Open…

We wanted to check out this new chicken rice place in town the previous weekend when Melissa was home but it was not open for business yet. In the meantime, my friend, Rose, had been there but judging from her review, it certainly was not something to look forward to. However, when Melissa came home again the following weekend, her mind was already made up – that she would go there to give it a try, so there we were…

CKCR 1

…that Saturday afternoon.

The service was quick and efficient and in no time at all, we were served.

I ordered the Jumbo King set (RM15.50) which was intended for big eaters but the girl said that there would be enough for two…and that included a big glass of herbal tea…

Herbal tea

…and a big plate of chicken rice and a big bowl of soup…

rice & soup

…plus a big plate of their steamed chicken – one drumstick plus breast…

Steamed chicken

Looking at the amount of everything, we felt that there was, in fact, enough for three.

Melissa and her mum shared that while I ordered the drumstick set (RM6.00) for myself and got the rice, only slightly less and a plate of chicken that looked almost as much as the jumbo set – just the bowl of soup and the drink were much smaller.

I also asked for the chicken liver, small (RM2.00)…

Chicken liver

…and good grief! They gave so much of that…and I was kind of worried that I might end up with a gout attack. Thank goodness nothing of the sort happened. We also had their bitter gourd fried with egg (RM6.00)…

Bitter gourd with egg

…for our additional vegetable dish. They have a few types of herbal soups on the menu too but we did not order any as they all had chicken claws in them. Eyewwwwwww!!!!!

Rose was complaining in her blog that everything was bland and I would agree with her but I think that was because of the lack of seasoning used. To me, that would be a good thing – less salt and less or no msg. One would be able to taste the flavours of everything, just that it seemed they just used the normal kind of chicken. I think if you use the better and more expensive type, the meat is sweeter and nicer and you can just eat it on its own. Like Rose, we had to resort to the use of the blended chili dip…

CKCR chili dip

…which, unfortunately, was not hot enough for us – we are more accustomed to stuff a whole lot spicier. The liver was fine and the bitter gourd was ok – not great, just ok…and yes, we had had better chicken rice elsewhere, I’m afraid.

If I am not mistaken, this is a Miri franchise and looking at this review, it certainly seems to be very popular among the people there. As for us, all things considered, let’s just say that we are in no hurry to go back there again…especially when we do have some nicer places of our own here.

You can’t make old friends…

A friend of mine came to town on a short holiday. She has been residing in Australia all these years. We go back a long long way to our requesting time on the radio and a-go-go dancing days in the 60′s and early 70′s. I was away in Kuching when she arrived but when I came back, we did manage to get to meet. She wanted me to take her and her nephew to go and eat the best kampua noodles in town…and of course, I just had to bring them here for the one that I like best.

Both of them had the kampua (white/original) tossed in chili sauce…

RTM Cafe kampua mee

…and they loved it! They also shared a bowl of piansip soup…

RTM Cafe piansip soup

…between the two of them while I had the Foochow-style fried noodles…

Foochow fried noodles

…with dark sauce/gravy.  I had this once a long time ago but the kampua lady (who also made the drinks – a one-woman show) was frying it herself then and I did not think it was all that nice and I regretted not sticking to her kampua noodles at the time.  I noticed that lately, there is a guy there cooking all the fried stuff so I decided to give it a try and yes, it was pretty good, definitely a lot nicer than what I had before.

We sat there and chatted and gossiped, catching up on old times and news about old friends of ours from around 9.00 a.m. till almost noon. It had been so long and there was really so much to talk about.

The next day, she contacted me again and asked me if I could join her for lunch. I asked her what she wanted to eat and she replied, “Kampua!” *faints* That, however, is very typical of people from here who have been away for a long time, either working in the peninsula or in Singapore or living in any country overseas. When they come home, they would want to go all out and feast on the kampua noodles with a vengeance.

This time around, she said that she wanted to drop by here…

Ah Chin Kopitiam

…where there was this guy…

Ah Ching Kopitiam kampua stall

…who used to sell kampua noodles at the coffee shop next to the fire station and later at another one behind HSBC right across the lane from the Singapore Chicken Rice shop there. A new owner moved in from elsewhere and took over the shop bringing along his own kampua seller so this guy had to make way and moved here – in the Sibu bus terminal area, opposite the Public Bank branch there, somewhere between WeCare and Chung Bakeries.

When I was small, I grew up eating the kampua noodles at a stall at one Kiaw Siong Coffee Shop (opposite the one across the road next to the fire station where they moved to later) and the man was called Ah Kow. Then another guy started a beef noodle stall and they called him Ang Kau (monkey) and the little son who helped to serve was nicknamed Kow Kia (puppy). Somewhere along the line, some confusion arose and the younger ones would talk about Ang Kau kampua while we, the older folks, would only be able to recall Ah Kow kampua.

Well, I asked this man for an explanation and that was what he told me, that Ah Kow was Ang Kau and vice versa – all of us were all talking about the one and the same person. If I’m not wrong, this man took over the kampua stall when Ah Kow was forced to retire owing to illness and later passed away…but many would tell you that if you want that same taste of Ah Kow aka Ang Kau kampua, this is the guy to look for! If anyone is interested, the stall opens very early, at around 6.00 a.m. till past noon but it will reopen at around 4.00 pm. till 10.00 p.m.

My friend had the kampua noodles…

Ah Ching kampua mee

…again white/original and tossed with chili sauce. Pssstttt!!!! Don’t tell me I told you but she had TWO plates!!! I could not believe my eyes! Muahahahahaha!!!! But she said that once she had gone back to Australia, she would not have any more kampua noodles to eat until the next time she gets an opportunity to come home. Poor thing! So very deprived!!!

She also shared the piansip soup…

Ah Ching piansip soup

…with her nephew and he had this plate of piansip kampua with dark soy sauce…

Ah Ching piansip kampua

It was no-meat Friday for me that day so I ordered something from this stall at the back…

Ah Ching Kopitiam stall 2

- their fried kway teow with cockles…

Ah Chin char kwayteow

It was all right, same as fried kway teow anywhere else in town, the better ones, nothing more and nothing less…but with cockles added.

It certainly is so very nice to see you again, Jasmine…and if you’re tuned in, this song goes out specially to you…

The message is in the song. Take care and God bless always.

Lastly…

On our first morning in Kuching, Philip and I went in search of the celebrated kolo mee, since moved from Carpenter Street to Padungan, but it was nowhere to be seen. We asked a man at the kolo mee stall in the first shop in the block and he was so nice as to give us the directions even though we were not going to eat anything from him. It seemed that it was somewhere in the middle of Padungan around that junction where one would turn left to Longhouse Hotel…so in the end, we decided to abort our plan to go and eat there.

But since we were in the vicinity, I insisted that Philip should stop by here…

FH1

…to try what everyone would cart home in boxes and boxes even though I am definitely not a fan of anything from this place myself – I can never understand why since time immemorial, people think everything here is so so so nice.

We had the sio bee (meat dumplings)…

FH sio bee

…and the har kao (prawn dumplings)…

FH har kao

Honestly, I do not have to make any comments or anything. The mere appearances of those would say it all.

I wanted their most popular big bak pao (steamed meat bun) but Philip wanted the char siew pao so we ordered both…

FH paos

…and he tried a bit of each and left the rest on the plate. He did not like the filling…

FH bak pao filling

…and the skin was not quite like the old-school one that he loves so much – the kind he grew up eating way back in those long gone days when we were a lot younger. To be fair, I actually thought it was not all that bad (I did not say good, do take note!) eating these things there on the spot unlike when some people gave me some and I re-steamed them to eat at home…but no, I definitely would not buy any to take home myself, thank you very much.

Later that same morning, when we went for our stroll down India Street, I took him into this lane…

Kai Joo Lane, Kuching 1

This used to be called “kua cha hang” (coffin alley) as all along the lane…

Kai Joo Lane, Kuching 2

…most of the shops would be those making the traditional handcrafted Chinese coffins – the ones with the curved-up ends at the sides. Truth be told, I always avoided walking down this lane then as it made me feel somewhat eerie…with all those coffins here, there and everywhere. I think there may be one or two or more of those shops there still, if I am not mistaken.

My intention that morning was to drop by this place…

Chong Chon, Kai Joo Lane, Kuching 1

…for Philip to try their sio pao (baked meat pastry)…

Ching Chin, Kai Joo Lane, Kuching 2

…but unfortunately, there was none available. A guy came out and spoke to us. He was not a young man…but I thought he was good looking and very pleasant. Probably, that was the son or the son-in-law. I remember the couple who used to make the paos on a table (which doubled as a mahjong table once they were through making the paos for the day) right there in the middle of the shop and though they were not unfriendly, I thought they looked kind of sad and never seemed to smile.

Anyway, this guy told us that the paos would be available around noon and that is one thing about this place. If you want anything from here, it is best to call them and book first. You may see a lot on display sometimes but they’ve all been booked by some people and you would have to go away empty-handed.

I was not craving for any as my cousin sent me a whole lot just the other day through her brother when he came to Sibu on a day trip. In fact, on the day I arrived in Kuching, she booked some of those century egg ones for me…but because she went to collect them late, they had sold them off to somebody else already. Tsk! Tsk! So what she did was she made a fresh booking for me to take home…

Ching Chon cnetury egg sio pao

- all wrapped up and packed nicely for storage in the freezer to be re-heated in the oven and enjoyed slowly…one by one as and when the need arises.

They may look different…

Century egg & regular sio pao

…but actually, it is the same pastry, except for the sprinkling of sesame seeds on top and the filling is exactly the same except that one has bits of century egg and traces of or nee (sweet yam paste) inside. My guess is that somewhere along the line, they tried it out and since it was so very well-received, they have been making them since.

My cousin also made this hummus herself…

Hummus

…for me to take home to give to Melissa who enjoys this kind of stuff. She met us while we were having the kolo mee at the Green Road shop that morning just before we left Kuching to pass me everything. Thank you so much, cousin, for going through all that trouble and everything – much obliged and very much appreciated.

This is the last post on my brief Kuching trip and I would, at this juncture, like to extend my thanks also to Philip for the sio bee from the Open Air Market and the big pao for me to try and though totally out of context, to my friend Peter – one-time blogger but no longer active, as well for sending me these…

From Pete

…all the way from KL and again to Philip, this time for giving me these…

From Philip

- he went on a drive to Kanowit two days after we returned from Kuching and he tapao-ed my favourite red kampua noodles from there for me. My sincere thanks to the both of you too.

Here now…

My friend, Philip, loves those prawn noodles – the ones here with the udang galah (freshwater prawns)…

Min Kong prawn noodles
*Archive photo*

…even though they are charging RM35.00 a bowl now. I guess for him, it is not all that expensive since it is just a little bit more than US$10.00…plus they cannot get anything like this there and I am pretty sure most everything there is selling at around that same price or perhaps, even more.

The ones that we had here in Sarikei, the tom yam ones…

Glory Cafe tom yam prawn noodles
*Archive photo*

…and the regular ones…

Glory Cafe prawn noodles
*Archive photo*

…are not much cheaper now either. The last I heard, they were already RM30.00 a bowl.

I was surprised that even though he had driven from Kuching to Sibu and back year in and year out, Philip had never heard of Jakar and never noticed it anywhere along the way…and he did not know that there is a restaurant there as well that is famous for its prawn noodles – the Peking Restaurant. I told him about it and of course, he would want to stop there to try so on our way back to Sibu that day, we kept a look out for the bazaar and we did manage to locate it…

Jakar

…on your left if you are driving from Kuching to Sibu. We were quite dismayed to see that the restaurant was closed but a vegetable seller by the roadside, without our asking, told us that they had moved to the other side of the road. Good grief! I guess every strange face around would be there for the noodles so the locals would be able to guess instantly what he or she is looking for.

We drove over to the restaurant at its present location…

Peking Restaurant, Jakar 1

…and I noticed that they even have a nice air-conditioned section…

Peking Restaurant, Jakar 2

…with big tables probably for those grand Chinese dinners…

Peking Restuarant, Jakar 3

…but there were only two of those so my guess is that they can only manage to do it on a small scale.

We wasted no time at all in ordering the prawn noodles…

Jakar prawn noodles 1

…and I must say that I enjoyed it a lot while Philip was torn between this one and the one in Sibu. For one thing, it was not overloaded with msg and personally, I do feel that when we cook anything with prawns, we really do not need any of that white stuff – the soup or the gravy would be very sweet and delicious already.

There were FIVE prawns altogether, cut into halves…

Jakar prawn noodles 2

…unlike the Sibu one where you would get three halves only so that looks like you’re getting three prawns when in actual fact, there are only 1½, plus the last time I had it there, I thought they had added too much msg so I did not really think it was all that good.

Here comes the best part! That only cost RM19.90 a bowl which is considerably less than the ones in Sibu or Sarikei. We left the place and drove back to Sibu, happy and absolutely satisfied.

Philip and I left Kuching before 10.00 a.m. and it was about 6.00 p.m. when he dropped me off at my house. It certainly was a pleasant drive and a wonderful trip indeed. Thank you so much, Philip, for everything!

I’m going home…

After two nights in Kuching, all too soon, it was time for Philip and I to head back home.

We stopped by the Open Air Market with the intention of having breakfast there but the guy had just started steaming the stuff so in the end, Philip just bought the sio bee and the char siew pao that he wanted. still frozen, plus a big pao for me to try and we left to head across river to get his kek lapis and fruit cake. Having done that, we went to this shop…

Sin Lian Shin, Green Road, Kuching

…along Green Road for breakfast. This is one of the most famous in Kuching for its kolo mee

Green Road kolo mee 1

…so I felt it was a good place to go to for that. Gosh!!! It was so crowded with tables laid out all over in front of the shop and even the one next door. Luckily, despite that, we were able to grab a table and our orders came very fast.

Philip had the regular (RM3.50)…

Green Road kolo mee, regular

…while I had the special (RM5.00)…

Green Road kolo mee, special

…but they looked almost identical to me. It seemed that there was more meat in the special, that was about all…but I really thought the noodles were really very very nice. It had a stronger flavour than those elsewhere and I could sense the strong garlic fragrance that I liked a lot.

A cousin of mine, the one who took me out for lunch on the day I arrived, dropped by to pass me some stuff but I will blog about that in another post at a later date. As soon as we were done, we left the place and were on our way. Initially, we went on the four-lane highway…

Kuching to Sibu 1

…out of Kuching and past Serian but that did not mean that it was an easier and smoother ride. There were a lot of cars with some very unpredictable drivers at times. Later, the road became narrower with only two lanes…

Kuching to Sibu 2

…the rest of the way – one going and one coming, that was all but there were not many cars and even though there were some slow coaches going at a snail’s pace, there were quite a few overtaking lanes along the way. There were parts where the road could get quite hilly and were rather winding but at least, it was smooth with none of those uneven and bumpy patches that I would encounter on my way from Sibu to Selangau when sending my daughter to her jungle school and coming back. Other than that, there seemed to be comparatively a lot fewer vehicles on the road so that certainly made the drive a whole lot nicer.

On the way, we made a pit-stop at this little bazaar…

Lachau 1

…that had only two rows of shops, one longer one…

Lachau 2

…and a shorter one at the far end. No, no…the spelling is correct – they did not forget an n or anything. Hehehehehehe!!!

There was a shop selling these very nice ethnic handicrafts…

Lachau shop 1

…where I was particularly attracted to these beautiful scabbards…

Lachau shop 2

…made of beads for the parang (the ethnic version of the sword).

All along the front of the shops were stalls selling all kinds of jungle produce, fruits and so on. There were quite a few like this man selling durians…

Durian

…and other types of fruits like these buah terap, for instance…

Buah terap

I bought these dabai (black olives)

Dabai

…for only RM10 a kilo, around half the price they’re charging in Sibu and when we ate them at home, I was delighted that they were really very very nice.

I also got these bua’ alung

Bua' alung

…which were only RM2 for a basketful to dry the skin to use for cooking – they are very sour like asam keping (dried tamarind slices).

These terung Dayak are also sour…

Terung Dayak

…and I got a basketful for RM5.00 – there were 6 big ones altogether. I hear they are selling these in Kuching for around RM10 a kilo.

Actually, we stopped by here as all the time, I had the understanding that this was the place famous for its very delicious kolo mee with braised duck but when we asked around, it turned out that one would have to go to Sg Tenggang for that, not here. I had seen that place earlier – we had already gone past it and there was no way we would want to turn back. I wanted to go on our way but Philip insisted that we might as well stop awhile at this coffee shop…

Lachau Food Corner

…and try their kolo mee

Lachau kolo mee

…since we were already there. I thought it was nice, anytime a whole lot nicer than those pale imitations that we have in Sibu.

Soon after that, we were back on the road again…

Another night…

On our second and final night in Kuching, I insisted on dropping by here…

TV1

…to try the Thai cuisine there. Why? A friend of mine was sharing something on Facebook on what he had there and was praising everything to the skies – he certainly sounded very enthusiastic, like it was the best in the world or something to that effect. I asked if they had a lady chef, thinking that it might be the one from here but no, they had a man at the helm.

One could choose to sit inside or outside – the place was big, mostly white and to me, I thought it was sort of clinically clean. As far as the decor went, other than those bronze lions beside the sign at the entrance, there wasn’t much else and definitely nothing that would be indicative that it was a Thai restaurant. We browsed through the menu…

TV2

…and it did give us the impression that this was more a fusion Thai-Chinese place as I noticed that they had a lot of the usual Chinese dishes listed in it as well.

We loved the pineapple fried rice (RM8.90)…

TV3

…and they gave this sambal belacan (dried prawn paste dip)…

TV4

…to go with it. I thought it was nice, very spicy…but no, they did not use our very-much-nicer Bintulu belacan.

The tom yam seafood (RM25.90)…

TV5

…was to our liking too and we did wish we were having plain rice so we could flood our plates with the very nice soup. However, at that price, I certainly would expect a lot more seafood inside.

The salted egg squid (RM14.90)…

TV6

…was good as well…but I wish I could say the same about the beef green curry (RM18.90)…

TV7

They marinated the beef so much that it had completely lost its meat texture plus the curry in itself was not as nice as what I had before here. I thought the gravy was kind of powdery or something like that.

I did not think the steamed otak-otak (RM15.90)…

TV8

…was all that great either. Don’t get me wrong now – it tasted all right and I would give them full marks for the presentation, just that it really wasn’t anything to shout about. Other than that, the texture felt something like luncheon meat…

TV9

…so all in all, I did not think it would be something I would be dying to eat again.

I was kind of disappointed that they had run out of pad thai…and I was discouraged from ordering my favourite – the mango pulut dessert as. according to the guy, the mango was sour.

It looked like it was a one-man show, probably the proprietor, running around taking orders and waiting at the tables (there was only one other table besides us) and perhaps, we caught him at the wrong time, for I thought that initially, he was kind of rude…or unpleasant and that sort of pissed me off. Later he became a lot more friendly and was quite nice – I found out from him that the chef wasn’t Thai but came from Johore and he himself came from KL. Hmmmmm!!!

I would think this would be a good option if one is looking for something different for a change and thinking of having Thai, definitely nicer than the one here or here…but when we only had one night left in Kuching, I kind of regretted my choice as I would prefer to go some place else that would be worth a lot more dropping by in that limited time that we had.

Across the river…

Philip would use a tambang (boat ferry) to cross the river from the city centre…

Kuching city centre from across river

…every year to come to this place…

DS1

…which is located right across the road from the jetty once you disembark from the boat. This year, with me in tow, he drove all the way there, crossing the river via the Satok Bridge.

It looks like it has become a major tourist attraction now…

DS2

…and is quite a favourite among the locals as well.

You will have to take off your shoes as you enter…

DS3

…and are free to browse around the place looking at all the cakes on the shelves.

They certainly are very creative in naming their cakes, I must say. This is the name of a Malay movie…

DS4

…which had a hit with its theme song sung by a guy from Kuching and a lady singer…and I am sure everyone is all too familiar with this very popular and addictive online game…

DS5

Oops!!! I remember how I used to pound on the students for this spelling error…

DS6

Sup apa? Sup kambing? Sup power?” I would scream into their ears, not that it helped one bit and I would see that same error again and again and again. Sigh!!!

They have the sisik ikan too…

DS7

…but I tried their sample and personally, I think the one we can get in Sibu is not as dry and much nicer.

They have samples for everyone to try…

DS8

…and I thought their Lumut and Cadbury were pretty good. I was wishing though that those who had tried would be considerate enough to cover the cake trays with the lids as I did see some flies fluttering around at that point in time…or perhaps the workers could be vigilant enough to do that once somebody was through.

Philip did not want to buy what he wanted right there and then and chose to go back to the place again the next morning before we left town. On the way back to the city, he spotted this stall…

D1

…by the roadside selling durians…

D2

…and being a true-blue lover of the fruit, he simply had to get one to enjoy…

D3

No, this wasn’t 3 for RM10 – those would be the small ones by the side. In fact, he paid RM8.00 for what we had…and I also had a few seeds just in case even though I am not really a fan of the fruit.

On the way back to the hotel, we drove down Jalan Haji Taha to this place for some nice cold dessert – it certainly was a hot day that day and I thought that would be a welcome relief. The last time I was there, I went to the shop and I remember somebody saying that what I had would be nicer if I had gone to the stall at their house, some 100 metres to the right. That was what I did this time around…

Swee Kang 1

They had just washed the premises, obviously, so it was nice and clean.

We placed our orders and the guys got to work right away…

Swee Kang 2

…and we did not have to wait long before we were served. Probably it was mid-afternoon on a working day so there was nobody else other than us but while we were there, a few other customers also came by.

I had their ang tao peng (iced red bean)…

Swee Kang ang tao peng 1

…and I wouldn’t know if it was because we were feeling really hot and thirsty but what I had…

Swee Kang ang tao peng 2

…was so very nice, a lot nicer than what I had at the shop on my previous visit.

After that very refreshing break, we headed back to the hotel to rest, only to emerge again when it was time for dinner.