Make it last…

It didn’t last too long, did it? I bought two small bottles of Bovril, the real thing with “high protein beef paste”…

…in May this year and when we had porridge the other day, I finished the second bottle. That did not even last half a year, it seems…and they did not come cheap, RM25.50 a bottle, over RM50.00 for the two.

I never took note of the price when I bought a bottle before but I can vaguely remember that it was always over RM20.00 each. I remember that one time in 2018 when there was a promotion and I got a bottle for only RM26.00…

…and that came with a small one valued at RM10.50 a bottle absolutely free.

Never mind what the price was, it was very difficult getting hold of any when stocks ran out. I usually got mine from one of my neighbourhood shops and when none was forthcoming and they told me about the ones available at a supermarket in town, I finally managed to grab the two small bottles that I mentioned earlier.

Not long after that, I was at another one of my neighbourhood shops and some guy came and asked if they had any Bovril and they said they had. Initially, he was reluctant to buy as they only had the big bottles (470 gm)…

…but since they did not have anything smaller, he bought one in the end.

I was at that shop again not too long ago and I saw that they only had a few bottles left (though there were still quite a number of bottles of Marmite) so I decided to grab one and store in my pantry. However, I don’t think there is any cause for worry anymore nowadays as I saw that they had fresh stocks at the other neighbourhood shop where I used to get mine before and somebody told me that unlike earlier in the year, it is easily available everywhere now, even in some pharmacies in town.

I wonder if they can get it in Australia now – that day when I shared something on Facebook, my cousin in Perth said that it was not available there, the vegetarian version…

– out of stock! The real beef ones have been banned for a long time now, she said – they have always been very strict about food imports, meat especially, Australia and New Zealand. Of course you will not find any beef in the list of ingredients, just yeast extract like in the case of Marmite but I am not too concerned as they have managed to ensure that the taste stays more or less the same.

They are still made in the UK…

…unlike many products that are now manufactured in Malaysia, MILO, for instance and many will tell you that it is not as nice as the Australian ones which, of course, are a lot more expensive.

Nevertheless, I was rather shocked to see the current price…

…these days. Gosh!!! No wonder they are kept in glass cabinets under lock and key in some shops and supermarkets. That is around £5 in their currency or AUD$10.00 – I wouldn’t know whether the people there would consider that affordable or otherwise.

We sure can feel the pinch here and seeing how the expiry date is not until this month next year, I certainly would not be so generous with it when I toss my Bovril mee sua

…or Bovril mee kua/mee sanggul

…or when I add some to my porridge to make it last for as long as I can.

KIM TAK MINI SUPERMARKET is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the left of the parking area – AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) and LOUIS BAKERY LW.Pattisserie (2.316411, 111.839847) are located in that same block to the extreme left and KIM WON CHINESE MEDICAL STORE AND MINI-SUPERMARKET is located on the left of the block of shops to the right with Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) and the Bethel Hair Salon at the other end.

Another language…

My Masterchef friend in Singapore suggested that I went and tried a certain brand and flavour of instant noodles from that Little Red Dot but I cannot remember exactly which one.

I vaguely recall it was probably one from Myojo, their char mee flavour…

…and when I saw it in one of the neighbourhood shops the other day, I quickly grabbed a pack…

…to take home and try.

Well, char mee in Hokkien means fried noodles which actually is mi goreng in Indonesian or Malay but in another language/dialect. I was thinking that perhaps this would be different because if you go to the Chinese shops or stalls to eat their char mee

…it is definitely very different from the Malay mi goreng

…or the Indian mee mamak

They may look somewhat similar but they are not exactly the same when it comes to taste.

These instant char mee from Singapore sure did not come cheap, RM8.50 for a pack of 5, RM1.70 a packet…

…but that did not deter me from buying to try. After all, there are others, like some from the island republic or the Korean ones, for instance, that are a lot more expensive.

Inside each packet, there are two sachets…

…one with the seasoning and the other with the oil which was a little reddish in colour, probably from the chili. It does say on the pack/packet that it would be spicy but I did not get my hopes up high. I had their chicken curry flavour not too long ago and despite a similar special mention, I did not think it was all that spicy.

And now the moment of truth! I cooked the noodles following the instructions but I did add a bit of my own fried shallots and a handful of blanched taugeh (bean sprouts) and served it with thinly sliced fish cake-like seafood tofu…

Yes, it would say it was nice, maybe a little bit, just a little bit, nicer than the very much cheaper Indonesian instant mi goreng, this one or this one (RM3.00 for a pack of 5) so should I feel like buying something like these again, no prize for guessing which I would pick. As for this particular Singapore brand, I liked their mee pok, dry and also their Mee Goreng tom yum flavour so if I were to buy this brand again, I’d probably go for one of those two and yes, I did enjoy their chicken curry flavour too or for that kind of money, I might as well go for these or the other very nice ones from our own Sibu home-grown and bred instant noodle enterprise. Support local!!!

At a time like this…

…I really shouldn’t complain. Instead, I would have to be thankful for whatever I can get or make do with something else if I can’t.

I keep seeing my blogger-friends enjoying their nasi lemak but the last time I had it was in July. It was pretty good even though the sambal was not anything like the regular nasi lemak sambal. It tasted different but thankfully, it was nice.

I have not gone back for the ones that I liked here or here because the situation here in Sarawak in general and Sibu in particular does not look too good. Right now, it is the Numero Uno among all the states in the nation, a 4-figure daily total while most of the rest have only 3 or less. Based on the reports, it seems that the clusters are mainly in all the rumahs (longhouses) or the kampungs (villages) and I often see the kampung roads here in the daily list of those where there have been positive cases. Shudders!!! I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near, that’s for sure!!! #staysafe #staywell

My missus cooked something really nice, the rice was very nice and lemak, the other day to go with her sambal sotong but we did not have the complete works so somehow, it felt incomplete. Needless to say, I was delighted when I saw this…

…at the nearby fruit and vegetable sundry shop in the next lane from my house.

It was RM2.00 each, a bit more expensive than the ones sold at the roadside stalls in the kampung – the last time I bought from there, they were RM1.50 each though some may be priced the same but I think this one is bigger. I would need two of the former whereas in the case of this one, one is enough…and of course, if we go to one of the Malay shops for their nasi lemak, we will have to pay a whole lot more for a plate.

In a packet, you will get two slices of cucumber…

…some peanuts and fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and quite a lot of the very spicy nasi lemak sambal…

I was kind of disappointed that they did not add the standard nasi lemak condiment – a wedge of hard-boiled egg and they had a bit of omelette…

…instead.

No, the rice was not lemak – at best, I could detect a very light hint of the lemakness but I did enjoy it when I mixed it all with the sambal and ate them together. I certainly would want to buy it again should I happen to see them selling it at the shop the next time I drop by.

That day, my missus made this taugeh (bean sprouts) kerabu

…and we had that with the nasi lemak and they went so well together. We sure enjoyed that!

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

Soup…

For want of a better name, the people behind this dim sum favourite call it…

If I am not wrong, these are usually called xiao long bao (小笼包) but actually, according to this website, these dumplings that the writer calls the crème de la crème among all dim sums, are known by several different names: there are many alternate names in English. The following translations all refer to 小笼包 in Chinese: xiaolongbao, xiao long bao, soup dumplings, xiaolong mantou, XLB, Chinese Soup Dumplings and Shanghai Soup Dumplings.

For the uninitiated, these are pork dumplings that have some gingery soup inside, the favourite of many. Extra caution is required when eating these especially when eaten hot as the soup may be scalding and you may burn your tongue. Other than that, it may squirt out when you bite into the dumpling not too gently or it may flow all over the place. I love dim sum, or yam cha as it is called in some places, but I am not crazy about these xiao long bao as I am not really into things over-gingery so I am not all that fond of the soup.

My missus bought a packet of these…

…from the nearby fruit and vegetable sundry shop in the next lane from our house but she did not take note of the price. She said she bought a lot of things and paid the total for all her purchases at one go.

I don’t know whether they are made at that place here in Sibu or they just import them from somewhere and pack them for sale there but I would say that they are very nice…

…except that true-blue xiao long bao lovers may complain that there is not that much soup inside. I, for one, would not mind it one bit as like what I have said earlier, I am not a fan of the soup.

Well, if you enjoy xiao long bao and you come across these at that shop in my neighbourhood or elsewhere, you should grab a pack to give them a try. I am quite sure you will like them too.

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

Not available…

Gosh!!! It has been two weeks at least now since I last bought those pek hay (seawater prawns) from my favourite fish & seafood stall in the neighbourhood. Maybe it is not the season and that last time was probably in August. So far, I only saw those farmed ones and at times, the cheaper teng khak (hard shell) ones that I am not really fond of – they taste fine but they have a somewhat strong smell.

I went again that morning and no, she did not have any. I did not want any fish as I still had some in my freezer so I went over to the fresh mini-mart beside the stall in the main building to see if there was anything of interest to me.

Much to my delight, I saw these paku (wild jungle fern)…

I liked how they made the stalks stand in a basin with a bit of water at the bottom for customers to take the amount they wanted and go over to the cashier’s counter to weigh and pay.

These paku and also its distant cousin, the midin, will make their appearances at the neighbourhood vegetable stall and shop in the next lane from my house very rarely and of course, I would grab them the instant I see them. I guess I can go to the jungle produce section at the Sibu Central Market but that is a high risk zone and seeing how all the clusters in the state are all the rumahs (longhouses) and kampungs (villages), I certainly would avoid any close proximity with those ethnic sellers.

Besides, they are not very honest – they will tie the ferns in bundles, wrap them with some jungle leaves and tie and when you get home and open, you will find the not-so-nice ones hidden in the middle and those would have to be thrown away, may God forgive them.

I took what I wanted and that cost me RM2.50. They were selling it at RM4.50 a kilo here and what I bought was enough for a plate…

…fried with sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) for lunch and dinner.

We had that with this awesome dish of ayam masak merah

…that my missus cooked from scratch and the lovely nasi biryani

…using the packet of mixed spices and ingredients from MAGGI. Yes, it was very nice, bursting with the fragrances of all the spices in it. We certainly would buy more to keep and cook whenever we feel like having more of this.

Yes, that is the amount of rice I eat per meal these days and never mind how nice the food may be, a second helping is strictly not allowed as I am on a low-carb diet. My life sure is so miserable, isn’t it? Sobsss!!!

Anyway, on my way back to the car that morning, the nice and generous lady from the fish & seafood stall called out to me and came over to give me this…

– some salted fish that she made herself. Hopefully, she will have some prawns for sale soon so I can buy from her.

The fish & seafood stall and the CCL FRESH MINI MARKET are located at the end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.

You don’t have to be a star…

The other morning, I dropped by this place that they call a “fresh mini market” which I feel is a mini-supermarket selling fresh produce, all kinds of frozen stuff, canned food and other factory made products and in one of the many freezers at the place, this…

…caught my attention.

There used to be an outlet of that Taiwanese star, Jay Chou’s franchise here and I did get to try it once – the mushroom and egg (RM8.90), RM10.90 with chicken but I think it has closed down now. This was my verdict at the time: I would not say it got me all excited as I thought it wasn’t anything that would get me running back for more…[and] at those prices, I think I would just give it a miss.

It looked like our roti canai to me but I thought our roti canai had a slight edge over it. Well, at least, this time around, they do not beat around the bush anymore and call it puff paratha. They call roti canai roti prata in Singapore but it looks like roti paratha is a little bit different. Wiki defines it as a flatbread that originated in the north of India. It is still quite prevalent there, where wheat is grown and is the traditional staple of the area. Paratha is an amalgamation of the words parat and atta which literally means layers of cooked dough. Ah well, in the words of William Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, if you ask me!

I checked the back of the pack…

…and found that it was made in China, Shandong, to be exact and they did give that website with Jay Chou’s name at the bottom, http://www.liangfood.com. I must say that it did not come cheap though, RM17.50 for a pack of 5 pieces so that works out to RM3.50 a piece. One can go for a plate of kampua mee and probably enjoy it a lot more and still has change at most places.

I did grab a pack, nonetheless, because my girl loves these things and I was quite sure she would want to give it a try. If I remember correctly, she did buy the ones from the aforementioned franchise outlet more than once.

She fried a piece…

…in a non-stick pan, no oil added till it was nicely done…

…and then, she fried an omelette and placed the piece on top so they would stick together…

After that, she rolled it up…

…and ate it.

She did give me a bite to try and yes, I thought it was nice but probably, if she had fried it in a little bit of butter, it would be nicer…and personally, old habits die hard – I would much sooner eat that with curry! I am very sure I would enjoy it a whole lot more.

CCL FRESH MINI MARKET is located at the end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.

One only…

Yes, I did go to the fruit & vegetable sundry shop in the next lane from my house to buy ONE mooncake, just one – one only…

For one thing, these things are sweet and I am presently on a low sugar diet so I should not be eating them. Well, I bought one so as to preserve the tradition, our culture, our heritage of eating mooncakes in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival.

I like these local homemade ones especially those with the black sesame filling…

…but unfortunately, the person making did not make any this year so I had no choice but to settle for the pek tau sar (mung bean paste)…

For whatever reason, my missus cannot eat the red bean paste ones as everytime she eats anything with that filling, she will feel giddy and her head will start spinning. Probably, it’s some kind of allergy. They only have these two types of filling plus another one with the kuaci (melon seeds), peanut and all kinds of seeds – I never liked that one since young so of course, I did not bother to buy it.

The mooncake…

…was selling at RM6.00 each which was a whole lot cheaper than those branded ones “imported” from West Malaysia. I did not see any at the neighbourhood shops and I have not ventured to the major supermarkets in town so I do not know if they had those there or not this year. They used to sell them there but times are hard and probably, they did not order any for fear that nobody will buy and they will end up stuck with boxes and boxes of those.

Sadly, these local ones seemed to have dropped in quality this year. I do not mind it one bit if the traditional mooncake skin is thick – you can see from the above photos that it was not that thick before. As a matter of fact, I actually enjoy eating the pastry used to make the skin. Some people make such a fuss, insisting that it must be paper thin and frankly, if that is the case, they might as well eat the filling and forget about the skin completely.

Unfortunately, the skin of the one I bought that day was a bit coarse and rather hard and dry, not as nice as I remember it to be…and it was quite sweet. If I throw in another 50 sen, I can go and buy my favourite Sibu Foochow pek guek tong chiew peah (Eighth Month Mid-Autumn Festival biscuits) which would not be so sweet and I would have a lot more to enjoy.

Incidentally, I was watching a show on “Festival Foods” on the AEC Channel on TV and the episode was on the Mooncake Festival. Much to my surprise, they were showing them making the mengandungi-lemak-babi 面茶 (miàn chá)/ 福州 (Foochow) cookies

Photo from their Facebook page

…somewhere in West Malaysia. I went and googled and found the Facebook page of a biscuit factory in Ayer Tawar New Village in Perak and yes, they make those biskut tikus (rat tail biscuits) too. We also have those here but we’re not fans of the biscuits. That is why I never buy them nor have I blogged about them.

Ah well! Like what I said right from the start, this was to preserve the tradition, our culture, our heritage so I guess it is perfectly all right, buying and eating one only once a year.

These mooncakes were available at SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) which is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to the Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

Can we?

When my missus cooked the sambal sotong with the squids that I bought that day, our girl asked her to cook her nasi lemak which, of course, would put all the not-so-lemak or not-lemak-at-all ones outside to shame. Needless to say, we enjoyed our meals to the max that day even though it was just the sambal sotong and the rice to go with it, a little bit of cucumber and some dabai seluang by the side.

I did mention in that post that her chicken rice is pretty awesome too, definitely a whole lot nicer than most, if not all, of the ones we can get outside. I would say we have a couple of good ones like the ones here or here, for instance but I have noticed how they seem to lack quality control – some days, it can be so good while on other days, it can be quite disappointing. Anyway, we are #stayingsafe #stayingwell #stayinghome these days and since I felt like eating that the other day, I asked her if we could have that for our meals. My girl, of course, had no problem with it – she loves her mum’s chicken rice, that goes without saying!

My missus would always pair her chicken rice with steamed chicken…

…even though she can do a great job at roasting it too. Of course, when cooking chicken rice, what is most important will be the rice. We can buy very nice roast chicken at a lot of places outside and yes, there is steamed chicken here and there too. Unfortunately, most of the time, their rice does not make the grade.

It does look, therefore, like the challenge is in cooking the rice and a whole lot of effort is required to do that. I popped into the kitchen to have a look and I saw that my missus had rendered the fat…

…that would be used to cook the rice.

She had prepared a whole lot of ingredients…

– the shallots, ginger, lengkuas (galangal) plus the garlic (she usually peels and chops a whole lot of that and keeps it in the fridge instead of having to do it all the time) and some spring onions as well as daun sup (Chinese celery) for the garnishing when serving the chicken later.

There were also these ingredients…

– the sesame oil, the traditional Foochow red wine, salt, chicken stock and chicken rice paste and of course, these pandan leaves…

…were a must for its special fragrance.

I did not stick around too long for fear that I might be getting in the way so I left her and my girl to get on with what they were doing and when everything was done, the much-looked-forward-to lunch was served. Yes, the rice…

…was superb, as always and the chili dip…

…that my missus also prepared was spicy and went absolutely well with both the chicken and the rice.

We sure enjoyed everything immensely that day but it did seem like a whole lot of work. Perhaps in future, we should reserve this for some special occasion and stick to some simple easy-to-cook dishes on ordinary days.

Convenience…

I guess everyone knows by now that I do not usually venture very far to shop for my food supplies and other daily needs as I can get most of what I want at the nearby shops and stalls in the next lane in my neighbourhood and my favourite fish & seafood stall is pretty close by as well.

Other than the convenience, these places are not so crowded unlike some of those popular malls and supermarkets around town. They may claim that all their employees are fully vaccinated and insist on ALL their customers being fully vaccinated too before they are allowed to enter but still, their names would appear so frequently in the daily list of places where there have been positive cases. That sure is kind of worrying! It is the same with the Sibu Central Market and at the time of writing, it is closed because there have been a lot of cases there, so I was told.

I do not usually go early in the morning as I’ve noticed a lot of shoppers doing their marketing for the day at that time, not only ladies but men too, some of whom have just finished their regular morning jog/walk obviously. I cannot understand why they have to do it every day – I would grab a whole lot each time I go out and dump everything in the house and my missus would do the same so we would not have to go out so often. My cousin in KK called me that day and I assured him that we would have no problem with food whatsoever as we have so much in store at home – like a kedai runcit (grocery store), he said. LOL!!!

I would stock up on things for breakfast too as we jolly well can’t be eating instant noodles all the time and I am cutting down on sweet cakes, biscuits, cookies and crackers. That is why I would buy bread and buns and mantao and steamed paos…

…all of which are easily available in the aforementioned shops and talking about the paos, they are RM2.20 each now, an increase of 20 sen since the pandemic broke out but they have insisted on each pao being wrapped in a plastic bag…

…so they would not be lying there, all exposed, waiting for somebody to buy and I do know of some people who have this horrible habit of poking everything or touching and taking something and then putting it back. I simply do not understand why they must do that – the vegetable seller (the old man in the afternoon) complained to me once about his bruised tomatoes, the result of people taking and pressing them one by one. Of course, nobody would want to buy them anymore!

Anyway, back to the paos, I would buy a few and keep in the fridge to steam and heat up for my breakfast when I get up in the morning. These days, I like to boil an egg and cut it into wedges and push them into the paos…

I so love egg in my paos.

There are quite a lot of things I can buy at that same shop for breakfast or tea and other than that, I can also drop by the coffee shop to the left of the block of shops on the left and tapao something home like what I did the other morning. The chu-char stall is at the back so I can go and order through the back door. That way, I do not have to go through the whole coffee shop which means that I can avoid any physical/close contact with any fellow human beings who may be there at the time.

That day, I bought this char pek koi/fried rice cake (RM5.00)…

…for my girl. She does enjoy it and now that we do not go out to eat here, there and everywhere these days, she will not get to eat it unless I buy it home for her. Yes, she loved it but the serving was a bit too big for her to handle so she saved half of it…

…for her lunch that day.

I got the Foochow fried noodles, the moon version (RM4.50)…

…for the mum and yes, it was good too.

Of course, by the time I got home, it would have soaked up all the sauce/gravy…

…but it did not matter. Sometimes. these noodles taste even nicer when they have absorbed the sauce/gravy – it will make them tastier! Yes, like the daughter, she could not finish all of it too so she put aside the rest for her lunch.

No, I did not buy anything for myself. I usually wake up very early, around 3 or 4 something in the morning. I’ve noticed that some of you are up and about around that same time too, already active on Facebook and may, at times, leave a comment in my blog even. Of course I must have my breakfast so usually I will see what I can eat in the house and that morning, I tried this instant mi goreng and with the added egg and sausage, I was already too full for anything else.

Of course, there may be things that are not available at those aforementioned stalls and shops. For instance, cheddar cheese is easily available, block or slices and cream cheese too but if you are looking for parmesan and the rest, I’m afraid you will have to go elsewhere. I guess at a time like this, we will just have to learn to live without certain things and make do with what we can get while making safety our priority at all times – #staysafe #staywell.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to The Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket while AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) is located in the same block as Kim Tak Mini Supermarket, to the extreme left.

The one I love…

Last Sunday, we had spaghetti aglio olio…

…for lunch.

I think I did mention in an earlier post that I prefer our local noodles to these Italian pasta. The texture is different and regardless of whatever name, shape or size, it has its own taste or for that matter, the lack of it and it is heavily dependent on the sauces/gravy added but more often than not, they have to be cooked from scratch – the bottled ones aren’t anything to shout about.

I had spaghetti bolognese…

…at a number of places here but the sauce came across to me like something straight from a bottle of ketchup and was not anything I would get excited about. I only like the freshly-made bolognese sauce at Payung Café here with fresh tomatoes and Italian herbs, beef…

…or mushroom…

I am not into those creamy ones either, be it carbonara…

…or alfredo…

…or whatever but I do enjoy it with squid ink…

…with the lovely “smell of the sea”, my girl calls it.

All thing considered, when eating out, if I had to order pasta for myself, I would go for the aglio olio…

I do enjoy that, those that I’ve had here, there and everywhere.

I tried the Bovril spaghetti…

here and I quite liked it but I would very much prefer that with our local noodles…

here plus the latter was a whole lot cheaper, being located in a coffee shop.

Anyway, back to the spaghetti aglio olio that we had that day, my missus cooked it with lots of garlic and the leftover New Zealand mussels…

from the other day with lots of cherry tomatoes and the sweet basil that she planted in our garden.

Yes, I sure enjoyed that…

…very much.

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.