Just when…

A very Happy Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), also known as The Lantern or The Mooncake Festival, to one and all.

As the day drew near, I saw a lot of my friends making and buying and selling and giving away and receiving all those lovely mooncakes and just when I was resigned to my fate – that I would not be getting any this year – my friend, Yan, sent word that she would be sending me something via her colleague here, also my friend.

Truly, I was stunned when I saw what she had sent me…

Box of mooncakes from Yan

The box looked so elegant, so exclusive but then again, it was exclusive all right. I believe Yan made those mooncakes herself to give to family and friends and I sure was flattered and thankful that I was included in the list.

There were four mooncakes inside, all truly evident of the fine and delicate craftsmanship that went into the making…

Four in a box

They included two of these…

Mixed nuts 1

…the mixed nuts ones…

Mixed nuts 2

…that we never liked when we were small. I guess we were not so into nuts then and those at the time had bits of fat and whatever inside. These did not have any inside, generally all nuts…

Mixed nuts 3

…and yes, they tasted great! After all, we do enjoy nuts very much these days so we would buy them quite often to munch and boy, they sure do not come cheap, not at all.

The other two, I believe, were what they call Shanghai mooncakes…

Red bean 1

…the red bean ones…

Red bean 2

…that actually had one whole salted egg yolk inside…

Red bean 3

Yum! Yum! That was so very nice too!

Thank you so so much, Yan, for these lovely mooncakes – it sure is so thoughtful and generous of you and thank you too for remembering this old friend of yours – just when I had given up all hope of getting any mooncakes from anybody this year. A very Happy Mooncake Festival and may God bless you and all your loved ones on this auspicious day and every day in the year ahead. Cheers!

Teach me…

In the good old days, nobody went to schools or colleges to learn the culinary arts.

If it was a family business, they helped out at the shop or stall and picked up the skills from their parents or elders, the ones who would teach them everything. If they were working for somebody, they would start from the bottom with the menial tasks like peeling and slicing onions, cutting the vegetables and what not and with the teaching and guidance from their peers and seniors, they eventually graduated into the actual cooking.

No, there were no qualified or certified chefs then, no Michelin stars, nothing – just real hard work, sweat and toil and true grit but were they able to dish out really awesome dishes? That, of course, goes without saying and some of the dishes were so good that none today, even with their list of credentials, could replicate.

All this came to mind when we went out for dinner here…

Hai Bing Seafood, new

…last Friday night to celebrate my girl’s birthday.

This is the sparkling new branch of this old place

Hai Bing Coffee Shop, original

…that has been around for such a long time but nothing has changed there since Day 1, this dark, unimpressive place with no decor whatsoever to shout about but what it lacked in appearance, it more than made up for it with the awesome dishes they serve here, notably its crabs – second to none. Why, as a matter or fact, my West Malaysian blogger-friends loved it so much and chose it to be, in their opinion, the best in town!

The new place is very nice, very spacious – I love its simplicity, not horrendously over-decorated like some places and it is so white, so clinically clean. They do not have a lot of tables, those marble top ones with simple but beautifully-designed chairs, which I feel is a good thing at this point in time. Even if they had a full house, there would still be a lot of spaces in between the tables to swing a cat! There were at least 10 tables that night but it did not feel like there were so many people – otherwise, I would have left and gone some place else.

Of course we HAD to have the crabs and for a change, I ordered the Singapore chili crab (RM120.00)…

Hai Bing Singapore chili crab

…instead of their usual style that everyone here is very familiar with. I asked what their going price for crabs was and the young man said RM120.00. Gosh!!! And I thought what I bought that day at RM80.00 a kg was expensive – and those were huge ones. What we had that night were rather small, nothing much to eat and it certainly did not taste anything like those very nice ones I had way back in 1973 at Bedok or Changi with French baquette to dip into the wonderful gravy to enjoy.

No, we did not have any of those loaves, just golden-fried mantao (RM4.00 for a set of 4)…

Hai Bing Seafood, golden fried mantao

Well, there were 6 of us so I had to request for 2 sets so there would be enough to go round.

According to the guy, this is the chef’s signature dish, his golden beancurd (RM15.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood, golden tofu

…and yes, we all thought it was nice. The tofu was yellowish, not white, inside so my guess was that it was their own-made egg tofu or what people call Japanese tofu. I would say that it was like something you can expect at a classy Chinese restaurant, most likely in a hotel or some Hong Kong franchise – not that great but not entirely all that shabby either.

Their Thai-style Mango three-layer pork (RM20.00)…

Thai-styl mango three-layer pork

…was all right but nowhere near the Thai-style mango chicken here – that one there is definitely a class above this one. Why, this one did not even look half as nice. As a matter of fact, for a place like this, I would expect more effort in their presentation, not the dump-in-the-plate-and-serve impression that I got.

My girl said the salty crusty prawns (RM58.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood salty crusty prawns

…were nice but the rest felt there are a lot of places around town that can do it a whole lot better than this and a whole lot more cheaply too even when they use those huge udang galah (freshwater prawns) like this place here.

We had two vegetable dishes, the baby kai lan, ching chao/fried plain (RM15.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood baby kai lan ching chao

…and the sambal kangkong (RM15.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood sambal kangkong

…both of which I did not get to try as there were so many things to eat but the ladies said they were o.k.

They also loved the zao cai fresh fish soup (RM25.00)…

Hai Bing Seafood zao cai fresh fish soup

…but good grief!!! It was so so so very sour that I had a sip and left the rest in the bowl. My brother-in-law shared the exact same sentiments. I guess guys do not like sour things all that much but honestly, if it was dependent on the preserved vegetables for its sour taste, it would not be so sour, no way! I don’t know what was added to it and personally, I did not think it tasted anything like our traditional Foochow zao cai soup, far from it!

While we were eating, I saw the chef stepping out of the kitchen to have a look at the customers enjoying what he had dished out. He was dressed in his white chef uniform, complete with his tall chef hat. I am quite sure he has all the formal qualifications of a chef to show but I’m afraid I did not think what we had that night, on the whole, was anything to shout about, nothing to get us rushing back for more.

The aforementioned guy, who took our orders, happened to be that same guy at the very nice chicken rice place (they’re all inter-related, one way or another) and he did ask me how the food was and I was very straightforward and honest in my reply, “Much nicer at the old place!” Indeed, what we can get there or at any cheap restaurant or chu char (cook & fry) stall in a coffee shop from the cooks doing all the cooking, not professional qualified chefs, would be a whole lot nicer.

It did not matter that the bill, inclusive of rice and drinks, came up to RM290.00 but I had my hopes up high, hoping that it would be so good as I wanted something really very special to celebrate my girl’s birthday. Unfortunately, what we had kind of dampened our happy mood over those two days but at least we tried and now we know. Maybe we did not know what to order as looking at the photographs on their Facebook page, some of the dishes look really good. Would we take the chance to go back there again to try? Probably not. Once bitten, twice shy!

HAI BING SEAFOOD since 1980 (2.290414, 111.820900) is located at No. 5, Lorong Lau King Howe 1. Tel. No.: 084-311975.

The day after today…

Last Thursday, the 17th of September, was my girl’s actual birthday. I am quite sure I’ve mentioned it before that as a result of a blunder on the part of the registration people, when we got the birth certificate, it was stated in it that the following day, the 18th, was the date of birth. We just left it like that and did not bother to get it rectified.

For reasons unknown, my missus went and ordered a cake from Marcus…

Marcus' birthday cake for Melissa

…to be collected on Friday afternoon and because of that, we did not plan any kind of celebration for Thursday. After all, it was a working day and so was the day after.

Actually, a few of her colleagues invited her out for dinner on Tuesday night (Wednesday was a public holiday) and there was cake and they gave her a present too – that was really sweet, so very nice of them. That is one thing that I am not accustomed to these days. In my time, if it was my birthday, I would throw a party and invite my friends to come and celebrate. It seems that they do not do that anymore. They would just wait for somebody to arrange a celebration and invite the birthday celebrant…so if nobody does that, then the special day will just go by unnoticed. So sad and so strange!

Come Thursday, the actual day, in keeping with our tradition and to preserve our cultural heritage, I went and bought a “phua chai kay” (mixed breed chicken) which, I feel, tastes a whole lot nicer than the regular ones. My missus cooked it in the traditional Foochow red wine and ginger soup and we had mee sua (string or thread longevity noodles) for lunch that day, with hard boiled eggs, of course. We couldn’t have it first thing in the morning as she would have to be in school by 6.00 a.m. to help with the SOP and what not.

The day after that day, Friday, after my missus had collected the cake – my girl wanted the blueberry – we had the cake-cutting at home and had it for tea. Needless to say, it was very very nice, simply the best, second to none. I would say that his cakes can easily put all those from the new and trendy bakeries to shame.

My brother-in-law, her uncle, and his wife sent the curry puffs from Farley, our favourite in town…

Farley curry puff

…oven-baked, with the lovely shortcrust pastry and the very nice butter cake that can give the celebrated Mita ones from Kuching…

Mita Cake

…a run for the money except that theirs is smaller but they are only RM6.00 a loaf and my sister, her aunt and godmother, also sent presents to the house. Of course, we asked them to join us when we went out for dinner that night.

At the dinner, we brought along the cake that her good friend gave her…

Melissa's birthday cake from Dayang

from this bakery and we had another round of cake-cutting there.

I sure am glad to say that my girl’s birthday did not go by unnoticed – that would be very sad, wouldn’t it?. Do stick around – I shall be blogging about the dinner in tomorrow’s post.

You can order a special homemade MARCUS’ CAKE via telephone at 084-311333 and collect it on the day at the time agreed upon from his house at No. 6B. Lorong Delta 3, Delta Estate (2.305015, 111.826185).

Size too small…

My late father was a businessman in his time.

I remember he used to sell Mercury outboard engines and that came as no surprise as he was a renowned speedboat racer and swept the top prizes at all the regattas in the colonial days, the F1 of speedboat racing at the time. He ordered his special speedboat, aptly named Typhoon, all the way from Singapore and of course, he knew those engines inside out. That was why he was able to sell them and service and repair them himself. Others may be selling outboard engines too, not the same brand – my father was the sole-concessionaire, but other brands such as Johnson and Evinrude and their after-sales service sucked big time!

He also sold lawn mowers. I cannot remember the brand that he sold initially but in the later years, he was selling Masport, made in New Zealand. Other than that, he also sold Norge refrigerators and York air conditioners. Of course, air conditioners in those days were the window unit type, not the more popular split unit type that we are more familiar with these days.

For the uninitiated, York has been taken over by the Japanese air conditioner company, Daikin, now. I am not so sure but maybe you can buy either brand these days and they are both the same and their remote controls may be used interchangeably.

I have both York and Daikin at home and the remote control for the one in the master bedroom was misbehaving for a long time now. I asked the guy who sells and cleans air conditioners if he had a spare for sale and he said yes, but it would cost over RM50.00. I asked him if I could buy one at those discount stores and he said yes but they would not last very long. That was why I asked him for one but the days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years and for reasons unknown, he never delivered it to my house.

Well, that temperamental remote control recovered so we could use it again for a long time until one fine day it decided to start its mischief again. We had to share the one for the air conditioner in my girl’s bedroom and in the end, I decided that enough was enough and I went and bought one online…

York & Daikin air conditioners remote controls

Ooopsss!!! It was the “wrong” brand but that was not a problem at all, It could be used and that was all that mattered. The best part was this was only RM8.00, RM17.01, inclusive of postal charges.

I also ordered another one…

York remote control with batteries

…similar to the one in my girl’s room, just in case and this one was RM11.49, RM20.50 inclusive of batteries and postage.

My orders were delivered in no time at all and by the way, if you see strangers in fancy cars at your gate these days, those would most probably be the runners doing the deliveries for the national courier service and I heard that some private companies use their services too.

Just when I thought everything was going on so well with my online shopping, something did not turn out right. I have a problem buying t-shirts and shorts my size and all that I’ve been using are all tattered and torn and falling apart and I was delighted to see that they were available online in extra-large sizes.

I ordered two white t-shirts (around RM7.00 each) and two sets, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts (RM23.50 each), 4XL…

4XL

…to be on the safe side even though those that I usually use are only 3XL.

Later when I checked in the online shopping website, I saw that they were being sent from China! The t-shirts and one of the sets came through KL and arrived via one courier company and I had to drive all the way to the other side of town to get them myself. I had a tough time locating the warehouse as there was just a small sign on the fence – I drove straight in and went round and round inside because I did not see it initially! I did read the reviews that their service was not good – somebody waited for four days and did not get what he/she was waiting for.

The other set arrived around a week later. It went through Kota Kinabalu and when it got into town, somebody from the national courier service delivered it to my house.

The problem was when I opened all the parcels, all the t-shirts and shorts were way too small, so small that my girl could wear them quite comfortably and I am about twice her size! The two sets were actually quite nice so I gave them to her and now I have two white t-shirts to give away – I think they will look very nice on someone who frequents the gym regularly with all the bulges in all the right places to show! Anyone interested?

I’m afraid that has put me off online shopping for now, no more, thank you very much!

That’s all right, mama…

The Mooncake Festival is on October 1st this year, still over a month away but my good friend has been busy making her own and showing off her beauties via photographs and videos on Facebook and on Youtube and some have already been blogging about it.

No, I’ve not gone out to buy and no, like in previous years, I will not bother as most, if not all, will be way too expensive. Over RM10.00 or a whole lot more each – imagine how many plates of kampua mee I can have with that kind of money and derive a whole lot more enjoyment from them! It is absolutely ridiculous the way some people will bank in on tradition to squeeze the people dry so much so that they will think twice about preserving the customary practice, their heritage. Of course if there are some kind and generous souls out there who would like to give this poor ol’ warga emas (senior citizen) some to nibble, he shall be most grateful. Hint! Hint! LOL!!!

Well, my sister dropped by my house the other morning to give me these…

Mooncakes from The Banto Mama

…to try, homemade by somebody who calls herself The Bento Mama. I see she has included the Moon Rabbit in the packaging – if you do not know the significance of those bunnies, you can click this link and read all about it in my 2018 blogpost. I did mention something about it there.

It is not the traditional kind of skin nor the rich and buttery and crumbly Shanghai ones( 上海月饼), more like the skin in phong peah or heong peah

The Bento Mama mooncake

…and inside, one had the red bean paste (or tao sar) and the other, pandan lotus filling and what was so special about these mooncakes was the fact that inside, you will find a layer of mochi and a layer of meat floss plus a layer of salted egg yolk…

The Bento Mama mooncake, inside

I would say it was nice even though I am not a fan of the skin but I would much sooner go for this than the snow-skin ones or worse, agar-agar. Unheard of! We never had those in my growing up years.

I don’t know how one can place an order for these or whether there are others available. I suppose one can PM them via their Facebook page or call them using the number given but I would prefer to stick to the traditional ones that I grew up eating – the traditional skin with or tau sar (red bean paste) though I am more fond of pek tau sar (mung bean paste) or lotus paste these days with or without a salted egg yolk or two.

New ones…

Last Sunday morning, Annie’s brother, David, dropped by my house to give me the dumplings he made following two new recipes. He would not tell me what was in each of them – he said he would let me try and see if I could figure out what went into the making.

Well, we went out for lunch that afternoon so it was not until dinner that evening that we got to cook them…

Uncle Q Dumplings 1

…and try.

I think this…

Uncle Q Dumpling 1, filling

…was the one I liked very much. I could not make out the taste other than the fact that it was all meat. My missus said something about their being shitake mushroom in it. The filling tasted great and I was thinking how nice it would be to use it to make gourmet sausages…or perhaps he could wrap the filling with sio bee skin to make sio bee – I sure would want to buy!

My missus liked the other one…

Uncle Q Dumpling 2

…that seemed to have some chili inside…

Uncle Q Dumpling 2, filling

I’m not sure but maybe I got the photos of the two cross-sections confused and what I said was this one should have been the other and vice versa.

My girl, however, did not think much of either one of them. She feels that shui jiao/jiaozi should be what shui jiao/jiaozi should be – minced meat with koo chai (chives) and even though she was fine with the one with cabbage, she was never really all that fond of it.

Incidentally, if anybody wants to buy without prior booking, I think they have the dumplings at the Glory Organic Products shop (beside Golden Star Technology Service Centre) opposite the SESCO Customer Service Centre in the Dewan Suarah area or you can call David at 012-856 2277 or message him via their Facebook page to order and request for home delivery.

What you give…

I was outside the house doing my gardening that day, all sweaty in my tattered and torn t-shirt and looking quite a mess when I saw a huge vehicle stop right outside my gate. I went to have a look and out stepped this tall and elegant young lady!

She was my student a long time ago, and her two brothers as well, but of course, they’ve all grown up now, all married with kids and it sure was a surprise to see her that day.

She came to pass me these angku kuih

Angku kuih

…and also this pulut with sambal on top…

Sambal pulut

…homemade by somebody at Jalan Berjaya, she said, thank you so much!

Yes, I do know of these very nice kuihs – I first encountered them at an event outside a supermarket here in 2019 and last year, when my Payung friends were catering the food for the international dance festival held here, they got them to cater the dessert. As far as I know, they used to be available at the Sunday market and also at a coffee shop at Rejang Park on weekends and you can get them on any day of the week at the Korean section of the supermarket in town.

In the meantime, my immediate neighbour gave me this…

Papaya

…from his garden and another neighbour further down the lane gave me this melon…

Melon

…also from his garden, the fruit of his and his missus’ labour. I wonder if anyone has cooked this before.

Like I’ve said many times before, I am truly blessed with all these kind and generous people giving me all kinds of things and I have nothing to give in return other than my prayers that all of them will be abundantly blessed each passing day in their lives.

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.