Cutting down…

I guess everyone knows that I’ve been cutting down on my intake of sugar as well as carbohydrates. That is why my missus will not cook a lot of rice for our meals these days, just a bit for each one of us for lunch and dinner and because of that, we hardly have any leftover rice in the fridge.

I did use it to cook porridge once but I don’t recall using it to cook fried rice. That was why when I spotted a small tub of leftover rice in the fridge the other morning, I wasted no time at all in getting down to frying my kampung-style belacan ikan bilis and egg fried rice…

…more or less the same way like how I did it in April last year, 2020

…using basically the same ingredients…

…except that I decided not to add any shallots this time around.

The steps were more or less the same, minus the adding of the shallots part, just the chopped garlic – you can click the link to go and have a look at the whole process if you are interested and before I dished it all out of the wok, I threw in some chopped spring onions from my garden.

Yes, just so Uncle Roger would approve, I did sprinkle a bit of msg at the end and just like what I said that previous time – “I certainly would fry it again this way should there be anymore leftover rice in the fridge and no, I shall not be taking any more photographs while cooking and I shall make sure that I do not burn the shallot and the garlic again.”

I did not take any snapshots so I did not burn anything and it…

…turned out really nice, a lovely change from all that bread, all the crackers and the instant noodles that I have been having for my breakfast all these months.

Pretty…

My missus went out on Friday two weeks ago – she did not go out last week as we still had a lot of things in the house – and came back with these pretty bowls…

…that came free with this toothpaste…

…one when you buy a box with two tubes inside.

I love the pleasant colours of the yellow one…

…and also the green…

…and she also got the blue as well.

Unfortunately, she did not get the red one so we do not have the complete set at this point in time. I think the next time I go out, I shall stop by the shop to get that – I have this weakness for free gifts and I would like to have the complete sets. I love the set that I have of the Four Seasons plates that came free once with this toothpaste too.

Incidentally, I read somewhere sometime ago that with this pandemic that is going on and on like it is never going to end, we should have individual servings of soups unlike how we usually have it, Asian/Chinese style, in a big bowl and everybody will help themselves to it. These bowls are perfect for this, just the right size – not too much of the soup and no need for any refill. Of course, we must have separate serving spoons for each dish too. As a matter of fact, this is one good practice, very hygienic, that should be practised regardless whether or not there is a pandemic.

Instantly…

To say that it was torturing to see my blogger-friend, Phong Hong’s posts on her curries would be an understatement. Her devil’s curry was a killer and this looked good too – what she said was the Kelantanese chicken curry, the kuzi ayam and of course, her mum’s delicious and easy chicken curry here and also here.

Easy would be the last word to describe it if it comes to cooking curry from scratch. My mum would do that and people would come from near and far to our open house during Christmas and Chinese New Year specially for her curry and she would serve that with her roti baiyee (Indian bread) or sandwich bread when that ran out…and no, there were no food processors, no blenders at the time and no prize for guessing whose services she would enlist to pound ALL the ingredients. “Aboi!!! Kok chin chor! Khak eyew tampok! Kok tui kok!!!” (Not yet! Still very coarse, a bit finer. Pound some more!!!)

Of course, it would be nicer to cook from scratch but looking at the amount of work involved, it comes as no surprise that this is best reserved for special occasions or those times few and far between when the craving creeps in. However, despite all the effort, it is not foolproof! Some days, the chilies are extra spicy, other days, they are not hot at all. At times, one’s favourite curry powder is out of stock and the substitute is not so nice…and there have been times also when the spices were too new, too fresh so the smell from the curry came out somewhat overpowering.

We have tried different kinds of instant pastes and some were not too bad, quite all right but they were all not quite there. Then, we came across this one – the A1 Mountain Globe brand and it instantly became our favourite and the favourite of all we’ve introduced it too. It is even available overseas, like at the Asian shops in Australia, for instance and since it is so very nice and so very easy/convenient to use, we have not cooked curry from scratch for a long long time now.

As a matter of fact, using this, it is so easy to cook curry that my missus would cook it so very often, every week…almost and at one time, she would cook those same old dishes all the time until the pandemic broke out. Having a lot more time on her hands, she started to cook some new dishes that she had never cooked before until I began to miss those comfort food that I grew kind of tired of but eventually started to miss them.

One day she cooked her soy sauce chicken with Bombay onions and potatoes, a simple dish but I enjoyed it so much and of course, I told her so in no uncertain terms. Much to my delight, the other day, she cooked this chicken curry…

…and yes, she used that A1 Mountain Globe instant paste and yes, like Phong Hong, she added evaporated milk instead of santan (coconut milk).

Some years ago, I was at my cousin’s Hari Raya open house and I enjoyed his curry so much. I thought it was a bit different so I told him so and he told me that they added evaporated milk. Since then, we would use that too but we do use santan sometimes for a change. The problem with santan is you must be careful how you handle your curry – your spoon, ladle and scoop must be dry and clean, not used for something else and in our hot and humid tropical climate, on very hot days, by evening, it might have gone bad (basi/chau sui), best kept refrigerated and reheated come dinnertime.

Usually, we would only add potatoes to our chicken curry but that day, I saw my missus throwing in some brinjal…

…as well. My mum used to do that sometimes and my missus said that her mum likewise.

My girl loves vegetable curry or vegetables in her curry and she loves brinjal a lot. I told my missus to add the ladies’ fingers…

…that we had harvested from the ones growing in my garden and yes, my girl loved those too! Usually, we would only add ladies fingers and also brinjal to fish (head) curry, alongside some tauhu kee (bean curd sticks), tauhu pok (tofu puffs) and a few slices of pineapples.

We certainly enjoyed the curry that day but unfortunately, I am now on a low-carb diet so I had to control myself and refrain from going for a second plate of rice.

I did that…

I did that before! I planted a whole lot of ladies’ fingers, 10 plants altogether in 2016 and yes, when they started to bear fruit, we had a tough time trying to eat them all. Eventually, we grew so sick of the vegetable that I did not care if I would never ever see it again. As a matter of fact, I refused to buy it whenever I went marketing.

Well, the other day, I did blog about how my girl and the mum have taken to planting vegetables, brinjal AND ladies’ fingers!!! So far, we have yet to see any brinjal but, yes, the ladies’ fingers have started to flower…

…and bear fruit…

The first two they harvested were way over a foot long – they did not know what variety it was that they planted and they thought it was the currently very popular extra-long ones. Unfortunately, they were not and the two were way too old, so old that they were very hard and totally not edible.

Having learnt their lesson, the second time around, they harvested around five when they were less than 6 inches long…

…and those were perfect! We certainly enjoyed eating them very much.

I sure am glad that they are bearing fruit…

…around this point in time when we are not all that keen on going out. With these growing in my backyard, we can pluck them to cook for our vegetable dish time and time again while happily staying home.

There aren’t many ways to eat them though. Most of the time, we will slice them and fry with sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

…or we will steam or lightly boil them and ulam with sambal belacan (dried prawn paste)…

…and yes, we’ve thrown them, along with some brinjal and pineapple slices into our fish (head) curry…

…too.

So far, we’ve never tried stuffing them with fish paste to cook yong tofu style…

Perhaps we can try doing that when the brinjal plants start to bear fruit as well.

Keep it inside…

The other day, my girl said she would cook lunch so we just let her do what she wanted. When everything was ready, she asked us to go and eat.

She toasted a few slices of these wraps, a new variety with chia seeds…

…for us to use and we were supposed to add this special sauce…

…that she made. She could not open a bottle of what I thought was mushroom pasta sauce, if I was not mistaken, and enlisted my help to do it for her. I did not ask her but I overhead her telling the mum all the spices and whatever things she added to the sauce.

The main ingredient in the filling was this minced beef…

…that she cooked and we also added some tomato and cucumber…

…as well.

This was optional, the truffle mayonnaise…

…and yes, I did add a bit together with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese…

Before I rolled it all up, I folded one end of the wrap inwards to keep everything inside. I wouldn’t want all the filling to fall out through the open end at the bottom while I was eating it…

Yes, it was very nice and I did enjoy it very much.

I had a second one to which I added a lot more of the special sauce and left out the truffle mayo and the cheese and I thought it was not as great as the first one. I suppose every ingredient added had a part to play in bringing out the subtle differences.

Earlier this year, she also cooked us something along these same lines but with prawns, coleslaw and lettuce, all rolled up in these wraps and yes, those were very good too.

Never ever ever again…

The other day, my missus had to go out for something and she came back with this BIG bunch of bananas…

They were still green at the time but they ripened so very quickly, way too fast for anyone to eat them all before they go bad.

I did blog about bananas the other day and I mentioned that I would prefer those that we call kayleng chio, not these chay gay. If I am not wrong, they call these cavendish overseas. During my growing up years, my dad would never buy these – he said that they were cold, bad for people with asthma and both my brother and I had that problem at the time.

Anyway, back to the ones my missus bought, every time I entered the kitchen, I would catch the over-ripe smell and I told her that she would have to eat them up quickly or she would end up throwing them all away.

A long long time ago, my missus used to bake the best cakes, using some special imported flour, SOFTASILK brand and Golden Churn butter, no less. I remember especially her apple sauce cake that was so very nice, her pride and joy that won the praises of all who had the opportunity to taste it. Unfortunately, one fine evening, while she was baking cookies for Chinese New Year, the oven decided to call it a day. I had to rush to the shop to buy a new one right away, a stand-up gas cooker and oven – a Zanussi Gas Burner Freestanding Cooker.

It turned out that the new one was not exactly the same – the heating in the oven was all at the bottom, no top part that could be turned on and off and the cakes my missus made using this one were far from satisfactory – the cookies turned out beautiful though! From that day onwards, she never ever baked cakes ever again.

Fast forward to the present, that day, left with no choice, she decided to bake a banana cake with those over-ripe bananas and they turned out great…

She used the Morgan mini-oven that I got in exchange for my credit card points sometime ago. We use it very frequently for this and that but no, she never tried baking cakes with it. I did try a slice and yes, it was very nice.

She also baked these banana bread buns…

…using the same oven and those turned out really good too.

In view of these successes, I suppose she may go back to baking cakes again when the festivals come around but of course, with the pandemic raging on and on like it will never ever ever end, it seems pretty obvious that there would not be anything to celebrate for a long long time to come.

Mine…

The other day, I commented on my blogger-friend’s post on the different varieties of hibiscus that she has. This was what I said: “Your flowers are so beautiful. I only have one variety of hibiscus, with blooms as big as a dinner plate except that mine is not so fertile, just the size of saucers or side plates for buns – I got it from my girl’s school in the jungle and for reasons unknown, it is flowering like crazy. Maybe I’ll take some photos and blog about it.” In response to her reply, “Yes, please show your flowers!“, that is exactly what I shall be doing today.

Like what I said in my comment, I only have one variety…

…with very big flowers. That was what attracted me to it when I saw it at my girl’s school in the jungle.

They have a very wide range of varieties there including these small ones…

…and these yellow ones…

…and they also have these two-in-one ones…

…that come in different colours…

Unfortunately, I was not into flowers at the time – I was only interested in planting things that I can use in my cooking, herbs and stuff like that.

But because of the size of the blooms…

…I could not resist taking a few cuttings home and simply poking them into the ground.

They grew and grew and other than dutifully watering them faithfully, I also did the weeding regularly but for reasons unknown, the flowers were not very big and few and far between. On a good day, I probably would get to see 5 or 6 of them only.

Lately, because of the pandemic, I do not like going out into the open and hanging around in my garden so much so I may not water the plants so often and the weeds are going out of control. Much to my surprise, my hibiscus began to flower with a vengeance…

Once, there were so many that it looked like a Christmas tree with red baubles from top to bottom. It sure was a sight to behold!

My sister, at one time, was into growing hibiscus – all the different varieties that she could lay her hands on. You can see some of them here. I don’t think she is so into it anymore these days but I believe she still has a few in her garden. These hibiscus plants are easy to grow and they last till like…forever!

1994…

In September that year, I was sent by the ministry on a 3-month “Management in TESL” course in the UK, the representative from Sarawak, together with the rest, one from each state, and an officer from the ministry

Upon arrival at Heathrow, we boarded a coach that took us all the way to Marjons, now the University College of St Mark & St John, Plymouth where we were put up in this very nice and comfortable accommodation in what they called a house…

…in the campus proper, five of us in each unit and we had a room each.

No, it wasn’t an all-paid-for holiday – there were lectures to attend, lots of assignments to do and a major one to be submitted and accessed at the end, presentations and what have you. They even had an external examiner come in from the University of Exeter and I was immensely delighted to receive his commendation of excellence out of so many of us in the group.

We did sneak off to London one weekend; imagine going all the way to the UK and coming home without even stepping in the city. I’m quite sure I did blog about it but I can’t seem to find the post now. Never mind! Perhaps I shall do another one some other day.

Other than that, on some of the weekends there, my coursemates and I would board a bus or rent a car to go to places close by, like Bristol and Bath…

…for instance, Warwick, Birmingham, St Ives, Land’s End and yes, I was glad we did make it to Stratford-Upon-Avon…

…especially when I was not just an English Language teacher but I also taught English Literature before I retired and yes, I did manage to drop by Oxford too.

Some weeks, on Fridays, after we were through with the lectures or whatever we had for the day, one of the lecturers or a member of the staff would pack us all into the college coaster to take us to some places of interest close by. Of course, the highlight was the one when we were taken to Sheepstor in Devon where the resting places of the White Rajahs of Sarawak are…

…and needless to say, I wasted no time at all in leaving my “footprint”…

…there.

As they say, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and yes, we did have a bit of fun dancing on a Saturday night at the Students’ Union and we organised a gathering where some of us cooked a few Malaysian dishes for everybody to enjoy – I proudly presented our Sarawak’s own daging masak hitam that everyone praised to the skies but I had to use the halal chicken from the continental shop in the city instead of beef (there were Indians with us) and I boiled a few eggs and threw them in (like those stewed eggs in stewed pork leg) to make sure there would be enough to go round and we had a sing-along session, with the lecturers playing their guitars, after that and yes, I had so much fun and such great memories with the mobile karaoke guys and the regulars at the pubs in the city on some nights. I bet they never had anybody like me coming their way since.

Towards the end of the course, around December, there was an International Night, a Christmas party that was a whole lot of fun and prior to leaving the UK, just before the temperatures dipped below 0°C, we invited our lecturers to lunch…

…at a lovely Indian restaurant in the city.

I had always wanted to go back to the UK again, if possible to Plymouth specifically, but after I retired in 2007, I had to be around and help take care of my bedridden mum and later, my dad too and of course, I had my chauffeur duties, driving my girl up and down when she was at her jungle school and it was not until the middle of 2019 that she got her transfer to a school in town and I thought that finally, at long last, I would be able to make the trip.

Unfortunately, the pandemic broke out in early 2020 and it is still raging on and on like it is never going to end – sad to say, it sure looks like this is one dream of mine that will never ever come true.

No difference…

The other day, when I was blogging about their butter crackers that my missus bought, I received a few comments on Facebook that gave me the impression that the crackers from this brand are generally quite popular and yes, I did like those too.

Well, now that I’ve finished all of those, I proceeded to the next one, this…

Golden crackers, they are called but if there was any difference in appearance from the butter ones, I sure did not notice it.

I tried it with peanut butter and butter…

…now that I’m staying off kaya (coconut jam) and fruit jam.

I don’t know if it was purely psychological because of the names but at first bite, I was not all that impressed. I thought it was not as creamy/rich and slightly saltier, not as fragrant nor flaky. If you are someone who would like to munch on something while working on your computer, this would be a good choice – I am quite sure you will not get the crumbs all over your keyboard.

Having said that, with the peanut butter and butter and dunking it in my coffee, in all fairness, I would add that it was all right. I wouldn’t say there was no difference because I actually thought that the butter ones were nicer.

There is still another one in their range – the cream crackers but I am not getting my hopes up too high. Those would most probably be the same, more and less and my favourite would still be Hup Seng’s (Ping Pong brand)

Whatever it is, I do feel that these somewhat savoury and not really sweet crackers would anytime be better than those sugar free, artificial sweetener-sweetened cookies. Just bear in mind what someone told me once that three pieces of these crackers is equivalent to one plate of rice – like what I always say, moderation is the key!

Same inside…

I don’t drop by my neighbourhood shops all that often these days because every morning, I would see a lot of people there buying their daily rations and I often wonder whether they are different people or the same ones each day. Probably they are those same customers who would prefer everything 100% fresh but at a time like this, I really think it would be best to go out once in a long while and stock up a lot of stuff in the fridge and in the house so one would not have to go out again for an extended period of time. #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

Anyway, I was in the vicinity one fine day, keeping my distance from every other fellow-human, when the son of the people at this shop…

Photo from Google Streetview

…spotted me and called out to me excitedly. Showing the image he had in his smartphone, he told me that the Thai pork sticks that I enjoyed a lot would be available and asked me to go back and buy in a day or two.

That was some two weeks ago, I think. I had not gone back there since but last Friday, he saw my missus when she was out to stock up on food and everything and she stopped by there. He quickly took out TWO packets of the aforementioned pork sticks…

…and insisted that she bought them, saying, “Your husband was looking for these that day!!!

These grilled Thai pork skewers or moo ping (หมูปิ้ง) have been renamed Thailand pork satay and even the packaging is a little different now but they are exactly the same inside and when I checked the name of the manufacturer at the back…

…it is those same people in Miri who were responsible for the ones I bought before.

The price has gone up a bit now, RM33.00 for a packet of 10 – it was RM29.00 when I bought it before so that works out to RM3.30 a stick but I do think it is worth it, considering its size and yes, it does taste really great…

After all, the chicken satay that we used to go for here

…was RM3.00 a stick and it was not so big and not as nice.

Incidentally, if you are going out to buy these Japanese yakitori (焼き鳥)-like skewers to enjoy, I suggest that you grill the number that you can eat each time and finish them off at one go. I found that when we reheated the leftover sticks later in the day, the meat became hard, something like bak kua (barbecued pork slices) and even though it was still nice, it just wasn’t the same anymore.

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.