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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This time every year…

It was Mother’s Day last Sunday, the second Sunday in May, and this time every year, I would buy something nice, flowers, a cake or cookies, something for my mum on this special day.

This is my first Mother’s Day without her – she passed away on the 4th of March this year so last Saturday, we made our way to our parents’ resting place…

To wish her a Happy Mum's Day

…specially to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. We brought some flowers, lighted some candles and after saying some prayers for the repose of their souls, we headed back into town.

We decided to stop by here for brunch, a little celebration of our own in advance as the very next day, we would be sending our girl back to her school in the jungle. No, we did not have anything special, just our usual favourites – I had their Bangladeshi lamb curry (RM19.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe Bangladeshi lamb curry

…while my sister had their green chicken curry (RM16.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe green chicken curry

My girl also had lamb, her favourite lamb masala (RM19.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe lamb masala

…while the mum stuck faithfully to their kacang ma chicken (RM16.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe kacang ma chicken

I could not resist ordering their version of the tempoyak or fermented durian (RM18.00)…

Payung Cafe tempoyak

…to share. I had run out of what I had stocked up in my freezer a long time ago and I really felt like having that that day.

This was on the house, their very nice pomelo salad…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…and Peter, the boss also gave to my  girl and the mum some kim chi

Kim chi from Peter

…that some relative of his, a niece or somebody married to somebody in Korea and residing there, made when he or she was back in town. That sure sounds like it’s pretty authentic, eh?

No, we did not have anything grand, just this simple brunch, but it was of course, no less meaningful as all of us in the immediate family here had the chance to get together and to cherish the fond memories of our dear mum on this very special day.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

Tribute…

The Sacred Heart Old Students’ Association (SHOSA) and the alumni of our sister school, St Elizabeth’s Old Students’ Association (SEOSA) held their combined Annual Reunion Dinner last Saturday, 31st March, 2018 at one of the ballrooms at a leading hotel in town…

SHOSA & SEOSA Annual Reunion Dinner 2018

I was invited to the one last year, 2017, too and I did book a table myself and was there with my family and some of my ex-classmates in 2013 while in 2014, my good friend, Robert, also my ex-classmate, booked two tables and asked us to join him. I think it was in 2016 that they had this annual gathering at the school’s centenary hall and yes, I was invited but I did not feel well that day so I had to miss it…and I can’t remember what happened in 2015.

Anyway, this year, Robert booked a table again and yes, he did ask me to join them…

Robert & friends at their table
*Friend’s photo*

…but I had already accepted the invitation from the alumni.

I do enjoy this annual event as I will get to meet many of my friends including those good old friends of mine from the good ol’ days…

Group photo
*One of the girls’ photos on Facebook*

…and also many of my ex-students, some of whom I would only get to see once a year – at this much-looked-forward-to event..

This year, the theme was “Tribute”…

Theme - Tribute

…and the two former students’ associations were paying tribute to the retired teachers, 20 from my school and 10 from the girls’ school, and for reasons unknown, my photographs appeared in the local English daily as well as the Chinese one…

In the news

Each of us received this very nice-looking plaque…

In appreciation

…in appreciation of our services over the years. Actually, I was an ex-student of the school myself too – from Form 1 to Form 5.

They usually pick the date each year to coincide with the Ching Ming Festival but this year, the festival was a bit later – on the 5th, a weekday and perhaps the dinner coincided with the Good Friday/Easter weekend so probably there were some who chose to go to church for the Easter Vigil and there were not as many tables as last year.

Next year, it will be on Saturday, the 6th of April…and Ching Ming in 2019 will be a day earlier, on Friday, the 5th, (It will not coincide with Good Friday/Easter, on the 19th of April) so if anyone is planning to come back at that time for the festival and also to join the reunion dinner, it would be best to book your airline tickets AND your hotel rooms real early as  they would all be fully-booked as the time approaches.

Dog…

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

Mandarin oranges

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

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

Cookies from Merryn
*Archive photo*

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

Bak kua from Mandy
*Archive photo*

from my dear friend, Mandy and these two…

Bak kua from Wilfred
*Archive photo*

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

Bacon jam from Jude
*Archive photo*

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

These traditional Melanau/local delights…

From Ah Lek

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

From Justin

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

From the folks at Payung Cafe

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

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

From niece in Singapore 1

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

I guess she picked this…

From niece in Singapore 2

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

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

From Toh Chin Hock & family

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

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

The first came from another cousin of mine in Kuching…

Card from Tina

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

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

Card from Yvette

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

Card from Elin

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

Card from Nick

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

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

Still...

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

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

No time at all…

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

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

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

Peter's CNY decor at Kingwood

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

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

From Mandy

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

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

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

From Wilfred

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

Almond cookies from Wilfred
*Archive photo*

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

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

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

Dinner for two…

*This is NOT a paid post* and no, despite all the unfounded rumours circulating around town, I do NOT own this café nor am I one of the co-owners so let it be known here and now that I have NO vested interest in the place whatsoever.

Yes, I do go there quite often – I like the food, the ambiance and the people are very nice and hospitable and yes, they have helped me in more ways than one but make no mistake, I am just a regular customer and like all other customers, I have to pay the regular prices for everything that I eat there though some would insist that the servings I get SOMETIMES, not all the time, do seem a little more than usual. They do not charge me for the water that I drink there though but yes, according to the menu, under normal circumstances, it is chargeable and I may get to try some nice dishes they are having for their own lunch or dinner.

Well, in case you have not seen it on their Facebook page or heard about it, they are going to have something special for Valentine’s Day – the 14th of February, Wednesday….

Payung Cafe Valentine's Day special

…at RM55.00 per head but if you book before the 8th, this Thursday, you can get a discount of RM10.00 so you will only need to pay at RM45.00 per head, RM90.00 if it is going to be a romantic dinner for two.

For that amount of money, you get to pick ONE of the main meals – the chicken chop (usual price: RM25.00)…

Payung Cafe chicken chop

…or the chicken or beef spaghetti (usual price: RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe beef spaghetti

My guess is the hot and spicy curry lamb is what we often had, their Bangladeshi lamb curry (usual price: RM19.00)…

Payung Cafe Bangladeshi lamb curry

…and of course, their butter chicken (usual price: RM18.00)…

Payung Cafe butter chicken

…is one of our favourites here.

We tried the sedha beef (usual price: RM20.00)…

Payung Cafe sedha beef

…also a Bangladeshi dish, once but it did not really tickle our fancy – at best, I would say it was all right, non-spicy, not even a bit.

It so happens that Valentine’s Day this year coincides with Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence (from meat) for Catholics and unfortunately, there is no fish or prawn dish in the list but no worries! I spoke to the Payung people regarding this and they assured me that if anyone is thus inclined, abstaining from meat, he or she can let them know when calling to make the reservation and put in a special request for their very popular Payung otak-otak (usual price: RM13.00)…

Payung otak-otak

…or their very nice Payung fish (ikan keli/catfish: usual price RM15.00)…

Payung fish

…and they will arrange for it to be served that night.

They also have two prawn dishes – their belimbing prawns and their tom yam prawns but I hear those crustaceans are kinda scarce these few days. Of course the sellers will put the blame on the current bad weather but we all know that they are hoarding them for Chinese New Year that is coming right up at the end of next week when they can jack up the prices and fleece the customers. Tsk! Tsk!

Like in previous years, I would expect a somewhat elaborate buffet spread and other than the main meal of your choice, you can help yourself to all the mushroom soup (usual price: RM5:00)…

Payung Cafe mushroom soup

…that you like and also the salads which I am pretty sure will include our favourites here, the Payung rojak (usual price: RM10.00, small)…

Payung rojak

…and their pomelo salad (usual price: RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…and their herbs salad and probably their papaya salad…

Payung Cafe papaya salad

…as well.

For the dessert, it is most likely that they will serve the very nice dreamy nite…

Payung Cafe dreamy nite

…and their banana cake…

Payung Cafe banana cake

…but I am not sure if you can get to enjoy their durian or mango ice cream or not or their Mulu ice cream…

Payung Cafe Mulu ice cream

Drinks will be free flow – I expect they will serve my girl’s favourite here, the pineapple ginger soda but there may be other options to pick and choose.

So, if anyone is interested, you can call them at 016-8906061 or 011-53375498 to make your reservation. I’ve never been to any of their Valentine’s Day dinners before but I did hear that the response in previous years had been very good, a full house no less, so it would be best that you book early to avoid disappointment.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

New arrival…

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

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

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

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

The well-wishers would be served mee sua

Mee sua

…and extra chicken…

Extra chicken

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

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

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

Fish sio bee

…and these vegetable dishes…

Vegetable 1

…that we had as well…

Vegetable 2

…that day.

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

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