Generous…

Last Friday, our no-meat day, I dropped by my favourite fish & seafood stall to buy some or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret and like what I said in my earlier blogpost, I picked the smaller ones, 6 altogether for RM54.00. That worked out to RM9.00 each. At the restaurants, one would be around RM30.00 each but of course, they are bigger, maybe twice the size and they cook it for you.

There was a bag of half a bay kar/ikan tenggiri/mackerel that an old lady wanted for making fish balls but it was cut into slices and she did not want that. The lady boss said it was all right – she would get another one for her and turning to me, she said she would give me that one. WHAT??? That sure took me by surprise. She wanted to give me half of one fish for free??? That was really so very generous of her!

I took that home and deep fried the slices for lunch that afternoon…

…and not only was there enough – we had a few left that we saved for dinner.

Now if you think that was all, think again! I wanted to buy some of her own-made fish paste but she said there were too many customers and she had not had time to do that yet…and indeed, there were so many people unlike the previous times when I was there and those people really bought A LOT, by the hundred. Gee! Her business is really booming and of course, that is very good. Just as I was about to leave, she threw a small bag of fish paste into my bag – perhaps she had started making earlier and only managed to make enough for say 5-6 fish balls and she told me I could have that as well, FOC! I’ll blog about those when I finally get down to cooking them.

Going back to earlier that morning before I left the house, I took the leftover tang hoon (glass noodles) from the stuffed tofu soup we had that day to fry. I fried a tablespoon of garlic, peeled and chopped, in oil till golden brown, added some prawns and a few leaves of the Brazilian spinach from my garden before throwing in the tang hoon. I mixed a tablespoon of oyster sauce, broke an egg into the pan and threw in a whole lot of chopped spring onion, also from my garden and once it was done, I dished it out and served…

I tried a bit and yes, I thought it was really good. When I came back from buying the fish, the ladies in the house were up and yes, they finished all that I had cooked and yes, they said it was nice. I guess I shall have to cook tang hoon like that again next time.

Going back a couple of days before that, my girl took the packet of frozen minced beef that the mum bought and made this lovely cottage pie…

…enough for the three of us for our lunch and dinner that day.

The filling was so good…

…so delicious! I don’t know what went into the cooking but I am sure it would make really nice beef pies too, using shortcrust pastry.

Sarawak is now under a full lockdown, beginning on Saturday last week. It has been a few days and hopefully, this will help reduce the number of daily cases that keep increasing like nobody’s business. I certainly look forward to resuming our normal lives again, the new normal, that is. Let us pray!

The fish 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, if you go in via the entrance where San Len Tyres is located, just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall.

Somebody’s gotta do it…

One morning, my neighbour gave me one or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret…

…a small one, to reciprocate for all the butterfly pea flowers that I would pluck every morning to give to her.

She said that her son’s brother-in-law or somebody has a fishing boat and sometimes, when the ship comes in, he would give him some of those that he has caught. “It’s not cleaned yet,” she told me and I replied that it was perfectly all right as I could easily do it myself.

I asked her if she would do it herself too and she said yes but she added that when she was still single, she did not know how to do a lot of things and only got to learn after she got married and had a family of her own. That would be the case with most young people, I said. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of success,” and another one says, “It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it!

Here, the fish seller will do it for you but he or she may not be that thorough so upon coming home, we would have to clean it all over again to get rid of what is left of the scales and the inside of the fish, those streaks of black along the middle bone and elsewhere. My girl is very particular about cleanliness and she would stop eating at the mere sight of it.

I never had such a small one as usually, we would fry one that is big enough and eat one side of the fish for lunch and heat it up later to finish off the other side for dinner. However, I found that it might get a bit hard come dinnertime, not as nice as when we had it for lunch. I do think it is a good idea to buy two small ones and fry one for lunch and the other one for dinner so no reheating would be involved.

We like it plain so it does make a difference whether it is really very fresh or not. The fresh ones, like the one my neighbour gave me, would be so very sweet, so very tasty you can just eat and enjoy it just like that. Otherwise, we would have to serve it in sweet and sour sauce…

…or cook asam fish or curry with it.

As far as these chio or bawal or pomfrets go, we like these black ones the most. The kim chio (golden pomfret)…

…is more affordable but somehow or other, we are not that crazy about it nor are we into the very popular and expensive pek chio, the white or silver pomfret…

The latter is smoother and has a milder taste but since we do not enjoy it as much and it is not that affordable, we never bother to buy it to eat.

When we were young…

If you go to a coffee shop here and order a toast, you will get a toasted plain/white sandwich bread with Yeo’s kaya (coconut jam) and Planta margarine which is not quite to my liking. I prefer butter, real butter not those supposedly-butter spread wannabes, and nyonya kaya

…but there are people who would rather go for the aforementioned as anything else will not be the same as what they had enjoyed so much when they were young, together with two half-boiled eggs and a cup of fragrant local coffee, kao kao (strong).

I have a friend here in Sibu, a foodie who posts photographs of things that he eats every day on Instagram and Facebook and the other day, he shared one of a toast that he had with butter, peanut butter and kaya

…and that seemed to arouse quite a bit of excitement. His sisters, no longer residing in Sibu, started commenting as they recalled how they enjoyed that…

…during their growing up years when they were young. Gee!!! I never had toast like that before.

Yes, I had it with butter, peanut butter and jam…

…which was nice too – throw in some bananas and bacon and you will get that celebrated awesomely delicious Elvis Presley sandwich.

I don’t know if it was the kaya that I used but I felt that the peanut butter drowned out its taste altogether. In the case of the jam, I could still taste a bit of it above the stronger peanut butter flavour. Well, at least I’ve tried but since I am cutting down on my intake of sugar these days, I shall stick to peanut butter (and butter) alone on my toast…

…no kaya, no jam but even this is not entirely sugar free as there are carbs in that slice of bread and there is sugar in the ingredients for peanut butter. I will just have to confine myself to a slice or two once in a long while.

Plants…

I have not been very active lately with my gardening – I just spend my time weeding and watering, trimming and getting rid of some of the things that are growing a bit too old and are not flourishing.

My butterfly pea flower is doing all right, all along the fence in my backyard. Every morning, I would go and pluck all the flowers and give to my neighbour – she wants to dry them and keep for her daughters who are living elsewhere, not in Sibu. I was doing that myself once and I managed to collect one bottle full. In the end, I gave it to Melissa’s coursemate who is currently teaching in Sibu. I also gave him some seedlings and some seeds that I had collected.

Well, the other day, he shared with me this photograph…

…on Facebook. He said something about it not doing too well initially but it looked like it managed to pull through and should be flourishing from now on. It’s not difficult to plant, not at all and that makes me wonder why those people in the nasi kerabu and Malay kuih businesses would not plant for their own use – instead, they choose to use artificial colouring.

I’ve seen photographs in food blogs and online recipes where they use the flowers for the colouring and I noticed that they used the dried ones. As far as I know, they do not come cheap – I saw it once at a supermarket, RM13.50 for 300 gm! In my neighbour’s words, good things do not come easy and only when we do it ourselves, we would not know how difficult it is. We dry a lot and end up with just a little. I wonder how much she has managed to collect so far. It certainly is a lot easier to plant one’s own and use the fresh flowers.

Going back to Melissa’s coursemate, in his post, he was discussing with his friends, complaining about how their kunyit (turmeric) and serai (lemon grass) never flowered. I’ve yet to see my serai doing that but my kunyit flowers…

…all the time, one after another, sometimes two or three at one go. They say I am very lucky because it is not something that happens so easily and frequently.

For want of something to do during this pandemic that does not look like it is ever going to end, the ladies in the house have started planting vegetables and flowers. I, for one, will not bother to grow anything that is not edible. We’ve yet to get to eat any of the vegetables but I must say that the flowers do look rather pretty.

My girl planted some succulents that do not need much watering and attention and they started flowering…

…in no time at all…

The mum planted this…

…that looks like a daisy but the plant looks kind of different from anything I’ve seen before.

Well, I don’t have to plant any – just like the papaya trees that popped out of nowhere, time and again, there will be plants appearing out of the blue and the other day, I spotted these lovely flowers…

…by the fence. Truly, God works in mysterious ways…

Sweet surprise…

I received an sms out of the blue that day from my ex-student/lawyer-friend, Louis, now residing with his family in Kuching. He asked if I was at home and of course, I replied that I was. These days, I would be home most, if not all, of the time. He said he was on his way to my house.

Oh? So he was in Sibu again? He comes over very often – I guess he has a lot of cases here but most of the time, he would be here for a day or two and he would have to rush back to his missus and boys in Kuching, not much time for much else while he was in Sibu.

He said he had some things for me and I just assumed that somebody had sent some stuff from Kuching to me through him but no, it turned out that he bought some Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

from here for me to enjoy. As far as I know, without fail, he will drop by that coffee shop everytime he comes back to Sibu for his favourite beef noodles in town.

For me, the sio bee from this coffee shop…

…are small but they are very nice, going all the way back to 2012 when I first tried the ones from their branch along Island Road, since demolished to give way to some construction there. They were 70 sen each then – the last time I bought some, the price had gone up to 80 sen, dunno how much they are now.

Their bak chang is also very nice and yes, Louis did buy me a few…

…to enjoy as well.

He also got me this one…

…but he was not sure what was inside, kacang or something, he said. Here, if people say it’s kacang, it can mean peanut or tau sar (red bean paste). At the time of writing, I have not tried it yet so I don’t know which that would be.

Thank you so much, Louis, for the sio bee and the chang, so very nice of you to think of your old teacher and to go through the trouble of buying and sending them all the way to my house – it sure was a pleasant and sweet surprise.

The Dragon Boat Festival or 端午节 Duānwǔ Jié, usually called the Chang (Dumpling) Festival falls on the 14th of June this year so it is just a few weeks away. I guess when the time comes, I can just buy a few of the nice ones from here to eat to preserve the tradition, our heritage.

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.

Don’t go there…

The other morning, my good friend/ex-classmate, Robert and his wife, Angela, stopped by my house to pass me these…

He knows that I love them very much and he thinks these are really very nice so he would like me to try.

According to him, they were made by a lady who would only make a few packs a day and leave them for sale at the central market in town. I don’t know where he got them from as the market is currently closed after some COVID-19 cases were discovered there sometime ago.

Well, one look at them…

…told me that the skin was so very thin and so translucent, almost transparent so they must be very good.

The shape reminded me of the ones I bought a couple of times at a bakery here

…but I have not gone there for a very long time. For one thing, it is in the town centre and I seldom venture there – I prefer to stick around places around my neighbourhood only and other than that, I saw the name a number of times in the daily list of places that COVID-19 positive cases had been to – to me, those venues are best avoided. I sure would not want to go there. Anyway, word has it that they are no longer available there anymore.

I tried the ones that Robert gave me…

…and I felt that the two were quite different. I could feel the difference in the skin, no prize for guessing which was nicer. As for the filling, this tasted like what one would find in those chai pao (steamed vegetable dumpling) – the filling in the ones from the bakery was more meaty. Whatever it is, I would say that I enjoyed them both – both are nice.

Thank you so much, Robert and Angela, for the thought and for buying me these…and sending them all the way to my house to give to me. Much obliged, indeed!

The right combination…

The other day, early in the morning at around 8.00 a.m., I dropped by here again as I had to go next door to see to some business regarding my house insurance.

We loved his fried kway teow

…when he was at that Sarawak franchise place, going all the way back to 2013 and when he opened his own place here in 2015, we had been dropping by regularly for that or some other nice stuff on his menu.

For no reason in particular, we have not been coming here for quite sometime but of course, all this while, it was never short of customers and had been doing very well. Unfortunately, that morning, the situation was a far cry from the usual – maybe it was still too early but there wasn’t a single living soul around.

I decided to tapao (take away) his fried kway teow

…for everybody for breakfast for old times’ sake so I went and took my tiffin carrier from the boot of my car and placed my order for three.

Yes, it was still as nice as ever and we sure enjoyed it very much. However, I don’t know whether it was because of the current situation with the business being somewhat slow but there seemed to be a lot in one serving, so much so that I was still feeling so very full come lunchtime and I decided to skip the meal that day. I could have ordered two plates only and shared that among the three of us.

The last time I was there, the guy asked me to buy his spicy crispy prawn chili sambal (RM20 for one plastic tub, full)…

…but I was not all that keen at the time. This time around, I was intrigued by the sight of all the packs all over the tables in the shop, ready for sale. Gee!!! It certainly looked like it must be really good, I thought, and there was a big demand for it so I bought one and took it home.

I had it for tea…

…that afternoon with these made-in-the-Philippines Sky Flakes crackers…

…their newer onion & chives flavour…

…and it was truly the right combination, I must say.

That was so very nice that I simply couldn’t stop until I had had quite a lot even though I knew jolly well that at this point in time, I shouldn’t be feasting on such things like there was no tomorrow.

This is something like the sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) that I would make myself sometimes but of course, he does not use the worth-its-weight-in-gold Rajang hay bee but the cheaper ones are not that cheap these days, anyway and everyone has been telling me to use that, insisting that the sambal will be just as nice (and they also tell me to use a blender, no need to kill myself pounding away using a mortar and pestle).

His is not exactly like mine – I think his recipe is not exactly the same as the one in my family – but I could detect some similarities. I certainly would want to buy some more once I’ve finished the pack that I bought that morning.

COLOURFUL CAFE (2.316673, 111.837539) is located in the Renew4U building at the junction of Brooke Drive and Lorong Kwong Ann 8, across the road from the Church of Jesus  Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

Half breed…

It was my missus’ birthday on Thursday, her 65th.

That was why I went to that mini-market not far from my house to buy a chicken for the traditional Foochow longevity noodles…

…or mee sua (string or thread noodles) and of course, for a special occasion, that calls for a special breed of chicken, what we call pua chai kay, literally translated as Eurasian or half breed chicken…

I love this variety, nicer than the very popular kampung chicken and the celebrated super-nutritious black chicken…

It’s smaller than the regular chicken feed-fed ones and not so fat but bigger than the kampung ones but they sure do not come cheap – I got one for RM47.00 something, almost RM50.00!

The texture of the meat is nicer, kind of liam-liam (sticky) and tastier and we also had those special supposedly more nutritious kampung chicken eggs…

…with the chicken and the noodles. These are very small, smaller than the regular ones by around half the size but bigger than quail eggs.

That was all we had for brunch that day but I did have something planned for dinner that evening. That will be in another post though so you’ll stick around for that, won’t you?

This is the place…

I blogged about this place…

…a few times already, my favourite fish and seafood stall located not far from my house and it sure aroused quite a bit of interest among my followers and also my friends on Facebook.

Many were excited to see the ikan terubok that I managed to get hold of to enjoy after so many years while others were keen on getting hold of the unadulterated fish paste that the lady at the stall would make for sale. I bought that a few times already and the other day, we used it to make those lovely Thai fish cakes, the tod mun pla. Of course, I went back there quite regularly for the prawns and also the sotong (squid).

I was there again the other morning and I saw that they had some ikan terubok

…bigger than the ones I am keeping in my freezer for days when I would feel like eating that in case I cannot get hold of any when I am craving for it. It isn’t easy getting hold of this fish, really.

As a matter of fact, I was not there to buy fish for our meals that day but I certainly would do that now that I have this stall not too far away. That way, I can buy and take home and cook straight away, fresh from the sea. The lady at the stall told me that they would only open when there are fishing boats coming in at Mukah, bringing in their catch for sale. That sure beats those fishmongers who will take out their fish from their freezer, defrost it and display for sale…and freeze it again at the end of the day if nobody buys it and day in, day out, the vicious cycle goes on.

I quite like the fish sold at that shop round the corner from my house. The instant they get their fresh fish, they will pack them in plastic, seal and freeze them straight away. Unfortunately, their fish is not cleaned so when I buy theirs, prior to cooking, I shall have to go through the chore of cleaning it. I do not mind that actually – I am pretty good at it and I do not mind that their fish is generally a little more expensive because it is always very fresh, very sweet and nice.

Anyway, back to the aforementioned stall, I bought more prawns, RM18.00 a kilo…

…because we had run out of them, never mind big or small. Those this size would be ideal for cho liao (as an ingredient) when cooking vegetables or frying noodles or rice. Their sweetness and taste will surely bring whatever you are cooking to a whole new level.

I bought 2 kg that day and lived to regret it. The nice lady at the stall, without my asking for a discount, said she would let me have them at RM35.00 but when I got home, I spent THE WHOLE MORNING peeling them and removing their heads and slicing the back to get rid of the vein. Gosh!!! That was so tedious, such a dreadful chore!!! Looking on the bright side, I did manage to get quite a lot…

…for use – that should last for quite sometime! I’ve packed them in convenient packs so we can just take out what we need each time, no need to take them all out to defrost, use a bit and refreeze the rest. It is not good to defrost and refreeze stuff like that all the time.

I also bought some sotong (squid)…

…too that morning. They were not that big that day so my missus had to spend hours cleaning them while I was doing the prawns.

She cooked sambal sotong

…with them and nasi lemak (just the rice in santan/coconut milk). We sure enjoyed that to the max especially when we had not had any nasi lemak for such a long time. I am still avoiding the shops and stalls in the kampung area here even though the cluster seems a little bit quiet for a while now – I’m sure everyone would agree that at a time like this, with the pandemic raging on and on like it is never going to end, it sure pays to be careful.

The fish 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, if you go in via the entrance where San Len Tyres is located, just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall.

Make it ourselves…

Last Sunday, my girl said she wanted to make a pizza for Mother’s Day. “But that’s a week away,” I told her. “Next Sunday!” However, her mind was made up and she decided to go ahead with her plan.

She made her own pizza base – the bread dough type even though I know that actually, she likes thin crust. She opted for seafood topping so she used my stock of those giant prawns that I bought and was keeping in the freezer and there was a packet of mussels that had been there for a while now so she took that and used as well. Of course, she added a whole lot of cheese – mozzarella and parmesan and maybe, there was cheddar too along with some pesto that she made and she also added a whole lot of herbs and lastly, a generous sprinkling of chili flakes…

It turned out really great…

…with the variety of flavours from all the ingredients added and the bread crust was good too, soft and nice. There was enough for lunch and dinner so we did not bother to cook anything else that day.

In the meantime, my good friend/ex-classmate, Robert and his wife, Angela, dropped by my house and they gave me this…

…flour-free chiu chu koi (tapioca cake) that the latter made. Oooo…I have a weakness for these nyonya kuehs but right now, I need to watch my sugar intake!

I tried a bit and found that it was not sweet so I was able to nibble one whole slice…

…at one go and save the rest for another time, bit by bit.

Thank you so much, Angela and Robert!