Fussy…

I was thinking of having some more of the very nice nasi lemak bungkus that I bought the other day so I hopped over to the neighbourhood fruit & vegetables sundry shop in the next lane.

Unfortunately, they did not have any that day. I saw a tray of kuih lenggang/ketayap

…but I did not feel like having those and the steamed baos…

…and pumpkin kuih had meat in them and those sandwiches too…

They had egg but I could jolly well make my own if I wanted that.

I saw these…

…but the lady boss said there was chicken inside even though I could not see any. I was thinking that they added a bit of chicken floss when they made those – they do like to do that at some places here.

I bought the things I wanted and not wanting to give up just yet, I asked the son and he told me that there wasn’t any chicken in the sushi, just tuna…

Of course I wasted no time in grabbing a pack and headed straight home.

I thought they were good enough – I’m not fussy even though we can make our own, just as nice or even nicer. At RM8.00 for a pack of 12…

…I reckoned they were cheaper than at the Japanese joints in town.

I did try adding a bit of mayo…

…but no, I did not think that it made much of a difference. They were nice with or without the mayonnaise.

My girl liked them so I guess I will be buying them again the next time I see any at the shop.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Scones…

The other day, my girl and her mum made these beauties…

…for afternoon tea.

That brought to mind one of the episodes in the Singapore hit comedy series where the very pretentious, class-conscious sister-in-law, Margaret, was going on and on about these traditional English culinary delights and that prompted Phua Chu Kang to ask the mother, “Ah Ma! What are scones?” LOL!!! This was probably before I went to Plymouth in the UK in 1994 but yes, I did know at the time what scones were, thankfully. I am quite sure, however, that I had never tried any before at the time.

If I remember correctly, the first time, maybe the only time, I had the opportunity to enjoy an authentic traditional Devon cream tea was when we were invited to one during our courtesy visit to the Mayor of Plymouth. It was love at first bite, that first time when I had those extra rich buttery scones with clotted cream and fruit jam. I had coffee, of course – all my life, I have always been a coffee person, not so much into tea.

We do not have any place serving that here, not then and not now…or none that I know of so upon coming home, I never had it again. I think I did see some at some bakeries…

…in town and I did try one or two but no, they came nowhere near. Probably they did not use butter and the texture and everything were not quite there. I never bothered to buy any of those pathetic ones ever again after that.

I did see some when I was in Auckland, New Zealand…

…but I did not order any to try and I did not get to try the ones at the English Tea House in Sandakan either but a cousin of mine in Kuching sent me two…

…very nice ones that were just like the real thing that I had in the UK – I sure loved them a lot even though I did not have them with clotted cream and fruit jam and I kept praising them to the skies. Seeing that, my very dear friend, since deceased, went and bought some…

…for me (in the paper bag) so I was able to have another round of those.

I came across this recipe on Facebook and I sent it to my girl but of course, I did not insist that she made some for me. The headline reads, “Teringin nak makan scone? Wanita tinggal di luar negara ini tunjukan cara. Rupanya guna 3 bahan. Mudah nak buat.” (Translation: Yearning to eat scones? Lady living overseas shows the way. Using 3 ingredients, it seems. Easy to make.)

No, they did not follow that recipe that day, my girl and her mum – they used another one that the latter stumbled upon from somewhere else and of course, we were elated that they turned out so so so good…

The texture was perfect – so crusty and crumbly and with the irresistible rich buttery fragrance, it was virtually impossible to stop at just one or two.

I did see them selling clotted cream once at that supermarket in town but no, we did not bother to go out of our way to go there and buy – they most probably do not have it anymore. We just had the scones with butter and the lovely no-sugar-added roselle jam…

…that my sister-in-law made and gave to us.

I sure enjoyed them to the max and the ladies were no less excited over their success. The fruits of their labour had turned out so well and they kept singing their praises. Hopefully, they will make some more sometime soon in the not-too-distant future.

Make it last…

It didn’t last too long, did it? I bought two small bottles of Bovril, the real thing with “high protein beef paste”…

…in May this year and when we had porridge the other day, I finished the second bottle. That did not even last half a year, it seems…and they did not come cheap, RM25.50 a bottle, over RM50.00 for the two.

I never took note of the price when I bought a bottle before but I can vaguely remember that it was always over RM20.00 each. I remember that one time in 2018 when there was a promotion and I got a bottle for only RM26.00…

…and that came with a small one valued at RM10.50 a bottle absolutely free.

Never mind what the price was, it was very difficult getting hold of any when stocks ran out. I usually got mine from one of my neighbourhood shops and when none was forthcoming and they told me about the ones available at a supermarket in town, I finally managed to grab the two small bottles that I mentioned earlier.

Not long after that, I was at another one of my neighbourhood shops and some guy came and asked if they had any Bovril and they said they had. Initially, he was reluctant to buy as they only had the big bottles (470 gm)…

…but since they did not have anything smaller, he bought one in the end.

I was at that shop again not too long ago and I saw that they only had a few bottles left (though there were still quite a number of bottles of Marmite) so I decided to grab one and store in my pantry. However, I don’t think there is any cause for worry anymore nowadays as I saw that they had fresh stocks at the other neighbourhood shop where I used to get mine before and somebody told me that unlike earlier in the year, it is easily available everywhere now, even in some pharmacies in town.

I wonder if they can get it in Australia now – that day when I shared something on Facebook, my cousin in Perth said that it was not available there, the vegetarian version…

– out of stock! The real beef ones have been banned for a long time now, she said – they have always been very strict about food imports, meat especially, Australia and New Zealand. Of course you will not find any beef in the list of ingredients, just yeast extract like in the case of Marmite but I am not too concerned as they have managed to ensure that the taste stays more or less the same.

They are still made in the UK…

…unlike many products that are now manufactured in Malaysia, MILO, for instance and many will tell you that it is not as nice as the Australian ones which, of course, are a lot more expensive.

Nevertheless, I was rather shocked to see the current price…

…these days. Gosh!!! No wonder they are kept in glass cabinets under lock and key in some shops and supermarkets. That is around £5 in their currency or AUD$10.00 – I wouldn’t know whether the people there would consider that affordable or otherwise.

We sure can feel the pinch here and seeing how the expiry date is not until this month next year, I certainly would not be so generous with it when I toss my Bovril mee sua

…or Bovril mee kua/mee sanggul

…or when I add some to my porridge to make it last for as long as I can.

KIM TAK MINI SUPERMARKET is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the left of the parking area – AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) and LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) are located in that same block to the extreme left and KIM WON CHINESE MEDICAL STORE AND MINI-SUPERMARKET is located on the left of the block of shops to the right with Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) and the Bethel Hair Salon at the other end.

Conditioning…

In my growing up years, whenever I fell ill, my dad would take me to see a doctor. To him, a good doctor would be one who would give an injection for instant relief and recovery. Shudders!!! Otherwise he would say that was a lousy doctor and he would never take me there ever again.

My mum would cook porridge for me to eat, mixed with either Bovril or Marmite – those were the days when we were a British colony, remember? She would fry one or chio (ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret)…

…tear the meat into bits and pieces and sprinkle them all over the porridge and there would also be salted eggs as well. That would be my diet everytime I fell sick so much so that on days when I was not sick and we had porridge, I would also feel that I was under the weather. If I am not wrong, in psychology, this is called behavioral conditioning – we studied about this in ELT (English Language Teaching).

I think this went on till my late teenage days when my friends and I would go dancing at the SRC (Sibu Recreation Club) after which we would go to the hawker stalls on the 1st Floor of the Sibu Central Market, opposite the Palace Theatre in between Market Road & High Street at the time, for supper and we would have porridge. I cannot remember what else we had with the porridge, just the plain fried kangkong (water spinach)…

…that we would order without fail. I wouldn’t know if we were so hungry after all that partying or it was really so very nice.

Years later, when I was living in Kuching, after our dances at places like the Jubilee Hall, we would head to this section of the Open Air Market…

…and yes, no prize for guessing what we had there. Porridge!!! LOL!!! Of course, by then, I had got over this thing about feeling sick everytime I had porridge. As a matter of fact, I actually developed a liking for it so to this very day, I sure wouldn’t mind having that at home on some days.

I blogged about having it for breakfast in the early morning here and also, here and it so happened that the other day, my missus said we would be having porridge for our meals. My girl was delighted – unlike me in my younger days, she enjoys porridge very much.

We had this dish of pork belly steamed with long kiam hu (the fermented salted fish) and ginger…

…and my missus also fried some salted vegetables…

…with marinated pork belly…

We had salted eggs…

…too but this batch was not so much to my liking – they were too salty. Thankfully, they were quite edible – sometimes, the salted eggs turned out so horrible, looking like agar agar in a sickly colour and they had to be thrown away.

I had my porridge with Bovril but actually, it would be nice enough with the sauce from either the pork belly or the salted vegetable dish. My girl enjoys her porridge plain, eaten together with the two dishes that the mum cooked but she did not touch the salted egg – I guess she is not into that so much. I did not see my missus taking out her tau ju (fermented tofu) – she loves eating her porridge with that; perhaps she had run out and there wasn’t any in the fridge.

What about you all? Do you enjoy porridge too? What do you like to eat with it? Pig’s blood, perhaps?…

I sure would love that! LOL!!!

Chicken fried…

Come to think of it, we hardly ever cook our own fried chicken even though we may tapao some from Colonel Sanders or our own Sarawak franchise once in a long while to eat at home. I suppose that is a good thing as fried chicken, though the favourite of many, is not all that healthy and we should limit the number of times and not go for those that frequently.

Instead, we often roast our chicken…

We just marinate a thigh or two or some chicken wings and put them in the oven to roast/bake. This is definitely a lot healthier than deep frying.

That day, my girl had some free time on her hands so she said she would do the cooking for the day. She marinated the chicken thigh with lemon juice, a bit of evaporated milk and some rosemary and Italian herbs and placed it in a baking tray, lined with aluminum foil, to bake in the oven…

It turned out really nice and for dinner, she roasted another one of the same…

We sure enjoyed our meals that day.

Of course, there are so many ways you can marinate the chicken – it is up to your imagination. As a matter of fact, even if you just rub the meat with salt and pepper, it will be very nice already as you can get to enjoy the sweetness of the meat.

We have the chicken steamed when my missus cooks her most delightful chicken rice and she also has some stir-fry recipes for chicken for instance, the one with potatoes in soy sauce or the one with ang chao (the red lees from the making of the traditional Foochow red wine)…

Otherwise, we can always cook curry…

…with it or one of those delightful Malay(sian) dishes.

Sometimes, we cook chicken soup with char bee lau (the fragrant root) or with seng see, dong quai and all the rest (at times, wrapped and steamed…

…like how they do it at the Chinese restaurants) or with our traditional Foochow red wine and lots of ginger and everything else…

…like what I did the other day for the mee sua (thread/strong longevity noodles) for my girl’s birthday.

Talking about the latter, I did not cook all the chicken, just the thighs and the wings so we still had some of the meat leftover. The other day, I took it and cooked chicken soup with it in that exact same way. We are not fond of the meat (breast) but the soup is nutritious and we do enjoy that. There was some leftover and I also found a tub of bihun in the fridge, pre-soaked to soften – my missus fried some one morning and for reasons unknown, she did not fry all of it. I heated up the soup and had it with the bihun

…for my breakfast. It was all right but I think I prefer mee sua or even hung ngang (the thick bihun).

What about all of you? How do you usually cook and eat chicken in your homes?

Never like this…

My girl loves sotong (squid)…

As a matter of fact, I seem to notice that she likes it more than prawns, never mind whether it is the seawater variety (pek hay) or our freshwater prawns (chia chui hay)/tua thow hay (big headed prawns) or udang galah in Malay. We had these very regularly way back then, cooked with egg and ginger in soy sauce…

…or masak kunyit (cooked with turmeric)

Unlike now, it was never like this in my growing up years. I do not recall ever eating sotong at home or outside (not that we dined out a lot way back then) or on days when my dad would bring the tiffin carrier and buy food home for our meals from here. Perhaps my dad did not like its chewy and rubbery texture or perhaps, we just did not fancy it so much in our growing up years. That sure saved my mum the trouble of going through the tedious task of cleaning and preparing them.

Yes, we did get to eat the red cuttlefish whenever we had sotong kangkong (jiew hu eng chai)…

…and we so loved the ones at this Malay guy’s stall outside the Lido Cinema – he would panggang (toast) the cuttlefish over a charcoal fire and then he would hammer it till it was totally mashed and we would enjoy it dipped in his own-made chili dip. That was so good but unfortunately, there’s nobody selling that anymore – there used to be those made using machine and of course, they came nowhere near.

Fast forward to 1973, when I was in Singapore – I was renting a room at a flat in the Katong area and I would walk to a coffee shop at the junction of Telok Kurau Road and East Coast Road where there was an Indian/mamak stall. I used to buy SGD$1.00 sotong cooked in curry or whatever and they would give me so much to eat with rice. It must have been so cheap at the time but in Penang in 2011, I had to fork out RM11.00 for ONE, quite a big one, with the nasi biryani that I had. It sure is not all that cheap anymore these days, around RM20.00 a kilo at my favourite fish & seafood stall near my house.

We used to order it when eating out, what they call the salad sotong

…or the sotong with dried chili…

…but I do not know any place here where they would cook it in that same way as my missus, with turmeric (kunyit) and asam (tamarind) along with a whole lot of other ingredients…

…and yes, we love it this way – it’s really good!

It so happened that my missus was frying some banana fritters that morning and she used a bit of the batter to fry some of the sotong

…and yes, it turned out to be really very nice too.

We do not have anymore in the freezer now – I bought these that day for our steamboat dinner but my missus said she forgot to take them out and anyway, we had a whole lot of things already then. Needless to say, I shall be looking out for some fairly big ones at my favourite fish & seafood stall in my neighbourhood to buy and keep in our freezer so we can have these to enjoy again in days to come.

Got some…

Teresa and I have always been in touch on Facebook and I would see all the photographs she shares of things that she cooks or makes and that day, she contacted me to see if I was home as she wanted to send these over…

…for me to enjoy.

Teresa is the older sister of a string of sisters…

…all of whom I taught at a former school (not the one where I retired in 2007) I was attached to in the 80’s. I did join the students’ class trip to their family home across the river…

…once and we sure had a great time that day.

She makes those awesome-looking kim kua koi (pumpkin cake) and or koi (yam cake) quite regularly, so much so that I started wondering if she made the ones that I would buy regularly from the nearby fruit and vegetable sundry shop in the next lane from my house. I quite enjoy those! Of course I asked her when she came and she said no. According to her, she only made to enjoy at home and to give to her family and friends, not for sale.

These were the slices of or koi (yam cake)…

…steamed and deep fried and no, one bite into it and I could tell that they were not the same as the ones at the shop. They were not wobbly, like those commercially available ones, some more so than others – an indication of the amount of flour used in the making. Teresa’s are mostly yam and I could feel the texture of the tuber so it was like eating cooked yam.

She also gave me her kim kua koi (pumpkin cake)…

…which were very nice too.

She did forewarn me that they were not salty as they would prefer it that way and I could tell also that she did not add any msg either unlike the ones sold outside.

Thank you so much, Teresa, and thank you also for taking the trouble to send them over to my house. Much obliged!

Quite good, considering…

In my growing up years at No. 96, Race Course Road at Simpang Tiga here, there was an old lady named Rek’sah (not sure if that is the correct spelling) from the kampung (village). Some days, in the afternoon, she would drop by our house, carrying two huge NESPRAY tins of kuih bahulu, the Malay version of the Chinese kay nerng kor (egg cake)…

…but of course, I would not say they are exactly the same…and my mum would always buy from her for us to enjoy for our afternoon tea.

I think it was in 1980 that we moved away and I never saw nor heard of her since and I don’t remember ever coming across any kuih bahulu again until 2008, I think, when I saw them selling those at TESCO in Sungai Petani. Of course I wasted no time in grabbing a tub and carting it all the way back to Sibu. I gave some to my mum, already bedridden by then, to enjoy and she was so happy to get to eat it again after all these years. Of course, we thought those were not as nice as Rek’sah‘s and hers came in different shapes – I remember there were some in the shape of a fish. Ah well! As they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

In 2014, I was in Bintulu to attend my niece’s wedding and I dropped by the Ramadan Bazaar there. Much to my delight, I saw these kuih bahulu

…and needless to say, I just had to buy a tub home. Yes, I did share some with my mum again and yes, she enjoyed them too.

I have not seen anybody selling kuih bahulu here and I, for one, used to drop by the stalls in the kampung, those days before the pandemic, never mind nice or not nice. That is why we are quite happy to settle for these…

…from that Johor company that produces those halal mooncakes every year as they are quite nice and considering that we do not have any other choice.

My girl enjoys them very much and on days when she does not have much of an appetite, she would just have two of those for breakfast…

…and that is it! No, she is not like the father and does not have a voracious appetite like him, any time of day. LOL!!!

These kuih bahulu are very soft and the texture is real fine…

…unlike those in the past when everything was done by hand, not machines. I remember helping my mum to beat the batter for her cakes using that spring-like thing that went up and down like a pogo stick.

Of course, the taste is different too as these have a hint of the honey in them but on the whole, I would say, they’re not bad and RM5.00 for a tub of 20, 25 sen each, is quite affordable. They do have other options as well, some kind of muffins but my girl said she did try once and no, she did not think they were any good. I guess this is pretty obvious because everytime fresh stocks arrive, the kuih bahulu will be gone in no time at all while the muffins will be there day in and day out right up to the next round of deliveries.

For one thing, they last a long time…

…unlike some of the locally-made buns and cakes, so there is no hurry to finish all of them at one go whenever we buy a tub and bring it home.

Sing my heart out…

These days, they have live streaming at this karaoke pub in London and yes, I’ve been watching week after week without fail even though I would not say the singers are all that good. LOL!!!

Why do I bother to watch then, you may ask? Well, I love singing and I’ve always enjoyed karaoke…

To me, it’s a whole lot of fun even if one’s singing ain’t that great and I do derive a bit of enjoyment from just watching it. For one thing, it brings back fond memories of those wonderful nights at the pubs when I was in Plymouth, England in the autumn of 1994.

I did not venture out at night the first month I was there but I did go around in the daytime, weekends especially, to familiarise myself with the place and I saw that they had karaoke once a week on Monday nights at Bruno’s Bar, a small, dark and unimpressive pub right beside the Prince Regent…

…at one end of Union Street, Plymouth’s red light district, I was told.

Sometime in my 2nd month there, I finally made my way there and sang my heart out, my first time in the UK! The song I picked was this one and I was delighted that they had an excellent karaoke sound system and those Pioneer karaoke laser discs that I liked a lot. The video clips are great and the music is exactly like the original songs so if you can sing the originals, you would be able to sing to what they have on those discs. Besides, I used to frequent a pub in Sibu – they did not have the discs but they had the tracks on video tapes…and I knew exactly whether they would need to lower the key or make it higher and by how much, if necessary.

So how did my debut appearance go? Well, I must say that they were stunned! Obviously, they never had an Asian in their midst before, much less one who would go up on stage and sing…and the deejay said that he expected me to sound something like this – and he started speaking like Peter Sellers as a Chinese character or one of those in the popular TV series, “Mind your language”. Since then, there was no turning back and I was there every Monday, week after week until it was time for me to pack my bags and leave and come home.

I also found out that the mobile karaoke guys would be here at The Good Companion…

…along Mayflower Street (I read somewhere that it has been demolished already) on Wednesday nights and of course, eventually, I made my way there too and it became my routine, going to sing my heart out twice a week. The crowd here was younger and they told me it was because the Plymouth University was close by so they would get a lot of international students from Russia and places in Europe at the pub.

Beer was only a £ a pint there and the exchange rate at the time was RM3.50 to £1, so cheap. Back home in Sibu then, I would have to fork out around RM10.00 or more for a mug of draught beer. This may come as a surprise to many – they did not open till late over there, believe it or not – singing started at 9.00 p.m. and ended by 11.00 p.m.

They had very good singers there, not like the ones in the aforementioned live streaming. There was a guy, Tony, who would sing “Mandy” without fail and a very young plus-sized girl would sing Sinead O’ Connor. I never got to know them personally though, never got to know their names but ever so often, I would meet some young people in the city centre and they would all be calling my name and waving at me and I could jolly well guess that they were “my friends” from the pubs.

My final night was at The Good Companion and the deejay announced that I was leaving and he did not think they would ever have anybody like me coming their way again. This was the last song I sang and everyone took out their lighters (no, they did not have handphones then) and waved the little flame in the air – I was so so touched, to say the least. Sadly, all I have left left now are the beautiful memories at Bruno’s and the Good Companion but one thing’s for sure – they are forever cherished and will always live on in my hearts.

Going back to the live streaming, they also have this one from a place called Two Friends at Key West – if I am not mistaken, that is in Florida in the US. They seem to have better singers there and they sure do have a lot of fun too. Too bad they did not have this when I was in Plymouth – the folks back home would be able to watch me singing live on Youtube. That would have been a blast!!!

Peanuts…

During my growing up years, come Chinese New Year, my dad would order two things through his friends or business associates in Singapore – bak kua (barbecued meat slices) and menglembu groundnuts.

I do not know what brand the bak kua was but I do recall it being wrapped in layers and layers of white paper with its blood red label stuck to the front. The menglembu groundnuts came in a big cylindrical tin, taller than the LARGE tin of Milo and there was a picture of a bearded Chinese farmer carrying a cangkul (hoe) over his shoulder and a bunch of groundnuts in the other hand…

Those were things that we could not get anywhere in Sibu or anywhere else around here so of course, we would look forward to the festival as that was the only time in the year when we could get to enjoy them. Nowadays, bak kua is so common that it no longer draws that much attention and as for those groundnuts, we do have them still but I do not think I’ve seen that aforementioned brand around here.

Well, I was in one of the shops in my neighbourhood the other day and I saw a box of these…

Yes, I bought these a few times before from some other place, one of the supermarkets but I never took note of the price. I was somewhat surprised that it was not expensive – RM12.00 for 36 of these small packets…

…a little over 30 sen each. My girl enjoys eating them and she would help herself to a packet or two each time until it all runs out.

People these days are so pampered, so spoilt – they do not even have to crack the shell to get the nuts out to eat. All they have to do is to open a pack and start munching…

…away and because they come in these very convenient small packets, you do not have to worry about the nuts masuk angin (going limp) while you are enjoying yourself unlike those that come in tins…

These remind me of the packets of peanuts that they would give you when you fly on our national airline…

Actually, I have heard stories of people asking for more – they sure seemed to be rather popular and if you were lucky enough to get some tea or coffee spilt on you, to make up for it, the cabin crew would give you one big bag of it to take home and enjoy.

If I am not mistaken, those airline ones were from Tong Garden but these are the products of this popular brand…

I was quite put off by those people once a long long time ago when I used to buy their menglembu groundnuts quite frequently to enjoy. I noticed this statement at the back of the pack – FOR EXPORT TO SABAH AND SARAWAK ONLY but I could not see the reason why they said that until I bought home a packet while I was in KL or somewhere in West Malaysia. When I compared the groundnuts, those sold here were very much smaller and I was so pissed off. That was downright discrimination and to think that we are all in the same country! I refused to buy it anymore and told everybody else here to boycott it as well.

Yes, they still sell them at the shops and supermarkets but I have not bought any for a long time so I don’t know if they still say that at the back of every pack or not. I most certainly hope not!!!