietnamese dinner that day on my birthday. It turned out that she did not tell the mum so they did not prepare any ingredients for the sandwich. In the end, we just did without that and had slices of the loaf for our breakfast or tea.

There were a few slices left and I decided to make some sprinkle toast with them. I stumbled upon this guy’s blog where he was describing how his sister, Molly, did hers which was exactly like what my mum did and what I did as well that previous time. I did it differently that day and it turned out that that was exactly what that guy did! I just applied a generous layer of butter to each slice, sprinkled a lot of low GI brown sugar on top and put the slices in the oven to toast.

It sure turned out really well…

The toasted bread was hard and crusty, very fragrant and the melted butter and sugar on it…

…sure brought the taste to a whole new level, simple but nice!

Of course, I only had one slice myself. Never mind that the sugar was low GI, sugar is sugar and now that I am on a low-sugar diet, I should not be eating a lot of that. I thought it tasted great and I sure wouldn’t mind another slice or two. Sighhh!!! In the end, I just left it to the ladies in the house to finish them off.

Yes, I have seen them selling this at the bakeries in town, probably made using the unsold bread that they are stuck with. There must be people buying or they would not have bothered. I never bought any, of course, as I am sure they only use some butter substitute or margarine, not real butter and needless to say, they wouldn’t be all that generous with the sugar.

Receive…

I did mention in my blogpost on my birthday the other day that I received some presents from my in-laws and those included this tin of cookies…

…which turned out to be a special Cozy Winter Cookie Collection.

Initially, I thought it was just another brand of butter cookies but when I sat down and opened it that day for our afternoon tea, I realised that inside, there were these delightful brown sugar and cinnamon cookies…

…in some very appealling festive shapes such as the Christmas tree…

…or the present tied with a bow…

…and the Christmas wreath…

They tasted great with their very nice cinnamon fragrance but they were sweet. I had to limit myself to one or two only in one sitting so they probably would last for quite sometime, right up till Christmas, perhaps.

I also got something couriered from KL…

…from my dear cousin there for Christmas

Gosh!!! That was so very sweet of her to send us this cute Santa door sign…

All these years, I had been sending Christmas cards to family and friends but last year, I only sent to the older ones in my immediate family and I am sitting this year out. The post office that I usually go to is VERY small, air-conditioned and often packed with people. I don’t fancy the idea of going in there to buy the stamps and stick them onto the envelopes and mailing the cards, not at this time when we should be #stayingsafe and #stayingwell.

In the meantime, I also received two of this ngor hiang/lor bak (meat rolls)…

…from my friend, Teresa, who gave me her or koi (deep fried steamed yam cake) and kim kua koi (deep fried steamed pumpkin cake) not too long ago, not once but twice and this time around, she showed up at my gate to pass me the aforementioned and also quite a few of her sio bee (meat dumplings)…

I saw on her Facebook page that she was making these for sale so of course, I offered to pay her for them but no, she would not hear of it. She said those were some leftovers, unsold and she chose to give them to friends as it would be a blessing to give and to share – like what I have always said, “As thou giveth, thus shalt thou receive!”

Thank you, one and all. May God bless you all abundantly always.

Why you wanna settle for less…

My missus went and bought this freshly-made mee pok (flat noodles)…

…to keep in the fridge to cook and eat slowly, bit by bit.

So far, I’ve been buying the factory-made mee pok or mee kua

…packed and sold in flimsy plastic bags and more recently, I bought these mini-rolls…

…that came in a more impressive-looking packaging.

I took some of the noodles my missus bought to cook for my breakfast one morning and much to my surprise and delight, I found it a whole lot nicer than those factory-made dried ones. That was why the other morning, I decided to cook it again and as always, I started off by frying some sliced shallots till golden brown…

…and taking them out of the oil. That is to get the fragrant shallot oil for tossing the noodles later (lard may be used, if one so desires) and for the fried shallots that will be used for garnishing. I took them out first as they might turn soft and soggy if tossed with the ingredients.

I added a teaspoon of Bovril and dark soy sauce and half a teaspoon of msg (if you watch the people at the shops, they will add one teaspoon full, scooped)…

You may add a bit of chopped spring onion and a generous sprinkling of pepper as well.

I boiled the noodles till cooked, rinsed them under running water to wash away any excess starch, added some hot water and brought it to boil before draining the noodles well and tossing them with the aforementioned ingredients in the pan. Finally, I served the noodles in a plate…

…garnished with the fried shallots and more chopped spring onions.

I guess this is suitable for vegetarians as the Bovril these days…

…is yeast-based (like Marmite), no beef in it and anyway, it may be omitted – just use dark soy sauce on its own, and any other kind of noodles may be used instead if one is not into those with eggs used in making them, hence the slightly yellowish colour.

Indeed, it is very much nicer than those factory-made dried ones, cooked this same way, and I would not be surprised if these are cheaper too – around RM3.00 for a bag of 1 kilo, I think, while those dried ones may go up to RM10.00!!! So why would anyone want to pay more and settle for less, you may ask?

One kilo is actually a lot, probably enough for 10 plates whereas if you go some place outside, ONE plate like this…

…will set you back by at least RM3.00 already but with those few thin slices of meat.

The only drawback is if I buy the uncooked fresh noodles home for more or less that kind of money, I would have to eat it most every morning to finish it all off quickly as they may not last like forever even when we keep them in the fridge and besides, I will see it every day staring at me in the face and that, for sure, will trigger off my OCD. LOL!!!