I lost (and found) my groceries at Ben’s Independent Grocer!

Missing Groceries

I’ve been shopping at Ben’s Independent Grocer (BIG) in Publika for a few years. It carries a lot of imported fruits, vegetables and dry goods like candy which appeals to me. I remember a lot of my wacky cooking adventures are based on products bought here, like Gordon Ramsay’s duck breast with Madeira jus, tomatillo apple cranberry chutney and parsnip purée, How to Make Stuffed Artichokes and Buttered King Grouper with White Wine Reduction in Bouchees Poissons. I also got our turkey from them two years running – for both our 2013 Christmas dinner and 2014 Christmas dinner.

No, this is not a sponsored post or an “invited review”. I’ve never met the people from BIG – I’m just a customer, like everyone else. I just wanted to highlight a rather interesting experience that happened over the weekend.

BIG Lost Found Maxim

It’s very easy for people (including myself) to slam a brand/store/restaurant when something goes wrong. However, I don’t think enough thanks go to them when something goes right – it’s like the toast falling buttered side down theory, it seems like we’re less inclined to remember the good but never fail to recall the bad.

Maxim Egg Rolls

Anyway, I was at BIG in Publika to check out their Chinese New Year stuff and bought some items made by Maxim (the famous Hong Kong bakery). I love their stuff and the Mahjong pineapple tarts I got last year was a huge hit. I got a metal tin of Mei-Xin Egg Rolls (Classic) and Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille to try out with my better half.

I thought if they were good, I can buy more to bring back to Sibu and stock up over here. The point is that, we wanted to try them first.

CNY Goodies

However, I noticed that the Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille was *missing* when I got home 3 hours later. I think the cashier might have packed it in two different bags and I only brought one back.

I called the number on the receipt and spoke to a guy who identified himself as Fikri, and he said my Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille is there and I could pick it up anytime. I’ve done this before at other hypermarkets (having atrocious short term memory) but never had any success getting it back before – either someone else took it, or worse, apparently the cashier did (at a memorable instance in a local hypermarket chain which I won’t name).

It goes to show how good BIG is and the clientèle they attract that none of these things happened.

BIG Receipt

My missing Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille (RM 49.90) was logged in their log book and they were waiting for me to call. I was unable to pick it up the next day so I sent a photo of the receipt to my better half for her to get it on my behalf.

She didn’t need it at all – the lady at the counter just picked up another Mei-Xin Almond Mille-feuille from the large display they have there and she signed off the log book and I got it back at night.

BIG at Publika is my favorite place to shop, not just coz of good incidents like these but due to the overall customer experience. It’s the reason why I only shop at Coles when I was studying in Australia – they have a great policy where if the cashier scanned a wrong item, the entire bill will be free (not advertised anymore) and you can open a drink in there for a long shop and just scan the empty can at the end.

BIG used to have the same policy about drinking in their store too, but there are signs prohibiting that now. I think the trust system doesn’t work very well when it’s open to everyone so that’s understandable in Malaysia.

Found Groceries

Still, it’s a great place to get groceries and small positive experiences like this makes it all the better. :)

Chee Keong & Mei Sze’s wedding @ Summer Palace

Chee Keong Mei Sze Wedding Banquet

This is the first wedding we attended this year! I had missed a friend (and co-worker) wedding in December 2014 due to prior commitments, so this is the first wedding of 2015. It’s a bit unusual as the traditional Chinese wedding banquet dinner was held on a Sunday night and the restaurant was quite far in Putrajaya Marriott Hotel so we got home quite late yesterday.

Summer Palace Putrajaya Marriott

The bride and groom had a ceremony earlier in the day which culminated in this wedding dinner. I knew the couple from a previous trip to Bangkok and the 9-course banquet was held at Summer Palace – the Chinese restaurant at Marriott in Putrajaya.

HB Ling Wedding

It’s a very nice place for a wedding – I’ve eaten here before at a company dinner and the food wasn’t too bad but the scenery and service is the main selling points. The servers are very conscientious about changing your plates after every course and I had a glass of The Macallan 12 year old for my drink.

Deluxe Five Happiness Combination Platter

Deluxe Five Happiness Combination Platter

This is the first course and instead of the traditional “Four Seasons” plate with four food items this has five different hot and cold elements. There’s also the increasingly common theatre that goes with the first course, with the servers getting in line and doing a performance before grandly putting the first plate on your table.

Deep Fried Salted Egg

I first saw this at my sister’s wedding in Sibu but it wasn’t present at her wedding in KL. We thought the cold pork belly/duck breast slices were the best part of the dish – it was lying on a bed of pickled jellyfish which provided a wonderful acidic element. We also loved the boiled and deep fried salted egg.

Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Baby Abalone, Top Shell & Chinese Herbs

Double boiled Chicken Soup with Baby Abalone

Shark’s Fin Soup has gone out of vogue since the environmentalist types and the wannabes/sheep started a crusade against it. I’m personally ambivalent about the issue, as most people who really understand the issue, with the entire hypocrisy (and racism) of Sea Shepard and other militant environmental organizations on one side and the heritage of Icelandic culture (hákarl – fermented Greenland shark), Canadian legal seal meat and Japanese/French proudly unapologetic cuisine on the other.

However, I think the substitution of shark’s fin soup with a clear soup with premium ingredients like abalone, fish maw, top shell (magpie shell) and such is a good thing too and it tastes better and there was been a spate of fake shark’s fin going around in the few years before it became the “S-word”.

This is a good example of a nice clear soup which highlights the abalone, top shell, chicken and fish maw and it’s individually portioned beforehand.

Roasted Sesame Chicken & Roasted Chicken

Roasted Sesame Chicken

The chicken done two ways is a nice twist on the traditional roasted chicken. However, I’m not a huge fan of chicken done this way – there’s no sea salt or plum sauce for the slightly overcooked and dry roasted chicken and the roasted sesame chicken wasn’t much better.

Steamed Mandarin Fish “Unicorn” Style

Steamed Unicorn Fish

This seems to be the latest trend in serving fish at Chinese banquets! The fish is totally de-boned and filleted. The fillets of fish is then wrapped around a long, tubular “fish ball” and presented on the carcass of the fish so it looks like rolled up fish flesh.

Unicorn Fish

I’m a purist so I still prefer steamed fish served whole but I have to admit, this “unicorn style” platters of fish is very easy to eat, and the fish ball inside makes it taste artificially good with lots of MSG!

Chilled ‘Ming’ Prawns with Mayo & Stir-fried Prawn Balls with Butter Cream

Chilled Ming Prawns with Butter Cream

This is the best dish that we had the entire night! There’s huge prawns done two ways, and they’re all de-shelled and de-veined. One is cooked in a sweet and wet butter/mayo sauce and the other is deep fried in butter. It’s very creamy and I love the huge, juicy prawns – I had three and my better half had two.

Braised Assorted Dried Seafood with Broccoli

Braised Assorted Dried Seafood with Broccoli

I love the texture of sea cucumber! I’ll actually order this if I see it around. There was a RM 60 PNG (Papua New Guinea) sea cucumber promotion at Glory Cafe in Sarikei when we went but I was too full to order it. The sea cucumber here is done well, thickly sliced and full of slippery and chewy collagen. I also liked the mushrooms – very flavorful, especially with the bits of dried and rehydrated scallops in the reduced sauce.

Special Three Layered Fried Rice

Special Three Layered Fried Rice

There’s nothing special about this dish – it’s just rice done three ways. There’s plain fried rice on top, rice fried with light soy sauce in the middle and cooking caramel (dark soy sauce) fried rice at the bottom. That’s what causes the layered coloration and it was very oily – this is a dish for people who’re still hungry to fill up before dessert is served.

I know people who eat this way – main dishes only (fish, chicken, pork etc) with no accompanying rice in a multiple course banquet where they fill up on fried noodles or rice as the last course, it’s a different style of eating but we were too full at this point to eat more than a spoonful of the rice to taste it.

Special Dessert Combination

Special Dessert Combination

This is actually pretty decent! They made the crushed peanut covered mochi to be flavorless (except for the smoky and nutty accents from the peanuts) so the sweet component comes from the mung bean shaped and moulded into a cartoonish ear of corn.

It’s meant to be eaten together and it’s a good pairing.

The Chinese characters makes a lot more sense than the English translation though. Haha.

Chilled Mixed Fruits with Avocado Cream

Chilled Mixed Fruits with Avocado Cream

This is the highlight of the dish and it was what we had saved up space for. We both thought an avocado based dessert sounded delicious and we’re glad we waited for this even though a lot of people were leaving at this point to beat the traffic and try to get home before a work day. It has a wonderfully rich mouthfeel and a nutty flavor that’s very morish. Delectable!

Chee Keong Mei Sze Wedding Photo

Congrats and all the best to the newly-weds! :)

Our traditional fish pie for New Year’s Eve dinner

Fish Pie

I wanted to have a traditional British fish pie for New Year’s Eve dinner so I used ½ fresh salmon and ½ smoked salmon with snow crab meat for a pie. I actually modified Jamie Oliver’s fish pie recipe which used half smoked haddock and half fresh salmon for a “smokier” dish than all fresh fish.

Salmon Fillet Steak

The salmon I got were nice fillets meant for pan-frying that costs RM 79.90 per kg. There was another batch of salmon steaks going for half the price but I didn’t like the look of the sad pieces of fish lying about so I paid premium for the fresher salmon.

You will need:

Fish Pie Recipe

  • 300 grams salmon fillets
  • 150 grams smoked salmon
  • 250 grams snow crab claw legs
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 bunches of spinach
  • 3-4 Brussels sprouts
  • 800 grams of red potatoes
  • 200 grams freshly grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 lemon

Curly Parsley Flat Leaf Parsley

I bought a packet of parsley and you can see the difference between flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley. There are equal amounts of each in the pack, I just used the flat-leaf ones, also known as Italian parsley.

Fish Pie Cheese

I chopped up all the vegetables into small pieces and lined the bottom of the baking trays with it before adding the grated Cheddar cheese on top. I used two, and that was a mistake, you can’t split a recipe in half like that, will show you why later.

Red Pontiac Potato

Meanwhile, I peeled the Red Pontiac potatoes for chopping into 2 cm chunks. Red potatoes are perfect for baking but due to it’s starch content, is not so suitable for frying. These aren’t the potatoes for French fries, but it’s good as mash.

Dicing Red Tomatoes

The red potatoes are then dumped into a pot of salted water and boiled for 15 minutes until soft.

Skinning Salmon

I started on the fresh salmon fillet after that – you need to skin it since the recipe calls for the fish to be skinned so the easiest way is to de-skin it is to run a sharp knife under it.

Cutting Fish

I chopped up the fresh salmon fillet into bite sized pieces and did the same for the smoked salmon and snow crab claw legs…

Fish Crab Pie

…before dumping everything into the baking trays.

Mixed Fish Pie

You just need to give it a good dousing of extra virgin olive oil and add some salt and black pepper before mixing *everything* thoroughly.

Fish Pie Topping

The red potatoes are mashed and then put on top of the fish pie as a topping. This is where I went wrong coz I used two baking trays and the potatoes were barely enough to cover both!

Potato Topping

I actually needed a deeper baking tray which would provide the same surface area for the potatoes but I really had to stretch the potatoes to cover both trays.

Baked Salmon Pie

I put both of the fish pies into the oven for 40 minutes and they came out perfect!

Fish Pie Baked

The kids both tried it but declared it to be too salty as I had forgotten smoked salmon is already seasoned and added too much salt to the recipe.

Baked Fish Pie

My better half also thought the same, and I had a huge thirst after eating all that due to the sodium.

Fish Pie Cooked

I think I’ll use cod next time instead of salmon, and hold back on the liberal handfuls pinches of salt. smirk

New Year Eve Dinner

Nevertheless, it was a great New Year’s Eve dinner together with the family. :)

Our Pandoro Party!

Kid Eating Pandoro

We’ve been eating a lot of panettone this year so I got a large pandoro this time. I love eating panettone and pandoro but I’m usually the only one who ends up finishing it. I can snack on it all night long – that’s how much I love the stuff.

Pandoro Verona

However, I opened a 1 kg pandoro last night and the kids loved it! smirk

Pandoro Mountain

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a pandoro and a panettone – even Jamie Oliver got it wrong. He referred to a pandoro as a panettone in his program “Jamie’s Cracking Christmas” and no one in the production crew thought to correct it. Panettone is from Milan and it’s a brioche like bread filled with pieces of fruit while pandoro is from Verona (popular in Venice too) and very distinctively shaped. There are six different types of Christmas cakes in Italy!

Pandoro Sugar

A pandoro is very different from a panettone – it’s a frustum shaped soft sponge like cake, very light, with a heaping of powdered icing sugar on top. There’s a packet of icing sugar included in the box for you to dust the top. You can either dump it right on top or roll the pandoro around it and I chose the former. The 8 pointed star of pandoro makes it look like a snow covered mountain!

Slicing Pandoro

The kids loved pulling pieces of the pandoro and eating it with the powdered vanilla icing sugar! :)

Pandoro Icing Sugar

It was a lot of fun and it’s delicious too! Some people don’t like the bits of fruit in panettone and I’ve seen pandoro grow in popularity this year – it’s plain, but that doesn’t mean it tastes simple. The texture of pandoro is softer than panettone and it’s great when you eat it with ice cream or gelato! It has a different texture altogether and it’s perfect for a Christmas centrepiece.

Pandoro Party

I think we ate 1/3 of the 1 kg pandoro within 30 minutes! It’s supposed to look like the Italian Alps during Christmas and it sure is a wonderful sight to behold! We’ll be getting another one next year, in addition to a pandolce (a Genova classic) or a panforte from Sienna.

8 fun things we did for our Christmas Eve celebrations!

Christmas Photo 2014

It’s Christmas Eve today! We actually celebrated this year’s Christmas dinner earlier since the kids have tuition and other Christmas party commitments later in the week. Here’s 8 things we did this festive season:

1. Christmas crackers

Pulling Christmas Cracker

This was the first order of the night! We each had a Christmas cracker (the kids had two) and everyone pulled theirs with a partner.

Christmas Cracker Toys

I got a mini basketball game but the bigger one was looking at it with more than a little bit of envy. Haha. I could see it in her eyes but she was too polite to ask me for it so I exchanged mine with hers (a small deck of Mystery Calculator cards – the least popular one).

Christmas Crackers Kids

The smallest one got a purple hairband and a really cute pair of badminton rackets (complete with shuttlecock) which you can actually play with. The party favor my better half got was a pirate eyepiece. The biggest one also got a deck of cards – tiny ones but a complete 52 card deck. There were also selfie props in the box, which we used for our family Christmas photo.

2. Turkey dinner

Christmas Eve Turkey

I had roasted a turkey with cornbread stuffing and demi-glace earlier in the day and we all ate till we were fit to burst. It’s such a huge bird that I think I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week!

Turkey Demi Glace

It’s all good though and the demi-glace was delicious!

3. Chocolate Monopoly

Chocolate Monopoly Kids

Dinner done, the kids couldn’t wait to break open the Chocolate Monopoly set so we all played a complete round. You’re actually supposed to eat the chocolates in the middle if you land on a particular color which is already taken but the kids unanimously decided to “keep the chocolate Monopoly pieces forever” so they can play with them next time.

Playing Chocolate Monopoly

I thought that was funny and adorable so that’s the way we played it. No one has ate even a single piece of the Chocolate Monopoly up to now. smirk

4. Eggnog

Borden Eggnog

I bought a quart of Borden Eggnog and doled it out while we were finishing the Chocolate Monopoly game. The bigger one liked it but no one else did except me – I *loved* it. Borden makes a really good eggnog – if you like *ultra thick* custard-like consistency. It’s like drinking crème caramel without the caramel.

It’s so thick you can hear the “glug glug glug” as it attempts to pour out:

The eggnog is more custard than liquid and spiced nicely with cinnamon too and it’s delicious when mixed with a little cognac (none for the kids, of course). Lovely stuff that you see on the shelves once a year.

5. Pandoro

Pandoro

We ate a lot of panettone last year and this year and we decided to get a 1 kg pandoro for Christmas Eve dinner instead. Pandoro is the speciality Christmas cake for Verona (it’s also popular in Venice) and tastes completely different from panettone (which is from Milan). There are actually six (!!!) different regional Christmas cakes in Italy.

Pandoro Classico

I thought I wanted to expose the kids to different foods and since we already ate panettone, it was pandoro for the after-dinner dessert. Pandoro is also a sweet leavened product that’s dusted with sugar and shaped like a frustum. I love pandoro, you can scoop out the middle and add gelato inside and it’s meant to look like an 8-sided snow mountain.

6. Christmas tree

Christmas Tree

I wanted to get a large real Christmas tree (it’s about RM 600) but my better half forbade it. The trees actually shed a lot of needles every day so it can be a chore to clean up after it. We settled for a fake miniature Christmas tree instead.

7. LEGO time

LEGO City

This was the part which the kids were most looking forward to. They have been huge fans of LEGO since the LEGO movie came out and we encouraged their creativity – it’s good for them. The collection that we’re getting for the kids is the LEGO CITY range and I bought them a large set with a large police set-up with boats.

Building LEGO

It basically involves a generic LEGO bad guy escaping with pilfered cash and jewels in a boat while the police goes after him. The amazing thing is that the boats actually float in water! We each assembled a section and I finished up the most difficult part where a thread had to be tied into a hook to attach to the LEGO police boat – it actually has working parts that moves to winch the boat up!

LEGO Floating Boats

We had a lot of quality time together with the kids on this one – various scenarios were enacted and played out. I role-played the lazy LEGO police who would not move out with the truck containing the boat until the kids got the police lingo right. Haha.

LEGO Working Winch

We actually have a new site dedicated to LEGO minis now, it’s primarily done by my awesome better half, who takes amazing posed photos with our growing collection of LEGO minifigures – the site is called tumblingminis.com

8. Family photo

Christmas Photo

This is our Christmas 2014 family photo! It was taken with the selfie props from the Christmas crackers and I thought it made for a nice photo. It serves as a digital Christmas card too – I sent it to my dad and my sister and they both loved it to bits.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us! May the festive season bring you joy, peace and love. :)

Roasting our Christmas turkey with corn bread stuffing and demi-glace

Christmas Turkey

I got a beast of a bird this year for the annual Christmas roast turkey dinner!

Huge Frozen Turkey

It’s a huge 6.5 kg (14 pound) young turkey for RM 192.71. This is over twice as big as the turkey we roasted last year. I was actually torn between getting this and a capon (castrated rooster) so I asked the kids what they wanted.

Turkey Breast

It was a resounding vote for turkey coz they liked the turkey that I roasted last year for Christmas. smirk

Turkey Cuts

There’s no shortages for non-halal turkey this year so that’s a good thing for us. I have no idea what makes a turkey halal or non-halal (probably due to the way it’s slaughtered) but this was a different brand called Norbest from the US and there were large signs warning of it’s haram (forbidden) status to Muslims which I always found a little strange since Christmas is a Christian (or at least secular) holiday.

Defrosting Turkey

I’ve actually cooked with this particular brand of turkey before and since I had just 24 hours to get it right, I used the Fast Defrost method by dunking the entire turkey into water and changing the water every 4 hours.

Trussed Turkey

It was what I did last year too but on a more urgent time scale since this was a heavier bird. Haha.

Cornbread Turkey Stuffing

We also got a pack of demi-glace and corn bread stuffing for a more expedient roast (plus, these two taste really good).

Chopping Vegetables

I chopped up a cup of yellow onions and celery

Onion Celery

…and sautéed them in butter,

Turkey Stuffing

…before adding it to the corn bread stuffing and gravy.

Giblets Bag

Next it was time to clean the bird, take out the bag of giblets (this is arguably where the old school gamer term gibs originated from for those of us who played shooters like Doom, Quake and Unreal back in the days) and pat it dry.

Stuffing Turkey

I stuffed the cavity of the turkey with my newly made corn bread stuffing mix and (with some difficulty) got it into the preheated oven at 200 Celsius.

Turkey Stuffed

I covered the turkey with aluminium foil and took it off after 3 ½ hours to brown the top and here’s what my turkey looks like after 4 hours!

Turkey Oven

This turkey has a built-in meat thermometer that pops out when it’s done, although we used our own to check too:

Turkey Pop Out Device

I started the demi-glace while the turkey was resting and it was lovely – this is restaurant quality demi-glace, RM 14.95 for ½ cup but it’s awesome! It has reduced white wine inside and you can add your own wine in lieu of water for a tastier demi-glace (make sure to cook off the raw alcohol).

Demi Glace

My better half and the kids loved it!

Carving Turkey

The young but large turkey was carved up according to everyone’s preference – the smallest one wanted a drum while I had an entire leg, the biggest one wanted the huge wing and my better half got a slice of prime breast meat.

Little Kid Eating Huge Turkey

Christmas dinner is always my responsibility and I’m glad we had so much fun with our celebrations – it took me quite a bit of planning and shopping to get enough activities to keep the kids entertained. There’s Christmas crackers, eggnog, presents, and more – Christmas is definitely not over yet!

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Our biannual staycation in KL!

Hotel Royal

We have made a tradition of taking time out to do a staycation (which refers to staying at a local hotel, not staying at home) twice a year in addition to our yearly overseas trips (Melbourne last year and Frankfurt and Paris this year) and our shorter trips like to Hat Yai about a month ago.

Pavilion KL

You could say that travelling is our passion in life. :)

Timelapse Hotel

It’s actually a lot of fun and you get to experience the city where you live from a visitor’s perspective!

Hotel Royal KL

This time around, we stayed at Hotel Royal in Kuala Lumpur and basically:

Staycation Food

1. Ate a lot of food

Mamma Mia Musical KL

2. Caught a musical

Blurry Photo

3. Enjoyed each other’s company.

Staycation 2014

I’ll write more tomorrow, part of the purpose of having a staycation is to get away from the daily things you do and not do anything remotely work related. smirk

Posted: 10:38 pm Kuala Lumpur time

12 things I bought for Christmas

1. Chocolate Monopoly

Chocolate Monopoly

This is an awesome find for RM 59.95! It’s a licensed Monopoly board game but all the cards, game pieces and property are replaced with chocolate pieces. The rules are somewhat similar but it’s of the spinner variety (there is no Monopoly money) so I thought it’ll be a great game for us to play with the kids on Christmas coz you can eat the chocolate pieces afterwards.

2. Christmas crackers

Tom Smith Selfie Christmas Crackers

An essential for the festive season, Christmas crackers are large pieces of cardboard with a snapper firecracker inside that explodes with a bang. The fun bit is that there’s miniature toys inside – usually tiny keepsakes that can range from a small compass to fart cushions. I bought a pack of six of the Tom Smith luxury version (RM 59.90) – one each for us and the kids plus two extra for my dear’s parents.

3. Snickers Slice n’ Share

Huge Snickers Slice Share

This is a *gigantic* bar of Snickers! It’s not pre-cut so it’s a solid block of candy that weighs 453.6 grams. You have to slice it into pieces yourself, thus the name. I’ve never seen this format before. I think it’s specially made for the 2014 festive season since it fits well with the large family dinner and sharing theme. This solid 1 pound (!!!) block of Snickers costs a staggering RM 68.95.

4. Porky Salt

Porky Salt

Haha! This is made by Garam Haram which literally translates to Forbidden Salt (and it rhymes too). It’s a play on the fact that pork is forbidden (haram) to Muslims and this is literally bacon infused salt. Porky Salt is a local artisanal product that’s just RM 15 and I can think of many ways to use it this Christmas dinner, whether we roast a traditional turkey like last year or go Asian.

5. Panettone

Panettone

What is Christmas without panettone? This brioche like edible is a Christmas staple in Milan and I’ve only seen it suddenly appear on the market in the last few years. I went to an Italian restaurant and had a wonderful “tiramisu” made with panettone in 2012 and I thought it was lovely. We also bought one last year for our Christmas celebrations. It’s tastier than the rock solid fruitcake that we’re used to eating before panettone started to flood the market as an alternative.

6. Giant Juicy Fruit

Giant Chewing Gum

Yup, this classic by Wrigley’s is supersized for the holidays! smirk I loved chewing on these when I was in high school – so much so that my Physics teacher in Christchurch called me “Eater”. Needless to say, I wasn’t a model student but I quite liked that nickname. You can eat in most classes in New Zealand (they’re not as strict as over here) but that particular educator didn’t like anyone doing so.

7. Huge roll of Life Savers

Giant Lifesavers

This classic sweet has put on some weight for the festive season too. The plus sized roll of Lifesavers is now 30 times as large as a regular roll! I used to eat this in high school too, it was cheap and I’m particular to the Musk flavored ones but you can’t find that flavor outside of Australia and New Zealand for some reason. Musk is not a popular flavor except down under.

8. White Cheddar Popcorn

White Cheddar Popcorn

You know how some people decorate their Christmas trees with popcorn? Well, not us, we prefer to *eat* popcorn. Especially if it’s this expensive! This bag of savory popcorn costs RM 21.90 and it’s made in the US by Angie’s. This is the White Cheddar flavor and they use all natural organic ingredients. It also checks all the healthy tick-boxes by being gluten-free, low trans fat, and whole grain.

9. Crème Brûlée

Creme Brulee

I accidentally bought this RM 12.50 packet of crème brûlée, thinking it was crème caramel. I love the latter, have eaten heaps of them as a kid (my mom used to make them) but it seems like they dropped off the face of the Earth! Since the advent of crème brûlée, the preparation without the blow-torched hard crack top seems to have disappeared. It used to be served in coffee-shops and I’ve been missing crème caramel since.

10. Christmas hampers

Christmas Hampers

‘Tis the season to be giving! I bought a RM 280 Christmas hamper for my better half so we could open it on Christmas Eve. I was torn between the one inside the sleigh and the one that’s in a large tube wooden reusable box (there’s only a RM 20 price difference) and after much consideration, chose the former. The retail assistant told me they both contain the same thing, it’s the wooden sleigh that’s more expensive due to craftsmanship.

11. Valrhona chocolates

Valrhona

It hurts my brain to even see this. Haha! We had gotten Valrhona chocolates from France – they have really good single origin Grand Crus and it’s the chocolate of choice for many high end Parisian fine dining restaurants. It’s very expensive to source your own Grand Crus from small gourmet purveyors like what Michelin starred restaurants do so this is the next best thing. I found it while shopping at BIG in Publika – I didn’t even know Malaysia stocks this.

12. Eggnog

Eggnog

You can’t have Christmas without eggnog. I have tried making my own but it’s a time consuming process if you have a turkey and other sides to take care of and store bought tastes just as good. They even have eggnog with alcohol included (mixture of brandy, whisky and rum for 14.75% alcohol) for RM 85.90 for 1.75 litres but if you have your own spirits, you can just get the regular 1 quart (946 ml) Grade A Eggnog for RM 23.90 and add your own to taste.

Short mention:

Christmas Hamper Ling

I used my credit card to purchase this Christmas hamper that I got my better half. I wanted to get my dear something nice and this beautiful reindeer sleigh contains all her favorites – hot chocolate, cookies, Turkish Delight. There’s even some marshmallows for the kids and a stuffed toy that looks suspiciously like Olaf from Frozen. I’ve been using my Maybank credit card for *everything* since I can get my purchases for free with their I LOVE 100% Cashback campaign! Just spend with your Maybank cards from now until 31st January 2015 and get your expenses paid off!

Check it out – there’s nothing better than getting your festive season spending paid off with a 100% cashback to spread some festive cheer! :)

Our (potentially) free anniversary, trips and presents!

Pandora Essence Bracelet

It’s our anniversary last week and I bought a new charm for my better half to add to her new Pandora Essence bracelet. This bracelet is a new one that I bought for her last month, the previous Pandora bracelet is full to capacity!

Pandora Essence Charms 2014

I chose the Intuition charm coz I like the backstory and text – it says “The wisdom of the soul/Follow its guide” and it’s priced at RM 633. It’s a little more expensive than regular Pandora Essence charms coz it’s made with 14k gold.

Pandora Intuition

I went very early in the morning and bought it with my credit card, hoping to get RM 300 off (more about that later) but unfortunately I was too late. Not to worry though, I use my Maybank credit card quite often so it’s just a matter of time!

Pandora Essence Intuition

I actually learned of the Maybank I <3 100% Cashback Every Day promotion when I bought a LEGO Movie set for my dear. I was surprised to see the promotional banner for it just inside the store. The kids are really into Lego nowadays and we just bought another LEGO CITY box originally priced at RM 179.90 for the kids when we went back to Sibu during the weekend.

Lego Cashback

The kids love exercising their creativity with LEGO and we have happily indulged them in this mind building investment – it’s better for them to build something than to be stuck to the iPad playing games the whole day and we are collecting the LEGO CITY series for them to create their very own city!

LEGO Maybank

I bought them three sets of LEGO since they’re so into it now. Yup, we got them all in Sibu as a present for them and we plan to give them one when I come back and leave the other two for Christmas.

KitKat Oreo

It’s always fun to spend with my Maybank credit card since there’s a chance I would get the item for FREE with the 100% cashback promotion. I also bought our flight tickets back to Sibu during the weekend and the return trip to KL using my credit card.

Krave Cereal

We went to Hat Yai last weekend and I used it to purchase some candy for ourselves and the kids at the grocery stores over there. It’s cheaper in Thailand and there’s no minimum spend! I travel so much that my credit card is authorized to go around the world anyway.

Panettone Cookies

Christmas and the festive season is coming very soon and it’s always good to get presents for friends and loved ones. We bought two boxes of panettone (an Italian sweet bread loaf eaten during Christmas and New Year) and a pack of holiday cookies made in Germany as gifts for my dad and our friend Arthur before we flew back to Sibu for the weekend.

Hokey Pokey Squiggles

You might want to begin using your Maybank credit card for the festive season for everything from presents to trips to dining, depending on your inclination coz there’s a chance you’ll get a 100% cashback – making your purchase free! There’s no minimum spend required and the campaign lasts until 31st January 2015.

Sarawak Sambal Laksa Paste

I even used it to buy Sarawak sambal laksa paste from Sibu to bring back to KL. :)

Flight Sibu

Don’t have a Maybank credit card? No worries, just apply for one and you just might get a free trip with the I <3 25,000 Bonus Air Miles campaign! Get more details about how to apply for the premium credit cards and the promotion at the I LOVE 25,000 Bonus Air Miles site.

DQ Blizzard Thailand

You can also win yourself a Polo Sedan with the I <3 5 Polo Sedan by just applying and spending with your new Maybank credit or charge cards! You will also get complimentary gifts from spending certain amounts and this campaign period is from now till 28th February 2015.

LEGO City

There’s just plenty of love to go around this festive season, whether you’re an existing or new premium or regular Maybank credit card owner. I’ve been with them exclusively since 2008 and I’ll be using my Maybank credit card for *everything* daily from petrol to dining to take advantage of the I LOVE 100% Cashback Every Day campaign!

Dinner at Payung Cafe, Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu

My better half came back with me to visit my dad during the weekend and since it was just a 24 hour trip, we only had *one* dinner and this is the place we chose to go to – Payung Cafe! I was one of the first people to visit when they started six years ago (we were even asked to name the first iterations of the desserts which are refined staples now) and I make it a point to visit when I’m back in my hometown.

Payung Cafe Sibu 2014

Payung Cafe opened in 2008 and it was very unknown back then since they only had dinner service and the place was shuttered during the day with no signboards. It didn’t help that it looked like the reception area for a marine survey company either. However, the same Joyce who gave us the number of Glory Cafe in Sarikei is also very active in a Chinese language local forum and a bunch of us paid this newly opened place she heard about a visit.

Payung Cafe Couple

The rest, as they say, is history. smirk

Payung Cafe Christmas

The food here is unique and the service is great. That’s what makes Payung Cafe a favorite among certain locals and visitors alike despite the relatively higher prices it charges on average. The Christmas decorations are up when we went – we opted to go to the original al fresco outlet instead of the new Payung Mahkota (which is located in the lobby of a hotel). I feel the former has a much better ambiance since the latter can be a little antiseptic due to it’s location.

For starters, we all shared a Pomelo Salad (RM 8). I love the choice, the pomelo comes in large chunks and the dressing is restrained, making it a fresh and vibrant dish. My late maternal grandma used to have a pomelo tree and I remember this fruit as being bitter but like Brussels sprouts, it seems to have been genetically modified to be less bitter nowadays!

Pomelo Salad

It’s sweet and juicy and we all were ready to dig into our main courses after popping a couple of the large chunks of fruit.

The special of the day is Sour Chicken (RM 16). It’s not on the regular menu, this is written on the chalkboard that lists what’s fresh and cooking on that very day and I like to order from here since I’ve tried most of their menu items. This is something I’ve never had before and all of us loved it! The chicken is moist and tastes appetizingly sourish.

Sour Chicken

I asked how it was made since we were all trying to guess what the sour element is and was told it’s a mixture of laksa leaves (Vietnamese coriander/Persicaria odorata/daun kesum) and coriander seeds (which provides the sour citrus tang). I highly recommend this dish – it’s delicious!

I also ordered Kacama Chicken (RM 16) for my dear. I wanted her to try this uniquely Sarawakian dish while she was here. Kacangma chicken is made from a herb the Hakka people call yi mu cao (益母草) or motherwort. The taste is like nothing else, it’s traditionally used as a “confinement dish” and the liberal use of pounded motherwort makes this dish taste bitter and earthy.

Kacangma Chicken

Kacangma chicken is always doused with copious amounts of alcohol which is intentionally *not* cooked off. It’s meant as a tonic as thus the alcohol is never fully evaporated or burned off – some preparations are so strong you can get *tipsy* from drinking the stew! Payung Cafe’s version is quite strong too but it’s delicious to me! It’s an acquired taste, kacangma…

Of course, the Otak-otak Fish (RM 13) is always a must-order when you’re there. The price has more than doubled since 2008 but if Payung Cafe had a flagship or signature dish, this would be it. They actually make it in-house every day! The ground fish meat with tapioca is wrapped inside a banana leaf and baked to perfection.

Otak Otak Fish

The otak-otak is served bursting from the seams and the generous use of chilli and tumeric makes this a dish not for the faint-hearted. It’s very spicy but if you can take the heat, you’ll love it. It’s very different from the steamed otak-otak from Johor or grilled otak-otak we get in Malacca. They really make one of the best versions around.

Durian Shake

My better half also had the Durian Shake (RM 8) – a very thick concoction sure to please all durian lovers and connoisseurs of milkshakes.

Payung Cafe Ling Dad

The bill came up to RM 82 for the three of us, which is quite reasonable for dinner at Payung Cafe.

Sambarina Ice Cream

We made room for dessert and shared a Sambarina Ice Cream (RM 8) which is made in a yin-yang fashion with large scoops of chocolate and creamy vanilla ice cream stuffed into a jumbo sized ramekin and topped with a mixture of crushed nuts and other crunchy bits. I approve!

Mulu Ice Cream

My dear loved the Mulu Ice Cream (RM 10) – a beautiful creation of huge slabs of their own ice cream layered and sandwiched with cake and cream and sprinkled with muesli. It’s a gorgeous and deliciously messy end to a wonderful dinner together.

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