Inderasabah

“Stay safe, Sabah.”

That was actually what one of my colleagues said, as the news of the skirmishes reached us at the office in KL. A lot of us travel to Tawau for work, so naturally we were worried for those posted in the East of Malaysia. Troops were deployed, fatalities reported.

I’ve been having such a hard time to write a blog post lately, partly due to work schedule, but I can’t help but to show these pictures now in light of what is happening.

This was taken last year while I was visiting Sabah. Before then, I’ve never been to Borneo.

A Sabahan colleague took me and some others to a village near Tawau called Inderasabah: a small fishing village on silts occupied primarily by the Bugis people.

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They said that the best salted fish are from Inderasabah. Many foreigners and locals come here to get the best dried fish (especially “ikan bilis”).

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Somewhat fragile looking houses, yet the whole community lives up here in a seemingly peaceful seaside.

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With the current situation, all fishing along this region would have been grounded to a stop I would imagine.

Phonecalls from those we know near Lahad Datu and Tawau reported that fishing ports and many shops were closed and advised us those from the Peninsula to not travel here for the time being.

ImageFresh catch would be hand picked and processed.

ImageThese nets were laid out in the “courtyards” between houses. Below in the water, I could see other fishes waiting for the dried bits to fall through the netting and into the water for them to eat.Image

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The sun-dried and salted fish were packed up in plastic bags according to the weight you want. The background here is the said “courtyard” for fish sun-drying. Brought back a kilo for my mum and she said it was one of the best dried fish she ever got.

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Inderasabah village kids just hanging out at the doorstep of their home.

I just can’t stop wondering how a village like this would be right now.

Stay safe, Sabah.

-M.

Sarawakian fruits

I was back in Sibu again recently. Though it is end of the year, I’ve learnt that the fruiting season is almost the opposite from that on the Peninsula.

SibumarketGone to Sibu market in the early morning to see what I can find. I found that the local durian was in season. My, some of the kampung varieties are so small and looked like a green sea urchin!

Duriansibu

Oh yes, when there is durian, there is also duku/langsat/dokong. The tangy and sweet flesh of that small round yellow-skinned fruit is just so contrasting to the creamy durian. Perfect, right?

Oh, there is of course the all year round banana, but take a look at the price.

pisang

During my trip, I’ve been introduced to a very particular fruit seasonal around November/December.

dabais

Apparently this fruit ripens at the same time on one tree. Dabai, as it is called, is also known as “Black Olive” here.

DabaicookedDabai doesn’t keep well so you will need to eat it within a few days of purchasing. I am told not to buy any wrinkly ones. I’m not sure if you can have it raw, as I was also instructed to “cook” it – buy exposing them to hot sun for a while or soaking them in warm (not boiling) water for about 30 mins or until soften. Then, douse the dabai with soya sauce and sprinkle some sugar to taste.

DabaiSeed

I really don’t know how to describe the taste… a little bit sweet, and… oily? Anyway, it is definitely an acquired taste. The large seed in the centre is like an American football. How odd.

Matakuching

I’ve also spotted some Sarawakian variant of the mata kuching (longan). It’s got green skin with sharp bumps, something like a lychee but tougher. The inside is very much like a longan, though the seed is a paler brown and the flesh more clear. The flavour was intense and so sweet. Much better than any of the commercial longan I have tried.

-M.

Niagara winery: Inniskillin

Can you believe this view???

When in Canada, you should visit this wonderful place at least once. The scenery is breathtaking!

Since this is a food blog, I’m obviously ain’t gonna stop at showing you this natural wonder. Nearby, in a place called Niagara-on-the-lake, you will find lots of winery dotted around. We went to one of the most famous Canadian winery, called Inniskillin.

Inniskillin is most famous for its icewine. Apparently, they beat many of the European winery when competing in this category.

The tour of the winery costs only $5. Cheap if you compare that with wine tours in Europe. Here’s our guide showing us the grapes for icewine.

Apart from icewine, they also grow other grapes such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I was surprised that Pinot Noir was able to survive Canadian climate.

They let us try the Pinot Noir grape. Yums.

After the tour of the winery (this included the usual tour of cellar, where you see all the vats and barrels of wine being stored.) it was time for the wine tasting. Unfortunately, we found that with the exception of the icewine, the wine given were a real let down. So what was all the fuss about Inniskillin? (apart from the icewine).

Well of course we went on to try their other wines on offer inside their shop, for a small fee.

Here’s the pretty cosy interior of the shop.

The wine list on offer.

My, what a difference they were from the wine that was served.  I’m sorry, but old world wine still trumps new world when it comes to blending good reds in general. We all agreed that their whites were pretty good though. Here are the ones we think were worth buying:

1. Pinot Noir Rose. They may not have made the best red Pinot Noir, but their Rose was pretty smooth and fruity. Perfect for those who   are just starting on wines or those who like the sweeter, fruitier wines.

2. Three Vineyards Chardonnay. Crisp white that is blended just fine. A little oaky yet subtle sweetness. I’m not the biggest fan of chardonnay but this one is very drinkable.

3. The best of the whites I think is this 2010 Legacy Riesling. Dry yet mineral wine but easy on the acidity. I love this one. Of course, this had to be more expensive than the other two! LOL.

By the end of the day, a crate of rose and half a dozen of the Riesling were bought (Sugamama’s bf is the major buyer here, since we can’t be bringing so much wine with us.) A very good and tipsy day out. I have to say that the tour was only so-so, very basic talk on wine so is good for beginner wine buffs. Well, for a fiver I don’t think you get much better deal than this, though. If you are a big wine fan like Papa Salvatore, then go there, skip the tour, and give the wines a taste at their bar. Five bucks can get you several tasters!

-M.

 

UPDATE: I meant to put this up but I forgot. Here is a short and dizzy video of me on the boat going into the Horseshoe Fall in Niagara.

St. Jacob’s Market, Waterloo

So on with my journey in the East of Canada. Waterloo is a small town possibly most famous for the makers of Blackberry, RIM. There is a farmer’s market every Thursday nearby, and so Sugamama brought me and the parents to have a look at the produce mainly from this group of people called the Mennonites.

The entrance of the market was aptly decorated with corn stalks since it was autumn. Signs were proudly shown to have several countries I think to signify the influence of culture in this market.

More autumn themed decorations around the market.

To be honest, I did not know Mennonites exist until I came here. I only thought there were Quaker and Amish colonies. Look at the fresh sweet corn. Going for real cheap too. There were so much to see here. Lots of fresh produce from the Mennonites, including honey and maple. There was also cooked food and other non-grocery items like flowers, pots and clothes being sold.

For lunch, we had pork and chips (uh, fries) from this shop. I saw the sign for pigtails and I wanted to try it since I haven’t had anything like that before.

Here’s our lunch. Sugamama tried the ribs (picture above), while I had that pigtail (below). It was good! Two old men sat opposite us on the bench enjoying their pigtails (away from their wives they said, as they were not allowed to eat pigtails) and were like “I’ve never seen anyone eat a pigtail with such manners before. You gotta get in there!” Yeah yeah, I just feel self-conscious about using my hands in public.

And for dessert: Apple Fritters! The shop is in the covered part of the market.

The sourness of the apples were balanced out by some simple vanilla ice cream. Sugamama just loved this combo.

We went back happy with a large bag of corn and some fruits from the market.

-M. (and Sugamama)

Wine finds: non-white wines that goes with meat and fish

I’ve caught the mother of all flus right now so bear with me if I don’t make complete sense in this post. I’ve just arrived in Canada to visit Sugamama so more things to come on this website. For now, let me just make a quick post about some wine that my family and I had tried over the past month that went well with our surf and turf dish. I do think that these wine will go with both fish and meat. Although when having something with seafood, people tend to say go for the white. I used to think that is how one should always do in order to not have a bad clashing taste of fish and wine in your mouth. But then, when you have a fine piece of red meat, you’ll always want to have it with a glass of red. There are wines that definitely go with both red meat and fish. Here’s what we had as selected by Papa Salvatore.

 If you can’t decide if red is the choice… how about a rose? This lightly sparkling Beaujolais-rose is a good one for those who are looking for something light and fruity. The cost is only 66 ringgit! Cheap and cheerful!

This is a vapolicella. A red that is medium bodied and works well with surf and turf themes. The tannin is not very pronounced in this so it’s very palatable for the people who are only just starting to drink wine. Again the price was not very steep and this bottle of San Pedro was very good.

Rioja. This is probably considered a heavy wine but this Vinas de Gain was surprisingly well suited with the meat and fish. This wine has a dark colour and more tannic so I would have though it would clash with fish. But no, since Rioja has a short time in the ageing barrel, it was fruity and crisp.

Finally, the most expensive one of all was this Burgundy. 2004 Chateau de la Tour Clos-Vougeot Grand Cru. Quite fruity like berries, yet a tone of minerals can be tasted. It is slightly tannic and light bodied. I like this wine because it is really mellow and I can have this all day and not feel sick.

So what is your opinion on wine that could go well with both fish and meat? Yes, we could just have BOTH white and red wines at the table but for argument’s sake what kind of wine would you choose?

Anyway, time for me to take more paracetamol and go to bed.

-M.

Gok Kapor Fish Market

I’m back in Malaysia just in time for the ending of Ramadan. A family friend in Kuala Lumpur asked if we could get them some fresh large prawns for Hari Raya because KL prawns are really expensive and often not very fresh. We were driving up to KL in a few days time so Papa Salvatore said no problem.

20 to 25 kg? That’s like a large suitcase full of prawns! The Mumakil (mum) was anxious on how in the world we going to buy that much and have it transported to KL from our hometown, Kota Bharu.

By the way, why is it that The Star Newspaper in Malaysia always can not get the spelling of our hometown right? It is fricking Kota Bharu! Not Kota Baru, not Kota Baharu either!

Anyway, off I went with The Mumakil to Gok Kapor, a fish market near Kampung Cina in Kota Bharu. This place is probably the freshest fish to be bought in town.

The entrance to the fish market

Gok Kapor means “Chalk Shed” literally. This place used to be where chalk for sirih consumption was being produced. I’m not sure how it then became a fish market.

Just after the entrance, you will find lots of stalls selling fruits and cooked snacks such as kuihs.

Inside the market, lots of fishes were on display. Only The Mumakil would dare wear white trousers in a wet market like this one.

The fishes are so fresh, the horse mackerels looked like they were still alive.

Here’s mum selecting some ‘white prawns’ from the prawn monger. There were no tiger prawns on the first day we were there due to the festive season. So mum told the lady to ‘book’ some large tiger prawns tomorrow.

And that’s how we got giant tiger prawns fresh from the sea. The prawn lady had the tiger prawns stashed at the back of her stall. She was actually glad that we wanted the big ones, because restaurants that buys from her didn’t want such big ones. it’s about 3 prawns per kilo!

So we bought a total of 14.5 kilos of prawns. The prawn lady gave us some free white prawns because we made her a small fortune that day. Another prawn lady was curious as to why we bought so many.

“Mek, mek buak gapo nok banyok ude nih? Mek rayo jugok ko?” She said (translation: Madam, why do you need so many prawns? Are you celebrating [Eid] too?) .

Mum just said “Buak barbeque.” Um yeah, we so barbequed our way thru’ 14 kilos of prawn. Not us la!

Here’s The Mumakil holding up the largest prawn we bought that day. Talk about monster prawns! We couldn’t resist but to cook a few of these big ones!

Surf and turf dinner! Grilled prawn and steak (rare) on a bed of mashed potatoes and salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. yums!

After halving the prawns, Papa Salvatore seasoned it with some salt, pepper and chopped coriander, then popped them in the mini-oven to grill. Cooked a piece of steak on a grill pan to make a surf and turf combination. Delicious! To top it off, Papa Salvatore’s wine selection of Chateau De La Tour’s Clos Vougeot 2004 Grand Cru. Excellent.

Wait, we were still short of prawns. The request was 20 to 25 kilos of prawns and already we kind of bought all the large prawns in Gok Kapor. So Papa Salvatore called some Siamese connection and tadah a delivery of 10 kgs of prawn came that night. The prawns were not as monstrously big, but larger than what you normally find in KL still.

Oh and the fun we had (not) to pack 24 kilos of prawns into 3 styrofoam boxes with ice. Then put them all in the car boot and drove to KL for 7 hours for delivery.

And what I understood is, the family friend did barbequed their way thru’ 24 kilos of prawns on Hari Raya.

-M.

UPDATE: Gah! I can’t believe I forgot to mention… If you walk all the way to the end of the market, you will find behind it lies the river (Sungai Kelantan) and a little landing. It’s a beautiful view!