Reminisce…

I wonder how many of you have heard of this song by Crystal Gayle with Gary Morris. It is one of my favourite songs by the country singer and I feel it is just perfect for a cold, quiet night…but anyway, this post is not going to be about the song or some past romantic memory of mine. It’s just that when Stella was in Kuching over the weekend, everybody got together at one place and it made me reminisce of how it was in my younger days.

Way back then, my grandma lived in the kampung with two unmarried aunties and very often, one of them would telephone asking us to go over that Saturday or Sunday afternoon to eat “that thing” as they had managed to get hold of some good “beletak” (raw), usually from Dalat or one of those towns downriver. Very often, these sessions were arranged to coincide with Gerrie’s father’s monthly business trips to Sibu as he really enjoyed them so much and always looked forward to them. So there we would all converge on the stipulated day and time at the kampung house…

Kampung house

What I am talking about here is “linut” but it appeared that they had a pantang or superstition which prohibited them from saying that name. “Linut” is a glue-like thing that you get when you pour boiling water into sago starch (the beletak). By itself, it is quite tasteless but you roll it around the fork and dip it in the special sambal with belacan, asam paya

Asam paya
Photo from http://www.flickr.com

…ginger and wild boar soup. That, of course, meant that somebody would have to go to town to see Kenyap – the man selling wild boar meat at the market and cook it earlier…and there would be the soy sauce variety as well.

The others would not come empty-handed and everyone would prepare something for the gathering. If they could get hold of some unripe buah emplam

Buah emplam

…then there would be this sambal made from the fruit…

Sambal buah emplam

…or perhaps somebody would prepare this sambal timun (cucumber)…

Sambal timun

…or if it was the fruit season, then most likely, there would be buah dabai (black olives) to be eaten with the sauce from buduk aur (fermented fish in a salty dark sauce)…

Buah dabai
Photo from Gundot

Or if somebody had tempuyak (fermented durian), it would be served as a dip for ikan pusu/bilis (dried anchovies)…

Tempuyak and ikan pusu

Somebody might decide to cook terung dayak (Dayak brinjal) with udang galah (freshwater prawns) or ikan buris (freshwater fish) or the latter with daun bandung (tapioca leaves) or paku (wild jungle fern) and baby corn. It did not matter actually as there would be all the ulams, the sagu’ (toasted sago pellets), the salai ikan (smoked dried fish) etc…etc…etc… There would be SO many things to eat that one would be spoilt for choice! But still, each person would bring something probably because it was the tradition or considered rude to go empty-handed.

So everybody would sit on the floor and eat to their hearts’ contents, sharing the latest gossips and chatting away happily…and black coffee would be served. At the end of it all, everyone must eat a little bit of rice; from what I gathered, it was another pantang or superstition for fear that the rice would get offended and henceforth, the family would not have any rice to eat.

Then everyone would adjourn to the living room where my grandma and the daughters would sit on the floor to eat sirih and buah pinang (betel nut) and smoke the self-rolled tobacco in a thin piece of paper that they pulled out of a small pack like tissue paper…and the chatting continued.

I would be horizontal by then, lying on the sofa…which, after all the torture over the years, gave way eventually and called it a day! ROTFLMAO!!! Those were the days…..

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I should be so lucky…

I featured a coffee shop with a not-so-ordinary name in a recent post and in this one, I have a couple more. Firstly, there is this one…

Sibu shop signs - all luck

I went there once in January with Alex (jeinster.com) to meet a few other bloggers including Clare. You can read about that in her post about it. Unfortunately, it did nothing to change my luck…and I am still waiting for the day when I will strike it rich at TOTO or one of the rest. Maybe I should go there more regularly…

Then, there is a new coffee shop right next to it and boy, what a name!…

Sibu's shop signs - Coffee Castle

It certainly seemed to be enjoying pretty good business though, but I went there on a Sunday morning when coffee shops will usually be bustling with activity…

Sibu's Coffee Castle - crowded

There is the mandatory kampua stall in front which also sells Sarawak laksa and there is a stall at the back that serves Western cuisine like pancake or French toast with eggs, pasta and so on as well as local fare such as char kway teow…which was what I had that day…

Coffee Castle's char kway teow

Here’s a close-up view at what was under the egg…

Coffee Castle's char kway teow 2

It was ok but nothing sensational. That cost RM3.50…and for 50 sen more, I would rather head to Happy Hours Cafe, which I have mentioned in a post sometime ago for this bowl of clear fish soup mihun

Happy Hours' clear fish soup mihun

Daryl has posted on something that is, in my opinion, somewhat similar, so if you are interested, you can click on this link to go and have a look. What I had that day was very nice, with the fragrance of ginger and Foochow ang-chiew (red wine). This is also available in tom yam soup at the same price, or you may want to have either one of the two versions with freshwater prawns (udang galah) instead of fish at double the price – RM8.00. This particular stall is doing very well and that, I guess, speaks volumes about the taste of what they have to offer. I think I will be going there again one of these days to try the other options. Do stick around…!!!

Doing the best I can…

I do not understand why but I go to a lot of other people’s blogs but I certainly do not see the same thing happening to them!…..No doubt it is encouraging to have some very nice people dropping by to say that they like what they see in my blog but on the other hand, there are others who will criticise virtually everything – left, right and centre. Your photos are too small, they are too blur, why don’t you buy a new camera, why do you post on food all the time…and then when I do not post on food, the comments dwindle to a mere handful, your post is too long – too lazy to read, why don’t you keep to under 50 words per post…bla…bla…bla…! Frankly, I do not give a damn! I do not need to explain to anybody but I must admit that I have had a lot of food posts lately and it is because I have been travelling a lot – and eating a lot along the way…and then there were weddings, birthdays, visitors in town and so on and so forth, so it certainly seems that all I have been doing is eat…eat…eat…! I still have some photos of what Stella did in Kuching (Eat!!!) but I wasn’t there, so those can wait awhile.

Meanwhile, sometime back, I received a number of photos from my radio friend, Martin Edwards from the UK, so I have decided to post these today. It seems that the pinch that we are feeling in the economy is a worldwide phenomenon…and the closing down of that US bank certainly does not help one bit. Well, the way things are going, very soon, this may be the new Apple I-phone…..

New Apple I-phone

…and for Windows 2010, you can expect this…

Windows 2010

…and the 8.15 a.m. Woking to London service will be something like this…

8.15 a.m. Woking to London service

…and probably this is what the 2012 London Olympics will be like…

2012 London Olympics

…but if it is any consolation, at the fast food joint, you can expect nothing less than Royal service…

Royal service

ROTFLMAO!!! Anyway, to get back to what I was rambling about at the beginning of this post, I would like to end with the chorus from Rick Nelson’s Garden Party that goes like this:

But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well.
You see, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself…

(Sources of images unknown)

Nothing compares 2 u…

Well, as I have mentioned two posts ago, Stella is in town from the land Down Under…and after reading all my posts about the Ruby Restaurant here in Sibu, she could not wait to go and try the dishes that I have featured in a few of my earlier posts like this one, for instance…or this one or even this one. So there we were last Friday night with Stella’s sister from Brisbane, Pollie and her hubby and her eldest daughter and my missus – 7 of us altogether.

We had the unrivalled fried mee sua (Foochow string noodles)…

Ruby's fried mee sua

and the incomparable butter scotch prawns…

Ruby's butter scotch prawn balls

I was too lazy to bother about the shell (and it can get quite messy), so I ordered prawn balls for a change (with shell removed). I think it would be better if they did not deep fry the prawns first, but still it was very nice and everyone was singing its praises and trying to figure out what the secret recipe was. Then we also had this Teochew-style steamed tapah (freshwater fish) which I took an instant liking to…

Ruby's Teochew-style steamed fish

…and we also had nice and tender venison fried with ginger…

Ruby's venison fried with ginger

…and midin (jungle fern) fried with belacan (prawn paste)…

Ruby's midin fried with belacan

…as well as cangkuk manis with eggs (but I did not take the photo as I had posted that before…and it’s in many other people’s blogs)…and tofu soup – Foochow style (I didn’t take the photo of this either as it was served in individual bowls). I must say that the soup was not how it should be; it was more like the usual sea cucumber soup which is something like sharks’ fins soup minus the fins and replaced with sea cucumber instead…and this time it was minus the sea cucumber and they put in tofu instead. But anyhow, it was nice; no regrets ordering it at all.

The bill for all that came up to RM129.70 (7 dishes for 7 people plus 4 bowls of rice AND drinks)…and I told the boss that I should charge him for the promotion I have done in my blog (and my friends in theirs) and I have had people calling me asking me for the restaurant’s location and telephone number and what not…and in the end, he collected RM120.00 only!

I happened to stumble upon some not very good reviews posted by another blogger but so far, all my blogger-friends and others that have gone there with me have no complaints and many have gone back there on their own (e.g. Clare, who went there the following night. You can click this link to go and see the superlicious photos in her post!). Ah well! I guess this is a case of “to each his own” and whatever it is, from my personal point of view, nothing compares to Ruby – still the nicest and the cheapest place in town to go to, that’s for sure!

Blue moon…

Gee! How time flies! The Mooncake Festival has come and gone for a week already…and I have yet to put up this post. Well, there were no blue ones, just purple and green ones…

Mooncakes 1

These were on the table at the wedding reception I attended that night but I did not have any. I do not like this type with that kind of skin…nor do I fancy the ones they have these days using agar-agar (jelly). I would only go for the conventional baked mooncakes but I did say that I would not be buying any this year as they were extremely expensive. 

Now as Forrest Gump would say, “Life is a box of chocolates; you’ll never know what you’ll get!” And that day itself, when I entered my tuition class, I saw this on my table…

Mooncake 2

One of the students had bought me a tin of assorted flavours…but I insisted that he took it back, considering that it was so expensive. However, he refused…so what I did was I cut the mooncakes into slices and everyone in the class could have one as a gesture of celebration to observe the annual traditional festival.

Mooncake 3

…So I did keep my word after all! I did not buy any of those expensive mooncakes this year! Here! Have a slice…..

Mooncake 4

After all, the best things in life are free! LOL!!!

Too much, too little, too late…

I don’t know what you call these… Razor clams? Lala?

Clam curry - main ingredient

Well, my wife bought 1 kg and it looked like there was too much…and when she had removed the shells and cleaned away all the sand, it looked like there was too little to cook anything out of it but it was too late to do anything about it…so she just stuffed it in the freezer. Of course, being the  innovative person that I am, I decided to create my own clam curry.

I got the ingredients ready: one Bombay onion – peeled and sliced, chillies – seeds removed and cut into thin slices, a few stalks of lemon grass (serai),  some curry leaves, a tablespoon of curry powder plus a bit of coconut milk (santan).  

Clam curry - other ingredients

I fried all the ingredients in a bit of oil (except the curry powder and santan) until fragrant and then I added the clams plus the curry powder and stirred it well. After that, I poured in some water, stirred again and let it simmer for a while. Then, I added my usual one teaspoon of ikan bilis (anchovies) stock and finally, in went the santan and when the gravy had thickened a bit, it was ready to be served…

Clam curry

Of course, there was hardly anything to eat. I could hardly feel the clams and most of the bulk was made up of the onion and chillies…but the gravy was very deliciously “sweet” and went absolutely well with rice. I had TWO plates that day… LOL!!!

And since we’re on the subject of seafood, Stella is in town, all the way from the land Down Under, and lunchtime yesterday, we went to Min Kong for the notoriously expensive Prawn Noodles…

Min Kong Prawn Noodles - soup

That’s RM20 a bowl and it comes with a few giant udang galah (freshwater prawns). This is the soup version; the last time I went there with Sophia, we had it fried, Foochow style. And talking about Foochow style, her sister had this plate of Foochow fried noodles that came with equally rich and delicious gravy…

Min Kong Foochow fried noodles

…while I had this plate of char kway teow

Min Kong char kway teow

Now that Stella’s back in town (to eat with a vengeance), you can expect more food posts coming up. As I’ve said before, it runs in the family! ROTFLMAO!!!

How to save a life…

In the past, Father worked and provided for the family. Mother stayed at home to clean, wash, cook and take care of the children. Sometimes, dad had to be at work all day and he had to bring his lunch along in the morning or it had to be delivered later – be it to the padi field, the plantation or the shop. This was where the tiffin carrier came into the picture…

Tiffin carrier 1

You can click this link to watch the very touching video of one of my favourite songs. There is a scene where the daughter sends her father his lunch in a tiffin carrier. Sadly, in this modern day and age when both parents are working, the daily meals for the family have been pretty much neglected and children would patronise fast food restaurants regularly and this has given rise to weight problems among the youth in many countries. Perhaps everyone can think about going back to the tiffin carrier and buy wholesome balanced meals from the food outlets that consist of protein such as fish or meat…

Tiffin carrier - roast chicken

Tiffin carrier - char siew and roast pork

…and vegetables…

Tiffin carrier - brocolli and mushroom

However, it may be a bit expensive and also, some people may worry about the amount of monosodium glutamate (msg) that is usually used. Alternatively, it might be a better idea to hunt around for somebody who does it at home, in which case you will be able to have more affordable home-cooked meals. For around RM250 a month, you should be able to get two protein dish of meat…

Tiffin carrier - steamed minced pork

…or fish or other forms of seafood…

Tiffin carrier - fried fish

…one vegetable dish such as this one…

Tiffin carrier - fried bean sprouts

…or this…

Tiffin carrier - fried cabbage

…and a soup. That should be enough for at least 2-3 persons for 2 meals. Then, on weekends, you can consider cooking some special delicacies to give the whole family a special treat and that may contribute towards bonding stronger family ties which seem to have weakened over time as everybody seems to be busy with everything else! For one thing, compared to the present-day eating habits, this should be relatively healthier and you may well be saving some lives…

Would you like to share your opinion on this?