That’s not it…

I can positively remember a variation of the ang sio hu, what they call the sui tee hu or sweet and sour fish at times, if I am not wrong, that does not have any tomato sauce in it and is thus, not red in colour. I do recall having that at our 10 or 12-course banquets at our local restaurants in my younger days and there would be some know-it-all at the time who would snootily scoff at the fish, saying that it was not fresh and that was why they deep-fried it and served it that way instead of steaming it.

Sometimes, on days when my mum was caught up with something, my dad would bring along the tiffin carrier and buy a few dishes home for our meals and yes, he did buy deep-fried fish, or chio/ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret), cooked this way too. Once, those days when my mum was bed-ridden and I was there every morning to keep her company, he bought it from here and yes, it was very very nice. However, he never did buy it again and I never did ask him why.

Well, I did ask them before when I finally got round to dropping by myself for a meal but they said they only had the one with tomato sauce, either that or deep-fried and served plain garnished with lots of fried garlic and whatever on top. Of course, I was baffled as I was positive that my dad bought it from there then until sometime ago, I heard from one of my cousins that the people who were originally there had moved here…

Hai Jing Cafe

…in the area of shops behind the Rejang Medical Centre, right round the corner from this bak kut teh place…

Klang Claypot bak kut teh

They have this zhi-char (煮炒, literally translated as cook & fry) section at the back…

Hai Jing Cafe zhi char

…and I spotted this phak lor ark (stewed five-spice duck)…

Stewed five-spice duck

…in the cabinet. I would have loved to order that and my girl would have loved it too but these days, she is off soy sauce, not gluten-free, so we had to give it a miss.

I asked the guy who came to take our orders and he said yes, he could cook it without adding any tomato sauce but my hopes were dashed when it was served…

Tomato sauce-free sweet & sour fish

No, that was not it! It certainly did not look like that at all – the Bombay onions, tomato and chili, and there was garlic too, were all chopped into tiny bits and the sauce was a little thicker – probably more cornflour had been added to it. Thankfully, it tasted great and we really enjoyed it. For one thing, he was very young so probably it was his dad or someone else who used to cook the way I wanted, not him.

We also had the midin, ching chao (wild jungle fern, cooked plain)

Midin ching chao

…and also the pork trotter and Szechuan vegetable soup…

Too kha luak chai soup

Both were good too but my girl said that she liked the soup at the other place a lot more. This one had too many wolfberries and the taste drowned out that of the Szechuan vegetables…but I could detect that in the meat, not so much the soup.

Maybe it was the size of the fish and there was quite a lot of meat in the soup and that explained why the total for the food alone came up to RM46.00 which would be more or less what I would usually fork out at that other place but that would be for more than just three dishes. Nonetheless, since we did enjoy the food as a whole, we sure would not mind coming back here again  when we feel like it.

HAI JING CAFE (2.293430, 111.835477) is located at the end of Lorong Chew Siik Hong 5 in the Fortune Commercial Centre – the area of shops behind the Rejang Medical Centre.

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Draw a crowd…

This guy used to be here and we did drop by his stall to enjoy what he had to offer and yes, we did like what he had there at the time. We did not know at the time but my missus went to this stall

Chao chai hung ngang stall
*Archive photo*

…here…

Yummy's Kafe
*Archive photo*

…for the chao chai hung ngang and though the lady had salted vegetables instead of chao chai (preserved vegetables) in the dish, she quite liked it. It turned out that she was the wife of the aforementioned guy and from what I heard, because business was so good at her stall, he closed down his place to go and help her at the new location.

One look at the place every morning, one would think that there must be some really very nice things that draw the crowd. We went on a Sunday morning and no, it certainly wasn’t easy getting a table but luckily, we managed to grab hold of one.

Yes, chao chai hung ngang is gluten free and my girl wanted that for breakfast so I took her here thinking that since the guy is now with his wife at her stall and we liked what he used to dish out, it should be fine now.

It did draw quite a crowd and when my girl went to place her order, she was forewarned that she might have to wait for some time. It did not take all that long though but unfortunately, it was somewhat disappointing – the soup was sour but did not have the chao chai fragrance and taste and this time around, it did not even have salted vegetables in it…

Chao chai hung ngang

In the end, my girl barely managed to finish half the bowl so need I say more?

My missus had the beef noodles…

Beef noodles, Taiwanese style

…Taiwanese-style that we used to enjoy a lot, my girl especially but since there are noodles in it and probably soy sauce as well, my girl cannot have that any longer. The mum said that it was still good, just like before so that probably would be one of the crowd pullers at this place.

I had the kampua mee

Kampua mee

…and the piansip, dry…

Piansip, dry

Yes, it was the same people that I knew before in the past and yes, I did enjoy the noodles the last time I had it here…and yes, they were enjoying bustling business too…and maybe because of that, what I had was not all that satisfactory. You can see from the photograph that the kampua mee was not completely drained till it was totally dry and that should not be the case. I guess it will suffice to say that I can get the same a whole lot nicer elsewhere.

After what we had that morning, we probably would not be all that keen to come back again and if we ever do, we most certainly would choose a day or time when they are not so busy – perhaps what we order would be very much more to our liking then.

YUMMY’S KAFE is located along Jalan Bako in the same block as the Alliance Bank, Sibu branch, at the other end on the right, off Jalan Tuanku Osman or you can come in via Brooke Drive as well.

Get together…

A very Happy Dragon Boat Festival (端午节[duān wǔ jié]) to all celebrating this auspicious occasion in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

I guess by now, many would have made their own or bought those traditional  chang/zongzi (meat dumplings)  to enjoy. I was so blessed as my friends made their own that day and sent some to my house and without fail, like what he would do every year, my dear friend, Richard, made his out-of-this world nyonya chang

Nyonya chang from Richard

…and gave me some too. Thank you so so much, all.

Every year for many years now, without fail, I would blog about the ones Richard gave me and I think I also shared the photos on Facebook and my cousins in Kuching were green with envy, One of them said, “Anay ho mia!” or so very lucky, literally meaning “such a good life” as I was able to get to enjoy the nyonya chang from someone in Ah Hiok Ee’s family. Ah Hiok Ee (Auntie Ah Hiok) was a close family friend renowned locally for her cooking and baking – my mum would buy her cookies for Christmas or Chinese New Year and I would be sent on my bicycle to go and collect from her house.

Well, my cousin was in luck this year as they were in town when Richard sent his much-coveted dumplings over and the instant she saw my photos on Facebook, she asked right away, “Any more tomorrow?” They had planned to drop by my house in the afternoon the following day to just sit around, chit chat and gossip and what not.

When I was young, my mum would cycle to my maternal grandma’s house in Kampung Nangka here and she would always let me tag along. She and her mum and sisters (my aunts) would sit on the floor, chewing sirih (betel nut leaves) and buah pinang (areca nut)…and roll their own tobacco in the very very thin paper made for the purpose and smoke. They would talk and laugh while I just sat by the side and listened to their interesting exchanges. Somehow or other, I  did not find it boring, not at all.

Come tea time, they would brew a pot of coffee, Mui Hock, no less, and they would take all kinds of things out of the cupboard, tins and containers for us to eat and enjoy. There might not be anything really special since those visits were usually made unannounced but somehow or other, even the cream crackers or loti kaben (Cabin crackers, now Osborne) tasted so good when shared in such delightful company.

I loved it when they had the salai ikan (smoked fish) or prawns that we would eat with sagu’ (sago pellets) – my maternal grandma was a Melanau and without fail, they would have that in the house…and we had some kind of tea along those same lines that day when my cousins from Kuching dropped by my house.

Of course, I had to serve them Richard’s nyonya chang

Sharing Richard's nyonya chang
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…just two (Hehehehehe!!!), cut up to share so there would be enough to go round and boy, they absolutely swept them off their feet.

They praised it to the skies and were so very impressed that the meat was cut into tiny cubes, not minced meat from the blender or bought from the market and also by the winter melon added, cut into minute cubes as well…

Richard's nyonya chang, inside

It certainly was a labour of love  on Richard’s part and it sure paid off…and of course, his were bigger and there was a whole lot more meat filling than any that one can dream of when buying the ones commercially made and sold in Kuching, Singapore, Malacca or anywhere else, for that matter.

Unlike at my grandma’s kampung house, I did not have much to offer so I went to the shop round the corner and bought these Foochow traditional delights, the ma ngee (horse’s hoof)…

Ma Ngee
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…and yes, they agreed that the ones available there in the afternoon were pretty good and we also had our Sibu Foochow shortbread, the Pek Guek Tong Chiew pia, those traditional Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits.

However, even though limited compared to what we would get to enjoy at my grandma’s house – why, I did not even have Mui Hock coffee, only Nescafe – it sure brought back fond memories of those wonderful days in the years gone by. The world has grown smaller, they say but never have families grown so far apart compared to those times in the past – on my part, I was glad to have some time to spend together with my cousins that day, just like in the good old days…or almost, at least and I look forward to any opportunity to do something like this again. As the lyrics in the children’s song go, “The more we get together, the happier we will be!

Give a little something special…

Usually when we go and visit somebody, the traditional practice in our local social etiquette would be to bring a little something. It may be something very special like a very nice dish that one has cooked or something one has baked…or something very nice that one has bought and likes a lot so he or she would buy that for the recipient to try. However, good manners have it that one would say, “It’s nothing much! I’ve nothing to give!” and the other party would go, “Haiyar!!! Cho mik cho bo eng? (Why make yourself busy?) No need to go through all that trouble, thank you…thank you!”

My cousins from Kuching were no exception and these were what they brought…

Goodies from Kuching

…when they came that day. There were the very nice tau sar peah (bottom left) that I enjoyed very much and these instant pastes from “The old Djakarta Restaurant“…

Instant pastes

I knew of this Indonesian nasi padang restaurant in Kuching a long long time ago located opposite the since-closed-down Cathay Cinema in the vicinity of Oriental Park where one can get to enjoy one of the best kolo mee in the city. By the mid-70’s, it was no longer there and its place was taken over by some kind of boutique owned one classy beautiful lady, always nicely dolled up and dressed to the nines.

I saw on Facebook that this restaurant has re-opened some place else much to the delight of those who were around at the time and enjoyed what they served there. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss the chance to drop by and try should I happen to hop over to Kuching anytime soon. In the meantime, I have these pastes to cook my own and try but I have yet to get down to doing that.

This is a local Kampung delight, what we call kuih jala

Kuih jala

…which should not be confused with roti jala. It is also called sarang semut (ants’ nest), not to be confused with kek sarang semut (bee hive cake). The ingredients are rice flour and gula apong (nipah palm sugar) so it is gluten-free and my girl can get to enjoy that.

There were also some almonds and a box of gluten-free crackers for my girl and they also brought her these…

More goodies

…very very nice ethnic Dayak beads, a headband that one of my cousins knitted herself and my girl loves it a lot, and also a box of gluten-free flour.

No, they did not bring this…

Kurma madu

…all the way from Kuching. They dropped by that supermarket in town that has all the imported stuff from countries all over the world and they liked these, imported and packed in Singapore, more than the Penang-imported Yusof Taiyoob ones that we had for our dinner that night. Yes, they were nice but I thought they were a little too soft and a bit too sweet as well.

That leaves just one more thing – the one wrapped in aluminium foil, newspapers and cling film in the above photograph (bottom right). Inside was the pork cooked with tempoyak (fermented durian)…

Tempoyak pork

…that one of my cousins cooked and she would like us to try. Of course it was very nice and of course, she was so very generous with the tempoyak – she always makes her own when the fruit is in season – she did send us some time and time again but to us, that is one precious and rare commodity so when my missus cooks the same dish, she would not use so much at a time and she adds serai (lemon grass) to hers as well. They had it here at this place that has since closed down too and theirs were pretty good as well but don’t count on a lot of tempoyak in theirs either.

The usual practice when people give you things is to balas or in Hokkien, tak tor tui (give in return). Oh dear!!! I did not get them anything in return when they left town and flew home, shame on me…but they kept saying that they did not have much luggage space for much of anything so I refrained from buying them lots of stuff to take back.

Two years…

They were here before, my cousins from Kuching, almost two years ago in July, 2016 but I could not be with them that time around as it was on a Sunday and I had to send my girl to her school in the jungle. Luckily, she is still on her extended mid-year break for the Gawai Festival and Hari Raya Aidilfitri so all of us could drop by the place that day to enjoy a sumptuous lunch of Thai delights together.

We had the phad Thai, large (RM31.90)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen phad Thai

…and the yum woon sen or seafood glass noodles salad (RM26.50)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen yum woon sen

They actually had this the previous time but they could not remember much else other than the very nice chicken rice that they had then.

For our vegetable dishes, I ordered our favourite bitter gourd omelette (RM17.50)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen bitter gourd omelette

…and their fried cangkok manis with egg (RM15.50)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen fried cangkok manis with egg

…that I thought they did really well the last time I had it here.

That day, I also enjoyed the pla sa moon prai, their deep fried barramundi, filleted (RM78.00)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen pla sa moon prai

…that my good friend, Robert, would always order everytime so I also asked for that for all of us to enjoy and yes, we all loved it, right down to the stuff used in its garnishing and presentation.

They all said they would prefer the seafood tom yum soup, creamy (RM90.00)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen creamy tom yam soup

…so that was what we had and they loved it to bits! One of my cousins added the glass noodles from the salad dish to the soup and had them together and she loved it to the max.

My cousins and our mutual friend, also from Kuching, insisted on picking up the tab and the total came up to RM259.40 for the 8 of us altogether. Actually, one of my cousins has two children and their families residing in Australia so I guess a lavish lunch like this one that we had for around AUD85.00, a little more than AUD10.00 per head, would seem mighty reasonable compared to what they can get over there…plus the last time, they were here were two years ago but most importantly, we did enjoy the food a lot and needless to say, the company as well.

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

New found love…

First and foremost, allow me to extend my greetings on this very special and auspicious occasion to my dear and loved ones in the family and also to all my friends…

Hari Raya 2018

Tangan dihulur, maaf dipinta
Erat hubungan sesama kita
Semoga gembira di hari yang mulia ini
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Maaf zahir dan batin.

Earlier this week, Monday, the 11th of June was the 100th Day of my dear mum’s demise and this coming Sunday is Father’s Day so other than the prayers together with our relatives and friends at the house that night, that morning, we made our way to the memorial park…

Nirvana

…bringing flowers and to offer some prayers…

100th Day/Father's Day 2018

…before we made our way back to town.

We stopped by some place for brunch before sending my sis home and then we went to pick my cousins from Kuching at their hotel. It was near lunchtime by then and they wanted to go to the must-go not-to-be-missed place here so we took them there and we just had a bit as we were already quite full after the brunch we had earlier.

They wanted their favourite here, the belimbing prawns (RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns

…and Peter, the boss, was so very nice as always and went out of his way to cook specially for us this huge serving! The people at the next table saw it and said they wanted that too but of course, their serving was very much smaller. I told Peter that if they complained, he could tell them that we ordered a double/triple. LOL!!!

They also wanted the otak-otak (RM13.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe otak-otak

…that they liked a lot and the jelly pisang (RM9.00)…

Payung Cafe jelly pisang

…which they served in a bowl so that it would be a lot easier to stir and mix everything together compared to having it in a tall glass.

I suggested ordering the Payung fish (RM15.00, with rice)

Payung fish 1

…the ikan keli (catfish) cooked in soy sauce with a bit of taucheo (fermented beans), garlic, ginger and lots of serai (lemon grass)…and chili too. Initially, they were somewhat reluctant for fear of being disappointed as we used to cook this ourselves at home and like how we would go to some nyonya restaurants and order dishes we can cook ourselves, we end up feeling shortchanged in the end.

In the end, they agreed so we had that…

Payung Fish 2
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…and it sure bowled them over – it was so very good and they enjoyed it to the max, finishing all the fish and the sauce leaving behind only the stalks of serai and what have you. That sure was a new found love at the very first bite and I am pretty sure that the next time they come here, they would want to have that again.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

Do you remember the first time…

One of my cousins from Kuching never liked bitter gourd before until the first time she tasted the one here and since then, every time she came to Sibu, she would make it a point to stop by the restaurant for the dish – their bitter gourd fried with salted egg…

Ruby Restaurant bitter gourd with salted egg

…and also the very very nice kopi-o-peng (iced coffee, black) here.

They contacted me on Sunday and asked us to join them for lunch there so there we were, nine of us altogether. I did ask for smaller servings but every order that came out looked so big like there was enough to feed an army.

Other than the aforementioned dish, we also had their salted egg spare ribs…

Ruby Restaurant salted egg spare ribs

– I had that before, twice, I think, but this time around, it was simply out of this world – so very generous with the salted egg yolk and the taste sure swept everyone off their feet.

We had another vegetable dish, the sweet potato leaves ching-chao (fried plain)…

Ruby Restaurant sweet potato leaves

…and everyone was amazed by how tender it was and was wondering if it was some other vegetable, bayam perhaps. In the end, they confirmed with the boss and indeed, it was sweet potato leaves – they said that the ones they had in Kuching were probably too old and were not as nice.

This has been my favourite ever since the first time I stumbled upon this place and yes, it won the hearts of all that I brought here for lunch or dinner over the years – their butter scotch prawns…

Ruby Restaurant butter schotch prawn balls

…and that day was no exception.

The Thai mango chicken…

Thai mango chicken

…was a hit as well and to wash it all down, we had the sea cucumber soup.

Everyone enjoyed the lunch very much and the bill for the 6 dishes came up to RM105.00 for the food.  I guess that was pretty reasonable considering that we had prawns and pork is not exactly cheap these days…and there was sea cucumber in the soup too, just that I did not think I came across any in the bowl that I had.

RUBY RESTAURANT  is located at No. 71, Jalan Kampung Nyabor right next to HOME COOK CORNER  (2.292756, 111.825335) with the AmBank Tunku Osman branch in the very next block.