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All in the mind…

Last week, before she came home for the one-week school break, my girl was reading the book  “The Hundred-Foot Journey“, one of the two that I had bought for her for her birthday and all that time, she was craving for this – the mutton bryani (RM18.00)…

Mutton bryani

…so when she came back last weekend, we went for the nice one at this cafe with the authentic chef from Northern India.

For the uninitiated, the book is an international bestseller that has now been made into a movie, a Steven Speilberg-Oprah Winfrey production, of the same name…

At the same time, I, on the other hand, actually had that intention to drop by this place already as I saw this post in a friend’s blog and that triggered a yearning in me for some naan (RM4.50)…

Naan

…and this time around, I specifically gave instructions that I did not want it glazed with oil like what I had on my previous visit as that would give the impression that it was rather oily even though it wasn’t really so and I enjoyed it a lot more than the garlic butter naan that I had prior to that last one. It was very well done that day – there were layers in the bread, baked to perfection in the tandoori oven till flaky and crispy and I truly enjoyed it to the max!

And talking about tandoori, I had the tandoori chicken too served with their special Indian basmati rice (RM16.00)…

tandoori

…with raita and dhall dip by the side. Needless to say, that was very well-done as well and absolutely satisfying. The meat was so juicy and tender unlike some that I had had at some places elsewhere.

My missus, however, did not want anything Indian and so she opted for something from their Indonesian menu…and she ordered this nasi balado, beef (RM16.00),,,

beef

…to try. She seemed to have forgotten that I had that before and it was not at all nice as the beef was overcooked and extremely hard but thankfully, it was very well-done this time around and the best part was that it  was spicy – just the way she liked it!

No, it certainly was not cheap – the total came up RM62.50 but the boss decided to waive the 50 sen and rounded it all up to RM62.00. However, what mattered most was that we left the place feeling really happy and satisfied that we had had a delightful meal that we enjoyed a lot and actually, after that rather heavy lunch, we were still full come dinner time so we just had something light that evening.

We want the same thing…

Everytime I sent my car to the car wash, the boss and the girl, probably his wife, would order a plate of noodles and share it between the two of them. I thought it smelled really good and at one time, I went and asked what noodles those were and the girl replied, “Mee Sedaap!” I never went to try as by the time I sent my car there, after 9.00 a.m., I would have had my breakfast already so I would not be hungry and would just sit and wait for them to get the job done.

Well, after returning from Bintulu that day, my car was very dirty especially after those two patches of road construction – going and coming back, so it was time to drop by there again.

I noticed that the coffee shop across the road

Wan Foo Coffee Shop

…had a new stall…

Wan Foo chap fan stall

…so I walked over to check it out. It turned out to be a chap fan (mixed rice) place but I was early and they only had a few dishes ready…

Wan Foo chap fan 1

It wasn’t time for lunch yet…

Wan Foo chap fan 2

…but the food did look pretty good. I guess I would have to go back there another day if I wanted to give it a try…and since I was already at the coffee shop, I decided to give the aforementioned noodles from the kampua mee stall in front…

Wan Foo kampua stall

…a try.

This was what I got, just the noodles and nothing else (RM1.50)…

Wan Foo mee sedaap

…and to me, it was all right – much nicer than when we cook our own at home probably because of the extra oil and fried shallots added and you would get a bowl of complimentary soup but I thought it was rather pricey considering that a packet of the noodles would cost only 60-70 sen but it sure was cheaper than a plate of kampua kosong (without meat) which I think, if I’m not mistaken, is RM2.00 a plate now. Between the two, I think I would go for the kampua noodles – in my opinion, they’re nicer.

I went into the shop by the side so I did not see the banner in front…

Wan Foo chap fan banner

…and if anyone is interested in having a go at the chap fan there…or the mee sedaap, it is to the right of the Medan Mall, Wong King Huo Road. The car wash is to the back/other end of the block of shops on the extreme right and this coffee shop is right opposite.

Round the corner, behind the mall and the shops opposite is this new hotel…

The new Medan Hotal

People used to tell me that it was going to be that hotel affiliated to that cheap airline but obviously, those rumours were totally unfounded. It has since opened its doors and commenced business already and I hear that the rooms are reasonably priced at RM98.00 only onwards. I wonder what will happen to the old one by that same name at the Sibu bus terminal (which is cheaper, at only RM65 for a standard single, Queen).

Another…

I was in the Rejang Park area the other morning as I was helping Melissa’s housemate to pay the electricity and water bills for her house in Sibu. That is another problem that they face teaching in a rural school – they can only come back on weekends when all the collection centres would be closed plus the bills always come so late – just a few days to the expiry dates (especially those from Telekom Malaysia – at times, the bill even arrives past the due date for payment) so it may be difficult for them to meet the deadline. They may be able to make it before the offices close on Friday afternoons but that would be quite a rush really.

After having settled what I had to do, I decided to drop by here to try their kampua noodles (RM2.50)…

Jin Jin kampua mee

I’ve had their fried kway teow before and I thought it was pretty good – among the best in town, I must say. This is not a very big area of shops but there are more than half a dozen kampua stalls, some  of which I have tried…but not this one and a few of the others as well. I thought this one was all right – not the best here and definitely not the best in town. However, I did like it a lot more when I’ve tossed the minced meat with the noodles as I could sense a hint of garlic – probably they used that in cooking the meat and that brought it to a whole new level.

I wasn’t all that thrilled by the one next door when I had it a long time ago – my favourite around here is still the one here while this place was not too bad either. I don’t mind the one here either but it was their coffee that was the main attraction but since the guy left, it had gone downhill and I, for one, would not bother to drop by there anymore. My friend, Philip, who is currently home from the US, went and tried the one here and he said it was just so-so – not one that would get him rushing back for more. I do recall having the one in the same shop as this stall as well a long time ago, probably before I even started blogging, but I cannot remember whether it was any good or not. All in all, I would say that most would be good enough if you’re in the vicinity and would like to stop by some place for a bite to eat but I would not make my way there on purpose for any of those that I have tried.

I also tried the mixed soup (RM3.50)…

Jin Jin chap-chap

,,,which, like the kampua noodles, was, at best, not too bad. There was quite a bit of liver and intestines inside…and other than those, they also had some fish falls, deep-fried and tau kua (bean curd cake) and some green vegetables. I wished they had some mined meat balls but there wasn’t any – all the minced meat they had in the soup was in the tau kua

Jin Jin chap-chap - tau kua

Incidentally, if ever you’re in Sibu, you may notice that when you go and eat at the shops, they will bring you your spoon and chopsticks or your fork and spoon in a mug or cup of hot boiling water. If I’m not wrong, this is a ruling laid down by the municipal council in an effort to ensure cleanliness at all eateries in town but I do get quite worried when they use those plastic ones as there may be some adverse effects resulting from the reaction of the heat in the water with the plastic. In this particular shop, everything is in a basket, all ready for use and once you’re seated, they will bring you the hot boiling water in a mug and all you would have to do would be to pick what you would want to use to eat and dip them in the mug yourself…

Hygienic practice in Sibu

I would not know how far this is effective but it is good that at least, some people are trying to do something for the good of all and everyone should give their full support and cooperation.

Outside…

Nope, this isn’t exactly new – it’s only new on the outside. The wrapper…

New look

…as you can see, is much nicer compared to what it was like before…

The original look

If I’m not mistaken, the makers of the now-celebrated Sibu instant kampua noodles went to Taiwan and went some place there to see how they packed their noodles and they came back with a machine of their own to do just that.

For one thing, I would say that it certainly looks more presentable, more like those established large-scale factory produced ones and probably, this would make it easier to go through customs if you are bringing any overseas. I was told once that they were very particular with noodles in plastic bags like this…

Mee kua in plastic bag

…if they were yellowish in colour as that would be indicative of its egg content but if they were white like in the case of mee sua, they would let you through. I also heard that they would be more lenient with factory-manufactured stuff so my guess is that they probably would not cast a second glance at the instant kampua in this new wrapper…

New look - back

…thinking that it would be just another one of those that have flooded their own (Asian) stores and supermarkets all over their country.

However, this is only available for the original kampua noodles, the straighter ones with light soy sauce and not for the curly and flat (mee pok) versions nor the one with dark soy sauce and the vegetarian version (with onion oil, not lard). It is a bit more expensive though – by RM1.00 so a pack of 5 packets would cost RM7.50 instead of the usual RM6.50 (or RM6.90 for the mee pok).

I bought two packs for my godson/ex-student, Andrew, to try – I’m not too sure whether he brought any back with him to New Zealand or not and I got a pack for myself as well. Inside, you will get the noodles and sachets sealed in a plain plastic pack like in the old packaging so it is actually a two-layer package unlike what you will find in the case of the usual instant noodles.

As you can see, it does look good…

The Kitchen instant Sibu kampua 1

…but of course, you will need to add your own slices of meat, fried shallots and chopped spring onions for the complete works.

Many would agree that it is ALMOST like the real thing that one can get in the shops and if you divide RM7.50 by 5, it is only RM1.50 for a plate…or if you are buying this in the old packaging, it comes up to only RM1.30 which makes it a lot cheaper that when you eat at the shops and order the kosong (without meat). Other than that, you can enjoy this anytime of day in the comfort of your own home but of course, you will need to cook it yourself…

The Kitchen instant Sibu kampua 2

You’ve tried yours, Merryn? Nice or not?

If you can’t beat them…

…join them, they always say…and ever since the success of the instant Sibu kampua, there have been many others that have jumped on the bandwagon. Some are more expensive, others are more or less the same price and whether any of them are good or not, I wouldn’t know – I don’t think I would bother to go and try any of them unless someone tells me of one that is very much nicer.

Likewise, the Penang white curry instant noodles have taken the world by storm and is currently No. 1 in this blog, edging last year’s winners to No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. Of course, others have come out with their own of the same and I did hear of a brand that is better but no, I haven’t tried it yet. Correct me, if I am wrong, but one thing that I know about Penang curry mee is that it is usually served white like this…

Penang curry mee 1

…hence the name but once you’ve mixed the sambal (chili paste) with everything that’s in the bowl, it will be like any other curry mee in colour…

Penang curry mee 2

…but of course, the taste may differ from place to place and even in Penang itself, there may be some stalls or shops that are a lot better than others, exactly the same thing with our kampua noodles in Sibu.

However, as far as I know, there is Kuching laksa, named after its place of origin, which is also called Sarawak laksa…but never in my entire life have I ever heard of Sarawak white laksa

Lee Fah Sarawak white laksa 1

- the Sarawak White Rajahs, yes…but not this and I really do not see how it should be thus called by mere virtue of the fact that now, they have included a sachet of santan (coconut milk) powder in each packet…

Sachets inside

I used to buy this a long long time ago when they had bihun in the packets – which is actually what you would get if you order Kuching or Sarawak laksa anywhere in the city or the state but for reasons known only to them, they stopped producing that, only the ones with mee/noodles…and I stopped buying it since.

I would give them due credit for the fact that their laksa does have the fragrance and taste of the real thing and I do know of people like my cousins in Kuching who would put aside the mee for use for something else at a later date and use their own bihun instead…and of course, like me, they would add their own condiments and garnishing…

Lee Fah Sarawak white laksa 2

…to come out with something that is more or less like the real thing without having to drive out for a bowl at the shops.

No, I did not buy any to try though I did see it in the shop, not when the price has almost doubled…from RM3.50 for to RM6.90 for a pack of 5. I am sure that little sachet of santan powder does not merit such an astronomical jump and as a matter of fact, I still would not think it is really worth that much even if they had added a sachet of sambal belacan and one of calamansi lime juice as well which are things that you simply cannot do without if you’re having Sarawak laksa – it’s the whole complete package.

However, my missus came home with a pack one fine day so since I had it at hand, I thought I might as well cook it and eat…

Lee Fah Sarawak white laksa 2

Yes, the taste and fragrance are still there. Yes, it is very nice with all the stuff that I added. Yes, if you’re wondering what Sarawak laksa is like, this will give you a pretty good idea…but no, at that price, you can be sure that you will not catch me buying and eating it again, not unless they review the price and bring it down to something a lot more reasonable.

Thin line…

This has been out for quite a while now, the fettuccine-like mee pok version of the Sibu instant kampua (RM6.90, 40 sen more than the usual)…

Sibu instant kampua, mee pok 1

…from the original maker or the pioneer, the one who first started making this stuff for sale and to be sent here, there and everywhere. Mee means noodles and pok means thin as in paper thin…

Sibu instant kampua, mee pok 2

Recently, I went and got myself a pack to give it a try and for the uninitiated, to cook this, you need to bring a pot of water to boil and put the noodles in…

Step 1

Loosen the strands and let it boil for around 3 minutes…

Step 2

After that, you drain away the water…

Step 3

At this stage, you can toss the noodles with the ingredients and eat already but usually, I would go a little bit further. I would put them in cold water and rinse well to remove any excess starch so that the noodles would not be sticky and clump together.

Step 4

Then I drained away the water and poured in some boiling water and put the pot back on the fire to heat the noodles up a bit. I am sure it isn’t all that nice to eat them cold. Lastly, I drained away the water and tossed the noodles with the ingredients provided in little sachets – one of the lard plus onion oil and the other, the light soy sauce.

Finally, garnish with thinly-sliced boiled pork and fried shallots and chopped spring onions and serve…or perhaps, you may want to have it with roast pork belly instead…

Sibu instant kampua mee pok with pork belly

…or slices of roast chicken…

Sibu instant kampua mee pok with roast chicken

…or whatever. It’s all up to you.

It may look kind of plain but those of you who have tried this Sibu Foochow delight and have fallen in love with it…

Kampua lover
*Photo from www.smallkucing.com*

…will attest to the fact that the beauty of it is while eating, you can savour the fragrance of the lard and the fried shallots in it plus the flavours of the shallots added and the spring onions…and the added taste of whatever meat or any other condiment that you may be having with the noodles.

Incidentally, it seems that many have jumped on the bandwagon and have come out with their own versions of the instant kampua noodles. This one…

Imposter
*Friend’s photo on Facebook – sorry for the blurry pic*

…is selling at the Sibu Central Market at RM7.50 a pack and I was told that they are also selling the original there at this same price too. Gee!!! That’s easy money – just order and collect…and sell at a profit of RM1.00 per pack. I also heard that there are others selling at around RM6.00 or RM6.50 as well. Of course, I have not tried any of them…but if anyone of you has done that and finds any that is nicer, do let me know. I’d go and grab some right away. Thanks.

No coincidence…

There is this superstition among the Malay and ethnic communities that if you are offered something to eat or drink and you would not want it, you would have to touch it, at least, outside on the glass or cup or plate, or you can just take a teeny-weeny bit of it or else some untoward incident would befall upon you. The Malays call it keempunan and the Melanaus call it poonek. In fact, if you can get hold of a copy of 22 Malaysian Short Stories, an anthology of literary works compiled and edited by Lloyd Fernando (1963), you will find a story on this.

When I was very much younger, probably around 1970 or somewhere then, I went to Kuching and my friends took me to this restaurant, Ang Lee, at Carpenter Street for lunch…or maybe it was dinner, I can’t exactly remember now. I did not want a drink other than the plain water that I asked for but my friends kept asking me – three times to be exact…and it probably was a  coincidence that as we were leaving the place, I slipped on the first step of the wooden staircase, got up, slipped again, got up yet again and slipped the third time. By then, I was already on the ground floor – I did not sustain any serious injury but I can clearly remember that it was very painful for me to sit for at least a week.

A more recent and definitely a lot more serious incident would be when we went to KL that time when Melissa was very small. We had just checked into the hotel and my missus was making coffee for herself. She asked me if I wanted some and I said no…and soon after, we left for the theme park in the city. It was drizzling that afternoon. I had just bought the tickets and we had just entered when I saw somebody slipping on the slippery tiled floor, so I told Melissa and the mum to walk slowly and carefully. As I approached the stairs going down to the park, I felt myself sliding even though I was just standing still – it was that slippery. I slipped over the edge of the first step on the stairs and sat down. I guess it was sheer bad luck that my elbow hit the upper step and the bone broke into two.

There followed months and months of hospitals and eventually, surgery (to join the bone with a piece of metal and six screws as it failed to heal and reconnect by itself) and physiotherapy and I had to go to a Chinese sinseh for treatment before I could get my arm back to ALMOST normal again. I did write to the theme park and they replied paying me around RM200, the initial money spent at the hospital in KL, enclosing 10 complimentary tickets to the park – of course, I just threw them away and to this day, I would not go anywhere near that place again.

So was it sheer coincidence, fact or fiction? I wouldn’t know but I would take that bit about touching the glass, cup or whatever on the outside when someone offers you a drink or something to eat as good manners, a gesture of appreciation – thank you, but no, thank you.  However, personally, I would feel that if you had drunk or eaten a bit, you might as well drink or eat it all as nobody would want it anymore after that and it would such a waste to throw it all away…and whatever it might or might not be, it wasn’t because of this, that we were here…

Zen

…at Jalan Chew Geok Lin (formerly Old street) near the Chinese temple in town last Saturday for lunch.

We had not had Japanese for a while now, not since early December when Melissa’s friend from Sg Petani, Kedah came to town. I think she was craving for it for when she came back the day before, she dropped by the place for a very late lunch at around 3 something but it was already closed and would only reopen much later for dinner. In the end, she had no choice but to have something else…and that was why the following day, I took her there again so she could enjoy what she was hoping for.

I noticed that they had a nice new menu now…

Zen - menu

…though they could have done a better job with the binding – the middle page was already coming off.

We had this fried salmon dish (RM14.90)…

Zen - fried salmon

…which everyone liked. I would say that I prefer it done this way instead of the usual grilling on a pan as the strong smell of the fish which I do not really fancy seemed to have been toned down by the coating and the deep frying.

The soft shell crab sushi with meat floss (RM15.90)…

Zen - soft shell crab with meat floss

…was very nice too and they certainly seemed very generous with the floss and virtually buried everything else with it.

The inari kizami (RM6.90 for two)…

Zen - inari kizami

…was good as well but there was a bit too much of the roe on the ebiko sushi (RM3.90 for two)…

ebiko sushi

…and that made them a bit too salty.

We also had the tempura mortawase (RM13.90)…

Zen - tempura mortawase

…and the tempura don (RM15.90)…

Tempura don

…which came with a bowl of miso soup and a couple of watermelon slices. Both were ok, pretty mild tasting – quite typical of Japanese cuisine and one would be able to savour the original flavours of whatever one is eating…though I did wish they had fried rice instead of plain rice in that don thingy.

The bill came up to slightly over RM70.00 for the food and of course, Melissa enjoyed herself a lot and was very happy and needless to say, when she’s happy, the father would be happy too… Wink! Wink!