Happy X’mas…

So this is X’mas…and what have you done
Another year over and a new one’s just begun
And so this is Xmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young

Christmas 1
A very Merry X’mas…and a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fear.

It was 1971 when Lennon released this Christmas standard as a single, the time of the horrendous Vietnam War…

…and over the years, many singers have released their covers of the song…but sadly, after 44 years, it has not got any better in this world of ours. In fact, it certainly seems that it is getting a lot worse in the world at large…and even in our own country. Whoever said that all men are brothers obviously got it all wrong, seeing how countries fight against countries, how mass destruction and rampant shooting happen every other day here, there and everywhere…and how even fellow-countrymen do not seem to be able to live together with love and respect for and mutual understanding of one another. In Gandhi’s words at the end of the video clip, “An eye for an eye…will make us all blind.

On this special day and during this beautiful season of hope, love and joy, peace and goodwill among all men…

Christmas 2

…therefore, let us pray for a miracle so that one day soon, we would be able to sing with all our hearts that…
War is over, if you want it
War is over now…
Happy Christmas!

Christmas 3

A Blessed Christmas to all family and friends and everybody wherever you may be…

A Christmas card…

In this day and age, not many people bother to send Christmas cards anymore. I guess it is easier and a lot more convenient to send their season’s greetings via the internet, plus it’s free some more.

I’ve been sending cards for as long as I can remember. Postage used to be 10 sen only, unsealed while these days, it is 50 sen, never mind sealed or unsealed. For a while, when I was working, I used to do some work for the ministry, marking English Language papers and that would stretch through the whole of December and Christmas and the New Year would just pass by unnoticed. I had to make it a point to send my cards as early as in November or I would not be able to send any at all that particular year – I just did not have the time.

Maybe it is because I am old but somehow I feel kind of sentimental, getting Christmas cards. I remember they must be handwritten for that special personal touch – those in the professional or business fields could type theirs and that would be considered as being more formal.

I received quite a few this year – these came from my family members, the two on the right from Kuching and the big one came from my cousin in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

From family

…and these came from my dear ol’ friends in Kuching…

From Vivien & Mary

Vivien and Mary. It sure has been a while since I last met the two of them.

I also got a few from my blogger-friends…

From blogger friends

…from Perak – Elin from Ipoh, and Angeline (with the own-made bookmark enclosed) and Hayley from Taiping, and this came all the way from Plymouth, England from Julia

From Julia

…and Alistair. It sure is so very sweet of her to remember me and to send me one.

This one came a little later than those from the other bloggers, from zmun2

From zmun2

…a couple of days ago, in time for Christmas. Hmmmm….those gingerbread men look good enough to eat! LOL!!! Note the cute little sticker on the envelope – nice touch!

Why! Even the people at this company mailed me one…

From Reader's Digest

…as well. I’ve been subscribing to the magazine for as long as I can remember.

These are for a good cause…

Charity

…and I do think it would be good to grab hold of those to send and kill two birds with one stone. I’ve been getting those from the Mouth & Foot Artists very regularly and I would always make it a point to send them a cheque everytime in payment of those that came in the mail. I’ve heard of people getting those and they did not bother to pay for them nor return them to sender – instead, they just made use of the cards to send greetings to their family and friends. Now, that is really not very nice, is it?

And what a lovely surprise I had when this came all the way from Dubai…

From Dubai

…from my most wonderful friends with whom my family and I spent the most wonderful holiday we ever had when they were in New Zealand. To this day, I cherish the precious memories that will forever remain treasured in my heart.

I did not expect to get this one from my young and handsome blogger-friend in Sungai Petani, Kedah

From Nick

…either as he had already extended his Christmas & New Year greetings when he sent me a birthday card and present the other day. Thank you so much, Nick! It is so sweet of you to send me another card specially for the festive season – I wonder why it is postmarked Alor Setar though. Perhaps you can plan to hop over to Sibu instead next time – you’d do that, wouldn’t you?

Now these came in the mail…

From smallkucing

…as well but via poslaju. Thank you, smallkucing and family for the chicken floss and also the book for Melissa che-che. She was so happy to get a book to read and she loves it!

In the meantime, my friend, Annie, came home for a few days and she gave me this lovely tumbler…

From Annie 1

…for Christmas and she also got something for Melissa too but don’t ask me what it was. She is sticking steadfastly to her “Don’t open till Christmas” rule – and the suspense is killing! LOL!!! Thank you also, Annie, for the lap cheong (Chinese sausages)…

From Annie 2

Wowwww!!! That’s a lot! Enough to last me through the whole of next year! LOL!!! And I must not forget to thank you for going through the trouble to help me buy the mini palm-sized projector that I wanted to give to my girl for use in her teaching and for bringing it all the way from KL.

Just when I thought that was all, the other night, I got a message from my ex-student, Tham, who said that he was on his way back from Kuching and would drop by my house soon after he had arrived and he did! At 10 something that night! It seemed that he and Daisy drove back all the way from Kuching…and how sweet it was of the two to think of me and bring me back something for Christmas. They got me this cheese butter cake from a bakery in Kuching…

Mita cheese butter cake

…the one with the very rich buttery fragrance that I really like a lot but I’ve been telling everybody not to buy for me as it does not come cheap, way over RM10.00 each, I heard. Gee!!! I sure have enough goodies to hold an open house for Christmas now. Anyone heading my way? Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

Thank you, all, for the lovely cards and gifts, everything. It’s Christmas Eve already – planning anything special for dinner? Care to share?

Welcome to the jungle…

My uncle and his family and everybody who came that day drove all the way from Kuching and like what I used to do before here and also here, they stopped by the little bazaars and towns along the way and by the time they reached Sibu, they had already bought quite a lot of stuff including things that came from our jungle where they grow wild and are sold by some ethnic women at those places, and are not that easily available in the big towns and cities in the state.

He gave me this durian mantak (unripened durian)…

Durian mantak

…to cook for my mum. I’ve cooked a more complicated version here once but my mum prefers it simple so this time around, I did it the way she likes it.

It is actually very easy. All you have to do is to remove the seeds and cut the flesh into bite-size chunks…

Seeds removed

My mum does not like it cut too small so that explains the rather big size of the pieces ready to be cooked.

To start off, you need to cook the stock. Just boil some water in which you put these ingredients…

Ingredients

– a bit of belacan (dried prawn paste), a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and chili. Simmer awhile to let the flavours come out of the ingredients before putting in the durian chunks.

Bring it back to boil and let it simmer for sometime and soon, it…

Durian mantak rebus

…is ready to be served, no added salt and no msg required.

My uncle also brought me these seeds…

Buah pelajo

…that are actually the kernel of what we call buah pelajo here. Probably that is in Melanau or Sarawak Malay for it appears that some people know them as melinjo or maybe that is in the national language. There are quite a lot of differences between the two, like for instance, we call an aeroplane bilun here but that is a balloon to them and their plane is kapal terbang, literally translated as flying ship.

I also cooked these in a similar way, what we call our sayur rebus (boiled vegetables) in our ethnic Melanau kampung-style cooking. As in the above with the durian mantak, I had the belacan and the chili but this time around, I had left out the ikan bilis as I had some prawns…

Udang galah

…and wanted to use those instead.

What I did was, I boiled the belacan and the chili for the stock before adding the seeds, leaving it to boil for a while before I added the prawns. I brought it back to boil and let it simmer some more to bring out the taste and sweetness of the crustaceans. Then I added some baby corn…

Paku & baby corn

…and added a pinch of salt since I did not use a lot of belacan nor did I add any ikan bilis so it would not be salty enough. When everything was almost done, I dropped in the paku (wild jungle fern) and turned off the heat the instant the soup started boiling again. Do not leave the paku to boil in the soup too long as it will become discoloured and will not look nor taste as nice.

This soup is best served piping hot…

Sayur rebus buah pelajo with paku, jagung & prawns

…and goes absolutely well with rice and yes, it is msg-free.

Since it is not easy to get those seeds, we would have to do without those usually but we can cook a lot of other things this same way and it will taste just as great.

Our loved ones…

I’m pretty sure that everyone will agree that special occasions like birthdays are best spent with our loved and dear ones.

My uncle from Kuching, my mum’s youngest brother, turned 75 that day when he was in Sibu. He is a Dragon, one complete cycle older than me – I am a Dragon too. His whole family was here and also an aunt – my mum’s youngest sister and her daughter, and my auntie-in-law, the wife of a late uncle of mine plus a friend of my cousin, 9 of them altogether.

On the night of his birthday, we all went here, all of them plus me, my girl and the mum making up a table of 12 that I had gone to book earlier. My girl got a birthday cake…

Birthday cake

…specially for her koo-kong (grand-maternal uncle) from Marcus, the home-based baker at Delta Estate here and of course, everyone loved it. Marcus was already doing it a long time ago when my uncle and family were living in Sibu and of course, they used to order their birthday cakes from him too then. Needless to say, they were very happy to get to enjoy it again during their brief stay here. As a matter of fact, he made my wedding cake when I got married and more recently, he made one for my nephew’s wedding too.

It being a birthday celebration, this is a must – our traditional longevity noodles, the mee sua (thread/string noodles)…

Longevity noodles

…with a golden egg each. My uncle seemed a little surprised probably because nobody was serving it like this long ago when he was still living in Sibu and he probably was expecting the noodles served with the traditional red wine chicken soup.

However, he had had the chicken pie…

New Capitol chicken pie

…from this old-school restaurant then – the only one in town at the time. This goes back a long way to around the 60’s and unlike today, we never had any such thing at the time and this was held in high esteem. When I was invited to some home dinner parties at some elite residences, like for their children’s birthdays, I would surely get to see this pie in the buffet spread. My uncle was looking forward to eating it again, a walk down memory lane not only for him but also for me.

However, we thought it was nice but we certainly did not think it was really great especially now that we can get lovely chicken pies elsewhere…and even bake our own! I would say that the pie crust was very good, almost as good as mine but the filling…

New Capitol chicken pie, filling

…was watery and something like some Chinese stewed chicken, quite unlike the ones we are more familiar with these days. The waitress removed the pie crust and served it separately so it would not turn soggy – I guess that wouldn’t have been necessary if there had been less gravy and if it had been a lot thicker.

Of course, this was a hit – the Sibu Foochow-style sio bee (meat dumplings)…

New Capitol Sibu Foochow sio bee

…and there were a few left at the end of the dinner and my cousin grabbed them to take back to the hotel to enjoy later that night. That sure showed how nice they were and how much they loved the ones served here.

We also had the braised pork belly…

New Capitol braised pork belly & mantao

…eaten sandwiched between their own-made mantao (steamed buns) that were bigger than the ones we can buy around town, and were softer and fluffier too.

One of my cousins, my uncle’s daughter, saw this chess/checkerboard duck…

New Capitol checkerboard duck

…somewhere online and insisted that we must have those and we did! It seems that they cannot get this dish anywhere in Kuching.

This was sea cucumber…

New Capitol fried sea cucumber

…fried with egg and whatever else and we asked for asparagus…

Asparagus

…but got it with an assortment of other vegetables.

That certainly was a delightful dinner and even though there were 12 of us, we couldn’t finish everything so I tapaoed the leftovers home…except for the sio bee that my cousin wanted. Some of them had beer, a few cans, and inclusive of all the drinks, the bill came up to around RM300.00 only. We thought that was very reasonable and most importantly, we were indeed most happy to be able to get together to celebrate with my uncle and his family on the special occasion of his 75th birthday.

Once again, Happy Birthday, Uncle Paul, many happy returns and may God bless you and your family abundantly in the year ahead. Cheers!!!

Just for a while…

My uncle and his wife – my auntie who makes the most awesome Christmas/fruit pudding…and my cousins from Kuching were in town just for a while, a couple of days only, last week.

With the festive season just a few days away, they brought me these…

Christmas fruit pudding

The smaller one is currently waiting for Christmas – we will have that one then, while the big one has been wrapped in foil and put into a resealable bag to be kept away in the freezer, reserved for Chinese New Year.

They also gave us these…

Indian snack

…made by the wife of the celebrated Rojak Kassim guy, now based in Kuching. I don’t know if there is a special name for this very nice Indian snack with all the curry leaves, herbs and spices used in the making but anyway, that was all that was left of one whole big bag of it after the ladies in the house were through with it. Yes, it was that good!

My sister asked them for a bottle of this made-in-Kuching acar (pickle)…

Acar 1

…that they gave to them before and she said my mum loved it a lot…so they brought a bottle for me…

Acar 2

…too.

Another cousin of mine in Kuching who was not able to come with the entourage sent me these Christmas cookies…

Christmas cookies 1

…and another one sent us these…

Christmas presents

…nicely tucked into the lovely Christmas stockings. Inside those for me and my missus were these…

Christmas cookies 2

…tubs of pineapple tarts…

Pineapple tarts

…and cheddar cheese cookies. I don’t know what’s in the green stocking for my girl – she insists of saving it till Christmas.

There were more, not quite Christmas-related so I would save those for my later posts as and when they arise. In the meantime, I would want to say thank you so much to everybody for everything and to those who came, it sure was a delight having you all around – do come again…soon!

Not the first time…

This was not the first time we dropped by here

Pelicana Sibu

In fact, we’ve been here a number of times already and my girl has been here a few times more on her own as she loves the chicken very much and would feel like going for it once in a while, either eating there or buying it to take away and enjoying it at home.

These lines in their Christmas decor from the song, “Silver Bells”…

Pelicana Christmas

…reminded me of Remuera in Auckland, New Zealand where each shop had a line of a Christmas song and we would get the complete lyrics eventually if we walked around the vicinity…but it sure looked like the people here got the lines the wrong way round or maybe, we’re supposed to sing it bottoms up? LOL!!!

Now, this was the cute Good Fortune cat…

Good Fortune Cat

…they had there. I always thought that’s Japanese and I am not very sure but it seems that the Koreans have their Maneki-Neko as well.

They used to have their menu on those television screens above the counter…

K-pop

…but now, you get to see video clips of your favourite K-pop stars singing and dancing away. Well, I would not mind that one bit if only they would turn down the music a little. My girl frowned and said, “You’re not going to complain that the music is too loud, are you?” Gee!!! That girl knows me so well and could read my mind like the back of her hand and of course, I most certainly would want to do that. Are those workers deaf or what? Or maybe they are imagining themselves partying away with those Korean hunks at some Korean disco or club? I told the girl who took our orders to turn down the volume…and she said yes but obviously once she had left our table, she just conveniently forgot about it. Tsk! Tsk!

They had some new items on their menu including their nasi lemak (RM9.90, with a drumstick)…

Pelicana nasi lemak

Perhaps that is for people coming in a group and there is that odd one out that is not really into Korean cuisine and would prefer something local instead? Ok…ok…I know what you’re all thinking and I must say that you are all absolutely right! LOL!!!

This is their regular Peli-crunchy original…

Chicken

…which is anytime better than the Colonel’s but we loved it a lot with the yellow sauce that came with it. Too bad there wasn’t any for the nasi lemak…and we did not bother to ask. If we had done that, perhaps they would give it to us, I wouldn’t know.

The egg was nicely done…

Egg

…but fried using the ring, not really my favourite when it comes to fried eggs…and eekkkkk!!!! They did not remove the heads and insides of the ikan bilis (dried anchovies)…

Ikan bilis

…as well, just like the ones here and those no-class-at-all stalls in the coffee shops, unlike the ones here. The sambal was good, not spicy but I thought it tasted pretty good.

On the whole, I quite enjoyed it and I liked it a lot more than their kimchi fried rice (RM11.90)…

Pelicana kimchi fried rice

…that, for reasons unknown, took a long time coming and while we were waiting for it, we were served this complementary pickled seaweed…

Pelicana pickled seaweed

…that I thought was pretty nice and this…

Pelicana kimchi

…which I did not touch. Hehehehehe!!!! The ladies thought the fried rice was all right and I did try a bit but it was way too strong on the kimchi taste so let’s just say that it wasn’t really my favourite.

I liked the spicy Yangnyeom original that we had before but my girl prefers their charcoal barbecued version so that was what we had (RM16.90 for 8 pieces)…

Pelicana charcol BBQ chicken

…and yes, I would agree with her that this version was very nice too.

The total came up to RM50.30 and I would say that all in all, it was a delightful lunch…and as long as my girl loved it very much and it made her happy, I would be happy too! Papa sayang bah!

Follow the crowd…

People say that if a place is crowded, the food is bound to be good. Well, we’ve been to this place…

Kong Ma Ma

…a number of times before and there have been hits and misses but for one thing, most of the time, in the morning, there will be a lot of people here, especially on Sundays.

I was there again last Sunday but this time around, I noticed that things weren’t exactly the same as before. The fat guy at the chu-char (cook & fry) place at the back was nowhere to be seen and they have set up a brick counter/bar there and are using that area to make the drinks. Other than the Malay lady, I am not sure whether the people at the other stalls are the same ones or not. I did not order anything from her but instead, I ordered this minced pork and fish bihun (RM5.00)…

Minced pork & fish bihun

…from the second stall, the one behind the kampua noodle stall. It was all right – I did not think it was really great and the soup was rather murky, not as clear as I would like it to be.

My missus ordered their Foochow fried noodles (RM3.80)…

Foochow fried noodles

…that came drowning in the sauce/gravy. They could have just poured in an adequate amount and thrown away the rest.

My girl wanted the fried pek koi or rice cakes (RM4.00)…

Char pek koi

…that looked very different when she had it before that time when the fat chef was still around. Well, both of them said what they ordered were nice so I guess that was all that mattered.

I did try a bit of the pek koi but I thought there was way too much msg in it for my liking. It took a long time coming and in the meantime, I had finished my bihun…and I felt like going to answer nature’s call so I made my way to the washroom. It was not exactly clean, kind of wet and there was a lot of paper in the toilet bowl. When I was done, I flushed and the water came up like it was not going to stop…and I quickly made a run for it. I did not stay to see whether it overflowed or not. Then, I noticed that the guy doing the cooking was stationed in the area right in front of the toilets – he did not look like he was Chinese, kind of dark in complexion but that was perfectly all right by me as long as he could cook well. What put me off was that he had a cigarette in his mouth the whole time he was cooking…and I made up my mind there and then that I would never go back there again or if ever I do so, I would not order anything from that particular stall.

For dinner that evening, I decided to cook two of the boxes of goodies

Goodies from the US

…that I got from my ex-student, Raphael, when he was home from the US.

I followed the instructions faithfully and when it was done, the potatoes looked like this…

Potatoes 1

…but it was still creamy inside…

Potatoes 2

We thought it tasted very nice but it was rather salty.

Personally, albeit it being over-salty, I liked the taste of the sauce more than what was in the pasta…

Pasta

…but my girl loved the pasta so very much. In fact, by the time we all had our fill, there was only a little left so I said that we would just throw it away but she would not hear of it. She kept all of what was left, microwaved it the next morning and had it for breakfast. She said that the taste, the smell, everything reminded her of what she used to have in Wellington, New Zealand and she misses everything there so much. Perhaps one of these days, we can go there again on a holiday…