Our Heng Hua (Putien) Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner!

Poh Family

The Heng Hua (Putien) celebrate Chinese New Year on the fifth day instead of the regular Lunar New Year cycle. There is a very interesting story behind this – a rogue warlord called Tu Fei caused all the Heng Hua to hide in the bamboo jungle and they only managed to come out on the 5th day. Thus, CNY was celebrated then in remembrance of our ancestors who survived the war.

Loong Jin Restaurant

That’s our entire extended Poh family clan. My grandma is the matriarch and the rest are my aunties, uncles and cousins. We had dinner at Loong Jin Restaurant @ Tanahmas Hotel on the 5th day of Chinese New Year. It turns out that there were two tables that was “unclaimed” during Yih Wen’s wedding so we had 2 tables of credit. We always get together on the fifth day for our proper Heng Hua reunion dinner, it’s very important to my grandma.

Tanahmas Hotel Entree

Tanahmas Hotel Four Seasons Platter
This is the first dish that came out. You’ll notice that it’s almost similar to the 8-course dinner we had during Yih Wen’s wedding. That’s coz it’s the exact same menu – 2 tables were not taken so we had “credit” there (so to speak) and they decided to claim it on our Heng Hua Chinese New Year so we had (almost) the same dishes again.

Shark Fin Soup

Shark’s Fin Soup
Zero fucks will be given if any Sea Shepherd types gets butthurt from this photo. smirk

Cheese Baked Cod Fish

Baked Cod Fish with Cheese
I rather enjoyed this fish during the wedding banquet and we had it again for our CNY reunion dinner. It was good.

Duck Two Ways

Duck Two Ways
There is a difference in this dish. In the wedding banquet, it was 1/2 roasted duck and 1/2 braised duck. This time we had sliced wok-fried duck in place of the braised duck. It’s nice to have a change, the menu can differ slightly but the main components are similar.

Sea Cucumber

Braised Sea Treasure
This is a dish of sea cucumber, razor clams, Pacific clams and other assorted seafood over tofu skin (fu chuk). Very tasty stuff.

Butter Fried Prawns

Butter Fried Prawns
My niece is allergic to dairy products (among other things). She absolutely cannot eat dairy so my dad always stocks up on soy and other non-dairy goodies before she comes over. This year we found a no-dairy biscuit from London and some crisps made from soy from the US. However, she managed to eat one of this after it was de-shelled so that’s good.

Red Bean Pastries

Red Bean Pastries
This is done two ways – a classic flat pastry filled with red bean and deep fried (hot) and a modern interpretation with red bean stuffed into a mocha-like casing (cold). It was quite popular at our table.

Fruit Platter

Fruit Platter
There are also slight differences here. The previous time we had this, the middle was filled with lychee. This time it was grapes. I prefer grapes.

HB YJ Kara Josiah

I took a photo with my sister and my niece and nephew at the lobby before we went back. I only see them once a year so I made sure not to fire off my fireworks until they came back. The kids were a little afraid of the large fireworks cakes last year but this year they’ve grown bigger and they weren’t afraid at all. They were looking forward to the show each night and started calling me “Fireworks Uncle”. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Honesty, integrity and respect for all people

My dad is a firm believer in the rule of law. He doesn’t go against the system, not even for “victimless crimes”.

Mom Dad
My Mom and Dad

Let me give some context to this anecdote – this was almost 30 years ago, when we were living in Kuching. I knew the time and place coz the Royal London Circus had come to town and I was very keen to go and see it. We were living in Kuching at the time since my dad was posted there as a Nazir (translates loosely to Inspector).

Dad

He was on a School Inspector salary so we didn’t have much, but we made do. What my dad did back then was to go to schools and inspect the implementation of the syllabus and the state of educational institutions. If you’ve been to high school in Malaysia, you’ve probably seen someone like him – he was the guy that sat silently behind in classes to watch what the teachers teach and how the students interact.

Family
My family and I on a holiday – from left – my grandma, sister, me, my mom and dad

That’s not how he got his strong ethics though, that has always been there. He always told us to put our seat belts on, at a time when no one did (early 80’s). Since the circus was in town, the roads were jammed due to everyone illegally double parking. It was a long walk to the circus and we were going to be late and I was badgering my dad to just park and go.

He wouldn’t have any of it. With my late mom’s urging, he nearly caved in but he didn’t. Instead, he drove to a Shell station, which was really far away and nicely asked the attendant if he could park there. The attendant didn’t have the authority to say yes or no, so calls were made (this was before cell phones) and we waited almost 30 minutes before someone called back to say we could.

It was only then that we left the car in the Shell station and walked 30 miles (it could have just been 1 kilometer, but still, it seemed far back then) to the circus. My dad had been working all day and was tired and I could appreciate how hard it is to keep up with a young kid like me (I understand this better since I have kids of my own right now). I am all the more appreciative now that he didn’t go the easy way and was patient enough to wait till the proper authorizations were done before taking two hyperactive kids to the circus. I was grateful that they allowed us to park at the station premises after the circumstances were explained.

That incident made a long lasting impression of the good people at Shell.

Fast-forward to today, I always make it a point to go to Shell for my petrol needs. Not only because of the good impression that I have of the company, but because of their superior service. The attendants are very attentive to all their customers, and I can always rely on them to fill up my tank dutifully while I grab some snacks from the Select Store. To up the game – my fuel tank was once filled by the station manager – and she didn’t mind it a bit, even though she could have just asked the service attendant to do the job. This is customer-orientated service. No matter what position they hold, they are dedicated to making sure that customers are well-taken care of.

Grand Old Lady
In front of the Grand Old Lady site, Miri, Sarawak

Shell was the first company to extract oil and gas in Malaysia. The site of the first well producing oil is still here (although it’s no longer functional). It’s called the Grand Old Lady and it’s located in Miri, not too far from where I was born in Sibu.

Shell Station

Shell in Malaysia employs a significant number of people and contributes not just to the economy, but also towards road safety awareness, scholarships for Malaysians, and quality-of-life corporate social responsibility initiatives like the “We Care, We Share” community care programs.

Shell also has core values that my dad can relate to – honesty, integrity and respect for all people as their business principles. Tell me, what are your Shell #StationStories? #ShellKita

Yih Wen & Kian Mun’s 8-course Wedding Dinner

Yih Wen Kian Mun Wedding

I’m back in Sibu for the weekend to attend my cousin’s wedding reception. Yih Wen is one of my closest cousins on my dad’s side. I used to hang out with her while waiting to go to school at my grandma’s place when I was younger. She just got married and we had the wedding dinner at Tanahmas Hotel in Sibu.

Wedding Reception

I’ve actually met Kian Mun (the groom) during my previous trip back to Sibu. We went out for dinner together with Yih Wen’s family, a pre-wedding get-together so to speak. I find him to be a nice guy, his family is from Ipoh.

Grandma HB

Here’s my grandma! She’s the matriarch of the family, pictured here with me and my dad.

Calvin Noble HB

The wedding dinner was held last night on the 19th of December. I was seated with my cousin Calvin and Noble.

Marzipan Wedding Cake

This is the wedding cake. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had the proper marzipan covering instead of the usual icing. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen this in Sibu. It tasted good too.

Four Seasons Combination Platter

Four Seasons Combination Platter
This is the first course. It has six (6) items instead of the usual four. I rather enjoyed the prawn cocktail in the middle. I have a weakness for sweet mayo covered shrimp. The pickled jellyfish was nice too.

Sharks Fin Soup

Shark’s Fin Soup
A traditional soup course that’s eaten with vinegar. The server didn’t pour the vinegar into the soup though (coz not everyone likes it) so we helped ourselves.

Baked Fish Head with Cheese

Baked Fish Head with Cheese
I believe the fish was battered and deep fried first before being put into a salamander and grilled to melt the cheese. This is my favorite dish of the night – I find that I like fish more and more as I get older. This wasn’t the case in the past, actually I don’t think I’ve eaten fish willingly before my mid-20’s (except for stuff like smoked salmon). The fish goes well with the cheese, the latter imparts a pleasant umami component.

Duck Two Ways

Duck Two Ways
The right side is a classic Chinese roast duck and the left side is a braised duck. I thought the duck should have been rendered a bit more but the plum sauce was good.

Braised Sea Cucumber

Braised Sea Cucumber
This medley contains sea cucumber, Pacific clams and razor clams arranged over fu chuk (tofu skin) and broccoli bordering the side. It’s another established dish in the Chinese wedding dinner repertoire. I’m quite fond of stuff like this – anything from the sea would catch my fancy nowadays.

Deep Fried Prawns

Deep Fried Prawns
This is a huge prawn but unfortunately I was quite full at this point so I only had one. I was very impressed with the size of the jumbo shrimp.

Red Bean Pastries Two Ways

Red Bean Pastries Two Ways
I thought this was a very clever implementation – both the desserts are made using red beans but one of them is deep fried into thin pancakes and the other has a mung bean filling and is stuffed into a mochi-type casing. The former is a traditional Chinese festive dessert.

resh Fruits Platter

Fresh Fruits Platter
Oh, how I’ve missed eating plum powder! Haha. This is the stuff we used to get with sliced guava and it always seemed to be in short supply when I was a kid. It’s very more-ish and goes very well with all sorts of fruits.

Yih Wen Kian Mun Dad HB

I managed to take a photo with my dad and the bride and groom after the dinner. Thanks for having us Yih Wen and Kian Mun! :)

22 photos from Yih Wen and Kian Mun’s wedding

Wedding Vows

Yih Wen and Kian Mun had their wedding vows done yesterday morning.

Lighting Firecrackers

I was there to help set off the firecrackers. Haha. These are the large 39,999 Chinese firecrackers roll.

Dad Wen HB

I went with my dad early in the morning and took a photo with the bride. Yih Wen is my cousin, my uncle’s daughter.

Mee Sua

I had the traditional mee sua (longevity noodles) with chicken soup.

Firecrackers

I was told to light it up just before the groom’s delegation came.

Groom Delegation

Here there are!

Wedding Gatekeepers

These are all my cousins. They are the gatekeepers keeping the groom out until ang pows (red packets) has been distributed and questions answered in a satisfactory manner.

Bride Dad

My uncle, the bride’s dad, led Yih Wen down from her room…

On Bended Knee

…and the groom went down on bended knee to present the bride with flowers.

Exchange Rings

There was the exchange of rings…

Ring Bride

…for both parties.

Kiss

The bride and groom then attempted to kiss for a full minute.

Tea Service

The customary tea service was done by Noble.

Bride Parents

The bride and groom basically bow three times to people in their lives (these are the parents of the bride) while serving them tea.

Chinese Tea Ceremony

It’s a Chinese custom.

Dad

My dad, being the brother of the father is pictured here.

Group Photo

We all took a group photo together…

Bride Leaves

…and the bride left for the groom’s place.

Bride Leaving

Since the groom is from Ipoh, there’s no house to go to – they went to his hotel room instead.

Driving Off

It’s a symbolic gesture to mean the daughter has officially left the care of the parents.

Car Ceremony

The car is backed out and in three (3) times…

Yih Wen Kian Mun

…and they’re off! Congrats Yih Wen and Kian Mun! :)

Dinner with my cousin, her fiancé, his mom and 9 from our extended family

Hong Fu Sibu

I know, the title sounds a little unwieldy but it’s actually very accurate. smirk We had dinner at Hong Fu Seafood Restaurant last night. There were 12 of us and we took the largest table available and could barely fit everyone in.

Hong Fu Seafood

This dinner is supposed to be a “meet the parents” kind of thing for my cousin’s fiancé (and his mom) before their wedding at the end of the year. It morphed into a “meet the extended family” coz that’s just how we roll. Two of the uncles I’m closest with were there, as well as my dad, my grandma and several of my cousins and aunties to round things up.

Hong Fu Seafood Restaurant in Sibu is actually known for their crabs. It used to be RM 13 / kg which is an amazing price for Sibu (we’re a landlocked town). Here’s what we had:

Philippines Pork Leg (Crispy Pata)

Crispy Pata

I’ve always found it amusing that people from Sibu refer to this iconic Filipino dish as “Philippines pork leg” when so many other places have a similar implementation e.g. Germany. The proper term for this dish is crispy pata.

Philippines Pork Leg

It’s deep fried pork leg (with trotters) that’s been simmered in water along with spices beforehand. There’s usually a dipping sauce made with some combination of acidic, sweet and sour elements e.g. vinegar, sugar, soy sauce. Hong Fu makes one of the best implementations of this in Sibu. It came in two huge platters to accommodate our late party.

Midin (Local Fiddlehead Fern)

Sibu Fiddlehead Fern

This is a Sibu classic, fiddlehead ferns called midin that’s cooked with a bit of chilli. I quite like it, it’s one of my favorite dishes.

Signature House Tofu

Tofu Pork Mince

The large slabs (about the size of a CD case) of tofu is made in-house and lightly fried before a thick pork mince gravy is poured over it. I have been eating more tofu lately (get your mind out of the gutter) and I’m starting to enjoy it.

Stir Fried Vegetables

Hong Fu Vegetable

This the obligatory green dish. I’ve also been eating more vegetables lately and I’ve been developing a fondness for it too, thanks to my better half. I did not grow up eating veggies – in fact I hardly ever ate vegetables until I was in my late 20’s.

Mongolian Chicken

Mongolian Chicken

This is really yummy. I like sweet & sour pork and this tastes a little like that, but better! Everyone does this slightly differently, and it’s been bastardized in so many Chinese restaurants abroad. The chicken is fried so there’s a bit of crunch and the sauce is sweet, sour and spicy. Lovely stuff – I can just eat this dish alone with rice.

Braised Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber

I don’t know why restaurants in Sibu always pair sea cucumber with broccoli but I ain’t complaining about Hong Fu’s implementation. The sea cucumber is wonderfully tender and flavorful from the sauce. There’s just something very visceral about slurping the slippery things into your gob.

Steamed Red Snapper

Red Snapper

My uncle brought this fish to the restaurant. You can actually do that here if you have a better or fresher specimen that you want to eat. You’ll be charged for the cooking but not the fish – it’s a similar concept to a corkage charge for wine in BYOB restaurants.

Yih Wen

I actually came back to Sibu for several reasons – I needed to meet with my first client for Pulse Consulting, open up my company bank account, discuss a new project that’s in the pipeline (potential new client, yay), celebrate Father’s Day with my dad, and hang out with my bro Eddy whose mom just passed last week and I’m glad I managed to catch my cousin Yih Wen and her fiancé too.

It’s very rare that we all get together like this in one big family. :)

I spent last night with the police

police

I just came back from a rather long night. The entire extended family was out celebrating the 80th birthday of my grand aunt. A bunch of us cousins decided to make a new tradition of going out clubbing during Day 3 of Chinese New Year and sent my grandma back.

I ended up hanging with the police instead.

We were about to head out after dropping them off when suddenly my aunts and grandma noticed that the entire house was completely ransacked. It’s a good thing we were still there.

The fucking thieves gained entry by strategically putting a couple of pieces of wood over a large storm drain, unscrewing the back gate with surgical precision and taking out the door with a couple of well put strikes that broke the lock.

…before rampaging through the rooms, breaking beds and overturning closets to find cold hard cash. They didn’t take anything else – the police said it’s probably coz gold and other valuables would be hard to sell without detection in a small town like this.

You know how much they netted? Over RM 30,000!

It’s Chinese New Year and the lion’s share of the damage was to my grandma. :(

She lost RM 20,000 out of the total (rest were my aunts and one cousin from Singapore).

I called 999 and told them not to touch anything. I was a bit taken aback when the operator said “Mr Poh can you repeat the address?”.

It’s the integrated system with telcos to prevent crank calls.

I realized that half a second after the initial surprise. I was out waiting for the police and then called the Sibu Police Headquarters instead to speed things up. They said they’ve already got the call and they’re sending out a patrol car.

The initial cops who came took a look around and said we needed to take stock of the losses and lodge a report at the main station.

Thus, me and my cousin went with all my aunts and grandma to the police station, made a report, went up to speak to someone and then went back home to wait for the JSJ (Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah – Crime Investigation Department) to come for forensics.

dusting fingerprints

They tried to get fingerprints but didn’t get any.

There has been a spate of break-ins at that area for a long time – the neighbor behind had the same MO. My grandma’s house is never empty – there’s always someone there coz 3 of my aunts and my grandma lives there. The only time it was empty, it got broken into.

Same thing happened to the neighbor to the back. The one at the side was slightly more unlucky, two females were in the house when it happened, but didn’t see the thieves coz they were forced down on the ground. Only money was taken, no valuables.

I think Sibu is getting a bit worse each year – one of my friends chanced upon a robbery in broad daylight yesterday.

I feel so sorry for my grandma and I guess it’s a good thing that some people are gifted with the ability to make others laugh (like my cousin) which puts things in perspective.

The silver lining is that no one was hurt coz the last time someone stumbled upon and recognized the thief in Sibu, the entire family was murdered. It was done to prevent them from pointing him out but one of them managed to get away by jumping from the second floor.

break in

I still feel fucking horrible though – I went to sit with my grandma who was there folding clothes after the robbers rummaged through everything and destroyed the beds to see if there was anything hidden underneath.

She told me that was the money she was planning to use for a vacation. T_T

She’s a very nice person, a kind and selfless woman armed with a cheery smile and always putting other people first. That was her entire life savings she has been putting away slowly over all these years you took, fuckers.

Chai bo

sibu chai bo

My paternal grandma used to make chai bo when I was 13 or 14 and I loved eating that. My sister, naturally siding against me, claimed my maternal grandmother’s deep fried version is better. It’s hard to describe the taste of chai bo, just like it’s hard to describe the taste of century eggs.

chai bo

It’s sweet for one, but savory at the same time. Umami would be the closest thing to describing it. It’s an excellent appetizer! My grandma makes a mean dish of this and they knew I was coming over for dinner so the staples that I love were there – braised pork, chai bo, two century eggs.

I had two helpings of rice.

chai bo grandma

You just gotta love home cooked meals. You just gotta love family.

The Matriarch

grandma photo

The Matriarch of the Poh clan celebrated her 78th birthday last night at Swansea Restaurant. The dishes on the table are the obligatory deep fried boiled egg (each person eats one) surrounding fried longevity noodles and of course, ginseng chicken soup.

grandma fish

I also like this candid photo of my sister peering at the fish (also another essential dish in Chinese dinners).

grandma group

My grandmother is an inspiration to me – she got married at the tender age of 16 (!) and fathered my dad when she was a scant 19 years old. It was an arranged marriage (as was the custom in those days) and she has more than fulfilled her duties as a loyal wife to my deceased grandfather, sticking by him through thick and thin, until he died of lung cancer 15 years ago.

It’s truly amazing to see the sheer perseverance and unquestioning diligence that she exudes, taking the cards life has dealt her without so much as a grumble, and still maintaining a cheerful disposition everyday.

I take my hat off to her, she’s much stronger than me.

I bet she’s stronger than much of the current “Where’s my slice? I want more than equal rights” generation too.

Happy Birthday, popo!

Thanks to Big D for the US $ (and also the grandma card)!

big d kc

I received an envelope from Derek in the mail today. Big D is one of
the senior moderators at limteh.com and he was kind enough to help out
with the bandwidth bills of the sixthseal.com umbrella of sites.

big d kc grandma

The contribution was double wrapped (two envelopes – the only way to
send cash via post) and the bills hidden inside a Hallmark greeting
card. There was a US$ 20 bill and a US$ 10 bill. The card happens to be
one for grandmothers, I appreciate the thought, grandson. ;)

big d kc cash

This is the “Happy Birthday Grandma” card that Big D sent the cash
with. I figure the post office people would feel really bad if they
didn’t deliver this to a poor old helpless lady. Heh! The
correspondence is applied mosaic for confidentiality.

big d kc us

In God We Trust.

Thanks, my friend…it’s really great that you went though all the
trouble, much love (in a totally heterosexual, brotherly way, of course
;)), mate!

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