Love takes time…

The first time I had gooseberries was when my ex-student, Raphael’s mum gave me some. “Just scatter them on the ground,” she said, “They’re very easy to grow!” Well, I did that but nothing appeared.

Around that same time, my dear friend, Mary, got me some from Thailand and yes, I did try planting a few of those too but to no avail.

Sometime ago, my niece, the one working in Singapore, got us a big pack – I think she said they were imported from some country overseas, I can’t remember where now. I did not get the chance to sample any and the next thing I knew, my missus had taken all that was left in the pack and planted them in a pot. I thought they weren’t nice but she said no, it was kind of damp and they did not want to eat them in that condition.

It did not take long for the seedlings to appear, lots of them, so I picked the bigger ones and transplanted them onto a space in the ground and yes, they grew and they grew. After a long time, there were little yellow flowers but no fruit. I was thinking they were male – they say male plants will not bear fruit.

Much to our delight, one fine day, my girl spotted some fruits growing…

Gooseberries

…here and there. I guess it takes time and with a lot of loving tender care, it will bear fruit eventually. They are still green though so we have not harvested any yet to try.

Since we are on the topic of plants, I saw the photo my friend, Elin, in Ipoh, Perak shared on Facebook of her ginger. She planted that and it sure looked like she had a bountiful harvest. Seeing that, I was thinking that I could do the same especially when those things don’t come cheap anymore these days. I spotted a sprout coming out of the ginger we had in the pantry so I took that section of the tuber and planted it. Yes, it is growing…

Ginger

…but it is still very small. Fingers crossed, hopefully, I will get something out of my venture in due course.

Now, if you may recall, a friend of mine gave me this

Started with one

…around August that year. There was only one then and now there are three and a fourth one is going to sprout out soon.

And talking about friends, Annie and her twins are home from KL for the Ching Ming Festival and she dropped by my house to pass me these…

Goodies from Annie

It’s so very sweet of her to bring me all these goodies everytime she comes home. I tried to give her some things in return but no, she simply would not hear of it and would not accept. Sighhhh!!!!

She just sent me a pack of their own-made wine-infused lap chiang (Chinese sausages) through her mum in November and I have not opened it – saving the precious stuff as I did not know when I would be able to get hold of some more. They are very nice and ever since I have been eating these, I would never buy those dry and hard ones from the shops anymore. I guess now that I have quite a lot, I can open one to use in my cooking.

Other than the sausages, she also gave me my favourite M&S all butter biscuits plus two more new ones to try. Gee!!! I am so pampered, truly blessed, am I not?

Thanks so much, Annie, for everything – great to see you and your boys again. Gosh! They’re so thin and so tall now – you must feed them more to fatten them up a bit. LOL!!! And congratulations to your nephew for scoring straight A’s in the SPM Examination and good luck, all the best to him in his studies at tertiary level. My! My! How time flies! They were just little boys, all the three of them, way back in 2010!

So near and yet so far…

This coffee shop…

Nga Chuong Cafe

…is very near my house but I had never stopped by to check it out like it was so far away.

As a matter of fact, it is located in a block of around 3 shops, a car workshop at the other end, an electrical shop in the middle and this coffee shop is on the left. We would drive past everytime on our way home from town and I do go to the car wash place at the corner house at the junction of this lane, Jalan Au Yong Selatan, and Jalan Pahlawan, just a stone’s throw away, quite frequently.

It did look kind of quiet before but ever since somebody opened a tuition centre upstairs, business seemed to have picked up quite a bit and I often see quite a lot of people eating there. Being in the midst of all the residential houses in the area, it would have been quite a nice spot for people staying around there to gather for coffee and to chit chat but of course, these days, smoking is not permitted in coffee shops anymore. I wonder how much this ruling has affected their business, if at all.

The kopi-o-peng

Kopi-o-peng

…that I had was RM1.70 a glass, a little cheaper than most places around town  and it was all right, not the best but definitely, there are others a lot worse.

I did not quite know what to order as the menu…

Menu

…was completely in Mandarin and that’s Greek to me even though I am quite conversant in the language these days.

In the end, I just asked for a plate of kampua mee and when it was served, I was all for the stainless steel bowl that they used for the complimentary soup…

Soup

That, of course, is anytime better than plastic!

The kampua mee (RM3.00)…

Kampua mee

…was served in a melamine plate though – I did read somewhere that it isn’t much better than plastic using that to serve hot foods. I do prefer this pattern though, a whole lot nicer than those plastic ones in the horrendous gaudy colours, red, orange, green and what have you. As a matter of fact, many Chinese restaurants and chu-char (cook & fry) places here use this same collection of melamine plates, this same pattern, to serve the dishes.

The kampua mee was good though there wasn’t anything to make it stand out above the rest but the slices of meat were dry and hard so I dropped them into the soup and they were a little bit o.k. after that. I sure wouldn’t go out of my way for that, that’s for sure, but while I was there, somebody was frying something and it did smell good, the wok hei fragrance and when I had a glimpse behind the panel, I saw that there was a kampua mee stall and another section for the frying and cooking. Maybe I’ll try the fried stuff next time…

NGA CHUONG CAFE (2.312134, 111.837763) is located along Jalan Au Yong Selatan past Lorong Au Yong 4 on your left as you turn in from Jalan Pahlawan.

Save…

Whenever he is home from Auckland, New Zealand, my brother would walk to a coffee shop in this vicinity when he is not going out – the house is right around the corner some 200 metres or so away – for his kampua mee fix. Personally, I am not crazy about most of what I had at the stall there and I thought the kampua mee paled in comparison with the old lady’s when she was there before. I would much sooner go to this coffee shop

Tung Ming Cafe

…to the extreme right of this same block beside the grocery store at the very end.

The kampua mee is very nice, more like the old school, original/authentic ones that we grew up eating and loving so much in our growing up years. I asked my brother why he would not go there instead and he said that he heard someone say that the shop was very dirty. It used to be run by an old couple, an old man and an old lady and they sure were no Marie Kondo – there were boxes and crates and bags of stuff strewn everywhere all over the shop but I do not see them there now. The shop is now run by a young man and a lady, probably the son and the daughter of the old couple as I could see the resemblance to the mother, and another lady, maybe the daughter-in-law.

I must say that unlike before, everything is arranged and put away nicely now…

Inside

…but of course, the mosaic-tiled floor has seen better days and a fresh coat of paint on the walls would certainly help spruce things up. However, I did not think it was dirty in any way, not at all…and I guess the many customers that I see eating and drinking here every day do not feel it is so either.

I dropped by the other morning and had the kopi-o-peng (RM1.50)…

Kopi-o-peng

…and it was very good, cheaper than most places by 30 sen and I would say it could rank among the best in town.

I saw a lady and her daughter having some fried stuff so I decided to give that a try for a change. While I was waiting, I looked at the menu…

Menu

…and noticed that it would cost only RM3.80, 20 sen cheaper than most places elsewhere and a lot cheaper than some.

When it was served, I was kind of disappointed as I would prefer the ones with the dark gravy…

Foochow fried noodles

…but once tossed…

Foochow fried noodles, tossed

…it would look pretty much the same, anyway. For one thing, I was very impressed by the amount of ingredients – elsewhere, one would hardly be able to see the bits of meat and vegetables with the naked eye. I am not all that fond of the vegetable though, the khiew chai (curly vegetable), great in soup – usually, they will use sawi and when it comes to fried noodles, I like that more.

It may not seem like a lot but for what I paid for the mee and the coffee, I did manage to save 50 sen and if my missus had been with me, that would be a ringgit already. As they say in Malay, sikit sikit jadi bukit (a bit at a time, a mountain in the end) but most importantly, the mee and the drink were great. I hear the Sarawak laksa is good too – perhaps I will try that next time.

TUNG MING CAFE (2.307601, 111.824983) is located along Lorong Delta 10, the second shop in the first block of shops on your right, after the first one – a grocery store, as you turn into the lane from Jalan Delta in the vicinity of the houses behind the Delta Public Swimming Pool.

Feels like forever…

New? This place…

New Hee's Food Corner

…has been around like forever! As long as I can remember, it has been there but I never stopped by to see if there was anything good there even though my house is just around the corner. Maybe they added the word “new” to the name because it has been taken over by some new people, I wouldn’t know.

I think quite a while back, I did see a lot of people eating the kampua mee there once when we went next door for lunch and yes, it did look good but to this day, I never dragged myself there to try.

That day, I went to the aforementioned kampua mee stall and there was this grumpy-looking fat boy there who completely ignored me the whole time I was standing there. I proceeded to the next stall – there was a lady and a young boy and they too did not bother about me. Finally, I went to the last stall…

Stall

…and a nice and friendly lady came quickly and asked me what I wanted. She thought I was a Hokkien because I spoke to her in the dialect but I told her, no, I was a Foochow just that I could not speak the dialect all that well. For reasons unknown, we grew up speaking Hokkein at home even though my dad was Foochow and my mum was Foochow/Melanau.

As usual, I had the kopi-o-peng (RM1.80)…

Kopi-o-peng

…and it was good and I ordered the mee sua in traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup (RM7.00)…

Mee sua 1

…from the lady and much to my delight, it was really very very good, almost as good as the out-of-this-world one I would have here so it sure looks like I do not have to wait till somebody’s birthday before I could get to enjoy something, not 100% as nice but pretty close.

I loved the poached egg, in place of the usual hardboiled egg…

Mee sua 2

…especially when it was perfectly done with the yolk still soft and runny.

I guess it is confirmed now – the price has increased and a bowl of mee sua here would set one back by RM7.00, not RM6.00 or RM6.50 or anything less anymore but then again, what hasn’t? Even at RM7.00, I would say this one is worth the price especially when compared to the many not-even-half-as-nice ones around. I certainly would come back here should I feel like having this again.

NEW HEE’S FOOD CORNER (2.311365, 111.846638) is located along Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai, the very first one in the block of shops to the left of the Delta Mall, with the Astro Sibu office at the other end of that same block.

Once upon a time…

These are our Rajang hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

Rajang hay bee

As you can see, they are straight, not like all the other udang kering from other parts of the country/world. The people have to painstakingly arrange the prawns in line one by one so the end product will be straight.

Once upon a time – yes, it does seem so very long ago, they were quite affordable and my mum would make the sambal quite often. Of course, she would make quite a lot at one go and store them in (Nescafe) bottles for us to eat slowly. When I was some place else, not at home, she would make and send to me a bottle or two whenever there was somebody to send it through. I guess she reckoned I could always eat it with rice…and with some cut cucumber, that would be a balanced meal by itself.

These days, these prawns are way over RM100 a kg so I do not make the sambal that often. Besides, they are harder – dunno if this is true but they tell me that now it is factory-made and machine-dried and maybe, they steam them too long so they are no longer as sweet and nice as those during our growing up years.

I did blog about making this sambal hay bee/udang kering a long time ago when I was still using my handphone camera and that was more or less what I did the other day when I felt like making some.

I pounded the ingredients…

Pounded ingredients

…and the dried prawns…

Hay bee, pounded

…after soaking in hot water to soften a little and to rinse them clean. I must say it was no easy task as they are a lot harder these days but using the blender is out of the question. My good friends’ mum, Auntie Mary, the dear ol’ lady, may she rest in peace, once told me she would not pound till too fine as she would prefer some little bits to give it some bite and to chew on when eating and enjoying.

The preparation of the ingredients may be quite tedious but the cooking is very easy. Just fry the pounded ingredients in quite a lot of oil (the pounded dried prawns will soak it all up later so make sure there is enough), throw in the serai (lemon grass)…

Cooking

…and when nicely browned and fragrant, add the pounded dried prawns. Add some curry leaves and if you want, you can add sugar, salt and msg too.  Keep stirring till nice and crusty and golden brown before dishing it all out…

My sambal hay bee

We loved it so much, great with rice and we even had it on bread. Yes, you read it right, bread! As a matter of fact, I had not had it that way for so long that yesterday, I went out and bought a loaf and after applying a layer of butter on a slice, I added the sambal

Sambal hay bee on buttered bread

…and ate. Oh boy! That tasted so so so good! I had not had it this way for so long, maybe not since I was a kid or a teenager that I had forgotten completely how good that tasted, a whole lot nicer than with rice, take my word of it!

This should last for a couple of days and looking at how the prices of everything are going up and up and up, I guess I will be having this again not that soon in the near future. Sighhh!!!

It’s not the first time…

The commercial area beside the Sibu Civic Centre (Dewan Suarah) is not big but there are so many coffee shops there, definitely more than 10, not including the stalls at the hawker centre on the 1st floor of the wet market. I did hear some praises for what they have at the latter but somehow I could never get myself to go up the stairs to go there and eat.

That day, I stopped by this coffee shop…

Mother Cafe

…right behind the civic centre – it was not my first time there but it was under some different people before with a different name and I did like what I had then. Unfortunately, pretty soon, it closed down and after sometime, it reopened, taking on this new name and has been doing well since.

We did drop by once when it got back into action and yes, we did like what we had but somehow or other, we never went back again. What attracted me that morning was this new stall…

Malay/Muslim stall

…right in front of the shop, a Malay/Muslim stall but unfortunately, it was not open – most of them here take a break on Sundays. The nasi lemak is priced at RM3.00 only? Now that’s cheap….but I did not quite like the look of the curry chicken (RM5.00) but the ayam penyet (RM7.00) looks great and the bakso (RM5.00) too. Perhaps I will drop by there to check them out on another day.

Well, since I was there, I thought I might as well have a bite to eat and I had the kopi-o-peng (RM1.50)…

Sugar-free coffee

…which turned out to be sugar free! Perhaps they heard wrongly when I said kao kao (extra strong) and they heard mian tai (no sugar). I was fine with that but the coffee was not all that strong nor was it nice and fragrant. Even if it had been sweet, I sure had better ones at a lot of places elsewhere.

I ordered the liver kampua (RM5.00)…

Liver kampua 1

…and I was pleased with what I saw when I was served – so much liver…

Liver kampua 2

…and there was meat too and a bit of tofu puffs and green vegetables.

However, I put everything into the small bowl of complimentary plain clear soup…

Soup

…and ate the kampua mee with the meat slices on its own. I would not say it was very nice – at best, I would say it was all right. I do think there are others more authentic and with more lard and fried shallot fragrance and taste elsewhere and this one was a little overcooked, not to the extent of being soggy but slightly softer than how I would like it.

As for the soup, I really liked it. I don’t know if it was because of what I did but it had the nice taste of liver plus a hint of what I guessed was vinegar – it did not come across to me like our traditional Foochow red wine. Actually, you can order this, what they call chap-chap (mixed/assorted) at most kampua mee stalls but not all are nice, that much I can say. This one that I had that morning sure was good till the last drop.

MOTHER CAFE (2.310920, 111.831572) is the last shop in the block on your left along Jalan Dewan Suarah if you are entering from Jalan Melur, the shop right behind the Sibu Civic Centre (Dewan Suarah).

Back to front…

I was in the vicinity of the Butterfly Garden or Butterfly Park, whatever it is called – the permanent site of the pasar malam (night market) here in Sibu. Usually, it is virtually impossible to find a parking space here but I was early and even so, the spaces available were few and far between. If I am not wrong, many will park their cars here and walk to the Sibu Central Market as the chances of finding a space here is a lot higher than if one were to try at the areas closer to the market.

I was lucky and after I had parked my car, I saw a lot of people at this coffee shop…

Sio Hin Cafe

…eating the kampua mee from this old lady’s stall…

Sion Hin, kampua mee stall

…and I decided to go and give it a try. The plump little boy is the lady’s grandson and it always pleases me to see such good well-brought up little kids helping out in any way they can, instead of sitting there all engrossed in their gadgets . He helped with the collecting of the plates, bowls and everything after the customers had left and even did the washing up too. I did not see him doing the serving though – perhaps the lady did not want him to handle the hot stuff lest he got scalded or something.

It turned out that this was the back part of this coffee shop that we checked out once, three years ago. We had the fried stuff from one of the stalls there and we thought that what we had were really good, just that we never went back again…for one obvious reason – the parking problem.

I can’t say I approved of the use of those plastic plates and bowls but the liver soup (RM2.00, small)…

Sion Hin Cafe, liver soup

…was very nice even though I did not think there was any of our traditional Foochow red wine in it. It was not overpowering where the ginger was concerned and I could taste the flavour of the thinly-sliced liver, cooked to perfection and not hard and overcooked like some,  in the soup and the best part was there was hardly any hint of any msg in it. Those who are used to the white stuff and a lot of salt would probably think this was quite bland but I loved it – just like what we would cook ourselves at home.

The kampua mee (RM3.00)…

Sion Hin Cafe, kampua mee

…was great too, quite typical of the original/authentic ones in town and the kopi-o-peng (iced coffee, black) that I had was RM1.80, same as most other places in town and was just as good as the good ones around.

That sure was very filling, enough to last through lunch and it was only around AUD/NZD2.35, altogether inclusive of the drink.

SION HIN CAFE is the first coffee shop in the last block of shops along Blacksmith Road (at its junction with Jalan Pulau/Island Road) and this back entrance of the same coffee shop (2.288018, 111.826740) faces the site of the Sibu Night Market (Pasar Malam) at the Butterfly Garden/Park along Market Street.