Hard to find…

My friend, Philip, home from the US right now, said that he had read about kacang ma chicken in my blog a number of times but he had never tried it before. Well, I am not surprised as it is not in the usual prescribed diet for convalescing mothers in confinement here, not among the Foochows especially.

It is a Hakka dish and is a lot more commonly found in Kuching and in fact, it was there the first time I tried it when my landlady’s daughter or somebody gave birth and she let me sample a bit. No, I did not like it at all – it was kind of an acquired taste plus the ones for ladies in confinement would have an excessive amount of ginger and kacang ma leaves (motherwort), no salt nor seasoning added – not meant to be consumed for enjoyment. I cannot remember when or how I got to eat it again and grew to love it a lot but in the 70’s, I was buying them from one of the stalls along Palm Road in Kuching at the t-junction with Rubber Road. Eventually, they were demolished and everybody moved elsewhere – I wouldn’t know if that lady is still in the business or not as I have not seen her since.

Here in Sibu, at one time, there were some friends of mine, sisters, who used to run this takeaway at a medical centre here and their kacang ma was really so very good and I did buy from them a number of times. They’re no longer in that line of business now, unfortunately and more recently, I was delighted to stumble upon this stall here, selling it. That did not last very long either even though the stall carried on as usual selling whatever other stuff they had to offer but recently, I saw that they had closed down the food court/coffee shop already. I did hear also that there is a chap fan (mixed rice) stall above the Rejang Park market that has it on the menu but unfortunately, the dishes vary from day to day, not the same ones all the time, and it is not fixed so I would not know when they have kacang ma chicken.

That was why I took Philip here

Payung decor

…for lunch that day so he could try his first-ever kacang ma chicken (RM16.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe kacang ma chciken

…and yes, he liked it!

I also ordered the Payung Fish  (RM15.00, with rice)…

Payung Fish

ikan keli (catfish), cooked the way my mum would cook it with ginger and soy sauce and whatever else…and when we cooked our own at home we would add brandy too and yes, Philip thought it was great as well.

My missus asked for the Payung green curry chicken (RM16.00, with rice)…

Payung green curry

…and needless to say, it was very well-received by all. Philip said that everything was so good, a head above what we had at that pseudo-authentic Thai restaurant that we went to in Kuching.

I noticed that the nice boss gave us a little bit extra – 4 chunks of chicken instead of the usual 3…and a lot more fish as well. Other than that, he also served us this dish – the century egg salad…

Payung century egg salad

…on the house! He said that it was not on their menu, this Myanmarese-influenced delight – they would make it once in a while for their own consumption, he and his members of the staff. He only remembered after he had served (and I had taken the photograph) that he had neglected to sprinkle the finely-chopped green cili padi on top and he promptly did that before we dived in. Yes, it was very nice…and my missus absolutely enjoyed that extra kick from the cili padi. I do think this deserves a place in their regular menu and I wouldn’t mind ordering it again the next time I drop by.

Philip wanted the jelly pisang (RM8.00)…

Payung jelly pisang

…for nostalgic reasons – every teenager growing up in Sibu in the late 60’s and early 70’s would have had that – THE “drink” to order and enjoy at the time at the Ban Chuan coffee shop, our favourite hang-out in those days. Though what we had then wasn’t entirely the same, the “upgraded” version here is, I would say, just as nice.

I also ordered the durian ice cream (RM8.00)…

Payung durian ice cream

– vanilla with durian cream enclosed inside and of course, that took Philip’s breath away and swept him off his feet especially when the fruit is not in season and he would not be able to enjoy it this time around. The cream was made from fresh durian, frozen for use as and when the need arises so this is available any time of year but of course, that will depend on their stock – once they run out, there would not be anymore till the next durian season. The cream and the vanilla ice cream complement each other so very well, making it  truly a winning combination.

It had been quite a while since I was here last – probably not since Chinese New Year in February, I think, and when my cousins came in May, they came on their own, without me. Tsk! Tsk! Well, there you have it, another conversion – someone who had dropped by to try and loved what he had here. He certainly is not the first and I am sure he will not be the last!