The passenger…

Tumpang in Malay means to hitch a ride or get a lift from somebody and as I was browsing through some blogs, I came across something called nasi tumpang.

According to Wikepedia, it is a rice dish that originates from Kelantan comprising rice with different layers of dishes wrapped in a cone shape with banana leaf. Traditionally, it was the staple food for travellers or farmers in Kelantan to bring to work. I guess if I eat that, I would be the penumpang then, the passenger. LOL!!!

Jokes aside, I noted that it was available here , formerly known by a different name, and since my girl was in KL at the time, staying around there, I asked to to buy one home for me to try and she got me two…

Upeh nasi tumpang

…one fish (RM9.00) and the other, prawn (RM10.00).

I tried the fish one first…

Nasi tumpang, inside

I guess the rice was pressed into the cone so it was something like ketupat or nasi impit which I rather like so I did not have a problem with that.

The fish…

Nasi tumpang, fish

…was nice – I don’t know exactly what fish it was, probably ikan tongkol but yes, I liked it. However, when eating it, one would have to be careful with the bones…

Nasi tumpang, fish bones

I did come across a piece of tauhu pok (tofu puff) in it as well but it was the serunding

Nasi tumpang, serunding

…in the lower part of the cone that I enjoyed a lot. I think it was shrimp, I’m not too sure – in the aforementioned article, it said beef or fish.

I had tried the prawn one as well but I think I would prefer the fish – I thought it tasted better. There were two small prawns in it and a stamp-sized piece of egg/omelette. The serunding part was the same as what was in the one with the fish.

My girl saw something online about them having nasi tumpang here as well that would be nicer than the ones that she bought for me but she went twice – the first time it was not available and the second time, it was not ready. In the end, she just gave up and settled for this one instead. Too bad I did not get to try that other one – it does look nicer in the photographs in that blog.

I wouldn’t say it swept me off my feet though. It did not stand out as something unique or special that is quite different from anything and everything else like the Kelantanese nasi kerabu or laksam  but at least I’ve tried and I know what it is now.

I did tell my girl to go and look for gluten-free products while she was there to buy and cart home and yes, she was thrilled to see a lot of what she wanted, so much so that she was on the verge of tears, tears of joy, that is.

This was one of the many…

Australian-made Yes You Can gluten-free product

…that she managed to get hold of and she used that to make her own pizza…

Melissa's gluten-free pizza

…enough for just two pieces of this size. It was very nice and all of us enjoyed it very much. She had not had pizza for a long long time but thankfully, we can get this gluten-free spaghetti here…

Gluten-free spaghetti

…and the other day, the nice Payung Café boss, Peter, gave her some of his mushroom pasta sauce and she was able to enjoy it with the aforementioned pasta…

Gluten-free pasta with mushroom sauce & bacon

…adding her own bacon to it. Unfortunately, what we can get here is few and far between, nothing much really…and knowing that the budget airline is rather strict with the baggage allowance these days, I told her not to get me anything while she was in KL.

Yes, the mum did bring home a whole lot of edibles from here, there and everywhere but it was my girl who bought some croissants from Lavender and these…

M&S all butter biscuits and shortbread fingers

…specially for me, knowing how I love those M&S all butter biscuits and Scottish shortbread as well. Isn’t she so very thoughtful and sweet?

I remember in 1986, when I was in KL for a year, I used to grab the Scottish shortbread from their sole outlet at Bukit Bintang Plaza, so many different kinds in all shapes and sizes going for only RM2.00 a pack when the expiry dates drew near. Then, there was none available for a long time.

Personally, I did not like any of their other biscuits until they came out with those all butter ones so of course I was delighted to get those as well. I am nibbling them very very slowly, bit by bit, to stretch them for as long as I can! LOL!!!

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You can count on me…

Last Saturday, the 2nd of December was my 65th birthday.

We had to attend my girl’s coursemate’s wedding at the cathedral in the morning and the banquet at a leading hotel here that evening so I did not think I would have time to cook anything for my special day.

I remember I had the best mee sua I ever had here for Andy’s birthday so I decided to ask if they could cook that for me for lunch that day insisting that I would pay for everything, of course. They responded right away saying that they would love to do that for me and give me a real special treat on my birthday. I was pretty sure that I could count on them and yes, I was right!

So there we were that afternoon…

Payung Cafe reserved for birthday boy

…for the mee sua.

They even gave us a bottle of the traditional Foochow red wine…

Payung Cafe extra Foochow red wine

…for us to add should we feel like it and of course, there were the eggs…

Payung Cafe birthday eggs

…to go with the mee sua

Payung Cafe birthday mee sua 1

…and yes, it was really so very good…

Payung Cafe birthday mee sua 2

…and all of us had our fill.

We did not expect this but when we were done, we were  served my girl’s favourite ice cream here, the one with the kahlua coffee liquer…

Payung Cafe kahlua ice cream

…and when we were leaving and wanted to pay for everything, they simply refused to accept anything and insisted that it was their pleasure to be able to celebrate my birthday for me. I understand they do this everytime a member of the staff celebrates his or her birthday and they did cook enough that day for everyone to enjoy too – Andy loves our Foochow mee sua with lots of the red wine!

Well, it so happened that my missus did order a cake from Marcus…

Birthday cake from Marcus

…for my birthday to be collected that afternoon from his house at 6B, Lane 3, Delta Estate (2.305337, 111.826342) and she ordered an extra one…

Cheese cake from Marcus

…thinking that her niece, the one working in Singapore, would be home for the weekend and she wanted to give it to her but it turned out that the jet setter had taken off for Shanghai and would not be back. We decided to give it to the wonderful people at Payung Café instead to thank them and to reciprocate for all that they had done for me on my birthday and in appreciation of all that. That evening, on our way to the wedding banquet at the hotel behind the café, we stopped by to pass the cake to them.

I must say I had a great day, and thank you so much also to all for your good wishes on Facebook and via smses and calls – with that many blessings from one and all, I bet the year ahead will be a really awesome one. Cheers!!!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River

In full bloom…

It did bloom a few times a long long time ago like here, for instance, and after 7 years, it bloomed again in January this year and a few more times after that. I think this was the fourth time this year, that night on the last day of Ramadan, approaching midnight on the 1st Day of Syawal…to usher in the auspicious Muslim festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

It started at around 9 something…

9.00 p.m.

…and by around 10, it was still in the process of blooming…

10.00 p.m.

…and even by 11, it had not fully bloomed…

11.00 p.m.

…yet but it was already way past my bedtime and I was dead tired and very sleepy already so I just decided to call it a day.

There was another bud…

Bud

…but it did not bloom together with the one aforementioned and when it did so the following night, I did not bother to wait for it and had gone to bed early.

Well, if you are wondering, no, all those times when the flowers bloomed, I did not have any windfall unlike what some people would insist – that when they flower, one would be sure to win at one of those lotteries.

It so happened that a friend of mine has that same plant and it also flowered that same night and he PM-ed me a photo of his via Facebook…

Friend's blooms

…and he had two blooms at one go and maybe a third or maybe that one at the back would bloom the following night too…and no, he did not strike it rich either.

All good…

If you’re wondering how my rambutan tree is at this point in time, it’s doing really well, growing bigger…

Rambutan tree

…and sprouting new branches everywhere…

New branches

I’m taking better care of it now, watering it every day instead of just leaving it to survive on love and fresh air and of course, there is the regular weeding to be done and  I will trim the branches on the right so they will not touch the (roof of the) house lest there will be ants crawling over, those unwelcome guests.

I am also trying to make that little corner…

The little corner

…in my front yard a little bit more presentable. My friend gave me a whole lot of this spider plant…

Spider plant

…and I planted some there as well…

Periwinkle and the rest

That periwinkle on the right appeared out of nowhere in one of my flower pots so I moved it there and this plant…

Purple flowers
*Photo taken using my cheap antique handphone camera*

…keeps growing out of the cracks in my driveway but it is very hard to transplant because when I pull it, the roots will not come out together with the rest of the plant. I did manage to get some and transplanted them at a much nicer place in my garden and yes, they are doing well too. I planted this one in a cute little flower pot in the house but it did not seem to do too well – it flowered once, just one flower and it was very small and that was it. Since I transplanted it here, it does seem to be doing well and finally, it started flowering the other day.

I’ve also sawn away all the trunks of my curry leaf plant except one so it would look neater and that one would be more than enough for our regular supply of curry leaves as and when needed. I saw it at a supermarket the other day, withered already and selling for RM1.90 a kg and at another supermarket, I saw around 8-9 springs in  a long plastic pack going for RM1.00! Good grief! My friend said she would want to plant her own as well so I transplanted some seedlings in a pot…

Curry leaves transplanted

…though I do not know right now if they will survive or not. I had three serai (lemon grass) cluster and they went out of control so I got rid of two and even with the one left, I would have to trim it regularly to make sure it behaves…and I moved one of my pots of aloe vera there to fill up the vacant space in front.

My missus went and planted these yellow flowers…

Yellow flowers

…at the plot where the lily is and they are absorbing all the fertility in the soil – the poor lily is getting thinner and thinner and it has flowered once only so far, and the blooms were somewhat small. I keep pulling out the seedlings of these yellow flowers and throwing them away, and yes, I’ve planted some at the corner lot as well.

My missus, for reasons unknown, got rid of my old Thai basil plant and replanted some cuttings that she was soaking in water for sometime…

Missus' Thai basil

…but they do not seem to be growing at all. Perhaps in time, they will flourish; I’ll just have to wait and see. I took two cuttings from the discarded plant and poked them into the soil in between some bricks and just look at them now, here…

My Thai basil 1

…and here…

My Thai basil 2

…but no, I think I will let them grow a bit bigger before I start plucking and adding them in my cooking.

I wonder if the location makes a difference or not – the kunyit (turmeric) my missus planted a long time ago somewhere in the middle never grew and we did try digging it up a few times but no, there was nothing that we could use. I transplanted it to the side to make way for my ulam raja plants and just look at it now…

Kunyit

I am pretty sure there would be a lot underneath the soil but we have yet to find out.

Talking about my ulam raja

Ulam raja flower

…I still have some left after getting rid of quite a lot to make way for my chili but unfortunately, not long after the seedlings appeared, quite beautifully, the pests got to the leaves and ate them all up. I was collecting the seeds and the seedlings of the ulam raja to give to friends so right now, they are pretty much under control. At one time, they were sprouting out anywhere and everywhere.

I must say I am enjoying myself and at least, I do get to exercise a bit and sweat a lot every day.

So sharp…

If you have been a faithful follower of my blog, you probably would remember this curry leaf plant of mine with one branch reaching up high into the sky

Tall branch
*Archive photo*

…like a coconut tree. A friend of mine gave me a German-made saw and all this while, I had been sawing off the branches including the one aforementioned but eventually, the plant looked quite untidy with stumps sticking out north, south, east, west…left, right and centre and I did let a few branches grow up high as well.

I got really put off by the fact that the leaves would get all spotted like the plant had some kind of ghastly infection or disease or something…

Infected curry leaves
*Curry leaf tree outside one of the teachers’ quarters at my girl’s school*

…so I would cut off those sprigs while the branches keep growing. I thought it would be easy to get those fresh leaves at the top but that day, my missus said that she could not bend the branches so she had to do without the curry leaves in her creamy butter prawn dish. Hmmm…she could have asked me to go and get some for her but she didn’t.

In the end, I decided to get rid of those tall branches as many of the leaves were spotted as well, anyway. I am not worried that there will be none left for us to use in our cooking as the new leaves would appear in no time at all…

Curry leaves
*Archive photo*

…and this time around, I used this new saw…

MR DIY garden saw 1

…that I bought from a MR DIY outlet here…

MR PIY garden saw 2

I can’t remember how much I paid for it but it was not expensive, in the region of RM14.00 or somewhere around there, I think.

It was so sharp and I really love using it so much. Honestly, I do think it is worth every sen that I paid for it. I can very easily cut through any branch, never mind how thick it is and just look at the clean cut it made…

MR DIY garden saw, clean cut

Nice and neat, eh? I was never able to do that with the saw I had because it was really big and often, I could not get the right angle and had to go in any direction and at times, I would run out of patience and halfway through, I would just break the branch instead of sawing it till the end.

It still needs a lot more work though…

Curry leaf plant today

…but I will just do it slowly, a little at a time. Elderly people like me should not over-exert ourselves – there have been cases of some dropping dead while working on something or playing a game, touch wood!

In the meantime, new leaves have started to appear…

New curry leaves

…and I am spraying them with this organic pesticide and so far, it seems to be working pretty well. We do not need that many, anyway, so even if the spots do show up eventually, there would be a few sprigs that are spot-free and we can use those…and the next time around, my missus would not have to bend down some tall branches to get the fresh leaves at the top, not anymore.

Rescue me…

My rambutan tree…

My rambutan tree BEFORE

…had not been doing very well for a while now. If you are interested in its history, you can read all about it here. It did flower and bear fruit towards the end of last year but sporadically. The fruits were few and far between and besides, they were small, not fleshy nor juicy and sweet so we did not even bother to go and pluck them – we just left them there to wither and turn black and drop off the tree.

How did it turn out this way, you may wonder? Well, for one thing, it had been sadly neglected, terribly in need of fertilisers, surviving solely on the sunshine and the rain and another reason was that there were all the wild orchids…

Wild orchids and other parasitic plants

…and parasitic plants growing on the branches, absorbing all the moisture from them, drying them all up and choking them to death. I did try to get rid of some, the ones closer to the ground but my missus would not let me climb up the tree. “The branches are all so brittle,” she said, “and you are so fat! They will break the instant you step on them.”

It would be so sad to just let it die as it is the sole survivor here, the only one left but my paternal cousin in  Miri did tell me once that they had one tree there, from my grandfather’s fruit garden in Sg Merah here a long long time ago so if we include that one, there are only two left of this very nice and really special variety of the fruit.

I was absolutely delighted last Sunday morning when Peter (If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you would know which Peter I’m talking about) brought his boys to my house to help get rid of those plants on the tree…

The boys at work

and saw away the branches that were dead and gone…

Sawn branches

…not just to get rid of them…

Dead branch

…but also to trim the tree a bit in the hope that this would encourage the growth of fresh new branches.

They even painstakingly scraped away the green moss on the branches…

Scraped branches

They said that it would be as bad as the plants and would kill the branches as well.

This is what the tree looks like now…

My rambutan tree AFTER

The foliage is not as thick as before and the sun can come shining through so it is no longer as dark and damp under those leaves anymore, conditions ideal for the growth of this wild orchids and parasitic plants as well as the green moss.

Thank you so so so much, Peter and the boys – I certainly would not be able to manage without your help. After this, I will have to do a little bit of weeding under the tree and dig the soil to add fertilisers and what not in the hope that the tree will be looking really good again…and fingers crossed, it will bear fruit in abundance come the end of this year!

The other man’s grass…

The other man’s grass is always greener, the sun shines brighter on the other side.

The first time I had to fly to Langkawi on a working trip, a friend said to me, “You must buy the Kit Kat there!”

“Oh?” I responded. “Don’t we have lots of Kit Kat in our shops and supermarkets?”

“Theirs are imported,” she explained, “from Australia. They are creamier and very much nicer.”

Of course, I had to buy some but blame it on my retarded taste buds, I could not tell the difference and I would say that like our own locally manufactured products, not all imported stuff is necessarily good or better. For instance, the other day, my girl bought two packs of the imported Nice biscuits and two of the Teddy bear ones (that looked more like a lion to me) for me to enjoy. The expiry dates were drawing near so they were going for around RM4 something instead of the usual over RM7.00-8.00 each. They were all right but I do think our own Tiger biscuits are nicer though looking at the prices these days, they may not necessarily be cheaper than these discounted prices.

Of course, many have tried coming out with their own – here or in other countries overseas but none would come near those Kjeldsens Danish butter cookies and I do love those Scottish shortbread so much but unfortunately, I can’t afford to buy those to enjoy anymore these days. My eyes almost popped out at one supermarket that day – a regular-sized pack was going for over RM30.00! *faints*

It’s the same with these digestives…

Digestives

– this particular brand. I’ve tried others but somehow, they are simply not quite there. Not too long ago, I bought what looked quite the same, a bigger pack, but they were really horrible like they had gone all limp and the original taste was not there at all. I did not check to see where they were made but my girl could recall there were some Mandarin characters on the pack. But these came all the way from the UK and they are good and even at over RM9.00, I would buy once in a long while to enjoy.

They are only £1 in the UK…

One pound special

When I was there long ago, I used to look for these special offers – the ones selling at the regular prices were not quite within my budget, especially after converting them into our miserable ringgit. That should be over RM5.00 here but I guess those people would need to make a bit of profit after deducting the shipping charges, the overheads and all.

I am not a fan of ginger cookies but I do enjoy these…

Ginger nuts

…also from the UK…

From the UK

…going for around RM4.00 only so I would buy them sometimes to enjoy.

Then, the other day, I saw these…

Ovaltine biscuits

…and I decided to buy a pack to try, just over RM3.00 each!

I can recall during the British colonial days, people used to argue as to which one was better – Milo or Ovaltine. I don’t think I’ve seen the latter anywhere these days, just Milo…and I hear many complaining that it is not so nice anymore, nothing like what it was like in the good ol’ days when it was imported from England.

I checked the pack and found that it was not made in Malaysia…

Made in Thailand

…but in our neighbouring country.

I am not fond of biscuits with cream filling including those overly-sweet black ones with white filling, though I would not mind our Malaysian-made cheese crackers with peanut butter cream inside. To my delight, the filling in this one…

Ovaltine biscuits 1

…was so very nice. I absolutely love it! I wonder if that was the same as what I got from my Singapore friend sometime ago. I did try the other one and it was very nice and in the meantime, my sister saw something shared by somebody on Instagram or somewhere and he insisted it was nicer than Nutella so she asked me for it to try. Well, if it is the same, I would say it is really nice.

No, I will not be rushing out to grab a bottle – it is not available here, anyway but I sure wouldn’t mind buying some more of the biscuits…

Ovaltine biscuits 2

…but not that often. They are not really sweet but still, they are sweet and people my age should not be eating too much of those, everything in moderation.

I guess it’s like going some place to eat – not everywhere here or overseas will be good, we just need to know where to go and it’s the same with these biscuits/cookies. Most of the imported ones are a lot more expensive, of that we can be sure, but they are not necessarily nice(r) and on the other hand, we do have some usually more affordable and very nice local-made ones.

As the remaining lines of the chorus of that song in the above link go:
The other man’s grass is always greener
Some are lucky, some are not
But just be thankful for what you’ve got !