This is for you…

My ex-student, Tham, shared on Facebook a photo of the serunding (meat floss, chicken)…

Serunding, chicken

…that he made and I pulled his leg saying, “You still know where my house is, right?” He did drop by once to give me the very nice butter cake from Mita Cake House in Kuching. The next thing I knew he was at my door, sending some of the very nice fruit of his labour for me to enjoy.

His better half, Daisy, also my ex-student, came with him and they had their baby boy with them too. They tied the knot in 2015 and I was at their wedding reception…and now, they have a two-month-old son already, may God bless them all abundantly in all that lie ahead.

They also brought me these…

Oregano 1

…from Daisy’s mum, a very nice lady, also a retired teacher like me. Those are a variety of oregano, so I was told…and this one with the white edges…

Oregano 2

…would be another variety, sweet majoram, I think this is called along with a whole lot of other names, and this one…

Oregano 3

…is probably the same as the latter though I’m not too sure. Daisy did rattle through all the related information but there was a bit too much for this somewhat slow and old brain to register. Hehehehehe!!! According to her, they are very easy to plant – just stick in the soil and that was exactly what I did. For one thing, like all those other herbs, these have a lot of health benefits as well.

She also gave me some mint…

Mint

…which I had before and it grew really well like this pot of daun pegaga (the gotu kola or the Asian pennywort)…

Daun pegaga

…of mine but it gradually withered away and eventually, it was gone. I hope I will be able to do a lot better with this one.

Talking about my daun pegaga, it sure looks really nice, so nice that I decided to move it to the front of the house beside the driveway. It also has a lot of health benefits and is a very common condiment for our ulam though for no obvious reason (other than the fact that we are too lazy to pound the sambal belacan), we hardly ever harvest any to eat.

This is another variety of daun pegaga, the one with a dot in the middle…

Water pennywort or dollar weed

the water pennywort, it is called and it grows rampantly wild in the drains around my house compound and ever so often, I would have to go on my hands and knees to pull them all out and get rid of them. One shop here planted them in pots and was marketing them as “money plants” – they look like coins, they said (and some people call it the dollar weed)! Well, I decided to do the same just for the fun of it in the hope that it will flourish and look as nice as the aforementioned daun pegaga.

Oh yes! Before I forget, thank you so much, Tham & Daisy and your mother-in-law/mum for the serunding and the herbs. Wish me luck with the latter! LOL!!!

$ave dat money…

It’s that time of the year again! The Mooncake Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Lantern Festival in this part of the world, falls on Monday, the 24th of September this year and yes, the mooncakes have made their appearance at the local shops and supermarkets.

Recently, I saw some very nice-looking ones from China, selling for less than RM10.00 each, even cheaper than our pretty good made-in-Sibu ones. Even the packaging looked impressive. I guess it can’t possibly get any more authentic than those but no, I did not buy any. These days, I am kind of wary when it comes to anything imported from there.

I have not been buying any for some years now with the exception of those “branded” ones that I would buy – one box each – for my parents and also my mother-in-law to enjoy, never mind the price but now that they had passed away, I would not need to do that anymore.

Over the years, I have had some very nice ones sent to me by my kind and generous friends in the peninsula to enjoy and for one thing, I always loved the packaging and I would keep them to this day. This one from The Baker’s Cottage…

From The Baker's Cottage

…for instance, comes in handy every year, come Chinese New Year, for keeping my stack of ang paos (red packets containing gift money) but not this year as I was not celebrating nor next year too. I saw those from the aforementioned bakery being sold at a bakery here the other day but even the cheapest was over RM20.00 EACH so of course, I just walked away…quietly. LOL!!!

Well, the other day, I happened to see these made-in-Johore ones, Yong Sheng…

Yong Sheng mooncakes - coin box

…at a supermarket here and you can get the coin-box if you buy two of them and being a sucker for these freebies, I grabbed one and took it home. Sigh!!!

I probably would not have done that if they had cost a bomb but these lotus paste ones were only RM15.50 each…

Yong Sheng mooncakes

…and RM16.00 for the lotus paste, white but RM22.00, no sugar. Usually, people would say sugar free or low sugar and I’ve always wondered why it is so much more expensive when there is one ingredient less. Perhaps they use those artificial sweeteners that are a lot more expensive, I wouldn’t know.

Incidentally, I just came to know about the significance of those little white rabbits on the packaging when I read about the Moon Rabbit in my blogger-friend’s post the other day. It seems that it symbolises loyalty and thanksgiving. Gee! I guess one is never too old to learn and one certainly gets to learn new things every day.

The ones that I bought…

Yong Sheng mooncake

…were good, smooth…and fine…

Yong Sheng mooncake, cross-section

…and the skin was not too thick (I do love the skin, actually!) though for me, they were a tad too sweet so I could only nibble, nibble, a wedge at a time…

Yong Sheng mooncake, wedge

…but what the heck, it comes only once a year and even though, these are not as shockingly astronomically priced, I sure would not be rushing out to buy some more – maybe next year.

The coin box sure comes in handy for if I would drop in all my coins every day…

Sikit sikit jadi bukit

…by this time next year, I would have quite a lot to buy more mooncakes to enjoy and most likely, I would be able to afford those more expensive ones even, I think!

Big mouth strikes again…

I had the focaccia sandwich here

Caffeine Cafe focaccia sandwich

…the other day and it was quite big, bigger than the size of a slice from a regular loaf of sandwich bread and that brought to mind the question that my friend, Merryn, asked on Facebook regarding eating the roti canai, celup or banjir.

I did describe how I would eat a piece of roti canai that day and I have often wondered how people would eat those huge towering burgers – if they were to eat those like a burger, they would need to have a really big mouth and on the other hand, if they were to take it apart to eat, then it would no longer be a burger anymore as they would be eating everything individually, not as a whole.

That day, my girl said that she would just take it by hand and eat it like a sandwich but no, that was not how I ate it. Let me show you what I did.

Firstly, I cut it into slices across its width like this…

Slice

…and then, I cut the slice into halves…

Halves

I guess you would have to cut it smaller, those of you with dainty, not very big mouths.

Once done, I added a bit of the lovely scrambled egg onto the morsel…

Add egg

…and poked through it with my fork…

Poke with fork

…and in it went, into my mouth.

I do have style, very eyew siew (gentle/elegant), very classy, don’t you think? LOL!!!

CAFFEINE CAFE is located on the ground floor of Wisma Liberty, Block 3, Lorong Pedada 7, off Jalan Pedada – on your left, past the Jalan Ulu Oya Road traffic lights if you are coming from town, just a few doors away from Nica Gelateria (2.302620, 111.842988), to the left at the end of that same block. 

Makin’ me look good again…

I sent my car for a thorough bodywork, a complete paint job and all.

It is 24 years old now and the paint was fading in patches, looking pathetically worn and weathered. The left side, at the back, was badly dented

2015

…in 2015 when I went to my girl’s school in the jungle on a Friday to pick her up and take her home – it was pretty obvious that a colleague was in a hurry to go for prayers and probably did not notice my car parked by the side and reversed right into it. To this day, I do not know who it was as nobody ever came to tell me.

The right side was not spared either. I was cruising along one day and decided to change lanes as I wanted to make a u-turn at the traffic lights ahead. Suddenly, somebody rammed me from behind, hitting the car at the side from the back till the passenger’s door, damaging it a lot more severely than what one can see in the above photograph.

It turned out to be the grand-daughter of a relative of mine, right after Form 5 and obviously, a newbie at driving. Never mind, I thought, since we’re family so I offered to pay for whatever repairs that needed to be done. What got me quite pissed me off was the grandma’s remark at that point in time. “Why did you drive so fast?” she said. Gee!!! I was flabbergasted! I could not be sure but I was positive I did not see any car coming and I always use the indicator without fail everytime – the grand-daughter probably stepped on the petrol in a panic instead of the brakes…and if there is a problem with my driving, it is the fact that I am too slow or in the town centre, at least. Old retirees like me are in no hurry to go anywhere…not just yet.

There were, of course, bits of this and that here and there and how they got to be where they were, don’t ask me! I wouldn’t know! Anyway, though the engine was in tip-top shape and I only need to get it serviced regularly – no big problem, no headaches and heartaches, it certainly was not a pleasant sight. The problem was I sold off my other car, the 1st generation SAGA, so I needed this one to go here and there and for my weekend chauffeur duties and I just could not find the time to go and get it done.

Finally, at long last, my Ol’ Faithful went for a makeover and came home looking really good, like brand new…

Looking good again

I decided to stick this…

Wira

…back where it was but I left out the acronym for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional – they do not have it in their latest models either and  it is not even in their logo…

Logo

…anymore.

This was why in the meantime, we did not go out much and spent most of the time at home. I did cook some dishes for my girl, what I felt she would enjoy, like this Sarawak laksa

Sarawak laksa

…on one of the days.

It has been really hot lately and it sure looks like the haze is coming back – hopefully, it will not be too serious. Well, I think there is this belief that green bean soup is cooling and I did cook this bubur kacang hijau (green bean porridge) with sweet potatoes and sago pearls…

Bubur kacang hijau with sweet potatoes & sago pearls

…to enjoy and also in the hope that it might help cool us off a bit.

My girl also did some cooking and made these gluten-free kuih keria

Melissa's kuih keria

…a local sweet potato delight *click link for recipe* and yes, it was very good.

She tried her hand at cooking the Spanish paella…

Melissa's prawn & chicken paella

…with prawns and chicken, substituting the saffron with serbuk kunyit (turmeric powder), and it turned out very nice. I guess one can’t go wrong with prawns but I thought it would be nice to have, instead of the chicken, more varieties of seafood in it, sotong (squid), mussels, clams and the like. I have never had this before so I am in no position to say whether it was anything like the real thing but we did enjoy it and I guess that was all that mattered.

Dilly Dally…

My dill is doing very well in my garden, flourishing away and it sure comes in handy every time I want to cook what we call pa’is ikan

Pa'is ikan buris
*Archive photo*

…or fish wrapped in leaves and grilled over hot charcoal or in my case, in the oven. Incidentally, I’ve tried doing the same thing with udang galah (freshwater prawns) but it turned out somewhat disappointing, nowhere near as nice as with fish, ikan buris especially.

Sometime ago, I noticed that it had started flowering…

Dill, flowering

…and when I shared a photograph on Facebook, somebody said that it would fly all over the place and make such a mess in the event of there being any wind but no, it…

Dill flowers, close up 1

…did not happen that way and is always a delight to look at – those elegant little white flowers…

Dill flowers, close up 2

…on the branches. I went and googled and much to my surprise, though the plant and leaves look the same, the flowers are quite different from the dwarf variety grown in temperature countries.

But talking about the wind, one night, there was a storm and it broke one of the branches of my dill plant so I had no choice but to cut it off. I did not want to throw it away so I trimmed the branch and stuck the cuttings in a bottle of water…

Dill in a bottle

…and much to my surprise, they did survive for a long while and no, the flowers remained and did not fall off and eventually they started to dry up…

Dill flowers, dried 1

I must say that it looks rather nice even when dried…

Dill flowers, dried 2

…and makes a beautiful display of dried flowers for the house, don’t you think?

Love will keep us alive…

This jasmine tree…

My jasmine tree

…that my late father planted in my garden many many years ago, along with the rambutan tree in the backyard, does not seem to be doing very well. It was doing all right all these years even when the branches were covered with wild orchids, moss and parasitic plants. I did make an effort to clear away all those that time when they came to rescue my rambutan tree.

What I found out was there were these HUGE black ants, what we grew up calling padak, infesting the roots of the tree and somebody told me that I could buy one pesticide and mix with boiling water to pour over the roots of the tree and that would get rid of the ants. In the meantime, I had no choice but to saw away the dead branches one by one…

Sawn branches

My problem is I have those daun hempedu bumi  leaves growing all around the roots and every morning, I would go and pluck a few leaves to brew tea with hot boiling water and drink because of all the medicinal benefits of those very bitter leaves. Of course I would not want to drink it anymore if I had poured the toxic pesticide all around.

These leaves are not easy to plant, it seems. The plants will just appear anywhere and everywhere by themselves and if you take them to plant them nicely in a more orderly manner at a proper place, chances are they will eventually wither and die.

I guess I have not much choice so I have tried transplanting the seedlings at a safe place, far away from the jasmine tree and it does look like they are getting on fine…

Daun hempedu bumi

Once they are big enough, it will be time for me to embark on my mission to get rid of those ants.

The tree has bloomed time and time again and once, the whole tree turned white with all the flowers and the fragrance filled the whole neighbourhood. It would be sad to see it wither away – I guess in the meantime, I will just have to treat it well and hope for the best.

So what’s new in my garden these days? Well, not much really but I have planted this sawtooth coriander…

Sawtooth coriander

…that I picked up at the wet market one morning, a whole bunch of the plant, 5 altogether, I think, including the roots for only RM1.00. I planted all of them and I am glad to see them doing very well including this one that I planted in between some bricks – there was a Thai basil plant there before and despite the rather unlikely location, it grew really well too. I wonder why.

For the uninitiated, if you do not know what sawtooth coriander leaves are, these are similar in taste and smell to the daun ketumbar used to garnish a whole lot of dishes in Kuching like their Sarawak laksa

Kuching laksa
*Friend’s photo on Facebook, edited*

…for instance, or their oyster omelette/pancake…or their butter prawns. They are very popular among the people there but it is very hard to come by here. I remember once some folks were having a popiah party and they actually had those leaves air-flown from Kuching!

Generally, people are put off by the smell – they say it smells of bed bugs but I do feel it is an acquired taste and now that I have learnt to take that, I actually quite like it these days. It is used a lot  in the Thai dishes here…and they also use it here and not too long ago, I stumbled upon it being used for the beef noodles…

Restoran Muhajirin beef noodles

here.

My ulam raja plants have all called it a day, the ones with the orange and the yellow flowers but my missus got the seeds for a different variety from a friend and I planted them…

My ulam raja

…and some have sprouted and are growing pretty well. Hopefully, I will get to see the purplish pink flowers soon.

Generally, all my plants are doing very well especially now that I am spending a lot more time taking care of them every morning and late afternoon or evening. Hopefully, the love that they are getting will keep them alive!

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!