Come and go…

In Chinese (Hokkien) we say, “Oo lai oo khi,” which may be literally translated as got come, got go, something along the same line as the give and take philosophy in life.

Well, last Saturday, after the nasi Arab lunch, we went to the supermarket round the corner to browse around and I picked up some stuff that I thought would be nice for my girl’s colleague for the Gawai Festival coming up next week – the one who would give her a lift back to town every Friday unless there are matters arising and we would have to go and pick her instead which isn’t very often so that would save us a lot of trouble and cut our travelling/my driving by half, more or less.

No, she does not charge anything but my girl would chip in when they stop at a petrol station to fill up the tank and she would give her a little something (ang pao) periodically. That was why I thought it would be nice to give her something for the forthcoming auspicious occasion that she will be celebrating to express our gratitude and appreciation for her help all these years.

True to what they say, “As you give, thus shall you receive,” and that evening just before I went for the sunset service in church, I received word from my friend, Mary, asking me to drop by her restaurant the next morning as she and her crew would like to give me this steamed kampung chicken…

Steamed kampung chicken from Flavours Thai Kitchen

…for no apparent reason, just out of the goodness and generosity of her/their hearts. Isn’t that so very sweet of them?

When I went there that morning, Sunday, I decided to tapao my girl’s favourite, their pad Thai

Flavours Thai Kitchen pad Thai

…home and those were what we had for brunch that morning before we made our way to my girl’s school in the jungle for just one more week before the two-week mid-year holidays starting right after tomorrow, Friday.

We made our way home ourselves, my missus and I and after dinner that night, I got a surprise call from my dear friend, Richard. Why, it’s that time of year again and in no time at all, he was at my house to give me some of his awesomely yummy out-of-this-world simply-the-best own-made nyonya chang (meat dumplings)…

Richard's nyonya chang

…like what he will do year after year, without fail.

I googled to check and I found out that this year, the Dragon Boat or Chang Festival, also known as the Duanwu Festival will fall on the 30th of May,  Tuesday next week.

I had just had dinner but no, I could not possibly wait another day and that was why I immediately took one, unwrapped it…

Richard's nyonya chang, unwrapped

…and ate.

Boy!!! This Richard keeps getting better and better each year and this year, it was exceptionally good – none that I’ve bought in Kuching or Malacca nor those from Singapore would come anywhere close and look at all that meat in it…

Richard's nyonya chang, so much meat
*Sorry for the slightly blurry pic – the challenge of night photography with the insufficient lighting*

Thank you so so so much, Richard, and also to you, Mary & everybody at Flavours, both truly unexpected but most welcome indeed and I do believe these were special blessings for the insignificantly small gesture on my part to get a little something for my girl’s colleague for the Gawai Festival – what goes around comes around, got come, got go!

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

Dear daughter…

This is a new song, I think, and I really like it…

…especially the lyrics that go:
These are words that every girl should have a chance to hear
There will be love, there will be pain
There will be hope, there will be fear
And through it all, year after year
Stand or fall, I will be right here…for you

Well, last Saturday, our dear daughter insisted on taking us out to treat us to a really special lunch or the mum especially as the following day would be Mother’s Day, just that we could not go out to eat on the actual day, Sunday, as we would be on our way, sending her back to her school in the jungle.

This place…

solo on 16

…has been around for quite a while now. The guy was at this place before but it did not last very long and the place closed down. Soon after that, he opened this one and my guess is that accounts for the name – he is now flying solo and No. 16 is the shop address, No. 16, Jalan Chew Geok Lin.

Gosh!!! It sure looks like some people have been drinking…

Empty bottles

…quite a bit and this caught my eye…

Firewood

…while I was looking around the place – they probably have some wood-fired items on their menu.

I sure like this – the fact that there is no msg…

No msg/food addictive

…used in their cooking but oh dear! The food is addictive so one would want to go back again and again to eat there? LOL!!!

We ordered the pulled duck comfit, tomato and quail egg salad (RM12.90)…

solo on 16 pulled duck comfit, tomato and quail egg salad

…and the moment it was served, I noticed that there were no quail eggs. My girl loves those little things and if not for the mere mention of those in the name, I would not have ordered it. I asked the people at the helm and they went to the kitchen to ask. Eventually, we were informed that we would get the quail egg soon or at least, that was what they said. When it came…

Chicken egg

…we were quite put off, to say the least. It would take a giant quail to lay an egg this big! That was a chicken egg and if we wanted a chicken egg, we could have gone some place else (a lot cheaper) for a plate of nasi lemak or something. Tsk! Tsk! Of course, I just kept quiet about it and let it pass as the ladies do not like me making a scene in public. Well, to give credit where credit is due, the salad was quite good, with or without the egg.

Another reason why I would not have ordered that salad if not for the quail egg was that I ordered their duck comfit for myself as my main course. Then they came and said it was not available, salmon was not available as well, my missus wanted the squid and it was not available either. Good grief!!! What on earth was going on? You want to open a classy upscale café, one that is more inclined towards fine dining and most everything on your menu is not available. Probably we caught them on a bad day or else how on earth would they be able to last this long?

In the end, my missus simply settled for this pork belly with rice (RM25.90)…

solo on 16 pork belly with rice

…dish instead. I did try a bit of the meat and thought it was very good except that the skin was hard and rubbery and not chewable, not crackling crusty at all, so we had to cut it out and leave it by the side of the plate.

I had the pork ribs (RM19.90)…

solo on 16 pork ribs

…which was very good too…

solo on 16 pork ribs, cross-section

…but no, it was not as good as the lovely ones we used to enjoy so much a few doors away but unfortunately, those people there had called it a day sometime ago.

My girl had their chicken chop (RM19.90)…

solo on 16 chicken chop 1

…and yes, we thought it was nice…

solo on 16 chicken chop 2

…and did enjoy it.

All in all, I would say it was a good lunch but as we were leaving, my girl said that she would not want to go to these places serving western food anymore as she would not be able to eat the stuff that she would like such as the pastas or anything with bread or wheat flour and would rather go some place serving ASEAN or Asian cuisines instead. Sometimes, it does get her down, missing all the things she loves and having to stick to her gluten-free diet. Well, it sure looks like we would not be coming back here again then or at least, not for a while, a very long while…and yes, we do miss the very nice Japanese place that we loved a lot – it used to be here at this exact same shop.

solo on 16 is located at No. 16, Jalan Chew Geok Lin, next door to the bank at the end of the block and right across the road from the bank would be the Tua Pek Kong Temple and its 7-storey pagoda.

Ladies’ choice…

It was my wife’s birthday last Saturday so I let her and our girl choose where they would want to go for dinner and of course, the ladies wanted to go to the Korean place…

Daksemari Korean BBQ

…here for the eat-all-you-can barbecue buffet dinner…

Eat-all-you-can barbecue buffet

…that we checked out not too long ago and liked a lot

Golden piggies

We also asked my Sibu brother-in-law and his missus to join us, five of us altogether.

It appears that now they have set lunches and also an à la carte menu that you can order from…

Daksemari lunch sets and a la carte menu

…but no, we were quite happy to just go for the buffet.

Most of the tables here would be just nice for 3 or 4 people and there are some for large groups so in the end, we were seated at the sole table for 5 by the door, right below the air conditioner and with the cold wind blowing straight ahead, I could feel the heat and was feeling most uncomfortable and was sweating profusely all night long. My girl also grumbled that she could feel some sprinkling of water from the air conditioner above our heads.

The buffet spread was more or less the same as what they had on our previous visit. They still had the eggs that I enjoyed a lot…

Eggs

…and this time around, they only had one choice of sushi…

Sushi

– there were two the last time around.

I think they did not have the sandwiches…

Sandwiches

…before but I would not think those were anything to shout about and I was wishing they could have a few different dishes at least, no need for too many – after all, they do have quite a selection on their à la carte menu.

My missus went and took the meat, plain…

Meat, plain

…and marinated…

Meat, marinated

…and I did get some of the prawns…

Prawns

…though there were just a couple of big ones while the rest were all rather small. I did not bother to take the fish – I think they were sardines but they were so small that they looked like herrings to me. I shouldn’t have bothered taking these crustaceans either as this hard-shell variety has a somewhat strong smell and is not all that nice and because they were so small, most of them, it really was not worth the trouble peeling and eating.

Once we had everything we wanted, we were ready to roll…

Let's start cooking

…and we waited and waited but the meat slices did not look like they were cooking at all so we called for help and one of the girls came and did something to rekindle the fire below and left. Still we waited and waited – the previous time, we managed to cook everything so fast and had to be quick so as not to burn everything we had on the hot plate.

I asked the guy this time and he came and removed the gas canister inside the grill and replaced it with a new one and everything was all right after that. Darn!!! They should have done that the first time we informed them that there was a problem.

For dessert, they had watermelon and honey dew and these slices of cheese sponge cake…

Cheese sponge cake

…and we also had the ice cream but trying to scoop our selected flavours out of the containers in the freezer was such a chore. They were all so very hard – I suspect they switch off the electricity at night and turn it back on in the morning and that is how the ice cream became more like ice, no cream.

Perhaps the novelty had worn off and we thought we enjoyed ourselves a lot more the first time around but it was quite obvious whether we would come here again or not would not make a difference – the place was packed to the brim which comes as no surprise at all with the current trend these days where most everybody is so into everything and anything Korean.

DAKSEMARI KOREAN BBQ (2.287332, 111.826574) is located at No. 8, Jalan Chew Geok Lin (formerly Old Street) that leads straight to the Tua Pek Kong 7-storey Pagoda Temple.

Moonlight…

Chap Goh Meh, literally translated as the 15th night…

Chap Goh Meh Rooster Year

…marked the end of the Chinese New Year festivities for the year.

It was not really due to the fact that we were juggling between taking care of my dad at their house and my mum at the medical centre that we did not have time to cook for our Chap Goh Meh dinner – we usually have steamboat on this auspicious night every year so we decided we would have that again this year…but at my parents’ house so my dad could enjoy it with us.

I bought 1 kilo of our local freshwater prawns, large and that cost me RM60.00 a kilo only to remember later that my dad would not be eating those for fear of a gout attack so we had to keep them to cook and eat ourselves some other time. The extra large ones were going for RM75.00 a kg that day and the medium and anything smaller, RM50.00 and below.

We could not have any of the paper thin slices of meat, pork or beef would be nice, as I do not think my dad would be able to chew those. That was why we only had minced meat balls…

Chap Goh Meh steamboat 1

…and I went and bought one ikan tenggiri (mackerel), over RM20.00 and my missus used that to make her own fish balls which, needless to say, were heaps nicer than anything sold outside especially those factory-made ones.

We also had quail eggs – my girl loves those – and I bought some sea cucumber which cost a bomb, RM120.00 a kilo but it is believed that they have a lot of health benefits. I also got some beef tendons from the same stall at the wet market. Those were cheaper, RM20 a kilo, if I remember correctly and the very nice seller just charged me for a few big ones and he threw in a lot of the bits and pieces into the bag and I went home happily with a bagful of beef tendons. I bought three of the best quality sea cucumber – I understand they were from Papua New Guinea and the guy gave me one extra, from Sabah. Of course, I kept insisting on him picking the softer ones, sea cucumber and beef tendon, so my dad would not have any problem chewing.

Other than those, I also got some dried fresh fish maw, over RM40 a kg, and we also added some bean curd sticks, tofu, wombok or Chinese white cabbage and glass noodles…

Chap Goh Meh steamboat 2

…and my dad was fine with everything except the bean curd sticks which he could not chew. My missus would just soak them in hot water to soften while I would usually boil some water and use the really hot boiling water straight from the kettle so that they would be very much softer.

 I also went and bought some chicken rice…

Chicken rice

…from here as I know jolly well that my dad would want rice at every meal and yes, he enjoyed the steamboat to the max and had two plates of the rice with the lovely clear soup and what was in it.

I was afraid that my dad might not enjoy the steamboat so I went and bought this very big ikan bawal putih (white pomfret)…

Steamed white pomfret

…RM50.00 each (the seller said they had not reduced “the Chinese New Year prices” yet) and had it steamed for him to enjoy. Yes, he did eat quite a bit of it but he was fine with the steamboat, actually and sang its praises the whole time while we were having our dinner that night and he kept saying that it was anytime nicer that the stuff they would usually order from the restaurants outside for such special occasions.

All in all, I would say it certainly was worth the effort going over and having this simple steamboat dinner with my dad.

Come join us…

I did mention in an earlier post that my godson/ex-student, Andrew, and his family were back in Sibu for the Chinese New Year celebration but I was sick and so were the kids and his wife and then, my mum was admitted into the medical centre so I did not really have time for much of anything else. That was why I did not get to see them at all till last Tuesday night – it was the wife, Michelle’s birthday, and they wanted to come here…

Payung Cafe candle and flowers

…for dinner. They were here before

Payung Cafe bunga kantan

…and they loved the food and the place and that was why they picked it specially for their little celebration and they also asked an ex-student of mine, Andrew’s classmate, now based in Doha to join us…

With Andrew & family and Teo

They wanted the Payung rojak

Payung Rojak

…that they enjoyed before but according to Peter, the boss, business had been pretty good over the last few nights and they had run out of the buah kedundong leaves…and also the lamb masala that my girl had just a few days ago. Michelle did not want anything spicy so we had the green curry…

Payung Cafe green curry

…which looked somewhat diluted that night unlike those times when I had it before but it tasted great and we did not mind the extra gravy with which we could drown the rice and enjoy.

I suggested ordering their garlic bread…

Payung Cafe garlic bread

…with their chicken sauce dip…

Payung Cafe chicken sauce dip for garlic bread

…as I thought the kids would enjoy it. My girl loved it a lot but of course, owing to the gluten content, this would be one thing on their menu that we cannot order anymore…and yes, the children enjoyed it very much.

I also insisted that they tried the pomelo salad…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…and yes, they liked it a lot too.

They also wanted the mushroom roll…

Payung Cafe mushroom roll

…and the kacang ma chicken…

Payung Cafe kacang ma chicken

…that they had had before and yes, this time around, they did not forget the lovely fried ginger garnishing that they inadvertently left out the last time we had this and I would say it was very very nice that night.

Poor Peter! There I went grumbling away that there were four of us and they only had three prawns in each serving of their belimbing prawns so of course, he went and cooked this bowl of the delightful dish…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns

…with lots of the crustaceans in it. All three of them had not had it before and there they went, praising it to the skies. They loved it so much!!!

We wanted to order dessert but Peter said that for every customer celebrating his or her birthday at the cafe, if they know about it, they would come out with something special for the birthday celebrant and Michelle got this…

Payung's birthday special for Michelle

…assortment of peppermint ice cream, (local) mango ice cream, Maldives ice cream (chocolate with crushed egg roll) and durian ice cream to share with the rest of us. Their little girl loved the mango so much that she literally finished that all by herself. Kids! Don’t they all love ice cream?

I don’t know the breakdown as I was not the one picking up the tab that night but I did ask Andrew the following day and he said it was over RM80.00 for the four of us and the two kids. I guess that was all right for a lovely evening of great food, great company and wonderful service with a special treat thrown in for good measure. Who could ask for more?

You’re welcome anytime…

In view of the circumstances at that point in time, I did not really have an open house for Chinese New Year this year.

A few did drop by and yes, they managed to catch me at home at the time. In fact, we were either at home or at the medical centre and anyway, we could go home anytime should anybody want to come and visit. Sibu is a very small place, not at all difficult to get around.

There was this group of ex-students…

Ex-Chung Hua students
*Sze Nee’s photo*

…who invited me to their school’s centenary dinner not too long ago and I sure was glad to see another ex-student of mine whom I had not seen for a long long time. Now, a renowned gynaecologist in Bintulu, blessed with three girls and a boy, he dropped by with his wife and kids and his parents – it was so sweet of him to remember this old teacher of his and yes, it certainly was great to see him again after all these years.

My good friends, Lim & Mrs and the children made it a point to come over to extend their Happy Chinese New Year greetings that very night as soon as they got back from Kuching after driving all the way the whole day – they went home for the holidays and Melissa’s coursemate, teaching at a school in Sibu, now happily married, did drop by with his wife too…

Bubu and missus
*Farid’s photo on Facebook*

The nice boy would make it a point to drop by and extend his festive greetings without fail but of course, this year, he is not qualified to receive an ang pao anymore. LOL!!!

Then there were Bongkerz and Mary and their families…

Mary & Bongkerz & families
*Mary’s photo on Facebook*

– they would definitely drop by each year but last year, they did not as it coincided with Ash Wednesday and I did not have an open house on that particular day and they had to go back to their respective towns right after that. It sure was nice to see them again – this was way back in 2011 when they did not have any children yet – and I do hope I will get to see them again and again in the years to come.

Well, with my girl and the mum presently on a gluten-free diet, my missus did not do any baking at all and just went to buy some stuff from the shops instead and when I saw on Facebook that my ex-student’s wife, Juliet, was making some of those local steamed and layered delights, I quickly placed an order for  a few of those.

There was this kek lumut (moss cake)…

Kek lumut

…and kek belacan (dried prawn paste cake)…

Kek belacan

– both very nice despite the not-so-flattering names, one obviously because of the green colour and no, the latter did not have any belacan in it.

This one had a nicer name – Evergreen…

Evergreen

…and yes, it was very good too. What I liked most was the fact that all the cakes had reduced sugar so they were not as sweet as those sold commercially and she did not scrimp on the ingredients so that was why all the cakes were very rich and very very nice. The sad thing is that Jimmy, the hubby, said that he would not let her make anymore next year – I guess he saw all that she had to go through, all the hours of preparation and steaming and baking. It was no easy task, that’s for sure.

We also had the fruit pudding…

Auntie Irene's fruit pudding

…that my aunt in Kuching made and they gave it to me when they were here in December last year and I had been saving it since. It did not turn out so well this time around – the fruit sank! Nonetheless, it tasted as good as ever, lots of rum in it, that’s for sure!

Thank you, all, for dropping by – that was so sweet of all of you to take the time and the trouble to do so. A Blessed & Happy Chinese New Year again to all of you, may God bless everyone abundantly in the year ahead. Cheers!!!

Usually…

I did mention in my previous post that my missus had been cooking a few dishes before the whirlwind of events following my mum’s admission into the medical centre after which everything had to be put on hold.

Usually, every year, she would cook some of her specialties to store in separate servings in the fridge so she could take out bit by bit to heat up and serve to guests dropping by especially those from out of town who would have a problem trying to find something to eat outside around this time as most of the shops would be closed.

And usually, without fail, every year, she would ask her family over for lunch or dinner but my mother-in-law had left us earlier last year and my Bintulu brother-in-law would not be coming back. Nonetheless, she insisted on inviting her brother and his family here in Sibu to come over for lunch but of course, this year, we had to make do with what we already had as we did not have the luxury of time to cook more and that, of course, meant that we had most of what we had for our reunion dinner the night before on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

There was the leftover fish…

Steamed fish

…which we were not supposed to finish and had to continue eating the following day. We did not touch the other side so it actually looked as good as new…and we took out the steamed chicken…

Mary's steamed chicken from Flavours
*Niece’s photo on Facebook*

…that I got from my friend, Mary. Everyone loved it a lot and all sang praises of the very nice Thai-style sambal dip that came with it. My girl enjoyed the stock that came out of the meat and she kept drinking it like a soup – that would be where all the wholesome goodness was, the true unadulterated essence of chicken!

Other than those, there were the salad…

Salad

…the kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chicken

…the satay beef…

Satay beef

…the ngor hiang

Ngor hiang
*Niece’s photo on Facebook*

…and the pineapple prawns…

Pineapple prawns
*Niece’s photo on Facebook*

– all that we had for dinner the previous evening and for dessert we had the amik melon that I got from my young friend, Justin, and yes, everybody loved it – so sweet and so juicy and it did not have that green taste and smell of the honey dew and the other melons that I am not all that fond of.

It wasn’t as elaborate as what we used to have in previous years but there was more than enough to go round and everyone enjoyed the lunch very much and of course, it was great to have them around, my in-laws.