All in a row…

If you ever drop by Sibu, you will not fail to notice how many coffee shops there are in this town.

At the other end of the block, where you can find this one…

Hanyan Corner, Sg Merah Sibu

…in the vicinity of Sungai Merah here, is this one that I have blogged about not too long ago and there is this one at the end of the block to the left with the covered area in between the two where tables are laid out and customers are able to sit there too if they choose to do so…and then, there is an outlet of our own Sarawak chicken rice franchise too somewhere in the middle of that block and another coffee shop at the other end…and don’t forget, there is this one back to back with the first one I mentioned earlier and yes, there are more in the other blocks of shops all around that same area.

I have been here before a long time ago, so long that I can’t remember whether I blogged about it or not…but it so happened that my ex-student from my English Language tuition class shared this photograph of her plate of prawn noodles…

Hanyan Corner prawn noodles

…on her Facebook page and initially, I thought she cooked that herself but she said, “It’s from a shop at Sg. Merah, just right across from the Catholic Church.” At that point in time, I thought it was this one but she added, “Not sure what’s the name of the shop. They’ve two corner shops joined. Mostly Malay stalls but this dish is from a Chinese stall at the back.” I had no idea at that point in time which shop she was talking about and as a matter of fact, it was only after we had left the place that morning did it dawn on me that this was the one! Good grief!!! LOL!!!

I saw the photographs of the prawn noodles at the stall and I did ask the guy how much one plate would cost and he said RM30.00…and no, of course, I did not order that. My missus requested for the tan hua mian (egg flower noodles) from him (RM5.00)…

Hanyan Corner tan hua mian 1

…and I must say I was impressed by the amount of ingredients in the dish…

Hanyan Corner tah hua mian

There were bits of liver, intestines, prawns, fish balls, meat and so on and my missus said that it was very nice and had that very much coveted wok hei fragrance. However, she said that the sauce/gravy was tomato and it would probably be nicer if it had been kway teow (flat rice noodles) instead.

In Kuching, you do find noodles served with tomato gravy like this but they deep-fry the finer noodles first – if I am not mistaken, they use the ones in their kolo mee – till nice and crispy and then, they would cook the gravy and pour it all over it, pretty much the same way they cooked the Cantonese fried noodles at one place that I used to frequent in PJ Old Town but they did not have tomato in their egg gravy.

I decided to have something from the Malay stall…

Hanyan Corner Malay stall

…in front. It sure seemed mighty popular and I thought the dishes they had for their nasi campur (mixed rice) looked good. Perhaps I would drop by for that one of these days.

I had their nasi lemak special (RM5.00)…

Hanyan Corner nasi lemak special

…and yes, I thought the rice was slightly better than what I had here but was not as nice as my slightly more expensive favourite in town – I wouldn’t say that one was the best I have ever had but comparatively, I find it better than all the rest around here. I did like that salted fish though but the egg was over-fried and usually with nasi lemak, they would serve the egg hard-boiled, just half of it to the most though.

The coffee was good and yes, I would think we would be back again and most likely, the next time around, I would order something from the noodles stall at the back.

New one…

We had not been here…

Payung Cafe, Sibu

…for a long time now, probably not since Chinese New Year and that time when my cousin from the UK and her hubby were in town. They had removed the chalk drawing of a peacock on the wall, it seemed and replaced that with something simpler.

For one thing, the place is not air-conditioned and with this current extraordinarily hot weather, we probably would choose to go some place else if ever we would venture out of the house, that is. Well, last Sunday, we went for the evening service at the cathedral close by so we stopped by here once it was done.

The boss and the staff were there enjoying something and in no time at all, we were served a glass…

Cool dessert

…each. The boss said that he went and bought some sweet corn dessert and some ABC (air batu campur) and they just mixed it all together. I spotted in it some bits of pineapple and watermelon or was it papaya? In the blistering heat, that really felt like heaven! According to him, he got those from here and he added that the cendol is very nice too. Hmmm…gotta make sure that I go and have a try the next time I venture that far to that part of town.

Another reason why I wanted to stop by was because I had seen on their Facebook page that they have something new on their menu – the Payung butter chicken (RM18.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe butter chicken 1

I was wondering if it would be something like the Indian butter curry but no, it was something of their own that is actually nothing like curry, not spicy at all and on the whole, quite delicious.

The guys were thoughtful enough to give us an extra chunk of chicken…

Payung Cafe butter chicken 2

– usually, there would be only three in each serving and I guess they would not want my missus and I to end up fighting over who should get the extra chunk. LOL!!!

I also ordered their mushroom roll (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe mushroom roll 1

…and though it was served piping hot from the oven…

Payung Cafe mushroom roll 2

…it was not anything soupy or with lots of gravy so it was quite easily managed on a hot evening.

This is absolutely perfect for hot days, their pomelo salad (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…as they keep the peeled fruit in the fridge and it is nice and refreshingly cold when served and we sure enjoyed that to the max.

For dessert, each of us had a jelly pisang (RM8.00 each)…

Payung Cafe jelly pisang

…and who doesn’t enjoy ice cream on a hot day?

I would say the new dish is all right, quite nice and since it is not spicy, it is suitable for children. I have heard complaints that this place is not all that kid-friendly, nothing much that is suitable for kids so I guess this is one option parents may want to consider when they drop by here. My missus’ favourite remains the same – their green curry and as for me, I would prefer their Bangladeshi lamb curry…or one of the many choices on their menu that I do enjoy a lot more.

Oh dear!!! You would never be able to guess what happened! I brought my umbrella along that evening and I left it on the chair. I only realised that I had forgotten all about it when I reached home so I called them and asked them to keep it for me. Why on earth did I bring along my umbrella when it was such a hot day, you may ask? Well, the weather is like that here these days – it may be fine, very very hot, and suddenly, the rain would fall out of the blue, so very heavily like there was someone up there pouring buckets and buckets of water down…and I, for one, fervently believe in the maxim in Malay: Sediakan payung sebelum hujan!

I did not go to collect it the next day nor the next…and then I got a call from the boss saying that they were sending it over to my house so he asked for the address. The weather was ok that evening, cloudy and maybe there was a light drizzle, on and off but right before they reached my house, it rained cats and dogs! Obviously, there was such a severe storm that the newly-erected billboards all over town for the coming election were blown into the air and fell over some cars that were unfortunate enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Well, I got my umbrella back and the boss brought me this tub of their butter chicken…

Payung butter chicken, special

…as well. He said what we had that night was cooked by one of the staff and he cooked this one himself so it would be very much nicer. It sure looked better and was a lot more fragrant so I bet it would be a cut above what we had that night but no, I am saving it for my girl when she comes home this weekend so into the freezer it went!

He also brought me this tong sui dessert…

Tong sui

…which he cooked himself. It was very nice – there were bean curd sticks, peanuts and some round slightly yellowish nuts, dunno what you call those, ginkgo? I guess this is something cooling and was just right for our after-dinner that hot evening (despite the heavy rain). I loved it and I think my friend, Claire, would love this too – she is so into this kind of desserts. Right, Claire?

Thanks so much, Peter, for everything and thanks to you too, Karan, for coming all the way with the boss to return my umbrella.

Take your pick…

It was my brother-in-law’s birthday yesterday so of course, my niece, the one working in Singapore, flew home last weekend for a little celebration in advance and on Saturday night, they picked to come here for dinner.

Of course I have blogged about this place and the dishes available here many times already. My brother-in-law got to pick his favourite dishes and without fail, wherever we may go for dinner, there would be the sweet and sour fish fillet…

Ruby Restaurant sweet and sour fish fillet

…which was good that night. I think we had it pre-ordered once and probably they cooked it way ahead of time so by the time it was served, the batter coating of the fish slices had gone all soggy so it was not all that nice.

He also picked this fried omelette with bits of century egg…

Ruby Restaurant omelette with century egg

…and sliced Bombay onions and a bit of leek in it, something that he always complains they can never replicate at home. Hmmmm…he has yet to try mine. Hehehehehe!!!!

There was also this dish of what we call Sabah yeu chai

Ruby Restaurant Sabah yeu chai

…whatever it is called in English. They like it very much and would always order it when we go out for dinner but it is not really my favourite. I would much sooner stick to our good ol’ cangkuk manis with egg or midin with belacan.

I am very sure we had ordered this before – the pork with dried chili and salted fish and lots of ginger and onion…

Ruby Restaurant claypot pork with salted fish, dried chili

…but I do not recall them serving it in a claypot placed on top of a food warmer with a fire down below. Maybe for smaller servings, they would dispense with that as everything would be gone in no time at all.

This is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the butter scotch prawn balls…

Ruby Restaurant butter scotch prawn balls

…and their salad tofu…

Ruby Restaurant salad tofu

…own-made, with dried prawns in the bean curd, served with mayonnaise is another popular dish here.

I’ve never had this before – their hot and sour soup…

Ruby Restaurant hot and sour soup

…and my guess is that is what usually people call the Szechuan soup. We enjoyed that – it was a nice change from our usual sea cucumber or Foochow-style tofu soup.

There you have it, our simple celebration that night and nothing beats getting together with loved ones, be it family or friends, to share the joy of a special occasion.

Hot…

It has been so unbearably hot here lately but thankfully, we do get quite a bit of rain in the mid-afternoon or late evening when it would pour buckets but sometimes, it does not last very long. Still, it is good enough to cool things down a bit unlike other places in the country where I hear they have not had rain for a long time now.

Well, because of the heat, when we were looking for a place to go for lunch last Saturday, we opted for some place that is nice and cool and we ended up here.

I’ve blogged about this place so many times now but they do have some new things on their menu like their fusion pizzas, for instance, but we did not feel like having those. I did order their rum and raisin gelato (RM9.00)…

Noodle House rum & raisin gelato

…which was very nice but no, the texture was all wrong – it was something like yogurt. The guy at their sister outlet did say that they do not have the proper freezing facilities here so what one gets may not be quite right or the same. The thing is they did not have this in their array of choices over at the other side or at least, not during those times when I went but yes, it tasted great, nicer than their mille crepe of that same flavour. I neglected to tell them to serve it last for dessert so it came first before all our other orders. I would think that they would know that sweet desserts should always come last but obviously, they don’t.

My missus had her favourite – something she would always order when she  comes here – the kway chap special (RM7.90)…

Noodle House kway chap special

I do enjoy this too but since she wanted that, I decided to go for something else instead…plus the weather being so hot, I was not all that keen on anything soupy and served steaming hot.

My girl ordered their nasi lemak, regular (RM7.50)…

Noodle House nasi lemak, regular

…and the golden wantons (RM6.20)…

Noodle House golden wantons

…to share.

Yes, the wantons were very nicely done…

Noodle House golden wanton

…not oily, very crispy with quite a lot of meat inside and they tasted great.

I picked their pricier version of the nasi lemak (RM16.90) which came with the usual condiments…

Noodle House nasi lemak, the usual suspects

…of egg, fried peanuts and ikan bilis (anchovies) and cucumber slices…and beef rendang

Noodle House nasi lemak, beef rendang

The rendang was very nice and the meat was very tender too but I was wishing they would give a bit more of that, maybe another spoonful.

Last but not least, on that nasi lemak platter, was the spiced chicken…

Noodle House nasi lemak, spiced chicken

…one whole thigh of it and a very big one at that. It tasted like a mild version of the ayam percik but I do think that they do it a lot better at the Malay shops and stalls, just that their chicken usually seems very much smaller.

All in all, I would say it…

Noodle House nasi lemak, spiced chicken & rendang

…was good but personally, I like the nasi lemak here a lot more be it their regular (RM4.00) or with either the daging masak hitam or the chicken curry, plus being a coffee shop, theirs are a whole lot cheaper.

Still, it was a nice enough lunch and the problem was leaving the pleasantly cool comfort of the place and getting into the car which the midday sun had turned into something like an oven by then – it really is so very hot here!

Nobody but me…

That morning, I went out early at 8.00 a.m. to send the parcel to Phong Hong and of course, when I got to the poslaju office, there was nobody else around but me. Unfortunately, I did not have any small change and I handed over one 50-ringgit note to the girl at the counter. She asked if I had anything smaller and I told her no.

After a futile search through her drawer and bag and everything, she went inside and came back after a while with the change. She handed it over to me with the receipt and everything and I said, “Thank you!” to which she replied, “Welcome!” after which I added, “Sorry!” (for the inconvenience caused, that is) and she looked quite stunned. Even her colleague who was at the other end of the office, putting up some notices, turned to look. Hmmm…I guess they do not get to hear somebody saying sorry all that often, nobody but me perhaps. As that Elton John song goes, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Well, I was done in some 10-15 minutes and I had to go to the bank next but I was too early. It only opens at 8.45 a.m. on working days so I decided to stop by the coffee shop next door…

Jia Ping Cafe, Pedada, Sibu

…for a bite.

I cannot remember the last time I was here – that was a very long time ago. I used to go and buy some stuff from the chap fan (mixed rice) place there on days when we did not do any cooking until one fine day when the guy said that I would have to buy what I wanted together with the rice and not on their own like what I always did. I do know some other places in town that have that same policy and I really wonder why. Do they make a lot more profit that way?

I also remember that I tried their kampua noodles once and I did not think it was great so that morning, I asked for the Foochow fried noodles but when it was served, it was not what I had in mind. They had dished out the dry version (RM3.80)…

Jia Ping Cafe fried noodles, dry 1

…and I always prefer the one with a bit of sauce or gravy.

Searching through my old posts, I could not locate the one on this place but I did manage to find this photo of their Foochow fried noodles, wet…

Jia Ping Cafe fried noodles, wet
*Archive photo*

…and that is the kind that I am not all that fond of – the gravy is pale like the one here or here, not dark in colour.

Thankfully, this dry version…

Jia Ping fried noodles, dry 2

…turned out to be very nice and there were quite a lot of those thin strips of char siew in it plus a fair amount of green veg and taugeh (bean sprouts) too. I had my usual kopi-o-peng (iced coffee, black) with that and yes, theirs was pretty good.

By the time I finished, the bank was open already and yes, like at the poslaju office earlier, I was their first customer that day. It certainly seems like people do not venture out that early anymore these days, nobody but me, unlike in the old days when everyone was up at the crack of dawn…and I must say I do like it this way – no crowd, no queuing and no waiting at all.

Back to black…

My blogger-friend, Phong Hong, published a post recently on the masak hitam (literally translated, cooked black) that she cooked but it did not look quite the same. I checked the ingredients and they were nothing like what we would have in our Sarawak masak hitam – I don’t think they have curry and turmeric powder among the ingredients.

Of course, it would taste nice – with all those ingredients that went into the cooking, it couldn’t possibly be otherwise…like in the case of my failed attempt at cooking the dish from scratch – it did not look nor taste anything like it but yes, it tasted great. I had raisins in mine which is a crucial ingredient, it seems, and they said it was because I added santan (coconut milk) – there should not be any in the dish – and they also suggested using kicap manis(sweet dark soy sauce)  instead of the regular ones.

This originally Sarawak Malay delight…

Daging masak hitam Sarawak 1
*Archive photo*

…(unlike Sarawak laksa, which if I am not wrong, is a Kuching Chinese creation) is the favourite of many but both my missus and my girl are not all that fond of it, maybe because of the hint of the sweetness in it but no, it is not really sweet, just a hint of it, I said, like in the case of satay or char siew…and my girl does not like raisins, I don’t know why.

It is not really hitam or black, more of a darker shade of brown though I have seen some really black ones at wedding banquets like this one, for instance…

Daging masak hitam Sarawak 2
*Archive photo*

My missus insisted that they used browning but I don’t really know how they did it…but whatever the shade of black it may be, I love it! It does not matter that nobody the the house likes it so much and nobody is going to cook it – I can easily go out and buy at this favourite Malay food stall of mine at Bandong here. They have it every day and yes, theirs is very nicely done. You can buy the meat by the chunks, RM1.50 or maybe RM2.00 for one huge piece and they will give you a lot of the very nice gravy that goes so absolutely well with rice. The one here is also very nice and you can have it with your nasi lemak or whatever and they do sell it by the kilo as well for when you are hosting a buffet dinner party at home or something though I can’t remember the price now.

As a matter of fact, you can find it quite easily at all the Malay stalls and shops in town and they would all be pretty good but I did hear once that most of them do not cook from scratch and would use these…

Liza's perencah itam

…instead.

I did give a tub to my Ipoh masterchef/blogger-friend, Elin and she used it to cook her own version of the masak hitam dish and she loved it so very much, praising it the the skies. Here, you can read all about it here. I also gave some to a friend of mine, my girl’s lecturer in Sg Petani, Kedah and every Hari Raya, she would ask for more. Obviously, she liked it a lot too. Well, since it is so good, we never bother to cook from scratch anymore. All I would do would be to fry one Bombay onion, finely chopped and one or two stalks of serai (lemon grass) for the added fragrance, add the meat and paste and water and simmer till done. So very easy!

I told Phong Hong in my comment that I would get it for her to try but horror of horrors!!! When I dropped by the shop where I used to buy this, they told me that it was not available and they had not received any for a while now, so their guess was the company had gone bankrupt!

That afternoon, I went round some supermarkets and shops – I did see the asam pedas at one of them but I did not want that. Then, something told me to go back to the first shop, the one I went to that morning, to check a smaller one about two doors away and to my delight, they had what I was looking for and a whole lot of others from that same Miri-based company, Liza’s.

I quickly grabbed some for Phong Hong and I also bought her the Sarawak laksa

Liza's Perencah laksa

…to try. I’ve never tried it myself but I have heard people saying that it is very good, just that there isn’t much one can cook using one tub – maybe two or three bowls whereas if you use the regular laksa paste sold in packets, you would have enough to feed an army. One thing good about this one is you would not need to sieve the soup/gravy to remove all the fine ingredients. Well, if Phong Hong does not know how to go about it she can click the link to this one here…and there are a few others in my blog as well where I had featured a step-by-step guide to cooking Sarawak laksa.

I packed everything in a box and sent it to Phong Hong the very next day…and here’s a bit of good news. I received an sms from her a little after noon the following day after I had sent the parcel telling me that she had received it. Gee!!! As a matter of fact, I also sent a pack of sambal Sarawak laksa, the regular, to a friend in Banting, Selangor the day before and she too got it the very next day. Our national courier people can be quite efficient sometimes…when they want to. Double thumbs up, guys! Hehehehehe!!!

Happy trying, Phong Hong! Hope you like the goodies from Sarawak!

Hey mama…

All this while, I was thinking that the name of this place here…

KONG Ma Ma cafe, Sibu

…has got something to do with grandpa (Ah Kong) and grandma (Ma Ma). Well, in my post the other day, I was asking around to see if anyone knew where the beef noodles people had moved to and I got a response from my friend, Julia, in Perth. She told me on Facebook that she heard from her cousin that they had moved to Jiang Ma Ma in the Delta Estate area. Oh? I do know that Jiang is Kong in Chinese/Mandarin so does the name of the place actually mean grandma surnamed Jiang or Kong? Anybody?

Yes, I did hear that somebody has taken over the place and all the people at the stalls are new except the Malay lady who has been there for as long as I could remember…and since this is on the way to my parents’ house, we stopped by the other morning to have a look.

Yes, the beef noodles stall is there, all the way at the back in a really obscure corner. If I remember correctly, that is right in front of the washrooms. I did not see anyone eating the noodles unlike at the previous location where it seemed to be so very popular. Well, it was a hot morning as usual – it has been hot here for a while now – so I did not feel like anything soupy and served steaming hot so I opted for something else. Maybe when my girl is home for the weekend, we may drop by again and perhaps she would want to have this as she likes it a lot.

They have moved the Malay lady’s stall to the section on the right and there is a roti canai stall right beside it. Both were enjoying really good business when we were there at around 9 something – the place was crowded and I heard the lady at the roti canai stall telling a customer that she had run out so there would not be anymore available for the day. Good grief! So early!!!

I ordered the Malay lady’s mee goreng (fried noodles) special (RM5.00)…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special, egg

…and it came with one very nicely-fried egg, just the way I would like it, and a generous serving of fried chicken, breast…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special, fried chicken

…and I spotted quite a lot of tiny prawns…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special, prawn

…in the noodles too. I wonder how they peel those, they are so very tiny – it must be so tedious and such a chore.

Well, I sure enjoyed it…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special

…very much and I would say that this is one of the better places in town if you’re thinking of having something fried, Malay-style – noodles, kway teow, bihun…or even fried rice…and parking here is usually not a problem and it is free! The only thing is that the coffee shop tends to be rather crowded most of the time.

My missus had their Foochow fried mee, wet (RM3.50)…

KONG Ma Ma Foochow fried mee, wet

…and I did go and have a look to see whether it was that same guy that I spotted smoking the last time we were here – he had a cigarette in his mouth – while cooking but no, there are some new people now and they are occupying the original chu char place, not where the guy was, right in front of the toilets (where the beef noodles stall is now).

It was a little cheaper than elsewhere (RM3.80 or RM4.00) and yes, I could see the meat and the green veg – usually, one would be hard-pressed to see those ingredients…

KONG Ma Ma Foochow fried noodles

…among the noodles but my missus said that it was just all right, the serving was huge – there were lots of noodles and there was no msg overload but it lacked the much coveted wok hei fragrance so she was not very impressed by it.

I saw one stall selling “creamy laksa” with lots of cans of evaporated milk on the counter. I wonder if that is any good. Well, I am pretty sure that we would be back soon enough, probably for the beef noodles or something else. We’ll see…