The quiet side…

After the disappointment on the first day of Ramadan – there wasn’t anything that tickled our fancy at the bazaar we went to and my girl and I did not buy anything at all even though my missus did tapao some sambal petai udang (stink beans with prawns) and sambal terung (brinjal/egg plant) which were very nice but very expensive and she got only a little bit of each, very little considering that she paid at least RM10.00 for one – we went to our preferred one on the second day, the one that we would go to every year.

It was a Friday so I asked my missus and my girl to look for some nice stuff that the latter would like for dinner, some ikan bakar (grilled fish) or sotong bakar (grilled squid) perhaps – it was our no-meat day so we were abstaining from all the alluring meat delights that we saw at the bazaar.

In the meantime, I walked around slowly looking at all the things they had in store at every stall…right up to the very far end of the bazaar, the quiet side which did not seem to get a lot of attention and was not so crowded. There, at the very last stall in the line, I spotted one with a very young girl and an even younger boy, probably the brother, sitting there waiting for somebody to stop by. Poor things, I thought! So, of course, I went over to have a look at what they had to sell and I decided I would buy something from them just to help them a bit in their undertaking.

In the end, I bought this sambal buah (RM4.00)…

Pasar Ramadan sambal buah mangga 1

…which they made out of unripened mango. It was very nice, with the right level of spiciness but very very sour so my missus added a bit of sugar to counter-balance the overly-sourish taste and it was just nice after that…

Pasar Ramadan sambal buah mangga 2

We sure enjoyed it with our rice for dinner that night and finished it all in one sitting.

They were also selling umai, the Melanau “raw” fish delight, daging masak hitam at only RM5.00 a tub (I saw some selling the same at RM7.00 at some other stalls but of course, they may have more inside, I wouldn’t know) and chicken curry too. I decided to buy their fish curry (RM6.00)…

Pasar Ramadan fish curry 1

…which turned out to be very nice too but it was a bit salty. I guess it is kind of difficult for those people to cook at this time of year when they are not able to taste their cooking to see if everything is all right.

My missus added a bit of water when heating it up and it was not too bad after that. The gravy went very well with rice and the fish…

Pasar Ramadan fish curry 2

…was good too, The girl did tell me the name of the fish but I am no good at those so it did not ring a bell.

I got this tempeh (RM2.00)…

Pasar Ramadan tempeh

…from another stall thinking that my girl would like it – she enjoys tempeh very much but unfortunately, it was in dire need of a lot more ingredients other than the few ikan bilis that I could see in it as it was, at best, just salty and not very tasty, definitely not anything I would want to buy again.

At another stall, I saw this kuih bungkur (RM2.00 for a pack of 3)…

Pasar Ramadan kuih bungkur 1

…which were smaller than the regular ones, usually sold singly and knowing how my girl loves this, of course, I had to buy a few packs home.

I was not too comfortable with how they had used the stapler…

Pasar Ramadan kuih bungkur 2

…to staple the banana leaves together – normally, they would use a toothpick or a lidi (skewer) but I guess as long as one is careful in removing it and getting it out of the way, it would not matter all that much.

Being made from ground rice or rice flour, this lovely pudding…

Pasar Ramadan kuih bungkur 3

…with gula apong (nipah palm sugar) at the bottom makes a very nice light dessert that we could enjoy after a meal.

Then, at another stall, I saw this tofu fa (RM2.00)…

Pasar Ramadan tofu fa 1

…with gula Melaka (palm sugar). Usually, at the Chinese stalls and shops, they will use sugar syrup which, I feel, is not as nice. Having said that, the texture of the tofu fa in this one is not that silky and smooth…

Pasar Ramadan tofu fa 2

…but it was all right and I did enjoy it very much.

So that was it for the 2nd day of Ramadan. Hang on to see what’s in store on the 3rd day. LOL!!!

THE BANDONG RAMADAN BAZAAR (2.314192, 111.825581) is located around the shops at Jalan Bandong and all along Bandong Walk, somewhere around the primary schools and the surau in the vicinity.

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The story of a small town…

If you were into Mandarin movies in the 80’s, you probably would have seen this one (小城故事) starring Kenny Bee and Lin Fong Chiao with Teresa Teng singing the beautiful theme song. I did go and watch the movie at a cinema here way back then but no, I did not think much of it though I do love the very melodious song to this day.

Anyway, there is this small town in the Sarikei District/Division – the mere mention of its name, Jakar (2.043039, 111.494602), would make people think of the celebrated prawn noodles there

Jakar prawn noodles
*Archive photo*

…and the last time my friend, Annie, was back home from KL, she went there with her mum and family and bought me the very nice sio bee (meat dumplings) from there.

I tried and I really liked them a lot

Jakar sio bee
*Archive photo*

…and I did go round looking for them all over town because I heard that they are sold at some places around here. Unfortunately, I have not been very successful – as a matter of fact, I even mentioned it to the boss’ son at this shop as his father would go to Sarikei on alternate days to stock up on stuff for sale but so far, I have not seen them at the shop so I guess they are not all that keen.

Well, Annie was back again for a couple of days to exercise her democratic rights and for some reason, her constituency was in Sarikei so she had to go all the way there to cast her vote. This time around, she got me not one but three packets…

Sarikei Jakar shumai

…for me to enjoy. For sure I would go through them slowly, a few at a time to stretch it for as long as I can.

I also heard from the guy at the hair salon that I would go to that the coffee at Jakar was his favourite – none in Sibu could come near it, he said. I never had the chance to try but that day, Annie got me a pack of that…

Jakar coffee 1

…from this renowned coffee manufacturer there (2.038381, 111.492155)…

Jakar coffee 2

I came across some photographs taken by my friend at their factory…

Jakar coffee 3
*Philip Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…so I asked for his permission to share some of them…

Jakar coffee 4
*Philip Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…here in my blog…

Jakar coffee 5
*Philip Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…and he gave me the green light, thank you so much, Philip!

For one thing, they roast the coffee beans with butter added…

Jakar coffee 6

The one here did that too but the last time I spoke to the guy, he said that they would mix margarine these days as butter is way too expensive. Of course, that would mean that their coffee would not be as nice as in the good ol’ days anymore.

Well, I’ve given it a try. They came in sachets…

Jakar coffee 7

…so I just put one in a cup and poured hot water into it.

It was nice but I am not so used to our local coffee without sugar, unlike the mug of Nescafe that I would have every morning, so I added a little bit…

Jakar coffee 8

…and I quite enjoyed it. However, it was not kao (strong) enough for me – I think I would prefer the powder that I can use to brew the coffee using my good ol’ percolator. I bet that would be a whole lot nicer.

Thank you, Annie, for the goodies from Jakar and for going through the trouble of getting me some stuff from there even though you were rushing for time during your lightning visit here.

Shopping…

My girl came home last Tuesday to exercise her democratic right the next day and that evening, she cooked this potato gnocchi dish…

Potato gnocchi with bacon & enoki mushrooms & alfredo sauce 1

…with bacon and enoki mushroom and her own-made alfredo sauce…

Potato gnocchi with bacon & enoki mushroom & alfredo sauce 2

…and yes, it turned out really well. We sure enjoyed that!

For dessert, we had this pumpkin sago…

Pumpkin sago

…that the mum cooked. I had been wanting to try that since I saw it in their menu here and it seemed the two ladies, while on one of their outings, stopped there and my girl had that and loved it a lot.

After that delightful dinner, we decided to go and check out this new place…

Country Grocers

…at the mall since renamed Swan Square – it so happened that it had its soft opening on that very day itself. Giant Hypermart used to be here but it has since closed down and this one has taken over the premises.

I saw Adibah

Adibah Noor

…next door and since she kept insisting, “Masuklah! Masuklah!” so I went in and bought a few packets of organic fertilisers for the plants in my garden.

The new grocery store was pretty much the same like any other supermarket except that this one has a lot of stuff from Japan…

Japanese Kit Kat

…and Korea…

Korean products

…and  of course, my girl was thrilled by all the stuff available…

Sauces

She ended up buying these Korean instant porridge…

Korean instant porridge

…that my cousin in Kuching said was nice, abalone and beef.

They had this wagyu beef…

Wagyu beef

…too but of course, I did not buy that, not that price…

Wagyu beef, price

…thank you very much – not something for poor old pensioners like me, that’s for sure.

I was also shocked to see the current price of my favourite Danish butter cookies…

Butter cookies

…these days. Well, there are things I can live without and this would be one of them but of course, if anyone is thinking of what to get me for my birthday or Christmas or for whatever reason, I shall be most happy to accept with both hands wide open! Hehehehehehe!!!!

This is new – the seating area…

Country Grocers, seating area

They did not have it before when Giant was here. I think one can have chap fan/nasi campur (mixed rice), sandwiches, buns and cakes from the bakery or one of these roast chicken…

Country Grocers roast chicken

…or whatever else that they may have there.

There were a lot of people that night – hopefully, business will always be that good so this place will stay open unlike the one before it.

COUNTRY GROCERS (2.325350, 111.85349) is located at the mall where Giant Hypermart used to be, along Jalan Ling Kai Cheng, on your right if you are coming from town, right after SMK Bandar Sibu.

 

Flowers…

My girl’s school in the jungle sure doesn’t look too bad…

SK Sg Sepiring, Selangau 1

…from a distance. I would say it has a lot of potential and could be a really very nice school. I did hint subtly in my post sometime ago about how things may be improved but I shall dwell on that no further seeing how in the general state of affairs, not just here but there and everywhere else, nothing much would ever get to change.

I was there after the week-long school break and my girl had bought out of her own pocket a whole lot of things to decorate and beautify the classroom and create an atmosphere more conducive to teaching and learning – sadly, that’s the way it is here – you just have to fork out your own money if you want anything done.

While she was at it, I walked around the place…

SK Sg Sepiring, Selangau 2

…and one thing that I noticed were how there were so many beautiful and colourful flowers that certainly helped brighten up the surroundings a little.

There was, of course, our national flower, the hibiscus…

The hibiscus

…and this one…

Flower within a flower, red

…and this orange variety…

Flower within a flower, orange

…caught my attention. They looked like they had one flower growing out of another, something I had not seen before.

These dual or tri-coloured blooms…

Dual or tri-coloured blooms 1

…are pretty common…

Dual or tri-coloured blooms 2

…around here too and of course, everybody would be all too familiar with the allamanda…

Allamanda

…and the bunga kertas (bougainvillea)…

Bougainvillea

The latter seems to bloom really well in hot and dry weather here, all the different colours and they can be really very beautiful. Perhaps the tourism authorities here could work on the idea of using them as an attraction like the sakura in Japan or tulips in the Netherlands. As a matter of fact, we do have trees lining the streets in some parts of town and when in full bloom, they do resemble the sakura quite a bit and are quite a sight to behold.

I had some of these lilies…

Lilies

…in my garden – my missus planted them a long time ago but owing to the gross neglect, they, though still alive, are not growing too well now and it has been a while since they last bloomed.

These minute pineapples…

Mini pineapples

…would be a hit around Chinese New Year and some people would display pots of those in their houses. In Hokkien, it is called ong lai…or literally translated, good luck comes.

These are nice too…

Nice shade of red

– I love the shade of red and long ago, everybody was planting these leaves…

Leaves

…that come in different sizes and different colour variations. I don’t seem to see them all that much anymore.

Well, since we’re on the topic of flowers, I saw these blue butterfly pea flowers…

Bunga telang

…in the compound of the church that I frequent here. They use the petals to get the blue colour for the rice in the nasi kerabu and also in some nyonya kuehs (cakes). When my cousin and her hubby were here from the UK not too long ago, she said that the tea brewed from the flower is a current craze over there as it is believed to have a whole lot of health benefits.

That was on Good Friday – the service was at 3.00 p.m. but we went at 12.30 p.m. to make sure that we could get seats and that was why I had a lot of time on my hands to go around the place. Every year, without fail, there would be such a HUGE crowd – either they are those taking advantage of the long weekend to come home for the Ching Ming Festival which is usually around this time of the year as well…or there are those once-a-year Christians creeping out of the woodworks…or twice actually – I would get to see some of them around Christmas as well.

I thought these little yellow flowers look pretty too…

Yellow

…but this one stole the show…

Buttonhole

It would make a nice buttonhole, don’t you think? A nice change from the usual red carnation.

In case you didn’t know…

I read in the papers not too long ago the report on the local assemblywoman making some noise about the new parking rates at the Sibu Airport after it had been taken over by the Malaysian airport authorities…

Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd
*Sdn. Bhd? I wonder who owns it?*

…and it has increased from RM1.50 to RM2.00. Well, it sure did not get me pulling all my hair out – after all, what has not increased in price? Besides, I do not go to the airport all that often.

Well, it so happened that I had to do just that the other day as my cousin and her hubby from the UK were dropping by Sibu for a couple of days and to drive into the parking zone, I had to press a button and get a card. I did not have a problem with that.

There were lots of parking spaces, obviously due to the price hike – that is quite typical of the people here and pretty soon, they will forget and the place would be quite full and one would have to park one’s car far far away from the terminal building.

A friend of mine happened to be there, about to leave, and he stopped his car beside mine and told me that they were using the auto pay system now and one would have to pay at the counter beside the Sugar Bun outlet there…

Sugar Bun Sibu Airport
*Archive photo*

…before one could get out of the place. When I shared about this matter on Facebook, another friend told me that she was stuck there for half an hour the day before because many people did not know this.

Again, I was fine with it, thanks to my friend for letting me know. As I was walking to the counter, I saw a few auto pay machines but there were signs on them stating that they were “under maintenance”. What? I thought they just started not too long ago. I wonder how much they paid for those machines and if they did work at all when they first started this whole thing.

Silly me!!! I went and paid…

RM2.00

…straight away thinking that I would have an hour since the time of entry and I waited for my cousin and her hubby to arrive. We were lucky that day as the flight was neither delayed nor cancelled. It was pouring cats and dogs when they landed and I told them to wait for me outside while I went to get the car to drive over and pick them up.

So there I went in the heavy rain and when I put the card into the machine, I saw the digital thing on it saying that my “grace period had expired”. I tried again and there was a voice on the intercom telling me to go to the counter beside Sugar Bun and pay. There was a car behind me and he honked at me impatiently. @#$%^&*!!!!! Blardy road bully, kurang ajar!I quickly reversed and re-parked my car and went back to the counter and paid an additional RM1.00…

RM1.00

…to get out of the place. The guy manning the booth said, “Lain kali, uncle, mahu jalan baru bayar!” (Next time, uncle, pay before you leave). Tsk! Tsk! I thought I could pay first and relax after that, no need to worry about it as I would have an hour at my disposal.

Well, in case you didn’t know all this, now you do! I wonder how long the “grace period” is because honestly, it is not near at all, the counter from the parking zone and imagine the not-so-agile warga emas (senior citizens) like me having to walk all the way there to pay and back again to the car to drive out of there! I hear at the UTC (Urban Transformation Centre), they have this autopay system too and it is printed in the payment chit that you have 30 minutes to get out of there – I did not see anything in the two that I got here that day.

Yes, by all means, increase the parking rates but they should, at least, make sure that the change is for the better and that their system is user-friendly, easier or more convenient for the people concerned…not worse!

 

Biscuits…

It’s so complicated. Some call them biscuits, others call them cookies and biscuits refer to some other things, quite different altogether. Whatever it is, they all have one thing in common – they all end up in the same place!

Well, this came in the mail the other day, the lovely pistachio nut chocolate chip cookies

From Merryn

…from Merryn, William and the boys, thank you so so much for including me in your mailing list! She said that she would have liked to send me the cute doggie ones but she was afraid that they might not get to me in one piece. Thankfully, these survived the trip pretty well, they were all still intact unlike some that I had received before whereby I ended up eating everything using a spoon.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not celebrating this year but that does not mean that I will not be eating any of the usual stuff that people would normally associate with the festive season like these sago biscuits or kueh bangkit

Kueh bangkit 2018

…as they are called locally, for instance.

Yes, they are selling them at Payung again this year, the homemade ones sourced from somebody in Mukah and the good news is they are going for exactly that same price as in 2016 and last year…

Kueh bangkit 2017
*Archive photo*

…and if you buy 10, you will get one free. These are gluten-free being made from sago flour so my girl can eat them. That was why I bought one tub but before she came home for the weekend, I had finished it all up. Tsk! Tsk! I will just have to drop by again to get another one for her.

Well, these are neither cookies nor biscuits – they’re pancakes…

Pancakes 1

…and there is a joke going round that says that the ones with abs are called waffles.

I used to make them quite a lot but I’ve stopped completely for a long time now as they are not gluten-free. However, the other day, I asked my mum if she would like some and she said yes, so I went and bought the ingredients and made some for her. Thankfully, I could still do it and everything turned out all right…

Pancakes 2

While I was out shopping for the ingredients at a supermarket in Sg Merah, I saw these very nice made-in-Indonesia coconut biscuits…

Biskut kelapa 1

…selling for only RM2.70. I do buy them quite regularly from a grocery store near my mum’s house at RM3.00 a pack. I guess sensible buyers or consumers would usually shop around for the best prices but unfortunately, I am not one of them. After all, the 30 sen difference would probably not be enough to pay for the petrol for me to go out of my way to the supermarket I went to to buy these.

While I was at the aforementioned supermarket, I spotted these (RM3.80 a box)…

Oreo thins 1

No, I am not a fan of those celebrated biscuits but I just thought I would give them a try. With all the Thai characters all over the boxes, I thought they would be made in Thailand but upon close scrutiny…

Oreo thins 2

…it seemed that it wasn’t so.

There were two packs in one box…

Oreo thins 3

…with around 9 pieces…

Oreo thins 4

…in each of them. They were all right – no, they did not get me all excited and between the two, I prefer the vanilla. Personally, I would much sooner stick to my Indonesian coconut biscuits…

Biskut kelapa 2

…with its very nice santan/coconut milk fragrance.

O Christmas tree…

It’s New Year’s Eve today.

If I am not wrong, like in previous years, there will be a countdown tonight at the Sibu Town Square…

Christmas at the Sibu Town Square

…and the winner of the Christmas Tree competition for this year…

Some of the Christmas trees

…will be announced.

The weather was fine that day, a few days before Christmas, so we went to have a look around and I was pleased to see that there were two out the many that depicted the true meaning of Christmas, this one…

Nativity scene 1

…and this one…

Nativity scene 2

In the past, if I am not wrong, they would insist on the use of recycled material to make those Christmas trees – I don’t know if the ruling still stands but it did appear that most did not bother to toe the line.

Of course, I grabbed the opportunity to take a snapshot of this one…

Peter's masterpiece

…that my good friend, Peter, the boss of Payung Café was commissioned to produce and he used those palm leaves that he had used before at his café or for the decoration elsewhere. If you look closely, you can even see the rattan baskets…

Recycled material

…that you will often get to see if you go to Payung to enjoy all the delights they have to offer there.

Thankfully, I was able to take some photographs before the sun went down…

Angels

…as it got dark quite quickly. There were not many people around that day, just some people walking around, taking selfies and wefies, and kids playing with bubbles here…

Bubbles 1

…and there…

Bubbles 2

I had expected a crowd but it was somewhat quiet and parking was a breeze and there wasn’t any traffic jam, not at all.

The annual food fair was on, right across the road, but we did not bother to walk over – those that we had been to before weren’t exactly anything to get us excited, nothing worth going back for more. Personally, I do feel that the organisers will have to think of something to attract more people to come. Generally, there would be the same things over and over again and the things sold are somewhat expensive and not all that nice.

It had been raining quite a lot  around that time, strong winds and all and I heard there was a short circuit and some of the small trees and one of those in the competition caught fire. They had repaired the latter so that one was fine when we went that day but the main one and all those around it were standing in the dark…

In the dark

Maybe that was why there were not so many people but I did see some friends sharing photographs taken a few days before Christmas and it did look like they had got everything fixed and the trees were shining brightly once more. Well, at least, in the dim light, I managed to catch a glimpse of Santa riding away in his sleigh…

Santa 2

So what plans do you all have in store for this evening to say goodbye to 2017 and to ring in the new year, 2018?