Sing my heart out…

These days, they have live streaming at this karaoke pub in London and yes, I’ve been watching week after week without fail even though I would not say the singers are all that good. LOL!!!

Why do I bother to watch then, you may ask? Well, I love singing and I’ve always enjoyed karaoke…

To me, it’s a whole lot of fun even if one’s singing ain’t that great and I do derive a bit of enjoyment from just watching it. For one thing, it brings back fond memories of those wonderful nights at the pubs when I was in Plymouth, England in the autumn of 1994.

I did not venture out at night the first month I was there but I did go around in the daytime, weekends especially, to familiarise myself with the place and I saw that they had karaoke once a week on Monday nights at Bruno’s Bar, a small, dark and unimpressive pub right beside the Prince Regent…

…at one end of Union Street, Plymouth’s red light district, I was told.

Sometime in my 2nd month there, I finally made my way there and sang my heart out, my first time in the UK! The song I picked was this one and I was delighted that they had an excellent karaoke sound system and those Pioneer karaoke laser discs that I liked a lot. The video clips are great and the music is exactly like the original songs so if you can sing the originals, you would be able to sing to what they have on those discs. Besides, I used to frequent a pub in Sibu – they did not have the discs but they had the tracks on video tapes…and I knew exactly whether they would need to lower the key or make it higher and by how much, if necessary.

So how did my debut appearance go? Well, I must say that they were stunned! Obviously, they never had an Asian in their midst before, much less one who would go up on stage and sing…and the deejay said that he expected me to sound something like this – and he started speaking like Peter Sellers as a Chinese character or one of those in the popular TV series, “Mind your language”. Since then, there was no turning back and I was there every Monday, week after week until it was time for me to pack my bags and leave and come home.

I also found out that the mobile karaoke guys would be here at The Good Companion…

…along Mayflower Street (I read somewhere that it has been demolished already) on Wednesday nights and of course, eventually, I made my way there too and it became my routine, going to sing my heart out twice a week. The crowd here was younger and they told me it was because the Plymouth University was close by so they would get a lot of international students from Russia and places in Europe at the pub.

Beer was only a £ a pint there and the exchange rate at the time was RM3.50 to £1, so cheap. Back home in Sibu then, I would have to fork out around RM10.00 or more for a mug of draught beer. This may come as a surprise to many – they did not open till late over there, believe it or not – singing started at 9.00 p.m. and ended by 11.00 p.m.

They had very good singers there, not like the ones in the aforementioned live streaming. There was a guy, Tony, who would sing “Mandy” without fail and a very young plus-sized girl would sing Sinead O’ Connor. I never got to know them personally though, never got to know their names but ever so often, I would meet some young people in the city centre and they would all be calling my name and waving at me and I could jolly well guess that they were “my friends” from the pubs.

My final night was at The Good Companion and the deejay announced that I was leaving and he did not think they would ever have anybody like me coming their way again. This was the last song I sang and everyone took out their lighters (no, they did not have handphones then) and waved the little flame in the air – I was so so touched, to say the least. Sadly, all I have left left now are the beautiful memories at Bruno’s and the Good Companion but one thing’s for sure – they are forever cherished and will always live on in my hearts.

Going back to the live streaming, they also have this one from a place called Two Friends at Key West – if I am not mistaken, that is in Florida in the US. They seem to have better singers there and they sure do have a lot of fun too. Too bad they did not have this when I was in Plymouth – the folks back home would be able to watch me singing live on Youtube. That would have been a blast!!!

Running back for more…

We enjoyed the prawns that my missus cooked that day that I simply had to run back to my favourite fish & seafood stall for more. Of course it was super delicious because of her recipe and her superb cooking skills but for one thing, those prawns had been in the freezer for way over a month before we took them out to cook and eat.

We were amazed by how they were still so very fresh and sweet, so firm and succulent unlike some that we might have had the displeasure of eating outside especially when most of the time they were so minute!!! That was why I decided to go back to the stall and buy some more.

Yes, this time around, the lady had three different sizes and prices and of course, I picked the biggest ones…

…going for RM38.00 a kilo. I think that was a little cheaper than the previous time but they did look a little bit smaller. There were 30 altogether, RM1.27 each.

Much to my delight, I saw that she had these…

…that morning. Gosh! I cannot remember the last time I had those, probably way before the outbreak of the pandemic. My missus would buy them sometimes when she went marketing.

We call these mini pek chio/ikan bawal putih/white or silver pomfret kilat which means lightning in Malay or shining, a word to describe a nicely polished car or pair of shoes, for instance. Normally, they are somewhat small but the ones I bought that morning were bigger than the palm of my hand! They were not all that cheap though – RM25.00 a kilo, same as or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret but I went ahead and bought 2 kilos, nonetheless, considering especially that we had not eaten these for such a long time and the nice lady was kind enough to ask her young assistant to clean all 18 of them for me – it would probably take me a long time if I were to do it myself.

We cooked half of the lot and kept the rest in the freezer for another day. We love them fried…

…till nicely done and a little crispy at the edges so I would just eat it all up except the head perhaps and parts with some bigger bones!

My goodness!!! They were so fresh, so sweet!!! I had never had any that was so so so good. You would usually find this fish at the chap fan (mixed rice) places, very small and absolutely bland, tasteless, not nice at all. They probably use those cheap frozen ones that they buy in bulk from the supermarkets or the frozen foods suppliers, this and all the other kinds of fish like kembong and the rest.

I certainly was pleased with my purchases, definitely worth it, value for money and look at what the kind and generous lady gave me…

She said that a friend of hers gave them to her, quite a lot, and asked her to make some chiew chu koi (tapioca cake) to give to her so she picked two good ones and said that I could have them.

I did manage to get to eat some when I went to Miri in 2019 and I did buy some here as well, also way back in 2019. That did not look like a lot but there was enough to fill one big bowl…

…and yes, it was very good. Actually, I dread buying this as sometimes, the texture of the tuber is not good, not edible and we would end up throwing it all away.

I sms-ed my sister to ask her if she wanted any and of course she did…and in no time at all, she was at our gate! We enjoy eating it with gula apong but since it is starchy and I am on a low-carbs, low-sugar diet, I have to refrain from going overboard – just a bit will do. After all, we do not get to eat this all that often.

I must say it was truly a really good day that day!

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.

In the blink of an eye…

This is the last in a series of blogposts on my weekend trip to London in November, 1994. Indeed, it was a whirlwind visit, just over one weekend and it was over in the blink of an eye.

When we got up on Friday morning after our first night at the Malaysia House, the first thing we all did was to head downstairs to the basement for a truly Malaysian breakfast at the canteen there. Needless to say, after around two months in the UK, the nasi lemak tasted like heaven, absolutely something to die for!

I heard the others talking about waiting for some big shot to show up, the guy in charge of the Malaysian students in the UK. I don’t know if he was the ambassador or something but they said he managed the Malaysia House where we were staying. Of course, I had no intention of doing that so I went outside, giving the rest the impression that I was just going out for a bit of fresh air.

I walked to Regent Street and hopped on a double decker tour bus…

…and climbed on top and sat there in the open air and went on a tour of all the places of interest in the city.

I saw all of them – the Tower Bridge…

…Trafalgar Square, Westminister Abbey and all the rest. We even went past No. 10, Downing Street and Hard Rock Cafe, London too!

Actually, this was a hop on hop off bus and I could get off anywhere I liked to take photographs and get on the next one that came along but those were the days before the smartphone and selfies were unheard of…and I jolly well would not want to take photos without me in them for remembrance, just snapshots of sceneries – I might as well go and buy some postcards if I wanted those.

I ended the tour at Piccadilly Circus – that was where I stopped by a booking agent’s office and bought the tickets to the two musicals that I watched in a day that weekend in London. I also stopped by Planet Hollywood, London and bought a t-shirt from there – of course, I was the envy of all who saw me using it when I came back to Malaysia but personally, I preferred this cheap one…

…that I bought at a roadside stall at Regent Street.

Before I left the vicinity, I went to see what they had at The Rock Circus, the pop music spin-off of Madame Tussaud’s there. I sure enjoyed myself very much especially how when I walked near an exhibit…

…I would hear the popular songs by that singer or singers

…or groups.

After I was done there, I walked to Soho/Chinatown which people said was the red light district of London. No, I did not see anything (s)exciting at all or maybe I was not looking in all the right places. The only interesting thing that I stumbled upon there was an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for only £2 at a Chinese restaurant. That was cheap and of course, I walked right in!

Unfortunately, what they were serving was most disappointing – what we call the F4 dinners at school parties. For the uninitiated, F4 was a very popular Taiwanese boy band at one time and an F4 dinner would have 4 choices – Fried rice, Fried noodles, Fried bihun and Fried kway teow but they did not have that last one, just another noodle dish instead and they called it Singapore Fried noodles. The difference was that those noodle dishes that we had at the school parties were quite nice but no, I would not say the same about these that I had in London for want of a whole lot of ingredients. They were all so bland, absolutely tasteless, so much so that I suspected they did not add any salt or msg even.

Thankfully, there was another option – fried chicken wings and of course, I feasted on those to eat my fill and get my money’s worth. I don’t remember anything else that transpired that day. I probably went back to my room at the Malaysia House and had an early night – I did not get to sleep the whole night the night before all the way in the coach from Plymouth to London.

The next morning, I sneaked off again and made my way to Madame Tussaud’s which actually was not very far away, walking distance. When I got there, I was shocked to see the queue…

…but thankfully, they were very fast and the line was moving the whole time! In no time at all, I was already inside the building where I met the Royal Family…

…and a whole lot of famous people and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor…

…and all the rest. Personally, because I am more into music, I actually enjoyed The Rock Circus that I went to the day before more.

I went to watch the two musicals that afternoon and night and the next morning, I chanced upon a sexy model in her lingerie along Regent or was it Oxford Street and before I knew it, we were in the coach once more, on our way back to Plymouth. I guess it wasn’t much, really but at least, I’ve been to London – been there, done that! THE END.

Two in one…

I did blog about this before, briefly, but never mind – I don’t think I included all the juicy bits then! LOL!!!

Back to my weekend in London, England, 1994, on my first day there, Friday, I was in the vicinity of the Piccadilly Circus when I spotted a booking agent’s office among the shops close by. I approached the guy there quickly and asked for a ticket to Miss Saigon, the matinee the following day, Saturday. I was not all that keen on venturing out alone at night in a strange land. He said that would not be a problem at all and he collected £25 from me after which he told me that I would have to go back there the next day to collect it.

I went back the next day but he said that he could not get the ticket for the matinee, only for the show that night but he was willing to refund me the money. No, my mind was made up – Miss Saigon, I wanted to see so Miss Saigon I would get to see! I took the ticket from him and walked away.

Then, I turned and went back to the booking agent and asked him if there was any other show that I could watch since I had the afternoon free.

What do you have on mind?” he asked.

Phantom?” I replied and he burst out laughing, so amused by my response.

Come back next year!” he said.

He told me he had a ticket for Grease at the Dominion Theatre, not far away from where we were. walking distance and the show was about to start. He would give it to me at face value, £28.50 and yes, I took the offer. The next minute, I was on my way to the theatre – the guy walked with me most of the way to make sure I would not get lost and would get there in time.

There I was, seated so near to the stage…

…when I started having second thoughts. What was I doing there? I had watched the movie so many times in the cinema and on video tape and I knew all the songs. The exchange rate was only RM3.50 to a £ at the time – still, that came up to RM99.75 for the ticket but as soon as the show started, whatever reservation I had disappeared into thin air.

It sure was a fun show – everyone was clapping, cheering, singing and dancing away and of course, I happily joined in. This was the first musical I had watched in my entire life and it sure was an unforgettable experience! What I did not know then – I found out much later while browsing online – was that Debbie Gibson was playing the part of Sandy! Those of you who are familiar of the pop songs of the 80’s would probably know her big hit, Lost in your eyes.

It was dark already when I came out of the theatre – it was late autumn, coming to winter so it got dark very quickly. I had to rush back to Malaysia House (where we were staying) to bathe and change and head to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for Miss Saigon

…that same night.

As I was walking, a car pulled up by the side of the road right beside me. I saw a lady at the wheel and I thought it was one of those in our group. Probably she had been to see her relatives or friends residing in London and had borrowed a car and wanted to give me a lift. I approached the car, passenger side and the lady screened down the window. She was not very young, definitely no spring chicken, all dressed up in a fur coat.

I need company!” she cooed, seductively.

No, thank you!” I fumbled with my reply and quickly turned and went on my way as fast as I could. In my panic, I took the wrong turning at the junction ahead but luckily, I realised it soon enough so I went back the way I came and finally, got to Malaysia House, safe and sound. Phew!!!

In no time at all, I was on my way to the theatre and yes, I made it in ample time before the show started. There I was, perched high up in the gallery – we were given binoculars but I did not bother to use them and yes, I enjoyed it tremendously!

It was an epic drama…

…and I loved every minute of it right from the moment it started. I loved all the songs and luckily, I did not know them at the time so I was not singing my heart out – I would probably have done that if I had gone to see The Phantom. No, it wasn’t Lea Salonga anymore, playing the part of Kim but if I am not wrong, John Barrowman was Chris at the time. Anyway, I wouldn’t know him even if I knew it was him then. I only got to know him much later via Youtube.

When it came to the part when Kim had to say goodbye to her son, suddenly I missed my little girl back home in Sibu and the dam burst and I cried buckets!!! The young girl sitting beside me must be wondering why but at that parting scene where Kim shot herself and Chris came back into the house and they said their last goodbye, I saw the girl crying her eyeballs out! My friend in Auckland, New Zealand went to watch when the musical opened there and after she saw it, she grumbled that I did not tell her it was so so so sad. I guess she too cried her heart out! LOL!!!

It was already past 11 after the show ended and this “Cinderella” had to rush back to Malaysia House before they locked the door at midnight. Luckily, the couple behind me helped me and got me my ticket for the London Underground (I paid them, of course) – the machine rejected all the British currency I had with me! Yes, I made it just in time (many could not believe I had never been to London before seeing how I could get around without any problem whatsoever) and that was indeed a truly memorable day, one that I will never ever forget – TWO musicals in ONE day, believe it or not!

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in watching Miss Saigon, you can try these links in two parts, Part One and Part Two, on Youtube or you can try this link, for the better and clearer production than any you can find on Youtube, with Eva Noblezada as Kim and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi in the 25th Anniversary Gala Performance at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. Do make sure you have a box of tissue paper beside you and don’t say I did not warn you!

Streets of London…

In my blogpost the other day on that time in 1994 when I went to Plymouth, England, I did mention that one weekend when we were there, we managed to make a short trip to London. I don’t know about the rest but I sure had a great time and did a whole lot of interesting things there – I’m sure if I were to talk about all of them, it would stretch over a number of posts. Therefore, so as not to bore everyone to death, I shall do it a little at a time, in small doses and if there is some show of interest, I shall blog about some other things that happened during my brief weekend there.

This was on the morning of our final day in London, Sunday. We had the whole morning to ourselves before we boarded the coach to make our way back to Plymouth and everyone in the group wanted to walk from Malaysia House (where we were staying) to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards. I did not want to go as I was not really into things touristy and besides, it was already towards the end of November and the weather was getting cold so the guards would be dressed in their long and dull grey trench coats over their striking red uniforms so I did not think it would be a sight to behold.

Another guy in our group, Su, from Pahang did not want to go either so we went strolling along the streets of London together. I think it was somewhere along Regent or Oxford Street that we saw a caravan parked right in the middle of the road…

…and much to our delight, ooooopsss…I mean, surprise, a beautiful, curvaceous, sexy model dressed only in her lingerie emerged from it!

Some people were having a photoshoot that morning and the caravan was used by the model as her changing room. Very soon, a crowd gathered all around and I was rather amused to hear them trying to guess the colour of the lingerie the model would be wearing each time she came out of the caravan…

…and of course, there were people taking photographs of the model as well.

Those were the days before the smartphone so not that many people had a camera with them for them to do that. Luckily, Su and I had ours with us and of course, we happily clicked away…

As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them!

When the group came back from Buckingham Palace, we told them what we saw – the changing of the guards, a different kind of “guards”, not the ones at the palace that they saw and of course, when we had the film developed and the photographs printed, we could not wait to show them to the guys so they could see what they missed.

Now, anybody wants to hear about that evening when a lady dressed in a fur coat stopped her car by the side of the road while I was walking back to Malaysia House and tried to pick me up? LOL!!!

1994…

In September that year, I was sent by the ministry on a 3-month “Management in TESL” course in the UK, the representative from Sarawak, together with the rest, one from each state, and an officer from the ministry

Upon arrival at Heathrow, we boarded a coach that took us all the way to Marjons, now the University College of St Mark & St John, Plymouth where we were put up in this very nice and comfortable accommodation in what they called a house…

…in the campus proper, five of us in each unit and we had a room each.

No, it wasn’t an all-paid-for holiday – there were lectures to attend, lots of assignments to do and a major one to be submitted and accessed at the end, presentations and what have you. They even had an external examiner come in from the University of Exeter and I was immensely delighted to receive his commendation of excellence out of so many of us in the group.

We did sneak off to London one weekend; imagine going all the way to the UK and coming home without even stepping in the city. I’m quite sure I did blog about it but I can’t seem to find the post now. Never mind! Perhaps I shall do another one some other day.

Other than that, on some of the weekends there, my coursemates and I would board a bus or rent a car to go to places close by, like Bristol and Bath…

…for instance, Warwick, Birmingham, St Ives, Land’s End and yes, I was glad we did make it to Stratford-Upon-Avon…

…especially when I was not just an English Language teacher but I also taught English Literature before I retired and yes, I did manage to drop by Oxford too.

Some weeks, on Fridays, after we were through with the lectures or whatever we had for the day, one of the lecturers or a member of the staff would pack us all into the college coaster to take us to some places of interest close by. Of course, the highlight was the one when we were taken to Sheepstor in Devon where the resting places of the White Rajahs of Sarawak are…

…and needless to say, I wasted no time at all in leaving my “footprint”…

…there.

As they say, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and yes, we did have a bit of fun dancing on a Saturday night at the Students’ Union and we organised a gathering where some of us cooked a few Malaysian dishes for everybody to enjoy – I proudly presented our Sarawak’s own daging masak hitam that everyone praised to the skies but I had to use the halal chicken from the continental shop in the city instead of beef (there were Indians with us) and I boiled a few eggs and threw them in (like those stewed eggs in stewed pork leg) to make sure there would be enough to go round and we had a sing-along session, with the lecturers playing their guitars, after that and yes, I had so much fun and such great memories with the mobile karaoke guys and the regulars at the pubs in the city on some nights. I bet they never had anybody like me coming their way since.

Towards the end of the course, around December, there was an International Night, a Christmas party that was a whole lot of fun and prior to leaving the UK, just before the temperatures dipped below 0°C, we invited our lecturers to lunch…

…at a lovely Indian restaurant in the city.

I had always wanted to go back to the UK again, if possible to Plymouth specifically, but after I retired in 2007, I had to be around and help take care of my bedridden mum and later, my dad too and of course, I had my chauffeur duties, driving my girl up and down when she was at her jungle school and it was not until the middle of 2019 that she got her transfer to a school in town and I thought that finally, at long last, I would be able to make the trip.

Unfortunately, the pandemic broke out in early 2020 and it is still raging on and on like it is never going to end – sad to say, it sure looks like this is one dream of mine that will never ever come true.

Same inside…

I don’t drop by my neighbourhood shops all that often these days because every morning, I would see a lot of people there buying their daily rations and I often wonder whether they are different people or the same ones each day. Probably they are those same customers who would prefer everything 100% fresh but at a time like this, I really think it would be best to go out once in a long while and stock up a lot of stuff in the fridge and in the house so one would not have to go out again for an extended period of time. #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

Anyway, I was in the vicinity one fine day, keeping my distance from every other fellow-human, when the son of the people at this shop…

Photo from Google Streetview

…spotted me and called out to me excitedly. Showing the image he had in his smartphone, he told me that the Thai pork sticks that I enjoyed a lot would be available and asked me to go back and buy in a day or two.

That was some two weeks ago, I think. I had not gone back there since but last Friday, he saw my missus when she was out to stock up on food and everything and she stopped by there. He quickly took out TWO packets of the aforementioned pork sticks…

…and insisted that she bought them, saying, “Your husband was looking for these that day!!!

These grilled Thai pork skewers or moo ping (หมูปิ้ง) have been renamed Thailand pork satay and even the packaging is a little different now but they are exactly the same inside and when I checked the name of the manufacturer at the back…

…it is those same people in Miri who were responsible for the ones I bought before.

The price has gone up a bit now, RM33.00 for a packet of 10 – it was RM29.00 when I bought it before so that works out to RM3.30 a stick but I do think it is worth it, considering its size and yes, it does taste really great…

After all, the chicken satay that we used to go for here

…was RM3.00 a stick and it was not so big and not as nice.

Incidentally, if you are going out to buy these Japanese yakitori (焼き鳥)-like skewers to enjoy, I suggest that you grill the number that you can eat each time and finish them off at one go. I found that when we reheated the leftover sticks later in the day, the meat became hard, something like bak kua (barbecued pork slices) and even though it was still nice, it just wasn’t the same anymore.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Haven’t seen you…

Those were the exact words that nice lady at my favourite fish and seafood stall said to me when I dropped by there late Friday morning, “Haven’t seen you for a long time, sinseh (teacher)!”

Yes, I did mention in my post that day that I had not gone there for a while simply because I had bought quite a lot of fish from her and we just ate the last ikan terubok two Fridays ago and sometime last week, we had one of the or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret and right now, there are two more left in the freezer.

I bought 2 kilos of the not-very-big pek hay (seawater prawns) in early May for use as ingredient (cho liao) when frying vegetables or noodles, for instance and there are still 3 or 4 packets left. Gosh!!! That was such a chore – removing the heads and the shell and deveining them. I sat there doing it the whole morning till my legs went numb, all needles and pins and it took quite a while before I could get back on my feet again.

When I got to the stall that morning, I saw the lady busy peeling the shell and getting rid of the heads of the prawns. She said that there were no customers at the time and since she was free, she decided to pass her time doing that and sell at RM18.00 for 600 gms., normal price RM18.00 a kilo (There were smaller ones going for RM13.00 only a kilo.). Of course, I was delighted to see that as it meant that I would only need to devein the prawns when I got home and I asked her for 600 gms.

I saw that there was sotong (squid) of assorted sizes too – my girl loves those but the last time I bought 2 kilos, my missus also spent the whole morning cleaning them (while I was doing the prawns). The lady offered to do that for me since she was very free so I told her I would take 1 kilo…

…of the bigger ones at RM20.00 a kg.

The last few times I was at the stall, she did not have any of the big prawns, RM45.00 a kilo and I was wishing we had those for our Father’s Day steamboat dinner that night. In the end, we just had to make do with the small cho liao ones.

I told the lady I wanted a kilo…

…and I got 30 altogether. That would work out to only RM1.50 each. They may give you two or three with your noodle dish outside and charge you an arm or a leg for such big ones.

Right now, we have not decided how we are going to cook these prawns and the sotong – we’ll just have to wait and see when the time comes and if it is anything blogworthy, I certainly would blog about it.

The total for my purchases that morning came up to RM78.00 and the kind and generous lady said she would give me the rest of the prawns she had peeled, at least 200-300 gms, I’m sure. In the end, I had quite a lot…

– I’m sure this will last us for quite a while.

I paid her RM80.00 and told her to give the change to her helper, a young boy from Daro, for a cup of coffee or something but no, she would not hear of it and insisted that I took the money back.

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.

While you wait…

That day, the mum was going out to stock up on food and stuff and my girl asked her to buy those crunchy crispy coated peanuts…

…that they will give you at the Chinese restaurants for you to munch while you wait for the other guests to arrive and for the banquet to start.

Unfortunately, she came home with not very good news. She said that she went to a few supermarkets and shops but she could not find any being sold at any of them.

A few days later, I happened to drop by this fresh mini market…

…and I saw these…

I wasn’t sure if those were the ones but I grabbed two packets, anyway.

Later, I stopped by one of the shops in the next lane in my neighbourhood and I saw this…

…so I bought a packet. This one sure looks more like what they used to serve at the restaurants and that got me thinking – when did they start giving us these?

I remember all throughout my growing up years, they would give us shelled peanuts…

…or kuaci (pumpkin seeds), either the black or the white ones…

Of course, it would get very messy at the end of the banquet – you will find all the shell scattered all over the table and on the floor. I suppose serving these coated shell-less ones was a pretty good idea – they would not dirty the place like that.

Going back to the ones I bought, do not be deceived by the Stars & the Stripes. They have nothing to do whatsoever with the USA. In fact, it is a Tong Garden product, made in Johore and not in China and I was in our living room that day when I spotted a packet, already open but not yet finished. I decided to take it and give it a try.

Much to my delight, it was VERY nice, a cut above the ones they give you at the Chinese restaurants!!! They did say on the pack that they’re kacang bersalut rempah, translation: spice coated peanuts and true enough, I could detect the very pleasant hint of the spices used. I enjoyed it so much that I finished all of it but no, I am not going to open the other packet – I’ll leave that to my girl and no, at the time of writing, she has not open the other pack so I cannot at this point in time say what that one is like.

More recently these days, at the restaurants, they may serve you these braised peanuts…

…instead – tasty and soft, great for the toothless, sold in cans and easily available at most shops and supermarkets. My missus will usually buy a few to keep in the pantry for anyone to open and enjoy when we feel like it.

CCL FRESH MINI MARKET is located 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, on your right 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 and KIM WON CHINESE MEDICAL STORE & MINI SUPERMARKET is located along Jalan Ruby to the left of that same block of shops as Swee Hung & Bethel Hair Salon.

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.