Pounding…

I heard my missus pounding away in the kitchen the other morning but I did not bother to get up and go to have a peek at what she was cooking. Very soon, the whiff of the fragrances started to fill the whole house. “Ummmm…that smells good!” I thought to myself but I still could not make out what she had up her sleeves for lunch that day.

Finally, everything was ready…and there was this – her version of the ayam pongteh but she used pork and it was not stewed in the usual manner…

Leaf-wrapped pork-pongteh 1

She prepared all the ingredients which she mixed with the meat, cut into bite-sized pieces and then, she wrapped it all up, with some stalks of serai (lemon grass) and leek, in banana leaves on the inside and aluminium foil on the outside. Having done all that, she put the whole thing into our good ol’ Tatung pot to bake. I don’t know why she did not use her what-they-call-the HCP pan for this – perhaps it was not big enough but it did not matter really – she could easily have popped everything into the oven instead and turned on the heat to cook it even. What would be the most important was the taste of the end result, I’m sure everyone would agree with me on this.

So, was it any good? Well, I must say that it was very very nice…

Leaf-wrapped pork pongteh 2

Imagine how nice ayam pongteh in itself is and adding the fragrance of the banana leaves to that certainly brought the taste to a whole new level!

So was she pounding the ingredients for that? I don’t know – I did not ask. Hehehehehe!!! Perhaps she was pounding the sambal hay bee (dried prawns) for frying the ladies’ fingers…

Fried ladies' fingers with sambal hay bee

We had that for our vegetable dish that day.

Never mind! Whatever she was pounding, it certainly went a long way in making the lunch that day a most delightful and sumptuous one indeed. Yum! Yum!

What’s in the box…

The poslaju van came by the other day and when I went out to see, the man gave me this…

Urgent

Actually, I was expecting it as my cousin in Kuching had texted me the day before saying that she would be sending me something.

I unsealed the wrapper and took out what was inside. There was a box…

Box

…so the next question would be – what was in the box?

I opened it and inside, I found something cylindrical rolled up in bubble wrap…

Bubble-wrapped

I removed the wrapper and finally, I got to see what my cousin had sent to me – a bottle of mango chutney…

Waitrose mango chutney

– Waitrose, made in the UK, no less. I shared the photo on my wall on Facebook and somebody in England commented, “Wah! From Waitrose!! So posh one lah. Enjoy.” Hmmm…I bet it does not come cheap, definitely not in this part of the world.

This one has “a hint of ginger”…

With a hint of ginger

Hmmmm…0% trace of fat! That’s good news! LOL!!!

I enjoyed the pineapple chutney that I had once at a banana leaf place in Kuching so much so that I asked for more…and more. Unfortunately, we do not have any banana leaf restaurant in Sibu but it so happened that on that very same day, my missus made some her her soft and fluffy pancakes so instead of maple syrup, I had them with the chutney instead…

Pancakes with mango chutney

Hmmm…it was very nice indeed! I love those chunks inside – I guess those must be the mangoes.

But not quite satisfied with that, I went and tapaoed some nasi bryani with chicken curry (RM6.00) from this shop and had that with the chutney…

Chicken bryani with mango chutney

Oooo…that was really good – something along the lines of acar limau (lime pickle) except that it is not as sour.

Thank you so much, Gerrie, so very much obliged indeed. That certainly helped appease my craving for chutney with my bryani. Hey, that rhymes! LOL!!!

Payung mahkota…

Gee! I did not know that this, in fact, is the name of a song, an asli (traditional Malay) song…and that too is the name that the people  at the Payung Cafe have chosen for their new outlet on the ground floor of the Orchid Hotel along Brooke Drive right here in Sibu – the Payung Mahkota.

Payung Mahkota 1

It had its soft opening last week on the 24th of October and I did drop by a couple of days later to check it out.

This place is definitely a lot more spacious than the original – you can choose to sit outside…

Payung Mahkota 2

…or inside, in air-conditioned comfort…

Payung Mahkota 3

…or on a cool day or in the evening, perhaps, some may prefer to dine in the open air, under the payungs (umbrellas)…

Payung Mahkota 4

…beside the fan palm trees…

Payung Mahkota 5

I guess it is still not quite ready and they still have a lot of work to do on it. I was quite disappointed that the decor was quite minimal, to say the least. There is this payung (umbrella) picture on one of the walls…

Payung Mahkota 6

…and these frangipani ones on another…

Payung Mahkota 7

They have this quaint-looking triangular tower of drawers…

Payung Mahkota 8

…and I love the lampshades…

Payung Mahkota 9

…that look like birds’ nests to me. Maybe they can use those dried palm leaves, the ones they have at the old place…and they never failed to attract the attention of people that I brought there to eat, to cover the horrendous-looking metal awning above that really sticks out like a sore thumb. I missed those big water-filled pots with nicely-arranged flowers and also the bowls of fresh flowers on every table.

As it is, I would very much prefer the old place as the exotic decor that they have there gives a certain special feel to the place and contributes to the pleasant ambiance, making it a choice place to go and dine. But then again, this one has not been officially declared open so let’s give them a chance and wait and see if they would do anything to make the place a whole lot nicer than the way it is now.

As for the food, they have the Indonesian guy from the old place here and even when he was at the former location, he did a lot of the cooking there and even tried out some of his own original recipes sometimes…and since he is doing the cooking here, one can be assured that it would be just as nice, if not better.

That day when we dropped by, my missus had the tom yam prawns with rice (RM16.00), extra spicy…

Payung Mahkota tom yam prawns with rice

…and she loved it very much.

I had the tom yam prawn spaghetti (RM16.00)…

Payung Mahkota tom yam prawn spaghetti

…and I would say that it was simply perfect – sour enough, so fragrant with all the serai (lemon grass) and lengkuas (galangal) and very very spicy as we had requested.

I tried the soup that missus had but I think I prefer my concentrated one…

Payung Mahkota tom yam prawn spaghetti

My friend, Huai Bin, had the belimbing prawn version before…and he loved it a lot too then.

For one thing, parking here is a whole lot easier and it is nearer, being in the town centre, and it would be more convenient if you do not have any transport to get around. The menu and the food would be the same, more or less…but if it is the ambiance, the exotic surroundings, the soothing music and the pleasant feel to the place that you want while you dine, then perhaps you should just head on back to the old place…

Never on Sunday…

In the old days, the people in Sibu were among the most hardworking people around. They would be up at the break of dawn and they would stay open all day till late at night. People said that they were among the most stingy as well but look at the huge mansions in the town, the number of their children who studied overseas (and stayed back there) and many have been baffled as to how things are so cheap here and yet they have all that money for all that.

Unfortunately, times have changed, it seems. Every Sunday, after the service in the cathedral here in Sibu, my missus and I would go around town in search of something to eat for lunch and most of the stalls in the coffee shops would have closed for the day…

Closed

I would think that Sunday would be the best day of the week and business would be extra brisk as everyone would want to relax and not sweat it out in the kitchen? They would rather go out and spend quality time together as a family and have lunch somewhere? Maybe they go out a little earlier, later in the morning for brunch so by noon, there would not be anybody left?

We did manage to have something at this place though as there was a stall that was still running that Sunday…

Take it or leave it

…and they only had kueh chap (RM5.50) left…

Kueh chap

It was nice but I remember it was much nicer the last time I had that. Maybe they too would be closing for the day so they just made use of all they had left for the last two bowls…so the soup was not as great as I remember it to be.

They were not very generous with the sambal either…

Sambal

…but the kopi-o-peng (RM1.50) was all right…

Kopi-o-peng

…also not the best that I had had there but it was not too bad.

Looking at the way things are going these days, it certainly looks like Sunday is not a good day to go out in search for things to eat unless you can go earlier in the morning…or you are willing to make do with the few and far between that would stay open the rest of the day.

It will rain…

It did rain…very heavily the morning of the day Ivan was leaving. Nevertheless, I braved the storm and went to the market as I wanted to buy those giant freshwater “tua thow” (big headed) prawns or what we call udang galah in Malay to cook for lunch. That way, Ivan would get to enjoy a lot more before going home. If you were to go and eat it outside, they would probably give you two or three only, cut into halves to give you the illusion that you are being served a lot but in actual fact, you’re not.

This was the simple lunch we had at home that day…

Home-cooked lunch

My missus cooked the prawns with garlic and sesame oil…

Udang galah

This way, one would be able to savour the original  freshness and the sweetness of the prawns without it being drowned out by all the seasoning and garnishing such as soy sauce, serai (lemon grass), kunyit (tumeric) and what not that one would use when cooking them in other ways.

I also got some midin (wild jungle fern) and she fried it with sambal udang kering (dried prawns)…

Midin with udang kering

She also cooked some tofu soup, Foochow-style…

Foochow-style tofu soup

…and I got a bit of our Sarawak masak hitam beef…

Masak hitam beef

…and our local version of the Indian rojak

Kassim-style Indian rojak

…from my regular kampung stalls at Bandung for Ivan to try.

He certainly enjoyed everything a great deal, especially the prawns – in fact, he took a photo of what we had that afternoon and uploaded it onto his wall on Facebook right away.

In keeping with the tradition that when someone gives you something, you will have to give a little something back in return instead of letting him or her go off empty-handed, I went and bought him some kek lapis Sarawak (Sarawak layer cakes) for him to take back to KL. Unfortunately, they were all wrapped in cling film so they would not come across very clearly in the photographs to do them any justice but this is the steamed Horlicks honey cake

Kek lapis Sarawak 1

…that I personally like a lot, and this is the cheddar cheese layer cake…

Kek lapis Sarawak 2

…and they call this one, the serikaya

Kek lapis Sarawak 3

Later that afternoon. we stopped by here again and Ivan had the kampua noodles and the ang tao peng while I just had the latter…and it so happened that an ex-student of mine was there too and he quietly went to the cashier’s counter and paid for us to give me a treat. That certainly was so sweet and thoughtful of him.

Well, after that, all too soon, it was time for Ivan to leave and I sent him to the airport to catch the 7.00 p.m. flight out. I guess I can safely say that he had a great time here – he said that it felt like home and he enjoyed going to all the nice places and he absolutely loved the awesome food a lot. Well, our door is always open, Ivan…and you will always be warmly welcomed here – and the same goes to anyone who cares to drop by.

P.S.:
What goes around comes around…and on the very same day, my brother-in-law who just came back from his holiday in K.L. brought me these that my niece sent through him…

More spam

Gosh!!! And I still have my cans of luncheon meat and ham in the pantry! I guess everyone will agree with me that it is indeed true that as one gives, thus will one receive…

Can’t let you go…

Needless to say, I couldn’t let Ivan go, or anyone else who comes to town, for that matter, without taking him here…

Payung Cafe, Sibu by night

…and of course, I ordered for him the best of the best – their uniquely-special otak-otak, the very nice and cheesy mushroom roll, the very exotic sour and spicy belimbing prawns and the Payung rojak.

He wanted to try the Turkish milk shake…

Payung Turkish milk shake

…which we were told was a combination of chocolate, bananas and milk and he loved it very much.

I tried their kacang ma chicken before but was not too impressed but I have read very favourable reviews in other blogs praising it to the skies so that night, I decided to give it a second chance…

Payung kacangma chicken

,..with specific instructions for extra Chinese white wine to be added. I guess that did the trick for it was really very very nice…but I think it would be even better with a bit more of the wine. For one thing, it seemed like they did not add any salt of msg at all to it and one would be able to savour the delightful flavours of the ingredients used in the making of the dish.

The boss served me this bowl of Japanese tomato noodles that he was trying out and was not on the regular menu yet at the time…

Payung Japanese tomato noodles 1

It was quite good, with the nice tomato taste blended with the cheese used in the soup and sprinkled on top. For one thing, it was not rich and creamy so one would not be put off after eating a bit of it…

Payung Japanese tomato noodles 2

Ivan liked it very much but being a meat person, personally, I would very much prefer having some bits ham or bacon in it.

I did ask him for his general opinion on the cafe and he said that THIS is definitely THE place to visit, should anyone happen to drop by this quiet little town for a night or two…

Ivan @ Payung, Sibu

…for the very special dishes/cuisine (that one would not be able to find elsewhere anywhere) plus the very nice and comfortable ambiance and all the enchantingly exotic decor and on top of that, the wonderful and friendly service that one would get while dining here – they are so nice that it really makes one feel at home, he says and so competent and good at their job like they have been working in hotels or in the service industry for a long time…and Ivan rated it a lot higher than the place we went to the previous night which stunned him in a very positive way when we first got there. We got there very early before there was anybody else and he was so impressed by the design and the decor, even the music (Sarawak’s own Zee Avi, no less!!!) but later, he was quite put off by how the diners would talk so loudly in their high-pitched and very shrill voices so much so that it absolutely spoilt it all for what would have been a really very very nice place to dine.

For dessert, I ordered the Mulu ice cream for him…

Payung Mulu ice cream
*recycled pic*

…and that absolutely swept him off his feet. He loved it so much that he was literally craving for more…but unfortunately, he was leaving the very next day so it would have to wait till he comes to town again before he can have another go at it.

I reckon the next time he flies into town, there would be the new Payung Mahkota as well – they have opened another outlet on the ground floor of the Orchid Hotel along Brooke Drive here – its soft opening was two days ago on the 24th instant. I certainly would go and check it out one of these days so do hang around and you’ll surely get to see it right here in my blog sooner and later.

Cover you in kisses…

Well, actually, it was not covered in kisses but with salt…

CY salt-baked fish 1

This was the main thing that I wanted to drop by the restaurant for and what we had for lunch that day.

I first had that when I was in KL…and when I blogged about it, people told me that we could get that same thing here at this particular restaurant. I think it is also available elsewhere now as I have seen the signs displayed at some place, just that I cannot remember exactly where.

It took quite a long time to be ready though so in the meantime, we enjoyed the rest of the dishes that we had ordered. Their golden egg tofu was very nice…

Golden egg tofu 1

They use the tofu that they make themselves and it is golden in colour…

Golden egg tofu 2

…owing to the egg yolk content but without the smell that one would find in Japanese tofu and everyone liked the way it was prepared – deep fried with some golden egg sauce.

Of course, when I have visitors to the town from elsewhere, it is a must to order our local favourites – the midin (wild jungle fern) fried in belacan (dried fermented prawn paste)…

Midin belacan

…and the cangkuk manis fried with garlic and egg…

Cangkuk manis with egg

Both dishes were well done and to everyone’s liking.

And finally, the fish was served. The waiter removed the hard layer of salt and the skin…

Salt-baked fish 2

…and this was what we got…

Salt-baked fish 3

I noticed that they only stuffed it with serai (lemon grass) and cloves of garlic…

Salt-baked fish 4

…not like what I had in KL.

But truth be told, when we tried it, it simply swept everyone off their feet. The fish was so sweet, so soft and smooth and so fragrantly tasty. Hmmm…if I were to give 70-75% to the one in KL, I would give this one 100% – it was that nice, honestly. They probably got the fish from Batang Ai (from those huge lakes where the first hydro-electricity project in the state is), alive. I asked the man at the cashier’s counter and he confirmed that. He said that it had to be alive or it would not be so nice. Gosh!!! I loved it so much that I really can’t wait to go back there and eat that again. Anybody coming to town soon? Wink! Wink!

The total for the food came up to RM56 but the man said that RM30 went to the fish. I understand from mama kucing that according to the restaurant’s website, the one in KL cost around RM26, depending on the size and also the seasonal prices…but considering how good the one I had here was, I certainly would not mind forking out the extra RM4.00.

After that sumptuous lunch, we stopped by this place for “dessert”. I had the ang tao peng (red bean ice) while my missus had the cendol. Ivan saw this on the menu and could not resist ordering in – their coconut cendol (RM4.50)

Coconut cendol 1
*Bryan Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…which is actually ang tao cendol and bubur cacar combined and served in a young coconut…

Coconut cendol 2
*Bryan Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…so one can feast on the smooth succulent flesh of the young coconut simultaneously. Ivan loved it so much that he quickly took a photograph of it to share on his Facebook page – it was that good…and a few hours later, I saw my friend’s photos of the same on the social media page too! Good grief! It seemed that after they saw our photograph, they made a beeline to the place right away for that. LOL!!! Talk about being influential, eh? By the way, Bryan, thanks for giving me permission to use your photographs in this post, much obliged.

After enjoying that, we went back home to rest and at nightfall, the “marathon” continued… Stay tuned, folks! LOL!!!