Saturday, April 29, 2017

田鸡 - My First Leap

Those who want frog or 田鸡 sit at Table 1. Those who do not shall sit at Table 2. Those are the instructions given by my friends, when they organised a retirement celebration dinner for my colleague's wife, a lady whom we all know quite well.

田鸡 or Tian Ji is a species of frog that is edible. Its Chinese name literally means "Rice Field Chicken" . Since I hadn't eaten frogs before, I thought I'd take my first leap - heh - I mean my first try. So I sat at Table 1 together with the other frog enthusiasts. Hmn .... it won't be that scary, I thought. Many people said that it tasted like chicken - or better than chicken, in fact, as the meat would be sweeter and more succulent.

We ordered our frogs cooked in Kung Pao (宫保) style - meaning I was expecting the flavours to be bold, spicy ....

Frogs in Kung Pao Sauce ... 

I picked up a tiny piece of meat with my chopsticks gingerly, checked it a bit and popped it in my mouth. The meats' juices exploded as I bit into it .... and my tongue and brain registered textures and flavours that were somewhat unfamiliar. The meat was bouncy, yet tender, and had a slightly fishy taste. Though I did not quite like it, I went for a second piece. This time I picked up part of a leg - part of a drumstick. This piece of meat had the same bouncy texture .... but no fishy taste. At the same time, I couldn't detect any of the sweetness from the meat. Perhaps it was overpowered by the strong flavours from the sauce.

After 2 pieces, I have had enough. Heh. My first taste of frogs hadn't been that impressive. According to my friend, the best way to appreciate the flavour is by cooking the frogs in shredded ginger with clear broth. Hmn ... he must be right. Heh. 

No one at my table praised this dish too. Perhaps it was really not cooked in the right way. Anyway, my favourite dish of the night was Venison and Kailan Stirfry ....

 I love red meat!!
Thin slices, tender and nicely flavoured with shredded ginger, paired really well with crunchy kailan ....
But everyone else's favourite was ...

Hakka Yong Tau Foo
The meat filling was very tasty - salty and full of flavour; I liked the zing from the chilli dip as well.

That night, our dinner was at You Fook Restaurant at Desa Moyan, located about 20 km from the city centre along Jalan Batu Kawa-Matang. Overall, the food was not bad. I'd bring the folks here for dinner next time. :))

Friday, April 21, 2017

Acar Rebung

"Kak, I like the acar rebung that you made the other time ....," I was telling my colleague, N. Super easy to make, she replied. We were talking about Hari Raya (already!) ... and how we urged her to have an open house this year because this would be the last year we were going to be colleagues. N was retiring at the end of the year ...

We were talking about it casually yesterday, standing in front of the notice board in the staff room, and while looking at the notices, conversation somehow shifted to Chinese New Year and then Hari Raya ... and then acar rebung. Heh.

Today. early in the morning, N came with a huge container of acar rebung for the staffroom! How generous of her! Bring your container, she told me. And proceeded to scoop a huge portion into my container.

Acar Rebung 

Acar Rebung 

I've not eaten bamboo shoots cooked in such a way before. But once I had it, I was intrigued.  The crunchy bamboo shoots were infused with the heavy flavours of the spices (may be too strong for some people!). But it was really nice to eat with plain and steaming hot white rice.

She briefly shared with us her recipe yesterday while we were talking .... blanch the fresh bamboo shoots; blend and saute the aromatics and curry powder till fragrant; mix in the bamboo shoots and stir-fry till dry; and then garnish with "anything you want". She meant prunes, dates, raisins, roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, and even freshly-washed dried prawns.

I searched online, and there isn't much information about Acar Rebung. The closest recipe would be from this website called Dapurku Berasap :
BAHAN-BAHAN ACAR REBUNG: Rebung(telah direbus)..kadang2 dipanggil juga rebung jeruk..(Rm2.00) Udang kering(dalam rm3)..Separuh ditumbuk, separuh dibiar mcm tu je Serbuk kari (ayam/daging)..saya biasa guna Adabi dalam 5 sudu besar Sedikit halia (diketuk) serai (diketuk) 2 biji Cili hidup(di belah dua) Sedikit Rempah tiga jenis iaitu 2 biji bunga cengkih, 2 biji bunga lawang, setengah batang kulit kayu manis 5 Ulas bawang merah(dikisar) 4 Ulas bawang putih (dikisar) Minyak utk menumis secukupnya Gula secukupnya Garam secukupnya Cuka atau  (air asam jawa) secukupnya
CARA-CARA MEMBUAT: Panaskan minyak di dalam kuali dan tumis bahan-bahan yang telah dikisar dan juga serai serta halia  tadi sehingga naik baunya. Masukkan bunga cengkih, bunga lawang, kulit kayu manis dan kacau. Masukkan pula rempah kari dan kacau hingga sebati. Setelah rempah kari naik baunya, masukkan pula air asam jawa dan biarkan seketika. Masukkan Udang kering tadi Selepas itu, masukkan rebung, kacau dan biarkan sehingga mendidih. Apabila telah mendidih, masukkan gula dan garam. Kemudian kacau sehingga sebati. Masak api perlahan dan biarkan seketika sehingga kuah acar rebung pekat. Angkat setelah masak dan hidangkan.
N is really a good cook. She is able to cook for the entire staffroom on occasions - especially during festive seasons like Hari Raya. I remember when we celebrated the late Mr. R's retirement at school, we too, got her to cook.  At 60, she's always jolly and dresses herself flamboyantly. I am full of admiration for her sense of style, her colourful backpacks and glamorous jewellery pieces. Our own diva in the staffroom, thank you for your love and your generosity. :))

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Post Easter Blues

It's been really stressful these past few days ever since school reopened on Tuesday. There are so many reports to write and more are coming up; I wonder what's wrong with the school system now! We are made to run so many programmes - and they all need documentation. What's due this week - mock speaking test report, action research schedule, action research proposal, intervention programme report, kpi form, environmental programme report .....

As I am growing older, I feel that I'm getting slower! It took me the whole morning yesterday to process a set of marks .... and the thing was that I could not even finish doing them. I had to continue them at home last night. Sigh! So inefficient! At this rate, teaching and learning will definitely be neglected. I haven't been looking into lesson prep and marking at all!!

On a happier note, my colleagues who have come back from their Easter holidays were sharing goodies with us ....

Seaweed, chocolates and candies and coffee ... heh ...
From M who went to Seoul and AL who went to Danang 

These will make great snacks while I slog in front of the computer doing my paperwork. Really appreciate their thoughtfulness. Thanks girls .... :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ME's Homebaked Cheese Tart

This morning, my friend ME gave me a piece of her Homebaked cheese tart. Hats off to her. I would not have been able to make a cheese tart on my own as of yet. Heh. I thought ME's cheese tart looked really good and I saved it till I could get home and snap a photo of it ....

Looking great eh?

Last year, photos of cheese tarts seemed to be trending on Instagram. At least it seemed that there were always photos of cheese tarts every time I browsed on Instagram. So much so that when I went to Osaka last year, I HAD to have a Pablo or two. On our last night at Osaka, we queued up at the Dotonbori outlet - though it was freezing cold and our teeth were chattering - just to buy ourselves some tarts. I even contemplated bringing some home. Heh. 

Pablo Mini Cheese Tart, ¥200

The Pablo Cheese Tart was freshly-baked and felt hot in my hands. Standing in the frigid winter weather outside the shop, I finished the tart in just 4 bites. Heh. I found the crust to be crispy and buttery, and the filling to be oozing rich and creamy cheese ..... So good! So satisfying! So indulgent! I could understand the craze for it. 

Later on, we read that Pablo was native to Osaka, and had been selling cheese tarts since 2011. The founder was a guy named Masamitsu Sakimoto, who had created the recipe after 6 months of experimentation. Pablo has since opened an outlet at One Utama, KL - I've not eaten the ones here and thus can't comment as to whether the quality is the same as in Japan. 

Nearer to home - there's Hokkaido Cheese Tart at Vivacity and another outlet opening soon at The Spring ... I've not had those too. Perhaps I'd try some upon my next visit to the malls.

Ever since we ate Pablo in Osaka, ME'd been talking about making her own cheese tarts. Heh, she finally did it today! ME's cheese tart used a mixture of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and heavy cream; while the cheese custard were a bit too hard, the tart was perfectly tasty. I appreciated her effort, for I certainly had no motivation to bake for the time being. :))

Monday, April 17, 2017

Road Trip : Sebuyau - A Food Log

Early morning and it was important for us to eat our breakfast before the start of our journey. We went to Ru Yi Corner at Stutong - this is the coffee shop adjacent to Imperial Bak Kut Teh and Yu Zhi Xiang; this coffee shop had changed proprietors a few times and thus, its name also changed a few times. 

My friend, W's niece ran the laksa stall here, and for the longest time, he'd been telling me to try his niece's laksa; I hadn't had the opportunity to do so, though, till now; 

Small Laksa, RM6.00

The laksa was a huge portion, and generously topped with so many condiments - not sure if it's because Uncle W ordered it on our behalf; Lol. I liked the fact that the laksa broth was boiling hot; a taste revealed that broth was not spicy, and that it was on the sweeter side; the taste of coconut milk stood out, and I was pretty sure that they had used some pre-packaged santan. A passable bowl of laksa, but certainly not the best in town ... 

Assorted kueh, RM4.20
We loved the deep-fried banana fritters - they weren't fried on the spot; but they were still tasty though; the carrot cake wasn't good - too much flour and lacking in flavour, and not salty enough; the chai kueh looked so pretty. I liked the skin - which was thin and chewy; the salted vegetable filling wasn't tasty and lacked texture.

We reached Sebuyau in time for lunch. We ate at the District Hawker Centre - at a stall named Voon Nyuk Seng.

Food court

Thanks to Siti, lunch was pre-arranged; the stall had expected our arrival. There were 17 of us, and we occupied 4 tables; there were 4 dishes served in 4 portions.

Well, food was cheap.  The style of cooking was simple, and somewhat bland. But the portions were really generous. We only paid RM450 per meal, and when divided out, it meant that it only cost us RM28 per person per meal - and that too inclusive of rice and drinks.

Midin, stirfried with garlic and red wine 
The vegetables were a beautiful shade of green, indicating that they were not overcooked; the red wine, however, lacked in aroma - not sure whether they used too little or the quality of the red wine wasn't good

Freshwater prawns with lemongrass dried chillies 
There were a handful of large prawns - those were really yum - fresh and succulent; there were some smaller prawns that weren't very fresh as the flesh were already soft and crumbly.

 Crabs, stir-fried with egg 
The crabs were bought by Siti from Simunjan; they were small but fresh and sweet and tasty

Fish head in Assam Pedas gravy
The fish was fresh and so delicious! Its meat was so sweet and so fine! We kept wondering what fish it was that we were eating. There was contradicting information as the proprietor told us it was Ikan Terusan, and Siti told us it was Ikan Panjang. Siti told us that the fish would often be 2 metres long and was found in abundance in the area. Heh. Siti sounded more convincing. So, Ikan Panjang it was! Check out some writings on Ikan Panjang here.

The proprietor of the food stall was a middle-aged Chinese man. He was a friendly guy, seeing to it that we had everything we needed to enjoy our meal; he took photos with us and stayed around to chat after our meal; we found out that he was Mr. Tay ... and his wife was the cook; he had rented the food stall from the District Office and his lease was renewed every year;

Dinner, would be in fact, at the same stall. Lol. There weren't any other places to eat, it seemed. We asked the proprietor what he was serving us for dinner, and he hinted of Ikan Panjang and Ikan Lumek. We asked for crabs and cockles and bamboo clams. But the proprietor told us that no such seafood were available at Sebuyau. We were quite disappointed. 

My colleague L, was actually looking forward to eating Ikan Terubok - a fish synonymous with Sebuyau ... but unfortunately there was none this trip. Someone said that there had been a crocodile attack as recent as last week, and the fishermen were not willing to risk their lives to catch the Terubok just as yet. 

It was a hot, hot afternoon and we were feeling restless at the Rest House (duh!); the room we were resting in was hot despite the air-condition. I was feeling sticky and uncomfortable ... so I rounded up some of my friends and we went to cool off at a drinks stall just outside of the Rest House gate ....

And here, we had ...

The shaved ice was pretty rough .... but at least the dessert wasn't too sweet; it was quite tasty actually; we felt much cooler after having this .... 

Fried chicken
The fried chicken wings were pretty much tasteless; the chilli sauce too was tasteless

We hanged out here for a long time, chatting till the crowd started coming in and we vacated our tables to make way for the locals. For 5 bowls of ABC and a plate of chicken wings, we paid RM20.00. 

Half an hour later, we walked back to the food stall for dinner. Heh. We had our dinner early so that some of us could drive back before the sun set .... 

Deep-fried Mackerel Steaks
The fish steaks were fresh, quite thick. Unfortunately, this wasn't my favourite way of eating mackerel ...

Mixed vegetables
Again, the vegetables were nicely cooked and were still crunchy ... 

Steamed ikan panjang fillets
This was my favourite dish that night; I think I nearly ate a whole fillet .... the fish was soft and the meat did not smell; super yum! 

Ikan Lumek in soup
Ikan Lumek was lizard fish; cThis dish reminded me of Mom; this would be how we cook Ikan Lumek at home .... so much so that I asked if the proprietor was Teochew ... heh ... indeed Mr. Tay was Teochew. Kaki Nang :)) 

Stir-fried Pork

Washed down with a cold, cold can of Heineken

So while the seafood was fresh (except for some of the prawns), the cooking style was unsophisticated. We were grateful, however, for the hospitality shown by the proprietor, Mr. Tay and also to Siti - our fellow teacher who was working hard to educate young children at such a remote place.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Road Trip : Sebuyau

Sebuyau. I'd never been to this place. However, I'd heard of its name since I was a child. My late maternal grandfather pronounced it as "Si-boo-yeo", and a long time ago, he ran a small-time business, bringing goods from Kuching to Sebuyau for sale. It's been more than 3 decades, and I do not remember what he sold at Sebuyau. I only remembered seeing Grandpa packing the things into big boxes and recording them in little booklets and doing his calculations on an abacus.

Well anyway, I was excited to visit this place - to see for myself this small town which had some connection with my late maternal grandfather. Sebuyau is a sleepy coastal town in the Sri Aman Division. This small town is pretty much out of the way from the Pan Borneo Highway - the road that connects Kuching with major towns in Sarawak like Serian, Sri Aman, Betong, Sibu and all the way to Miri.

Source : Google Map

We need not travel on the Pan Borneo Highway. We could drive straight to Sebuyau from Kuching - via Samarahan, Asajaya and Sadong Jaya.

Source : Google Map

So that morning, my colleague, W, picked me up from my house at 6.50 a.m. We were meeting the others at Ru Yi Corner at Stutong, behind OneTJ. We wanted to fill our tummies before we began our journey.

It was a sunny day, and I regretted not bringing a jacket to cover my arm and also sunglasses to shield my eyes. Anyway, our first stop would be Asajaya. First of all from Samarahan to Asajaya, there were 2 routes.

(Source :

The shorter way was via the ferry - the purple route; But we took the pink route that morning, which was longer by about 16.5km. The road brought us past idyllic village houses, pineapple fields, palm oil estates. Pineapple stalls dotted the road side .... and we were actually keen to buy some. However, we did not stop as we thought we could get the fruits later on in the journey ....

Very soon, we reached the little township of Asajaya .... 

Asajaya had a few short blocks of shophouses like these ... 

So colourful!

There wasn't much to see at Asajaya ...we stopped here for a toilet break, and also to cool ourselves down with cold drinks. Then we were on the road again ... 

Sadong Bridge
This bridge was only opened in October last year; the 1.48km bridge over Batang Sadong brought us to Sebuyau

Before October 2016, commuters had to cross the crocodile-infested Sadong River via ferry. Though the ferry fare cost only RM1.00, it was no doubt slightly inconvenient as vehicles needed to queue up at the banks to wait for the ferry and water had to be at the right level for the ferry to operate ... Now, the bridge made it much easier for folks to travel ... 

All the way to Sebuyau, we could see banana trees flanking both sides of the road! So many banana trees and some coconut trees .... but we did not see any road side stalls selling the fruits! Too bad!

Soon, we reached SMK Sebuyau. 

SMK Sebuyau
Here, a fellow teacher was waiting for us. Her name was Siti. She was originally from Johor, and had been teaching at Sebuyau for 7 years already!

SMK Sebuyau had over 900 students, and was a double-session school; there were about 80 teaching staff here. 

 SMK Sebuyau - the admin block

The school hall

A classroom block behind the admin block

2 classes shared this classroom - Form 4 Fantastic in the morning and Form 1 Fantastic in the afternoon

The staff quarters

 More classroom blocks

The buildings were on stilts as flooding occurs quite frequently here, and the teacher told us that the students were allowed to go home early whenever there was flood. I could see mud-skippers and little crabs on the ground ... heh ....

I tried to imagine myself teaching here ..... heh .... I would probably be bored to death. 

The little town of Sebuyau 
There was nothing interesting at the shops ... no specialty items, no souvenirs .... hmn ...

We, coming all the way here, were interested in local produce and fresh seafood .... but in fact, we did not see any at all. According to Siti, the fishing boats would return at 4.00 p.m. usually, so she told us to wait till then in case they brought in some bounty from the sea ...

A barber shop in the bushes ....

There were no hotels here .... and my friends who were staying overnight were putting up at the Sebuyau District Office Rest House. Heh. The house had 4 rooms, each accommodating a double and a single bed.

The living area ...

 The VIP room with ...

an en suite bath

The VIP room was RM60 a night, and the other 3 rooms cost RM50 a night. The rest house wasn't very well-maintained and seemed to be a little dirty, But the rooms were air-conditioned, thankfully. 

We freshened ourselves up a bit and went to the jetty .... 

A row of shops by the jetty ....

I was quite amused to see the old-school "SHELL" sign. No petrol station here - I think petrol was sold in bottles. There were at least 3 grocery shops here ... I heard one of the shopkeepers speaking in Teochew. Before I had a chance to talk to him, he had disappeared into the shop. Heh. 

A Chinese temple by the jetty 
The sculptures were all damaged .... the hornbill was decapitated, the crocodile was missing its tail, the rhino's back had a big hole in it and the fish was missing its fin ... lol

This is Sebuyau River meeting South China Sea ....

Sebuyau River
I was keen to see a crocodile or two .... but heh .... there was none in sight ...

Since there wasn't much to see at Sebuyau, we drove out to the Batang Lupar ferry point ... 

Ferry connecting Sebuyau to Maludam
It took 30 minutes to go across Batang Lupar! So huge was the river!

The ferry leaving .... 

A few of us wanted to leave our cars at the jetty and just jump on the ferry for a ride to the other side of the river bank; but then we were worried that we might not make it back in time; for if the tide subsided, the ferry could not operate. So in the end, we stayed put. 

We went back to Sebuyau ... but the fishermen had not come back with their days' catch. The tide was low, we heard, and they could only be expected at a later time, perhaps at 6.00 p.m. Sigh. No seafood for us to source, no fresh seafood for us to buy for our dinner there .... All I managed to buy were 1 tub of pure gula apong and 2 pieces of soursop. 

As the sun began to set, a few of us made our way home. Darkness descended quickly and it was pitch dark at most places along the way. There were no street lights, and occasionally we saw lights from the village houses beside the road. 

It felt more civilised - or rather, somewhat less remote - after we crossed the Sadong Bridge. At the Asajaya ferry point, we queued up for the ferry to go across to Samarahan. It took RM1.00 and less than 5 minutes. Soon after Samarahan, we saw buildings familiar to us Kuchingites .... and I reached home at 9.40 p.m. The leisurely drive had taken us about 3 hours. 

There were many parts of Sarawak which are still very remote, and not very developed. I think that hardly anyone visits Sebuyau since it is by-passed by the highway. Had there more visitors, Sebuyau would have been more lively. There would be hotels and homestays and seafood restaurants and even markets selling the local produce. 

I wondered if the folks ever got out of Sebuyau. Where was the nearest bank? How often would they go to the nearest township? I guess they lead simple lives, and are self-sufficient - living off the land and the river and the sea; they have no need for fancy houses, big malls, material comforts, and fast Internet connections unlike me. Heh. 

This trip has been a new but a very good experience for me. I really appreciate my friends for organising. As for fresh local produce and seafood, we were disappointed -

Looking forward to the next outing. Mukah? :))

Friday, April 14, 2017

After Sports Day 2017 ....

It's the sports season at school. Two years ago, I was a Sports House Mistress, and managing the athletes had been quite stressful. Last year, I was Assistant House Mistress, and even helping to manage the athletes were also no fun.

So Sports Day came and went this year. And the best thing was I quite enjoyed it now that I was assigned other tasks. My turn in managing a sports house was over, so this year I was working as a Track Judge. It was my first time being a Track Judge so it was a new experience. We were located in a tent near the finishing line. That was where all the track action was centred .... so it had been a fun two days at Stadium Sarawak. The weather was co-operative as well, so it had been really pleasant. My job was to record the athletes' numbers into a form ... quite an easy peasy job. :))

We ended our Sports Day early that day .... and in the afternoon, my friend CM and I went to see her new house at Samarahan - she'd installed the lighting at her house. What she did was to research the lights that she needed; she went from shop to shop here in Kuching, but then finally bought them online from Taobao ... she actually had them flown over from China and just recently got them installed. It was a lengthy process which took months and lots of stress, and now that it was over, she gained a tremendous sense of satisfaction, and and wanted to show them off to me. Heh.

So anyway, after a short visit to her new house, we went to Summer Mall. I'd not been there for a long time and I found the mall to be in a sorry state. I remember that there was an Esprit outlet - but now the shop was not there anymore. Mr. DIY had also close down. Sigh. So basically, there were hardly any exciting shops .... but funnily, I managed to buy 2 tops at a reject shop for RM10 each. So cheap .... lol.

We had our dinner at the Food Court .... I surveyed the stalls and did not find anything appetising to eat .... and had to settle for ...

Seafood Tom Yum Tang Hoon, RM9.50

Hmn .... after one glance at my bowl, I told myself not to expect too much. The seafood meant 1 piece of prawn, 4 bite-sized pieces of cuttlefish and 2 bite-sized pieces of fish fillet. Other than that, I could see lots of sliced onions and some sliced lemongrass, a few tomato wedges,  2 pieces of canned button mushroom - that too were quartered. Tsk, tsk.

Tang Hoon was glass noodles, but instead of glass noodles, I found beehoon or rice vermicelli in my bowl. The Tom Yum Soup was bright orange in colour ... and luckily, it did not look too diluted. I scooped a spoonful of the soup and sipped it. It was tangy, spicy and quite flavourful. If only there were more ingredients in the bowl, it would have been perfect.

There was really nothing to see at Summer Mall ... and after dinner, we drove back to Kuching. It took an hour because there was a traffic jam .... even at 7.30 p.m. in the evening.


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