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All we have again…

I went out for dinner with Huai Bin when he was home for a while and when I asked what he would like to have, he said that he wouldn’t mind having the creamy butter prawn balls that I took him for once and he enjoyed it a lot so we ended up here at this restaurant again and of course, we had the much coveted prawn dish…

Ming Mei Shi creamy butter prawn balls

The serving certainly seemed a lot bigger than when we had that the last time around and yes, they were as nice as ever. For the uninitiated, prawn balls are actually simply prawns with the shell removed and fried so they would curl up like balls – they are not anything like fish balls, not at all.

I did not want to order the usual stuff that I would usually have before so I asked them what new items they had on their menu and the lady suggested this claypot venison/deer meat…

Ming Mei Shi claypot venison

…and we were glad we ordered that as it was indeed very very nice. Normally, they would just fry the meat in soy sauce with lots of ginger and serve, often in a hot sizzling plate and I had never been a fan as to me, it did not taste any different from the rest like beef, for instance, as the flavour would have been drowned out by the ingredients used. This one was different – I could actually taste the venison and the gravy was really great and went so well with rice. I certainly would want to order this again the next time I drop by this place.

For our vegetable dish, we had their asparagus fried with canned topshells…

Ming Mei Shi fried asparagus

…and this too was very nicely done.

As for the soup, I ordered the Foochow chao cai (preserved vegetables) with fish soup…

Ming Mei Shi chao chai fish soup

…and I would declare that this was the best I have had anywhere in town! For the fish, they used tapah (wallagonia/boal) which certainly does not come cheap and it was so fresh and absolutely delicious…but if you’re having this, do watch out for the bones! Most places would just use the frozen fish fillet, dory, which is often jelly-like and absolutely bland or tasteless and some people even insist that it has an unpleasant smell. The soup was thick and flavourful and needless to say, this would go into my must-order list for my subsequent visits to this restaurant.

I would not say the dinner was cheap though – the bill came up to RM67.80, inclusive of rice and drinks, but for some reason or other, the lady boss just asked for RM67.50. However, we had prawns and the fish would be mighty expensive and asparagus do not come cheap here either…and the servings were huge enough for at least four people – we certainly had quite a bit of difficulty trying to finish everything, the two of us. I think if one goes in a group of 4 and order for 2, there would be enough to go round and at this price, it may be considered very cheap then. Still, considering that we enjoyed everything so much, I would say we did not regret picking this place to go for dinner that night and I, for one, would certainly want to go again…

By the way, if anyone is interested to dropping by this restaurant and still doesn’t know where it is located, you can find it in the Fortune Commercial Centre, among the shops behind the Rejang Medical Centre. Turn into the road between Mitsu Shabu Shabu and Loke Ming Yuen coffee shop, go past Sushi Tie (on your left) and Uncle Dom (on your right) to the small roundabout at the crossroads right ahead – Ming Mei Shi Seafood  Restaurant, that’s the name, is to the right in the corner of that next block of shops.

It’s somebody’s birthday…

Yes, it was somebody’s birthday again and this time, it was my sister-in-law’s so that called for another get-together to celebrate. We all went out for dinner at this restaurant and as always, there was a birthday cake…

Marcus' birthday cake 1

…from none other than Marcus who runs his business from his home at Delta Estate here. My niece, working in Singapore, loves his cakes so much that whenever there is anybody’s birthday, she would order one for the celebrant and another to take back to Singapore to enjoy.

Don’t expect to see anything fancy though – you will see the same old-school butter cream icing…

Marcus' birthday cake 2

…more or less like what he has been producing all these years ever since he first started. Even the taste is also the same (though he does make a few other varieties now) but that is what keeps everyone coming back for more – yes, it is that good!

So what did we have for dinner that night?

My brother-in-law would always want to order his favourite, never mind where we go for our dinner and that would be the sweet and sour fish…

Fat Mum sweet and sour fish

…and yes, they did a pretty good job with it but I think I liked their claypot pork belly with salted fish and dried chilies…

Fat Mum pork belly salted fish & dried chili

…most of all. Their honey spare ribs were good too but the photo was a little bit blur so I decided not to include it in this post.

There were also these kiam sor hay (salty crispy prawns)…

Fat Mum kiam sor hay

…but even though they used the much-coveted udang galah (freshwater prawns), I did not think it was all that great as the crustaceans seemed to lack the sweetness that the fresh ones would have and would have been kind of bland if not for the other ingredients used to cook this dish.

There was also the Sabah eyew chai

Fat Mum Sabah eyew chai

…which I am never fond of and we ordered ching chao so I expected it to come out dry with lots of garlic and maybe just a bit of sauce. However, what they dished out had so much gravy, so starchy from the cornflour used to thicken it…and even though, everyone seemed to enjoy it and finished all that was on the plate, I didn’t bother to give it a try especially when there were all the other nicer things to enjoy.

We had the Foochow-style tofu soup with canned oysters…

Fat Mum Foochow tofu soup

…and though I did not get any oysters in my serving, I thought it was very good and everybody else shared that exact same sentiment.

Service was good and everything came out very fast but gosh!!! The place was packed! It was so crowded and people kept coming and going all the time we were there…and I think I can guess why. The food was not bad (though I would not say it  was so good that I would be dying to go back for more)…and so very cheap. For the 8 of us and the six dishes, the bill came up to only RM110.00 inclusive of rice and drinks.

It certainly was great, getting together once again plus the cake was good and the dinner was not too bad either and after we had finished everything and everyone had had his or her fill, we left quickly…so somebody else could take our table.

Off day…

I went out for breakfast with my ex-student, Xavier, one morning last week and we thought of dropping by here for the very nice dim sum. Unfortunately, it  was closed and no, it was not their off day. In fact, they had taken the whole week off to go on a holiday or something. It seems that this is the general practice these days – most of the restaurants would take sometime off to take their employees on a holiday some place and it is usually during the 7th Month in the Chinese Lunar calendar when business would be slower, this being the Hungry Ghost month and some people would avoid getting married around this time every year.

In the end, we settled for this place though I would not say I am all that fond of what they have in store but I love their sambals (dips) and anything would taste good when eaten with those. I ordered their mushroom fish ball noodles to try…

Fish Culture mushroom fishball noodles

…and when it was served, I thought it looked something like the Seremban Hakka mee but no, it had its own taste, not the same at all. It was rather strong on the mushroom taste, Shitake, of which I am not really a fan so initially, I did not think it was all that great but like I said earlier, once I had added the sambal hay bee (dried prawn dip), it turned out to be pretty nice after all.

We also had the specialty of the house, the Foochow fish balls…

Fish Culture Foochow fish balls

…which have meat filling inside…

Fish Culture Foochow fish ball, inside

…but I always feel they’re at best, just all right but they do seem to be mighty popular among the locals. Once you bite into it, the ginger soup inside will squirt out so in a way, this is a bit like the celebrated and much coveted xiao long pao (little dragon buns) which I am not too crazy about either.

We also tried these…

Fish Culture glutinous rice balls with meat filling

…and I quite enjoyed them. I thought they were pretty good with the glutinous rice exterior and the meat filling had a very nice, something like the texture of luncheon meat…

Fish Cultue glutinous rice ball with meat filling

…and not the usual minced meat that one would find in most of what they have here. I always tell people not to order too many of those as once you’ve tried one, you’ve tried them all – they’re all pretty much the same.

I think I’ve tried these before…

Fish culture salted egg fish paste rolls

…and anything with salted egg inside…

Fish Culture salted egg fish paste roll

…I would love, no question about it.

The steamed pumpkin chicken buns…

Steamed pumpkin chicken buns

…had a unique taste…

Steamed pumpkin chicken bun

…which we thought was kind of peculiar and did not go down too well with the both of us but at least, we’ve given it a try and now, we know it would be something we would not want to order again.

All in all, it was a pretty good breakfast. The place was crowded and despite that, service was very good and really prompt…and I had a great time chatting and catching up with things going on in our lives. Thank you so much, Xavier, for the breakfast treat. Hopefully, we can do it again sometime and the next time around, it will be on me…

Bun in the oven…

No, it may look like I’m pregnant but I definitely am not, by any chance, in the family way and that is exactly what this English expression means. A little learning is a dangerous thing, so they say and imagine some sweet young thing wearing a t-shirt that cries out loud in front, “I’ve a bun in the oven!” or worse, “So many men…so little time!”

Anyway, that aside, actually, I would like to highlight in today’s post some so-called Korean buns that I got to try recently. A friend of mine shared on Facebook this photograph of the ones that she bought…

Korean buns 1
*Friend’s photo on Facebook*

…and I wasted no time in asking her where she bought them. She told me that they were sold at a cake accessories shop among those in the Apollo area here, opposite the primary school (Su Lai). Well, that should not be too difficult to find, I thought, considering that there are only a few blocks of shops in that not very big area.

However, when I went around lunchtime one fine day, I was told that they were all sold out and I would have to go back another day if I wanted any. The girl said that they would bake them on the first floor above the shop and every hour, they would send a tray of the buns down, piping hot from the oven, for sale but only till around 11 something in the morning. I wouldn’t know but I guess probably, they only had one small oven so they could not bake a lot at one go, just one tray at a time.

The very next day, I made it a point to go a bit earlier and I managed to get some to try…

Korean buns 2

On the outside, I thought they looked like those artisan breads but no, they were not anything like those.

They had a very fragrant and thin crust on the outside…

Korean buns 3

…and with the toasted sesame seeds, initially, I thought it tasted something like our Sibu Foochow kompia. However, as I continued eating, it became quite clear that this was quite different and as a matter of fact, I would say that I liked this a lot more.

I googled and found out that these were supposed to be Korean mochi buns so it was supposed to be slightly chewy on the inside,  just that I did not think it was all that sticky and rubbery like mochi

Korean buns 4

…and the texture actually gave some bite to the bun and made it different from normal bread or buns and with a very slight hint of sweetness that complemented its fragrance and taste, I would say that I enjoyed it…very much!

My missus said that she did buy some once at a local bakery but theirs were bigger and more expensive but she did not think they were any good and that was why she never bought anymore after that. Like me, she also enjoyed these a lot and at RM1.00 each, we thought it was quite reasonably priced and we would definitely go back there again to get some more time and again.

Another friend commented on the photos of these that I uploaded onto my Facebook page that he had had those from this bakery so I went over to buy some to try…

Uncle Bakery Korean buns

They were much cheaper – only 70 sen each and you can get 3 for RM2.00. To me, they did seem slightly smaller and did not look as nice on the outside. The taste was exactly the same except that they did not have that nice and crunchy outer crust that the ones aforementioned have so they were completely kind of tough and rubbery.

Given a choice, I certainly would buy the ones that I like more even though they may cost a little bit more.

Honey lemon…

The previous Saturday (not the one that had just gone past), we stopped by here

HL1

…for lunch. It was under a different name before, run by some other people, but they closed down the place not long after and now, it has resumed business, it seems, under a brand new name and a different management…and this was where I got the nice and relatively cheaper made-in-Lahad-Datu mooncakes that I featured in my previous post.

Everything was pretty much the same and the zakka part of the shop wasn’t anything to get excited about either, just a few odds and ends on sale and none that would be of interest of me. I know these cactus plants…

HL2

…were going for RM15.00 each and no, I was not keen on buying those either.

One thing that caught my eye though was this old F & N orange bottle…

HL3

When we were small, for festivals like Chinese New Year, my father would buy crates of Coca Cola and these from a shop in town, Kim Guan Siang, but no, they were not for us. Those special drinks would be reserved for specials guests dropping by (though I might have sneaked away a bottle or two to enjoy) and we could only help ourselves to the made-in-Sibu Ngo Kian aerated drinks which to us in those days, were like heaven on earth as well, not like young people today who can have everything they want so much so that these aren’t in any way regarded as special treats that we, in our time, would give an arm or a leg for.

I had the iced red bean (RM4.90) while my missus had the cendol (also RM4.90)…

HL4

…which did not look much different except for the cincau (grass jelly) at the top and I did not take note of what happened to all the ang tao in the end. She claims that for whatever reason, eating those and even red bean paste would make her head spin and she would feel giddy after that. Melissa did not order anything fancy that day and stuck loyally to her 100 Plus (RM2.50).

To start off, we shared this mushroom soup with garlic bread (RM4.90)…

HL5

…which we found to be rather diluted, not rich and creamy and not something that we would want to order again.

Melissa had their chicken-lamb-beef platter (RM16.90)…

HL6

…which was all right, this much I would say, and they sure were very generous with the meat…

HL7

…so much so that Melissa was not able to finish everything on the plate.

I had their sup tulang (bone soup) with rice (RM8.90)…

HL8

…and I would say that I loved their version of that. It wasn’t as diluted as those at the Malay stalls here and not as oily as the Indian ones that I had had before plus it  was not that strong on the spices as well. There were a few chunks of beef along with the bone in it…

HL9

…but I would prefer it served with noodles rather than rice and I found their rice a bit on the hard side, not really to my  liking.

My missus had their chao chai hung ngang, prawn (RM7.90)…

HL10

…and she said it was good but she said what she had here not too long ago was a lot nicer.

Our orders were served pretty quickly and service was great and prompt but they were speaking Mandarin the whole time so I would not be able to say whether they were conversant in any other language or dialect or not. All in all, I would say this would be a great place to hang out with friends to chat and have something decent enough to eat in the meantime but unless they have something else better on their menu that we have not tried yet, if it is solely for the food, like a number of similar places that we have around here all over town these days, perhaps it would be better to go some place else.

All the best…

My friend invited us to his father’s birthday bash here…

MingZiang Court, Kingwood Hotel, Sibu

…at a leading hotel in town last Friday evening. Though I’ve been attending dinner functions at the banquet halls in this hotel quite often, I can recall probably just two other occasions when I had had a dinner in their Chinese restaurant proper including that one time quite long ago upon the invitation of that same friend’s younger brother.

So there we were, Melissa, my missus and I, at the venue to join in the celebration of the very auspicious and happy occasion and of course, there were the longevity noodles…

Mingziang Court birthday mee sua

…with the”golden” egg served in the very nice wine-rich chicken soup in big individual bowls. Personally, I prefer the noodles done this way instead of having them fried as I enjoy them more and in fact, I remember fried mee sua making its appearance only sometime in the 90’s, pretty recent so I would say, so as far as traditions go, that is not really the accepted way of eating these longevity noodles.

I’ve always loved this course, be it served hot like this…

MingZiang Court hot plate

…or “cold”. I enjoyed the beef tendons and also the slices of what I guessed was ham, next to the steamed chicken and had more than my fair share of those. Hehehehehe!!!!

The fish…

MingZiang Court steamed/fried fish

…was very good too. White/silver pomfret (ikan bawal putih) this size would cost a bomb at the market here if at all, they’re available – they say the restaurants have preferred customer status and they would get all the nice big ones and not many would make it to the stalls at the wet  market. That night, what they did was to cut the top half of the fish to fry and serve as fish fritters and fillet and steam the bottom half in the usual manner. Of course, for people like my daughter who would enjoy deep-fried stuff and really good fish and chips overseas, there would be no question at all that she enjoyed it very much.

The creamy butter prawns…

MingZiang Court creamy butter prawns

…were excellent and needless to say, they were all gone in no time at all…and likewise, the braised sea cucumber…

MingZiang Court braised mushrooms

…with assorted mushrooms.

Dessert was the usual fruit platter and these delightful sweets…

MingZiang Court dessert

I don’t know exactly what they were but they had that sticky skin like mochi and red and green bean paste inside.

We certainly enjoyed the dinner and I, for one, had a great time meeting and catching up with old friends among all the invited guests that night…and I really must thank my friend once again for the invitation and wish his dad a very Happy Birthday and all the best in the year ahead, and may God shower His abundant Blessings upon him and all in the family always.

Hits and misses…

An ex-student of mine, working in Kl, was home for a while and he contacted me out of the blue to invite me out to tea. That certainly was a welcome surprise and a very pleasant one at that as I had not seen him since he left school. He wanted some ang tao peng (iced red beans) as the ones over in the peninsula are not the same  – they use the bigger and kind of salty red beans which are not to his liking. That was why we stopped by here and he had the ang tao cendol while I had this…

Thomson Corner bubur cacar with ang tao & cincau

 – their bubur cacar with ang tao and cincau (grass jelly).

I thought it was not very nice – it was kind of diluted, rather lacking in the richness of the santan (coconut milk) and evaporated milk and none of the nice gula Melaka (palm sugar) fragrance. Initially, I thought it was just what I had ordered but my ex-student also said the same about his ang tao cendol so I guess it probably was another person doing it or maybe, we caught her on a bad day. I certainly hope this is not permanent or I would need to look for another place to get something that would be to my liking.

After that, we adjourned here for the kompia

Noodle House kompia with pork belly

…fried and stuffed with pork belly and yes, they were nicely done and we enjoyed those very much.

The tiramisu mille crepe…

Noodle House tiramisu mille crepe

…was great, as always and so was their chocolate lava cake…

Noodle House chocolate lava cake 1

…which was perfectly done with the “lava” oozing out slowly…

Noodle House chocolate lava cake 2

…the moment I cut the cake open.

It was a really nice outing with my ex-student, chatting away and catching up on each other’s lives – I sure look forward to doing that again sometime.

Moving on from there, I’ve been seeing people sharing photographs of steamed paos (buns) in their blogs and on Facebook so I thought I would drop by the market here to get some myself. I did buy one, char siew (BBQ pork) filling, for Philip when he was home from the US and he loved it. In fact, he said it was even nicer than the ones that he enjoyed a lot from Kuching. However, he did not like the sio bee (meat dumplings)…

Rejang Park sio bee

…though. Unfortunately, the buns were sold out that day and I decided to buy the dumplings to try – RM9.00 for 12 so that worked out to 75 sen each. They’re 80 sen each elsewhere now and some can even go up to RM1.00 or RM1.50 each at a couple of places…and yes, I do agree with Philip that they were not nice. The texture was all wrong, not firm or somewhat a little bouncy or rubbery like sio bee and more like meatballs made from minced meat plus I was really so put off by the amount of msg in them. It sure made me wonder why there were a few people who told me that the sio bee here was nice and that was what prompted me to go there and buy in the first place.

While I was in the vicinity, I stopped by this shop opposite to buy the kompia and since we were having braised pork leg at home that day, I decided to have my own oven-toasted kompia stuffed with the meat…

STP's oven toasted stuffed kompia

…even though I do think the deep fried ones are nicer. The kompias here are as nice as ever and they did seem nicer now – at one time, they were getting thinner and thinner and were grossly out of shape at times. Maybe it is because they have increased the price – 3 for RM1.00 now instead of 4 so they can resume making them with the original quality and I would say that is good actually. After all, the prices of everything have increased so it is all right to just jack up the price a bit within a reasonable limit and maintain the quality.

That, unfortunately, is not something that I could say about these made-in-Sarikei Foochow pek quek tong chiew pia (8th Month Autumn Festival biscuits)…

Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits 1

…which used to be available when the Mooncake Festival came around but these days, they are sold here, there and everywhere even out of season. If I am not mistaken, they were RM4.50 a packet last year so they have gone up by 50 sen this year.

Like I said, it would not be so bad if they had maintained the quality but I could only find a very faint hint of the fragrance of lard..

Mengandungi lemak babi

…in the ones in front (Kinsen) which makes it the better of the two brands in terms of fragrance and taste even though the other one (right)…

Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits 2

…does look nicer with all those sesame seeds dotting the biscuit and they taste pretty good too. Perhaps I should go and try those made-in-Sibu ones and who knows I may find one that still has the old-time quality of our local Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits.

Life is like that, I guess…full of ups and downs – sometimes, you hit and sometimes, you miss…