Out of nowhere…

Over the years, we have had things sprouting out of nowhere in our garden.

There was a noni tree which probably came from a house three doors away – I’ve seen the tree in their garden. It grew very well and was bearing fruits, lots of them. My missus happily plucked them and made enzyme with them and made me drink. Those of you who are familiar with the fruit would know how smelly it is – the enzyme is not much better. Thankfully, the tree was getting to be too big so I got rid of it. Phewww!!!

I had no idea where the avocado tree growing very near the house came from either. My cousin in Kuching sent me a photo of theirs, a couple of years old and it was so big! I quickly got rid of mine but last year when my cousin and the rest of the family were enjoying the fruits of their labour, I wished I had kept my tree. Perhaps I could have moved it away from the house.

I had a few papaya trees but I could jolly well guess that they sprouted out of the seeds that I buried in my garden, together with the skin everytime I peeled one. Unfortunately, they flowered but there was no fruit, not even one so they too eventually faced the axe.

This watermelon plant…

…probably came out of the seeds that I buried as well but the last time we had any was quite sometime ago – it sure took a long time to emerge.

There are a few small fruits growing on the vines at this point in time but the problem is we do not know when exactly is the right time to harvest them…

…and eat. Unlike other fruits that will change colour or become softer, watermelons will remain pretty much the same. I guess we will just wait a bit till they have grown a bit bigger.

My girl planted these cherry tomatoes…

…and the fruits have started to appear. She did eat a few and she said they were very nice, very sweet and crispy. I’ve never seen this variety before – the fruits are oval-shaped…

…not round.

The mum planted these regular ones…

…and they have eaten the fruits too, also sweet and crispy. These must be the Cameron Highlands variety that I used to buy at a supermarket here except that those were very big, much bigger than these. Never mind, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

She also planted some chili…

…but I am not getting my hopes up too high. I also planted a lot once and yes, they grew really well and produced a whole lot of chilies. Unfortunately, before they ripened, they would start rotting on the inside and drop off one by one. I think I did get to eat one or two, that was all.

They were very successful with their ladies’ fingers and brinjal and kangkong. My cangkok manis that was struggling to stay alive is thriving really very well under their care and at this point in time, my missus has planted some sweet potato leaves too. I planted a lot at one time…

…but they went out of control and we grew tired of eating it so I got rid of them.

Yes, the prices of vegetables (and most everything else) have been going up and up but no, I still think it is a lot easier to just go and buy. As far as planting one’s own goes, I guess it is very convenient to just go out into the garden to harvest and it is a lot healthier too as we do not use any chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Besides, it can be quite therapeutic, being kind of relaxing and is thus a great way to pass the time plus it is in a way a good form of exercise too.

Have you tried…

Have you tried the highly-acclaimed Taiwanese beef noodles in town? Everyone was talking about it and singing its praises. I, for one, did not get all excited as I prefer our clear soup version like the ones here or here or here even. It used to be here but word had it that it had moved here and since I was out that morning, I decided to drop by and check it out.

I was glad that there were not many customers at the time so I parked my car and went into the coffee shop and searched high and low for the beef noodles stall. Eventually, I asked the lady at the second stall and she told me that the guy was not there but in the shop next door, closed on Mondays and Thursdays – it was a Thursday that day.

In the end, since she was so nice to give me the information I wanted – most would just say they did not know – I ordered the kway chap

…from her stall (it looked very nice in the photograph)…

…and took my seat at a table outside and waited to be served.

I was a bit disappointed with it (RM6.50)…

…when it came because it looked like there was a whole of lean meat and pork belly, just a few bits of intestines and two pieces of the ear (I think that was it, the ones with the hard, white layer inside – I left the two untouched), no liver.

Thankfully, it was kway chap

…not kway teow. I get really pissed off at places where they serve this but when you dig into the bowl, you find kway teow (flat rice noodles) instead of those pieces of kway chap.

The broth was very nice, a bit on the mild side as far as the soy sauce, the salt and the msg were concerned but very strong on the spices – I could taste the cinnamon in it especially. The chili belacan (dried prawn paste) dip was so good and went so well with everything. I had to refrain from pouring all of it into the broth – I am sure that would being the taste to a whole new level.

All things considered, I would say I enjoyed it very much, not to the extent that you would find me back there again for more in no time at all but I sure would not mind ordering that if I happen to be around there some other day. I probably would want to try the lor mee (RM5.00) though – it also looked really good in the photograph.

Incidentally, I was somewhat amused when I saw this lady’s t-shirt…

– she was also seated outside, two tables away. It made me think of all those with their age-old outdated convictions. They would cringe in disgust and even come up in arms against it everytime I said that I added a pinch in my cooking. They should read this article as well as the many available online if they care to google for them.

Of course, there is no denying that it is sodium…and so is salt and don’t we all know that salt is bad for health. That is why if you have added salt to the food, you should not add msg anymore and vice versa or maybe you would want to compromise – just a little bit of each. Similarly, if you use soy sauce in your cooking, there IS salt and there IS msg in it and if you go and add some more, you may be in for a bit of trouble! The bottom line is, like what I always say, moderation is the key. Too much of a good thing may be bad for you!

COFFEE & TEA (2.325932, 111.841566) is located at the junction of Jalan Teng Chin Hua and Jalan Ulu Sg Merah in the blocks of shops to the right of the traffic lights junction turning left into Lorong Sg Merah 2. if you are coming from town. On the other hand, if you are heading towards town, the blocks of shops are after St Teresa’s Catholic Church and the SIB Church on that same side of the road.

Cover up…

Whenever I go out, I will always wear a mask even if it is only for a while, say when I drop by some place for a few minutes to buy something and after that, I will throw it away without a second thought. That is why I keep these…

…handy.

They aren’t very expensive, over a ringgit each and it seems that they are better than those cloth masks that people will wash and use again and again. According to an article that I read, “A study that was just published in the journal, Science, analyzed data from 342,183 adults in Bangladesh and found that surgical masks were 95 percent effective at filtering out virus particles, compared with 37 percent for cloth face masks.

These come in various colours and the pharmacy that I frequent stocks up on those. I was rather amused that day when I picked up a box of blue for myself and a box of pink for the ladies in the house. The boss kept telling me that I had taken a box of pink masks – I guess he could not imagine this old man wearing those in that bright colour. LOL!!!

He himself uses these…

…which he says are good enough to be worn on their own, no need to resort to wearing double masks. According to him, they are manufactured following some Korean technology.

Needless to say, they are very expensive…

…but I can’t remember the exact price now..

I guess they would be good for use at crowded places but no, we’ve been #stayingsafe and #stayingwell, #stayinghome most of the time and we avoid crowded places like a plague. I did buy a box though just in case school resumes now that Sarawak has gone into Phase 4 and my girl will have to go back to her classes of some over 30 pupils each – I would consider those as crowded, no doubt about it so when that time comes, she can put on these masks, one per day.

I did buy the Korean originals too…

…from one of my neighbourhood shops and they are more or less that same price as well.

The aforementioned article mentions that cloth masks are our 1918 pandemic technology, used 100 years ago whereas these days, we have the technology — the high filtration, electrostatically charged, meltblown [masks like KF94s, KN95s and N95s] — and we should use those.

I also grabbed a box of the cheaper Korean ones…

…from that same shop. These, like those colourful ones above, should be good enough for use…

…under normal circumstances.

This article says that with the increasing airborne spread of the coronavirus, it is important to improve the fit of masks and their filtration — making enhancements that go beyond old, loose, cloth face coverings that became popular in 2020. It also says that Omicron is twice as infectious, and an encounter that you could have tolerated for Delta may well infect you with Omicron. Knowing this, it is worth upgrading the protection you get from your mask.

Despite what the so-called “experts” in our country tell us, the article goes on to say this: The best masks are N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. Don’t wear an additional face covering on top of these masks. Of course, the bottom line is one must put on these masks properly. I find it quite distressing to see people wearing them with their noses uncovered…or worse, with them hanging under their chins.

Even when going some place to eat, I will keep my mask on till the food arrives and take it off only when I start eating and I will put it back on as soon as I have finished. Most people will just take their masks off as soon as they sit down…and will put them on again when they are about to leave the place.

As I have mentioned earlier, Sarawak has entered its Phase 4 now since Monday so I guess that means the situation here is presently a whole lot better than months ago. Each day, here in Sibu, there is a single-digit number of cases and hopefully, it will stay that way or better still, if there is none at all. The onus, of course, is on everyone to make sure they cover up (wear masks), observe physical distancing and do not go here and there unless there is a need for it and avoid crowded places at all times. #kitajagakita

Portuguese love…

The other day, when I was at this coffee shop, I went over to the shop next door to buy the chai kueh. My girl enjoys it a lot so I bought a few packs at one go to keep in the fridge so I can steam some in the morning for her to eat for breakfast.

In the meantime, I went over to see what they had in the glass display counter at the shop…

…and I saw that they had some lovely looking Portuguese egg tarts…

I remember I did try them before when this shop first opened (they were only RM2.50 each at the time) but even though I did feel they were all right, not quite there but were good enough, I never went back for more. Perhaps I was put off by the price – I could go for a plate of kampua mee for that kind of money then and their very nice char siew pao was less than RM2.00 each (not anymore).

Eventually, we were able to get really good ones at this place not far from my house so we would just buy those from there. For reasons unknown, the people making those awesome egg tarts and everything else disappeared – I have no idea why they called it a day and whether they had gone some place else to do their business. Nobody at that shop would disclose any information whatsoever regarding them.

I saw my foodie friend sharing photographs of the ones he bought here a few times and praising them to the skies so I thought I would give them a second chance. Goodness gracious me!!! They are now RM3.30 each – kampua mee is currently RM3.50 a plate!

I asked for three and the young boy packed them nicely for me to take away. I did not pay much attention to what he was doing, otherwise I would have asked him to take those that were more nicely torched.

The pastry…

…was very nice but I noticed a moist, not so well-baked layer at the bottom. I gathered from those Masterchef shows that this would happen if you do not blind bake your pastry first.

The egg custard…

…was really good, very rich and creamy and not too sweet but I was thinking that perhaps at that price…or maybe for around 20 sen more, they could be a bit more generous with it – they barely filled half of the pastry cup.

My girl tried and yes, she loved it!!! That, of course, means that despite everything that I have said, I will surely buy some more should I happen to be passing by this place again.

And talking about my girl, the other afternoon, she made these English crumpets…

For the uninitiated, “crumpets are English griddle cakes made from flour, milk/water and yeast and are traditionally eaten for breakfast or with afternoon tea.  They’re soft and somewhat spongy in texture and their crowning feature are the dozens of tiny holes that dot the surface…

…allowing whatever you spread on them to soak down into them, making each and every bite an unforgettable one.

Yes, they were nice – we had them piping hot from the pan with butter and honey but since my girl said she would want to have some for her breakfast the next morning, I only had one – the recipe was good for 8 pieces only and anyway, personally, I think I prefer scones. I wonder when she is going to make some more for me to enjoy.

HONG KONG PUFF is located along Ramin Way (2.291180, 111.826634), beside Sin Kiaw Coffee Shop, right behind the Petronas station at Kpg Nyabor Road (formerly Esso) across the road from the HSBC Building, Sibu branch. 

It’s been a year…

In my blogpost two years ago, I said that 2019 was “not too bad a year but looking at it now, after two dreadful years, it was truly an awesome year filled with smiles and laughter, so much joy, so much happiness.

I have not been all that well so these days, I do not do that much gardening anymore. However, I can say, in all honesty, that I am getting on all right just that I am now on a low-carb, low-sugar diet and I’m off smoking for good (I’ve gone off alcoholic drinks for years and years now) but I have to faithfully take the doctor’s prescriptions for this and that. Thankfully, my regular test results have been good, nothing to get overly worried about, praise the Lord.

This year, we haven’t been out and about all that much. Except for when we had to top up on our food supplies…

…and basic household needs as well as my prescriptions, we just stayed at home…

…most of the time. We confined ourselves to the shops in our neighbourhood, places near our house…

…that are convenient and not crowded, no traffic jam and easy parking and all and except for the few times when I went out…

…we just ate at home. Surprisingly, time went flying by even though nothing much ever happens, just our usual daily routine.

If the figures they give us daily are anything to go by, things sure have improved by leaps and bounds. Here in Sibu specifically and in Sarawak in general, we only have a single-digit total number of cases each day. Hopefully, it will stay that way even though we may not be completely free of the scourge. Nonetheless, we cannot go back to the way it was – we still have to #staysafe to #staywell, put on masks…

…when we go out, observe social distancing, avoid crowded places and stay home as far as possible, the so-called “new normal“. As soon as the borders were open, a lot of people were going here, there and everywhere but no, we chose to stay put – we are quite happy the way it is.

We did not start 2021 all that optimistically and no, I am not getting my hopes up too high for the year that is to come either. As the new year begins, let us say a prayer for the repose of the souls of our dearly departed, all our family members and friends who have left us last year and of course, I shall go on praying day by day that the Good Lord will continue to bless and protect us in the days ahead.

May He keep us safe always throughout the coming year, 2022…

…and for all it’s worth, a Happy New Year, everyone!

Two more!…

The other day, I went back to the Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎粿)/apam balik stall in the next lane round the corner from my house because there were two more things I had yet to try.

The guy was very busy making those pancakes – he said that some guy placed an order for 20 and he told him to come and get them at around 3 but he was there already at 2.30 and was waiting in the car. Well, it did not matter one bit to me as I did not intend to buy any. I am of the opinion that at 80 sen a piece, no meat, margarine not butter and just a bit of crushed peanut in the pancake, it is kind of pricey.

On my previous visit, I was intrigued by the sight of the black ang ku kuih (red tortoise cake), 70 sen a piece…

…and I did say then that I would buy those the next time around to try. I had seen yellow/orange (sweet potato/pumpkin) and purple (yam) ones before but not these black ones (even though they looked kind of green in the photograph). I went and googled and I saw something about such black ones being made using black sesame but my missus said they used some kind of grass for the purpose.

Perhaps it is what they use to make the black grass jelly (仙草/xiān cǎo), I wouldn’t know but I was quite positive that I could detect a hint of something herbal as I was eating it…

Inside, it was pretty much the same as all the rest, the same mung bean filling…

Another thing that I wanted to try was this deep-fried kompia stuffed with meat filling (80 sen a piece)…

…but they turned out to be quite disappointing. They felt like they were not fried enough…

…so they were kind of rubbery, not nice and crusty like the expensive but so much nicer ones here…or those here that used to be 90 sen a piece, dunno now plus I did not think the filling was all that great – everyone agreed that it was a little too salty.

Of course, I had to buy their chai peah (5 for RM2.00)…

Of all the things sold at this stall, this is our favourite but for reasons unknown, it was not salty at all that day. Perhaps the people making forgot to add the salt but it was perfectly all right – we ate them with my missus’ own-made chili dip and yes, it was so good!!! I suppose I shall keep on going back to the stall for this, not so much for the rest of the stuff they have to offer there.

Incidentally, if I am not wrong, it’s the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival today so do enjoy your tang yuan (汤圆) – tang Soup is soup and yuan Yuan is round and that implies reunion, full satisfaction. In the old days, the poor farmers couldn’t afford meat so they had these balls instead. Eating them during this auspicious festival is a required custom. All the children are told that people can add one year to their age after eating tang yuan.

We are not fond of the ones, usually colourful, in sweet syrup – we prefer those coated with crushed peanut and sugar…

…and yes, we will make these, without fail, every year to preserve the tradition, the customary practice – our heritage.

To all of you celebrating, a very Happy Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival – do enjoy eating your tang yuan!

Inside out…

Recently, I blogged about the nice buns

…from this bakery here but I did not take any photographs to share at the time and I did say that I would do so the next time I got hold of any.

Actually, it had been my intention all this while to drop by there at the place of origin…

…to buy them but somehow or other, I never did drive past that way so I did not manage to do so.

Well, it so happened that there were fresh deliveries at my neighbourhood shop in the next lane from my house…

…so of course, I wasted no time in grabbing a few packs and took them home.

The first time I bought a pack, I could not see any clue as to what the filling was inside the buns so I asked the nice and handsome guy at the cashier’s counter and he told me. I told him I could not see a thing and he replied that I would have to look very carefully. Indeed, despite the fact that at my age, I still have very good vision without the aid of glasses, I had difficulty seeing the word “BUTTER”…

…rubber-stamped on the label. I only managed after I got home that day and had one very good look at it! Now that I know where to look, I have no problem whatsoever, not anymore and that day, I bought the butter and also the kaya (coconut jam).

You can tell from the light green colour of the kaya filling…

…that there is a lot of santan (coconut milk) in it. I sure enjoyed the extra-lemakness compared to those from the other bakeries and they certainly are a bit more generous too.

Personally, I prefer the really yummy butter filling…

…that is so moist with the butter unlike the others that are so dry and they give so little of it that with one bite of it, it will all be gone, leaving you to finish off the bun kosong (empty).

They have others too – red bean and peanut but I am not into those so I did not bother to give them a try. At RM3.60 for a pack of 6, these buns work out to 60 sen each. I so love the very soft texture of the bread and I find that if I toast it in the oven for a while till the top crust is slightly crusty and the butter in the filling has melted a bit and I eat it slightly warm, it makes it taste all the more nicer.

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.

A stone’s throw away…

The guy at this one-time favourite nasi lemak stall of mine did tell me before that they would be moving here…

…a stone’s throw away from where they once were along Bandong Walk.

They have moved the old sign…

…here but other than the address, the opening hours are not accurate as well. If I am not wrong, this is only true about their nasi lemak but the other things that they serve now, including some western dishes, are available all morning, right through into the night.

I was avoiding that part of town for a long while because of the pandemic and when I finally dropped around mid-morning the other day, I was put off by the crowd so I just left.

I did get to speak to the guy and he told me that it would be all right around 7 something in the morning so there I was, bright and early for a plate of their nasi lemak sambal sotong (RM6.00)…

There were quite a lot of people…

…too that morning but they were tapao-ing to bring to the office for their tea break or lunch or for their colleagues.

Inside, there were a lot of vacant tables and not that many people then but by the time I was through, every table was occupied. It does not matter much because the tables are big and very well-spaced out so if you are able to grab one, you would be seated at a safe distance from those at the other tables, no worries about physical distancing.

As expected, the rice was not up to my level of lemak-ness (rich in santan/coconut milk) unlike in the good old days when they first started their business. That came as no surprise as it has been like that for a while now.

Looking back at my old posts, it was only RM5.00 before, up by RM1.00 now and I also noticed that they were not too generous with the kacang (peanuts) and fried ikan bilis ( anchovies)…

However, they did give quite a lot of the sambal sotong

…and the sotong was huge. The best part was it was spicy and so very delicious! I just mixed that with the rice and everything else and ate – it sure made up for whatever was lacking and the hike in the price. Yes, I would say that I did enjoy it.

I was never keen on their kerang (cockles) before as the guy told me that they used the canned ones. According to him, they have stopped doing that because of the escalating prices and the quality these days seems lacking so they are now using the frozen ones from West Malaysia, RM16.00 a kilo. Perhaps I shall give it a try, the next time I drop by here…or perhaps I shall go for some of the many things they have on their menu these days. We’ll see!

NASI LEMAK BANDONG WALK is now located at the blocks of shops, the first one to the left of its former location, the back facing Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) and the main road.

You look different…

I don’t know if the taste…

…is the same or not but it sure looks different on the outside…

These days, it seems to have gone a lot more blue, no longer all black…

…like before.

They have left out that “mi tarik” (pulled noodles) bit but if they are any different, honestly, I really can’t tell.

That cili dan sayuran pic is still around…

…just that I did not notice anything more than some dried spring onion and two bits of cili padi while I was eating it.

Thankfully, despite the spiralling prices of virtually everything around here, the price is still pretty much the same, RM5.80 now, up by only 30 sen, for a pack of 4 which works out to a reasonable RM1.45 a packet.

Inside each of the packets, there are three sachets…

…one with the seasoning & garnishing, another with the creamer and the third one with the paste (sambal).

I cooked it and served it in a bowl with two mussels by the side and one egg, hardboiled, the yolk still runny…

…and I garnished it with some chopped daun sup (Chinese celery) from my garden.

It does look pretty much the same than what I dished out before…

…doesn’t it?

It did taste great, a little bit spicy at the start but I got used to it soon enough and I was fine with the lemak-ness (the richness with the santan/coconut milk) this time around. It did come across as a little salty though but maybe half that sachet of the seasoning will not be enough – a little bit more than that would do just fine.

This is the favourite of that very popular Korean Youtuber and the ladies in the house love it as well. I must say that I did enjoy it a lot more than before and I sure would not mind going for it sometimes for a change.

Crisp…

I love poppadoms.

You will get ONE of these very thin, very crispy and very tasty Indian delight…

…when you go to a mamak/nasi kandar shop for their nasi biryani

I did buy some pre-fried ones of different sizes, some big, some small and fried them like keropok (prawn crackers) to enjoy at home as usually at those shops, they will give you just ONE!

Sometimes, much to one’s disappointment, the poppadom is already limp (lao hong in Hokkien or masuk angin in Malay) and even if it is all right, one would have to eat it quickly before it becomes like that. My worst experience was at a nasi kandar shop in Sg. Petani, Kedah. We were not given any so I asked one of the guys. He said we could have one for RM1.00, take it or leave it. That was ridiculously expensive but I said I would have one all the same. It was given to me in a plastic bag, sealed. Thankfully, it was nice and crispy!

Well, it so happened that the other day, I saw my girl eating these…

…and when I took a closer look, much to my surprise, they were poppadoms! I tried one and yes, I thought it was very nice, just a bit too salty.

Seeing that I liked it very much, my girl went and got me those two (among a whole lot of stuff for me to nibble and munch while #stayingsafe and #stayinghome.

I took the shorter tube, the limited edition Singapore chili crab…

…to try that day and yes, I thought that true to what they claim, it was shioking great…

…nicer than what my girl was eating that day – the Korean BBQ flavour which was more salty than this one.

This is made in Malaysia for a Singapore company…

…and looking at the names (and the location of the factory), it is pretty obvious that they are Indian.

I thought the initial taste of the poppadom

…was nice though I would not say it was anything like the Singapore chili crab but I particularly liked how, towards the end, I could detect the taste of the original/authentic poppadom.

They do not come cheap though…unfortunately, RM7.00 a tube and there isn’t all that much inside so if you do not nibble slowly, it will all be gone in no time at all and because of the high salt content, I think it would be best for old folks like me to just go for it once in a long while.