Better next time…

I often saw enticing photographs or people blogging about the nasi ulam but I don’t think we can get that here and all the while, I was wishing I could give it a try. It so happened that one morning, I saw Martin Yan on AFC cooking it and it looked kind of simple and I decided to give it a try.

I got these leaves and herbs from my garden…

Leaves & herbs

…ready and cut them thinly…

Cut thinly

…except for the pandan leaves.

Yes, I had a look at somebody’s recipe and she added a whole lot of things such as daun limau perut (kaffir lime leaves), torch ginger flower (bunga kanta) and kerisik (toasted grated coconut) even but I did not have those so I just went ahead and did without them. I should have added some chili though – we always have those in the fridge/freezer, ever ready for use as and when the need arises.

I did have some fish flakes and also some udang kering (dried prawns) soaked to soften…

Fish flakes & udang kering

…and pounded well…

Udang kering pounded

I think I should cook the rice afresh but I had a lot in the fridge so I decided to just use that instead. I mixed some sliced shallots and the pandan leaves, cut into shorter lengths, added a bit of salt and Thai fish sauce…

Rice for steaming

…and put that in the steamer to steam.

Once done, I added all the aforementioned ingredients…

Ingredients added

…and tossed well.

It so happened that my Bintulu brother-in-law came to town for the Ching Ming Festival and he brought us these…

From Bintulu brother-in-law

…it being the bubuk (krill shrimps) season right now, thank you so much to him. I was quite tempted to add the dried bubuk or the cincaluk (fermented krill shrimps) and pound some sambal belacan (dried prawn paste dip) to eat with the rice but I did not and I lived to regret it.

The rice was all right…

Better next time

– fragrant with all the ingredients added but I was pretty sure that the real thing with all the extra ingredients and everything else would be a whole lot nicer. As it was, I think I would enjoy the East Coast delight, the nasi kerabu here, a lot more.

Never mind! I will do it again one day and being older and wiser now, I do think it will be a lot better next time. Any pointers from anybody in the know to help me improve are most welcome!

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Tribute…

The Sacred Heart Old Students’ Association (SHOSA) and the alumni of our sister school, St Elizabeth’s Old Students’ Association (SEOSA) held their combined Annual Reunion Dinner last Saturday, 31st March, 2018 at one of the ballrooms at a leading hotel in town…

SHOSA & SEOSA Annual Reunion Dinner 2018

I was invited to the one last year, 2017, too and I did book a table myself and was there with my family and some of my ex-classmates in 2013 while in 2014, my good friend, Robert, also my ex-classmate, booked two tables and asked us to join him. I think it was in 2016 that they had this annual gathering at the school’s centenary hall and yes, I was invited but I did not feel well that day so I had to miss it…and I can’t remember what happened in 2015.

Anyway, this year, Robert booked a table again and yes, he did ask me to join them…

Robert & friends at their table
*Friend’s photo*

…but I had already accepted the invitation from the alumni.

I do enjoy this annual event as I will get to meet many of my friends including those good old friends of mine from the good ol’ days…

Group photo
*One of the girls’ photos on Facebook*

…and also many of my ex-students, some of whom I would only get to see once a year – at this much-looked-forward-to event..

This year, the theme was “Tribute”…

Theme - Tribute

…and the two former students’ associations were paying tribute to the retired teachers, 20 from my school and 10 from the girls’ school, and for reasons unknown, my photographs appeared in the local English daily as well as the Chinese one…

In the news

Each of us received this very nice-looking plaque…

In appreciation

…in appreciation of our services over the years. Actually, I was an ex-student of the school myself too – from Form 1 to Form 5.

They usually pick the date each year to coincide with the Ching Ming Festival but this year, the festival was a bit later – on the 5th, a weekday and perhaps the dinner coincided with the Good Friday/Easter weekend so probably there were some who chose to go to church for the Easter Vigil and there were not as many tables as last year.

Next year, it will be on Saturday, the 6th of April…and Ching Ming in 2019 will be a day earlier, on Friday, the 5th, (It will not coincide with Good Friday/Easter, on the 19th of April) so if anyone is planning to come back at that time for the festival and also to join the reunion dinner, it would be best to book your airline tickets AND your hotel rooms real early as  they would all be fully-booked as the time approaches.

Mama…

Today marks the 7th Day after the passing of my dear beloved mum…

Flowers 1

She was into her 11th year, bedridden as a result of a backbone and nerve problem that caused her so much pain that she was unable to walk. My father, who was around at the time, decided not to go ahead with the surgery as the risks were high as she had heart problem, diabetes and anything and everything but knowing her for who she had always been, she put up with it all and was always cheerful and got on all right with her condition.

Of course, over the years, it got worse and the pain she was suffering from got more chronic and intense and she was somewhat depressed, especially after my father died and that badly affected her emotionally, her appetite, her physical strength and everything. There were all kinds of problems and ailments along the way…so much so that we are indeed thankful to God above that He has seen it fitting to grant her relief from all that she had endured all these years…

Flowers 2

We were always very close during my growing up years probably because I was the second of her two naughty boys and it was not until 9 years later that my sister came along.

Flowers 3

I was the one in the kitchen with her, doing all the peeling, cutting and chopping, all the pounding…and beating the eggs and the cake batter using that brass thing that looked like a spring and she had me keep an eye on the rice. We did not have a rice cooker then so we cooked that on a kerosene stove, later a gas cooker and I was thankful for that – in 1994, when I was in the UK, we did not have a rice cooker either and I could easily cook the rice without any problem at all – when the other guys in our house in the university campus did it, it would turn out uncooked or it became porridge.

I was the one who would accompany her to the market, carrying the rattan basket and everything she bought was wrapped in newspapers in those days and was placed in the basket which got heavier and heavier as we went along from stall to stall and at the end of it all, we would take the bus home.

I was the one who would accompany her to watch those Malay movies from Shaw Brothers and Cathay Organisation as well as the Hindi movies, the afternoon matinee at 2.00 p.m. I guess my dad was not into those, only the English and the Chinese ones that we would go and watch together at night – he had to work, running his business, during the day from early morning till late afternoon.

I was the one who would go to a pengillan with her, the Malay/Melanau wedding receptions at the kampung, go and nanggok in the stream beside our house with our maternal grandma – her mum, our maternal grand-auntie – my grandma’s sister and her sisters and cousin – my aunties. At the end of it all, all of us would gather around and sit on the floor to enjoy the fruits of our labour. How I enjoyed eating the luit, those little shrimps, still alive and jumping around, with the sambal that she would prepare.

Flowers 4

Of course, boys will be boys and there were times a-plenty when we got on her nerves and pushed it a little too far so we had to be taught a good lesson. Spare the road and spoil the child, so they say. I remember my dad as the sole breadwinner and yes, he provided for us very well all through the years but I do not recall him being the disciplinarian that my mum was but even so, he would just sit there and we would not dare make a sound. On the other hand, despite all the scolding, the caning and everything, we drove our mum up the wall!

She was a superwoman who did everything – the cleaning, the washing, the laundry, the ironing, the cooking from dawn to dusk, the gardening and mowing our massively-expansive lawn with no less than 10 rambutan trees in just one section of it, among all kinds of trees that we had all over the land where our house was sited and yes, she was the one climbing up those trees, harvesting the fruits for sale…and of course, I was there to lend a hand. Shudders! She even single-handedly slaughtered the chickens to cook for us and her chicken curry was simply the best – family and friends would flock to our house without fail every Christmas  and Chinese New Year just to enjoy it!

Come Christmas, my aunties – her sisters – would give us cloth by the yard, not the kind of gifts little kids would fancy and look forward to…and my mum would make identical shirts on her sewing machine for my brother and I in time for Chinese New Year when the two of us would don those shirts like identical twins, not that we looked anything like each other. No, we did not buy clothes from departmental stores then – there weren’t any at the time.

Flowers from Melissa to grandma
*Flowers from my girl specially for her dearly beloved grandma on the 7th day of her passing*

No, I would not say she had a hard life – I do think she found joy and fulfilment in all the things she did and yes, she loved us well. I could go on and on about the happy times, the wonderful memories from all those years – there is so much to remember and cherish and sad though I may be that she has left us, after all those times, watching her in pain, feeling so helpless as there was nothing much we could do other than to comfort her and be around for her and to pray,  I am thankful to the Lord that by His Will and His Mercy, she would have to suffer no more.

Eternal rest, grant unto my mum, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. God bless her soul, may she rest in peace.

Wrong address…

My cousin, the one who would come to Sibu every year with his parents and sister(s), sent word that he would be sending me something for Chinese New Year. The sister dispatched the parcel on Friday via courier service – no, not our national poslayu or poslambat, take your pick –  and tracking showed that it arrived in Sibu the very next day, Saturday. Soon after that, there was an update that afternoon saying that the address was invalid.

I called them but there was no answer so I drove to the place and I found that it was closed. I guess I had no choice but to wait till Monday morning and I was there as soon as they had started working for the day.

It turned out that my cousin did not indicate the lane in my address so they could not deliver it and there was an extra digit in my contact number so they could not call me either. They passed the parcel over to me without any fuss whatsoever and I took it home happily.

Ripping off the layers of thick brown paper with a FRAGILE sticker on  the outside revealed this box…

Toaster

…inside. Oh? I wouldn’t need a toaster anymore now that generally, we do not eat bread as it is not gluten-free.

Opening the box, it looked like I was getting some essence of chicken…

Essence of chicken

…or so I thought. Hmmm…perhaps they reckoned that this old guy could do with a little bit of energy boost especially after all that hard labour I had to go through harvesting my rambutans.

After removing the layers of bubble wrap, I saw this golden seal…

Golden seal

Nice touch! Signed, sealed…but almost didn’t get delivered! Hehehehehe!!!

Opening the box, I finally got to what my cousin had sent me…

Bacon jam

– the bacon jam that I got sometime ago from Phong Hong and out of the three that she sent me, I liked this one most of all. Oh? I noticed that one of the two had whisky in it – gotta try that one soonest!

Thank you so much, Jude and a Blessed and Happy Chinese New Year to you and your dear parents and sweet sisters. May God bless you all abundantly in this Year of the Dog…and thank you, Sabrina, for the very elaborate and meticulous packing and going through the trouble of sending it over to me. All’s well that ends well.  Cheers!!!

Pride and joy…

Yes, you can say that my rambutan tree is my pride and joy especially when it is the sole survivor here out of so many trees in my grandpa’s garden in Sungai Merah a long time ago and some 10 trees or so in our own at No. 96, Race Course Road (now renamed Jalan Awang Ramli Amit). You can read the complete history of the tree here.

I never took good care of it – it did bear fruit regularly but most of the time, they were small and not very juicy and there were a lot of ants so more often than not, we did not even bother to pluck the fruits. It was in March last year that I noticed that the tree was not doing very well because of the wild orchids and parasitic plants growing on the branches so I got Peter and his boys to come and help and it improved by leaps and bounds after that and was growing really well since then.

I did get Peter and his boys to come again one more time to trim the branches that were touching the roof at the back of my house for fear that the ants would use them as bridges to cross over and go indoors. It was already flowering and bearing fruit by then, lots and lots of them but for reasons unknown, many did not stick – they all dropped to the ground, turned black and simply dried up but thankfully, a lot were spared…

My rambutans

I gave a lot away to family and friends and it most certainly swept everyone off their feet. The flesh is thick and crunchy and at the same time, so very sweet and juicy…

Thick and crunchy, sweet and juicy

…and the best part is how it does not stick to the seed and no, unlike some rambutans, the hard outer layer of the seed does not come off with it at all…

Doesn't stick to the seed

However, one fine day, I discovered that those fruits growing closer to the ground had simply disappeared into thin air! I did not see anyone taking them nor do I have any proof so I shall just let it rest at that and will not say anything more about it. Thankfully, there were still a lot of fruits higher up so I was able to pluck those and distribute left, right and centre.

Unfortunately, eventually, only the ones very high up in the sky…

High up in the sky

…were left and no, there was no way I was going to climb up the tree to get to those…

Come and get us!

The only way I could get them down was to saw the branches…

Saw the branches

…and pluck the fruits.

Of course I had to dispose of everything properly and no, I would not burn them in my backyard and pollute the air. What I did was to saw the branches into shorter lengths, short enough to fit into my car boot…

Saw them short

…and tie them up in bundles…

Tied in bundles

…and I would pack all the leaves in one big plastic bag.

Once I was done, I would take them to one of those places with the refuse disposal bins placed there by our municipal council for the public to use and I would throw everything in one of those. I would get rid of the leaves and take the plastic bag home and reuse but more often than not, the twigs would cut slits and leave gaps by the side so in its condition, there is no point taking it home and I will just have to use a new one instead.

Yes, that sure was a lot of hard work so don’t you say that I am badly in need of some exercise – I sure get more than enough of it doing this!

The tree is rather bare now…

The tree

– it probably will be worse once I’m through with it but hopefully, with tender loving care, new branches will grow soon and by the end of this year, there will be another round of my pride and joy…

My pride and joy

…for all to enjoy – guaranteed 100% organic, pesticide-free, no chemical fertilisers used.

Biscuits…

It’s so complicated. Some call them biscuits, others call them cookies and biscuits refer to some other things, quite different altogether. Whatever it is, they all have one thing in common – they all end up in the same place!

Well, this came in the mail the other day, the lovely pistachio nut chocolate chip cookies

From Merryn

…from Merryn, William and the boys, thank you so so much for including me in your mailing list! She said that she would have liked to send me the cute doggie ones but she was afraid that they might not get to me in one piece. Thankfully, these survived the trip pretty well, they were all still intact unlike some that I had received before whereby I ended up eating everything using a spoon.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not celebrating this year but that does not mean that I will not be eating any of the usual stuff that people would normally associate with the festive season like these sago biscuits or kueh bangkit

Kueh bangkit 2018

…as they are called locally, for instance.

Yes, they are selling them at Payung again this year, the homemade ones sourced from somebody in Mukah and the good news is they are going for exactly that same price as in 2016 and last year…

Kueh bangkit 2017
*Archive photo*

…and if you buy 10, you will get one free. These are gluten-free being made from sago flour so my girl can eat them. That was why I bought one tub but before she came home for the weekend, I had finished it all up. Tsk! Tsk! I will just have to drop by again to get another one for her.

Well, these are neither cookies nor biscuits – they’re pancakes…

Pancakes 1

…and there is a joke going round that says that the ones with abs are called waffles.

I used to make them quite a lot but I’ve stopped completely for a long time now as they are not gluten-free. However, the other day, I asked my mum if she would like some and she said yes, so I went and bought the ingredients and made some for her. Thankfully, I could still do it and everything turned out all right…

Pancakes 2

While I was out shopping for the ingredients at a supermarket in Sg Merah, I saw these very nice made-in-Indonesia coconut biscuits…

Biskut kelapa 1

…selling for only RM2.70. I do buy them quite regularly from a grocery store near my mum’s house at RM3.00 a pack. I guess sensible buyers or consumers would usually shop around for the best prices but unfortunately, I am not one of them. After all, the 30 sen difference would probably not be enough to pay for the petrol for me to go out of my way to the supermarket I went to to buy these.

While I was at the aforementioned supermarket, I spotted these (RM3.80 a box)…

Oreo thins 1

No, I am not a fan of those celebrated biscuits but I just thought I would give them a try. With all the Thai characters all over the boxes, I thought they would be made in Thailand but upon close scrutiny…

Oreo thins 2

…it seemed that it wasn’t so.

There were two packs in one box…

Oreo thins 3

…with around 9 pieces…

Oreo thins 4

…in each of them. They were all right – no, they did not get me all excited and between the two, I prefer the vanilla. Personally, I would much sooner stick to my Indonesian coconut biscuits…

Biskut kelapa 2

…with its very nice santan/coconut milk fragrance.

Too much time on my hands…

I guess those of you who are regular followers of my blog would know my daily routine – I would do the gardening till around 9 and then, we would go to my mum’s place to keep her company till around noon and we would go for lunch some place before coming home but of course, Sundays would be send-my-girl-to-her-school day so we would not be following this same routine on that day.

I have not been doing much gardening for some weeks now as I was busy plucking my rambutans, sawing the branches, cutting them into manageable lengths to fit into the boot of my car, packing the leaves in large plastic bags and taking them some place to throw away. No, I’m not done yet – there are still some of the fruits high up in the tree but I came down with a terrible cough as a result of which, I did not get to sleep much all night through and thus, I did not have much energy to do all that. I guess I will just have to leave those remaining fruits on the tree to wither and dry up and go to waste.

Well, since I was not doing all those things in the early morning, I had too much time on my hands…and I decided not to waste it but to put it to good use and cook something for our meals – that way, we could come straight home from my mum’s place for lunch instead of eating out and drinking some iced drink which would only aggravate my cough.

I cooked this meatball porridge…

Meatball porridge

…with our ethnic brown rice and I added some pandan leaves to it while cooking. Once done, I garnished it with fried finely-chopped garlic and spring onions from my garden and served.

I remember how when I was little, everytime I fell ill, my mum would cook porridge for me to eat with either Bovril…

Bovril
*Archive photo*

…or Marmite. We only had those two in those days.

She would deep-fry one or chio/ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret)…

Or chio
*Archive photo*

…and taking the meat of the fish, she would break it into bits and pieces and mix thoroughly with the porridge. I did not have any fish in the freezer that day but there was some long kiam hu (salted fish) so I fried two pieces…

Long kiam hu

…and it is always nice – salted fish with porridge.

My mum would have some salted eggs…

Salted eggs
*Archive photo*

…for me too.

No, nobody ate those century eggs then – I remember my dad was the only one who enjoyed those. I guess the rest of us were put off by the black colour and at times, there might be an unpleasant urine smell and rumour had it at the time that in China, where the eggs all came from at the time, they used horse urine to make them. Of course I wouldn’t know whether there was any truth in that or it was just an urban legend.

We do have some nice ones these days and it so happened that there were a few in the house and I had those…

Century eggs

…garnished with thinly-sliced ginger and dark soy sauce, instead of the salted ones.

I did not have a vegetable dish that day. Usually, my mum would fry thinly-sliced long beans omelette…

Long beans omelette
*Archive photo*

…to go with porridge. We kids were never into vegetables then so I guess with the eggs, it did not feel like we were eating vegetables so much.

The next morning, I took a slab of chicken thigh, chopped it up and cooked our Foochow traditional red wine chicken soup with lots of ginger that I pounded till real fine. I felt like having mee sua that day so mee sua it was…

Mee sua in Foochow red wine chciken soup

…with hard-boiled eggs by the side.

I guess once I get back to my old routine, I would not be cooking all that much so early in the morning – to the most, it would be something that I would be thinking of having for breakfast, that’s all.