Pineapple…

It sure was a pleasant surprise when out of the blue, my friend/ex-English tuition student, Alex, dropped by my house that day to give me  a pineapple…

Pineapple from Alex

…a very huge one, weighing 2.5 kg…

2.5 kg

I was thinking of planting my own when I saw others doing that and showing off the fruits in their blogs or on Facebook but when I googled to find out more about how I could go about it, I was horrified to learn that it would take 2 years or more, 3 to 4 years even, before one can expect any yield from the plant. Never mind! I’ll just go and buy when I feel like eating  any pineapple.

Usually, we will just eat it like that or with rojak sauce to go with our meals but on special occasions like Chinese New Year, my missus would cook her specialty – her kunyit (turmeric) pineapple with udang galah (freshwater prawns)…

Kunyit pineapple with udang galah

However, I don’t recall her doing that this Chinese New Year. That was why that day, I was thinking perhaps she would want to cook it for us to enjoy since we had not had it for a while now.

We did not have any udang galah in the freezer – I had not gone to the central market for over three months now but I did buy some very big and fresh pek hay (sea prawns) from Mukah not too long ago so early that morning, I peeled the pineapple and cut it into chunks…

Peeled and cut

…for her to cook the dish…

Kunyit with big prawns

Needless to say, we sure enjoyed eating it that day – the gravy went so well with rice and we loved the sweet pineapples and succulent prawns too.

Thank you so much for the pineapple, Alex. It was so kind and thoughtful of you. God bless always and take care, you and your loved ones.

If you insist…

Victor was in my English tuition class some years ago, the father was one year my junior, I think, when I was in Form 6. Victor, now a pharmacist, runs a pharmacy here – I got all my masks from there that day and stocked up on my Vitamin C too.

Well, it so happened that I saw him sharing a photograph on Facebook of his mum making bak chang (meat dumplings), so many of them, over 100, I am sure…like she was going into the business or something. Teasingly I asked, “Any home delivery?” Victor responded, asking me for my house address so he could send some over.

Oh no!” I said, “I was only joking! Shy, shy lah!” However, he insisted – he said that his mum got carried away and made too many and in the end, I relented but I suggested sending them over to my sister’s house as they live nearby, somewhere around that area and I could go there and get or my sister could send them over to me.

My sister sent me this photograph…

Chang from Victor

…when Victor dropped them off at her house that evening but it was too late for me to go over so the next morning, she brought them over to my house.

Of course, I could not wait to steam them and try. They sure looked perfect, symmetrical cones all of them…

Victor's mum's chang

…and I was not surprised that there was a lot of meat inside…

Victor's mum's chang, inside

…unlike the ones at the shops, all lean though and there were some kind of beans in them too.

Yes, they tasted really great, thank you so much, Victor and do convey my thanks to your mum too, my compliments to the chef. Regards to her and your Dad as well.

Majority…

Thank you all over again, David, for the new batch of your sambal ikan bilis

David's sambal ikan bilis

…and thanks once again to you, Anson, for sending it over to my house.

We loved the one that first time around but we thought it was not spicy enough so this time around, David made sure it was spicier. Yes, I could feel it but no, it was not up to our level but then again, the majority would not be able to handle spiciness our level, of that I am very sure. I must say that this was just nice, not not spicy at all and not too spicy either.

I guess the majority would eat this sambal with nasi lemak or rice and when it is so nice, there is always that temptation to go for a second helping. It goes very well with bread too or kompia or mantao. You can buy those that the school kids called Doraemon or what some call Malaysian burger – they are deep fried mini buns with this sambal ikan bilis and very thin slices of cucumber inside – I used to enjoy that a lot when they first appeared at the Malay kuih stalls.

Well, I had none of the above for breakfast so I had it with cream crackers…

Sambal ikan bilia with cream crackers

…and yes, it was really nice and of course, I could not stop at one – I went on and on and enjoyed the combination to the max.

And talking about cream crackers, what is your favourite brand? I love this one, extra crispy and tastes nicer and I just discovered that day that they now sell them in individual packs of three…

Hup Seng Cream Crackers, individual packs

Why three, I wonder? Usually we would use two to make a “sandwich” with peanut butter, kaya or jam…or in my case, with sambal ikan bilis and then there would be the odd one out so one would have to open another pack and end up eating three “sandwiches” or go for a double decker…

Cream crackers sambal ikan bilis double decker

…if one does not want to eat so much.

Anyway, back to the sambal ikan bilis, you can place your order via their Facebook page/Messenger or you can send a message to +6012-856 2277 on WhatsApp. It is selling at RM30.00 for around ½ kg and while you are at it, perhaps you would like to order the shui jiao/jiaoxi, chives or cabbage at RM14.00 a pack for 15 pieces. Home delivery is available if you do not stay too far away.

Consensus…

For reasons unknown, David, Annie’s brother, was making sambal ikan bilis for  a few days in a row and they all looked so good. I mentioned that to him and before I knew it, his son, Anson, was at my gate with a tub of the beautiful stuff…

David's sambal ikan bilis

…just for me. Yes, it was really very good and yes, it was like what he said about the batch he made that day, not spicy. Nonetheless, we enjoyed it to the max – it went so well with rice and when he made some more the next day, I did not LIKE nor make any comment. I sure wouldn’t want to see Anson at my gate again – so shy, keep taking things from people and never giving anything back in return.

It turned out David was trying his hand at making sambal ikan bilis and I just saw on his Facebook page the other day that he was putting it out for sale, alongside his dumplings. I sure would want to place an order one of these days.

Now, that wasn’t all that Anson brought that day. He also passed to me another batch of his father’s shui jiao/jiaoxi (dumplings)

Uncle Q Dumplings

He said that it was yet another recipe – the filling was not the same as the ones he gave to me before.

My missus cooked them the next morning so we could try them for brunch…

Uncle Q Dumpling

…and yes, she pan-fried them the way my girl prefers eating these dumplings with the added fragrance of its crispy bottom…

Crispy bottom

Wowww!!! The general consensus among the three of us was that it…

Uncle Q Dumpling, cross-section

…was so very nice! This one has cabbage too in the filling but after my comment on the previous batch, David had cut down on the taste of ginger so there was just a hint of it, not so strong, just right.

The ladies liked the ones with kuchai (chives) and they loved this one too and when I asked my girl which one she felt was better, she diplomatically replied that both were nice. She so loves these dumplings!

Ain’t doin’ too bad…

It’s already the 1st of May today – this MCO (Movement Control Order)/partial lockdown started in mid-March so soon it will be two months already.

How’s everyone coping? As for me here, I must say that I ain’t doing too badly, not at all. Sibu has been declared a green zone, not that it changes anything, of course. As far as possible, I still would not venture out – stay safe, stay home! And when I do, I would use a mask, practise social distancing, use santisers and alcohol pads and so on and so forth.

For one thing, I save quite a lot of money, at least RM1K a month, on lottery tickets, eating out and on petrol. That day, I went to the petrol station to top up – I guess they missed me as they had not seen me since the last time before the lockdown…and I only had to fork out less than RM30. In the past, it would be RM50-60 each time, once a week, more or less and double that when my girl was teaching in the school in the jungle. The price of petrol has tumbled but nobody ain’t going nowhere much these days – how ironic!

Sometimes I do wonder how everybody is doing and of course, I would be hoping and praying that all are well. There are the  regulars on Facebook, always active so I would know they are all right but there was one dear friend that I hardly get to see or hear from since she closed down her Thai restaurant, our favourite. It sure was a pleasant surprise when she messaged me the other day to tell me she was on my way to my house to pass me this beautiful gluten-free chocolate cake…

Gluten-free chocolate cake from Mary & daughter

…that her daughter, I think this one’s Axia, made. Two of them are here with her and one is in Adelaide, Australia. Isn’t that so sweet of her to remember me especially at a time like this?

She also gave me these fresh vegetables…

Fresh vegetables from Mary's garden

…from her garden. How I wish I had planted a lot more vegetables in my garden, other than my Brazilian spinach. I did have sweet potato leaves too before but eventually, I got rid of them as they were crawling all over the place. I have a lot of herbs and things we use for cooking but we can’t eat those, not on their own as a vegetable dish. Thank you so so much, Mary and also to your girl!

Well, I went out the other day to go to the bank and since this coffee shop was right across the road, I drove over and bought a dozen of their salted egg bak chang

Sin Kiaw salted egg bak chang

…to keep in the fridge and steam to enjoy for breakfast. For one thing, I am getting a bit tired of fried rice and noodles so this would be a welcome change and besides, after I saw zmun2 blogging about the ones she had that day and here too, I was already craving for them and when my friend, Louis, in Kuching, for reasons unknown, declared on Facebook that he was thinking of eating those dumplings, that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back – I simply HAD to get those enjoy and so I did (…and I was not the only one who did that!).

They are RM5.50 now though – when I had it the last time at the coffee shop, it was only RM5.00 each. I also bought a pack of their Foochow sio bee, frozen, to keep for days when we may feel like having them or when we have nothing to eat.

I also went next door, since I was there already, to buy 10 of their very nice char siew pao (RM2.00 each)…

Hong Kong Puff char siew pao

…to store in the fridge and eat slowly for breakfast as well.

My cousins in Kuching were sharing photographs on Facebook of the chicken pies their mum made and I was thinking that perhaps, I could make some too. It had been a while since I made any pies but in the end, on my way back home that morning, I stopped by this bakery here to buy the very nice ones…

Aroma Bakery chicken pie

…that they are selling. It’s RM4.20 now – a long long time ago, when they first started baking them, they were only RM2.80 each.

Now I have a lot of things in the fridge to last for quite a while, maybe even till after the 12th of May – hopefully, all this will end then and we can start picking up the pieces and get on with our lives once more. Enough is enough!

SIN KIAW CAFE (2.291287, 111.826611) is located along Ramin Way, the first shop on your right as you turn in from Jalan Kampung Nyabor, right behind the petrol station located at the bend and HONG KONG PUFF is right next door, to the left while AROMA BAKERY (2.311151, 111.831515) is located at No. 36 (G/F), Taman Damai along Jalan Dewan Suarah, the second shop in the block on your right as you enter from Jalan Melur, after the Maju Tyre shop.

Like this…

Annie’s brother, David, is very innovative and creative. Instead of sticking to just one recipe day in and day out, he works on coming out with new variations other than the ones with kuchai (chives) or the ones like xiao long pao. The son, Anson, dropped by my house again the other day to pass me these…

Uncle Q Dumplings, with cabbage

…David’s latest creation, with cabbage in the filling and he asked me to try to see if I would like his dumplings like this.

Anson said that his father suggested eating them pan-fried so I asked my girl to do it. She loves these dumplings and years ago when she was in Wellington, New Zealand, she would buy those frozen ones from the supermarkets and following the instructions on the packaging, she would fry them herself in her apartment there.

Firstly, she poured some water in the pan and to that, she added two tablespoons of cooking oil…

Water and oil

When it had started simmering, she put in the dumplings, bottoms down…

Dumplings in

…and covered the pan with a lid. The evaporating water would cook the dumplings…

Dumplings, cooked

…while the oil would brown the bottom and make it fragrant and crispy…

Bottom, nicely browned and crispy

…just the way she liked it.

We had them…

Uncle Q dumplings for lunch

…for lunch that day. The ladies enjoyed them very much but ranked them at No. 2 after the ones with kuchai (chives). It had a strong ginger taste and I’m not a fan of ginger but eaten with my missus’ blended chili, garlic and lime dip, I must say that I did like it too.

Enjoy it while it lasts…

Yes, my girl has been busy in the kitchen cooking all kinds of dishes while the mum supervises what is going on, telling her the do’s and the don’ts and what not and yes, she does seem to be enjoying it all even though so far, they are all Asian dishes, not those western ones that she would usually cook before.

Her attempt at making apam balik

Melissa's apam balik

…for tea one day did not turn out all that successful. She wanted to make those very thin and crispy ones but I think she added too much batter and they ended up like pancakes. Never mind, they were very nice so we ate it all up – nothing went to waste.

Her spare ribs with black beans…

Melissa's spare ribs with black beans

– one of those items that you may find at a dim sum buffet, was a hit! I would say that it was nicer than any that I had had at a dim sum place anywhere.

This was the fried broccoli…

Melissa's fried broccoli ching chao

ching chao (fried plain with garlic) that she cooked to go with the aforementioned meat dish. The mum went out around a week earlier to stock up on the vegetables in the house and it was already turning yellow at the top and that part had to be shaved and thrown away (like how cauliflower would turn black). They sure do not last very long, do they?

On another day, she cooked this nasi tomato (tomato rice)…

Melissa's nasi tomato

…and the ayam masak merah (red cooked chicken)…

Melissa's ayam masak merah

…and both were top notch. The spices added to the rice made me think of nasi Arab but because of the lockdown/MCO, I don’t know when I will be able to go out to try the ones we have at a couple of places in town.

Now, this was the dish that stole the show…

Melissa's sambal ikan bilis & kentang

– her sambal ikan bilis & kentang (dried anchovies and potatoes in sambal). Except for the ones in curry (and maybe in Chinese soup), I would usually associate potatoes with western cuisine but this was so very very nice. I sure wouldn’t mind more of it, that’s for sure.

My girl also said that there was an Indian uncle at the food stalls across the road from her teacher training institute in Sg Petani, Kedah who cooked very nice potatoes in sardines. Well, we have not started on our canned food yet – still saving them, just in case but when we do start on those, we may give it a try.

There are still 10 days to go till the 14th – hopefully, the lockdown will end then – which means that there is ample time for my girl to go on cooking and enjoy it while it lasts. Once school reopens, I am quite sure she will not have the time for it anymore.

I think…

This was on the morning after I got, through the kind courtesy of Annie, my friend in KL, the lovely jiaoxi/shui jiao (meat dumplings) that her brother made for sale at RM14.00 for a pack of 15.

I was outside the house doing my gardening when I heard someone calling. I turned and saw it was Anson, Annie’s nephew – her brother’s son. It sure caught me by surprise as I was so engrossed in my work that I did not hear nor see the car. He was delivering to me two more packs of the dumplings…

Shui jiao, xiao long bao recipe

…but his dad had made them differently this time around and he wanted me to try and see what I think.

I checked my Facebook messages and yes, he did PM me to tell me about them. He modified the recipe for xiao long bao (小笼包) to make this batch so inside, there was the little bit of the nice soup that one would usually find in those steamed buns…

Shui jiao, xiao long bao recipe - inside

…and he even added a prawn to the meat filling!

Yes, it was delicious and I liked how the soup was not too gingery – that is one thing I do not like so much when eating xiao long bao. However, my missus missed the koo chai (chives) in the ones we had the day before and when it comes to these dumplings, my girl prefers the pan-fried ones.

For one thing, I did oil the plate (I will always do that when steaming dumplings, our sio bee, for instance) first before steaming – Annie’s brother did specify that I must steam, not pan fry because of the soup inside. Unfortunately, the skin of some of them got stuck to the plate…

Shui xiao, xiao long bao recipe - steamed

…and came apart so all the soup was lost. Maybe I did not add enough oil or perhaps, we did not steam them right, I wouldn’t know…and I was wondering how come Annie’s brother did not make them looking like xiao long bao so he would be able to sell them as those instead of them looking like jiaoxi on the outside. Of course whatever they looked like did not matter much to us – what was most important was they were very nice and we did enjoy them.

Thank you so much to Annie’s brother for letting me have a go at these and thank you once again to Anson for going through the trouble of sending them over to the house.

She’s my girl…

Ever since my girl got posted to a school in town, she has not been doing much cooking or baking for the simple reason that it is a lot busier here compared to her previous school in the jungle. It does not matter much to her though – she enjoys what she’s doing and she likes her current working environment, her colleagues and all. Well, with the partial lockdown/MCO/RMO, she sure has a lot more time on her hands and yes, she has been busy in the kitchen.

The other day, she cooked this beautiful fish curry…

Melissa's fish curry

bay kar/ikan tenggiri/mackerel no less using the instant curry paste for seafood, our favourite brand and yes, we sure enjoyed it to the max. I guess it does not seem like anything to get excited about but the thing is she is more into other cuisines, not so much our own Asian ones, other than sushi, perhaps, and that was the first time she tried cooking fish curry.

This is a Thai-Chinese dish, the bihun ladna

Melissa's bihun ladna

…or Rad Na ราดหน้า (rice noodles with gravy) except that they use kway teow but of course, we did not have that in the house and at this point in time, it was not all that convenient to go out and buy. Cooking this involves first frying the noodles after which a sauce is quickly made and poured over the noodles. Ladna in English means “Pour on the Face“.

She got to know about this dish in Sg Petani, Kedah but it came across to me like wat tan hor or bihun goreng basah (with sauce/gravy). Yes, it was nice, especially with all the prawns and ingredients added, but I wouldn’t say it got me all excited, not something that I would be dying to have again.

She is more into western delights like this frittata…

melissa's frittata

– an Italian egg-based dish similar to an omelette or a crustless quiche. I guess it is not really vegetarian as there are eggs and cheese among the ingredients alongside the potatoes and the broccoli. We enjoyed it very much but I sure wouldn’t mind if there’s ham or bacon or corned beef in it.

At one time, my girl was baking all kinds of gluten-free bread because she could not eat the regular ones from the bakeries and she missed it quite a lot. There were some that turned out all right while some were total disasters but none was quite the same – like regular and gluten-free pasta. That day, she tried making some dinner rolls…

Melissa's dinner rolls

…and much to her delight and excitement, they were an overwhelming success. Of course she was delirious with joy and since we liked them a lot, I told her to bookmark the recipe so she can make them time and time again for us to eat.

The lockdown was supposed to end today but unfortunately, it has been extended for another two weeks till the 14th of April and nobody knows whether it will be extended further or not then. I suppose my girl will cook some more in the meantime and if she does, I shall feature the fruits of her labour in a later post.

Appreciate…

A thoughtful and generous gesture is always appreciated, well, by me, at least and I do appreciate how, during these difficult times, there are people who always think and care for others and do whatever they can, however, small to help anyone in need.

The other day, somebody shared an appeal on Facebook, purportedly from the Sibu Hospital, asking for donations/contributions and I drove all the way to send some of the things I had stocked up in the house – I wouldn’t have left the house, otherwise and because of that, I had to drop by the shops in the neighbourhood to restock on the stuff that I had given away.

I was quite pissed off when the authorities released a press statement saying that they were quite well-provided for and did not ask for anything. Well, I did what I felt I should do out of my own sincerity but what I did not like was the way they put it – at least, they should add that they appreciated all who had sent them stuff, thank you very much. That would not be so hard to do, right? But I would give them the benefit of the doubt – they were probably so caught up with this dreadful thing to think of much else.

I have always been blessed abundantly – people give me things all the time and yes, I do appreciate it a lot and just the other day, I received an sms from my friend, Annie, in KL telling me that she was giving me some of the jiaoxi/shui jiao (dumplings) her brother made…

Jiaoxi from Annie

…and her nephew would send them over to my house the following day and she added that she had paid for them.

Her brother went into this business once and yes, he did give me some to try but he left town soon afterwards to work here and there and now that he is cooped up in the house owing to the partial lockdown/CMO/RMO, he has gone back to making them again for sale.

I asked his son, Annie’s nephew, when he brought them to my house and he said they are RM14.00 a pack and there are 15 in each one of them, less than RM1 each…

15 in a pack

My missus pan-fried one of the packs right away and in no time at all, we all sat down to enjoy eating them…

Filling

The skin was beautifully done, very nice and smooth and not chewy/rubbery or hard like some that we had had the displeasure of buying and eating and the meat and chives filling was really delicious.

My girl in particular loves these dumplings unlike me. I am not crazy about them but will eat when there is any to be eaten but I sure would not go out of my way for them. I did enjoy these though so if anyone around here enjoys these dumplings…

Dumplings, pan-fried

…and are keen on placing an order for a pack or more to enjoy, they may PM me on Facebook or send me an sms giving me their address, telephone contact and the number of packs they would like and I would convey the orders to Annie’s brother or the nephew. Yes, they will do home delivery, provided the house is not too far away.

Thank you so much, Annie & David, for the dumplings and thanks to you too, Anson, for going through the trouble of sending them over to my house, very much appreciated, indeed.