You’re next…

My friends’ eldest son, Daniel, got married in 2014. Wow!!! Was it that long ago? That was some 5 years ago and of course, he and his wife, Natalie, are blessed with one pretty little girl now and last Saturday, the 23rd of March, my friends’ youngest son, Alvin, tied the knot with the love of his life, Stellia. Of course, we were at the church service…

Wedding mass

…that morning for what I always believe to be the most important part of any wedding for the solemnisation of their marriage vows.

I did not go round taking a whole lot of photographs as they had a few professional guys to do the job but I did get this shot of the father of the bride with his daughter…

Here comes the bride

…as they walked up to the altar to give away her hand in Holy Matrimony and another one of the bride and groom…

Just married

…as they were walking out of the church as man and wife.

That night, we attended the wedding reception at the grand ballroom of the leading hotel in town…

Backdrop

…and no, I did not take a lot of photographs either…

Centrepiece

…but I did snap one of my favourite duck stuffed with glutinous rice…

Duck stuffed with glutinous rice

I guess I enjoyed it very much which prompted my girl to comment that I had quite a few helpings that night.

Both my friends were in the education service, now retired…like me and the gathering that night was like one big happy reunion, meeting so many old friends – teachers, principals most of whom are retired too…like me. We sure had a lovely evening, I must say.

Thank you so much, Catherine & Stephen for the invitation and congratulations to you two, the proud parents and of course, to Alvin and Stellia – may God bless you both with abundant bliss in the years ahead. All the best, cheers!

Each passing day…

I just received this Chinese New Year greeting card from my cousin and her family in Melbourne, Australia…

CNY card

…a few days ago. Well, it was a bit late for Chinese New Year’s Day proper but still very much in time for the festive season which ends on Chap Goh Meh (the 15th Night) next week, thank you so much to all of them!

This card is really special as it is not just a card. In fact, it doubles as a desk calendar at the back…

Desk calendar

…12-in-1 so I do not even have to turn the page twelve times in a year.

Yes, I am really hopeless with these things – I get the 12-page desk calendar from the Mouth & Foot Artists every year and unless I have given them away to somebody, they are all somewhere in the house, still brand new.

My 2016 Year of the Monkey a page-a-day wall calendar…

Wall calendar

…is still hanging on the wall on the cover page, not even the 1st of January…

A page a day

…talking about standing still in time. LOL!!! My dad used to love this kind of calendars whereby without fail, he would dutifully go and tear a page each passing day to see if it would be a good day or not. I kept telling him that they would print the same thing year in, year out and only the numbers had been changed but it all fell on deaf ears. Ah well! As long as it made him happy, we just let him be.

What about all of you? More into digital clocks and calendars…or you are completely dependent on your smart phone?

Memories of the past…

This was the final year of the prestigious Cambridge English Language 1119 Examination, an independent test like the American TOEFL – the following year, it was bought over by the Malaysian government and incorporated into the English Language subject in the SPM Examination and its quality and value have since dwindled over the years while Cambridge went on to host other similar English Language examinations like the IELTS.

Quite a few students here would sit for it every year and the fees were by no means cheap. Some of them did go for some kind of preparation at the tuition centres but unfortunately, most did not manage to do well.

It so happened that I had a friend in the department who went on a working trip to Cambridge and she did manage to bring back the marking scheme and the examiners’ reports. I studied those carefully and then I called those of my boys who would want to sit for the examination that year and shared with them all that I knew so they would not go in blindly.

It certainly made me feel so happy and proud that they did so very well – I remember there were at least 5 or 6 who got a distinction A1 and a few more managed a distinction A2 and these were two of them…

Raphael & Mark

…who got A1 – Raphael is now residing and working in the US while Mark is now a Jesuit priest, pursuing his doctorate degree in Oxford, England.

The two of them and the others were at the reunion that night and they contacted me to ask if I would be interested in joining them. Of course I was! But there were just about 9 of them – I certainly had a lot more than that in the top or the top two classes every year. Maybe the rest heard that I would be there so they all had cold feet and chickened out. LOL!!!

They picked the relatively new restaurant run by the family of one of them as the venue and yes, a few of them had a few beers…

Beer

My boys are grown men now, double their age from the time when I was their teacher.

I asked Andy and according to him, the chief chef is originally from Sibu, back here after 5 years in Melbourne. Australia and his assistant is from Miri.

This herbal chicken…

Herbal chicken

…that they dished out was really very nice. They did it differently from the other restaurants – no paper wrapper, no cling film, no aluminium foil were used in the cooking.

This…

No sharks fins

…was very nice too and no worries, there was no sharks’ fins in it – save the sharks!!!

The cereal prawns…

Cereal prawns

…were great and we also had this broccoli and mushroom dish…

Broccoli mushroom

…and the sea cucumber soup…

Sea cucumber coup

We sure enjoyed the steamed fish, ikan sultan

Fish

…done in a way that I had never seen before – I think that was their own pounded chili on top and everyone agreed that It tasted absolutely great.

We also had the crispy pata, more popularly known here as the Philippine pork leg…

Crispy pata

…and that looked like the same pounded chili by the side. For dessert, we had the canned peaches but with laichee instead of longans for a change and it was good – cold and refreshing!

It sure was a delightful evening of who did what to who, who sat where and so and so forth, recalling those fond memories of the past…and of course, there were those questions – who is where now, who is still single and available. We were so caught up with everything while enjoying the lovely dishes served that we didn’t realise it was almost 10 and time to make our way home.

Oh yes! I asked them how much I would have to pay for my share of the dinner and they told me that they had discussed that among themselves and had got it covered. Gee!!! Aren’t they all so very sweet and nice, my boys?

SIONG KEE RESTAURANT (2.293215, 111.836281) is located along Lorong Chiew Siik Hiong 1 in the Fortune Commercial Centre, behind the Rejang Medical Centre. It is at the corner opposite Lok Ming Yuen Cafe behind which is Sushi Tie, the Japanese Restaurant.

Family business…

Andy has been my Facebook friend for a long long time but I could not recall having a student by that name and I could not recall anyone who looked like that either. I did not know what he was doing but he was very active in one of those international non-governmental organisations and more recently, I saw his name in the list of councillors in the town’s municipal council.

It was only when he and his family took over this place

Siong Kee 1

…and started running their kampua mee business…

Siong Kee 2

…on the ground floor and their restaurant on the 1st Floor and Andy shared a whole lot of photographs on Facebook that I realised he is actually the son of this celebrity in town! They used to have stalls all over the town like some kind of franchise but they’ve closed down all of them to concentrate on this one now.

Well, it so happened that my ex-students, all from the same year as Andy, invited me there on the 4th Day of the Chinese Lunar New Year for a reunion…

Reunion

The mother…

Mother

…was at the helm when we arrived and much later, when we were leaving at almost 10.00 p.m., his father had taken over…and even at that time, there were still a lot of people there enjoying the kampua mee among other things.

This was a special treat from Andy, their celebrated kampua mee

Siong Kee kampua, black

– somebody asked for the dark version and it was really very nice. I did not think it was all that great when I tried it in 2012 nor was I overwhelmed by what I had at one of the stalls more recently in 2017 and at RM3.50, it was the most expensive in town so I never went back for more.

Well, according to Andy, it is now RM4.00 a bowl, restaurant standard price, and instead of the miserable few slices of boiled meat coloured red, theirs would be served with eight slices of real char siew. The kampua mee here was also RM3.50 a bowl – I guess It must have gone up to RM4.00 as well seeing how the prices of everything have gone up there…but having said that, I really enjoyed the kampua mee there and I did not mind forking out a little extra for something I enjoy…and I certainly would say the same about the one here…

Sionge Kee kampua

More about the reunion with my ex-students coming right up in the next post! Do stick around!

SIONG KEE RESTAURANT (2.293215, 111.836281) is located along Lorong Chiew Siik Hiong 1 in the Fortune Commercial Centre, behind the Rejang Medical Centre. It is at the corner opposite Lok Ming Yuen Cafe behind which is Sushi Tie, the Japanese Restaurant.

I never had it so good…

My paternal uncle, my late dad’s younger brother, invited us to his grandson’s 2nd birthday celebration on Sunday evening, the eve of Chinese New Year’s Eve, at a leading hotel in town.

I guess the theme was one of jungle animals…

Party theme, jungle animals

…and I must say it sure was impressive and took my breath away. These kids really have it so good these days – their parties would certainly put the ones we had when we were little to shame.

There were all those lovely cupcakes…

Cupcakes 1

…lots of them…

Cupcakes 2

which they asked everybody to help themselves to after the cutting of the birthday cake by the birthday boy and there were tarts too…

Tarts

…and a tray of Swiss roll…

Swiss roll

…as well.

Of course, dinner started with our traditional longevity noodles, the mee sua

Mee sua

…complete with the golden egg but instead of the usual chicken in traditional Foochow red wine soup, what we had that night was herbal chicken soup and I rather enjoyed it, something different for a change and because there were only 8 at our table for 10, there were extras and I helped myself to one of the two bowls and ate on behalf of whoever did not show up. LOL!!!

After that came the more-than-Four Seasons…

More than Four Seasons

…followed by this steamed fish…

Fish

…and this duck & chicken combo…

Duck & chicken

This dish of lamb done butter prawn style…

Lamb

…did not really tickle my fancy but I sure enjoyed the braised sea cucumber that came after that…

Sea cucumber

There was another dish, mixed vegetables and dessert of almond jelly and longans but I did not take any photographs of those.

The “elders” in the family were given this door gift…

Door gift 1

– I am the birthday boy’s uncle, my cousin’s son, so I got one too and inside was this very nice “gold coin”…

Door gift 2

…for The Year of The Pig. Hopefully, that will bring me good luck in the year ahead!

It certainly was a delightful party and get-together with everybody from my paternal side of the family.

Fingers crossed…

恭禧發財 新年快樂!!!

Chinese New Year lanterns

It’s the 1st Day of the Chinese Lunar New Year today and this year is the Year of the Pig.

We did not make any cookies but we did pick up a few of this and that, mostly from the local bakeries so we would have something to enjoy at home. No, we did not make any cake either but my dear cousin, Doreen and her hubby, Bened, gave us this very nice fruit cake…

From Doreen

…and also one of those cookie gift sets from Tupperware. We did get to try the fruit cake when we were at their house for Christmas and we liked it so much and were praising it to the skies. It is so very sweet of her to go through all that trouble to get it for us all the way from Kuching – if I remember correctly, it is homemade by special order from somebody there.

Another cousin of mine, Ah Lek, we call him, and his wonderful missus, Saliah, never fail to give us something every year and this year is not exception. They will always get us these traditional local delights…

From Ah Lek

…for us to enjoy…and yesterday, my friend/ex-student, Justin, dropped by my house to pass me these…

From Justin

He comes home for Chinese New Year every year and he too will never fail to bring me something really nice and special. This year, he brought me a giant pomelo, most probably from his fruit farm in the peninsula and some durian kueh kapit, we call it kueh sepit here. I bet that tastes good…and he also gave me the famous Perak menglembu groundnuts. That sure brought back some fond memories of my growing up years when come Chinese New Year every year, my father would get some bak kua (barbecued meat slices) and these peanuts (they came in cylindrical tins then) from Singapore – ours was probably the only house around to have these to serve to guests then.

My missus did cook a few nice dishes over the last few days though and as she was busy, I dropped by here last Sunday morning to buy their nasi biryani

Sri Pelita nasi biryani

…with mutton curry for our lunch…

Sri Pelita mutton curry

…and a tosai for my girl’s breakfast. When I wanted to pay for my purchases, the nice proprietor, Guna, said, in his own words, “in the spirit of Chinese New Year”, it would be on the house and he simply refused to accept any payment no matter how I insisted.

Thank you so so so much to one and all – I truly am so blessed to be surrounded by all these awesome people, always so very kind, thoughtful and generous…and I sure do hope that the Good Lord will continue to shower His Blessings upon me and my family and all of them and everybody too. Hopefully, we will get to enjoy all that is good all year long, fingers crossed. A Very Happy & Prosperous New Year, cheers!!!

SRI PELITA CAFE (2.293579, 111.820700) is located along Lorong Kampung Datu 11, off Jalan Kampung Datu, the first shop in the block to the right of Paramount Hotel.

What a difference a day makes…

All throughout my school days, school would always reopen on the first Monday in January every year. I do not remember when they changed that and fixed it on the 2nd of January, right after New Year’s Day. To be honest, I do not see what difference those few days would make, not that it would miraculously turn the pupils/students into geniuses.

The way it is, teachers would have to go back to their schools way ahead of time – many in the jungle or in the other states, far away from their home sweet home, away from the warmth and love of their respective families. They would hold their staff meeting right after Christmas, some before…and set aside a date for the kids to report…and on the 2nd of January, they would start teaching right away, no dilly-dallying. Obviously, that would mean that there would be no celebration of any kind for those poor teachers concerned to usher in the new year, none at all. After all that talk about family values, it is sad, isn’t it?

Well, we can console ourselves to some extent as it isn’t as bad as one year when some smart fella, the Minister of Education at the time, thought he could beat God at his game and started the academic year in December…to push the public examinations earlier to avoid the perennial floods in the east coast of the peninsula. Unfortunately, time and tide waits for no man and the floods came earlier so the problem remained and there were a lot of unhappy people at the time. Thankfully, they did away with that silly idea and switched back to January.

I mentioned in my previous post that we sent our girl back to her school in the jungle on New Year’s Eve for their staff meeting and she had to stay back there to register the kids in her class the following day, New Year’s Day and that was why she did not want to come back after the meeting (which dragged on till late, around 1.00 p.m.)…and that was why we had nothing planned, nothing on New Year’s Eve, nothing on New Year’s Day.

I had a pleasant surprise that afternoon, New Year’s Day, when Peter and Andy contacted me and invited me and my missus out to dinner…

New Year's Day 2019 dinner with Peter & Andy

here. They close every year on New Year’s Day and on Labour Day, May the 1st – just two days in a year so they were free that day. We went very early, at around 5 something to make sure that we did not have to queue and wait for a table.

I ordered this so-called munchy platter…

Munchy platter

…that I had seen people enjoying before. However, we could not order that even though my girl would love the fried calamari…

Fried calamari

…and the chicken popcorn…

Chicken popcorn

…as being coated with batter, they would not be gluten-free.

I thought both the aforementioned were really very good and went well with the special chili dip that came in the platter but this…

Skewers

…stole the show. We could not figure out what it was – it looked like sausage cut into bite-size bits, pierced through with a skewer and grilled. I did ask one of the waiting staff members but she said she did not know and I did not bother to pursue the matter after that. It tasted something like ham or bacon and we all loved it!

The mixed grill platter did not look very big in the menu, served on something like one of those regular round dinner plates so I ordered that as well and when it was served, we were stunned by the size…

Mixed grill platter

There was another one of that sausage-like thing on a  skewer and we liked the beef…

Beef

…very much, very tender and very tastily done. The lamb was all right – I sure did not get all excited over it and the grilled chicken chop was nice too.

I wished they would not use those canned sweet corn for the sides though – it made the dish look kind of cheap. I imagine that with one can, there would be enough corn kernels for 10 plates, at least. If they had used corn-on-the-cob instead, that certainly would push up the dish to a whole new level and give it a lot more class.

Andy wanted the cheesey chicken…

Cheesey chicken

…which turned out to be just the grilled chicken like the one in the mixed grill platter with a layer of cheese on top. I would prefer this, I think – the added cheese on top sure helped make it taste a lot better. Perhaps my girl would like to give it a try for a change on our next visit instead of going for the grilled lamb everytime.

We also had their Hawaiian pizza…

Pizza

…thin crust and what we got sure was different from what all of us would be more familiar with. Yes, there were pineapples but instead of the ham or bacon, they had bits of freshly grilled chicken instead…and besides, I thought it could do with a  lot more cheese. Personally, I would prefer their pepperoni that I had once on an earlier visit.

We all agreed that the food was really very nice but there is just so much of western cuisine that one can have especially when the servings are so huge so after a while, the law of diminishing returns started to set in and we all felt that we had had enough. Of course we could not finish everything, the four of us, so we got them to pack the leftovers for us to take home.

Thank you so much, Peter and Andy, for the invitation and for the delightful New Year dinner treat. We certainly had a lovely New Year’s Day, after all. Once again, a Happy and Prosperous New Year and may you all enjoy yet another successful one in the year ahead, 2019. Cheers!!!

WOW WOW WEST Sibu (2.296407, 111.885216) is 24 & 26, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman – on your left along the road leading to the Sibu Airport, past the traffic lights junction where you would turn left to go to the Sibu General Hospital but before the next junction where you would turn right to go into Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce.