Here and there…

It was my mother-in-law’s birthday on Sunday and we had a little celebration at their house on Satuday night, just the immediate family including my sister-in-law from Kuching and my brother-in-law and his wife from Bintulu plus the grandson from KL and the grand-daughter from Singapore.

In previous years, we would all go out to some restaurant outside but this year, my mother-in-law is no longer all that mobile and considering the hassle of getting her there just to eat and all the way back again, we decided to have the dinner at home instead.

My in-laws went and ordered a few dishes from here and there, including these Foochow sio bee (RM1.60 each)…

Hock Chiu Leu sio bee

…from here and also a few dishes from here, such as the sweet and sour fish fillet…

Sweet and sour fish fillet

…and these huge freshwater prawns (RM90.00)…

Freshwater prawns

…as well as the sea cucumber soup and my brother-in-law’s favourite egg omelette with lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and when they said that they paid RM150.00 for all those, I knew that most of that went to the prawns – those things are a killer really!

They also got the mee mamak and this curry bihun

Curry bihun

…from this restaurant but we did not go out to get anything as my missus said she would want to cook a few dishes of her own.

Her kacang ma chicken…

Kacang ma chicken

…was a hit all round and my mother-in-law especially enjoyed it so much! Unfortunately, like our daging masak hitam, it is not all that photogenic for any snapshot to do it much justice.

Her asparagus with sambal udang kering (dried prawns)…

Sambal asparagus

…were very nice too and she also cooked this chicken curry…

Chicken curry

…another of my in-laws’ favourites everytime they came to dinner at our house. At the end of the day, I would say that nothing beats one’s own home-cooked delights, that’s for sure.

It was a simple celebration, nothing grand but it was indeed most meaningful and an opportunity to get together with one’s loved ones to share the joy on a very special and auspicious occasion.

What did I do wrong…

Well, firstly, I did not pronounce it right.

I always called it “pho” as in Phong Hong…or when somebody throws a tile in mahjong and you have two identical ones in your hand, and you shout, “Phong!!!” and quickly grab that tile to form a set of three.

Then my girl told me it should have the f-sound as in philosophy…and I guess she knew better as she had a Vietnamese friend in Wellington with a Filipino wife and nothing beats getting it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. In fact, it is not even pronounced something like for – if you click this link to go to the website and click the listen link there, you will find that it sounds something like far, the intonation going a little upwards at the end. Ah well!!! Guess one is never too old to learn new things, right? LOL!!!

Now, some of you may recall that I did buy a packet of the dried flat rice noodles – the one in a green packet and I cooked that not too long ago. It turned out all right, not quite there but it was good enough. I did mention in that post that there is another brand being sold in town, in a red packet and I would want to buy that to try as well, and I did…

bánh phở 1

…and it’s a product of Vietnam…

product of Vietnam

…true and true. Of course, we do have dried versions of our own noodles at the shops too but some people would insist they would not be as nice as the fresh ones but when it comes to this bánh phở, we do not have any fresh ones so this will have to do.

I had a glimpse at the instructions at the back and it said to boil for 6 to 8 minutes. Boil! 6 to 8 minutes? Oh me! Oh my! No wonder the ones I bought and cooked before were not all that satisfactory, not really fine and smooth. I would just soak in hot water like what people usually do to soften bihun (rice vermicelli) prior to cooking. No wonder I thought it was not quite like hor fun or kway teow (flat rice noodles) and more like bihun.

So this time around, I did as instructed and after boiling, I rinsed in “fresh water” as stated in the instructions and loosened the strands before draining them well. Then, I added a bit of soy sauce, not too much as I did not want it too dark, a sprinkling of sugar (a teaspoon) and pepper…

With soy sauce, sugar and pepper

…and I mixed them altogether well.

These were the ingredients I prepared to fry the bánh phở

Ingredients

– sliced shallots and chili, chopped garlic and spring onions. sliced sausages and some fishballs.

I fried the shallots and garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown, added the chili and the sausages and fishballs and when they were good and ready, I put in the pre-seasoned bánh phở. Finally, I broke two eggs and mixed them well with everything in the wok before adding the spring onions and dishing everything out…

Fried bánh phở 1

There you are! It sure doesn’t look too bad, does it? Well, I would say it tasted very good too – maybe not all that salty enough but no, I would not want to add more soy sauce and get it all black. Perhaps a little salt would be fine but it was all right the way it was – I could enjoy the taste and fragrance of all the ingredients that went into the cooking and with my missus’ extra-hot blended chili dip, that sure gave it an extra kick.

I only cooked half of what was in the packet…

Fried bánh phở 2

…but when I get round to cooking the rest of it, I think I would check one of those pad thai recipes and get all the ingredients ready to cook it that way – hopefully, it will be just as nice as some that I’ve enjoyed so much at some Thai restaurants here and there.

The other end…

I think I’ve said this before – how I hate people telling others about something nice that they’ve eaten and they do not give the specific details or information so that they can go and try and enjoy too. Often, I would see people sharing a photograph of something that looks rather nice on Facebook and when somebody asks where they have eaten that, they would just give the name of the road or worse, the area. I just cannot understand why they bother sharing the photograph in the first place.

This was exactly what happened when I went looking for one and ended up at the wrong place. Somebody told somebody about what she ate somewhere that was very nice and that somebody told me about it and all the related information regarding the people and what not…but when it came to the coffee shop concerned, she just said she was told that it was in the block of shops at the other side of the Sibu Bus Terminal…

Sibu Bus Terminal

Yes, I do know that block of shops but there are at least 8 coffee shops altogether, or 7, as there is one that occupies two shoplots and I really do not see any difficulty at all in remembering and telling people the name of the shop…

Ak Kia Kopitiam 1

Ak Kia or duckling, in Hokkien but don’t ask me why it is thus named as I really do not know.

This time around, I did not have a problem as the nice guy at the wrong shop that I went to told me specifically which one it was – the one at the other end…

Ak Kia Kopitiam 2

…just around 100 metres from this hotel…

Li Hua Hotel II

– the very first shop in the block, if you are coming from that direction.

Yes, the person in question did say that the coffee was very nice and yes, indeed it was, the kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) that I had…

Ak Kia Kopitiam kampua kopi-o-peng

There is a kampua mee stall in the front portion of the shop…

Ak Kia Kopitiam kampua mee stall

…but we did not order anything from there as we went there for the sole purpose of trying what the person was praising to the skies, the KL Hokkien mee (RM5.50)…

AK Kia Kopitiam KL Hokkien mee 1

For the uninitiated, there is a difference between KL Hokkien mee and Singapore Hokkien fried mee and the Penang one which is actually the Penang prawn noodles or har mee like the one here that I particularly enjoy.

Like most, if not all, coffee shops in our town, they give you the spoons and chopsticks dipped in hot boiling water, the one here in a stainless steel canister, but unlike elsewhere, here, they gave us the sliced fresh chili and a bottle of the dark soy sauce for us to add ourselves…

Chili and soy sauce

The mee was the big, firmer one that one would find in KL Hokkien mee over in the peninsula , not the regular not-so-yellow noodles that we have here and yes, there were the crusts from the melted pork fat…or pork rind…

Pork rind

…and there were some tiny shrimps in it too…

Shrimps

…other than the meat and the cabbage.

So what did I think of it? Well, I must say it…

Ak Kia Kopitiam KL Hokkien mee 2

…was nicer than what I had here (cooked by some guy from Penang) or here though I did think it could do with a little stronger wok hei fragrance and maybe a little bit more garlic…and perhaps they could simmer it a little bit more to reduce the amount of gravy/sauce and make it thicker.

I would agree with my missus when she said that it was very nice but at the end of the day, she would still enjoy our own Foochow fried noodles a lot more…which, incidentally, is comparatively cheaper.

Bring me to life…

My blogger-friend, Phong Hong, blogged about her “horny” plant here. Horns? I have that same plant in my house compound but I ain’t seen no horns in mine. Well, I guess that comes as no surprise as mine was half-dead, only the wood was left but thank goodness, with a little bit of effort and tender loving care, I managed to bring it back to life…

Flowering

No, I did not do very much actually, just regular watering and weeding and I did add a bit of fertiliser to the soil. If I am not mistaken, people call this Fook Kui Hua and it is believed to bring good luck. Hmmm….now that it is thriving pretty well, I sure am waiting for that to happen.

My daum kesum

Daun kesum

…is growing very well now too, nice big leaves and yes, I did fertilise the soil around it a bit too…and so are my Thai basil plants…

Thai basil

…my serai (lemon grass), kunyit (turmeric), curry leaves, pandan (screwpine) and yes, I do plant a lot of spring onions too, more than I need actually but it sure is good to have things growing in one’s own garden that I can just go and pluck as and when I need any instead of having to go all the way to the market to get some. For one thing, they will sell in bulk, like say RM1.00 worth of spring onions, and when I only need a little bit, the rest would go into the fridge and eventually, it will wither and end up being thrown away. What a waste!

I don’t know what this is…

Hard as stone

My missus got the plant from her sister-in-law who told her that they were good for people suffering from breast cancer, not that any of us needs any, touch wood! They’re as hard as stones and my missus did pluck some once and boiled but the water was quite tasteless. Maybe that was not the way, we wouldn’t know.

I can’t say that our mulberry plants are flourishing but they are doing all right and yes, they do bear fruit…

Mulberry

…regularly so my missus has a constant supply for her to make her drinks.

We do have a few ornamental plants around as well…

Leaves

…most of them in pots, and these purple butterfly-like leaves…

Butterfly leaves

…were almost all gone at one time. I saw a few tiny ones left in the pot but like the Fook Kui Hua, I managed to give it the attention due and revive it as well.

I noticed that the flowers close at night and they bloom again…

Butterfly leaves, flower

…once the sun comes up and like the sunflower, they will follow the direction of the sun.

I guess plants are like humans too – you can’t just plant them and leave them to survive on their own in the sun and the rain. They do need some care and attention as well.

I did it all…

I love the Bintangor lady’s popiah (spring rolls) here, the ones that are available on weekends only, Saturday and Sunday. She calls them Kuching popiah though I would not say hers is anything like what I have had in the state capital. It does not seem to have much else inside other than the sengkuang or what we call mangkuang (turnip or jicama) here and a bit of our local lettuce plus a whole lot of crushed peanuts and what tasted like the very nice Bintangor rojak sauce.

Of course, it is nothing like what we used to make in our family, my mum and my maternal aunties but there is a problem getting fresh popiah skin here and we are not fond of the ones sold in packets in the supermarkets so that is why I am quite reluctant to make any of my own. Probably the last time I had some fresh popiah skin at hand was in 2010 and I did blog about it here and here or maybe, I did do it another time after that but I don’t remember exactly when now.

Ah yes!!! There was that one time when my sister bought some from a lady selling tofu at the Sibu Central Market and asked me to make for the family. She had to make a booking the day before and go and collect the next morning – and that is the part that I do not like. Who knows what may crop up the next day and one would not be able to go and collect or perhaps I would change my mind and decide not to make any popiah after all?

Well, the other morning, I went to the market. I don’t know what made me do it but I did and I went and asked at the tofu stalls which one of them sold freshly-made popiah skin. Having identified her, I went and asked if she had any popiah skin for sale and she told me she did not have any there but if I could wait, she would call home and get them to send over…and that was what she did and I went home happily with the skin and all the ingredients that I had bought in the meantime to make the popiah.

Of course, there must be the turnip…

Mangkuang

…which I grated manually using a grater. Most people these days would probably use a food processor but when I was little, I used to help my mum cut it real fine, so very thinly, with a knife!

Well, that was exactly what I did with the French beans…

French beans

You may use long beans instead but some people say the popiah tastes nicer with French beans and anyway, there was a big bag of those in the fridge so I used them instead, painstakingly slicing each bean one by one as thinly as I could.

Next, I went on to prepare the other ingredients needed to cook the filling…

Other ingredients for cooking the filling

…starting with the garlic (bottom left), finely chopped, and going anti-clockwise, I had some minced meat, prawns that I had cut into tiny cubes (not minced), a bit of carrot that I also found in the fridge, mainly for the colour and some tau kua (bean curd cakes), also cut into little cubes.

It seems that these days, they do sell those tau kua, pre-fried, at 70 sen each so if you want to cut and stuff them with meat to cook the very nice soup, you can buy these instead of having to go through the chore of doing it yourself. I only bought those because I thought the light brown outer layer would add a little bit of colour to the filling. In the old days, the tau kua was yellow on the outside but there was this piece of news going round then that the colouring used was harmful to health so it was banned and since then, our tau kua has always been…white.

To cook the filling, I fried the garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown and then I added the prawns and the meat and after that, the French beans and the carrot went in. Once done, the tau kua and the turnip followed and for the seasoning, I added fish sauce and pepper…and very soon, it was done…

Popiah filling

I also had to prepare the ingredients needed for the wrapping of the popiah

Other ingredients

– the blended chili with garlic and lime (top right) and going clockwise, some lettuce, thinly-sliced omelette, crushed peanuts and this sweet glue-like stuff that we use to stick down the edges of the skin.

They do not sell the very nice Sibu-made khong th’ng anymore so I just had to use the kacang tumbuk (crushed peanut cakes) sold at the supermarket instead and to make that glue-like stuff, I was supposed to caramelise some sugar in low heat till brown in  colour, add water and corn starch to thicken it but I took the short cut and used gula Melaka (brown palm sugar) instead. Hehehehehe!!!

You may go in any order when you wrap the popiah but usually, I would apply the chili first, and then the egg and the filling would go on top, after which, I would sprinkle the crushed peanuts all over them and place a piece of lettuce over it. Once I had applied the glue-like stuff all along the edge of the popiah skin, I would roll it up and it was done.

If you are wondering what the end product looked like, here’s a cross-section of one that I made…

My popiah 1

…that day. Nice, eh?

There were a few left over by tea time that afternoon and I found that the skin was not so nice anymore after having been left exposed like that. It became kind of tough and rubbery so I deep-fried them…

My popiah, deep fried

…and yes, it was very nice after that!

But of course, deep frying is not all that healthy even though it does bring the taste to a whole new level so it would be best to sit down as soon as everything is ready, wrap and eat the popiah fresh…

My popiah 2

…and not leave them till later.

For one thing, I found that it was really hard work – so many things to do and I did it all by myself and perhaps owing to my old age, it was kind of tiring and I surely would think twice should another instant of temporary insanity ever threaten to possess me again.

Well, if anyone is interested in ordering the popiah skin, the lady’s telephone contact is 019-9733 728 and her stall is by one of the pillars somewhere in the middle of the tofu and taugeh stalls at the market or you can always do what I did – ask!

Same old place…

We went around town just about every morning last week for brunch but generally, we just dropped by the same old places for whatever my girl would fancy, things she had eaten before and enjoyed very much like the mee mamak (RM4.00)…

Friends Kopitian mee mamak

here.

I had my usual kopi-o-peng

Friends Kopitian kopi-o-peng

…which looked really good, froth and all but I thought it was just ok, I’ve had better at a few other places around town.

I did not like the ang tao cendol with sian chao (grass jelly) the last time and this time around, I decided to give it another try – just the ang tao (red bean) with a special request for extra santan (coconut milk)…

Friends Kopitian ang tao peng 1

…and yes, it was very good, cukup lemak (rich enough) and the green pandan juice…

Friends Kopitian ang tao peng 2

…sure helped enhance the taste a lot more. However, it fell short on one thing – the sugar syrup. I would have given it full marks if they had used gula Melaka (palm sugar) instead and that too would bring the taste to a whole new level, of that I am very sure.

Going back to the kopi-o-peng, this is one place that I feel has pretty good ones and yes, we did go back there again that day so my girl could get to enjoy the prawn noodles…

Bus Terminal Food Court Penang prawn noodles

mee and bihun mixed, the way they do it over in the peninsula.

Of course, like on the previous occasions, I asked for the fried wanton to be served separately…

Bus Terminal Food Court fried wantons

…not immersed in the soup, and I did ask for extra to go with my kway teow th’ng

Bus Terminal Food Court kway teow th'ng

…that I had that day and enjoyed very much.

This was another place that we went to but no, we did not go for the popiah (spring rolls) as it was not on a Saturday or Sunday – she only opens on weekends. My girl enjoyed the sambal bihun

Jiali sambal bihun 1

…there and wanted to have that again and yes, I still think it was tang hoon (glass noodles)…

Jiali sambal bihun 2

…and not bihun (rice vermicelli) and yes, it was very nice.

My missus wanted to try some black vinegar noodles or whatever and got this…

Jiali lakia mee

…eventually. She asked the boy what that was and he replied, “Lakia mee (Dayak noodles)!”, our local version of the mee memak which is fried noodles, dry, with chili…and at some places, they have belacan (dried prawn paste) in it as well. I don’t know what got lost in translation but it was all right – the lakia mee was pretty good too.

I did not feel like having noodles that day so I had this (RM7.50)…

Jiali rice and braised meat & egg

– (chicken) rice with braised duck and pork and egg. It was all right, not bad, but I felt it was kind of watered down…

Jiali Briased meat and egg platter

I would prefer it darker and stronger and the duck was a little bit tough so let’s just say that it wasn’t anything I would be dying to have again.

The week-long Hari Raya holidays for all schools here ended on Sunday and we had to send my girl back to hers in the jungle before classes resumed on Monday. It’s no matter though – time flies and it’s Friday again! She’ll be home again today, this afternoon. Yipeeee!!!

Sorry…

Last week, we went back to this place (2.305823,111.84837)…

One o One Cafe

…in the Sibu Bus Terminal commercial area because my girl wanted to have the chap fan (mixed rice) again but they said, sorry, they were not having it that day. As a matter of fact, they were not having it the whole week as it was the school holidays and there were also the public holidays in conjunction with Hari Raya Puasa.

It must be very popular, I think, as when we were there, there were other people who came in groups, probably colleagues, from the office but they all went away, disappointed. It did not matter so much to us as we did not mind ordering from their regular menu and while we were waiting, I was kind of tickled by this…

Drunk

I don’t think I saw that before.

You can help yourself to all the sauces and freshly-cut chili you want here…

Sauce & chili corner

…and of course, my missus made a beeline to the corner to help herself to her heart’s delight.

She had the Foochow fried noodles (RM4.00)…

One o One Foochow fried noodles

…and yes, it was very nice. It actually surprised me somewhat that despite being a much nicer place, definitely not your regular coffee shop kind of place, the price was the same as many around town and unlike many of those, this one had a lot of meat and vegetables in it.

My girl wanted the salted fish fried rice (RM7.50)…

One o One salted fish fried rice 1

…that had, other than the bits of salted fish, chopped char siew, sausage and what not in it and it was served with a bit of cincaluk (fermented shrimps)…

One o One salted fish fried rice 2

…but the serving was too big for her to manage so she only ate around 75% of it – she’s such a small eater, she is.

I ordered the liver soup (RM9.90)…

One o One liver soup

…to share. It came in a huge bowl and I was quite put off by the sight of it. There was minced meat in it and egg that probably made the soup kind of murky unlike the very nice one that we had here so I did not expect it to be any good. However, we were all pleasantly surprised when we tried as it was very very much to our liking – very strong on the ginger and with lots of the traditional Foochow red wine, just as nice as the one at the other place – one little bowl for RM3.50 – or maybe even nicer and my missus declared that it was so good, just as good as when she cooked it. Hmmmm…I guess she meant her egg drop soup with the red wine for mee sua – we never have liver at home. Hehehehehe!!!

I asked for the kolo mee (RM5.00)…

One o One kolo mee 1

…and the young and handsome waiter asked if I wanted the flat noodles (mee pok) and I said ok and then he asked if I wanted it red (with char siew oil) and again, I said yes. Sometimes I can be quite a good customer, not at all fussy or difficult. Wink! Wink!

Like all our other orders, it was very nice…

One o One kolo mee 2

…though like the fried rice, the serving was a bit too big even for me but with a little bit of effort, I did manage to finish it all.

We certainly enjoyed our brunch there and yes, we will be back again…and if you are interested to know what else they serve here, you can click this link here or this one here to have a look at a few options other than those mentioned above.