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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Japanese-style Potato Salad

I did not like potatoes. Fifth Aunt told me she ate lots of potato salad from the convenience store while travelling in Japan. When I went to Japan last year, I wasn't even tempted to try the salad. Because, well, I did not like potatoes all that much.

Last week, my colleague made some to share .... and I did quite enjoy it. Was I hungry at that time? Or did I actually find it yummy .... hmn. I wasn't sure. But then, it is something which is rather simple to make .... and so I made it on my own today.

I used 2 Russet potatoes, 1 hard-boiled egg, some cucumber and carrots, salt and pepper, and Kewpie mayonnaise.

My version of Japanese-style Potato Salad 

It was nice - what could go wrong with potatoes and egg and mayonnaise, right? Only that I think it needed more texture. Right now, there was more potatoes than there were carrots and cucumbers. I think I'd add more of those vegetables and maybe perhaps sweetcorn too next time around.

I couldn't finish the potato salad that night, during dinner ... and I kept some for the next day. I think it tasted even better the next day, especially because I could taste the cucumbers better. I brought it to school and had it with crackers .... and I did like it. :))

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Breakfasts In Kuching

Min Hong Kee, Jalan Padungan - terrible service on a Sunday morning; the tables weren't cleared and wiped, and no one bothered to take our orders for drinks. This coffee shop is for the early birds - the porridge here is ever so popular, and at 9.30 a.m., it is already sold out ...

Popiah, RM5.00 for 2 pieces
 Hmn ... I used to like it, but now I no longer do. I thought the vegetables were cut into pretty big strips and they did not soften enough for the sweetness to come out ... 

Sarawak laksa, RM6.00
Still one of the better laksas in town ... loved the coriander shoots topping the laksa

Kolo mee, RM3.50
I did not like it too as every mouthful tasted of lye water ... 

38 Food Street, iCom Square - I liked that this food court is spacious and airy .... 

Kueh, RM4.20
There was a variety of kueh to choose from ... just pick and choose what you want to eat ...

Beef noodle, RM6.00
Also one of the better beef noodles in town; the chilli sauce tasted distinctively of galangal 

Kueh Chap, RM6.00
No offal? Hmn ... dun like.

Premier Food Republic, Tabuan Tranquility - I loved the kueh stalls which sells A LOT of kueh. There are also many stalls here , but most of them being new, they hadn't established their reputation yet.

Xin Kung Fu dimsum - RM18.50 for 3 sets ....
I've never been impressed with their dimsum and had always found them to be overpriced. Anyway, the fluffy steamed baos were passable, but xiao long bao was terrible - dry and tasteless filling with no soup inside. 

Laksa, RM6.00 
Tasted funny 

Penang Fried Kueh Tiaw, RM6.00
Looking hardly Penang .. no clams ...... the deep-fried wantons were terrible as well as they were soggy; but luckily, the noodles tasted alright so I was able to finish it

The thing with the newer food courts such as this is that the stalls are not that established yet ... so the food isn't that good - laksa and fried kueh tiaw are both not impressive.

Song Corner, Tabuan Heights - another favourite place among the locals. So crowded it was!

Laksa, RM6.00
Very nice broth accompanying the noodles; to me, the laksa tasted quite authentic and this would be a dish I would return here for. Wish they are not so stingy with the broth though. 

Minced meat noodles, RM4.00
Springy noodles, passable dish ... I wasn't too impressed. 

Lui cha, RM6.00
Loved the crunch of the vegetables and the bittersweet herbal broth, not exactly the best broth but passable

Big Breakfast, RM9.00
Loved the presentation, made me happy just looking at it.  Loved the eggs and the coleslaw and the hash brown ... :)) 

Foody Goody, Jalan Setia Raja - popular coffee shop, packed on a Sunday and there's hardly any place to sit ... I used to like the youtiao, now shorter at RM1.00 and not so tasty ...

Kueh Chap
I liked the kueh chap, but Mom thought it did not taste like kueh chap should; tasted "different", she told me. She did not like the "sweetness" of the broth which she thought was artificial. Hmn ... I thought it wasted alright ...  

Laksa,
I was a bit disappointed with the laksa that day .... the broth, I thought, tasted funny ... that laksa flavour seemed to be different that morning. 

Ying Wah Yuen, Nanas Road - the other day, somehow not all the stalls are opened even though it was Saturday ... 

Loving the popiah here .... probably my favourite popiah for the time being ... RM3.00 per piece

The filling was on the sweet side, the vegetables were crunchy and the sauce was nutty; Mom thought it was too sweet but I liked it ;))

Kueh chap, RM7.00 
Not bad .... this one did not smell funky, reasonable portion of ingredients and noodles; rather enjoyable :))

Roti canai banjir
So salty!! Inedible at all. 

Mui Chin Cafe, Palm Road (prefer the old name) or Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce (what a mouthful!) - This small cafe is a nice place to eat breakfast, though the menu is limited. I liked both the kolo mee and the laksa ...

Moist and yet not oily, and very aromatic; healthy with a bit of greens too

What I liked about the laksa was that it was served really hot :))
Tasted very traditional too.

Small shop, friendly vendors tend to chat with you in between business ... :)) 

Yes Cafe, Trinity Hub - large place, loved the spaciousness .... 

Fried Kueh Tiaw, RM6.00
Moist, garlicky, smoky ... tasted alright, though I wasn't too pleased with the ingredients of fishballs, pork and egg .... 

Kueh chap, RM6.00
A bit smelly but tasted alright; the fatty meat was a bit too fat - next time must tell them I want lean meat. The kueh was thin and quite pleasant to slurp ...  

Kampua, RM3.50
Though quite aromatic, I thought the noodles were a bit overcooked ...  

Laksa, RM6.00
Did not look impressive nor appetising ... but it tasted quite alright, actually .... 

Plenty of places to eat, but well, we tend to order the same things ... heh .... Dad always orders laksa (though he insisted that he liked food courts where they were a variety of food sold ... lol), Mom and I sometimes have kolo mee and fried kueh tiaw or kueh chap. I loved a big, big breakfast on my days off. What are your favourite breakfast places? :))

Monday, October 9, 2017

From A Long Time Ago In Kuching ...

Every time I eat this shao bao from Chong Chon Biscuit Maker at Kai Joo Lane, I am lifted to the pastry heaven. If there is such a thing. Heh. For Chong Chon's shao bao is such a delight to eat. I think it's all about the balance of texture and flavour.

The pastry itself is crisp. It doesn't taste buttery at all, not salty but with a tinge of sweetness. The pork filling is moist and is savoury, and when you take a bite of the pastry together with the filling, the flavour and texture that combine are simply divine.

Simply delightful! Simply legendary and deserving of a Michelin Star or two ... 

For one thing, each pastry is handmade. Production is limited, and demand is high ... and hence, this shao bao can be quite difficult to buy. They simply have more customers than they have pastries! You just need to be there at the right time. Otherwise, you can call them and place an order. 

Chong Chon Biscuit Maker have been in establishment for a long time now, perhaps over 40 years. The shao bao tasted as good today as it did before, and I do hope that it will still be going strong for the years to come. Easily the best shao bao in Kuching in my book. 

Another old bakery in town is All Joy at Khoo Hun Yeang Street. When All Joy started, it sold only fast food. I remembered eating its Braised Duck Rice which was fantastic. I remembered there being  white rice, with slivers of succulent duck meat, doused in a thick, sweet braising sauce, and with some cucumber pickles on the side. I don't think it's on the menu now, and even if it is, I don't think it's the same Braised Duck Rice that I had when I was a primary-school-going kid. The last time I went to All Joy Cafe at Wisma Saberkas, I wasn't impressed at all with the food.

The bakery at All Joy only came about later on, and these were family favourites .... 

Butter buns 
These remained as they were a long time ago .... elongated buns with butter topping on top, and butter filling inside; tasted also like they used to be a long time ago

Peanut buns
I have loved the texture of these buns for so long - which were slightly crisp on the outside, yet soft and fluffy on the inside; loved the nutty and sweet peanuts rolled in between the doughs too ... 

Loved these old flavours - my childhood flavours - from the old Kuching; it's not easy to retain these flavours as the old recipe gets modernised to suit the tastebuds of today, or maybe modified to cut costs. In fact, too many of the old childhood favourites have evolved. Just one example - Fook Hai big bao no longer tasted as yum as they used to be, when they sold at the shop where Plaza Merdeka now stands.

And so, it is important that these bakeries leave a legacy of its authentic flavours so that these ever so yummy delicacies can be enjoyed for years to come. :))

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Taiwanese Old Style Cake 古早味蛋糕

Not sure since when this traditional Taiwanese sponge cake took the world (both the real world and the virtual world!) by storm, but I knew exactly when it started in Kuching. On 21 August 2017, a stall opened at Yes Cafe at 4.5 mile Kuching. It is called Hao Da Taiwan Old Style Cake 号大古早味现烤蛋糕 ... the cakes were baked on site and packed beautifully in a bright red box. I heard that there was a long wait for the cake when it first opened, and on that very first day it sold, I saw people carrying the bright red box even when I was waiting to see the doctor at the hospital. I remembered feeling amused at the time.

Cake + cuppa = happy 

Very soon, there were others that started selling - even my colleague J made her own version of the cake for sale.

This one was made by J, her 7 x 7 inch cake sold for RM33.00

This one with parmesan cheese was RM15.00 from Green Road 

Recently, a small stall opened at the shops (not sure what's the name of the shop .... this one packed the cake in yellow boxes and sold them at a higher price - the version with cheese was RM20) at Kenyalang - just opposite the Shell station - and Mom was fascinated. She said she'd dropped by once in a while to look at the crew baking the cake. Mom wasn't interested to buy, she was interested to bake. Even when we were at Yes Cafe recently, Mom was glued to the stall. Again, she was more interested in recreating the cake at home than buying it.

My colleague ME, who's an avid baker, shared that this was an easy cake to bake. And she told us the steps and gave us some tips offhand. I thought it sounded easy and it piqued my interest to bake as well. Back at home, I searched for a few recipes online .... Mom and I did exactly that. Bake.

We used Aunty Young's recipe exactly. Read the recipe here. In actual fact, the cake WAS really easy to make. It took us just a short while to mix the batter. I measured everything, broke and separated the eggs. Next, I mixed the flour with warm vegetable oil, milk and the egg yolks till smooth. Mom beat the egg whites and sugar till stiff and then combined everything together .... and in it went into the oven to bake for 50 minutes.

Ready to bake

Baked over water for 50 minutes 

So beautifully risen! Checking to see that it's cooked ....  

Ready to eat :)) 

Mom and I are both happy to with the results - the cake was so light, so fluffy, so egg-y and not sweet at all ... almost like chiffon cake, very pleasant to eat. Since our first try, we've made the cake a second time ... and Mom expressed her intention to try it again - next time she'd incorporate other flavours into the cake. Did I hear her say Nutella? Hmn .... Nutella sponge cake? 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Peach Gum

Don't know who brought up the topic of peach gum. I'd just finished my lesson and had gone back to my desk in the staff room when I heard my colleagues talking about peach gum. Huh? Peach gum? I'd not heard of peach gum before.

So out came the mobile phones, and photos of peach gum were flashed around. My colleagues were talking enthusiastically about where to buy them and how to cook them. I listened intently, but I did not say anything. After all, I'd not heard, not seen and not eaten peach gum ever before.

Peach gum was in fact the natural resin of the peach tree. The gum was in a form of dried amber crystals. One had to soak it and then clean it and then cook it with red dates, goji berries, lotus seeds and rock sugar.

My colleague ME said it was good for the knees. She said she would bring some for me when she cooked them over the weekend. And came Monday, kind ME brought a thermos jar of peach gum and red dates in broth. On the same day, my other colleague, M, brought 2 tumblers of peach gum that she'd cooked! Lol! So much peach gum to share around in one day. I drank the hot one and found peach gum to be really pleasant to eat. It was like jelly, and the hot broth flavoured with red dates and rock sugar was really soothing.

M even gave me some dried peach gum to cook. Back home, Mom soaked them for 24 hours ... and then cooked them with red dates, white fungus and rock sugar ...

Yummy and soothing .... 

I liked it hot ... but Dad preferred it cold. I wanted Dad to eat it cause Dad had bad knees .... so peach gum which is rich in collagen was good for him. Otherwise, peach gum was good for the skin, in that it was said to improve its elasticity and moisture. Which is just what I need because the skin on my face is feeling tight and dry again ..... not as serious as what happened in July, but still irritated me nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Happy Mid-Autumn 2017

These past weeks have been very busy. Many of my colleagues are MIA - some are sick, many are attending courses, some have retired and have not been replaced. It's a challenging time in school because we have to stand in for so many others ....

This week has been especially taxing for me. It's approaching the end of the school term and it's now the exam period. I've been busy managing exams for the past 3 days, to ensure that everything is running as it should. Phew! So glad that it's over now.

How do you celebrate Mid-Autumn, my colleague R who is Iban, asked me. Hmn. It was a time for family reunion. I remembered when I was younger, my grandparents' house would be abuzz with activities. A lot of cooking would be done .... and thereafter my grandpa would set up a table in front of the altar to offer all those delicious food to the ancestors. After that, all of us - my parents, my aunties and uncles, my brother and my cousins - would go to my grandparents' house for dinner. And after dinner, us children would play with our paper lanterns in the garden ....

Now, however ... hmn ..... we do not celebrate at all. No fancy dinners. No family reunions. No lanterns. Heh. It's just like any other ordinary day here at home.

This Mid-Autumn, however, my colleagues have been crazy about these Fermented Bean Curd Biscuits ...

6 Biscuits for RM14.00 

Our colleague, W introduced it to us a few days ago. He said he'd been eating this mooncake every year for the past 20 years. Huh? How come I've never known about this mooncake? Seriously I'd not eaten this before ..... especially here in Kuching.

Anyway, W was gracious enough to let us try some, and all of us liked the sweet, savoury, rich flavour of the biscuit. The biscuits were really nice to nibble at, especially with a cuppa. And so, everyone wanted to buy themselves a packet, and I was sent to do the shopping. I did not mind since it is just a stone's throw away from the park where I go walking every evening.

Heh. Anyway, the shop was called Wing Hiong, and it is located at Jalan Padungan. I don't believe I've bought anything here before. Well, if W didn't mention it, I think this shop would still escape my notice. So at the eve of the Mid-Autumn festival, there were still lots of mooncakes on sale. The lady told me that they made all of the mooncakes they sold at the shop. I did not browse though. I bought 5 packets of the Fermented Bean Curd Biscuits and left in a jiffy.

Back in school today, my friends were all delighted to have their own packet of mooncake to bring home. :))

Monday, September 25, 2017

Telok Melano - Sematan - Lundu - Kuching

We checked the Internet last night. Sunrise was at 6.30 a.m. ... and we wanted to be in time to watch the sun rising in the horizon. I woke up at 4.00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep. My friends, too, woke up one by one. We were teachers, so we were all used to waking up early ....

We chatted till about 6.00 a.m. .... I went to wash my face and brush my teeth. I had not bothered to bathe. I thought the water would be too cold.

2 single beds in the living area .... 

2 bedrooms
A single bed in the small room on the left, a double bed in the room on the right .... 

A double mattress that I slept on 

By the time I walked to the beach, the sun had risen .... 

The sun hiding in the clouds 

But I loved the colours! 

I asked my friend to help me take a photograph .... our antics were caught on cam by CYP. Heh.

We walked back to eat breakfast .... 

Fried beehoon with cabbage and sausages

Belacan fried rice

I liked the rice more than the noodles .... the rice was stir-fried with pounded anchovies, chillies and belacan and it was so appetising. We also had ... 

Beehive cake 

Steamed fruit cake
Nek called this Kek Buah Pala or nutmeg cake; she said she planted the nutmeg herself and that she had 200 nutmeg trees in her orchard. I couldn't really taste the nutmeg, but I liked the cake.

Kueh Bom filled with grated coconut

Keropok

The keropok was bought at Temajuk, but the rest were all homemade. I had a pretty good appetite that morning. Heh. I helped myself to a lot of rice and noodles.

The new homestay next door
Grass is always greener on the other side ... 

The homestay next door was run by Nek's son and his wife. They were both teachers, teaching in Kuching. That day that we were there, the homestay were also rented out to a group of teachers. 

We did our final packing. Nek presented each of us a souvenir. We said our goodbyes and left. We stopped at the house near the jetty to buy peppercorns. 1 kg of white peppercorn only sold for RM30. I bought 1/2 kg for Mom. 

On the way back to Sematan, our boatman brought us past Pulau Talang-Talang. We needed permission to go to the island ... so we did not dock. We could see turtle hatcheries from afar .... 

Leaving Talang-Talang Island .... 

He also brought us to see coral reefs at one of the islands ..... I peered as hard as I could into the green water, but I could not see anything ... 

Approaching Sematan 

 After saying goodbye to Encik Sarip 

We went to buy buns at this coffee shop called Kwong Sun 廣新 ...

 Butter, red bean paste and coconut buns ... all at RM0.50

I bought 4 pieces each of butter and coconut buns for the folks. We sat down for a cuppa .... 

 Kopi 

SC ordered kolo mee ... 
I had a mouthful and thought it was yummy.

Opposite the coffee shop, we saw a van selling fresh corn .... I bought a bag for RM10. There were 10 pieces inside. Shortly after, we went to collect our cars. We stopped by the market .... 

Pretty decor made from seashells 

Fresh produce

Clams, 8 pieces for RM3.00

Durian flowers 

Deep-fried crabs 

Only RM2.50 per piece

I picked out 2 pieces of crabs to bring home. Later on, I did find the crabs to be fresh. They were not too big, though, so not much meat to eat. I actually thought the crabs were slightly overcooked so that the meat was tough. It would have been nicer if they were steamed instead of deep-fried. 

We also bought some fritters to snack on ... 

Our next destination was Pantai Pugu .... 

This is the latest / newest beach which is opened up to the public
It's a very big beach .... but it was too hot to stroll .... so we merely sat in the shade ... 

We next headed to lunch at Fung Ling Seafood .... 

Tasty belacan made by C 
We snacked on these while waiting for our orders ..... 

The proprietors knew W by name .... he's a local from Lundu and he frequents this restaurant

Very yummy lime juice
We ordered 2 big jugs of this lime juice 
It was sweet, sour, salty - very refreshing. I must have drank at least 3 or 4 glasses of this .... 

Stirfried flower crabs with egg
Only flower crabs were available that day ... the crabs were sweet, but overall, the seasoning for the egg was a tad salty ... nonetheless an enjoyable dish ...

Salted vege soup
I did not care much for the ingredients, but the soup was tasty as it was tangy

Signature tofu
What I liked about this dish was the gravy, which had the aroma and flavour of cooking wine ... yums

Kung Pao Cuttlefish
I did not like the cuttlefish as they were chewy; overcooked, I think. The kung pao sauce also did not have much flavour 

Stir-fried pork with lemongrass
A bit salty, but I liked the flavour of the lemongrass on this dish; this is the signature dish here and you could customise it by having pork belly instead of lean pork 

Stir-fried midin with garlic
Another dish I liked; crunchy vegetables in garlicky sauce ... yum .. 

Our final stop before we left Lundu was the ferry point ... there were many stalls here selling snacks ...

Who could resist these? 

The prices varied from stall to stall .... 
We patronised one stall when the vendor decided to sell us at RM1.20 per pack 

I picked and choose what I liked and ended up buying 7 packets. I picked mostly banana chips .... heh. 

Top - banana chips
Bottom, L - R  - Kuih Tangga and yam chips

I'd never seen Kuih Tangga before ... It was flat and there was a filling of mashed raisins in between the crispy pastry. I tried it when I got home, and wasn't too crazy about it. The banana and yam chips were yum though. 

After our final stop, we drove straight on to Kuching ..... I managed to reach home before 4.00 p.m. It had been a fun short holiday with my colleagues going to no man's land at the Western tip of my home state. 

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