Day by day…

The days seem to go by so quickly. This time last month, it was the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan and most of the shops and stalls were closed but of course, there were the bazaars in the late afternoon and after that came Hari Raya and many did not resume business till at least two weeks after the auspicious annual celebration like this one here and as soon as it opened, we went straight away for its Saturday-only nasi kerabu

Sri Tanjung nasi kerabu

…that we truly enjoy a lot.

My missus bought a tub of tempoyak (fermented durian) from our regular Malay food stall at the Ramadhan bazaar at Bandong here for only RM5.00 and she used it to cook this meat dish…

Tempoyak pork

It was so good and we went back there a few times wanting to buy some more but unfortunately, they did not make anymore.

My friend, Philip, is back in the US by now but he was home at the time and while he was here, he dropped by my house one day to pass me the pek ting eyok duck soup that his sister cooked. This so-called Eight Treasures herbal soup is very popular among the Foochows here and is available at the stalls/shops but only with chicken or pork leg. I do not mind those though I can’t say that I am very fond of it that way – for me, it has to be with duck which would bring the taste to a whole new level. Unfortunately, my missus does not eat duck so cooking our own at home is completely out of the question. I guess Philip knows that so that nice and thoughtful man went through all the trouble to pass me some to enjoy and I cooked some mee sua to go with it…

Pek ting eyok duck

Ooooo…it was absolutely glorious! I have not had it (with duck) for so long and I truly enjoyed it so very much. Thank you so much, Philip.

And speaking of thank yous, I also must thank my friend, Alex, ex-tuition class student and ex-blogger, who went over in Melbourne, Australia and when he came back, he brought me these…

Goodies from Australia

He’s such a nice chap, really – the previous time he went to Taiwan, he also brought back some stuff for me from there.

Another one that I must thank is my ex-student, Xavier, who was in Kuching and when he came back, he gave me this big loaf of butter cheese cake…

Butter cheese cake from Xavier

…from a bakery there. He always makes it a point to bring me back something from KL, Taiwan or the UK or wherever he goes. I loved the cake very much – it was very moist and had a very lovely buttery taste and fragrance, almost like those awesome butter cupcakes from Kapit except that their shapes were different and this one did look a bit nicer. Thanks so much, Xavier – it was so sweet of you truly.

For one thing, time does seem to go by a little bit faster when you’re caught up in a lot of things and that, I would say, was very true in my case so much so that I had had a lot of things to blog about and everything else had to take a back seat temporarily. I did blog about this new instant kampua on the market and since then, I had also tried their mee pok (flat noodles) version…

Moi Huong instant kampua mee pok

…and tossed with my missus’ own-made pounded chili, I thought it was really good.

There was also the usual cooking that I would do on some mornings for breakfast. As usual, whenever there was some leftover rice, then we would have some fried rice like this one here…

STP's lap cheong & egg fried rice

…with the very nice wine-infused  lap cheong (Chinese sausage) from KL that Annie-Q gave me…or this one…

STP's pork belly fried rice

…with some leftover pork belly that I had in the fridge one morning…and on another morning, I tried cooking this garlic butter rice…

STP's garlic butter rice with corned beef & potatoes

…to go with some leftover corned beef and potatoes from the previous night’s dinner and I actually liked it a lot!

Of course, when my girl was home for the one-week Raya break and also on weekends, we would spend some quality time together going out to eat or look around and shop for anything we might fancy and it was on one of those outings that I spotted this nice t-shirt…

T-shirt

…that I would have loved to buy but unfortunately, they did not have my size. Indeed, the days pass by so quickly and time is too short to spend moaning and groaning and complaining about anything and everything under the sun. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Personally, I do believe that life is for us to live the best we can, trusting in God that He will always protect and bless us in all that we do and let us pray always that…
…God will always grant us the serenity
to accept the things we cannot change,
courage to change the things we can
and wisdom to know the difference,
living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace,
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as we would have it,
trusting that He will make all things right
if we surrender to His Will,
that we may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.
(Reinhold Niebuhr, adapted)

Taking over…

There was a bakery here once…

My Chef Restaurant, Sibu 1

- the one with the best cream puffs in town but eventually, they closed shop and some people took over to run this eatery at this exact same spot and not too long ago, I heard that the place has changed hands again and now it is…

My Chef Restuarant, Sibu 2

…and after hearing some favourable reviews of what they served here, we decided to drop by and check it out.

Melissa ordered the tomato fried kway teow (RM4.50)…

Tomato fried kway teow 1

…and we thought it would look a lot nicer with some green vegetables, bits of sawi/chai hua or something…

Tomato fried kway teow

…for a bit of colour and taste as well. This was very nice though, definitely better than elsewhere with their excessive use of tomato sauce and as nice as some that I have had in Kuching…plus I did not feel that overdose of msg that would put me off instantly.

My missus had the chao chai hung ngang (RM4.50)…

Chao chai hung ngang

…or the big bihun in preserved vegetable soup and she said it was very good. Melissa said she would prefer this smaller version of the hung ngang but bigger than the ordinary bihun that they used for this dish.

I opted for the Mongolian chicken with rice (RM5.50)…

Mongolian chicken with rice

…and yes, it was very nice too.

I don’t know what sauce it was…

Mongolian chicken

…sourish but very very slightly with a hint of peanut and black pepper, not something that I had had before but I thought it was really good.

It seemed that they do have on their menu dishes that you can order to eat with rice and since we liked what we had that day, we certainly would go back to try what they have to offer. If anyone is interested in dropping by as well, it is in the block of shops to the left of Delta Mall (second from the right) along Jalan Pedada, the same block as ASTRO, and they open from 7.00 a.m. until 1.30 p.m. and from 6.30 p.m. onwards in the evening.

I’ll be seeing you…

It was on that same night when my friend published a post on some dishes that she cooked and coincidentally, I had the same when I went out for dinner with my friend, Philip, who has since gone back to the US.

They do have a lot of dishes that one can order at this restaurant here in Sibu but the problem is whenever I drop by, I will order the same things that I have liked for a long long time now. One of them would be their fish maw soup…

A+ fish maw soup 1

…which I particularly love as the soup is always so clear and so very nice and inside, other than the fish maw, you will find some sweet corn kernels, Chinese cabbage, strips of chicken, bean curd sticks…

A+ fish maw soup 2

…and usually, there would be a few shrimps/prawns but I think there wasn’t any that night and of course, there would be the sprinkling of fried shallots and chopped spring onions.

Probably they ran out of prawns that night and had not replenished their stock or it was one of those days when prawns would be rare and difficult to get at the market and even if there were any available, they would not be so fresh and would be mighty expensive…and that might be the reason why that night, they did not have any of their very nice  prawn fritters that we would not fail to order every time.

Another thing that I would order would be these mini-ngor hiang/lor bak (meat rolls)…

A+ ngor hiang

…which I used to buy home together with the prawn fritters for Melissa as we always enjoyed them as well. However, Philip did not seem to think too much of them as he was hoping for something like the old-school ngor hiang, either the commercially-made and sold ones or those we would make at home. These do not taste quite like those – I think they have a stronger taste and fragrance and more meat…and as for the authentic ngor hiang, I have yet to find any sold in town that is to my liking so I would never bother to buy and will only get to eat them whenever my missus makes some – and that would be around Chinese New Year each year.

I also ordered the stewed pork leg served on a bed of cangkuk manis fried with egg…

A+ stewed pork leg with cangkuk manis
*Archive photo*

…for Philip to try. Unfortunately, the photographs all came out blur so I have to use this old one instead. I think they outshone themselves that night as there wasn’t so much gravy from the stewed pork leg – it was literally, fried cangkuk manis with egg with stewed pork leg PLUS one stewed egg, halved on top. That way, the milder taste and sweetness of the cangkuk manis was not overshadowed or drowned out and the pork with just a little bit of the gravy actually complemented it. I requested for lean meat, none of the trotters, and they complied so what we had did not have all that fat – except for one chunk that had a bit and Philip cut it away and left by the side and no prize for guessing who had it in the end. Nom…nom…nom!!! Yum! Yummmmm!!!!! LOL!!!

We also had this dish of long beans…

A+ long beans

…fried with sambal hay bee (dried prawns) and it was all right, just that I would prefer it fried a little longer so that it would be a little softer and not so crunchy.

The bill came up to RM38.60, inclusive of rice and drinks which I thought was not cheap but I guess fish maw is mighty expensive plus the plate of stewed pork with cangkuk manis was rather big. All in all, there would be enough for 3 so if there had been three of us and we had ordered for two, we would get more or less the same and charged around that same amount in which case, it would be very much more reasonable.

If anyone is keen on dropping by, this restaurant is in one of two blocks of shops behind those (where Fair Price Supermarket is) facing Kampung Datu Road, on the right just after the traffic lights. Long long ago, it was the very popular one on the ground floor of the Sibu Recreation Club building beside the King George VI Grounds (then already renamed Padang Sukan Tun Tuanku Haji Bujang) where there was somebody selling the best satay in town at the time as well…and then, they moved to the block of shops right behind AmBank in the Tunku Osman area…before they moved to this present location.

Well, by the time this post gets published, Philip would be back in the US already as he left Sibu a couple of days later. I wouldn’t know if he would be coming back in December but I guess he would definitely be home again around this same time next year. I certainly look forward to seeing you again, Philip, and thank you so much for everything.  In the meantime, do take good care and God bless, you and all in your family.

The rain came down…

We have the pasar malam (night market) every night here in the heart of Sibu town but no, you would not find me there as parking is such a problem and I would have to park far away and walk all the way there by which time I would be perspiring like hell, completely drenched and feeling so hot and uncomfortable that I would not be in the mood to buy or eat anything…and I have not even started walking around the entire place yet. That was what I told my friend, Philip, home from the US at the time, when he told me that there are some local/Sibu/Foochow delights available there…and that very nice man actually went and bought some of the stuff for me!

There was this eyew chang koi (fried shallot cake)…

Eyew chang koi

…that was really so very beautifully done. I remember the ones we used to love so very much when I was younger. There was somebody selling this, steamed in small metal bowls, by the side of the Lido Cinema. He or she would take the bamboo spatula and cut lines in it, patterned in a grid of little squares, sprinkle the fried shallots onto it and then pour the nice sauce all over it. Gosh!!! That was so so good and how much did that cost then? 10 sen only, I think…or was it 5?

Then there were these chai peah and ban chien koi

Chai peah & ban chien koi

…that were so very nice too. I know the guy who makes the latter (top)…

Ban chien koi guy

In the afternoons at around 4.00 p.m., he would set up his stall in the open space/parking area in between the two blocks of shops in the next lane to the one where I stay and later in the evening, he would pack up and move to the pasar malam to continue his trade there. I do wish he would start selling earlier as I usually would have my tea at around 3 as 4.00 p.m. would be rather late already and I would not want to spoil my appetite for dinner at around 6.00 p.m. Yes, I am very regimented and will stick steadfastly to my schedule.

Anyway, back to what Philip got for  me, there were also these…

Or koi, fried sio bee & stuffed kompia

or koi (yam cake), fried sio bee (meat dumpling) and stuffed kompia. The latter two were good but I think the former sure deserves special mention. I used to buy the or koi at a stall at Rejang Park – they were superb many many years ago but lately, it has gone all soft and wobbly, probably the result of too much flour and too little yam and as if that is not bad enough, it has become so very expensive. These were so good that since I was in the vicinity of the night market the following day

Sibu Pasar Malam/Night Market 1

…I thought of getting some more for Melissa to take back to her jungle school to heat up on one of the days in the week and enjoy. This is just a small section of it, mostly the Chinese stalls selling non-halal food…

Porky stall

…and drinks and it stretches right to the very end…

Sibu pasar malam, sweet corn

There are also those sections selling halal stuff like satay and so on and also those stalls selling handbags, wallets, clothes and others.

Now, this was where the problem started – there were many stalls selling the same things so which exactly did Philip get the or koi from? Was it this one that was so very popular…

Sibu pasar malam, fried stuff stall 1

…that the moment the things left the hot wok, they would be snapped up instantly by the customers?

Or was it from this one…

Sibu pasar malam, fried stuff stall 2

…where I thought the things looked quite similar?

I remember the ones that Philip bought were placed in paper bags before going into the plastic bags so there I went, peering into everybody’s purchases to see if there were any paper bags used but before I could find any like that, the skies opened and the rain came pouring down VERY heavily  so I had to run for shelter and my hunt for the elusive or koi came to an untimely end…

Tell me how you like it…

In a recent post, I shared a photograph of the traditional way of boiling water and brewing coffee and tea in the old school coffee shops – over a hot charcoal stove…

Old-school charcoal stive
*Archive photo*

…and I remember seeing them toasting bread on it  as well. They would get it all burnt and then they would use a knife to scrape off the black surfaces on both sides before generously applying one slice of butter, not unlike those cheese slices that we can get at the supermarket these days, and of course, their own-made kaya (coconut jam) after that.

I don’t know how to make kaya but when I was teaching in Kanowit, 1978 to 1982, I saw the lady at this coffee shop…

Old coffee shop
*Archive photo*

…double-boiling and stirring it continuously. It certainly looked very tedious so of course, I would not want to give it  a try, no, thank  you. The lady had passed away and the son and daughter-in-law are running the shop now. I am not too sure whether they still make their own kaya or not but somewhere along the line, in most, if not all coffee shops, the butter and the kaya were sidelined and all you will get will be just Planta and Yeo’s.

I do know of this place in town that uses Golden Churn…

Butter
*Archive photo*

…though but see! I told you they would just use the canned kaya these days and this particular brand.

Of course I do not have a charcoal stove at home and I would not bother to use this

BBQ stove
*Archive photo*

…either as it would be quite a hassle to get the charcoal burning and there would be all that smoke and it can get rather messy as well. Ummmm…if you’re curious, no…I have not got that thing assembled yet. Hehehehehehe!!!!

Yes, I have a toaster that is over 30 years old and it still works perfectly but I find that by the time the toast gets dark enough, it would be crusty inside out so I prefer to toast my slices of bread on a pan, flipping regularly till I get them nicely browned on both sides. That way, the surfaces would be crusty and inside, it would still be soft like fresh un-toasted bread. Of course, I would apply a generous layer of butter on it and also kaya

My kaya toast & half-cooked eggs breakfast

I do think the made-in-Singapore Glory brand Hainanese kaya (with honey) is very nice and a welcome change from their pandan one which is good as well…and to go with my kaya toast, I would insist on half-cooked eggs, the way I like them – the egg white hard and the yolk still runny.

Come, tell me how you like it…

Too many choices…

There are more than 10 kampua noodle stalls among the shops in the vicinity of the Civic Centre or Dewan Suarah in Sibu, not including the one(s) above the market there and needless to say, I have only tried a few of them

So far, my favourite is this one here

E Da's kampua
*Archive photo*

…which used to cost only RM2.30 a bowl but I have not been there since so I would not know if they have jacked up the price.

I know some prefer the one here

Eesen's kampua
*Archive photo*

…which used to be even cheaper than the aforementioned but I did not think it was better. I’ve also tried the ones here and here (though I think the people then have since moved away some place else and somebody else is doing it here now) and one other place right next to the SESCO payment collection centre and my missus had the one here and generally, they were all all right but everytime, I stopped by this coffee shop…

APC

…right across the lane from the bakery where I would get those awesome chicken pies, I would go for the fried stuff from the people at the back. I particularly like their fried kway teow, be it wet (with gravy) or dry.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever tried the kampua noodles from this stall in front…

APC kampua stall

…so one morning, we stopped by the place to see if it was any good.

Business was certainly very good – there were quite a lot of people, some ordering from this stall and others eating the fried stuff from the people at the back. I had their kampua noodles (RM2.80)…

APC kampua

…which I thought was all right, not the best in the area and definitely not the best in town and at that price, I guess it would make more sense to go for the cheaper ones a stone’s throw away.

Melissa had the pian sip, dry…

APC pian sip, dry

…while my missus had the soup version…

APC pian sip, soup

…and both of them said that their orders were all right, nothing to shout about and definitely not anything to get them running back for more.

Well, there are a few others here that I have yet to try so I would probably go for those instead if I happen to be around that part of town again…or I would just stick to the fried stuff from the stall at the back.

Seems so long ago…

Well, it certainly seemed that way because it really had been so long ago since the last time I set foot in this restaurant…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant Sibu 1

It must be at least 50-60 years old and was one of the very few and the most famous, most popular restaurants in town back in my growing-up years.

While others have closed down and one that is definitely not as old has moved elsewhere, this one has stayed put at the exact same location right in the centre of town, opposite what used to be the Lido Cinema that had been burnt down and is now an inn…

Lehdo Inn, Sibu

…along the very narrow and congested Blacksmith Road…

Blacksmith Road, Sibu

…where parking can be such a pain and the fact that the pasar malam (night market) has been relocated to the area behind this row of shops sure does not help to make things any better.

A friend posted a comment on Facebook that she was told that the restaurant had changed owner and was not so authentic anymore. I asked and was told that when the old owner had passed away, his son did not have any interest in the business (Word has it that he has migrated and is presently living overseas.) and the old man’s partner, Ah Teck, took over the restaurant. As far as the food goes, it is more or less the same and as nice as before though I do know also that one of the chefs left and opened his own restaurant across river. I hear that he cooks more or less the same stuff as what he used to dish out here but that restaurant is way out of town, so far away…and our roads here, especially those out-of-town ones, are not so vehicle-friendly, not quite the kind of drive for old folks like me…and even more so at night.

Anyway, like before, the restaurant is still on the 1st floor and I was delighted seeing the fact that they have maintained the place really well…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant, Sibu 2

…with a string of awards…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant, Sibu 3

…to show…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant, Sibu 4

 …and an A certificate for cleanliness from our local municipal council.

I was there that night with my friend/ex-classmate, Michael, for dinner before he left town to go back to Australia and we had this sweet and sour fish…

Sweet & sour fish

- I think they called it Fook Kui Yu or something like that…and it was very nicely done indeed.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think hock chiew means Foochow and lau is short for chiew lau or a venue where they will hold (wedding and other) banquets (ciak chiew) so the name actually means Foochow restaurant and needless to say, this is THE place where one would be able to get old-school authentic Foochow delights such as their celebrated sio bee (meat dumplings)…

[CORRECTION: My sincere apologies to one and all. Based the comments received, in the Chinese name of the restaurant, the first two characters, which taken together sound like the Chinese reference to Foochows, actually do not make a reference to that. "Hock" means luck or good fortune and 'Chu' means gather so literally it means "good fortune to all who gather at this place". Thanks to all concerned for the explanations.]

Hock Chu Leu sio bee

…and their Foochow-style fried noodles…

Hock Chu Leu Foochow fried noodles

When I was small, whenever my mum was busy with something or did not have time to go to the market, my dad would bring the tiffin carrier and buy food home and the thing was that he would buy from this same restaurant and the same few dishes every time so much so that eventually, I got so tired of eating those same things and the mere sight of them would put me off. One of those would be their ang sio pek/pao chai

Hock Chu Leu ang sio pek chai

- stewed/braised Chinese cabbage/wombok. I don’t think it was because I had not eaten it for a long long time but they certainly do it much better now and I really enjoyed it very much. I would surely order it without any second thought should I drop by this restaurant again.

Other than that, we also ordered their fried midin (wild fern)…

Fried midin

…as Michael would not be able to enjoy that once he had gone back…and it is something one would not be able to get outside of the state of Sarawak, not even in the peninsula.

I shared these photos on Facebook and somebody commented that he was not too happy with the people at this restaurant and I quote, “Food may be still good but every time (I mean every time since 4 years ago) we received very rude and sour face treatment even tho we have ordered similar old cuisine…” Unquote. On the contrary, I thought the ladies were very friendly and chatty and the service was excellent! Of course, they were not the sweet and gentle young ladies one might be used to in the new Chinese restaurants elsewhere (especially) as they did come across rather coarse or rough which may be quite typical of small town people and those of our local dialect – it’s just their usual way of talking, that’s all.

If it’s rude as in really rude or ill-mannered, I can pinpoint a few at some places in town but no, I did not think the ones here were thus inclined. I did get a little put off though by how they would scoff on and on about the fried sio bee that I had bought from the pasar malam at the back and brought them along with us – we had gone very early in order that we would be able to find a parking space and in the meantime, we went to browse around the night market but it started pouring heavily so we had to cut short our stroll. They insisted that their fried meatballs…

Fried meat balls

…were way superior and kept putting down the ones I had in my plastic bag. I asked Melissa for her opinion and she said that both were nice. She thought they were two different things that did not taste quite the same and she liked them both.

Well, there was one left and everyone was too full to eat it so I put it in the plastic bag together with the ones deemed inferior and took it home. The next morning, I cut it and stuffed the slices in the croissant that Melissa had bought for me from a bakery near our house, along with some lettuce and mayo to make a croissant sandwich…

Croissant sandwich

…and yes, it was very nice. I must say that I enjoyed it a lot, eaten this way. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

Michael insisted on picking up the tab that night and of course, it would seem so cheap to him, less than AUD$50 for the six of us. I am pretty sure you can’t go out for a dinner for two for that kind of money in Ozzieland. Thank you so much, Michael – I always feel it is so very nice to meet and get together with friends…

Dinner with old friends
*You can tell from the shape & size which the true blue Sibu locals are… LOL!!!*

…and I certainly look forward to more of the same the next time you come home…