Your special day…

The 17th of September was my girl’s birthday, the actual day but the registration department made a slip so on paper, it was one day later, on the 18th.

Of course, like what we would do every year, we started off the celebration on the morning of the 17th with this scrumptious breakfast of our traditional Foochow longevity noodles, the mee sua

…served in the most delightful Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup with two symbolic hardboiled eggs by the side.

The mum did an exceptionally good job in cooking the soup this time around, beginning with the frying of the ginger in sesame oil for the added fragrance, instead of just cooking oil and she also added some wolfberries and red dates for the sweetness, dried shitake mushrooms (pre-soaked to soften) for the fragrance and a bit of dong quai (當歸) that elevated the taste of the soup to a whole new level. It was so so so delicious!

My girl got this lovely cake…

…strawberry, no less – my girl’s favourite –

from this bakery and this hamper of snacks…

…from her good friend, Dayang (also an English teacher like her), who never fails to give her a little something for her birthday every year.

Her colleagues, Geraldine and Chai Hong, sent this delightful layered sponge cake with its very rich cream cheese topping…

…and this very nice mee sua

from here via food delivery to the house. That sure was a pleasant surprise, indeed!

We did not plan to go out for dinner or anything as the 17th fell on a Saturday and we would always go to church in the evening for the sunset service every week. We did plan, however, to do that the following evening but that, of course, will be in the next post. You’ll stick around for that, won’t you?

Oh so many years…

I taught in Kanowit for 5 years from 1978 until 1982 and in 1983, I got my transfer to SMB Chung Hua in Sibu.

The Form 3 and the senior classes were in the morning but there was a special arrangement for those selected students in Form 1 and Form 2 to go to their respective classes in the morning as well. It was believed that the kids would be able to study better than if they were put in the afternoon session.

Jack was in the selected Form 2 class that I was assigned to teach when I joined the school and as the years went by, we eventually lost touch. I never heard from any of them after they had left the school except for one who became my colleague in the school that I went to next, the one where I eventually retired from the teaching profession in 2007. That one left the group to go to another school after Form 3 so my guess is he eventually lost contact with the rest of them as well.

I received a message via Facebook from Jack and initially, I was thinking that it might be a scam. He was using his Chinese name when he was in school, not Jack but eventually, I managed to find out who he actually was and responded to his messages. It seemed that presently, he is working with a bank in Kuala Lumpur, Bangi, to be exact, now a high ranking officer in the computer division and he would be coming back to Sibu for a few days.

I must say that I was flattered that he could still remember me after oh so many years, 39, to be exact and he would like to get to meet me while he was home. I told him that I had been unwell and I had not been going out anywhere for sometime now so I would not be able to go and meet him. He insisted on dropping by my house – he did visit me when he was my student and in no time at all, he showed up at my door. Those students would always drop by during Chinese New Year in big groups.

He brought along this gift…

…of mooncakes…

…that he said, were made by his wife.

There were those Shanghai ones…

…with lotus paste filling and one salted egg yolk…

…that I used to enjoy a lot but it turned out that I found this green one…

…to be very much nicer.

Initially, by virtue of its green colour, I thought it would be some matcha-flavoured mooncake but when I tried it, I could not detect anything matcha or green tea about it. My guess was it was pandan, used for the colour, more than anything else.

Inside, there was this red bean paste filling wrapped around something white…

…that was chewy/rubbery like a marshmallow. Whatever it was, I liked the taste and I loved how the red bean paste was not sweet at all, just perfect for me now that I am on a low sugar diet!

We sat and chatted for a very long time that morning, talking about the good old days and those people in his same class back in 1983. I was glad to hear that so many of them are very successful in their careers – there is a doctor in Australia, a dentist in Singapore and another one probably in Kuching and so on and so forth. Jack was amazed that I could remember so many of their names (including the Chinese name he was using when he was in school) even though I had not seen nor heard from them for so long. It sure would be nice if they, like Jack, would take the trouble to drop by just to say hello.

Thank you, Jack, for coming to see this very old teacher of yours and also to your missus for the lovely mooncakes. May God bless you and her and all in the family always. Cheers!!!

Don’t know how…

I really don’t know how to thank Anthony, the co-owner, and everyone at Nica Plus for this awesome gift…

…that they have given me for the Mooncake Festival this year, their gorgeous, one of a kind gelato mooncakes…

They gave me a box last year and once again, those thoughtful and generous people have done it again – I was out, picking my girl up from work when somebody delivered it to the house with this personalised note inside…

Honestly, I really don’t know how I can ever thank them enough.

The Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival falls on the 10th of September this year. The festival is celebrated every 15th of the Eight Month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. We have not planned yet as to how we are going to celebrate the auspicious occasion but one thing’s for sure, I shall not be buying any of the traditional mooncakes from the shops to eat since I am on a low/no sugar diet and more often than not, they are extremely sweet so as to preserve them and keep them from going bad especially when they are out on the market months ahead of the festival.

As for these special gelato ones, I started off with this one…

…the yogurt with raspberry yolk…

…by cutting it into segments of one eighth each so we can enjoy eating it very very slowly, a little bit at a time to make sure there is no sugar rush.

This sounds like a very nice one, the cheese with mango disc…

…but it will have to wait its turn along with this one…

…that I’m sure my girl will love. I remember she enjoys Swiss chocolate a lot!

We’re not really crazy about durians but we would be looking forward to trying this one…

…as well. It is, after all, the king of fruits!!!

I guess this is a good time to drop by the shop to enjoy all these and the other gelato temptations and all their irresistible sweet delights. Who knows? Perhaps you may decide to grab a box or two yourself to give to loved ones as gifts – they certainly are a welcome change from the usual that one would get year in and year out.

NICA+ or NICA PLUS (2.296883,111.825859)…

…as it is called, is located on the ground floor of the block of shops, the first one to the right of the Old Sing Kwong Supermarket (Kin Orient Plaza) along Jalan Tun Abang Hj Openg,

Where next…

I used to frequent this lady’s stall when she was at her original location and then, for reasons unknown, she wrapped up her business and disappeared. Eventually, after so many years, I heard that she was here so of course, I wasted no time in making my way there to enjoy her out-of-this-world Penang prawn mee

Not long after that, an ex-student of mine sent me a photograph of this coffee shop and informed me that she had moved here…

…and was no longer at the previous location. I did mention in an earlier post that she had moved here but I did not drop by at the time so I did not have the photographs to show.

Her stall is right in front, on the left hand side…

…while the kampua mee stall is on the right.

There were a lot of customers at the coffee shop but their orders came from different stalls – it did not look like there was a crowd puller but three old men at the next table next to mine had the lakia mee, what they call mee mamak here, and it did look very nice.

The Penang prawn mee had gone up by RM1.00 – it was RM9.00 at the previous place but I did not feel like having it that morning. Instead, I was looking for something clear and refreshing and asked for the mee sua (RM8.00)…

…instead.

Yes, it was very good, very strong on the ginger or what we call in Hokkien, very hiam and the traditional Foochow red wine was very fragrant too. It was not red in colour and that is a good thing. The ones that are very red are usually not well-filtered so there is a lot of the residue of the ang chao/hóng zhāo (红昭), the red glutinous rice wine lees that will give the soup the coveted red colour but unfortunately, it lacks the very nice and pleasant fragrance of the wine.

I do know for a fact that at some places, they actually add ang chao to make the soup and everything else in it look so very red as many unsuspecting customers actually think that this is very nice and is what they should go for. The best quality traditional Foochow red wine is clear and orange in colour, not exactly red like the cheaper, diluted and not-so-fragrant ones.

I would say that I enjoyed the mee sua

…a lot but it was not as nice as the one I liked a lot here which, unfortunately, is no longer available as the fat lady has called it quits and of course, my favourite is still this one here.

388 CAFE (2.307505, 111.848612) is located along Lorong Sena 8, in the area of shops opposite SMK Deshon.

New location…

In my blogpost yesterday, I mentioned that I walked over to this coffee shop in the next block to the left and I was appalled to see that there were so very few customers, maybe two tables only to the most, unlike that previous time when I dropped by when they were enjoying brisk business despite the pandemic.

I guess the problem started when the beef noodles…

…stall moved to their own shop here and their crowd of loyal followers made their way there as well.

Eventually, the lady selling the very nice Penang har mee (prawn noodles)…

…that I ate that day also moved to a coffee shop across the road from here…

…along Jalan Sena. My ex-student sent me a photograph of the coffee shop but I have not gone over to have a look yet.

A Malay lady has taken her place but it did not look like she had any business at all – I wonder how long she would last at this rate and for reasons unknown, the kampua mee stall was closed, not something usual on a Thursday – they usually take the day off on Monday or Tuesday every week.

In the meantime, this coffee shop…

…that used to be in the next lane from my house has moved here…

…to what was formerly the Football Cafe along Jalan Cherry, Lorong 10. A long time ago, my ex-student used to run his Art tuition class at the unit on the extreme left on the 1st floor and I used to send my girl there. Now he is a very successful gynaecologist in Bintulu, making tonnes of money.

I don’t know what happened at the old place – probably there were some rental issues but even though this new place is quite near my house, I am in no hurry to go over, not at all. The kampua mee

…and the pian sip

…were good but there are others elsewhere just as good or perhaps even nicer.

I loved the Foochow fried mee special, the moon version…

…and the tomato kway teow

…and my girl loved the fried pek koi

…from the chu-char (cook and fry) people but I am not fond of the guy’s peculiar sense of humour. I don’t know if he was being hurtful or what but the things he said were far from being funny – I saw the expressions on the customers’ faces change as he hurled his insults at them and I did hear people saying that they would never go back there again!

Word has it that business at the new place is as brisk as before so I guess the loss of some of his customers has not affected them that much, if at all.

Make up your mind…

Last Saturday, we went out for lunch as usual.

One thing I’ve noticed about the ladies is how they always do not seem to have anything in mind all the time. When you ask them what they would like to eat, they would just say they do not know or they have no idea whatsoever. In the end, I would have to decide on behalf of everybody but the moment we get to our destination, suddenly the ideas would start pouring in!

That was the case last Saturday as well – nobody had any place in particular in mind so I said I would come to a decision all by myself. I had the very nice crusty and crispy, absolutely delicious lemon chicken (RM20.00 – the standard “new” price for their meat dishes here)…

here, my girl’s favourite, in mind. I had a feeling that they use chicken breast for this dish so it would be perfectly all right for me to eat it, no red meat involved and I was right!

Along the way, my girl asked where we were going and I told her – she sure seemed pleased with my choice of venue and when we reached our destination, I dropped them off and went to park the car before walking there myself.

The moment I sat down, the mum declared that she would want their Foochow fried noodles, wet/with sauce (RM6.00)…

…and my girl said she would like the fried glass noodles/tang hoon (RM6.50)…

Gee!!! I wonder why the latter is a bit more expensive when the serving seemed a bit smaller and there were fewer ingredients added. Perhaps, glass noodles are more expensive than regular noodles…or they would have to add an egg to fry the dish, hence the extra charge.

Of course I was quite pissed off by that! If everyone ordered their own noodle dish, then everyone would be too full to eat much else. In that case, ordering a few dishes, including the aforementioned lemon chicken to enjoy with rice, would be out of the question. Unfortunately, everyone turned a deaf ear and stuck to their decisions.

Left with no choice, I decided to order a noodle dish for myself…

…their tomato kway teow (flat rice noodles) with the much sought after, very popular ikan tapah (RM18.00)…

Yes, that was very nice. The fish was good even though it was pretty obvious that it did not come cheap (and personally, I still prefer some of my personal favourites like the siakap or the lajong).

Well, I was not going to give up that easily so I also ordered a plate of the lemon chicken to share. It was so very nice but sadly, we did not have any rice to go with its most delightful sauce and had to leave all of it behind.

This wasn’t the first time…and knowing what the ladies are like, it is definitely not going to be the last!!!

Y2K CAFE (2.294220, 111.825753)…

…is located in the Tunku Osman area, round the corner from that block of shops where the branches of AmBank & RHB Bank are located with its back entrance facing the side (right, not the main one) entrance/exit of Methodist Secondary School.

Let’s hear it for the boy…

Mdm. Lau, the owner of my favourite fish stall not far from my house, has a few young boys working for her. They are very nice and friendly, independent workers and trustworthy and ever so often, Mdm. Lau would be nowhere to be seen, leaving everything to these boys.

I like one of them in particular especially when I look at how he does his work. Whenever I buy any fish, he would ask me how I would like to cook it – it seems that there are different ways to prepare the fish depending on whether you want to deep-fry or steam it…

The other day, for instance, I bought some barramundi (ikan siakap) and like the previous time I bought one from him, he removed all the scales till completely clean – many fishmongers would not do a good job and I had to do it all over again when I got home.

After that, he proceeded to cut open the fish and gut it, removing all that was inside including that black streak inside along the middle bone – some say that’s the blood of the fish. My girl is very fussy – the instant she sees that, she will not go on eating anymore!

Finally, he will cut the fish down the middle to split it open, still attached at one end. I understand this is the butterfly cut for fish that we would like to steam…and believe it or not, he would do all this for his customers free of charge!!!

The moment I got home, all that my missus had to do was to rinse and wash the fish clean and placing it in a plate, she would steam it…

I did not stick around in the kitchen to see what else she did but I guess eventually, she would add the sauce and the ingredients before steaming it further till it was done…

Gosh!!! That was so good! It was so very sweet and fresh, very smooth and void of any fishy smell whatsoever, absolutely delicious…

…and the best part was it worked out to only around RM17-18.00 each, less than half the price of the ikan lajong we had at the restaurant that day and everyone agreed that this was a whole lot nicer and yes, we had a lot more to eat too – the fish was big enough for the three of us for lunch as well as for dinner!

There are some very popular fish like the white pomfret (ikan bawal putih) or the ikan tapah or the tilapia that they will serve you at most, if not all, the Chinese restaurants in town and a lot of people seem to like them a lot, not me…and besides, they sure do not come cheap. I would much sooner settle for this barramundi or ikan siakap and enjoy it a whole lot more without feeling the pinch.

The fish & seafood stall…

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

Float on…

I was amazed when I read this piece of news in some tabloid (I think it’s from Singapore) the other day – Hong Kong is in danger of permanently losing an iconic landmark (or seamark) — the famed Jumbo Floating Restaurant because I did not realise that it was still around after such a very long time.

Opened in 1976, it used to be one of the highlights for tourists visiting Hong Kong. I was there when I went in the mid-80’s…

I remember we had a lavish meal there but no, I did not take any photographs of what we ate – people in those days did not have the habit of taking snapshots of everything they ate.

One thing I can remember is that after we had finished eating, we were allowed to bring the chopsticks

…home to keep as souvenirs for remembrance. Believe it or not, we have kept ours to this very day, precious antiques…

Located in Aberdeen Harbour…

…the restaurant was featured in several movies including the James Bond flick, “The Man with the Golden Gun” starring Roger Moore, Jackie Chan’s 1985 film “The Protector” and Stephen Chow’s “The God of Cookery“.

The three-story-high restaurant spanning 76 meters (249 feet) has reportedly served over 30 billion customers since its opening day, including royals such as Queen Elizabeth II, Hollywood stars, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Cruise and Hong Kong actor, Chow Yun-fat.

Everyone was encouraged to dress up in the Chinese Emperor’s and Empress’ clothes for photographs sitting on the throne and what not but no, we did not go for it. I went and googled to see if I could find photos of people doing that and guess who I saw! My Penang blogger-friend, Isaac…

I think he was there with his missus quite recently in 2010. They did have a photo taken while sitting on the throne but they did not dress up in those ancient Chinese costumes…and yes, he did take some shots of the food he ate – you can click the link to hop over to his blog and have a look!

The 5th…

It’s the 3rd of June today, the 5th Day of the 5th Month in the Chinese Lunar Year, the day of the Double Fifth or the Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival (端午節), fondly known as the Chang or Dumpling Festival. The Chinese eat zongzi or chang on this special day because they are considered a symbol of luck, as the pronunciation of zong is very similar to the pronunciation of zhong (中). This character has a positive connotation, used in words such as 中奖 (winning a prize).

I found this piece of information from this website rather interesting. During the early hot days of summer, people would easily fall ill and epidemics spread. This made the month seem evil, so people in ancient times regarded it as an important time to prevent diseases and keep evil spirits away. Therefore, the Dragon Boat Festival was originally regarded as a traditional medical and health festival. It is traditionally a festival for people to ceremonially come against diseases and poisonous insects. As the coronavirus pandemic continues across the world, this year’s Dragon Boat Festival has a renewed focus on health.

Well, every year, since time immemorial, my very dear friend, Richard, would make his own homemade nyonya chang and he would always give me some. This was last year, 2021 and this was in 2020 and in 2019 and yes, he does it without fail year after year after year. My mum used to make them but these days, unless Richard makes and gives us some or we manage to get some from Kuching…or Singapore, we would not get to enjoy this special Peranakan version of the meat dumpling.

Earlier this year, however, I received word from Richard informing me that he would not be making any as his mum said they would give this year a skip owing to the outbreak of the swine fever that day. I was thinking that perhaps I could just go and buy one or two from the neighbourhood shops or from here to eat so as to uphold and preserve the tradition, our heritage.

Before I got down to doing that, my sister gave me some very nice ang tao chang (red bean dumplings)…

…that she got from her cleaner. They were very nice, no alkaline water (kee) so they were white…

…not yellow or orange and not jelly like as in kee chang (碱水粽/枧水粽). I thought they tasted like basong, the Malay pulut/glutinous rice delight that I like a lot…

I decided to save them for the actual day of the festival so I just stuffed all of them in the fridge – I guess it would not matter one bit if it was red bean…

…not meat dumplings.

Much to my surprise, the other day, however, Richard appeared out of the blue at my gate with these, his nyonya dumplings…

…for 2022! He said that his mum had a change of heart and gave the green light so he made some and went round distributing to family and friends.

There were two, tied with string…

Richard said that those were chicken and of course, I could not resist taking those out the very next morning to steam and heat them up…

…to enjoy and appease my craving!

Yes, as always, never mind whether it was chicken or pork…

…it was so so so good with the fragrance and taste of the ketumbar (coriander) plus the slight sweetness of the other ingredients in the generally savoury filling.

I had to resist the temptation to heat up some more to eat and thankfully, I was able to control myself so I do have some today that I can heat up and enjoy…

…to observe this age-old traditional Chinese practice during this time of year.

I hope you all have some at hand, never mind if you made them yourselves or bought them from somewhere or some good friend gave them to you. Thank you so much, Richard, for the ones that I shall be enjoying today…and to all of us celebrating this auspicious occasion, a very Happy & Blessed Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival! May all of us be abundantly blessed with good health and good fortune!

The one you love…

The last time my old friend, Jasmine, was home all the way from Adelaide, South Australia, was in 2019 and she insisted that I simply must take her to eat her favourite angkau (monkey) kampua mee and she would not settle for any others in town no matter how I insisted that they were so much nicer.

For the uninitiated, you can read all about that guy in this 2014 blogpost here. He was at another location then and then he disappeared but after searching high and low and asking a lot of friends, I finally managed to track him down and of course, Jasmine was delighted to get the chance to go and enjoy his noodles before she went back to Australia.

She has not been home for so many years now because of the pandemic and now that things have settled down a bit, she is talking about coming home again next year! I bet she would want to go and eat her favourite angkau kampua mee – no less than two plates at a time! That shouldn’t be a problem this time around as I did hear that he is still at that same location where we found him in 2019.

Well, the other morning, I decided to drop by there and I had a plate of his noodles (RM3.50)…

It looked like his son was the main person manning his stall now while he and his wife…

…were merely there to assist him.

Just like the many times when I ate his noodles before, I did not think it was anything sensational. At best, I would say it was all right, just not anything to get me excited about. I guess as they say, “What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander!

My friend/ex-student, Louis, was there not too long ago and he said that I should give their beef tripe soup (RM4.00)…

…a try as he thought it was very good. Yes, the gu tor was perfectly done, so soft, really delightful with their special chili dip…

I sure enjoyed it a lot but I had this feeling that the soup could have been nicer with a dash of vinegar or our traditional Foochow red wine, just that I was too lazy to go and ask for one of those.

I don’t know whether or not I shall be going there for this or anything else again should I happen to be passing this way anytime in the near future but one thing’s for sure, I certainly would be back when Jasmine comes home to Sibu sometime next year.

UNCLE TEH’S CORNER (2.305679, 111.848404)…

…is located along Lorong Pahlawan 7C to the right of the Edaran Tan Chong Motors (Nissan) showroom there in the vicinity of the Sibu Bus Terminal.