In the morning…

In the morning yesterday, I did not go out for breakfast so I cooked myself this plate of Mamee Mi Poh Goreng and fried an egg – sunny side up.

STP's Mamee Mi Poh Goreng plus fried egg

I think I prefer Indomie but anyway, this post is not going to be about that. My friend, an ex-colleague, has just given me a pot of fermented durian (tempuyak) the day before but the problem is her hubby has added too much salt to it (He said that the Bidayuhs usually add a lot of salt when making tempuyak) so it is very salty and other than that, it has not really fermented yet, so it tastes something like fresh durian with a whole lot of salt.

In spite of that, I still wanted to cook some fish with fermented durian (ikan masak tempuyak) for my mother. That was why I could not go out for breakfast. The fresh prawns (udang galah) that I cooked with tempuyak when Cooking4stp was here were absolutely delicious but my mother has this allergy for crustaceans, so I had to substitute it with fish instead. These were the ingredients that I prepared… 

STP's fish with fermented durian - ingredients

I pounded two shallots – peeled and sliced, three cloves of garlic – also peeled and sliced, one chilli and a small 1-cm piece of tumeric (kunyit) and I had two stalks of lemon grass (serai), the ends of which had been crushed. I defrosted one piece of fish fillet and cut it into bite-size pieces.

After heating a bit of oil in the wok, I put in the pounded ingredients and the lemon grass and sauteed for a bit before adding half a tablespoon of sugar. After a while, I added two tablespoons of tempuyak and two cups of water and once the gravy started boiling, I put in the fish. Simmer till the fish was cooked, and presto! The dish was ready…

STP's fish with fermented durian 1

For one thing, as the tempuyak was so salty, I could not add the usual anchovies (ikan bilis) stock to enhance the taste and because it had not fermented, the tempuyak taste was just not there. Still, it tasted nice, something like masak kunyit with assam (cooked with tumeric and tamarind) but it could not match what I cooked for dinner when Cooking4stp was here.

STP's fish with tempuyak 2

Never mind! I will try again when I can get my hands on some nicely-fermented tempuyak. In the meantime, perhaps you would like to give it a try and then you can tell me how it goes…

An old Christmas card…

When I was small, like any other child, I would look forward to Christmas as I would be getting new clothes and lots of presents. We had artificial Christmas trees with branches that looked like toilet brushes, or to be more precise, those brushes that people use to clean the inside of their baby’s milk bottles and one thing that I used to do was to stick the cards on the walls to create the shape of a Christmas tree.

Every year, around this time, I would be sending out the cards to relatives and friends, far and near because come December, I would be too busy marking the public examination English Language papers to do that. If, for some reason, I was unable to do so, then everyone would not be getting any for that particular year. I think I heard somebody saying once that whenever they got  a Christmas card in November, they knew it had to be mine.

Sadly though, Christmas cards have gone out of style or so it seems. I would send out a lot but each year, I would probably get less than 10 in return – hardly enough to make a decent-looking tree. Everybody prefers to send their season’s greetings via sms, so much so that the networks would be jammed all through the night on Christmas Eve till Christmas morning.

I don’t know if there are others like me but I would just delete those messages once I have read them but I would cherish nice Christmas cards that have been carefully chosen, with beautiful wordings that reflect the affection and sincerity of the ones who have sent them. Somehow I feel that it is very much more meaningful like this.

And talking about that brings to mind one of my favourite Christmas songs by Jim Reeves. The lyrics go like this:

There’s an Old Christmas Card in an old dusty trunk
And it brings back sweet memories dear to me
‘Though it’s faded and worn, it’s as precious as the morn
When I found it ‘neath our first Christmas tree

I thrill with every word, every line
Guess I’m always sentimental ’round this time
Pardon me if a tear falls among my Christmas cheer
It’s the memory of an Old Christmas Card

You know, I don’t know why I get to feeling sentimental
about this time, every year
But every time I see a Christmas card,
I somehow can’t help reminiscing
About the very first Christmas that you and I spent together
What a beautiful Christmas card you gave me that year
Why I know you must have looked through thousands of cards
To find that wonderful poem that still brings a tear to my eyes

My sentiments exactly! Well, you can click on this link to listen to the song if you have never heard it before…and have you bought your Christmas cards yet?

Everybody knows…

I would think that this place needs no introduction, judging from the crowd there every morning from 8 to 10 a.m.

Sibu's Chip Chung Cafe 1

Everybody knows about the beef noodles here, it seems, at the Chip Chung Cafe. It is right behind the Sibu Kidney Foundation building (You can see the back portion in the photo) – the blue and white corner shop. Formerly, the lady had a stall at Chopsticks (that has since moved to the Delta Commercial Centre, also near my house), a coffee shop in the town centre next to HSBC. I used to bring my daughter there when she was small as she liked the soup – just beef and soup, nothing else. On one of my recent visits, the lady asked where my daughter had gone too and I told her that she had gone for further studies. “How fast time flies by!” she remarked.

Sibu's Chip Chung Cafe 2

The lady runs the stall in the front portion of the shop, and the main attraction is the kampua kosong (plain kampua noodles) with beef soup…

Sibu's kampua with beef soup

Actually, I have featured this before in an earlier post. Now, an alternative would be the beef noodles soup…

Sibu's beef noodles soup

…but personally, I would opt for the former as there are nicer ones of the latter elsewhere. She has other things to offer as well like pian sip aka kiaw or wanton and the usual kampua. I have never tried these, but this little girl seemed to be enjoying the kampua and stuffing her face with it…

Eating kampua in Sibu

But do avoid the peak hours though, as the lady might be in a pretty foul mood and could just snap at you. Other than that, be forewarned that everything will be sold out by around 10.00 a.m. Anyway, you may also choose to eat the fried stuff from the back portion of the shop. People say that the only-in-Sibu egg-wrapped fried kway teow is the nicest around, nicer than what you can get here or here. I wouldn’t know, of course, as I would stick loyally to the kampua kosong with beef soup…all the time.

In comparison, probably fewer people would know of this place – the Sibu Coffee Shop at Pusat Tanahwang. Acey lived close by and would be familiar with this place and the Star World Cybercafe right next door (So at certain times in the day, you will hear the two world wars plus a third one thrown in for good measure, raging inside!)….

Sibu's Kedai Kopi Sibu

I used to come here quite frequently when I was teaching at SMK Sacred Heart across the road on the other end. If you’re looking for more original/authentic kampua, what you can get here is not bad at all, I would say…

Sibu Cafe's kampua

This certainly looks and tastes more like the Ah Kow kampua at Kiaw Siong Restaurant that some of us grew up eating. Nope, it isn’t 50 sen a plate like during my childhood days but at RM2.20 a plate, it is the same as at Rasa Sayang and cheaper than at some other places, and so is the pian sip (kiaw/wanton)…

Sibu Cafe's kampua & pian sip

Personally, I would prefer the kampua-kolo mee fusion at Rasa Sayang or that at Soon Hock Coffee Shop (despite what they say about the lady’s long hair) but whenever I am in this vicinity, I may just drop in to have something different for a change.

Change of heart…

I have posted about this place before here and also about its kampua special here. Yes, I’m talking about the e-Cafe at the Delta Commercial Centre here in Sibu…

Sibu's e-Cafe 1

As you can see in the photographs, the interior decor in this coffee shop is different from what you normally see elsewhere. Some of the furniture and even the flooring look out of the ordinary. The reason for this is that it was formerly a music cafe that has now shrunk to just the first floor only.

Sibu's e-Cafe 2

Well, I heard that the Sarawak laksa was good and even Gilbert who lived somewhere there testified to that. So I decided to give it a try. I did not like the beef noodles from this particular stall very much, so I was hoping the laksa would be better. And it most certainly was! I was impressed even before my order came. The sambal belacan looked red and nice unlike at other places where it would come out in a tiny chunk, blackish in colour and looking miserably dry.

Sibu's e-Cafe Sarawak laksa - sambal belacan

A normal bowl would cost RM3.50 but I ordered the RM5.00 special…

Sibu's e-Cafe Sarawak laksa 1

Ooo…it was certainly substantial and there were so many prawns. But never judge a book by its cover, so I tried it first before passing my verdict. I must say that it was really very nice, much nicer than what I had had in Kuching. I think I would give it a score of 8 out of 10. If they had used bigger prawns even if it meant giving fewer with each serving and more of the egg omelette strips and perhaps a little less mihun, I would give it a perfect score of 10.

Sibu's e-Cafe Sarawak laksa 2

I have posted the photo below sometime ago showing the laksa at Chong Choon Coffee Shop in Kuching. If I’m not mistaken, it costs RM4.50 a bowl.

Kuching laksa

Some say it is better than the one at Choon Hui along Ban Hock Road…

Choon Hui laksa Kuching

And a certain Kuching blogger (fat and owns a supermarket! LOL!!!) proclaimed this Golden Arch one to be the best in the city.

Sarawak laksa at Golden Arch, Kuching

Well, just by looking at the photos, which one do you think will win hands down?

Anyway, previously here in Sibu, I liked the laksa at Thomson Corner at Pusat Tanahwang best and I was spellbound at the sight of the big prawns they served with the laksa special at MAS Corner but having tried this one, I have had a change of heart now. This one is definitely the best and rest assured I WILL be going back there again. Care to join me, anyone?

It’s so easy (2)…

Now when exactly was Stella in town? October? Or was it September? Well, Pollie was here too then and she gave me some instant fish curry mix from Bintulu. I guess the guy whatever-his-name-is-now who made it must be pretty good and well-known in the town. But somehow, I did not get round to cooking it until last Friday…

STP's fish curry 1

It was so easy really. I bought a pineapple, some ladies’ fingers and tomatoes and got the lemon grass (serai) and curry leaves from my garden. I noticed that in the restaurant, they did not cook the fish in the curry. Instead, they poured the gravy on it upon serving. So I took one piece of fish fillet and steamed it. After that, I drained the stock into a bowl and put the cooked fish fillet aside for the moment. 

STP's fish curry 2

After chopping up one Bombay onion into fine bits, I fried that in a little bit of oil with the serai and some of the curry leaves. Then I put in the curry mix and stirred till it became really fragrant. Then I added the fish stock as well as some more water to let it simmer and cook the ladies fingers which I put in first together with the pineapples. Finally, after throwing in the pre-softened bean curd sticks, tomato chunks and the rest of the curry leaves, I added a tablespoon of sugar (to balance the sourish taste of the pineapples) and a teaspoon of salt before I thickened the gravy with half a tin of santan (coconut milk). I poured that over the fish fillet and there you have it! It was ready to serve…

STP's fish curry 3

I still had half a pineapple left as I did not use all of it, so I cut it into chunks and had them with ready-made kuah rojak (rojak gravy) which is now available in bottles. You do not have to buy the prawn paste from Penang and all the other necessary ingredients any more…

STP's pineapple with kuah rojak

There! Isn’t it so very easy? And the best part is you no longer have to go to the restaurant and spend a fortune there to eat really nice fish curry! By the way, I’ve some more of Pollie’s instant fish curry mix left (I only used half of what she gave me), so is anybody coming to town? I can whip that up in a jiffy and we can enjoy a delightful dinner together! Wouldn’t that be great?

With the eyes of a child…

And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…'” – Matthew 18:3-4

Virginia 1

Children are born into this world tabula rasa – like a clean slate that will be filled gradually first by their parents and immediate family and later by their peers and their teachers. Hence, the onus is on everybody in general but the parents specifically to teach them well. I am sure everyone is familiar with these lines from a song: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.” (The greatest love of all)

Unfortunately, more often than not, the innocent children’s minds are filled with the prejudices and all the negative thinking of their parents. When I was teaching, I had encountered students who were very vocal in expressing their prejudices against people of other races, and I would ask them, “Are those ideas your own, or have your minds been poisoned by others to make you think in such a manner?” These children were from vernacular schools and even upon entering secondary school, owing to the location, they would not have much, if any, opportunity to mingle with people of other races.

Virginia 2

The parents might not have taught them in the true sense of the word but what we should realise is that children pick up things very fast. Hasn’t it been said that they do not learn what is taught and instead they learn what is not taught? I remember when my girl was just a toddler, my parents took her out one day in their car. There was a car in front that was a bit slow, and suddenly she blurted out, “Stupid woman! Bloody fool!” Now, I never taught her that. So where do you think she learnt it from?

Thus, whenever I saw so much hatred, greed, selfishness, violence – all the negative elements in the young boys, I would wonder how they had been brought up or what kind of environment they had grown up in. Shouldn’t we bring up our children surrounding them with a lot of love and affection, shouldn’t we inculcate in them good moral and spiritual values? Shouldn’t we teach them not to bear a grudge against others simply because they may be different in certain ways from ourselves or do we just let the vicious cycle go on and on and on?

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:43-44

Virginia 3

 And the bottom line is we ourselves, in our everyday lives, should aspire to be like children with their inner beauty, their purity, their innocence. That is no easy task for us as after all, we are humans but no matter how many times we may fall, we should always get up and try again…

Have a Blessed Sunday, everyone.

Unborn heart…

I saw this post in somebody’s blog about an autopsy done on a newborn baby found dead and the first thing that came to mind was this song by Dan Hill (more popularly known for his song, “Sometimes when we touch”) – Unborn Heart. If you have never heard the song before, you can just click the link and give it a listen. I would have chosen the other video clip showing the ultrasound images of the baby in the womb but the song is hardly audible.

From the stone, a flower emerges

Anyway, I have gone back to look for the post so that I may be able to link it to this post but it seems that it has been removed probably due to some underlying professional ethics or something else that I do not know of. Well, whatever the case may be, the fact remains that with the moral decadence in society today, cases of abandoned babies, babies found dead in rubbish bins or drowned in toilets and streams, young teenage girls resorting to abortions and so on are on the rise.

That post also reminded me of this poem by Wong Phui Nam – “At the door” which was one of the those selected for the previous Literature in English cycle for the SPM Examination. Categorised under the theme of “Hope”, the “expert” at the time interpreted the poem as the baby in the womb crying out to the mother in the hope that it would be born safely into the world. I read it but somehow it appeared to me that it was about the abortion of an unborn child and the spirit of the baby was crying out to the mother. The way I saw it, the baby had died and there was no longer any HOPE. Perhaps you would like to read the poem and share what you think the underlying meaning may be…

Mother, why did you let
the poison seep down,
blacken leaf and stem
from overhead course down the roots
to pinch and disarrange
the bulging knob
that was to find its shape
to be my head?

Why did you let
the poison seep through
befoul the streams that join together,
from beneath well up as spoilt blood
to stain and soften
the hooked tail
that was to lose itself
for the forked ends of my limbs?

Did you not sense me,
image my face, my dumb form
before I melted back
into the glistening bunched gel,
red grapes shot thick with ash,
as I, expelled,
made my way out in my sac
filming over so soon with death?

Mother, tell me about your world.
Tell me if you found
the light of day so harsh
the sight of all things
intrude with such sharp anxieties
upon your heart
and in the night, in sleep,
if you stumbled upon such upheavals,
your dreams could not connect
and you would let your hand to smudge
such traceries, filaments through which,
delicate and sure as crystals forming,
I was to emerge;
let your hand
disturb where no disturbances should –
random places, clear springs of life.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” ~ Matthew 7:1, so I shall not deliberate further on the issue but in this month of November, the month for the departed souls, I would think that it is appropriate to spare a moment and say a little prayer for those unfortunate, innocent souls whose lives had ended all too soon…and for whom nobody ever prays.