For a while…

I got a phone call one day from an ex-classmate of mine asking me and my family out for dinner as an old friend of ours, also an ex-classmate, would be home for a while from Australia and we took him here for the best exotic delights that would be hard to come by anywhere else.

They had something new on their menu – chicken curry…

Payung Cafe, Sibu chicken curry

…which I thought was not bad, different from what we would cook ourselves at home and from those I would find elsewhere but no, I did not think I liked it more than their Bangladeshi lamb curry…

Payung Cafe, Sibu Bangladeshi lamb curry

…which would be dry/thick with not much gravy but bursting with flavours and tasting absolutely out of this world. They really do it so very well that it certainly would difficult to top that.

It so happened that I went to Kanowit with my friend, Philip, home from the US, that morning and I bought a kilo of dabai (local back olives) so I brought them along with me and I told the boss to help prepare some for us to enjoy…

Dabai from Kanowit

…and keep the rest for himself and his staff. Gosh!!! These were so very good and even though they did not come cheap, RM20 a kilo, they were worth it as I had not had any so good probably since the time when I was much younger. The quality of the fruit varies from tree to tree and very often, the sellers would let you try the good ones but in actual fact, in their baskets, they have mixed the good ones with the not-so-good ones so when you buy some home, you would end up so very disappointed when you sit down to enjoy them. Thankfully, the Iban lady that I bought these from did nothing of the sort and without doubt, they were all from one very very good tree.

To reciprocate, the boss gave us this dessert…

Buah sukun dessert

..made from steaming buah sukun (breadfruit) and coating it with grated coconut and sugar. It was nice – I thought it tasted something like those Malay or nyonya kuihs.

Of course, we had their other favourites as well including these belimbing prawns…

Payung Cafe, Sibu belimbing prawns

…and their otak-otak

Payung Cafe, Sibu otak-otak

…and not forgetting their very special rojak, our Malaysian salad…

Payung Cafe, Sibu rojak

For dessert, they had the durian ice cream…

Payung Cafe, Sibu durian ice cream

…which our Aussie friend enjoyed to the max and he kept having photographs of it and also of him eating it taken to post on Facebook to tag and torture his friends Down Under. LOL!!!

My missus had their jelly pisang while my daughter ordered her favourite, their kahlua ice cream…

Payung Cafe, Sibu kahlua ice cream

I asked for their banana cake with ice cream to share…

Payung Cafe, Sibu banana cake with ice cream

…as my friend was telling us about how bananas there cost more than AUD$20 a kilo, almost AUD$30, so I thought he might want to have this to enjoy but no, it was quite obvious that it was the durian that made his day.

That certainly was a delightful dinner – great food, great company, thank you so much, Robert, for the invitation and it sure was nice seeing you again, Michael – you’d probably be back again next year for our biennial high school reunion so we’ll get together again then…

I found you…

I’ve been here…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam, Sibu 1

…a few times before like when it first opened, for instance, and then, I went with my missus to let her give it a try and another time with my lawyer-friend/ex-student…and I remember I did go once again with my missus and with Melissa as well and another time to meet an ex-classmate to discuss our plans for our class reunion last year…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam, Sibu 2

There were some hits and misses, some that were very nice, others just so-so and I do recall that initially, we had to wait a long time to be served and we were quite put off by that. Anyway, somehow or other, for whatever reason, we did not go back there again. I guess most everybody would know by now that I am not a fan of franchises as I find that usually, they are generally quite good but definitely not great, not too expensive but not cheap either.

Ipoh Town Kopitiam, Sibu 3

Incidentally, I read on one of the displays at the outlet here that this is actually a Sarawak franchise – started in Miri and after doing pretty well there and in Kuching and also in Sabah, it branched out to the peninsula…and eventually, we got one of our own right here in Sibu as well. Golly gee! And all this time, I thought it  was a West Malaysian franchise!

So what brought me back here again? My friend, Philip, who was still around at the time, home from the US, is very much into our own local coffee which he feels is far superior to those “branded” gourmet ones but this trip home, he was rather disappointed with the used-to-be-good ones here. He also mentioned to me that he was quite put off as well by the fact that he went to one place for white coffee and got one made using one of those sachets that are widely available in the supermarkets so I told him about this place and he went to give it a try…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam white coffee 1

Finally, he found something that he thought was really good and in fact, he loved it so much that when we got back to town from Kanowit that day, he took me there for lunch and the coffee…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam white coffee 2

I did try it before and since coffee with milk or creamer makes me sleepy, I can’t say that I am a fan but yes, it was very good and no, I have not changed my mind – I still prefer my coffee black.

However, what caught my attention that day was that they now have set meals with a free drink – a choice between white coffee, iced lemon tea. 100 Plus or Coke for only RM9.90+ and that day, with the white coffee, Philip had their chicken hor fun

Ipoh Town Kopitiam chicken hor fun 1

He said it was so good that he finished all of it…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam chicken hor fun 2

…even though he was still quite full from the kampua noodles we had in Kanowit.

I had their ayam penyet, also RM9.90+ with a free drink…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam ayam penyet

…and it was really good as well. I loved the sambal which was extra spicy, just the way I like it.

No, we did not have this. I saw it on a table as we were going to settle the bill and I snapped a photograph of it…

Not a set meal

Hehehehehehe!!!! This looked like sweet and sour fish fillet and I thought it looked pretty good but no, it’s not one of those choices in the set meal menu, unfortunately.

Well, since I thought that was quite good and reasonably priced, I took my missus and Melissa there for lunch the very next day. Melissa had the chicken hor fun, of course…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam chciken hor fun, Day 2

- she had always enjoyed that in one other franchise place when she was in the peninsula. She thought this one was not as nice but it was all right and she particularly liked the soup. Well, I guess it must have been the texture of the hor fun – ours here is actually kway teow, not as smooth, soft, thin and translucent.

My missus, against my good advice, insisted on having the ayam pongteh

Ipoh Town Kopitiam ayam pongteh

It turned out to be just chicken cooked in soy sauce and I would say that she could do a very much better job cooking that herself at home and it was nothing like that celebrated nyonya specialty. There! I was very sure she would love the ayam penyet as she would definitely enjoy the very spicy sambal but no, she just turned a deaf ear and did not bother to order that.

I decided to try the nasi lemak

Ipoh Town Kopitiam nasi lemak 1

…which had the usual condiments…

Ipoh Town Kopitiam nasi lemak 2

…plus one curry chicken drumstick…

Ipoh Town kopitiam nasi lemak 3

It was, at best, all right but there was something not quite right with the chicken – the meat was not firm nor was it nice and tender. The one I had for the ayam penyet the previous day was perfectly all right so I wouldn’t know if this was an isolated case or it would be best to avoid their chicken cooked in curry.

Now, this is something that is worthy of praise and special mention. Melissa wanted 100 Plus but I noticed that it was not in the list of drinks for the noodles sets, just white coffee and iced lemon tea. My missus wanted iced lemon tea with her order and I asked for the white coffee. I asked the girl if Melissa could have the drink she wanted and we could pay the extra accordingly but the nice sweet girl who was taking our orders said it did not matter and they would adjust accordingly. When I paid for the bill, I found that we were charged RM9.90+ for the three sets, nothing more and nothing less. What they did was they keyed in my nasi lemak order with a complimentary 100 Plus and Melissa’s hor fun with one white coffee just so we would be entitled to our set orders at the stated price and still have the drinks we wanted. I thought that was very nice of them and I do wish there are more like her/them around here. Little things do mean a lot and it would be these little things that would bring the customers back again…and again…and again.

Well, like I said earlier, there have been hits and misses and it certainly looks like this same thing applies to their set meals as well…but for RM9.90+, I would say that was reasonably-priced and I would not mind going back to try the rest to see what else are good and would be worth having. Philip said he had the char kway teow and it was not bad. Perhaps I can try that next time…

That same road…

Yes, it was that time of the year again when my friend, Philip, would be home from the US and we would drive somewhere like what we did in the past few years when we went here, here and here…and this year, we went down that same road…

Sibu-Durin bypass

…to Kanowit again.

That bypass via the Farley side of town to the Durin Bridge…

Durin Bridge

…has been newly resurfaced and it was very nice and not bumpy at all unlike when we used it before. I noticed from a sign that I saw along the way that the bridge is actually called Jambatan Btg Rejang or Rejang River Bridge but since time immemorial, even during the years and years that they took to construct it, we have always called it the Durin Bridge after a little town close by, right beside it.

Of course, upon arrival, we HAD to go for the very special, very nice kampua noodles…

Kanowit red kampua

…that have a tint of red colour and that is why I always call it “red kampua“. Philip said that when he was living in Kanowit, they had these noodles already…and like when I went there in 1978 and stayed till 1982, they used to push their stall from the house (opposite the public library at the time and the Dewan Masyarakat, the community hall in the town) and park it beside a coffee shop in the bazaar. Gosh!!! That would mean that they were around even way back in the 60’s…and they are still going strong…

Kanowit kampua stall

Of course, the old ones have passed on and these days, the younger descendants are running the show. Thankfully, they have  been able to maintain that same standard – the same taste and quality that make their kampua noodles a head above the rest.

Some individuals have asked me where exactly in the town can they go and eat these noodles…or what the locals call Ah Tong kampua after the man behind the whole thing. Well, right now, it is here…

The shop

…at a coffee shop somewhere in the middle of the block of shops right behind the Chinese temple. The thing is it has no name…and the sign there…

The sign
*Archive photo*

…is actually for the shop that used to be there that time when I was still teaching and staying in the town.

It used to be here…

Penang Cafe, Kanowit

…and at two other places during the years I was there when they were still cooking and serving from their mobile stall. The fried noodles and stuff at the stall in this particular coffee shop are also very nice. I used to eat there but at that time, they were at another location – at the end of the block opposite. There was this one as well then…

Lian Wou Cafe, Kanowit

…where I had my lunch and dinner every day for RM60.00 a month. It was just about the only restaurant in town and any wedding or whatever function, we would be having it here. The son and his wife are running the place now and according to him, they do not cook for such big functions anymore as now that the road is so good, most people would prefer to host their dinners at some big restaurant in Sibu instead.

Anyway, while we were having the noodles that morning, Philip also ordered this bowl of piansip soup to share…

Kanowit piansip soup

…and I spotted this old coffee grinding machine at the back…

Kanowit coffee grinder

Wow!!! They still boil the water and brew the coffee and tea the old-fashioned way, over some hot burning charcoal…

Old school charcoal stove

…it seems! I know many in Sibu would just use an electric kettle or a gas cooker these days. I wonder if they toast their bread on the stove too – that would make it so very nice, so much nicer than any of the modern ways that people do it at the shops and cafes now.

After that delightful breakfast, we walked around the town and I did bump into some familiar faces and some ex-students of mine and I did stop and chat with them for a while. It sure is nice to be remembered. This used to be the clinic…

Formerly the clinic...

…right across the road from the room, above the corner shop, that I rented and stayed during my first two years in Kanowit.

We dropped by the market and I bought some dabai (local black olives) from this lady…

Buying dabai in Kanowit

…and they turned out to be so very good! In fact, I have not had such top quality dabai for a long long time and even at RM20 a kilo, it was really value for money.

I saw these and asked her what they were…

Engkabang

…and she told me they were engkabang or illepenut. All that I knew was they use the gum in the making of chewing gum and if I’m not wrong, for sealing the gaps in the making of sampans (traditional wooden boats) as well but the lady told me that if you add it to very very hot rice and mix and eat, it is very very delicious. I decided not to buy and try in the end but later, I heard from a friend that it is indeed very very nice eating it with rice like that – a lot nicer than adding butter or ghee as the fragrant oil would melt and give the rice that exclusive taste that many enjoy. Hmmmmm!!!! Ah well, another time perhaps!

On our way back to Sibu, we stopped by this fruit stall right beside the Durin Bridge…

Durin fruit stall

…where they were selling durians, rambutans and this wild variety of the latter…

Wild rambutans

We got to sample this oval-shaped hybrid of the durian…

Oval-shaped durian

…and it was custard-like, so very milky rich and so very very nice! They were selling these two for RM15 but Philip wanted the bigger ones and bought four back for RM40.00, RM10 each. Hmmmm….personally, even though these were very nice, I don’t think I would be able to eat more than just a few seeds – I think I still prefer the old school, wild durians that are sweeter and mushier, milky white or slightly yellow with a tint of grey or green and a hint of bitterness. Sadly, it turned out that the four that Philip bought, unlike the ones we tried there and then,  for some reason or other, were not good at all and he had to throw them all away.

Well, after this pit-stop, we went our way back to Sibu…

On a Sunday afternoon…

It was on the Sunday, the eve of Hari Raya, when we went for the service at the cathedral here in town and after that, Melissa went with her ex-classmates to spend the afternoon together and go watch a movie.

Left to our own devices, my missus and I stopped by here on the way home for brunch, the one along Oya Road, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School. We had not been to this place for quite a while now and both of us wanted the Sarawak laksa (RM4.80)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa

It was, as always, really good and all this time, the one here has always been my favourite in town even though there are many who would sing praises of others elsewhere.

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

Thomson Corner ang tao peng

…and yes, that was consistently good too.

After the movie had ended at around 6 in the evening, we went to pick Melissa to go for dinner – we had decided that we would do that and not do any cooking that day. Seeing how she loved the roast lamb the previous time we were here for dinner, I decided to take her back to that same place again for more as I did promise her then that I would do just that and yes, we were given the keropok (prawns crackers) again as starters (RM2.00)…

Fisherman Restaurant keropok

I asked for iced water and the nice guy there was thoughtful enough to give me two glasses…

Fisherman Restaurant iced water

…at one go. Sky juice is F.O.C. here.

We ordered the roast lamb (RM57.00)…

Fisherman Restaurant roast lamb

…and we were served three HUGE slabs, easily twice the thickness of what we had before. It was done medium rare and was very tender and juicy, absolutely perfect. I loved the skin, so very crusty/crispy and fragrant. I would not say that was cheap but considering that it worked out to RM19.00 for one chunky steak, that would be more or less the same as what one would need to fork out for a plate of lamb chop at a western restaurant, I reckon.

We also had the kiam sor hu phee (salty crispy fish fillet), RM10.00…

Fisherman Restaurant salty crispy fish fillet

…and I thought that the way they cooked it was much nicer than any other place in town but I was not too fond of the fish they used – Dory.

I wanted midin (wild fern) in santan (coconut milk) but we got paku (another variety of jungle fern) instead, RM10.00…

Paku in santan

…but it did not matter as this was just as good and as always, we enjoyed that a lot…and we also had sweet corn soup (RM8.00) as well.

That certainly was a delightful dinner and we enjoyed it a lot. Some people say that the things here are expensive but hey, good things don’t come cheap and if you want cheap, you can go ahead and eat elsewhere – that’s your prerogative. I do think, however, that it depends on what you order and I really feel that what they serve here is getting to be much nicer than before.

If anyone hasn’t a clue as to where it is, the restaurant is located at No. 4, Chew Geok Lin Road and I do advise that you call first to book a table (Tel. No. 084-316888) as the place is not very big and at times, it may be packed and you may end up having to leave and go elsewhere.

Remember the times…

They call themselves DYRians and they are all members of a Facebook group, “Do you remember

DYRians

They were on a road trip stopping here and there all along the way from Kuching to Mukah and while in Sibu for one night only, they gathered at this restaurant here for some old-school Sibu (Foochow) delights.

One of them is an old friend of mine, going way back to our a-go-go dancing days and I do remember when I used to write radio plays for RTM Kuching, she would be roped in on more than one occasion to read the part of one of the characters. Well, she contacted me before they came and asked me to join them…and it turned out that one in the group that came was an old schoolmate of mine and I had not seen nor heard of her since I left high school in 1971! Another one was a familiar name during my requesting days in the late 60’s and early 70’s but I did not get to meet her personally then.

Anyway, so there we all were at the place and they had this ang chao duck…

Ang chao duck

…a truly authentic Foochow dish. Ang chao is the residue obtained from making the traditional Foochow red wine.

Of course, they had the only-in-Sibu Foochow sio bee

Foochow sio bee

…which is different from the usual dim sum/yam cha siew mai or those in Kuching. The ones here have fish added so its taste or flavour may be a bit different from the others in town.  You can see in the background that when the Foochow-style fried noodles…

Foochow-style fried noodles

…were served, there was only one sio bee left and even that one was snapped up very quickly. No prize for guessing who took it…but I assure you that it sure wasn’t me! LOL!!!

There was also this braised pork leg…

Pork leg with man tao

…to be eaten sandwiched in one of those mantaos (steamed buns) on the plate in the background and this is another Foochow delight – the tauhu tear

Tauhu tear

…or bean curd soup cooked with canned oysters.

They also had the manicai/cangkuk manis fried with egg but the photograph came out blur and the one of this sweet and sour pork dish…

Sweet and sour pork

…didn’t turn out very clear either and neither did this one of the peanut dessert…

Peanut dessert

In fact, I had never had this before and I thought it was really very nice.

It was pretty obvious that they enjoyed everything to the max, most of which they would not be able to get in Kuching and even if they can, it may not be as nice. The whole thing came up to RM18.00 per head inclusive of rice and drinks which I thought was all right, pretty reasonable…but they were pleasantly surprised as according to them, it would be hard to come by such nice food at such prices in the state capital these days.

I had a great time that evening catching up with my old friends and meeting new ones…

With the DYRians
*one of the DYRians’ photographs shared on Facebook*

…and I do think it is really so wonderful to be able to enjoy one’s golden years in such delightful fun-filled company.

All the best always to one and all, cheers!!!

Time changes things…

I cannot remember when the first time was when I first tasted heong peah but I can recall that time when a friend of mine from Taiping, Perak, posted to teach in a school in Song, went back for the holidays and when he returned, he brought me some really very nice ones – no brand, all loose ones, and if I’m not mistaken, he said that he bought them fresh at some pasar malam (night market).  They were crusty and flaky and fragrant on the outside and the treacle inside was soft and gooey, absolutely perfect. I was told that the best ones would  be those from Teluk Intan and since then, whenever I went travelling, I would bring home a few packs of those with the red label, Tiger Brand, I think…with several inside, each wrapped with white paper, stamped with the “official seal” in red ink.

Eventually, other brands appeared and since they were better, I would go for those instead. My father loved eating them so I would always get a pack or two specially for him. Eventually, the hong peah became dry and hard, both outside and inside and one day, he told me not to bother getting him anymore if I were to go anywhere again. It is really sad that as time passes, with progress and technology and what not, that special quality in everything in the good ol’ days has not been sustained. The packaging is nicer, more sophisticated, they are all individually-packed, vacuum-sealed and all…and there are those that claim to be charcoal-baked…and they even come out with different varieties like these durian ones…

Durian heong peah 1

…but what is the use when they are nowhere near as nice as those in the past?

My niece went to Penang sometime ago and bought us a pack of these durian ones, not this brand – made in Ipoh. I thought they were not too bad though I would very much prefer the original heong peah but my missus liked them, it seemed. That was why when I went to Kuching that day and I saw these at a shop there, I quickly grabbed a pack to bring home.

The pastry was all right…

Durian heong peah 2

…though I did get to eat one that seemed to have gone all limp and soft…but look at the filling!!!

Durian heong peah 3

It certainly wasn’t anything like how they depicted it in the picture…and no, it did not taste as nice as the ones my niece gave us.

These…

Salty shrimp biscuit 1

…probably came from the makers of those Kampar chicken biscuits that my missus enjoyed a lot, seeing that the packaging looked kind of similar so I bought one to try. The biscuit was bland…

Salty shrimp biscuit 2

…and did not have much taste and it would not be so bad if the filling…

Salty shrimp biscuit 3

…had been really very nice and tasted of “salted shrimp”. Instead, it came across like something with a lot of cinnamon or five-spice powder and it reminded me of those “cow’s ear biscuits” which have never been my favourite. I did buy another packet of sambal udang chicken biscuit or something like that – a different brand, different packaging and I liked that one a lot – those were very nice…but I did not take a photograph of it.

And talking about Kampar chicken biscuits, I also bought a packet of these…

Chicken biscuits 1

…and they turned out to be more or less the same thing. I thought they looked nicer and were really quite good…

Chicken biscuits 2

…but between the two, I prefer the original which would be more oily on the outside and has a slightly stronger taste and fragrance despite the finger prints that result from them using their hands to press the biscuits when making them. I guess that is their “trademark” and the traditional way of making those biscuits, not that they did not have a rolling pin or anything. LOL!!!

But of all that I bought home from Kuching that day, I think I enjoyed these…

Flossy chicken biscuit 1

…the most.

 I loved the taste…

Flossy chicken biscuit 2

…and the chicken floss in it sure served to bring it to a whole new level.

Ok, so you all got the hint? Dijamin sampai hari esok… Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

What you wish for…

This was the Saturday before Hari Raya, the start of the long weekend and the one-week break for Melissa and she was home for the extended school holiday.

We went out for lunch and it was her wish to go for some Indian food and of course, we ended up where else but here

Cafe Ind, Laichee Lane, Sibu

…again – the only place in town where we can get authentic Indian food, North Indian to be exact.

She did not have any second thoughts about ordering their mutton bryani (RM17.50)…

Cafe Ind, mutton bryani

…something that she would order again and again each time we drop by this cafe – yes, it is that nice and in fact, we all thought that it is getting even better as time goes by.

My missus did not fancy anything Indian and went for their Indonesian menu. They have both Indian and Indonesian cuisines here, different kitchens as the Indian chef would not want to share with the Indonesian one who would have beef in some of the dishes. This time around, my missus wanted to try their mee nyemek goreng (RM12.50)…

Cafe Ind, mee nyemek goreng

…with a special request for it to be extra spicy. I tried a bit and it was so nice with the flavours of all the prawns used in the cooking of the dish and ooooo….it was so so so hot! Needless to say, my missus enjoyed it to the max.

I ordered the roti tandoori (RM4.50)…

Cafe Ind, roti tandoori

…and the mutton masala (RM14.50)…

Mutton masala

…to go with it. The roti was great and the masala was nice too but compared to the curry that came with Melissa’s bryani, I think this is milder, not as strong in the flavours and taste and I would prefer the latter.

Yes, the things here don’t come cheap – after all, it’s a classier, more upscale cafe  but at least, the food is really good and value for money…plus if it is something that my girl wishes for, you can be sure that I will try my utmost best to see that she gets it…plus she sure deserves some kind of pampering after sweating it out in the jungle throughout the week, the poor thing, and should we feel like anything Indian or Indonesian again, most likely, this would be where we would be heading to…again.