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.

The dance…

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva. It marks the night of the heavenly marriage and consummation between Shiva and Parvati and it is also the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance.

There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar on the 13th night/14th day, but around February/March, they celebrate the Maha Shivaratri which means “the Great Night of Shiva”.

No, I did not know all this but that night I was invited by my Indian friends, Andy and Varun, at Payung to a special thali (a set Indian meal) they were hosting to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Unfortunately, all the photographs that I took did not come out well except this one of the poori

Poori

…that we had, a deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour. It went very well with everything that was served on a banana leaf…

Special thali dinner
*Andy’s photo*

…and I even asked for a second helping, another two or three pieces, I can’t remember now.

There seemed to be two main dishes, one that looked like minced meat but cooked using black chickpeas, probably the kala chana curry and the other, the potato bhaji – you can see a bit of that in the above photograph. The other one that you can see in the photograph, top right, is the gajar halwa, an Indian carrot pudding served as a dessert along with the Indian rice kheer, a rice and milk dessert – both of these were slightly sweet, very slightly and I enjoyed them very much.

Varun made a vadai too, not quite the same as the ones that I am accustomed to. He said that was his first attempt as that is a South Indian delicacy and he comes from the north and he did say that they do not serve meals on a banana leaf there either as the plant is not common in the colder climatic conditions unlike the places in the south.

There was a soup using red beans, the bigger version and also an Indian drink that reeked of spices and ginger.

That certainly was a delightful and most interesting evening – we enjoyed the exquisite dinner and the pleasant company…

Thali dinner at Payung
*Andy’s photo*

Thank you so much, Andy & Varun, for inviting us to your celebration of this very special Indian festival.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

I found her…

I used to love her kampua mee, similar to the one here as she used to work there when they were at their original location and despite being somewhat out of the way, I would make my way to her shop to enjoy her noodles and of course, I would bring family and friends there too.

However, one fine day, she decided to close shop and call it a day. The guy who told me that said that she got tired having to run the kampua mee stall, handle the drinks and cook the fried stuff all on her own without anybody to help her – her legs could not take it, he said…and there were some family issues too but I would not go into that.

I did go and try the Foochow fried noodles at this coffee shop

Ciak Pa Boi Cafe

…way back in 2013 and I thought it was nice but for no particular reason, I never went back again. Obviously, the shop sign has taken its toll over the years.

I seldom ventured to that part of the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) area of shops but that morning, it so happened that I was around that particular block and I decided to check out some of the shops there. When I was passing by the coffee shop, much to my surprise, there she was!!!…

RTM Cafe kampua lady

Needless to say, I just had to take a seat and order her kampua mee (RM3.00)…

Kampua mee 1

…that I had not had for such a long time.

Yes, it was as good as before…

Kampua mee 2

…and yes, I most certainly would go back there to enjoy her noodles again and again.

I quickly shared the information on Facebook but I don’t know how many have already made their way there – so far, I only know of one. Hopefully, she will get to enjoy brisk business and will find it worth her while to go on with what she is doing.

CIAK PA BOI CAFE (2.311420, 111.830729) is located in the Dewan Suarah area of shops in the block facing Jalan Tun Abg Hj Openg with Captain Roseley’s PETRONAS petrol station right across on the other side of the main road.

Old times’ sake…

After our dinner here that night, Michael suggested going to visit an old friend from our time, my ex-classmate, Ing Kok, his ex-schoolmate – Michael was in the science stream, the class next door and of course, I did not have a problem with that.

We sat and chatted till late and as we were leaving, Ing Kok suggested getting together for old times’ sake with a few of the others here for lunch the day after the following day. However, other than Michael and I, there were just Joseph and his wife and a couple, related to Ing Kok in some way – probably they were not able to get any of the others to come.

Ing Kok brought along one freshwater upriver fish, the ikan semah, supposedly the next best thing to the ikan empurau or the wang poo liao/忘不了 (unforgettable) though personally, I prefer this one…and he got the chef to prepare it in two different ways, steamed…

Ikan semah, steamed

…and grilled…

Ikan semah, grilled

…and needless to say, it was really good either way.

There was also this very nice sea cucumber soup…

Sea cucumber soup

…with lots of the coveted stuff, huge chunks and strips of it!

For our vegetable dish, we had the Green Dragon vegetable (青龙菜) or the royale chives…

Royale chives

…and we also had this, one of their signature dishes – the chess/chequer board duck…

Chessboard duck

I loved this fried tofu topped with seaweed and garnished with enoki

Seaweed tofu

…and whatever else – I certainly would want to order this again the next time I drop by here.

That was indeed a sumptuous lunch treat, thank you so much, Ing Kok and nothing beats getting together and bonding with old acquaintances and celebrating that special friendship that has endured all those years since 1969.

New Capital Restaurant 新首都酒家 (2.288619, 111.830057) is located at No. 46, Lebuh Tanah Mas, off Jalan Kampung Nyabor, in the block of shops opposite the Sarawak House/King’s Trioplex/Premier Hotel at the very far end on the right.