Stop in the name of love…

When Melissa and I were in Kuching, a cousin of mine and my aunt (the mum) came to pick us up at the hotel to go and visit an uncle of mine – the daughter, my cousin, gave me those pork ribs that day when we arrived in town. On the way, we stopped by this place…

Nyonya 1

…located at the food court in a popular shopping mall in the state capital.

Nyonya 2

I’ve been here before when it first opened to buy some of their kuih bangkit

Bangkit

…to take home for Chinese New Year. This time around, my aunt bought some for me to take home to Sibu and give to my mum.

Nyonya 3

She said that she had tried some of the food here…

Nyonya 4

…and found that they were very much to her liking.

I’ve always been a lover of nyonya kuihs but unfortunately, we can’t get any nice ones in Sibu so we bought some of the kuihs to take to my uncle’s house including these serimukas…

Serimuka

…or what some people call kuih salad or tinggi salad for tea. Of course they were nicer than any that I can find in Sibu but I think there are better ones available elsewhere in Kuching (if those are still around) and needless to say, they paled in comparison with the homemade ones than another cousin’s friend made for her/us while my daughter and I were in town.

I would say the same about their ang koo kueh too…

Ang koo

…and it certainly looked like they would need a lot more practice in making their chai kuih…

Chai kueh

…which looked kind of deflated, don’t you think?

We did not buy any of the latter though so I would not know if they were any good but we did buy a few pieces of their “bee pao bee” (translation: rice wrapping rice). I’ve never had those before so my cousin insisted on buying to let me try and they were indeed really very good. I used to see those around but I never bothered to buy as they did not look like they would be any good but when I ate one the other day, I must say that it tasted great and I liked it a lot. Unfortunately, I did not take a photograph of it – I must remember to do that the next time I see it but in the meantime, you can have a glimpse of it if you click the link here – they call it rice kuih.

After we had got all that we wanted, off we went to my uncle’s house and later that evening, after a brief rest at the hotel, we went out for  dinner here…with more cousins of mine and a little niece. Yes, yes, we are one big happy family, indeed!!!

Fattie bum bum…

There was a song that was quite popular over the airwaves some time ago and the lyrics go like this: “Hey, fattie bum bum…sweet sugar dumpling!

Well, there is a fattie all right – a very fat young girl selling dumplings, not sugar dumplings but meat dumplings or what we call bak chang. She used to sell them by the pavement but now she has moved her stall…

Bak chang stall

…inside the coffee shop next to this one in Kuching.

Well, while Melissa was busy with her own thing that morning, I did go out to look around the shops in the vicinity and I ended up buying one of each of her dumplings to try…and that was why I was so full when I met up with Melissa around lunchtime later that day.

This is the meat and shitake mushroom dumpling (RM3.00)…

Meat & shitake 1

…which was just so-so – nothing to shout about…

Meat & shitake 2

…and I believe the last time I was there, I did buy one or two from her to try and was not impressed. Well, I must say that my opinion has not changed since.

However, this time around, I also bought one of her sambal chicken chang (RM3.50)…

Sambal chicken

…and I loved it very much – spicy and tasted really great.

But the one that I loved best was the or nee (yam paste) bak chang (RM3.50)…

Or nee bak

There was so much or nee inside and the sweetness blended so well with the salty minced meat and pulut (glutinous rice) to make the overall taste absolutely awesome. I made up my mind right away that I would go back to the stall the next day to buy a whole lot to take home. These are so much nicer than the ones that I bought in Malacca (RM4.50) and are cheaper too.

Unfortunately, when I went back to the stall the next morning, she only had 3 of the or nee bak chang left so I bought all three and all nine of the sambal chicken ones that she had. She had a lot of the meat and shitake mushroom ones but I did not want those and neither did I want the ones with salted egg – she did not have those the day before.

I saw these the day before though…

Sambal panggang 1

…and at first, I thought she was selling otak-otak. She told me it was sambal panggang and I was not in the least interested until somebody commented on my status on Facebook that hers are the best in town. That was why I ended up buying a few home…

Sambal panggang

They were very nice but probably it was because of the pandan leaves used in wrapping them, they tasted more like chang than panggang to me. It was fine by  me though as what was most important would be the fact that they tasted pretty good.

One thing’s for sure, should I happen to be hopping over to Kuching again, chances are I would be dropping by her stall again to cart some more of her lovely dumplings home. Yum! Yum! Fattie bum bum!

I alone…

On our first day in Kuching, my cousin came early in the morning to pick up Melissa and drop her off at another hotel in the vicinity where she had to attend some official business so I was left on my own, alone.

Seeing that there was quite a crowd eating there, I decided to walk across the road to this coffee shop nearby…

WLC

…for breakfast.

I was here many many years ago when Melissa was small and we went over to Kuching on holiday and stayed at the then-called Somerset Gateway and that was when I lost my first mobile phone. I remember getting it for free when I opened an account with a local bank on condition that I used it for two years. That morning, we came here for breakfast and after we had left the place, I discovered that it had gone missing – I did not know whether I had lost it here…or at the TOTO shop a few doors away…or whether I had left it in the hotel room.

Well, things happened and I had no choice but to report the loss…and as soon as I got back to Sibu, I went to the phone service provider to ask if I could get a new phone and continue using the same number and account. A lady there said that I could just terminate the line and get a new number anytime when I had purchased a new phone and that was exactly what I did!

The next day at work, I told my colleagues and they told me that I should not have done that – so I went back to the office to confirm that it was all right, This time around, it was another officer and she said that I should not have done that as the moment the account was terminated, I would be charged by the bank for the phone. The lady the previous day was there but she kept very quiet and refused to look in my direction. When the bank statement came the following month, there it was – I was charged RM2,200 for a phone that I had used faithfully for almost two years. Thankfully, this time around, nothing of the sort happened.

I ordered the kolo mee (RM3.00) from this stall…

WLC kolo mee stall

…as it seemed very popular. Everybody else was having that…and besides, there was this newspaper feature on it displayed at the stall so I thought it would be really nice.

Well, it was, at best, just all right – definitely not the best in town…

WLC kolo mee 1

As you can see, it is different from the kampua noodles in Sibu – they use what is more like real char siew and they add minced meat and vegetables as well PLUS the taste is very much different…

WLC kolo mee 2

They also give pickled sliced chili in vinegar…

Pickled sliced chili

…instead of the chili sauce you would get with your kampua mee.

The good ones can be very very nice but this, unfortunately, is not one of them. That is why I always say that when you visit a place, you need to know the people there who can take you to enjoy the best in town and nothing less…or you will end up eating some disappointing stuff here and there and leave town with the impression that the food there isn’t all that nice after all.

I also had the popiah (RM2.50)…

WLC popiah 1

…from a stall further inside. This too was not all that great either…

WLC popiah 2

…but it was all right just that I know there are a few places in town selling really good popiah and in fact, I find the one here in Sibu much nicer in comparison.

I was not alone too long as at around past noon, Melissa called to let me know that she was done and would like to come back to the hotel where we were staying…so I gave her the directions to walk a short distance from the hotel where she was to the Hills Shopping Centre at the Pullman and I would walk over to meet her there.

She had some fried mihun and chicken wings for their tea break so she was not really hungry and I had some more things to eat other than what I had for breakfast above and I was feeling quite full as well at that point in time. Nevertheless, we dropped by here…

OT 1

…to have something light to eat.

I must say that I love the old-time kopitiam furniture here…

OT 2

Melissa had her favourite chicken hor fun (RM7.90)…

OT chicken hor fun

…but she could barely finish half of it. I guess she was also feeling kind of tired after a long morning of whatever official business that they had in store.

I ordered the curry puffs (RM4.90)…

OT curry puffs 1

…and goodness gracious me!!! At that price, they should at least make sure that they looked presentable…and not like somebody had nibbled away the edges. Tsk! Tsk!

Tastewise, it was pretty good – spicy, all potatoes (I could hardly taste any meat if there was any) and they had an egg inside…

OT curry puffs 2

…but I only managed to eat one as I was way too full as well.

After that, we headed back to our hotel and had a brief rest before we were whisked off somewhere else again when my cousin came to pick us up at 2.00 p.m. that afternoon.

Ma Baker…

That night in Kuching, after our dinner with my cousin and my aunt at this restaurant, they took us to another cousin’s house…

GL1

This cousin is very much into baking – big time…

GL2

– baking bread, that is…and artisan bread at that, no less!

An artisan baker needs to have the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand-crafted loaf of bread. They understand the science behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients and know how to provide the best environment for the bread to develop…

GL3

That is the beauty of artisan baking. It is an art…and on top of that, a special kind of love. Otherwise, one might just as well go and grab one of those bread makers from the stores and let it do everything.

That night, she was not free to go out for dinner as she had some friends’ orders that she had committed herself to earlier so she had to stay in and bake…

GL4

Now! Now! Hands off, Yoong! Step back! Step aside! Sorry, this is NOT for your SM fetish indulgences, I’m afraid…

GL5

This is actually called a peel, a baker’s peel…for loading and moving the buns in the oven…

GL6

…like how they handle pizzas. Muahahahahaha!!!!!

Anyway, back to the bread, an artisan baker must know how to combine their materials to build something strong and at the same time, delicate or elegant. Combining the raw materials in different ways will create various shapes, textures or colours. When so much thought and creativity went into it, needless to say, the finished product is something to be proud of – like a mother upon the delivery of her new-born baby.

These were her sourdough bread loaves…

GL8

…made with all natural ingredients, no commercial yeast and no dough conditioners, softeners or preservatives, and raised with her locally-cultured levain (starter) that she has named and copyrighted as BorneanSourDo’h©, fermented and proofed over 2½ days. She makes two types – the light wholemeal-atta and light rye in two shapes – oblong or round.

She had also made these ciabatta bread that night…

GL9

…so we were able to try some of it. They enjoyed eating it dipped in balsamic vinegar but not me – I’d rather have it with a generously-thick spread of rich, creamy butter…

GL10

…and if you stack layers of ham and bacon on it and throw in an egg and a couple of sausages, I’d be your slave for life. Hehehehehehehe!!!!

I loved her hot-crossed buns…

GL7

…even though she forgot to cross them. It is the tradition in the west to eat these for Easter and if I remember correctly, she said that they took her three days to make – including all the time needed to get the dough ready and what not.

Thanks, Gerrie, for the buns and for allowing us to sample the rest of your labour of love. Maybe on my next trip, we can drop by one morning for a BIG English breakfast? I’ll bring the coffee – Mui Hock’s, no less! Wink! Wink! Muahahahaha!!!

Express yourself…

My daughter had to go to Kuching for some official business so I went with her and we stayed at this hotel

360Xpress 1

– the sister hotel of the one where I stayed here and here.

It is located on the 1st floor of this building, the Wisma Phoenix along Jalan Song Thian Cheok…

360Xpress 2

…but the entrance is at the back…

360Xpress 3

…which I would think is a good idea as the main road is very busy and it would be difficult or inconvenient to drop off or pick up guests staying in the hotel.

Right in front is the Pullman…

Pullman

…and to the right is the Ariva Gateway, formerly known as the Somerset Gateway where I stayed once a long long time ago…

Ariva

This is the reception counter…

360Xpress 4

…and mind you, this is, in fact, an award winning hotel, courtesy of tripadvisor…

360Xpress 5

The lobby is very spacious unlike the one at the sister hotel, with one big section here…

360Xpress 6

…and another section on the other side…

360Xpress 7

There are also computers available for guests to go online…

360Xpress 8

…and that was were I was able to drop by and reply to comments in my blog over those past few days.

The standard rooms are cheap ranging from RM49.99 only upwards and you get everything unlike at the one that is affiliated to that cheap airline where you pay for just the room and every little thing that you need or want comes at a price. However, I requested for a big room – the deluxe family with two double beds…

360Xpress 9

…at RM133 per night and I would say that I was kind of disappointed when I checked in. The room was small…

360Xpress 10

…and there was no closet for our clothes…

360Xpress 11

…and there was no complimentary tea and coffee, just water…

360Xpress 12

Other than that, the rooms have no windows so if you happen to be claustrophobic, you can switch on the tv so that you will be able to see the road outside…

360Xpress 13

…and one more thing! You do not get breakfast with the room either…unlike at the sister hotel at RM135.00 a night (government rate), just two ringgit more and the rooms there are much bigger and a whole lot nicer too. This one does not give any special discount privileges on the rooms and the only thing in favour of it is the location and the cheap prices if you are staying in the standard rooms (Don’t quote me on this, but I hear they are very small!).

There is a convenience store two doors away…

360Xpress 14

…and at RM5.99 per head, one can take the shuttle to the airport…

360Xpress 15

In fact, when making your reservations, you can also request for the transport to pick you up upon arrival.

papakucing would be delighted to hear that even though there is only one storey and all the rooms are on Level 1, there is a lift…but you would need the room keycard to activate it never mind if you are going up or down…and they would only issue one card per room which can be quite a nuisance really as it being a special card, one cannot use any other card to slip into the slot to turn on the electricity in the room. At the sister hotel, they will issue you a 2nd card key but you have to pay a deposit which they will refund to you when you return the card as you check out of the hotel.

Well, this time around, it was good for us as Melissa had to go for something at the Hilton which is pretty close by but all things considered, I do not think I would want to stay here again the next time I go to Kuching. After all, I would get a much better deal at its sister hotel so I might as well go and stay there despite its slightly out-of-the-way location.

Dear John…

My very dear friend, Vivien, met us, Melissa and I, upon arrival in Kuching and took us to the hotel where we checked in and dumped our bags in the room before dropping by here…

JP

…for tea. Actually, it is located in the same building as the hotel and a cousin of mine was already there, waiting at the lobby for us so that she could join us as well.

I don’t know who this group of people are but it seems that they have given their thumbs up to the place…

LIKE

Hmmm…the food should be pretty good then…hopefully!!!

Inside, this notice caught my interest…

Hygiene

I don’t know if that is really necessary though – I mean I always see people putting their hands in plastic bags or gloves before handling food even at roadside stalls but then again, we’ll never know.

At the counter, I could not decide what to have. I thought of ordering their Portuguese egg tarts to try but they looked quite sunken and miserable…

JP counter

In the end, Vivien had the lamb pie (RM7.50)…

Lamb pie

…while my daughter had the beef & cheese (RM4.80).

I wanted the beef & steak but they were out of those so in the end, I settled for the smoked chicken (RM4.80)…

JP pie 1

The filling of all our pies were very nicely done…

JP pie 2

– tasted just like those meat pies overseas but even with those abroad, I am never a fan of puff pastry…especially when it is heated up using a microwave oven. I wouldn’t mind it so much if it had been a conventional oven in which case, the layers of the puff pastry would turn nice and flaky and one would be able to smell the rich butter fragrance in the case of good puff pastry but with a microwave oven, you will get nothing of the sort – other than a hot pie, the texture of which will turn horrible once it has cooled down. ..and as far as pies are concerned, I would go for shortcrust pastry anytime.

My cousin had the chicken quiche…

Quiche

…which did not look very appealing but she said it was nice.

Incidentally, she did not come empty-handed, not at all – she had brought along these yummy treats from this place for me…

Cake & tarts

…and while we were there, another cousin dropped by and she gave me this…

Pork ribs

These juicy smoked barbecued pork ribs are from here…

Howdy

It is featured in the travel magazine – Borneo Talk, it seems.

Good grief!!! Imagine after eating all that, we still had to go out for dinner that night…and we’ve only just arrived in town! Oh me oh my!!!!

Absolutely (2)…

…and now, the moment of truth! The place was awesome but how was the food?

Well, the seafood tom yam was very good…

TY

It had a slight hint of sweetness and was not all sour and spicy like at most other places.

We also had the pandan chicken…

PC1

…which looked kind of dry and crusty/hard unlike the nice ones that I would usually go for here

PC2

…but what it lacked in appearance, it certainly made up for it in its taste. It wasn’t dry or hard at all and tasted really good with whatever that had been used to marinate the meat.

The midin kerabu was really good…

MK

…and other than that, we also had the smoked duck kerabu

SDK

If I were to drop by this place again, I would just order one kerabu instead of two as they tasted more or less the same and I did not think the smoked duck one was all that great. If I’m not mistaken, they cut the duck into thin strips and deep-fried them…and with the overpowering sourish taste, I could hardly tell it was duck or anything else for that matter. I would much prefer the mango & smoked duck slices that I had here instead.

I insisted on having the seafood otak-otak

O-o

…and it was absolutely superb! Very, very nice, I would say…except that I did not like how it was served. I saw Chef Wan cooking something like this on TV and he had his in a coconut. Perhaps they can use banana leaf instead…or just transfer it into some kind of a bowl or plate and serve. That aluminium foil certainly spoils it all, I must say.

I did not mind the fact though, that they did not serve the pineapple fried rice…

PFC

…in a pineapple. I saw somebody in some forum complaining about this but I would rather have it served in a bowl than an old, dried and shrivelled pineapple that had been recycled and reused for don’t-know-how-many times, not that it will affect the taste in any way! The fried rice was good, and they certainly were very generous with the meat floss.

It seems that they have a Chinese menu as well and Gerald, the owner, kept insisting that we should try the fish head kway teow

FHKT

…and so we did. It was all right – nice but I don’t think it swept any of us off our feet and I must say that fish head is not something I would want to have when out fine dining in a classy restaurant…if you get what I mean.

A cousin ordered a plate of fried noodles for his one-year-plus daughter but before I was able to snap a photograph of it, the dish went round on the carousel and was gone in a jiffy. I liked it a lot and the general consensus was that it was very good. Luckily, my poor niece was not a big eater and was quite happy to get a spoonful or two of the noodles. There certainly wasn’t much left for her once we were through with it. LOL!!!

That night, one of my cousins passed me these…

SM

She had managed to “persuade” her friend to make this nyonya kuih specially for me – extra lemak (rich with coconut milk/santan) but kurang manis (not so sweet) and it was simply out of this world! We had a bit of that for dessert – I think I had at least four or five pieces…and when I got back to the hotel, I decided to finish the rest – that would save me the trouble of having to bring it all the way home. Muahahahahaha!!!!

AT menu

So, to sum up, I would say the food here was pretty good – it certainly was a delightful dinner but I really could not see what was so tribal about the Thai and Chinese cuisines served here. I did see a short list of some Sarawak dishes including the Melanau umai (raw fish)…and I did read somewhere that they have some very nice Foochow dishes here as well. Foochow? I wonder how they would feel at being classified as tribal. LOL!!! Anyway, I really do feel that perhaps they should think about including some local ethnic delights in their menu…lest the name of the restaurant be construed as being somewhat misleading as far as the food is concerned.

All things  considered, I do look forward to dropping by there again should I happen to hop over to Kuching anytime soon. Anybody keen on joining me?