Overnight…

The other day, I blogged about how my girl cooked pek koi (white rice cake) and after that, I noticed that there was a little bit left, sitting there on the kitchen counter looking at me day in and day out and of course, I had the urge to take what was left and cook it and be done with it. The problem was I did not know how to go about it.

I think I did try once a long long time ago and it was hard so I had to just get rid of it. Yes, I heard, since time immemorial, that the rice cake must be soaked overnight and I think I did that then. I hear that these days, there are brands that do not need soaking and I did not know if this was one of them or not. I went and googled – some said overnight, some said two hours, some said use warm water, one just poured it from the pack into the pan (I think she used a Korean brand) and one boiled it first.

In the end, I decided to just do it my way. I soaked it in boiling water…

Soaking

…for sometime but when I found that the slices had gone all sticky, though still hard and were sticking together, I changed the water quickly, using room temperature water this time around and I peeled the slices apart. I waited and nothing seemed to be happening…and I changed the water a few times. Eventually they did seem softer so I drained away the water and repeated the boiling water routine another time.

My girl fried hers with those canned clams in soy sauce like how I would fry bihun sometimes – some of the shops do it that way too so I decided I would do it differently even though I still have 5 cans of the clams in the pantry.

I drained the pek koi well and tossed it in dark soy sauce, adding a sprinkling of sugar to counter-balance the saltiness. I also got the other ingredients…

Ingredients

…ready – some prawns, six cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped, one chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced and some chives that I found in the fridge, cut into short strips. Later I decided to add a bit of my girl’s skinny wild onions and I cut them into short strips like the chives too and I was ready to roll!

I fried the garlic in oil till golden brown before adding the chili and the prawns. Once the prawns were cooked, I threw in the chives and the wild onions and then, I added the pek koi. Once I felt it had been fried enough, I broke an egg into the pan and mixed everything together well.

After stirring for a bit, I dished everything out onto a plate…

My char pek koi

There wasn’t all that much left – enough for one serving so I decided not to eat it and saved it for my girl for her breakfast when she woke up that morning – she loves pek koi! Usually she does not eat that much in the morning but this was the exception to the rule – nothing left for me to pao boi (finish what’s left) when I came in after my gardening that morning.

I did try a couple of slices and yes, it was very very nice – nicer than at the shops and stalls and one thing I noticed was that after cooking, the pek koi had gone softer, just the right texture. I think I’ll grab another pack the next time I go out and I’ll give this one more try…but of course, I must soak it overnight the next time around!

Incidentally, I bought those prawns from the sellers by the side of the building where this hotel is located and they were really fresh, so very nice. They had two types, one Mukah prawns that looked a little smaller and were quite colourless, selling for RM35.00 a kilo and the other, bigger and reddish, at RM30.00 a kilo. They said those were “sea prawns” and for reasons unknown, they did not seem keen on getting me to buy those so I bought the Mukah ones and I sure was glad I did!

Safe at home…

Sunday was 1 Syawal, Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Every year, my cousin and his family would invite all of us to his open house but unfortunately, under the current circumstances, we felt it would be best to just sit this one out – #staysafe #stayhome. Hopefully, we can go back to our usual routine next year. We had a lot of leftovers in the fridge that morning so I insisted that we finished everything and we would decide later what we would have for dinner.

We have not been going to church at all ever since the MCO/partial lockdown started in mid-March but we have been following the services online – we usually go for the ones from the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore. I don’t know whose voice that is but he sounds like Brian Richmond from the good ol’days of the infamous Patrick Teoh, Bernard Salosa and all the rest.

Well, that day, we participated in the service at around 12.00 noon and halfway through, my brother-in-law dropped by. One good thing about these online masses is you can click PAUSE and continue when everybody is ready. My missus went out to see and jokingly, I told my girl, “God has sent us our dinner!!!” True enough, he brought us some of the things that my sister-in-law’s Malay friends gave her for Hari Raya.

There was kelupis (glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves) and peanut satay sauce…

Kelupis & satay sauce

…and roti canai and chicken curry…

Roti canai & chicken curry

…and there were these very nice cakes too…

Cakes

My friend, Cikgu Siti, must have given my sister some kelupis too and she gave us one…

More kelupis

She also sent over some of the stuff from my aforementioned cousin and his wonderful wife. There was this chicken curry and some fried noodles…

Mee goreng & more chicken curry

…and ketupat lemak and some cakes as well…

Ketupat lemak and more cakes

…and this fried popiah rolls and maruku combo…

Fried popiah & maruku

…which was so very nice that by the time I was ready to take the photographs or everything, this was all that was left!

We could not share the joy of the festive season in person but we sure can celebrate together in spirit. Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri Maaf Zahir Dan Batin to one and all! God bless always in the year ahead!

Come on in…

FINALLY…after over two months, Payung Café decided to open its doors and resume business again. Come on in, everybody!

No, I did not rush there right away to enjoy all the dishes that I loved so well but I did have the intention of ordering some of them to takeaway and enjoy eating them at home even though I do feel everything is best eaten on the spot, piping hot from the stove.

As far as I know, they did carry out a thorough disinfecting process prior to reopening and as for social distancing, that place was never really crowded, anyway and the tables are few and far apart – their big tables for six would be just right for four, if you stick to the 2-metre rule and if you have more than four, you can always ask them to join the tables, no problem at all – plenty to go round.

I also heard that they now open at 8.30 a.m. (usually, 9.30-10.00 a.m.) and they do open on Sundays, formerly their off day. Like before, lei cha is served every Friday and they may have it on other days as well, depending on the demand but what caught my attention was their Facebook post last Friday regarding their chicken biryani. Varun, their authentic North Indian chef, did give us a tub when he dropped by our house during Chinese New Year and we loved it, my girl especially. Of course, we could not eat that on our no-meat day, Friday so I reserved sets for three (RM20.00 each) and collected them the next day, Saturday.

When I opened the tub with the rice…

Payung chicken biryani rice

…the overwhelming fragrances of the exotic spices used in the cooking blew me away!

It came with this chicken dish…

Chicken for the biryani rice

…which looked like curry but was not curry. It had its own taste and had a whole lot of cashew nuts in the gravy and yes, it was so very nice!

The chicken biryani came with these two accompaniments…

Shorba & mint chutney

…the shorba and the mint chutney. The former is a nutty vegetarian lentil soup and we all enjoyed it though I was of the feeling that the chicken dish was quite enough to go with the rice.

The ladies loved the mint chutney which was on the sourish side and actually, my missus says she prefers the biryani rice here. I would say they are different – both good in their own ways, my girl said and anytime nicer than those thus named at the Malay shops and stalls. Well, like I always say, to each his or her own!

Yes, all in all, we did enjoy our lunch and there was so much of everything that we had the same for dinner that evening! Of course, if we were to have it there, one look at it…

Payung Cafe's chicken biryani with shorba & mint chutney

…would sweep us off our feet already even before we start eating it. Somehow or other, a lovely presentation does help in making a dish a lot more enjoyable.

I did hear some talk about them having this as a weekend special and yes, that would be very nice – available on Saturdays and maybe, Sundays as well and leave Fridays to those lei cha lovers, present company not included, thank you very much! LOL!!!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

It’s not right for you…

I dropped by this bakery in town to buy their pineapple cookies…

Big Thumb ong lai ko

At one time, people coming back from Taiwan would cart boxes and boxes home to give to family and friends. I used to buy a lot of those too once, come every Chinese New Year, as it would be an auspicious gift for the occasion, ong meaning king or good luck in Hokkien and ong lai (pineapple) seems to denote that the (Heavenly) King  or good luck is coming. I guess that is why they call it…

Prosperity cookies

However, when I got home, I noticed that there was no halal logo on the box which would mean that it would not be right to give it to my Muslim relatives and friends for Hari Raya. In the end, I decided to just keep the boxes that I had bought to eat myself or give to some other people.

I asked the lady how many there were inside and she said they were 6, 6 big ones and she added that they do not make the small ones anymore…

Big and small

I was not sure how big the big ones were but since she said that, I guessed I had no choice and bought the number of boxes that I wanted. They are RM18.00 a box now – it used to be around RM10.00 when they first came into the scene. Obviously, good luck comes at a price, not something cheap and definitely not for free.

When I opened a box, much to my delight, there were these small ones…

Small ones

…inside and yes, they were still very nice but no, they looked very different from when they first started making them in 2014 or maybe, those were the big ones, I wouldn’t know.

The pastry was nice and crumbly and the pineapple jam filling was moist, not hard and dry…

Lovely pastry and jam filling

I suppose if I am not giving them to anybody, I can just enjoy these myself slowly – at that price, I don’t think I shall, for no obvious reason, be buying them again.

BIG THUMB BAKERY (2.293889, 111.826492) is located at No.71-73, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

Easier that way…

When I shared the photograph of my pulut hitam (black glutinous rice) dessert…

Pulut hitam dessert

…that day, a number of people were keen on knowing how to cook it.  Well, there’s nothing to it, really – it is so very easy and of course, it is a lot easier using a slow cooker instead of boiling and having to keep vigil at all times.

I had a look at this video clip on Youtube for a rough idea as to how to go about it. The guy said he was cooking one cup for one serving and since there were four of us that day, I cooked two cups and ended up with enough to feed an army. One cup is more than enough unless you are going to feed a multitude of 5,000! LOL!!!

It is best to soak the rice overnight…

Soak the rice

…but I forget to do that so I did what the guy said and soaked it for 3-4 hours when I got up that morning.

You will need some pandan leaves, knotted and sugar – I decided to use gula Melaka this time around in the hope that it will give it that distinct peranakan/nyonya dessert taste…

Pandan & gula Melaka

I only added a bit as I did not want it to be too sweet – you may add double that amount if you would like it sweeter. I also added around a teaspoon of salt, like what the guy did, though I do not know exactly why. LOL!!!

I drained the rice and rinsed it well and then, I put everything in the slow cooker, added a whole lot of water (like cooking porridge) and turned it on…

Cook in slow cooker

The guy in the video cooked his over a gas stove and he said that would take around an hour.

I went outside to do my gardening, my usual morning routine and when I came back inside around 2-3 hours later, it was done…

Pulut hitam, cooked

…all nicely swollen and bloated up. In some video clips that I saw, they suggested adding cornflour to thicken the soup. God forbid! It was thick enough as it was – I guess it must be the starchiness from the pulut.

If you want to serve it as a dessert at a party, lunch of dinner, you can add the santan (c0c0nut milk) just before you serve it, like what I did, so it will look nicer. Do not add too early as the soup may absorb the santan and it will end up looking kind of blotted.

However, if you are cooking it for your own home consumption, you can add the santan right away, half a can should be enough, mix well and it will look like this…

Pulut hitam, santan added

It did not taste any different from the last time I cooked it using regular cane sugar or if it did, I really could not tell.

See! I told you there’s nothing to it, so very easy to cook…and if I can do it, so can you.

Black…

When I stopped by my neighbourhood shop/mini-supermarket that day and bought the box of dates from Tunisia, the lady boss of the fruit and food shop at the far end in the other block of shops there happened to drop by as well. When she saw me, she said there were packed dishes available at her shop and asked me to go over and have a look.

I bought the beef rendang from those people here not too long ago but we did not think it was all that nice, definitely not something we would want to buy again. This time around, I saw that there was curry but it did not look all that nice either. The boss suggested that but I told him that in my opinion, we would be able to cook better. I did not want the stewed pork as well – we can cook our own too – but I do think it would be nice to have that with mantao.

That left me with just one more choice – the black vinegar pork leg/trotter. I had that the first time when my good friend, Lim’s wife just gave birth and the confinement lady cooked that. Not to be outdone, my missus went and cooked that soon after and yes, she could do it very well – hers was just as nice or maybe even better! Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, she never cooked it again. In the meantime, I had had it here and there – there are people selling it at a few places around town.

Well, after seeing what zmun2 had and drooling all over hers, in the end, I simply could not resist buying a tub (RM30.00)…

Black vinegar pork leg

– at least, that would save my missus the trouble of having to cook something for a day.

It did not look like a lot, not quite enough for two meals – lunch and dinner so I boiled some eggs…

Eggs

…to stew in the sauce when heating up the dish. See my nicely-peeled eggs, Phong Hong! LOL!!!

Yes, there was just enough…

Black vinegar pork leg with stewed eggs

…for our lunch and our dinner that day and yes, I did enjoy it very much. It was a little on the sweet side and I thought it could do with a little bit more black vinegar but on the whole, it was quite all right the way it was. I sure would not mind buying that again the next time I see it at the shop.

OPPS KOPITIAM (2.294073, 111.827333) is located off Jalan Keranji, among the shops opposite the Sibu Public Library while 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. Kim Tak Co. and Ah Kau Cafe are located in the other block on the left.

I can’t believe my eyes…

Way back in the 80’s, before my girl came along, my missus and I went on a tour to the countries in the Far East – Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. One of the places we went to in Japan was Kobe and we were told that we must not miss eating their Kobe beef – they said it was so very nice, so very tender and came from cows fed with beer! It was not cheap, of course, but we tried, anyway, though I do not recall it sweeping us off our feet.

There also seems to be a lot of excitement around about angus beef too (often misspelt, it seems). They have that here

Bistecca & Bistro sign
*2014 photo*

…still, I think but I have never ordered that as it does not come cheap – this small piece of air-flown Australian beef sirloin with truffle pumpkin mash…

Beef sirloin

…that I had at another place, since-closed-down was a whooping RM42.90 and it wasn’t even angus! Thankfully, that was a special treat from a friend.

Then, wagyu came along and took the world by storm but I read somewhere that it is actually Kobe beef, nothing new! They were selling it at this since-closed-down supermarket

Country Grocer wagyu beef

…for RM60-RM80 a piece, palm size. Shudders!!! Of course, I did not buy any to try, no, thank you!

That was why I couldn’t believe my eyes that morning when I saw these…

Wagyu beef

…at the supermarket (that sells a whole lot of imported stuff) where I got my butter. A pack of two huge slabs selling for between RM20 and RM28.00, is unbelievably cheap! One slab is only RM10-RM14, around what you would have to pay at a coffee shop stall or one of those cheaper cafés and it is not even some very nice beef, dry and hard, as tough as leather and more often than not, drowned with bottled black pepper sauce, not something I would enjoy.

I shared the above photograph on Facebook and somebody commented that it did not look anything like wagyu. “Oh?” I responded, “No streaks of fat?” but he never replied after that. I went and goggled and got this…

Wagyu beef varieties

The one on the extreme right with those streaks of fat is UK’s WagyuFortnum’s Japanese wagyu, the middle one is purebred wagyu from Earl Stonham, also in the UK and the one on the left is crossbred from Ifor Welsh’s wagyu. I guess the Australian ones are more like the latter.

Of course I was thrilled and I quickly grabbed a few packs and headed home. That was on Saturday, May 16th – Teachers’ Day and I told my girl we would have that for lunch the next day. She asked if we could invite my sister to join us and I said, “Of course!” She contacted her and when she asked what the occasion was, my girl told her that it was to celebrate Teachers’ Day. LOL!!!

My missus did most of the cooking (except the mashed potatoes – my girl did that) and she read somewhere that the meat must be defrosted in the vacuum pack and must not be taken out till it was time to cook it. Normally, we would defrost any meat and marinate for a while before cooking. Well, that was what she did, just simply rubbed salt and pepper and some herbs (rosemary), no marinating, and pan-grilled the slabs with cloves of garlic in butter…

Pan-grilled Aussie wagyu

No, we’re no beef connoisseurs and did not bother about all that rare, medium rare and well done hoo-ha. My missus would never touch meat that is still red, not fully cooked and we were fine with it being well done…

Aussie wagyu, well done

When I had my first bite, I was stunned. It was so very nice, tender enough and the taste was absolutely out of this world – not quite like beef like I’ve always known it to taste like. Never mind even if it was like what that guy said – it did not look anything like wagyu, it was so so so delicious!

We had this mushroom soup…

Mushroom soup

…that my missus cooked as well and I bought these garlic buns…

Garlic buns

…from one of the bakeries in town.

My sister stopped by that same supermarket on the way to our house to buy this…

Ice cream

…which we had for dessert. It tastes like those fresh strawberry ice cream in New Zealand or Cameron Highlands, nothing like the regular supermarket strawberry ones…and this one is yogurt ice cream so it is on the sourish side. The ladies loved it!

After that most delightful lunch, I logged into Facebook to share a photograph of what we ate and I said it was so very nice that I would make my way back to the supermarket to grab some more of the beef! Unfortunately, a friend commented and said that after seeing my Facebook post, she went and bought the last two packs! Another said that when she saw it, she asked the hubby to go right away and grab a few packs. Another friend said he got two and another one as well…and I don’t know who else. Gee!!! No wonder it was all sold out so quickly!

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.