I just want to celebrate…

The Gawai Dayak is celebrated in Sarawak in East Malaysia on the 1st of June every year. It is a festival filled with merry making, one that is eagerly anticipated by the Dayaks and non-Dayaks alike. The term “Dayak” today refers to the Ibans, the Bidayuhs and the Orang Ulu communities. Traditionally, it is celebrated to mark the end of the rice harvesting season and offer their thanksgiving to the gods and spirits.

Selamat Hari Gawai 2010
*From Fred Kamea‘s photo album on Facebook

In the rural longhouses, the festivity begins on the eve with the traditional ceremonies and chanting of prayers. The community gathers at the main hall or ruai of the longhouse where the tuai rumah or headman will perform the miring ceremony to bring blessings upon the inhabitants of the longhouse. He recites sacred verses as he swings a live cockerel in the air to drive away evil spirits. The bird is then sacrificed and the blood sprinkled over the offerings of food that are laid out on the floor. Grains of rice are then strewn over the heads of those present to protect them from harm. After the miring, the merry-making begins with the feasting and drinking of tuak and the dancing of the ngajat. There may even be the selection of the Kumang, the festival queen, and the male equivalent, the Keling.

Kumang Gawai 2010
*Fred Kamea‘s photo on Facebook

Around the same time, on the 31st of May, the Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival is celebrated in the other east-Malaysian state, Sabah, which lies to the north-east of the island of Borneo. This is the Kadazandusun equivalent to the Gawai Dayak Festival in Sarawak, and certainly bears a lot more similarities than differences.

The Kadazandusun is the largest ethnic group in Sabah. Traditionally, they were farmers whose beliefs centred around rice-planting and harvesting with bobohizan or female priestesses presiding over the rituals. Like the Gawai Dayak, the Pesta Kaamatan is celebrated in honour of the rice spirits to thank them for their blessings. The feasting, drinking and dancing are similar as well, but one unique feature that may be found only in Sabah is the buffalo races. During the festival, visitors will be enthralled by the sight of the beautiful maidens in their traditional costumes bedecked with beads and bangles while the men adorn flamboyant feathers and animal skins. Traditional dances such as the sumazau are performed to the musical accompaniment of gongs, drums and flutes, and the party will go on until the wee hours of the morning.

To all my relatives and friends celebrating the Gawai Festival, “SELAMAT HARI GAWAI DAYAK…Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai, Chelap Lindap Lantang Senang Nguan Menua!” Translation, thanks to Chrisanakapai: Happy Gawai Dayak Day. Long life, health and comfort, no problems, no hardship and a prosperous life. And to those celebrating the Kaamatan Festival, “Kotobian om kounsikaan do tadau tagazo do kaamatan. Bah Aramai ti!” According to my blogger-friend in Kota Kinabalu, Melbie, this basically means: Wishing you a Happy Harvest Festival. Let’s party!!!

Keep it a secret…

Louis J and I went to the Secret Recipe outlet here in Sibu the other afternoon and it was really crowded. Luckily, we were able to find a table but unfortunately, it was not properly cleaned…

Secret Recipe, Sibu 1

There were water rings on it and also some crumbs, probably from the pastry of their Chicken Cornish. When people have to pay those prices, they would certainly expect something a lot more than this. I think we can get much better service at the much cheaper local kopitiams round the corner, if you ask me!

Thankfully, the service was quick…and when the waitress came with the menus, she also brought along something to wipe the table clean.

Still, somehow or other, there seemed to be a lot of flies around…

Secret Recipe, Sibu 2

Good grief! Boston at the back was quite open…and so were all the coffee shops in town and yet we do not get to see so many flies. Don’t tell me they brought them over from the LCCT in Sepang!

Another thing I noticed was that there were so many ladies – the guys were simply outnumbered…and I saw this mother at the next table eating her bowl of whatever so very slowly, taking her sweet time, while the poor hubby was cradling their sleeping baby son and walking all over the place while his Irish lamb shank was getting cold and the flies were having a ball all over it. For goodness sake, woman…can’t you eat faster? Don’t you ever consider your husband or for that matter, anybody else at all? Tsk! Tsk!!!

Anyway, to get back to our table, I had the shepherd pie…

Secret Recipe's shepherd pie 1

…which was a disappointment. The mashed potatoes were quite tasteless…and the pastry base was hard and equally bland. The filling was just so-so, nothing to get excited about either…

Secret Recipe's shepherd pie 2

…and for a long time after I had finished it, the only taste that stayed lingering in my mouth was that of the onions in the salad by the side.

Louis J had the Irish lamb shank…

Secret Recipe's Irish lamb shank

…which he liked and finished it all though he hardly touched the bun, I wouldn’t know why. Maybe he just isn’t into bread…like me. I had that same thing in the outlet at Central Square in Sungai Petani, Kedah in 2007 (I remember positively it was called Irish stew there!) and I thought it was really good. I have not had it since as most of the time, I would go for the cakes.

Hey! Come to think of it, this time around, I did not have the cakes. Hmmm…looks like I have to go back there again soon. Anybody wants to tag along? LOL!!!

You made me stronger…

Have you ever got up in the morning feeling tired, lethargic…and even your mug of strong, black coffee could do nothing to make things any better? Boy, have I got the answer for you…

Just boil some seng-see (those more affordable, very fine ginseng “hairs”) and some wolfberries in water…

STP's herbal instant chicken noodles 1

I added two slices of dong quai as well for additional flavour since there was some in the fridge even though I heard somewhere that you should not combine the two – one is male and the other is female, or something like that.

Then, I added instant noodles – chicken flavour and cooked that the usual way, adding a free-range egg to it…

STP's herbal instant chicken noodles 2

I assure you that it tastes great…and after eating that, you will feel very energetic. For one thing, because I usually sweat a lot, one bowl of it and my perspiration would start gushing out like a mountain stream which I suppose is good as sweat helps remove the toxins from our bodies.

STP's herbal instant chicken noodles 3

I cooked it before for my friend, Jimmy in Bintulu, when he stayed at my house…and he loved it so much that ever since then, according to him, he has been cooking it that way for himself for breakfast and sometimes even for lunch or dinner.

I wonder if it makes him strong like a lion? Ehem…ehem!!! Hehehehehehe!!!!


Sometimes, I really wonder what is there for me to eat and more often than not, I would not want to eat the same old stuff every day. That is one good thing about the Bandong stall that I frequent very often in the morning. It offers an array of choices as it sells a variety of cakes, local kuihs and other delights and the best part is that very frequently, they will have something different for a change.

They have what is called soto ayam which I tried once but did not think it was that great. It was just nasi empit (pressed rice) topped generously with a lot of chopped spring onions and fried onions and they gave chicken soup to go with it. The first time I had something similar to soto was in 1973 at the Lontong House along one of those smaller roads branching out from Orchard Road in Singapore….and I remember they had the rice cut into cubes (somewhat similar to ketupat) served in something like sayur lodeh or sayur masak lemak (vegetables cooked in santan/coconut milk). I think I would prefer that a lot more. There was another stall in the Bandong vicinity selling lontong but theirs was not really anything to shout about and anyway, it is no longer in business.

However, the other day, at my regular stall, they came out with something different – the nasi empit serunding

Soto serunding

…where they gave the usual nasi empit cut into cubes together with some serunding (very tasty spicy shredded beef/ floss)…


…plus a generous serving of satay sauce…

Satay sauce & nasi empit

I mixed them all together and ate. It was really very nice…and I would not mind having that again. The best part was that it only cost RM2.50! Real cheap…

Soto serunding 2

…and yesterday morning when I dropped by there again, they had nasi empit with chicken rendang plus satay sauce. Also very nice! Yum!!!

Don’t just take my word for it. Just drop by the place and have a look – I bet you will surely be spoilt for choices…

I usually go at around 8.30 a.m. and on some days, some of the things may be completely sold out, so perhaps one should go earlier to avoid disappointment, say around 6.00 to 8.00 a.m.

Sylvia’s mother…

Well, it wasn’t her mother but Sylvia herself who uploaded these photos onto Facebook and tagged me…

Sylvia's tuna sweet potato porridge
*Sylvia’s photo

…and she said, “…thanks for sharing your recipe with your readers.” That, of course, was the tuna sweet potato porridge that I had featured in a post recently. She also mentioned that it tasted nice.

I wonder who else have tried out the stuff I have posted in my blog. I know Stella made some popiah following the steps I showed in this post and this one too

STP's popiah
*recycled pic

…and sometime ago, Pollie made some sambal timun the way my mum used to do it…

STP's sambal timun
*recycled pic

…and she mentioned that she brought it along to a pot luck party and everyone loved it.

Then, there was Chrisanakapai as well who tried out my steamed pork with cincaluk dish…and she declared in her own words, “STP, very sedap lah. Licin habis kena sapu la this lauk…”

Chrisanakapai's steamed cincaluk pork
*Chrisanakapai’s photo

So, has anybody tried cooking anything else that you’ve seen in my blog? Nice or not?…Come, let’s share with everybody…

To sir, with love…

In conjunction with Teachers’ Day, the teachers at the centre where I am presently attached to, were invited to dinner at this restaurant…

Ming Mei Shi Restaurant

What I heard was that one of the chefs at the Blue Splendour Restaurant, one of my favourites in town, left and started this new one beside the small roundabout in the Fortune Commercial Centre (behind Rejang Medical Centre).

Well, we were given a cake each…

Teachers' Day cake

…and the dinner started off with this more-than-Four Seasons…

More-than-Four Seasons

I think there were about 10 different selections in that dish, all of which were pretty good.

Then, the fish was served…

Sweet & sour fish

I think Kongkay had the same thing when he was there. That certainly was an ugly-looking fish but it tasted real good. I loved it!

Next came the claypot seafood…

Claypot seafood

…with sea cucumber, prawns, fish slices, yam, bamboo shoots – very nice indeed. I guess this was the replacement for the not-to-be-named soup considering that there wasn’t any that night.

The chicken with Thai sauce was good too…

Thai sauce chicken

…and so was the ang chao duck as well…

Ang chao duck

…though I would very much prefer my duck to be roasted or braised in soy sauce and five-spice powder. The one stuffed with glutinous rice and Shitake mushroom would tickle my fancy more too as I’m not really a fan of ang chao, not when my missus would cook ang chao pork or ang chao chicken every opportunity she gets – and truth be told, comparatively, she does it better!

Now, this has got to be my favourite of the night – braised pork belly…

Braised pork belly

…which they cut into bite-size pieces to be eaten with man tao (steamed buns)…

Braised pork belly with mantao

It was really out of this world and no prize for guessing which dish I would order first if ever I would drop by at this restaurant again. LOL!!!

I gave the black pepper beef a miss…

Black pepper beef

…as I’m not a fan of black pepper sauce and I do not like green peppers either – just can’t stand the “green” smell.

For one thing, I could not understand why they served all the heavy dishes first and by the time, the ladies’ fingers…

Ladies' fingers

…and the fried midin came out…

Fried midin

…nobody could get anything anymore. Everybody was simply too full by then. And the fruits came last – I did not bother to take a photo of that, of course.

All in all, it was a nice dinner but it was not cheap though – RM350 a table! I think I would rather settle for fewer dishes for a lower price as there were simply too many dishes for 10 people at each table to manage.

Now, let’s see who will be coming to town soon! I need an excuse to go back there again for that braised pork belly dish… Drool!!!


Well, it is no fantasy, I assure you…but in actual fact, a reality that I have managed to find a place in town that sells the best char kway teow…right here in Sibu at Kopitiam Fantasy…

Kopitiam Fantasy, Sibu

It is located in the vicinity of the Fortune Commercial Centre behind the Rejang Medical Centre where you can find a whole lot of eateries such as the Mitsu Tea House, Sushi Tie, Uncle Dom, Enjoy Cafe, Loke Ming Yuen, Sing Long Cafe and so on. The Blue Reef used to be there but it has since closed down and now makes up part of this coffee shop.

Actually, I saw Kongkay’s post on the pan-mee that he had there and decided to drop by to give it a try. Lo and behold, the “Ghim Eng” he mentioned in the post is somebody that I know – going all the way back to the 60s when I was a teenager and she was working in the ticketing office at the Cathay Cinema. She’s actually from the Teo family who, according to a commenter, Nelson, were among the earliest Hokkien Chinese settlers in Sibu, together with Chew Geok Lin, well before Wong Nai Siong brought the Foochows over from China. I only knew her and her elder brother, my father’s friend, whom we fondly called Lakia (Translation: Dayak) and at the time, I did know that the ladies in the family were renowned for the best nyonya kuihs (cakes) in town.

Anyway, to go back to the place, the kopi-o-peng kau (strong iced black coffee – RM1.30) there was superb, anytime better than Boston‘s…and may even rival my all-time favourite at Ruby’s.

Kopitiam Fantasy kopi-o-peng kau

I did not see Ghim Eng selling any pan-mee and but anyhow, I decided to give her char kway teow a try. It was served on waxed paper in a basket with disposable cutlery…

Kopitiam Fantasy char kway teow

…and what my missus ordered came first. She wanted the char kway teow with sambal and extra chilli (RM3.40)…

Kopitiam Fantasy char kway teow with sambal

…and it was a sheer case of love at first bite. She declared delightfully that it was even nicer than the char kway teow she had in Penang!

I ordered the normal version (RM3.00)…

Kopitiam Fantasy char kway teow 1

…and I must say that it was really very good, a whole lot better than the self-proclaimed Penang char kway teow that I had in Kuching

Kopitiam Fantasy char kway teow 2

…and can rival any that I have had in Penang or elsewhere in the peninsula. As a matter of fact, it was so good that I would not mind going back there to eat that again…and again.

Take my word for it! Go ahead and give it a try! I am sure you will not be disappointed!


I am pretty sure that a substantial number of you out there do not know what this is. Well, it is called umai

Umai 1

Now, umai is a special Melanau delicacy and for the initiated, the Melanaus are the dominant race around the lower reaches and the delta region of the Rejang River. It is made from raw fish – cut into thin strips and mixed with sliced onions and chillies and lots of calamansi lime juice.

Umai 2

Of course, for it to be nice, the fish must be fresh and the quality of the fish plays a part too. Some will say that certain fish would be best for making umai but I am not really that fussy – as long as it tastes nice and there are no bones. This one that I bought from my regular Bandong food stall is made with ikan yu or shark and all that only cost RM5.00.

I also bought this bowl of asam sotong (cuttlefish/squid with tamarind) for RM5.00…

Asam sotong 1

It was really delicious and the gravy was great with rice.

With all these nice stuff so easily available and so affordable too, is it any wonder at all that I do not really feel like cooking these days?

I can’t help myself…

I couldn’t help myself but when I saw Cleffairy’s post on the corn fritters that she made, I went out and bought myself some cucur sambal

Cucur sambal 1

…which were very nice (4 for RM1.00) but the sambal inside was kind of nutty – something that tasted like satay gravy. I think I would prefer something like the sambal that we usually get with our nasi lemak

Cucur sambal 2

It did not help either that Gerrie posted some photos of the sambal that she made on Facebook…

Gerrie's sambal tumis

…and got me drooling away, so I just had to drop by my regular Malay food stall in Bandong to see what they had. I thought perhaps I could get some sambal petai but  they did not have any. I did manage, however, to buy some sambal timun

Sambal timun 1

…which was really good and for RM2.00, I would think that was a steal. Furthermore, at least I did not need to go through the trouble of making my own sambal udang kering (dried prawns) to go with some cucumber.

Sambal timun 2

Now, I’ve yet to see Stella’s photos of her lor mee – she said the other day that she would be cooking some…after drooling over the photos of the pork rib noodles that I had featured in an earlier post. I guess she could not help herself either. LOL!!!

Please come to Boston…

Yesterday afternoon, Kongkay and Willchua called me and asked me to go out for tea…and I told them to please come to Boston…which is a new place that has just opened for business recently, located at the back portion of the shops behind Pahlawan Cafe and Secret Recipe. somewhere near Baba & Siam…and if I’m not mistaken, it is another one of those West Malaysian franchises.

There are two sections face to face – the main one at the end of one block…

Boston 1

…and another section on the other side at the end of the next block…

Boston 2

They have these mahjong tiles on their table tops…

Boston table top

…which I thought wasn’t anything to shout about. I would very much prefer the coffee beans below the glass on the tables at Italian Coffee.

It turned out to be something along the same lines as Pappa Rich or Old Town…but I heard that the coffee was great and it was!

Boston kopi-o-peng

I wish I could say the same about the food though. I had the stir-fry seafood flat noodles…

Boston stir fried seafood flat noodles 1

…which was all right…

Boston stir fried seafood flat noodles 2

…but I think the crispy seafood tomato kway teow at the Garden Hotel cafe is a cut above and probably a bit less pricey too and I do feel that even the much cheaper one at Red Carrot is better.

The two shared the spicy seafood bun…

Boston spicy seafood bun

…which, likewise, was o.k. too…

Boston spicy seafood bun

…but for that kind of money, I think there are a world of other things that I would prefer to go for instead.

All in all, it would be a nice place to meet friends to idle the time away, sitting around and chatting, this much I think I can safely say. Period.

Thanks, Kongkay, for the invitation and the treat.