Interesting taboo: Females celebrate their birthdays by the decade e.g. 70th, 80th while males do it one year beforehand since the numbers “sounds” better. 9 in Chinese has various positive associations, since it also sounds like “long”.

79 birthday

He’s probably older than that – they didn’t have documentation like birth certificates back then and birthdays are largely chosen and might be off by years. The birthday banquet was held at Sheraton. This was a very popular place back in the days – there were only a few “opulent” restaurants at the time, and Sheraton was one of them.

steamed peanuts

Deep Fried Boiled Eggs with Longevity Noodles

deep fried egg

This is a classic birthday dish in my hometown. It’s of Foochow origin, I believe. The boiled eggs are slightly coated with batter and then deep fried before being served with fried longevity noodles. It’s supposed to bring good luck, but this dish that’s becoming a little old-fashioned and I only see it during banquets thrown by the older generation now.

It’s good when done well and I ate 4 eggs myself since a lot of people at the table passed up on it.

4 Seasons Hot Platter

four seasons platter

This is supposed to be the first dish in every banquet but since it’s a birthday, the longevity noodles come out first. There’s fish maw, shrimp, mushrooms, chicken, sliced abalone and other goodies piled into sectors on the platter.

fish maw shrimp

There’s something for everybody and that’s why it’s a very popular dish in restaurants. It’s a little like poon choy in some ways, except this is the appetizer portion. smirk

Shark’s Fin Soup

You have to see this from the perspective of someone born in the old country (that’s China) and went through WWII with Japan and the resulting famine, uprooting and all that comes with war. They had little and food was important to them. “Luxury items” like shark’s fin isn’t something immoral (only first world countries and the newer generation of people now have that mentality – you can only afford to think about environmental issues when you are living in relative comfort).

sharks fin

It’s just another must-have (to them) on the menu coz old habits die hard and they don’t see the plight of the sharks and probably won’t care even if they did. This is the generation that was born into war, and any food is good food and “status items” like shark’s fin is just another dish to them.

I just wanted to stave off the debate about this coz it seems that everyone needs to have a disclaimer and a stance nowadays. Honestly, as a traveler, I am of course for conversation but then again I don’t believe it’s an issue about education, at least not with the older generation so naturally consumption will die off as the new environmentally conscious generation comes of age.

Deep Fried Breaded Cod

breaded cod

Sheraton is well known for it’s fish – you can get your empurau fish steamed here and they do a mean curry fish head as well. I thought this would be mediocre since I prefer my fish any other way except fried (which ruins most of the taste, IMHO).

fried cod

However, my cousin politely served me some so I had to politely eat some and I was amazed and went back for second helpings…except there was none left! This is easily the best dish I had in the banquet – the fish is battered and dropped into the deep fryer for only a few seconds, leaving a crisp exterior but and extremely moist interior with the cod flaking off with the natural juices still inside.

I’m getting hungry just thinking of this surprisingly well executed deep fried cod with the spicy dip. The plating is not much to look at, but trust me, it tastes spot on!

Paper Wrapped Chicken with Deep Fried Buns

paper wrapped chicken

This is one of my favorite dishes in Sheraton coz they do it so well. Paper wrapped chicken is a cooking technique that has the chicken and herbs wrapped in foil (and sometimes another layer of paper) so the entire bird’s juices is sealed inside, making it extremely tender and tasty.

fried bread

However, the coup de grace is the deep fried bun. It’s a large, round piece of bread that’s the size of an Arab bread but this is baked in-house with chicken flavors infused into the loaf, which is then deep fried and served warm. It’s the contrasting textures that makes this work so well – the crunchy exterior with the soft, warm flavored bread that goes well with the herbal chicken.

Sea Cucumber with Sliced Abalone on top of Enoki Mushrooms

abalone sea cucumber

This is another classic Chinese dish – the sliced abalone comes out of a can, and the sea cucumbers are re-hydrated so the starchy sauce has to carry everything. It’s often said that Chinese cuisine is more about contrasting textures vs the balanced flavors (base and acidity pairing) and plating of “classic cuisine” e.g. French cuisine and I have to agree.

The soft and juicy Enoki mushrooms contrasts well with the chewy abalone slices and the slightly crunchy sea cucumber.

Asian Surf and Turf

asian surf turf

I just made that up. Haha! There’s no seafood here, the two ingredients are pork and chicken done two ways. This is a very Taoist concept symbolizing yin and yang – the pork is good but the chicken is bad.

Geddit? ;)

ang pow wet tissue

The banquet finished up with the classic fruit platter and I even got an RM 10 ang pow since I wasn’t married and it’s still Chinese New Year (and will be until the 14th of February). I think it’s a great idea that people do their birthdays on CNY since everyone is back in town and it was good to sit down with my uncles and cousins and for a relatives birthday banquet.

birthday banquet

P/S – No, it’s not his actual birthday, I don’t think he even remembers the exact date – this wasn’t uncommon, my mom doesn’t either since my grandma didn’t register her birth until she was a few years old so we celebrate it on a fixed date every year that’s easy to remember.

Birthday #1

ling birthday

This was my brainchild and happened on the day before her actual birthday (we flew to Siem Reap for her birthday vacation). I had planned a series of surprises for the week leading up to her birthday. :)

Patchi chocolates

patchi

The first was chocolates from Patchi. This has a special meaning for us (not the brand itself) but coz one of the first gifts I gave her was from Royce, followed by Godiva and this the trilogy of “premium chocolates”.

patchi chocolate store

I got their signature collection from MidValley – she was actually wondering what shop it was and I remember walking in the first time, saying I’ll get her a box and she looked at the price tag and said she doesn’t want it. I know, she’s really an *awesome* person like that.

patchi chocolates

I decided to drop the subject since I knew her birthday was coming up and I wanted this to be one of the presents…and thus, I gave it to her as the start of the birthday gifts. :)

24 pink roses bouquet

pink roses

I also planned to walk into her office with a bouquet of flowers that I got from Bloom (which actually has great service compared to Giftlab, the latter has rude delivery guys). I got the 24 stalks of pink roses at my condo, and drove out to her office with the intention of surprising her by walking in unannounced.

girlfriend birthday

It was foiled coz she was already standing outside, ready to go out. I didn’t make it in time before she headed out for lunch. Oh well, it was still a good attempt. :)

Giant macaroon birthday cake

giant macaroon

She didn’t want a birthday cake coz she already had some and I remember her saying something about macaroons when we first met that I’ve kept in my mind ever since. I ordered a giant macaroon in lieu of a birthday cake – I got two of them in fact, one pink (salty chocolate) and one red (lime flavored).

macaroon cake

I also got 3 candles for her 30th birthday and pretended I was too tired to stay up…before surprising her with the giant pink macaroon. Well, it’s not exactly gigantic (there are bigger ones) but it’s hard to maintain the crispiness when it’s huge. This size was pushing it.

macaroons

She liked it though and that’s all that matters.

Pandora’s box(es)

pandora

This was a series of surprise gifts I sprang on her. She was staying over since we had an early morning flight (turned out we didn’t have time to sleep at all). I bought her a charm bracelet and three charms from Pandora coz I remember walking through a mall with her and the little ones once and she looked wistfully at the collections.

I made a mental note then to get this for her birthday. :)

pandora charm bracelet

I actually asked the Pandora sales person to wrap it in 3 different packages (one of them I just took in the box since I wanted to present it to her in Siem Reap and it’ll be hard to pack a bag without her noticing) so I can do my sequential surprises. smirk

I gave her the charm bracelet first and apologized coz it’s empty and I didn’t have money to buy her charms.

pandora box

She said it’s okay, she’ll just wear the bracelet like that.

I said I bumped into a friend who told me I needed to get a charm chain coz if the charm bracelet accidentally opens, all the charms will drop out (thanks Wendy!).

pandora bracelet

…and I gave her another box.

I said that’s it, sorry about it being so empty and while she asked if I was going to put it on for her…

pandora charm protector

I then presented her with the third box, which contains a pink heart charm. It’s supposed to mean something which I only told her.

pink heart charm

I said that’s all I had, no more surprises (but notice I only gave her 3 boxes when I bought 4?). She was touched though and I’m glad I managed to make her happy during her birthday. :)

Birthday trip to Cambodia

birthday trip

We didn’t sleep at all and I drove to the airport the next day. I had booked a very nice boutique resort in Siem Reap which did all my requests for her birthday trip.

happy honeymoon

They wrote “Happy Honeymoon” on the bed and had a bottle of champagne chilled in an ice bucket waiting in the room.

campagne

I also arranged for a Cambodian birthday cake to be presented to her. I got this in advance since it was her birthday the *very day* we flew. We arrived in the morning so we had a day of going around Siem Reap (will post more on our trip soon) and I had to pay for the birthday cake without her knowledge, pretending to go out or forgetting stuff in the room while I was actually talking to reception about when to reveal the surprise.

The birthday cake was presented to her by the poolside (she was puzzled as to why I wanted to hang out there and was annoyed by the mosquitoes). The staff came out and sang “Happy Birthday” and a bunch of French guests there wished her a happy birthday too!

cambodian birthday cake

It was a 3D/2N trip, I told her to bring her passport and I’ll handle everything, from flights to currency, it’s her present so just bring herself! I gave her some USD so she can get back to the resort in case of emergencies though. I’ll write more on the trip later, the last surprise was close to midnight of her actual birthday when I gave her the Pandora charm that I had secretly packed to complete the dual charm collection.

It’s “I LOVE YOU” with a heart made of pure gold which I had hidden all the way from KL. <3

Birthday #2

checkers

This just happened last weekend! Ling and the two little ones came over to my place coz it’s closer to town before getting ready. We had a sit-down birthday dinner at Checkers. It was Florence’s idea – cheers for making it two weeks later so I could do the birthday vacation surprise! :)

cakes

The food was pretty alright – they had a decent cheese and bread selection…

hors d oeuvres

…and they had some nicely plated hors d’oeuvres.

lamb

But I thought the best part was the mutton / beef / chicken satay station and the fresh oysters.

tiramisu

The little one took this so it’s a bit blurry:

birthday photo 2013

Happy birthday dear, I hope this was a memorable one for you. I love you always. *hugs*

birthday cake

It’s my beloved birthday today and after spending the day with her, we’re now packing for a trip to Cambodia! It’s part of her birthday present – I also surprised her with a *gigantic macaroon* at 12 am just now. :)

charms bracelet

I also presented her with something that I noticed her looking at a couple of weeks back (she didn’t know I would get it for her) and I still have a couple of things up my sleeve. On another note, I wanted to post about the kangaroo meat roast, and had indeed written most of it, but the girlfriend tells me we have to leave for the airport soon NOW so this will be a quick one from me.

yee ling birthday

I’m glad that she had a wonderful birthday and I’m glad that I helped to make it happen. I love you Yee Ling! As I said in the card with the flowers – Here’s to new beginnings and a chance at happiness! Happy birthday dear! <3

P/S – Next update will be from Cambodia, we’re off for her birthday trip! :)

philea spa resort

This is where we went for my 32nd birthday! :D

philea melaka

Philea Resort & Spa in Melaka is actually 20 minutes out, near the butterfly farm.

philea resort checkin

It’s a pristine and quiet enclave with chalets made of pine!

philea honeymoon

It’s beautifully rustic with all the modern amenities you can think of. The entire resort is made of wood – warm lamps and high ceilings gives it the feel of a cozy log cabin.

philea resort spa

I’ve never actually stayed here before and Ling had arranged a birthday surprise trip for the weekend – a romantic getaway to celebrate my 32nd birthday!

philea welcome drink

There’s a bathtub filled with rose petals…

philea honeymoon package

Flowers scattered throughout the room with rose petals spelling “LOVE”…

rose petals bed

…and breakfast in bed!

breakfast in bed

(more about that later)

cake

It’s their honeymoon package, I believe, and I thought that was pretty smart of them (they even had a cake in the package, which doesn’t actually cost much for them since they need to bake it for their bakery anyway).

philea dinner

My birthday dinner! It’s instant noodles that we cooked in the room, one after another. There’s also Godiva chocolates and Royce chocolate covered chips, Ramune and other miscellaneous stuff we brought so we didn’t have to go out. <3

philea resort cart

The next day, at 10 am, a cart arrived with our orders the previous day for breakfast in bed!

philea breakfast

We had it in the balcony though. Haha!

breakfast bed

Check out the spread. I had poached eggs and she had an omelet. It was quite a large potion.

breakfast balcony

I enjoyed the muesli the most.

philea pool waterfall

They had a nice swimming pool with a waterfall at the end too.

rock shower

The showers are built right into the rock outcropping, which was a nice touch.

swimming pool

I swam in it while Ling hung on to me coz she can’t swim. I realize I can tow someone like that for quite a while, although I swallowed a lot of their heavily chlorinated water. -_-

philea birthday

I had a wonderful time at Philea Resort, just chilling in the room with my love. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday – it’s perfect dear! <3

philea resort lobby

The only downside was the sound of cars drifting. We’re puzzled as to why this foreign sound would mar the silence of this beautiful place but could never pinpoint the source.

philea resort rooms

There’s no soundproofing and it’s a lucky thing that the occupancy rate was low so we had the place to ourselves.

philea chalet

I really enjoyed just chilling in the room, being with Ling. I was surprised there’s such a quiet place so close to KL but I don’t think it’s cheap either.

balcony breakfast

The service was excellent and although we didn’t use much of the facilities there – we just wanted to enjoy each other’s company – I like the concept of a quiet pine resort. Philea Resort & Spa in Malacca was perfect for that.

honeymoon package

Thanks for making my 2013 birthday a memorable one. I love you. *hugs*

birthday present
Best birthday present ever!

It appears that I was born on this very date, 32 years ago. 1981 to be exact. I’m not big on birthdays coz I’ve never really had positive experiences with them. However, certain things have changed. I’m totally clean now (except for the cancer sticks) and I’m in a very happy relationship.

ling hb
Photo taken by the big one

That’s the best thing that happened to me. You’re the best thing that happened to me. :)

dinner

I just came back from dinner at McDonald’s (it’s the place we had our first date – the Kota Damansara branch) but I didn’t have the food there. I ordered an iced caramel latte from McCafe and the little ones had sundaes and chicken nuggets.

roasted chicken dinner

I ate a very nice home-cooked dinner made by my girlfriend instead. It’s roasted chicken (there are 2 drums and a thigh inside) with potato salad and rice, all packed into a large Tupperware the size of a large pizza.

huge dinner

I’m not kidding, it’s huge!

I’m surprised no one told me that I shouldn’t be eating outside food. Haha!

cupcakes

I know you spent a long time in the kitchen making this and I’m thankful for the food and the chocolate chip cupcakes.

They’re delicious! I appreciate the effort you put into making all this. <3

eating birthday dinner

I also like hanging with the kids, it makes me happy to see them happy and I like talking to the big one and taking care of the little one. I brought a round of Ramune (the Japanese drink with the glass ball) coz no one seems to have heard of it before and I wanted everyone to try it.

glenfiddich 125 anniversary edition

She also got me a Glenfiddich 125 Year Anniversary Edition box for my birthday. I was looking at it on the trip back from Melbourne but didn’t want to get it coz I still have a lot of single malt whisky.

birthday gift

…but while I was in the toilet, she *ran* back to the duty free shop in Tullamarine and bought the damn thing! She said it’s coz I wanted it and also coz the “25” in 125 years is our anniversary date. I thought that was really sweet of her.

present

I’ll be off tomorrow for a surprise weekend birthday trip that Ling has arranged. I don’t know exactly where we’re going but I’ll update after my birthday trip. :)

Thanks for everything dear!

32 birthday

I don’t think I can be with anyone else but you. You’re everything that I’ve been looking for, someone who loves me for who I am, who accepts that the past is the past and who can tolerate this emu cassowary. I always say I’m lucky to have you and I always mean it. I love you Yee Ling! *hugs*

P/S – Cheers for all the birthday wishes, everyone! :D

happy birthday mom

I have a really funny story about this. We don’t actually know if the 1st of January is her birthday. You know how people back in the days don’t actually register their babies until maybe a couple of days later and gets a pink birth certificate (date of birth – estimated) instead of a white one (confirmed by a doctor)?

That’s the case with my mom and I Whatsapped my sister two days ago to get my mom’s number to call her.

She’s in Singapore but we’ll all be together in Sibu in a bit.

I’ll have to take more photos with my family when we reunite again!

First post for 2013 – may you have peace, joy and everything you want in this year and many more to come mom! :D

fathers day dinner

17th of June is Father’s Day for most of the world with some notable exceptions, namely Australia and New Zealand. I guess that’s why my sister was a bit puzzled when I told her that we’re heading out during her usual Skype session with my parents.

payung cafe sibu

I asked my dad where he wanted to go, giving him a couple of suggestions like Tom’s Too. Arthur, being the resident food expert also contributed to the list. My dad wanted to go to an al fresco dining area where people doesn’t smoke and he hasn’t been to Payung Cafe yet so I brought him and my mom there.

payung sibu

Payung Cafe is one of the little known eateries in Sibu – the owners are friendly and the ambiance is great, with little touches like freshly cut flowers on the table and off-the-menu specials written on a chalkboard every single day.

payung cafe

It doesn’t have a large menu but they have an admirable aim of having cuisine from all over the world, with a focus on Asian countries.

myanmar vegetables

Myanmar Sayur (RM 8)
Sayur means vegetable and this dish is a kind of salad that contains an assortment of raw and cooked vegetables mixed together rojak style. The sprinkling of sesame seeds and the raw vegetables provides a nice texture that goes very well with the gravy.

payung jelly pisang

Jelly Pisang (RM 7)
Jelly Pisang is a dessert that used to be very popular in Sibu back in the days. It went the way of dinosaurs when I was born and to the best of my knowledge this is only one of two places that still serves it in Sibu. The other one is at a hotel (see link). Payung Cafe’s interpretation comes with loads of jelly and thinly sliced bananas.

I asked my dad if this seemed authentic enough and he mentioned that back in the days it wasn’t really served like this but…

close enough

Heh.

lamb masala

Lamb Masala (RM 17)
It doesn’t look like much but this one was the first dish to go – the lamb is flavorful and tender with none of the gamey taste usually associated with this particular animal. It was a hit with both my mom and dad. The portion is a bit small and I only had one piece but other than that it’s highly recommended.

payung otak otak

Otak-otak Fish with Rice (RM 13)
This is the most popular dish in Payung Cafe, bar none. It’s one of their signature menu items and it’s hand made otak-otak! One of the proprietors actually does this each evening and it’s fresh and very different from the usual mass produced otak-otak. People with a sensitive palate beware! This is not for the faint-hearted for it’s quite spicy.

turkish milkshake

Turkish Milkshake (RM 8)
It came highly recommended from the proprietor and I have to agree – it’s quite good. It’s one of the specials on the chalkboard so this is a limited time menu item. What is a Turkish milkshake? Well, it’s based on the drink called Salep in Turkey. It has ground dried tubers of the orchid flower (!) with spices topped with cream and chocolate flakes. The owners travel around to add new stuff to the menu.

indian red beef

Indian Red Beef (RM 17)
This is a rather spicy affair which was the special of the day. It was quite spicy and I ended up eating most of it. I didn’t like it as much as the lamb masala.

pineapple ginger soda

Pineapple Ginger Soda (RM 5)
I wanted the Durian Milkshake I had last time I was here but they ran out of durians (it’s not the season anyway). I asked for a recommendation and got this one – it’s apparently one of the most popular drinks and the combination of pineapple and ginger works surprisingly well. I like the sediments at the bottom, which contains a bit of both ingredients. Lovely.

belimbing pasta

Belimbing Prawn with Spaghetti (RM 16)
I also had this dish last time and was quite enthralled by it. Belimbing is starfruit (or carambola) in English and it’s a fusion dish that works very well. The type of starfruit they use is known locally as belimbing asam and it’s a very sour variant of the fruit used in cooking. It’s served with prawns and I wanted everyone to try this. It’s a very different dish that works very well. :D

The total bill came out to RM 99 which is very reasonable for a dinner for three that had us struggling to finish the dishes.

fathers day

However, the best Father’s Day present that I gave my dad (and mom) happened to be a totally random act while I was talking to them the night I came back in the living room. I was showing how swipe typing works on my Android phone and my dad casually asked what app I was using. I didn’t know he’s unfamiliar with Whatsapp since my parents are pretty IT savvy, navigating the maze of social media pretty well.

whatsapp

Anyway, I found out that my sister is on it (coz she was on Skype with my parents at the time) and I gifted the app to my dad’s cell using my iTunes account. I added myself and my sister to the contacts list and showed my parents how to use it. They didn’t know there’s an option for free texting (although they use Viber) with quick photo, video and audio file sharing.

fathers day 2012

The look on my mom’s face when my sister snapped a photo of my newborn nephew and instantly sent it over followed by the smiles on my parents faces was worth the USD 0.99 I used to gift the app a gazillion times over. :)

birthday 2012

It’s my birthday today! Well, it’s technically yesterday, on the 5th of April but what the heck. You can only write about something after it’s happened right? ;) I got inspired by someone who wished me happy birthday with a simple “HB”. Happy Birthday (to) Huai Bin, geddit? Heh.

Anyway, I was out at a “surprise” birthday house party the previous night and was just chilling last night when Masako asked me if I was free for dinner. I don’t celebrate my birthdays per se, at least not in the traditional sense – look through the archives – I was either messed up or in rehab. ;)

masako lee

I didn’t expect you to actually buy me dinner so cheers for the wonderful Japanese food Masako!

A big thank you goes out to each and every one of you who sent me cards, gifts, Facebook and Twitter birthday wishes! It’s much appreciated! :D

I’ve turned 31 but there’s still plenty to do in the road ahead. As Ji San put it – Life is LIFE! :)

I just got a birthday card signed by the Nuffies in the mail! :)

nuffnang birthday card

It was actually sent more than a month ago and since I move around quite a bit, I’ve always put my mailing address as my home in Sibu. My dad sends all my correspondence over in bulk about once a month so I just got it this morning when I went to check the mailbox downstairs.

My birthday is actually on the 5th of April. Heh!

Thanks to everyone at Nuffnang Malaysia for the personalized birthday card! I love it, appreciate you all taking the time to write the birthday wishes and mail it over. Nothing beats a good ‘ol birthday card – it’s all about the human touch. Cheers! :)

colmar tropicale

Yes, I have hit the big 3-0! It happened on the 5th of April and I went up to Colmar Tropicale to celebrate the start of having to write my age with the numeral 3 in relative peace and quiet (as is appropriate for people in their 30s ;)).

bukit tinggi

Colmar Tropicale is a French medieval themed resort in Bukit Tinggi (also called Berjaya Hills) and I secured a 1 bedroom suite there for about RM 300. I woke up late but we managed to reach there at around 12 pm and checked in. It’s about 3,500 feet above sea level and can be cool when the air is blowing but it’s not as cold as the other highlands.

japanese garden

Anyway, after a bit of exploring – I’ll write about the resort in another post – it was time for dinner. My girlfriend bought me dinner at La Cigogne – the best fine dining French restaurant at Colmar Tropicale. The food was good but I don’t think it’s authentic – more fusion cuisine than French. I had some wine and we also got a slice of cake to await the stroke of midnight.

I celebrated my 30th birthday at the balcony of a French themed resort in the highlands. Heh! We were full from dinner and I had to eat the entire slice of baked cheesecake sourced from a (you, guessed it) French bakery in the resort. It was adorned with three large candles. -_-

My girlfriend sang a birthday song and asked me to search the drawers of the suite for my present.

30th presents

I didn’t know she brought me a present! I realized later that when I switched rooms (preferred one with a balcony) she had to scramble to pack the presents back when I wasn’t looking. She had bought me a Braun Buffel wallet and handmade a birthday card with twists of tiny paper – it took her three whole weeks to do the latter.

Thanks dear! I love you Jeanie. <3

pork mee sua

We got home later the next day and she cooked mee sua for me – longevity noodles is a traditional dish in Chinese birthdays. What isn’t so traditional was that it wasn’t served with chicken soup but stewed pork leg – my favorite. Heh!

30th birthday

I had a great 30th birthday. It was relaxing and to be honest, I still don’t feel a month over 25. smirk

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