The room at the top of the stairs…

My daughter and I are putting up at the Sungai Petani Inn, or what the locals call “SP Inn”…

SP Inn

It is not too bad and for RM88 per room per night, we get to stay in something like this on the 1st floor of the double-storey building, so it is literally one of the rooms at the top of the stairs…

SP Inn room

For one thing, it is a lot nicer than the one I had in Sandakan for more or less the same price without breakfast. Here, we get it served to our room but it is nothing grand or fanciful, maybe just kampung fried rice perhaps, with tea…but if the occupancy rate is high, buffet breakfast will be served in the cafe and again, it is not going to be anything worth posting about – just a choice of bread and jam, fried rice or fried kway teow or mihun and free flow of tea.

SP Inn breakfast

There is even a swimming pool at the hotel and quite a big one at that, unlike some of the bean-shaped pools in some hotels that are about the size of a bathtub but made to look big in their promo photographs…but I did not bring along my swimming trunks.

SP Inn swimming pool

These few days, the hotel is full because of the Pematang Pauh by-election. All the hotels in Penang are full…so this one is enjoying the spillover from there. Right now, the renovation works are still going on; you can see a section of the new blocks to the right in the first photograph and they expect to open that wing for business sometime next month. One thing I like about this hotel is that the Catholic church is right across the road – The Church of Christ the King…

SP Church of Christ the king

It was very convenient for us to attend mass on August 15th for the Feast of the Assumption, a holiday of obligation…and on Saturday for the sunset mass. The church looks very nice on the outside but appears somewhat plain and empty inside. However, what it lacks in terms of interior decor, it makes up for it with the sophisticated sound system and a singer with a voice that is so deep and mellow that it will put many professional singers in the pub circuit to shame. He does not sound exactly like Elvis Presley but it would be safe to classify him along that line or among the best known country singers. Just listening to him singing the hymns backed by a good choir makes going to mass such a pleasure!

Other than its close proximity to the church, I think this hotel is the nearest (about 400-500 metres) to the town centre. It seems somewhat strange that there is no hotel in the town proper except for one that does not seem very safe or decent. So staying at the SP Inn, it is quite convenient just to stroll down the road to go shopping or for lunch or for dinner. The other day, we went to this nasi kandar shop and I had this…

SP Nasi Kandar 1

There were sotong (cuttlefish), quail eggs. ladies’ fingers and a chunky slice of omelette with onions, while my daughter had deep fried calamari (sotong/cuttlefish), fish curry and the omelette as well, all for RM14.00 which was kind of steep…but it was all right as everything was very tasty…

SP Nasi Kandar 2

One thing that I found interesting was how they would take a bit of the gravy of each dish and add all that to the rice…instead of asking you which one you would like and drowning everything on your plate with the sauce. I was also a bit impressed by the fact that they even had their own bottled drinking water…

SP Nasi Kandar drinking water

Oops! I started off by talking about the hotel where we are staying…so how on earth did I end up talking about food? Anyway, I guess all of you are expecting that anyway and do not mind it one bit, right? ROTFLMAO!!!

Here I am…

Well, here I am in Sungai Petani in Kedah. This is the main landmark – the clock tower in the town centre…

Sg Petani clock tower

…and this is the police station. It looks like it occupies an old building with its colonial architecture. Personally I feel that such things should be restored and preserved as symbols of our rich heritage inherited from years gone by…

Sg Petani police station

These are the old shophouses which certainly look like it is high time they get a facelift!

Sg Petani old shophouses

One great difference between this town and Sibu is that I went past rows and rows of shops and I did not even see one coffee shop whereas in Sibu, there is one in almost every other shop! I only passed by one nasi kandar place along the way before coming to a bridge across Sungai Petani…

Sungai Petani

Now if Clare feels that the Rejang River is like teh-see, what does she think the water in this river resemble? Air ular? CocaCola? And amazingly, I saw no less than THREE huge iguanas in the stinking murky water. I really wonder how they are able to survive. Perhaps the new state government can do something about it? After all, Singapore River was like that in the 70s or even worse, and now it is a tourist attraction. popular for river cruises and what not.

My daughter and I were heading to the main attraction in the town centre – Central Square…

Sg Petani Central Square

where we had our dinner at…

SP Master Choo Kitchen

Pardon me, sir…but shouldn’t it be Master Choo’s Kitchen? My daughter had this Japanese pork chop dish…

Master Choo Kitchen 1

…while I had this spareribs rice…

Master Choo Kitchen 2

I like that bamboo thing in which they serve the dish. We also has some siew mai…and this bun with chicken curry dish…

Master Choo Kitchen 3

After my delicious home-cooked beef curry just before I left Sibu, this one was a disappointment. It was not even as good as the curry in the giant bun that my friend in Bintulu used to buy for me! At best, everything was nice enough and the prices were reasonable. All that, with drinks, came to a bit over RM25.00. However, I would not say that any of it was so very nice that I really must come back again. Sorry, it just wasn’t that great!

Looking at the town centre, I must say that Sibu is definitely a very much nicer place and a lot more pleasant to the eye. However, today I went to another part of Sungai Petani and was very impressed, but that will have to wait till another post…..

What you see is what you get…

Well, what you pay is what you get when you travel by the cheap airline where the aircrafts look like toppled-over tomato sauce bottles and in KL, you will have to use the LCCT – the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal, or in other words, LC = low cost = low class…

Cheap airline

And if you are on transit, like me…they cannot let you check in all the way. I had to make sure that there was ample time for me to arrive and proceed to check in for the next flight (45 minutes before take off) in case the flight was delayed or something. I arrived at 11 something on schedule…and my flight to Penang was at 2.50 – more than 3 hours to go, and the counters do not open until two hours before the flight. Never mind! I took the opportunity to look around, this being my first time at the place. There is this passageway that will take you to the departure hall, right beside the Coffee Bean outlet…

LCCT arrival to departure

Well, I did not go that way…as my nicotine level was dangerously low, so I went out of the building and later, came in through the main entrance into the departure hall. For one thing, there are no seats, except for a few at one little section for the elderly and disabled…and I cannot qualify for the former as the cheap airline has raised the age to 65 – nine more years to go! Maybe I can claim to be the latter…as there are many things that I can’t do anymore! ROTFLMAO!!! No questions, please; that’s for me to know and for you to find out! So some of the people had to sit on the floor…

LCCT Departure Hall 1

…or in the heat in the waiting area outside, inhaling the fumes of the vehicles dropping off people just a stone’s throw away…

LCCT Waiting area

It reminded me of a bus station…but then again, isn’t this what the terminal is all about? Low cost = low class? There were some seats available but it was near impossible to get to them. I do wish people can be more civil, courteous and considerate…and park their trolleys by the side so that they will not block other people’s way…but then again, isn’t this what LCCT is all about? Low cost = low class? Of course, you can choose to sit in one of the dining outlets…if you can manage to squeeze in and find a seat, that is…

LCCT Asian Kitchen

LCCT McDonald's

I think there are some eating places a short distance from the terminal…but I had no intention of going all the way in the heat so I went back to Coffee Bean – and there, what you pay is what you DON’T get!!! I had one iced coffee and a slice of apple crumble…

LCCT Coffee Bean

…and that was RM20.00! Ouch! That hurt! I could imagine feasting at Ruby’s with that kind of money! People were saying that at such places you can sit as long as you like, use the free wifi and what not…but here, you see all kinds of creatures hovering over you like vultures, squeezing in between the tables…and giving you some kind of threatening looks as if it were a crime to be eating alone! I finished what I had ordered despite the fact that the apple crumble was nothing to shout about (RM10.50) and the coffee was nowhere near Ruby’s (and for RM9.50…I could have at least 4 glasses at Ruby’s!!!) Anyway, enough said about the daylight robbers and let’s move on from there! Now, if you have the misfortune of going somewhere via this LCCT, you have to check the display to see whether the counter is open, and only if it is, take note of the number and proceed straight to it.

LCCT Departure Hall 2

There is a no-baggage lane but if you have any to check in, you will need to go through security clearance. No frozen foods allowed, and definitely, NO durians….

LCCT No durians

Omigawd! Don’t tell me there are still people around who do not know that?…Oops! I forgot! This is LCCT, right? Low cost = low class, so what do we expect?

LCCT Check-in counter

So proceed to check in for your flight, but don’t forget that low cost = low class and you will get to meet a lot of NCAA (No class at all!) passengers with tonnes of luggage…and they are NOT willing to pay for excess baggage – so they will juggle bags or juggle the things in the bags…to get down to the stipulated baggage allowance, never mind that they are holding up a queue that is already a mile long!!!…Having checked in, I had to go to the departure gate for domestic flights which meant that I had to go back through where I came as the gates are at the right hand side, somewhere after the display boards. How odd!!! But thank goodness they have seats in the departure lounge…

LCCT Departure lounge

…but gosh! The toilet was SO dirty – wet all over, the bin overflowing with tissue paper that was scattered all around it on the floor as well, mops and brooms simply dumped everywhere…! Ah well! After all, it’s low cost = low class!!! And if you think that’s about it, think again because that’s not the end yet! My flight was delayed by some 15-20 minutes, not because of engine trouble…not because of bad turbulent weather…but because of the mad scramble during boarding! Gee! I thought I would only see that in Sibu…and in Sibu, at least, there is method in their madness…and everybody would board on time and there would not be any delay!

Well, I have always used the other airline…and my daughter too, and since the air fares are getting to be not so very affordable, I was thinking that maybe it is time we try the cheap airline. After going through all that, I think I will just fork out the money for my girl to travel in comfort, minus the hassle every time she wants to come home for the hols. After all, she most certainly deserves it as she managed to secure a scholarship to further her studies and I have saved a whole lot of money on that….. I’m certainly not pampering her too much. am I?

Spice up your life…

Yes, any Tom, Dick or Harry can now spice up his life and cook his own meat curry, be it beef, lamb or chicken. Just get a packet of this instant curry paste…

Instant curry paste

I got it for RM3.40 at the mini-supermarket near my house. I managed to buy a kilo of fresh beef the other day so I decided to use that. I cut the meat into slices across the grain so it will not be tough…

Beef curry ingredients

You may be able to see in the background that I had some curry leaves and a few stalks of lemon grass (serai). I also took one Bombay onion, peeled, sliced and chopped it into tiny bits. I also peeled some sweet potatoes and cut them into huge chunks; you may choose to use potatoes instead. Then I heated some oil in a wok and sauteed the onions, adding half a tablespoon of sugar to caramelise it. Then I threw in the lemon grass stalks and some of the curry leaves. After stirring for a while till it had become really fragrant, I put in the instant curry paste…and mixed it with the ingredients. Once it was well mixed, in went the beef…

Cooking beef curry

I kept turning the pieces of beef till they were well-coated with the ingredients and then I covered the wok to wait for the meat to cook, opening it to stir occasionally. Then I added water and put in the potatoes and the rest of the curry leaves…and left it to simmer. When the potatoes had become soft enough, I added coconut milk (santan). Evaporated milk may be used instead. As usual, I added ikan bilis (anchovies) stock instead of salt and msg. After simmering it for a while longer, the beef curry was ready…

Beef curry

So there you have it – beef curry the way my mum used to cook it, minus all the hassle of getting ready the multitude of ingredients needed…thanks to that packet of instant curry paste! It is really so very easy, take my word for it!

Have you ever…

Well, have you ever eaten buah dabai? These are black olives available mostly from the central parts of Sarawak…

Buah Dabai 1

The other day, I saw some at the market. They had come all the way from Song and when I asked how much it was, I almost fainted. The current price was RM22.00 a kilo. Normally, the good ones would go for around RM15.00 a kilo. There are cheapers ones but most of the time, they are not very good…unless for some reason, there is a deluge of dabais in the market. The good ones will have very thick flesh that is yellow in colour and have a delicious creamy (lemak because of its rich oil content) taste…

Buah dabai 2

People who do not know will try to boil them in water and they would wait forever for it to cook…as the longer they boil, the harder they get. To cook it, wash the fruits and soak them in mildly warm water until they become soft. Sprinkle salt and toss and they are ready to be eaten…but I prefer it with fish sauce or the gravy from budu’ aur (I don’t know how to describe it but it is more or less some fermented salted fish in brine) or I would add black soy sauce and sugar and toss.

I do not really care for durians or other seasonal fruits but once it is the buah dabai season, I will be making the beeline for the market to stock up and enjoy as long as the season lasts.

And have you ever tried Taiwan sweet potato porridge? In my younger days, when I was younger and staying in Singapore, everytime my late grandfather dropped by for a visit, he would take me to this Gold Leaf Restaurant, a Taiwanese joint somewhere around the Orchard Road area, where we would have without fail, Taiwan sweet potato porridge…..

Taiwan sweet potato porridge

You can just cook porridge the way you normally do but you put in a few slices of ginger, sweet potato cubes and chicken stock (in place of salt and msg). This is optional but you can add a dash of sesame oil and pepper and sprinkle chopped spring onions, coriander leaves (daun sup/ketumbar) and fried onions before serving. In fact, you can replace the sweet potatoes with canned tuna…and then, you will have very delicious fish porridge. A friend tried it once when I cooked it for him and loved it so much. When he went home, he cooked it for his family and they all liked it. They even thought it was chicken porridge!

Anyway, moving on from there, have you ever tried Malay kampua? Well, instead of the slices of pork, they used chicken breast meat instead…

Malay kampua

I think they use the stock from boiling the chicken for the soup…and to be fair, there are many Chinese stalls that do not serve very nice kampua either. I would just give it a 3 out of 10, and personally, I feel that they should just stick to doing what they do best…

Mee goreng Melayu 2

I love the Malay fried noodles, for instance, at this Happy Garden coffee shop at Sungai Antu here. I think I’ve posted a photograph of it before…but I did not like the one at Normah Cafe at Jalan Kpg Datu Baru. Nevertheless, they are anytime better than the Chinese fried noodles (dried) which is heavily-laden with msg. The nasi lemak at these two outlets are ok too; you would have seen the photographs in my earlier posts.

Well, I guess that’s about it for this food post which is actually an excuse for me to clear some photographs that I’m presently stuck with! LOL!!!

STOP PRESS: I’m now in Sungai Petani…with my daughter. The good news is I can blog from here but I’ve been taking a lot of photos and I’ll need to sort them out first. In the meantime, I’ll just keep you entertained with some of my backdated reserved posts!!! Happy reading!

Go west…

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…over to West Malaysia tomorrow. I will be flying to KLIA and then catch another flight to Penang where I will be taking a cab to Sungai Petani in Kedah where my daughter is studying. Hopefully I will get to meet blogger Dr Bernard Chan and some of my old friends there.

In the meantime, some of you may want to try cooking this saffron/tumeric pineapple (nenas masak kunyit) dish. My mother used to cook it with freshwater prawns (udang galah) but lately, we have been cutting down on those, so I used fish instead…

main ingredient 1 - fish

…and of course, you will need some pineapples, cut into big chunks like this…

main ingredient 2 - pineapples

Other than that, you need the usual chillies, belacan (prawn paste), shallots, garlic, tumeric (kunyit) and lemon grass (serai) and I also added a bit of lengkuas (gallangal) for added fragrance…

ingredients to be pounded

After pounding all those, heat up a bit of oil in a wok and add in the pounded ingredients together with half a tablespoon of sugar to caramelise the rempah (“spices”)…

Step 1

…before you throw in the pineapples slices…

Step 2

Then you can add some water and put in the fish…

Step 3

I added half a tablespoon of ikan bilis (anchovies) stock in place of the usual salt and msg, and let it simmer till the gravy thickened and had become less by which time it would be rich with the flavour of the fish, pineapples and other ingredients.

I would think that it would go very well with this plate of nasi lemak

Normah's Cafe nasi lemak

Well, do give it a try and let me know how it goes. I will be away for over a week…and hopefully, I’ll be able to blog from that end. Otherwise, you will only hear from me again around the end of next week. Don’t stray away too far, you hear? I would want to have you all back again…..

The morning after (2)…

Breakfast was provided at the Dormani Hotel in Kuching where I spent the night and even though Gerrie said she would take me out, I decided to go and have a look and how come nobody’s surprised? LOL!!! So I proceeded to the cafe…

Dormani Hotel cafe

The buffet spread was quite miserable with the usual selections of bread and buns and cereal…and fried noodles or fried rice, plus juices and coffee or tea. I took the noodles and the rice…

Dormani Hotel breakfast 1

…and to say that they were disappointing would be an understatement! My own homecooked ones would be a lot nicer! Other than that, you can order things from their choice menu as well. I think I was supposed to order eggs done in one way only…but I ordered the sunny side up…

Dormani Hotel breakfast 2

and the mushroom omelette, and got both…

Dormani Hotel breakfast 3

…together with the french toast and smoked beef. All in all, I think I would just give it a 5 out of 10. Then I checked out and when Gerrie came, we headed to the 7th Mile Bazaar…

7th Mile Bazaar, Kuching

Good Lord! It certainly has changed a great deal since the 70s when I used to drop by to see my friends (I wonder where they all are now!) here. There were only a few rows of wooden shophouses then. We went to a coffee shop opposite a primary school and had kolo mee… 

7th Mile kolo mee

…but after the special I had in Lundu, this one paled in comparison. The Sarawak laksa was pretty good though…

7th Mile Sarawak laksa

After that, it was straight to the airport for my flight back. This time, it was a Boeing 737 all right and there were only 20 passengers, so the cabin crew went round to take individual orders for the drinks…just as in the business class. Safely tucked into my luggage were the precious goodies I got from Gerrie – the irresistable nyonya bak chang (pork dumplings)…

Green Road nyonya chang

…and the absolutely mouth-watering nyonya kuihs including some serimuka

Green Road nyonya kuih 1

…and kuih cangkih (cup kuihs)…

Green Road nyonya kuih 2

from the Green Road stalls. No prize for guessing what I have been having for tea these past few days! ROTFLMAO!!!