Look who’s back…

Raphael, my ex-student residing in the US, was back in town for a few days after celebrating Chinese New Year with his mum and brothers in Kuching.

As always, that thoughtful and generous boy brought back some stuff all the way to give to me. I’m sure my girl would love these gluten-free cheese snacks…

From Raphael 1

…and I sure can’t wait to try these salad toppers…

From Raphael 2

I’ve seen sprinklings such as these on top of salads in blogs or elsewhere but I’ve never done that myself. Well, as they say, there’s always the first time!

We managed to go out for breakfast the other morning when he was here and we agreed on this place…

King Cafe
*Archive photo*

…as another ex-student of mine, Eddie, Raphael’s classmate, said that he would love to join us if we were going some place in the vicinity of his office and this coffee shop is in the block of shops right next door.

Both of them tried the kampua mee (RM3.00)…

King Cafe kampua mee

that I had before and I thought it was pretty good. As far as I know, it has its following – people who think it is among the best in town but Raphael felt it could do with a little bit more of the lard fragrance in the shallot oil used to toss the noodles. Personally, I thought it looked very much nicer when I had it in October, 2016 – perhaps they were so busy trying to cope with the crowd that morning so the quality went out the window. Raphael also wanted their pian sip soup but it was not available – post-Chinese New Year blues, I guess.

I went and ordered what they call their nyonya laksa (RM5.50)…

King Cafe Sarawak laksa

…from the other stall in the shop…

King Cafe laksa stall
*Archive photo*

…and no, it was, at best, just all right. It seemed a little sweet, not quite like our Sarawak/Kuching laksa and I was wondering if it was meant to be their version of the Singapore-style curry laksa even though it was not quite like it either. I did try that version at the outlets of the Katong 328 laksa franchise laksa here before but they have since closed down and personally, between the two, I think I would prefer this one as it was not overly lemak (rich with santan/coconut milk).

I saw that they also had fried kway teow with cockles (kerang) so I ordered that as well, only to be served this (RM6.00)…

King Cafe fried kwayteow with cockles

The guy said that they had run out of fresh cockles so they substituted those with the canned ones.  Of course, I was not too happy with that. They should at least have the decency to ask first if I would mind the switch.

To give credit where credit is due, I thought it tasted quite nice except that it was way too salty. I was very sure that it was due to the use of the canned cockles alongside the soy sauce – they would need to adjust the amount of the latter as the clams would be salty already but obviously, they did not.

It sure was nice seeing you again, Raphael and thanks for the things you brought. That was a great get-together, though a brief one, and it was good that Eddie was able to join us too that morning…and thank you both for picking up the tabs for our orders. Qong Xi Fa Cai to the two of you and your loved ones, God bless always in the Year of the Dog. Cheers!!!

KING CAFE (2.291589, 111.826200) is located right next to the RH Hotel, at the corner of the Jalan Kampung Nyabor and Jalan Sanyan/Causeway junction, across the road from the HSBC Building.

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Dog…

Qong Xi Fa Cai! A Blessed and a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year to one and all…

Mandarin oranges

It’s the Year of the Dog and whoever said that “it’s a dog’s life” sure had it all wrong looking at how these man’s best friends are so well-loved and pampered nowadays. Let’s hope that our lives would be just as great in the year ahead.

Thank you once again to all those who sent me gifts for this auspicious festive occasion, the first being my blogger-friend, Merryn, who went through the trouble of sending me her super-nice own-made cookies

Cookies from Merryn
*Archive photo*

…and I got this packet of bak kua (barbecued pork slices)…

Bak kua from Mandy
*Archive photo*

from my dear friend, Mandy and these two…

Bak kua from Wilfred
*Archive photo*

from my ex-student, Wilfred, in Singapore and of course, my cousin, Jude, in Kuching sent me these…

Bacon jam from Jude
*Archive photo*

which almost did not reach me as his sister, who went through the chore of packing and sending, did not include the lane so it was declared an “invalid address”. LOL!!!

These traditional Melanau/local delights…

From Ah Lek

…came from my cousin and his wife and family and my ex-student/friend, Justin, is home for the special occasion and he gave me these…

From Justin

– one pack of the celebrated Musang King – truly a gift of gold, like the D101 he gave me the last time he was home and one pack of the sio bee from Johore plus one pomelo…and no prize for guessing who gave me these…

From the folks at Payung Cafe

Yes, they’re from the wonderful people at Payung – their otak-otak and Payung chicken and their kuih bangkit.

My niece, the one working in Singapore who said that she would not be coming back this year had a change of heart after seeing those heart-wrenching Chinese New Year commercials depicting old parents having the reunion dinner alone at home, their children are all not coming home…and she brought us this…

From niece in Singapore 1

– more bak kua, one of the celebrated most established brands in Singapore. Gee!!! It certainly looks like we have enough bak kua to last the whole year through. LOL!!!

I guess she picked this…

From niece in Singapore 2

…up at KLIA2, the branded pop corn that a lot of people had blogged about or shared on Facebook but we all thought that it is somewhat over-rated and the ones we got from my old friend, Jasmine, in Adelaide, Australia were very much nicer.

I also got these much-coveted groundnuts, a must-buy for anyone coming to Sibu…

From Toh Chin Hock & family

…and kuaci (pumpkin seeds) from my ex-student, Chin Hock, who is also home for the festive occasion from Singapore, thank you so much to him and the Toh family, the ones in this line of business here in Sibu.

Moving on from all the gifts that I received, thank you also to those who went through the trouble of sending me Chinese New Year greeting cards this year.

The first came from another cousin of mine in Kuching…

Card from Tina

She did send me one for Christmas but the aforementioned cousin-who-always-left-out-the lane gave her the wrong address so it never reached me. This time around, she made sure that did not happen again.

Yvette, my paternal cousin in Perth, Australia sent me this one…

Card from Yvette

…and I got one from my blogger-masterchef-friend, Elin, in Ipoh, Perak

Card from Elin

…and this one came from my young and very handsome blogger-friend in Sungai Petani, Kedah, Nick

Card from Nick

…who came to visit me here in Sibu around this time last year.

This one came from a dear friend’s firm in Kuching…

Still...

…but he passed away recently – God bless his soul, may he rest in peace…but I guess I am still in his company’s mailing list so like for so very many years gone by, I did get one again this year.

Chinese New Year will be very low-key for us this year as my father passed away in July last year and it has not been a year so with all due respect, following the Chinese customary practice/tradition, there shall be no celebration within our family this year.

Wrong address…

My cousin, the one who would come to Sibu every year with his parents and sister(s), sent word that he would be sending me something for Chinese New Year. The sister dispatched the parcel on Friday via courier service – no, not our national poslayu or poslambat, take your pick –  and tracking showed that it arrived in Sibu the very next day, Saturday. Soon after that, there was an update that afternoon saying that the address was invalid.

I called them but there was no answer so I drove to the place and I found that it was closed. I guess I had no choice but to wait till Monday morning and I was there as soon as they had started working for the day.

It turned out that my cousin did not indicate the lane in my address so they could not deliver it and there was an extra digit in my contact number so they could not call me either. They passed the parcel over to me without any fuss whatsoever and I took it home happily.

Ripping off the layers of thick brown paper with a FRAGILE sticker on  the outside revealed this box…

Toaster

…inside. Oh? I wouldn’t need a toaster anymore now that generally, we do not eat bread as it is not gluten-free.

Opening the box, it looked like I was getting some essence of chicken…

Essence of chicken

…or so I thought. Hmmm…perhaps they reckoned that this old guy could do with a little bit of energy boost especially after all that hard labour I had to go through harvesting my rambutans.

After removing the layers of bubble wrap, I saw this golden seal…

Golden seal

Nice touch! Signed, sealed…but almost didn’t get delivered! Hehehehehe!!!

Opening the box, I finally got to what my cousin had sent me…

Bacon jam

– the bacon jam that I got sometime ago from Phong Hong and out of the three that she sent me, I liked this one most of all. Oh? I noticed that one of the two had whisky in it – gotta try that one soonest!

Thank you so much, Jude and a Blessed and Happy Chinese New Year to you and your dear parents and sweet sisters. May God bless you all abundantly in this Year of the Dog…and thank you, Sabrina, for the very elaborate and meticulous packing and going through the trouble of sending it over to me. All’s well that ends well.  Cheers!!!

No time at all…

I received a surprise message from my very dear friend, Mandy, one morning. It seemed that she was in town on another of her working trips and as always, she had no time at all to herself and we could not get to meet for a bite to eat or something – it certainly has been quite a long while since the last time I got to see her in person way back in 2015.

Well, she asked me to drop by the hotel where she stayed the night as she had left something at the reception counter for me and that was what I did.

When I got there, I saw the Chinese New Year decoration

Peter's CNY decor at Kingwood

…and it certainly looked like I was right – it was stretched vertically to fit the wall but personally, I do think that it was nicer horizontally.

The ever so thoughtful and generous Mandy sent me this packet of bak kua (barbecued pork slices)…

From Mandy

…for Chinese New Year – I’m not familiar with this brand so I have no idea if it is any good or not; I’ve yet to open it to try.

It was good that coincidentally, Mandy came right after the horrendous flood that hit the district where my girl’s school in the jungle is located. It was so terrible at some places and I was worried that she might not be able to come home and would be stranded there last weekend…or worse, for Chinese New Year! Mandy’s company has a base/workshop in Selangau so she had to go there and thankfully, the flood had subsided right before that very day – she told me that there was no flood, everything was pretty much back to normal and all the potholes had been patched. I was indeed so very relieved to hear that and glad that my girl was able to come home after school on Friday as usual, no problem at all.

Moving on, on Saturday morning, I received a call from the sister of my ex-student who is working and living with his family in Singapore. He did send word earlier that he would not be coming home for Chinese New Year this year as their second baby is due very very soon but he would be sending me something through his sister…

From Wilfred

It is indeed so very nice and sweet of him to remember this old teacher of his without fail every year. Last year, he did not come back either and he sent me this tin of almond cookies

Almond cookies from Wilfred
*Archive photo*

…through my niece, the one also working in Singapore.

Thank you so much, Mandy and Wilfred. Qong Xi Fa Cai, a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year to you and your loved ones, may God bless you all abundantly in the coming year and other than that, Wilfred, may your missus have a safe and smooth delivery when the time comes.

Hmmm…now it is quite obvious what I will not be buying to enjoy and usher in The Year of the Dog, right? LOL!!!

Try this…

I can’t remember exactly now where or when I was talking about corned beef – the canned ones that I would cook time and again because my girl likes it a lot, fried with sliced Bombay onions and with boiled potatoes added.

My cousin in Melbourne said that I should try fresh corned beef as not only would it be better but according to her butcher, it would not have all those preservatives and artificial flavourings and colourings and what not that we would usually get in food in tins. I think I tried it before, probably in the UK in 1994 but it did not leave a lasting impression. Anyway, we can’t get it here so I guess we would have no choice but to make do with what we have.

Well, it so happened that my cousin had to fly into town on a whirlwind visit as she had something to attend to and she brought me this…

Fresh corned beef silverside

Gee!!! Fresh corned beef! No, I’ve put it in the freezer waiting for an appropriate time to do something with it – anybody has anything to share regarding cooking fresh corned beef?

Now that wasn’t all that she brought. There was also this pack of “middle bacon”…

Middle bacon

…and these gluten-free stuff…

Gluten-free plus condensed milk

…for my girl and never mind that it is way too early for Christmas, these Scottish shortbread biscuits…

Scottish shortbread biscuits

…are most welcomed any time of year!

They came in two of those cooler bags so now I have a whole lot of those – they sure come in handy when we have to bring frozen stuff or cooked food all the way to my girl’s school in the jungle and we would not have to worry about those things going stale or turning bad en route.

Thank you so much, Siaw Ling, for bringing so much stuff all the way – too bad we did not have the chance to meet up and go for a nice dinner or something. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to do that some other time…and sorry I  did not get you anything at all from here to take home. *face palm*

Jesamine…

We go back a very long way, way back to the 60’s…except that her name is spelt a little differently – Jasmine, as in the flower or the tea. She is now residing permanently in Adelaide, Australia and that day, our friend, Mary, and her youngest here, went over to see her two daughters there and when she came back, Jasmine sent this huge bag…

From Jas 1

…full of goodies just for me.

There were all these kitchen things…

From Jas 2

The last time she sent me some, my missus loved them all so very much. She kept saying how nice they all were, so good to use and used them till they were all tattered and torn and still refused to throw them away.

There were a whole lot of edible stuff too…

From Jas 3

…but some like the Oreos were not gluten-free while the caramel popcorn was perfectly all right.

I kept the peanut butter Oreos to try and my missus wanted the chocolates…

From Jas 4

…but I did give something to the staff at Mary’s place to enjoy. Like what Mary always says, good things are meant to be shared.

Thank you so much, Jasmine, for everything and a million thanks also to Mary for going through the trouble of carting that load all the way back to Sibu.

We dropped by Mary’s place to collect the stuff and since we were there, we decided we would just have lunch before going home. The oyster omelette (RM19.50)…

Flavours oyster omelette

…was perfectly done and we really enjoyed it.

I suddenly felt like having the massaman beef curry that we had here once

Flavours massaman beef curry

*Archive photo*

…but for some reason, it looked like they had taken it off the menu so we asked for the green curry instead and we requested for beef (RM37.50)…

Flavours green curry beef

…instead of chicken. I think there was santan (coconut milk) in the thick gravy in this one and a bit too much of it – it made me think of the Indonesian ayam opor here

Cafe Ind ayam opor
*Archive photo*

…which was very lemak too but I did not feel jelak after a while and enjoyed it a whole lot more.

At best, I would say it was all right, different but between the one here and our favourite at Payung…

Payung's green curry
*Archive photo*

…the latter gets our vote.

The total for the two dishes and our drinks, 50 sen for my glass of water, came up to RM69.50.

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

New arrival…

My ex-student, Kho Peng, and Hilda tied the knot in 2016 and the good news is that now, they have a new addition to the family, a baby girl, Abigail. He was so very nice as to remember me after all these years to invite me to their very lavish wedding banquet and this time around, he sent word to invite me to his house for what the Foochows call seng ngang.

Traditionally, the convalescing Foochow mum would have to stay in confinement for 30 days. In the old days, before there was air conditioning, she would have to stay in a hot and stuffy and very dark room – all the windows would be closed and the stench was unbearable. Yes, she would not be allowed to bathe for that whole month! In fact, she would not get to see the light of day at all.

There would be a confinement lady to do everything – slaughter the chicken, cook the soup and serve her mee sua with lots and lots of ginger to combat the “cold” in the body and lots and lots of wine to regain the blood lost during delivery. Of course, these days, anything alcoholic is to be strictly avoided as they say it will go through the breast milk to the baby. Hmmmm…no wonder we were all such good babies way back then, sleeping all the time. We were all drunk! LOL!!!

In the meantime, family and friends would drop by for this seng ngang tradition. They would bring ang paos (red packets containing money) or live chickens with a red strip of cloth tied to the ankles, trays of eggs or bottles of Wincarnis or boxes of chicken essence and the customary practice would be to stick a red paper square on them.

The well-wishers would be served mee sua

Mee sua

…and extra chicken…

Extra chicken

…and eggs too for them to help themselves if they so desired.

I remember the eggs were not pre-peeled – you will have to do it yourself and if it was a baby boy, the eggs would be dyed red and you would get the colour all over your fingers when you peeled them. They did not colour the eggs if it had been a baby girl but generally these days, they would do it for both, never mind boy or girl or they may not do it at all.

I do not recall eating anything else other than the mee sua and the chicken and the eggs but at these seng ngang sessions these days, they may serve a little bit more than those like these very nice homemade Foochow-style fish sio bee

Fish sio bee

…and these vegetable dishes…

Vegetable 1

…that we had as well…

Vegetable 2

…that day.

Upon leaving, everyone will be given some eggs to bring home. These days, many choose to give the eggs raw/uncooked so one would be able to take them home and use them in whichever way one chooses. Some may not be all that fond of eating eggs, hardboiled.

Thank you so much, Kho Peng, for the invitation and may God bless your baby girl, Abigail, and also Hilda and you with abundant happiness and all that is good in the years ahead. Cheers!!!