Indescribable…

When my Singapore friend, Alfred, was in Sibu, I told him about the Mulu Caves right here in Sarawak and I was surprised that he had not heard of them before – the Sarawak Chamber is “so big that it could accommodate about 40 Boeing 747s, without overlapping their wings“. Hmmmm…this probably goes to show how effective the promotions done by our Sarawak tourism authorities have been…

Anyway, what I told Alfred got him all excited and he immediately made plans to go and visit this UNESCO world heritage site and he did – last weekend.

To get there, he had to fly to Miri and from there, he boarded an ATR 72-seater…

ATR72

…which he said was like a toy plane. Hmmm…wait till he gets on our 19-seater Twin Otter – I did blog about it here once and yes, flying in one would indeed by an experience, that’s for sure.

The experience, the sights and the sounds and everything there, needless to say, are simply indescribable so I would just share a few of his photographs on Facebook in this post. I did not know that swiftlets will always lay their eggs in pairs…

Swiftlet's eggs

…not one, not three or more…and among the amazing stone formations, there is this one that looks quite erotic…

X-rated

…but one of the main attractions of course would be this silhouette of Abraham Lincoln’s face…

Lincoln

– don’t leave Mulu without having seen this and taking a photograph of it!

My! My! Alfred sure is an adventurous guy and he opted to stay on for the “night shift”…

Night shift

I bet he found it very interesting, if not exciting, and the next morning…

Morning comes

…he and the rest made their way downstream…

Going downstream

…after having explored 5 of the caves in the national park…and he is saying that he will want to go back there again as there is a lot more that he has yet to cover!

I’ve never been there myself, I am ashamed to say, and I guess, at my age (and shape and size), I will just have to sit this one out. I have never been to the Fairy Caves in Bau near Kuching even…as when I went with my friends either in the late 60’s or early 70’s, they told to wait by the lake as the climb could be quite perilous! In fact, when they came back, they told tales of how one of the ladies fell off the rope…and luckily, one of the guys, hanging on to the rope himself, simply stretched out his arm and grabbed her and saved her. It would have been tragic if she had fallen all the way down. Neither have I been to the Niah Caves – where they found the evidences of the early pre-historic civilisation. Some of my colleagues went and they told me of the long single-plank walk to the caves…and they said that I would definitely fall off after a few steps. Humphhhh!!!

Anyway, back to the Mulu Caves, if you are keen and adventurous like my friend, you may find more information here in their website…and you can plan a trip there while you are still young and able. Why go to all those other countries when one of the most amazing wonders of the world is right here at our footsteps?

I honestly love you…

I went out early last Sunday morning to tapao (takeaway) the very nice fried kway teow at this shop for the ladies in the house for breakfast. I reckoned they must be very tired of my fried rice and fried bihun so the previous week, I bought them some kampua noodles and piansip and this week, I went for something different. Both the shops were very near my house so it wasn’t much of  a problem for me to do that.

It was still very early, around 7 something, but it was already bright and sunny…

Mormon church

The weather here has been very hot lately.

Since I was there, I decided to try something that I had not tried yet – so far, we had their fried kway teow, their nasi lemak and their Sarawak laksa…so this time around, I ordered their beef noodles (RM6.00) which was served in a jiffy, steaming hot…

Colourful Cafe beef noodles 1

Hmmm…I would ask them to leave out the raw taugeh (bean sprouts) next time as I am not all that fond of their chao chay (green) smell/taste. In Sarawak laksa, they are usually blanched lightly and anyway, the strong broth would overpower whatever smell or taste there is left.

So was it any good?…

Colourful Cafe beef noodles 2

I would say that I liked it – this one was different from the Taiwan-style ones but the soup was not as clear as the ones here. I could detect the fragrance of the spices used though I did think it could do with a stronger beef taste but still, I would say that it was nicer than a lot of the others that I have had around here. I really enjoyed it with the very nice chili dip…

Colourful Cafe beef noodles chili dip

…that came with it. It was very spicy and very very gingery – something like the excessively hot cili padi dip from Kah Heong in Kota Kinabalu but thankfully, it was not that hot!

While I was there enjoying my order, I could smell the santan (coconut milk) fragrance of the nasi lemak that he was cooking in one huge rice cooker…and I really enjoyed the light and easy songs they were playing, such as this one and this one, accompanied by the occasional banging of the wok as the guy was dishing out the fried kway teow I had ordered. The kopi-o-peng (RM1.70) was extra nice…

Colourful Cafe kopi-o-peng

…that morning – something that I did not feel on my two previous visits. Perhaps I was the first customer, so early in the morning, so I got to enjoy the fresh brew…or maybe it was because I was the only customer at the time so the “barista” could pay a little more attention to what he was doing and did a better job than usual.

Now, if anyone is wondering about that MILO mug, here, it is a requirement stipulated by our municipal council that all utensils at all eating places must be sterilised in hot boiling water in a mug like that for customers to use and I do think that this is a commendable effort to ensure cleanliness and safeguard the health, to some extent, of the people here.

I finished my delightful breakfast, paid for everything and left the shop. However, it so happened that I was dilly-dallying outside a bit while browsing through the internet on my mobile when the girl waiting at the tables in the shop came out to pass me this…

Lost and found

Good grief! That’s where I keep my identity card, my driving license, credit cards and all that kind of stuff! I was thinking that if ever I were to be pickpocketed or happened to lose my wallet somehow, I would still have those essential items, safe and sound. Perhaps I should keep those first two separately so should I inadvertently lose one, I would still have the other.

It must have dropped out of my pocket as I was taking out my wallet to pay and it certainly was very honest and nice of the girl to come running to return it to me, thank God for small mercies!

What else is there…

Last Saturday, we went back to this coffee shop for lunch.

I went around the stalls to have a look to see what else there was that we had not tried and I came across this…

YummyFafe roti canai kuchai

roti canai with kuchai (chives). That was RM2.00 a piece and it came with the bowl of dhal dip, and no, it was not chewy or rubbery, not stretchable like roti canai as we know it. In fact, it was crusty and crispy, something like the Indian pancake or aloo paratha that we had once here. The texture was more like those frozen roti canai or paratha that we can buy at the supermarkets and pan-fry them ourselves at home to eat. It probably would have been nicer if they had used butter or ghee, at least for the frying part, and no, I would not say that it swept me off my feet even though it was quite nice – something one may consider when thinking having something different for a change.

My girl’s colleague/housemate/friend ordered the curry mee (RM4.00)…

YummyKafe curry mee

…expecting to get something like the ones in the peninsula, with the curry gravy but no, it turned out to be something fried, something like mee mamak but with curry powder added. She said it was all right though and she quite enjoyed it.

My missus had the Foochow fried noodles (RM4.00)…

Foochow fried mee

…and no, this was not done in the same style that I grew up eating and would prefer a lot more – the gravy was kind of clear so even though it might be nice, it was simply not the same. This and the curry mee were from the chu-char (cook & fry) place at the back portion of the coffee shop…and I noticed that they had rounded up the price, instead of the usual RM3.80 at some other places. That is perfectly all right though, I would say, considering that we did see a lot of ingredients like the meat and green vegetables in my missus’ order…unlike many other places around here these days.

Needless to day, my girl wanted the beef noodles (RM6.00)…

YummyKafe beef noodles

…that she loved a lot and I also ordered a bowl for myself. I don’t know whether it was the heat (it has been very very hot here lately) but I thought it was not as nice as before – the broth did not seem as thick and rich but when I asked my girl, she said it was the same. I do wish they could have an option though – one that has beef tendon and tripe added…at a price, of course. I would go for that one, that’s for sure!

I also ordered these dumplings (10 for RM6.00)…

YummyKafe dumplings

…to share, knowing that my girl loves them too…and that was our lunch that day.

Incidentally, an old friend from Penang flew in on Friday night but of course, like on most/all weekends, with my girl home, I was kind of tied up with her weekly visit to see her grandparents, driving her here and there to stock up on their rations for the week ahead and to buy any necessities that she would need for school and on Saturday night, we would have to go for the sunset service in church and come Sunday, I would have to drive her back to her school.

This friend and I were involved with some work for the ministry along with the couple who came from Trengganu that day so we would meet quite regularly, once a year, at least, during those days prior to my retirement. He was busy Saturday, anyway, as he was here on a working trip but I really felt bad that at such short notice, I was not able to make time to meet up. He was so sweet and thoughtful as to bring these celebrated tambun biscuits…

Tambun biscuits from Penang

..all the way from Penang for me and he sent them to me through a friend in that same line of duty, so to speak.

My sincere apologies to him…but I did tell him that I hope he would come back someday, not on a brief working trip like this time around, and stay longer so I would be able to take him around like what I did for our Trengganu friends last year…and he would have to let me know way ahead of time.

Not that different…

I was somewhat intrigued when I saw the pankeks served at one place in Sean’s blog and I made up my mind right away that I would like to give it a try.

So when my girl was coming home last Friday, I pounded some pandan (screwpine) leaves, added a quarter cup of water and squeezed out the juice…

Pandan juice

…and I replaced the evaporated milk in the original recipe with a packet of santan (coconut milk)…

Santan

Other than that, I reduced the sugar from 3 tablespoons to 2 as I reckoned the santan would be sweet as well and anyway, I am cutting down on sugar (other than oil, salt and msg) these days and would not go for anything that’s too sweet.

Otherwise, it was the same recipe that we would usually follow where we would beat 125 gm of butter (half a block) with the aforementioned sugar and then add three eggs…

Butter sugar eggs

…and beat them altogether well.

The flour would go in next…

Flour
*This was the 2nd cup*

…one cup at a time with half of the cup of santan/pandan juice mix.

Once the batter was smooth, that would be the time to add the three teaspoons of ENO…

ENO

…and the whipping would continue for just a little bit more to mix everything together well.

After greasing the heated pan with butter, you would need to add the batter, a bit at a time, and spread it out and once you could see the bubbles appearing, that would mean you could flip it over in a bit to cook the other side. Keep the fire at medium, not high so that the pancake would brown nicely and will not get burnt.

Once done, remove from the pan and place on some kitchen towels before moving the pankek onto a plate to serve…

Done

With the amount of ingredients used, I was able to dish out quite a lot – one whole stack…

One stack

…in fact!

Indeed, it was very nice with a hint of the taste and fragrance of the santan and pandan (my missus thought I added kaya, coconut jam) though mine had a very slight tint of green…

Pankek

…not like the ones Sean had.

So there you have it! Pankek, the Malaysian version of the pancake, kek being the word for cake in Malay!

Give it to me…

I was just about to doze off that day for my afternoon siesta when the air-conditioner just went off suddenly. Drats! A blackout again, I thought. I went downstairs to check if there was a power failure in my neighbourhood and saw that the switch had tripped so I turned it back on and everything was all right after that. I asked my missus why that happened out of the blue and she said that she went to turn on the air-conditioner in the living room and that did it!

I called somebody to come and check and he said the wiring and everything was all right so it had to be the air-conditioner so I should get someone to come and fix it. This one was really old – a hand-me-down, in fact, that was given to me by my father when he replaced it with something newer and better. The guy came and said that it was the condenser and instead of having that replaced, I might get as well get a new one…which I did. I was intending to change it anyway as it had been kind of cranky lately and the new energy savers would not consume as much electricity as these old ones.

To my delight, there was a free gift that came with it and I really liked it a lot – a ceramic pan…

Free gift

I have never heard of nor seen one, the goondu that I am…

Cross-section

…though I have seen the green one on the food channel on satellite television but I think that’s a completely different thing.

I wish I could have all four colours…

Four colours

…but then again, what on earth would I do with so many pans?

It sure has a lot of good qualities…

Characteristics

…but then again, we’ll never know until we start using one. I particularly like the fact that it is non-stick and non-toxic…

More characteristics

…but my missus would have to take special note of this…

Note well

She will ALWAYS heat up the wok or the pan till it is fuming hot before adding the oil and starting to cook. She insists that the food cooked at the restaurants is nicer because of the big fire and the extra heat so that is why she does that. Well, it says there: “Do not overheat the product while empty…”

Actually, I have changed two of my old air-conditioners sometime ago – the ones in the bedrooms and with the energy savers, my electricity bill dropped by half so hopefully, with this new one, it will go down a little bit more. For the first of the two, I got a nice non-stick wok, Tefal no less, and I gave that to my girl to use in her quarters in her school. This…

Free gift 2

…was what I got when I bought the second one. It did not get me very excited, this one, but my missus said that these Zebra products are actually very good and very expensive in the shops.

It sure makes me wonder though – why they give these cooking stuff when one buys an air-conditioner considering that they are not even remotely connected. Perhaps a comforter or a blanket would be more appropriate, don’t you think?

Beg to differ…

I came across belacan bihun at one place in Kuching a long time ago, a circular building in the Padungan area, around Jubilee Ground or something. My friends took me there but I had just had lunch at the time so I did not want to order that to try.

For one thing,  the belacan (dried prawn paste) smell was very strong – once you reach the place, you will be able to smell nothing but that! Some people may not like it like how some tourists from abroad are put off by the smell of durians. However, I must say it was very popular and everyone there was eating that. I did cast a glance at it and it looked like bihun (rice vermicelli) served with toppings of cuttle fish and strip of cucumber and taugeh (bean sprouts) drowned in the belacan broth. You can see a photograph of it in this blog…but that looked like a different place. The one I went to was this one, also featured in the same blog.

Well, I don’t think I will want to cook the same soup version so I beg to differ and cook mine differently. It so happened that the other day, I fried some  leftover rice with belacan added and it turned out very nice and I guessed I could do the same with bihun. These were the ingredients that I used…

Belacan bihun ingredients

– one shallot, peeled and sliced, two cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely, two fresh chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced, some belacan, minced/chopped, a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and bihun, soaked to soften…plus some spring onions from my garden, chopped finely to use as garnishing.

Firstly, I fried the ikan bilis in a bit of oil till a little brown and then I pushed that aside to fry the shallot and garlic…

Frying

…and then, in went the belacan and the chilies, saving a bit of the latter for garnishing as well. I was caught up with trying to take clear photographs in the midst of the hot steam coming out from the wok so the ingredients got a little burnt…so I gave up trying to multi-task – cook and take snapshots at the same time. As the proverb goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Tsk! Tsk!

I quickly put in the bihun and mixed it well and lastly, I broke an egg into the wok and fried it with everything else in it and then I pushed it all aside and broke another egg, breaking the yolk and spreading everything all over. When it was a little bit cooked, I moved the bihun over right on top of that second egg and once it was done, I dished everything out and served…

STP's fried belacan bihun 1

…garnished with the aforementioned spring onions and sliced chilies.

If you’re wondering what on earth I was doing with the egg, actually, I was trying to replicate what they do with the very popular Ah Tor kway teow here and I would say that it was QUITE successful. For one thing, there was not enough egg to “wrap” all the bihun…

STP's fried belcan bihun 2

…so the egg covered only a section of the bihun.

It would have been just right if it had been one egg to one plate or one serving of bihun

STP's fried belacan bihun 3

…and besides, I think I should beat the egg first before pouring it into the wok so it would be all yellow and there would not be those huge patches of egg white.

Ah well! You learn new things everyday so I know what to do next time.

Mambo Italiano…

I came across these…

Massimo by The Italian Baker

…the other day at a  mini-supermarket near my house. They had the special cardboard display shelf set up and the packets of cakes are each individually housed in a pigeon hole. Hmmm…impressive, eh? And just look at the name – “Massimo By The Italian Baker“. Wowwww!!! That sure sounds promising…and even though they were not all that cheap – RM1.30 each, I just had to buy and try.

I don’t know how many flavours there are but here, they only had two, the classic and the mocha…

Classic and mocha

…so I grabbed one of each.

The mocha was all right, a taste that probably some would need getting used to but good grief!!! Just look at those holes!!!

Mocha

I am pretty sure the Italians do not have holes in their cakes like that or do they?

I liked the classic better – very fine, light and only a couple of little holes in it…

Classic

…not that noticeable but if those holes are not supposed to be there, they really should do something about their quality control.

I would much sooner go and buy these cup cakes from our own bakery

Lian Yu cupcakes

…which probably do not contain that much preservatives as they would have to be consumed within a matter of  a few days and even though they do not contain any butter…

Majerin

…they do have that fragrance, probably from the use of some butter substitute, but neither is there any butter in those “classier” ones…

Lemak sayuran

…nor is there any scent of it as well, not even a bit and it looks like they’re good for some two months or so.

No, these local ones of ours are not very much cheaper. They are smaller so roughly two of them would be equivalent to one of those and since there are six in a pack, that would mean that it is only cheaper by one-third, not much (and in fact, there are cup cakes from our own bakeries that are a lot more expensive, some even double or triple the price). However, in comparison, I would say that these are very much nicer…and there are no holes in them.