Half breed…

It was my missus’ birthday on Thursday, her 65th.

That was why I went to that mini-market not far from my house to buy a chicken for the traditional Foochow longevity noodles…

…or mee sua (string or thread noodles) and of course, for a special occasion, that calls for a special breed of chicken, what we call pua chai kay, literally translated as Eurasian or half breed chicken…

I love this variety, nicer than the very popular kampung chicken and the celebrated super-nutritious black chicken…

It’s smaller than the regular chicken feed-fed ones and not so fat but bigger than the kampung ones but they sure do not come cheap – I got one for RM47.00 something, almost RM50.00!

The texture of the meat is nicer, kind of liam-liam (sticky) and tastier and we also had those special supposedly more nutritious kampung chicken eggs…

…with the chicken and the noodles. These are very small, smaller than the regular ones by around half the size but bigger than quail eggs.

That was all we had for brunch that day but I did have something planned for dinner that evening. That will be in another post though so you’ll stick around for that, won’t you?

In advance…

So how was your Chap Goh Meh dinner last night? Lots of things to eat and enjoy? We had ours in advance, a day earlier because yesterday was a Friday in the season of Lent, a day of fasting and abstinence. As far as I know, even during “normal” times (before the pandemic), many families went out for dinner the night before for the simple reason that all the restaurants would be full on the actual night.

Yes, I did go out but a couple of days earlier, only to the fruit & food sundry/grocer shop round the corner, to buy a whole fish and had it steamed for the dinner…

Steamed fish

As they say, Nien Nien You Yi! We had the ikan buris in the freezer but my missus does not eat that and there were a few slabs of salmon too but I wanted a whole fish. I sure was glad I did as on the morning of the day proper, there was such a HUGE crowd and I sure wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with all those people.

This ikan bawal putih (white pomfret), supposedly more prestigious than the black (that I do prefer) and the golden varieties, was only RM46.00 which I would consider cheap because I was at a fish stall before Chinese New Year where those were going for between RM60.00 and RM80.00 and the lady told me that around Chinese New Year, I would not get anything less than RM100.00!

I bought three lamb shanks for Christmas last year and my missus cooked two. There was one left in the freezer so I asked her to take it out and cook it…

Lamb shank

…and it was really good, very nice and tender.

We also used whatever we could find in the fridge and freezer for this salad platter…

Salad

…to which we added the traditional salad dressing in the family

Add dressing

My girl cooked this lovely pumpkin soup…

Pumpkin soup

…and my sister brought this VERY nice ice cream for dessert!

No, we did not have much this time around, very simple – just these few dishes for the four of us but still, we only managed to finish the fish! Thankfully, there wasn’t all that much left.

Contribution…

My missus did most of the cooking for our Chinese New Year reunion dinner but I did mention that I chipped in a bit and this was my contribution…

Satay beef 1

We still had four packs of this New Zealand ribeye beef…

New Zealand ribeye beef

…in the freezer and I thought it would be a nice change from the usual curry to cook it with satay sauce…

Sunstar kuah satay

…instead. I cut the meat into smaller and thinner slices and after going through two packs, I found that I already had a lot so I put back the remaining two into the freezer to cook in any way and whenever we want.

These were the ingredients…

Ingredients

…that I added. I fried the chopped Bombay onion in a bit of oil before adding the serai (lemon grass) from my garden, bruised at the ends and the beef that I had already mixed well with the satay sauce.

The colour did not look all that nice so I added a bit of tomato sauce, only to regret it later as I felt it affected the overall taste a bit – I think it was more like satay as we know it without the addition. There was some crushed (freshly fried) peanut in the kitchen and I also added that to give it a stronger nutty taste.

It dried up very fast so I had to add water, a little at a time and let it simmer long enough for the meat to become tender before adding the finely cut daun kunyit (turmeric leaves) – they usually add that in beef rendang. Finally, it was done and I dished everything out…

Satay beef 2

I would say it was nice. We do cook using the satay sauce quite frequently but usually, we would use pork – not so much with chicken (we usually cook curry with that). Personally, I do feel it is nicer with beef.

A quiet day…

Chinese New Year’s Day, 2021, came and went quietly. Other than the fireworks and firecrackers at the stroke of midnight, noticeably a whole lot less than in previous years, and sporadically throughout the whole day, it was just like any other day. In our lane, I think only a couple of my neighbours bothered.

We had our traditional Foochow longevity mee sua

Traditional Foochow longevity mee sua

…in the morning and we asked my sister to hop over for this so she would not have to cook her own.

Even though we did not hold an open house and was not expecting anybody to drop by (and of course, nobody did), I took out the cakes and the cake serving tray, sliced them and arranged them nicely like what I would do every year in the past.

We did not bake/make any of our own but we sure had a lot to go round. There was the intoxicating fruit pudding

Fruit pudding

…that my cousins made, from my uncle and his family in Kuching. It was so very strong on the liquor that I could not resist asking them how much they poured in when the mum was not looking. Yes, it was very nice, soft and moist and not hard and dry like some fruit cakes and I bet many would love it a lot! “Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” LOL!!!

My girl loved this prune layer cake

Prune layer cake

…that Daisy and her hubby, Tham, and son and Daisy’s mum, Mdm Chua, gave me and we got this from my in-laws – the berry berry yogurt cheese cake…

Berry berry yogurt cheese cake

…which was very nice too, something lightly fruity and not sweet.

We also got this…

Kek belacan

…from my paternal cousin.

I was told that it was the steamed kek hati pari/parek Sarawak but upon opening it to slice, I was quite sure it was kek belacan, our favourite – it did not have any raisins nor prunes in it and no, for the uninitiated, it is NOT made from belacan (dried prawn paste) – it only looks like it and some not-very-creative people saw it fitting to name it kek belacan when they could have given it some very nice names like Black Magic or Black Beauty or even, Hitam Manis. Maybe some of you would like to try making it – it really is very very very nice and definitely not as tedious to make as those gaudily-coloured kek lapis Sarawak!!!

Of course, we still had those left over from the Reunion Dinner the night before and we also had all the cookies and tarts that my missus made and those given to me, all the snacks, the keropok and the acar. Yes, it sure was very quiet this year but we sure were not short of things to munch and enjoy!

A lot…

I wouldn’t say that we had a lot for our Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner but unlike those days when we would invite my brother-in-law and his family over and the other one from Bintulu and his family as well, nowadays, a little was already too much for the four of us.

Of course, we had the sweet and sour ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret)…

Sweet & sour or chio

…and yes, I sure enjoyed that. We had two in the freezer and initially, we thought of cooking both. In the end, I decided that one would be more than enough and yes, we only managed half of it so as tradition would have it, we did have some left over for the following day.

In view of the current situation, my brother-in-law and his wife were not all that keen on joining us for the dinner (their daughter, my niece in Singapore, is stuck there and not able to come home) so my missus cooked this chicken curry…

Chicken curry

…to give to them and there was some left so we served it alongside the satay beef…

Satay beef

…that I cooked.

We also took out the kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma from Payung

from Payung and my sister brought this platter of braised duck…

Braised duck

…from this chicken rice shop in town.

My missus bought this rack of pork ribs sometime ago and I really did not know why as I felt it was way too big for the three of us. That was why I told her this would be a good time to take it out and cook and she did…

Korean sauce pork ribs

She said she cooked it in the exact same way in which she cooked the lamb rack that we had once and enjoyed very much BUT she added some Korean sauce to it. The ladies insisted it was nice but no, it was not to my liking so I only had a bit.

Yes, we liked her mixed vegetables…

Mixed vegetables

…cooked with canned Pacific clams. Good grief! Those were twice the size of my thumb once but now they are about the size of my little finger and are so so so expensive! Tsk! Tsk!

Everyone sang praises of her fish maw soup…

Fish maw soup

…and yes, I loved it too! Initially, she was thinking of something thick and cornstarch-y  like sharks’ fins soup but I said I would rather have it in clear soup.

For dessert, we had this peach & longan combo…

Peach & longan

…and these pretty cakes…

Cakes from Dayang

…that my girl’s good friend gave to her for Chinese New Year.

I shared the photographs like what I always did on Facebook and somebody curtly remarked, “Don’t show off!” Honestly, I don’t see what is there to show off as it was just as I had captioned it, “Our simple Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner“. I saw what the others had – they too flaunted theirs on Facebook and they had lobsters, abalone, sea cucumber, sharks’ fins, crab, huge prawns, salmon, yee sang and poon choi and one even had the unforgettable wang poo liao/ ikan empurau. Why! We did not even have prawns!

In comparison, I would still say ours was simple, nothing really special and yes, we did manage to stick to what I had in mind and just used things that we had in our fridge and freezer, no need to venture out in the dreadful current situation to buy anything special for our dinner.

Homemade…

For all it’s worth, a Blessed and Happy Chinese New Year, everybody! 新年快樂 xīn nián kuài lè, 恭喜发财 gōng xǐ fā cái! Let us hope and pray that the dawn of the Year of the Ox will turn the tide and things will get better.

The other day, I mentioned that I had not bought my bak kua (barbecued meat slices) yet and I happened to drop by one of my neighbourhood shops. They only had one box left…

Loong Kee bak kua

…and I quickly grabbed it.

At another shop, they had another brand that I am not familiar with and even though they insisted it was very nice, I refused to buy it.

The lady boss at my usual sundry & grocery store said that they would be sending their new stock that afternoon and asked me to go over the next morning. However, when I did that, she said that they had not sent it over yet and asked me to go again later. I did not bother as I am not that fond of going in and out, not in the current situation. I guess that one box would just have to do and sorry, I do not have any to give to my sister and to my in-laws or anybody, for that matter.

Much to my surprise, out of the blue, my missus decided to make her own…

Missus' bak kua 1

Yes, it was very nice but no, it did not taste quite the same. That was because we do not have any shaoxing Chinese cooking wine in the house so she substituted it with our traditional Foochow red wine. That was why it had its own unique taste but beggars can’t be choosers – these…

Missus' bak kua 2

…will just have to do, I suppose.

In the meantime, I received these Chinese New Year goodies…

CNY goodies from Ah Lek, Saliah & family

…from my Melanau cousin and his wife and loved ones in his family. They never fail to give us something every year and this year, they are at her daughter’s place in Miri so they asked the son here to buy and send over to us. Thank you so much, ‘Lek & Saliah and everybody! Much appreciated.

My dear friend, Mary, also dropped by my house on the eve of Chinese New Year’s Eve to pass me these delightful own-made goodies, made by her girl…

From Mary and girls

…and to extend their special festive greetings…

Season's Greetings

Thanks so much to all of you, pretty ladies, too and thank you all especially for remembering me – it sure is a ray of light in these troubled times, a ray of hope that someday soon, love will see us through and things will get better. Incidentally, the peanut ones were absolutely out of this world! We almost finished the whole lot in one sitting. I only had two though – let my girl enjoy it! She loved it so much!

So, how’s everybody doing? How was your reunion dinner? I guess I shall be blogging about mine but that will be in another post, maybe not so soon. #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

It’s the thought that counts…

In 2017, my young and handsome blogger-friend, Nick, came all the way to Sibu from Sungai Petani, Kedah to pay me a visit.

It so happened that my mum was admitted into a private hospital at the time and my sis had to be with her there while I had to keep my dad company at their big house at night. That was why I could not spend as much time with him as I would like to but I did the best I could. He did say that he would like to come again but that was before the pandemic and at this point in time, I really don’t know when that will be possible.

Every year, without fail, the sweet and thoughtful boy would send me a Chinese New Year card…

CNY card from Nick in SP

…and this year is no exception…

Signed, sealed, delivered

…and inside, he wrote this…

Message

Yes, I took him to try our kompia when he was here and all the local Foochow delights and of course, we did stop by Payung…briefly. Owing to time constraint, I did not manage to take him to a good place for kampua mee but I think he did make his way here himself for my favourite in town.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to send out any Chinese New Year cards this year. I hope Nick and everybody else will forgive me for that but honestly, I had every intention of sending them. Why, I even took all the cards…

Chinese New Year cards

…out but before I could write and send any, there was the emergence of this truly horrifying cluster at a longhouse here that infected so many people not only in Sibu but throughout the whole of Sarawak!!! Since then, Sibu has been in the Red Zone and is at the top of the list in the total number of cases every day.

I guess I shall just have to put back those cards and hopefully, I shall be able to send them next year. As they say, it’s the thought that counts and rest assured that everybody is in my thoughts all the time. Thank you so much, Nick, for the card and all the good wishes – I certainly look forward to seeing you again someday…soon. Qong Xi Fa Cai to you and all your loved ones too – a Happy & Prosperous Chinese New Year!

Snacks…

Usually, other than the cakes and cookies, besides the keropok and acar, we would have some light snacks for people thus inclined or while sitting around the house, watching tv or waiting for family and friends to show up.

My missus would always buy some cashew nuts…

Cashew nuts

…that she would bake in the oven, brushed with a bit of butter for the added fragrance. Her brother, my brother-in-law, loves how she does it so he would send his cashew nuts over for her to do it for him. Indeed, those are by no means, cheap but anyway, Chinese New Year comes but once a year so it is all right.

In my younger days, my father would order the Perak/Ipoh menglembu groundnuts that came in a round oblong tin with a picture of an old man wearing a straw hat and carrying a hoe with some of the groundnuts dangling from it and these days, we have those famous ones from China, packed in Sibu but I am not all that fond of those as it can get quite messy and for that matter, the same applies to kuaci too. I don’t mind serving these…

Peanuts

…instead and it seems that they now have a new variety – with seaweed.

Personally, I love pistachios…

Pistachios

…not only because they taste good but because they are very auspicious as well. In Mandarin, they call them “happy nuts”/khai sing tao (开心果) because the slightly open shell looks like somebody’s mouth, laughing.

We’re not into the teeny-weeny popiah with either meat floss or sambal hay bee inside but if I am not wrong, they are very popular. These year, my missus made these…

Seaweed snack

…with seaweed and popiah skin and she also bought some imitation crab sticks which she cut thinly and fried…

Imitation crab stick snack

I would say both are quite all right but I think I would rather stick to my keropok and acar.

Some people love sotong (cuttlefish) but if your house is air-conditioned, the stench can be quite killing.

I do love bak kua (barbecued meat slices) – here, we can get Loong Kee, not sure if we can get Bee Cheng Hiang anywhere this year. I’ve also seen woe lai yea, now renamed Oloiya (我来也) here before but the last time I had some from their outlet in Kuching, the quality had dropped so badly. So far I’ve not bought any and Chinese New Year is just a week away – I’d probably give it  a miss this year since I am not all that keen on going out.

We can do it…

My cousin in Kuching sent word to me to tell me that they would be sending me their delightful fruit pudding via courier service…

The box

Usually, their mum would be the one making it but recently, she was not feeling too well – thank God the COVID-19 swab test came out negative and she recovered after a few days. That was why my cousin and her brother took over to make the pudding for Christmas under the mum’s strict supervision. Everyone who had the chance to try it was praising it to the skies.

The instant I opened the box…

Open

…I caught the whiff of the liquor used in the making – they always add a whole lot of rum, that I know.

They even sent me a greeting card…

Chinese New Year card

…enclosed inside the box. Oh dear!!! I had all the cards ready but I was not all that keen on going out to the post office to buy the stamps and posting them, not with the current situation here. I did send them one for Christmas though – things were not so bad then.

My cousin sure did a great job in packing the pudding…

Nicely wrapped

…with all the bubble wrap and air bags even, plus layers and layers of cling wrap!

I unwrapped it…

Fruit pudding from the Banggus for CNY

…for the photo shoot…and this is the view from the bottom…

Bottoms up

The festival is just a few days away so actually, I would not have to wait very long to cut and enjoy eating it. However, the fragrance was killing and I succumbed to the temptation – I ended up slicing it to try and boy!!! It was so very very good!!! I would not say it was exactly like the mum’s, despite her strict supervision. This one had a lighter cake texture unlike the mum’s heavier pudding texture but it was very nice in its own right. We loved it!!!

Thank you so much, Uncle Paul and Auntie Irene, Sabrina and Jude in Kuching, and not forgetting Imelda in KL. Fondest thoughts and a very Happy & Blessed Chinese New Year to all of you from all of us here in Sibu – take care and God bless always! #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

What I’ve got in mind…

I did mention in an earlier post that we shall not be celebrating Chinese New Year 2021, no open house this year but of course, we shall be having the reunion dinner on the eve of the festival, all by ourselves. Unfortunately, like what I have also said in the aforementioned post, I have no intention of going out to buy anything special – we shall have to make do with what we have in the house.

So what have I got in mind? We still have a few ikan bawal hitam/or chio (black pomfret) and those will have to do – nian nian you yu 年年有鱼.  We will probably cook sweet and sour fish with those as red is supposed to be an auspicious colour…

Sweet & sour black pomfret

We had the very expensive steamed pek chio (white pomfret)…

Steamed pek chio

…before (the fishmonger told me that day that they would be over RM100 EACH, come Chinese New Year)  and one year, we had kim chio (golden pomfret)…

Steamed kim chio

…but we are not all that crazy about those and prefer the black ones. Those were the cheapest of the lot but unfortunately, they are, by no means, all that cheap anymore.

I still have two servings of the Payung kacang ma chicken…

Payung kaang ma chicken

…in the freezer – I bought three the other day and we ate one already so there is no need to cook any more chicken for the dinner.

My missus bought one huge slab of pork ribs from her friend at the mini-market not far from our house so she probably would take it out and cook it. I am not sure how she will cook it but I did see a pack of char siew sauce in the pantry – she probably would marinate the meat with that and pop it in the oven to roast.

We’ve finished all the frozen New Zealand striploin beef that I bought but we still have a few packs of the ribeye. I think I shall take that and cook curry with it and add a whole lot of potatoes. That will be a welcome change from the chicken curry…

Chicken curry

…that my missus would cook every year. Like red, the golden colour is also very auspicious.

We may have a prawn dish – I managed to grab hold of some big pek hay (seawater prawns) at RM38.00 a kg from a woman selling fish and seafood at one place near my house but no, we shall not be having any duck – my missus does not eat that. Perhaps we can have this baked cheese garlic mussels…

Baked cheese garlic mussels

We do have some of those half-shell ones in the freezer.

That should be more than enough meat and seafood dishes for the three or four of us already but I do think we shall need a vegetable dish with all the above. At this point in time, I don’t know what we would have in the fridge by then. In my garden, I only have the Brazilian spinach but for reasons unknown, my girl does not seem to like it. My cangkok manis seems to be growing pretty well so maybe I can save it to cook for our dinner that night.

What about you all? What have you got planned?