You never can tell…

This cropped up in the discussion the other day as to how we never can tell whether the bitter gourd that we are buying is bitter or not. I guess the same thing applies when we’re buying salted eggs…

Salted eggs 1

I used to get them from a mini-supermarket near my house in packs of 4, each one buried in the black salted paste, wrapped in a small plastic bag and placed in the egg tray-like compartment in the pack. I stopped buying those from there when more often than not, the salted eggs turned out to be far from nice, at times, even rotten. Then there was another supermarket that packs their own, 6 in a pack. I was told that theirs were always very good so I started buying from there until lately when I found that they too were far from satisfactory.

There is a grocery store round the corner from my house and they do sell salted eggs as well. I would always ask the man whether they are any good and he would be honest enough to tell me whether to buy or not. I guess he eats them himself and some batches he receives may be excellent while others may be rather disappointing. Thankfully, he is nice enough to tell me the truth and not just sell them to me regardless.

Once, I was told that those sold by an old man at the Sibu Central Market were very good so I went to buy some to try. He makes them himself and no, they are priced the same as those imported ones sold at the shops and supermarkets and yes, the ones I bought from him were really good, slightly on the salty side, but good. I love my salted eggs like these…

Salted eggs 2

- slightly “oily” and the yolks have a very nice bright red or orange colour…and I would not like them to be too salty either.

During my growing up years, the only time when I would have salted eggs would be when I was sick. I would have them with my porridge, usually tossed with Bovril or Marmite. We never had them any other way but these days, there are so many things with salted egg like this bitter gourd dish that had been fried with them…

Bitter gourd fried with salted egg

This is available at most restaurants in town, if not all of them, big or small…for instance, this one or this one and at the latter, you can also get the very lovely deep-fried pumpkin in salted egg batter…

Deep fried salted egg pumpkin

There is also the very nice bayam dish fried with three types of eggs – the ordinary eggs, salted and century eggs…

Century eggs

…and I do know that salted egg crabs is a very popular dish among lovers of the crustacean.

Then, of course, you can find salted eggs in bak chang (meat dumplings) and mooncakes

Salted egg in mooncake

…and I love the steamed paos with salted egg custard filling aka as the lau sar pao

lausar pao

…other than some of those delightful selections that you may find at those dim sum places

Glutinous rice with salted egg

Perhaps you know of more?

But, pray, do tell me how you choose your salted eggs when you buy some. Is there any foolproof method that you use to ensure that the salted eggs you buy would definitely be good…or are you just like me and you never can tell either?

One two three…

First, there was this one…

Li Hua Hotel, Sibu
*Archive photo*

…with the very nice and pleasant Madam Toh at the helm, one of the oldest hotels in town. They have refurbished the place and everything is good and new now. The last time I dropped by, I noticed that they even had new lifts to replace the old ones. I love having buffet parties there as they are very affordable, the food is good and they have a very impressive karaoke system, one of those that make you sound so good even though your voice is not all that great. They do get mixed reviews on Trip Advisor though and once, my friends who stayed there shared the same comment as one in the website – it can get rather noisy at night with all the karaoke pubs and clubs in the vicinity. Otherwise, according to them, it was all good.

As for the room rates, they’re the same as/similar to their sister hotel, their No. 2, at the Sibu Bus Terminal here, ranging from RM65.00 to RM90.00 depending on the type of room you choose…and the rooms are as nice as any 3 or 4-star hotels anywhere, minus the carpet. They have Italian tiles for their floors instead. Friends who have stayed there loved it very much but there are no lifts at No. 2 so you will either have to book early and reserve your room(s) on the first floor or do a bit of exercise throughout the duration of your stay there. Other than that, this one is not in the town centre so it may not be as convenient as No. 1 unless you have your own transport to get around…but of course, there are lots and lots of shops, eating places and bakeries included, all around and one very big supermarket right across the road.

Now, they have their No. 3…

Medan Hotel @ Wong King Huo Road

…which, like No. 2, is also not in the town centre. My cousins stayed there that day when they came to town so I took the opportunity to drop by and have a look at the place…

Medan Hotel, entrance

It is very nice, simple but very neat and clean…and there are two lifts, right behind the reception counter…

Medan Hotel, lobby

…with their very friendly staff, ever ready to flash a smile like when we walked past. The rooms are more or less like the ones at their No. 2, near identical, I would say but the tariffs are a bit higher – RM98.00 nett for a room with a queen-size bed or RM108.00 nett for two single beds. If I remember correctly, one with two queen…or was it king-size beds would put you back by RM128.00 per night. The rooms come with a complimentary breakfast…

Medan Hotel, dining

…though I do not see that as essential considering that you would be spoilt for choice if you spend a night or longer here with all the popular eating places and shops all around that area, just like No.2.

Back to back with the hotel is the Medan Mall

Medan Mall, Sibu
*Archive photo*

…where there is a departmental store and supermarket, hair salons, a renowned foot reflexology centre and other shops and stalls including this outlet of the one with the very nice Sarawak laksa, my favourite in town, and ang tao peng

Thomson Corner, Medan Mall
*Archive photo*

Among the many shops in the vicinity is this one…

Anson, Sibu
*Archive photo*

where you can enjoy western cuisine at very very affordable prices but it only opens at night and be forewarned that it can get very crowded…like the crab and seafood place opposite, also famous for its Philippine pork leg, right beside this cake place

Cake
*Archive photo*

….or perhaps you would like to check out this fusion place instead…

Junction, Sibu
*Archive photo*

You can also drop by here…

Fish Culture, Sibu
*Archive photo*

…for their Foochow fish balls and other dim sum stuff from their array of selections…or if you prefer the simpler local stuff like the kampua noodles, there are lots of coffee shops around here and I enjoyed the one I had here with the “raw meat” soup, something that they say originated from KK, Sabah…

Coffee shop

The Korean fried chicken franchise is right around the corner…

Pelicana, Sibu
*Archive photo*

…and there are bakeries too like this one

iBake, Sibu
*Archive photo*

…or those in the mall and you may want to browse around the 100¥ shop a stone’s throw away or perhaps, the ladies would want to check out the clothes shop and boutiques in the mall or those all around the vicinity of this hotel.

Anybody planning to come to town soon?

You choose…

My cousin from Brisbane, Australia was in town for one night only and she brought me all these…

Goodies from Brisbane

My girl loved the Macadamia Nut Bars that I got recently from one sweet silent reader of mine in Perth, Australia so when I heard that my cousin was coming, I asked if she could get me those…and good grief!!! She bought me one bag full! Oh dear! That must have cost a bomb! She also brought me a box of Aldi Stores‘ “Jumpin’ Jelly” to try and Tim Tams – Adriano Zumbo’s red velvet and salted caramel, no less…and the new peanut butter flavour. Yummmm!!!! My girl would be the happiest, of course, as she enjoys these so much. Personally, I have never been a fan of Tim Tams as they are too sweet for my liking and like I’ve been saying again and again, as I grow older, I seem to have lost that sweet tooth that I used to have when I was younger. But that did not stop me from opening one of the packs of the red velvet variety…

Adriano Zumbo's red velvet Tim Tam

…to try and OMG!!! It was so so so very nice! Much as I was tempted to have another one…and another…and another, I had to resist the temptation as I was reserving them all for my girl to indulge in and enjoy back in her school for some therapeutic relief as and when the need arises plus it is not all that good for people my age, I guess everybody knows that well enough. Just one, once in a long while, should be fine.

Another cousin of mine, her sister in Bintulu, came with her and she brought me a BIG bottle of Ghee Hiang sesame oil that she had carted back all the way from Penang. Their brother and their sister-in-law from Miri were here too with two of their children but they had a prior engagement so they were not able to join us for dinner that night.

I asked them to choose the venue depending on what they would like to have and without any hesitation, they said they would like some jelly pisang (RM7.00)…

Payung Cafe, jelly pisang

…and the uniquely-special Payung rojak (RM12.00)…

Payung rojak

…and their mushroom roll (RM8.00)…

Payung mushroom roll

…that they enjoyed so very much when we had our family reunion at this place in September last year and they would love to have a go at those again this time around.

So there we were that night at this cafe in town…

Payung Cafe Sibu

…that is all too familiar now to all my regular readers.

I had their tik tek once and I loved it so much that I specially requested for that for our family reunion party there. I sure was delighted that luck was on my side that night as it was available – they had just enough left for one serving (RM8.00)…

Payung tik tek

If I’m not mistaken, this is an Indonesian dish of tapioca leaves and pumpkin…and needless to say, all of us enjoyed it to the max and licked the bowl clean. I do wish they would put that on their regular menu so that I can just drop by anytime I feel like having that.

That evening, I also ordered their kacang ma chicken (RM16.00)…

Payung kacang ma chicken

…their Bangladeshi lamb curry (RM18.00)…

Payung Bangladeshi lamb curry

…and their otak-otak (RM13.00)…

Payung otak otak

…and after all that, we were all so very full and in the end, my cousins decided that they would be able to manage one jelly pisang only between the two of them but I insisted on ordering the khalua ice cream (RM10.00)…

Payung Khalua ice cream
*Archive photo*

…as well with a special request for extra liquor. Everybody else just tried a bit and insisted that they just could not have anymore and no prize for guessing who had to finish the rest…and ended up feeling a little bit tipsy the rest of the evening! LOL!!!

An ex-student of mine happened to drop by this same place – she now owns an exclusive boutique right next to this place on the other side of the town centre…and she remarked, “You do come here often, don’t you?” Oh dear!!! Maybe I should stay away for a while but like all of us that night, I do enjoy what they serve here and the people are very friendly and service is always excellent – fast and efficient…so needless to say, my cousins and my missus and I had a great time there, chatting away and enjoying our dinner, that one night on their brief stay in Sibu.

Thank you so much for the goodies, ladies – it sure was nice to see you all again.

My favourite…

I’ve tried the ones from three different full-fledged bakeries in town now and my daughter bought some from another one. She did not like hers very much but then again, she isn’t really into these Korean mochi buns as she is not all that fond of its chewy texture. One that I had was tough and very difficult to bite and chew and the other two had the right taste and texture but they lacked the awesome fragrance and the very nice crusty surface that these…

Apollo Korean buns 1

…have.

I’ve blogged about them once and I did buy some for some friends to try here in Sibu and even as far as KL and they all loved them very much. Well, if anybody is interested in getting some to savour, they’re RM1.00 each – a bit more expensive than elsewhere (80 sen) but they’re a bit bigger and in my opinion, the taste would more than make up for the price difference.

These are sold outside a cake accessories shop at the corner of this building…

Apollo shops

…in the Jalan Apollo area at the back row of those blocks of shops across the road from Su Lai Primary School…

Map & GPS

Initially, all I was told was that they would bake the buns upstairs on the 1st floor and every hour, there would be fresh supplies piping hot from the oven. However, when I went at around noon, they were all sold out and a girl at the shop told us that we should go before 11.00 a.m. We did not have any problem getting those buns the next time when we went at around 9.00 a.m. but I have heard complaints that they went after 10.00 a.m. and they were all sold out and there would not be any more for the day. Well, it’s the early bird that catches the worm, I guess.

Anyway, I was real early that morning – past 7.00 a.m. and yes, they were available already, still hot/warm but half of the tray of those delightful buns had been sold out and these were all they had left…

Korean mochi buns 2

…of the first batch for the day.

On the way home, the wonderful fragrance filled the whole car and I had to resist grabbing one from the bag and eating it while driving. As a matter of fact, my missus did go over to buy some a week earlier and after she had finished one, I saw her going into the kitchen to get another…and another. She said they were so very nice that she just could not resist going for more.

Incidentally, they do sell these muffins as well – chocolate and vanilla (RM1.00 each)…

Apollo muffins

…and I did buy one each to try. Yes, they were nice but no, they did not sweep me off my feet and you would not catch me making the beeline back to the place to get more of these…but I certainly would be going back there again for those Korean mochi buns, and of that, I am pretty sure!

Incidentally, while you are in the vicinity, perhaps you may wish to check out a kueh (local cake) stall straight ahead to the right from this corner shop to the other very end of the lane at the corner of the shop directly opposite/right across the road from the primary school there. I hear that you need to go early in the morning as everything will be sold out pretty quickly. The old lady (well, she’s not young anymore, that’s for sure) makes most of what she sells at home and sells them there. That morning, I bought some of her tee peang

Apollo tee peang

…that actually had the taste of the pek tao (soya bean) used, unlike most that we find around these days, and she certainly had a lot of chives in hers too plus they were big and were selling for 40 sen each. I hear they are selling these at 50 sen elsewhere and of course, there are those selling at 3 for RM1.00 at some places but those would be much smaller and do not taste as nice. I thought these were very good but I would prefer a litttle less msg in them. The chai peah is different from elsewhere – to me, hers seemed like a very thin version of the tee peang and between the two, I think I enjoyed her chai peah more – crispy by the side with a bit of the tee peang taste in the thicker middle and I did not feel the msg as much in this one. Her deep fried or koi (steamed yam cake) was great too, very much to my liking and also priced the same at 40 sen a piece.

I certainly will drop by again someday to check out the rest of the things she sells at her stall – there are simply too many to buy all and try at one go.

I am, I said…

…going back to that coffee shop again…and I did!

The kampua lady seemed to be in a very much better mood. She was smiling and did chat a bit with the other customers. I guess on our previous visit, we caught her at a bad time and I thought she was kind of aloof and did not look very happy. Anyway, we did not go back for the kampua noodles. Like what I said then, I would want to try the chu car (cook/fry) place at the back so this time around, we ordered some stuff from there.

A major attraction in Sibu these days seems to be the prawn noodles, the ones with the gigantic freshwater udang galah (bamboo prawns) or what we also call tua thow (big head) or chia chui (freshwater) prawns. They do not come cheap, of course. It was only RM8.00 a bowl when they first started serving that here a long time ago (when it was at another location) and then it went up and up and when it went over RM20.00 a bowl, I never went for it again. The last I heard, they were charging RM35.00 a bowl…and in the meantime, there have been others jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve been told of one place where they would charge according to the sizes of the prawns used ranging from RM25 for the small ones up to around RM45.00 for the big ones. Then there is another place here serving tom yam prawn noodles in a coconut like the ones in Sarikei, going for RM35.00 each.

Nope! I am not one to go out of my way to feast on those noodles even though I have gone for them here and there a few times upon the insistence of family or friends especially those coming home from abroad. Well, I guess for them it is extremely cheap – imagine a bowl with those gigantic crustaceans going for only SIN$/AUD/US$10.00, more or less. Not only is that dirt cheap to them but they cannot get anything like that there and even if they can get noodles with other similar forms of seafood there, it will never ever be at that price, that’s for sure. But if I were to sit down to eat one RM45-a-bowl prawn noodles, I would not be enjoying it very much as on the back of my mind, I would be thinking of how I could take my whole family some place for a nice meal with one meat, one veg and one soup plus rice…and pay that much or perhaps even less. Besides, I would be a lot better off taking the money to buy a kilo of the prawns at the wet market to cook and enjoy to our heart’s content at home – they’re selling the medium-sized ones, not small but not those huge ones with the very big heads, at around RM35.00 a kilo…depending on the season. The other day, it went up to around RM60 a kilo though!!! Tsk! Tsk!

Anyway, back to the coffee shop I was talking about, I had their prawns noodles for RM10.00…

Delta Seafood & Cafe prawn noodles 1

…and it was very nice! Nope, they did not use those not-too-affordable freshwater prawns but instead, they had some pretty big seawater prawns or what we call pek hay (white prawns). Of course, these aren’t all that cheap either. That day, I bought some about this same size for RM35.00 a kilo or maybe they were a little bit smaller. But the heads are not as big and the shell not as heavy so you can actually get quite a lot for a kilo. Roughly, it would work out to RM1.00 for one…or maybe a bit less than that.

Personally, I prefer these to the freshwater ones and what they had in the noodles that day were really fresh, very firm and succulent…

Delta Seafood & Cafe prawn noodles 2

- around six of them and I would say that I enjoyed it a lot. The noodles were the Foochow-style ones, the soup version and with the added prawns, naturally, it was much sweeter and tastier. It probably would be nicer though if they had added a bit more greens – after all, those are not all that expensive and they could easily have thrown in a handful more.

My missus had the usual Foochow-style fried noodles (RM3.50)…

Delta Seafood & Cafe Foochow fried noodles

…and yes, they do it pretty well here but surely they could have used a kitchen towel or something to wipe the gravy off the side of the plate. Yes, it is quite obvious that they are not bothered very much about presentation here but it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, I’m sure, to just make what they serve look a bit more presentable.

Well, we’d probably go back there again but no, I would not have the prawn noodles again. Even though that was very nice, I do not think RM10.00 is all that cheap. However, I would want to try something else to see what is good. Each time I approached the stall on my previous visits, a very friendly young man with a pleasant disposition would come out to ask what I wanted and tell me what they had on their menu. Somehow, at places with people like that, one would feel nice and would surely go back again especially if the food is good.

There is also the Indian stall on the other side but it was not open that day, probably because it was Friday and my guess would be that they are mamaks, Indian-Muslims.

Bitter…

It seems to be getting more and more popular these days – bihun, hung ngang or kway teow served in bitter gourd soup…and I seem to see it being served at a number of stalls all over town now. Usually, the vegetable is cooked in soup with minced meat but the other day, I decided to use the fish cakes that my missus made sometime ago. After all, they do sell bitter gourd stuffed with fish paste in the middle at those yong tofu places and I do enjoy that.

First, I boiled three cloves of garlic and two slices of ginger in some water…

Step 1

You may want to fry them in a bit of oil first for a bit of extra fragrance but I did not fancy the extra oil used. For one thing, my missus had deep-fried the fish cakes so there would be some oil from there already.

I let it simmer for a while before adding the fish cakes, thinly sliced…

Step 2

…and once done, you may wish to add some salt and msg or some fish sauce, according to taste but I just threw in half an ikan bilis (dried anchovies) stock cube and a sprinkling of ground pepper. As you can see, there were a lot of air holes in the fish cake – probably my missus did not slam it enough in the making, I wouldn’t know, but it did not really matter as it would taste the same, just as good, and it was for our own home consumption.

Then I put in the bitter gourd, thinly sliced…

Step 3

…but just the amount that I needed at that point in time. I had intended to keep the rest of what I cooked for our soup to go with the other dishes for lunch and dinner later that day and for that, I would add the bitter gourd slices later when heating it up as I don’t like the bitter gourd over-cooked and soft. In fact, it’s the same with any vegetable soup that I cook, be it sawi or cabbage or one of those leafy ones that would turn all soft and soggy when over-boiled.

There wasn’t any bihun nor hung ngang nor kwayteow in the house so I used noodles instead…

Bitter gourd fish cake noodles 1

…and topping them with the bitter gourd and the fish slices…

Bitter gourd fish cake noodles 2

…and a bit of chopped daun sup (Chinese celery), that was what I had for my breakfast that morning.

Yes, it was very nice – I certainly enjoyed that…

Bitter gourd fish cake noodles 3

…and of course, if you wish to add your own ingredients – some chopped spring onions and fried shallots…or even a poached egg, perhaps, that is all up to you. I would say that I was quite happy the way it was but no, the bitter gourd was not bitter at all, not even a little bit. I wouldn’t mind a bit of bitterness…actually.

Can’t keep a good man down…

…or a good woman, for that matter. This lady…

Kampua lady

…used to run her kampua noodle stall here but then she retired and her grandson took over, a university graduate who has chosen to carry on the trade instead and in fact, he has also gone into the manufacture of those packs of instant kampua noodles.

I sure was surprised that she now has a stall at a coffee shop that I used to frequent sometime ago. I quite liked what the lady, originally at this kampua stall there, used to serve at the time but eventually, she wrapped up her business and the ones who took over were not all that great. I also liked the fried stuff from the chu char (cook/fry) place at the back…

Delta Seafood & Cafe

…and many a time, I had stopped by there to tapao their Foochow fried noodles home…but the last time I went there, it seemed they had different people running the place and what we had was not good so we never went again. This time around, however, there are new people there too and I would say the one who came out to talk to me was very nice and friendly….and what they dish out are pretty good, so  I’ve been told.

Well, when I heard that this lady had set up her business here now, I decided to drop by and check it out. I would not say she was one of those who would snap at you once you make a wrong move or ask one question too many but I felt she was kind of reserved, not one to flash you a cheerful smile and a lady of very few words. My missus wanted pian sip, dry (RM2.70)…

Delta Seafood & Cafe pian sip, dry 1

…so I asked if that was available but she said that she would need to wrap some more. Upon hearing that, I just ordered two plates of kampua noodles for the two of us.

Then I saw her taking out the pian sip skin and minced meat to wrap and cook for a lady at the next table and another lady from another table came to change her initial order for a plate of bihun – she said that she ordered that as what she understood was that there was no more pian sip and now that she was making fresh ones, she would like to have those instead of the bihun. No, I did not bother to change my order for fear that it might confuse her more so I just left it at that.

When she was about to cook our orders, out of the blue, she asked if I wanted the pian sip dry or in soup – our table was right beside  her stall and that was why I could take her above photograph. Oh? It seemed that she heard me the first time so I just told her that my missus would like it dry. Next, she asked me if I wanted my kampua noodles white (RM2.70)…

Delta Sefood & Cafe kampua, white 1

…or black and I told her I would prefer the white…and we were served in no time at all. However, there was one guy who walked out from inside the coffee shop and told her that he would want to cancel his order and he left. I was not too sure if she did not hear him…or she heard but had forgotten all about it but the man was quite pleasant about it so I thought that was very nice of him. In cases such as this, some people can be quite temperamental and nasty and of course, one should be more understanding considering that the lady was no longer all that young.

Her pian sip seemed to have a lot more meat inside…

Delta Seafood & Cafe pian sip, dry 2

…and my missus said they were all right and I would say the same about her kampua noodles…

Delta Seafood & Cafe kampua, white 2

…that were served with stewed pork instead of those boiled ones, coloured in that radioactive shade of red on the outside…but the next time I drop by, I probably would want to try something from the chu char place at the back. The prawn noodles look pretty good…

Delta Seafood & Cafe, prawn noodles

…and are a lot cheaper than the highly-acclaimed ones at some places here, going for some RM35-40.00 or more these days but of course, if you look closely, those aren’t the much-coveted udang galah or freshwater prawns but never mind! I do think one can’t go wrong with prawns, whichever type they may be and actually, even if they’re seawater prawns or tiger prawns, they do not come cheap either. The ones I had for my Sarawak laksa that day were RM35.00 a kilo!

There is an Indian stall there too and if I’m not mistaken, there is a burger stall as well but that probably only opens at night. For one thing, parking is a breeze here, especially compared to the lady’s former location, and if anyone is interested in checking this place out,  it is located in one of the two blocks of shophouses right BEHIND the Delta Public Swimming Pool (GPS coordinate: 2.307942,111.825264) – Lorong Delta 10, the third left turn (not including the back lane that goes around those shops) if you are coming from Queensway (now Jalan Tun Abg Hj Openg).