Just a passing glance…

I saw this at a shop near my house that day…

Adabi rendang powder 1

This was my mum’s favourite brand when it came to curry powder, those days when she was still cooking. I cast one passing glance at the back and saw the word kerisik (toasted grated coconut)…

Adabi rendang powder

…so without a second thought, I bought two packets, RM1.00 each, as they were not very big, thinking that now I would be able to try cooking rendang without having to go and buy a packet of kerisik and ending up stuck with the rest of it after using just a bit.

I still had one of the three packs of fresh beef…

Fresh beef from Perth
*Archive photo*

…that my Perth friend, who reads my blog regularly, gave me when he came home for Chinese New Year. I marinated the steaks in one with just salt and pepper and some thyme, all pre-sliced, and grilled them in a pan and yes, they were so very nice and tender, really really fresh. I opened another pack and tried cooking beef stew with it after looking at some youtube videos as to how I would be able to get it nice and brown but no, with all that spluttering, I decided to cut that part of the cooking short so the stew was rather pale even though it tasted great. I had one big pack left and despite my resolution not to cook curry and the like with it as all the spices and ingredients would drown out the nice beef taste, I went ahead and used it for my rendang.

When I got home, I looked at the packet again and horror of horrors!!! It was powder, not one of those instant pastes. *Cold sweat!* Then only did I realise my mistake – the kerisik mentioned was one of the items in the recipe, not the ingredients of what was in the packet. What? 10-15 shallots??? Goodness gracious me!!! And such a long list too! No wonder Malaysian/Malay dishes taste so nice – they really go all out, obviously.

Ah well!!! Since I had bought it already, I might as well give it a try. I cut the beef steaks into bite-size pieces and marinated it with the powder…

Beef, marinated

…after which, I put that in the fridge while I got everything else ready.

Of course, I did not use 10-15 shallots, just around 5 or 6…and 3-4 cloves of garlic, a chunk of ginger, one stick of serai (lemon grass) and a few slices of lengkuas (galangal). Two inches of garlic again? Inches? I think there was something wrong with the recipe but no, as always, I did not follow it faithfully and I added some kunyit (turmeric) and chili, no mention of those in the list…

Ingredients for pounding

…and I pounded everything till it was fine enough…

Pounded ingredients

Of course it would be easier with a blender but no, I never use that plus I did not find doing this all that difficult at all. I sure had a lot of training when I was helping my mum in the kitchen everytime she cooked curry – and yes, she would like it a little finer than this.

I heated up a bit of oil to fry the pounded ingredients till golden brown and after that, the sticks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden, bruised at the ends, went in plus the beef, mixing everything together well before I covered the wok to let the meat cook until all the juices had come out, adding a bit of water periodically when it got a little too dry. Two pieces of turmeric (kunyit) leaf, it said in the recipe. That sure is mind-boggling. Do I use the big ones…or the medium or the small? In the end, I picked two medium-sized leaves from what I had growing in the garden (they never get to be all that big, anyway) and sliced them thinly before throwing them into the wok. I did add a sprig of curry leaves as well as I did not have any kafir lime leaves (daun limau purut).

After letting it simmer for a while, I tried a bit of the gravy and boy, it sure was very nice!!! Of course, it had to be nice considering all those ingredients that went into it. However, that was not the end! There were still some ingredients that had not gone in yet. I added a bit of santan (coconut milk), just around half a cup…and the colour changed – I think it looked very much nicer without the santan. I tasted the gravy again and yes, it was nice, just not salty and though I would be fine with it like that, I added a pinch.

The recipe said I had to add asam jawa (tamarind paste) – no, even though I did have some in the fridge, I did not bother…and some gula Melaka (palm sugar). I added some and tasted again – no, I did not think that made it nicer. I sure would leave it out should I be cooking this again. I let it simmer a while longer to get the meat to be more tender before I dished everything out…

Beef rendang 1

…and served.

Now, don’t you think that looked absolutely gorgeous?

Beef rendang 2

Well, it tasted really good too…

Beef rendang 3

…and my girl who is not really into any curry and the like using those instant pastes – she says the taste does not go into the meat – loved it!

I still have another packet of the powder left so I will have to do this again…one more time. Maybe I’ll try chicken next time.

Brothers…

I taught the younger brother English, those years before I retired. He has since graduated from the university and is currently teaching in a school around an hour from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah so no prize for guessing where he spends his weekends. However, every opportunity he has, he will fly home to Sibu to help his mum at the coffee shop…

Friends Kopitian 1

She does all the frying and cooking at the back.

His elder brother is the one who runs the place…

Friends Kopitian

…located right across the road from Sacred Heart Secondary School and he makes and sells the drinks there. I did not teach him when he was in school but I knew him well as he was very good at singing and would perform time and time again at school functions and from what I gathered then, he did that outside too like at singing contests and so on.

I did drop by this shop once a long time ago – I think it was because it was too early and the one that I used to frequent a lot a few doors away was closed. I don’t think I knew then who ran the place but I had the kampua noodles and I thought it was all right, nothing that made it stand out above the rest…and that was what my friend, Annie, home from KL said about the bowl she had that day…

Friends Kopitian kampua mee

She loved the ang chao chicken…

Ang chao chicken

…very much though. That was available as one of the options at this stall in front…

Friends Kopitian front stalls

…if you choose to go for the chap fan (mixed rice). She did say, however, that she would prefer pork or pork belly to be exact. I did try a bit of it and yes, it was very nice – they serve this at many places here but most do not do it well. I find a lot of them rather diluted, not as fragrant and tasty so generally, they’re not as nice.

I was glad to note that they were doing very well – the place was so very crowded and we did have a problem initially trying to get a table or two for so many of us. My ex-student, the older one, is very active on Facebook and he would post photographs of what is available at the coffee shop and I did see the ones of the frothy  kopi-o-peng (iced coffee)…

Friends Kopitian kopi o peng

…that my missus and I had. It was nice but no, it did not sweep me off my first and I felt the same way about the ang tao cendol (plus sian chao)…

Friends Kopitian ang tao sian chao cendol

…that I ordered for my girl – it was very much nicer than the ones here but I prefer the ones here even though that one too would pale in comparison to what I had in Kuching. According to Annie’s brother who was with us that day, the ones with green beans instead of the red would be nicer so I guess I would have to go back there one of these days to try.

Annie said that her mum loved the fried pek koi (rice cakes) here and according to her, they make their own and do not use those imported in packs from China. My girl loves pek koi so she had that…

Friends Kopitian char pek koi

…and the mum as well. They said it was very nice and enjoyed it a lot…but Annie’s mum said that the dry version, not this moist one that the two had, would be nicer. It sure looks like we will have to try that too as well when we go back to this coffee shop.

I had the Foochow fried noodles…

Friends Kopitian Foochow fried mee

…and yes, if you want it done like the ones I had all those years when I was growing up, this would be the place to go to. I sure would want to have that again the next time around but then they were telling me that the fried rice is really good and I should have a go at it. Oh dear!!!

One thing’s for sure, whatever I would decide to have when the time comes, we would be back!

Better place…

This café has been around for a long time now, going way back to 2009, and the food is pretty good but I do not drop by all that often as parking in that area is almost impossible in the daytime and on a few of my previous visits, I was quite put off by the service like on this occasion and this one, for example. It actually surprised me greatly that it, in fact, won the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award in 2011.

However, that morning after we had sent my cousin and her hubby to the airport for their flight to Kuching, we decided to check out the shops in the area around Tunku Abdul Rahman Road, Lane 8B, right before you reach the mega-mall along that same road (on the left if you are coming down from the airport) as I did gather somehow somewhere that they had opened a branch there  and I was right (2.305251, 111.866347)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, branch

I asked the lady and she said that this outlet…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, inside

…was not air-conditioned initially but they closed it down for renovations and had just reopened in January, before Chinese New Year.

They even have a water feature outside…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, water feature

…and I was wondering about its position and direction – probably at the angle, the feng shui is better, I wouldn’t know.

I can’t say that I was all that fascinated by the decor though I did think the birds…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, birds

…were very nice and I would use those very nice watering-can vases…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, watering-can vases

…to plant something that is easy to grow to replace those fake ones.

Thankfully, the service was very good and we got our orders very fast – that sure was a far cry from the not-so-pleasant experiences that I went through at the original place.

I remember they had what they claimed to be the biggest roti canai in the country and yes, they did have that too here in their menu so I ordered one to share. The nice guy said I could take photographs of the process and I did…

Making roti canai 1
Making roti canai 2
Making roti canai 3
Making roti canai 2

Yes, we all were in agreement as to the fact that it was very nice (RM8.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, roti canai - large

…served with the usual dhal dip, curry gravy and sambal ikan bilis.

They had so many lunch sets to choose from but the lady boss, for whatever reason, did not want me to photograph the display of all of them right in from of the shop.

My girl had Set No. 32, the nasi bryani kambing  or the bryani rice, mutton (RM12.00)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe bryani kambing

…and while the rice was very nice and so was the curry, unfortunately, the meat…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, mutton curry

…was rather tough.

I had Set No. 30, the nasi lemak (RM12.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, nasi lemak

…and again, while the rice was very nice, very fragrant and rich with the santan (coconut milk), the chicken was over-fried…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe fried chicken

…till it was dry and hard plus the peanuts had gone all soft, not nice and crusty…and yes, pray tell me – where was the egg? Those very thin strips of yellow in the rice, was that omelette? Frankly, I do think we can get nicer nasi lemak at many other places in town and personally, my favourite would be the one here at slightly less than half the price…with half a hard-boiled egg!

My missus chose Set No. 37, the honey chicken rice set (RM8.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe honey chicken with rice

…and this turned out to be the best of the lot. The chicken was really delicious but there wasn’t any sauce to go with the rice. Thankfully, there was the curry gravy that came with the roti canai.

Iced barley water was RM2.80 a glass and iced water, 50 sen…and the music that day, which I thought was rather loud, was the complete soundtrack from this Bollywood movie – I shall deliberate no further on this.

Well, there are ample parking spaces here and it is free but considering the location, we probably would not be dropping by again all that soon unless we happen to be in the vicinity or are passing by like that morning when we went there.

Sunday…

This is one place that we have not gone to for a while now. Like most every place in the town centre, parking can be such a pain and it does not help one bit that there is a bank a hundred meters away. It would not be so bad that one can’t find a space – you will see all those huge flashy vehicles, double-parked all over, drivers not inside, blocking the way and you cannot even drive through. I wish we had that lorry driver in Penang or the one driving a trailer in Melaka. Some people here sure need to be taught a very good lesson.

A good time to drop by here would be on Sunday mornings…

Ample parking on Sunday mornings

There will be lots of places to park especially if you do not mind parking, say some 30-50 metres away. The spots right in front of the shop would be fully-occupied, of course. If they could drive into the shop to eat, I bet they would!

We went at around 9 something on Sunday morning after the service in the church. I seem to notice that people around here would start coming out at around that time for breakfast or brunch so you should be a little earlier than that if you want to beat the crowd. Usually by around 10, all the coffee shops would be packed to the brim. However, on working days, every Sunday, we would be getting ready for our weekly drive to Selangau to send my girl to her school and dropping by here would be out of the question.

I noticed that day that the tyre shop next door that provides car washing services was not open, for whatever reason – I think they do work on Sundays, usually and if you sit at the tables nearest to the shop, it can be rather noisy sometimes like when they are doing the vacuuming.

I also noticed that they are providing new chopsticks and spoons at the shop…

Chopsticks & spoons

…which is a good thing. The moment you are seated, somebody will bring a mug of boiling hot water and you can pick the ones you want and stick them into the mug to sterilise them a bit before use. So which one would you like – the black ones or those stainless steel ones? Personally, I am not all that fond of the metal ones. For one thing, I am not all that good at using chopsticks and for another, those would be rather difficult to handle. Someone told me long ago that they’re either Japanese or Korean, true or not?

Both my girl and the mum ordered the regular (RM6.00 each) – their combination of a bowl of kampua kosong (no meat) and a bowl of the beef soup. They decided to share the drink – the Tiga Masam (3 sours)…

Ah Sian Tiga Masam

…and my guess is there were asamboi (preserved dried plum), limau nipis and limau kesturi (lime and calamansi lime) in it.

I had my usual kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) and for a change, I asked for the mee pok (flat noodles)…

Ah Sian mee pok

…instead of the regular kampua ones and the beef soup. I loved how thinly they sliced the meat…

Ah Sian beef, thinly sliced

– when it is that thin, it can’t possibly be tough, I think, and would be just right for good ol’ toothless me.

I asked for the special (RM10.00) so mine was a very much bigger bowl, around double the size of the regular and there were tripe and tendons in the soup…

Ah Sian beef soup, special

Nice!

After our delightful breakfast/brunch, we went to the supermarket round the corner and yes, there were lots and lots of parking spaces and I just could not understand why there were all those cars parked along the yellow line by the building right in front of the entrance. Perhaps somebody should open a drive-thru’ supermart specially for the likes of those. Tsk! Tsk!

You got it all…

Well, not really! According to my cousin, they do not have an Indonesian place in Brisbane, Australia and just one Malaysian food outlet called Little Nyonya Kitchen or something or is it Singaporean…and then, there is that kampua noodle place that started off in Perth but she doesn’t think it is all that great – the son and daughter-in-law drop by quite often though, she said. It is AUD9.50 a plate there, AUD8.50 in Melbourne and AUD7.50 in Perth (and the chao chai hung ngang is AUD13.50 a bowl) so even without conversion, it is VERY expensive compared to RM3.00 or less here especially when they make their own noodles, not imported from here or anywhere else.

That was why I thought I made the perfect choice in taking them here for dinner on their second night in Sibu. I had not been here for quite a while myself for no particular reason other than the fact that somehow or other, we just did not drop by.

I ordered the sets to share…

cabeijo lalapan set

– one with the fried chicken (RM9.50)…

cabeijo ayam gurih

…and the other with the deep-fried bawal/duai hitam or black pomfret (RM16.50)…

cabeijo lalapan duai

…and the third one, the ayam bakar (barbecued/grilled chicken), RM12.50, and I stressed in no uncertain terms to the young and handsome waiter that I would not want it overcooked, dry and hard and yes, it was absolutely perfect this time – very nice, just like when we had it the first few times we were here. The skin was burnt though and I had that – it was extra-fragrant with the caramelised marinades on it and I was glad it was just the skin and the rest of the chicken thigh was fine. I’m afraid the photograph turned out blur and I did not take one of the sup tulang or beef bone soup (RM13.50)…

cabeijo sup tulang
*Archive photo*

…that we had either but it was pretty good.

I also ordered the Sarawak Melanau delight, the umai (RM15.00)…

cabeijo umai

…and the kerabu paku or wild jungle fern (RM10.00)…

cabeijo kerabu paku

…instead of the midin as we had that for dinner the night before and I thought they would welcome the change. Hooray!!! They are no longer using those cheap small and thin ikan bilis with the beady eyes that they had before, the ones that they are using for their nasi lemak here – unless they too have switched as well. I would give them a pat on the back for that!

They do charge that 6% GST now – I am not so sure but I think they did not do that on my previous visits but it was all right. Everyone enjoyed everything and our visitors from Down Under were full of praises of the unique and delightful cuisine and they absolutely enjoyed the three sambals, the prominent feature in this place – they would not be able to find anything like this back home.

It sure was lovely having the two of them around – so many things to eat, so many places to go to and so little time. I hope they will come again soon and will stay a little longer next time.

You took me by surprise…

My cousin and her hubby from Brisbane, Australia went on a 12-day cruise from Singapore to Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and back after which they flew to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and then to Miri to visit her brothers and their families…and from there, they took a bus to Sibu.

When they were about to arrive, I went to the bus terminal to wait for them. While I was standing there, a handsome young man walked up to me and said he was a regular reader of my blog and he said he would always refer to it to see where he could get to eat some nice things when in Sibu. I asked him his name and he said Kennedy, from Kuching. Now, that was indeed a surprise but yes, it was nice of him to come up and introduce himself. I bet there are others/many who would just pretend they do not know me.

As soon as the bus arrived and after seeing to some things they had to do around here, I sent my cousin and her hubby to the hotel and she asked me and my family to join them for dinner at 7.00 p.m. and for old times’ sake, she wanted to drop by this restaurant opposite the hotel where they were staying.

We were in luck! Normally, they would only serve their very popular Hainanese chicken rice – my cousin loves this a lot – for lunch but they did have some available so that was what we had – the very nice steamed corn-fed chicken…

Steamed corn-fed chicken

…with the rice.

While waiting for the food, after placing our orders, we were served these…

Starters

I don’t recall ever having the pickled cucumber before and I can’t say it swept me off my feet – I do prefer the braised peanuts a lot more.

My cousin wanted the chess/checker board duck…

Chess or checker-board duck

…and of course, when you’re in Sibu and you’re in this restaurant in particular, you simply must have their Sibu Foochow-style sio bee (meat dumplings)…

Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

For our vegetable dish, we had the fried midin

Fried midin

– their third time having these wild ferns since they arrived in Sarawak and they were determined to enjoy it as many times as they could before leaving the state and country to head for home.

 As for the soup, it had  to be the Sibu Foochow-style tofu soup with those canned oysters…

Tofu soup with canned oysters

…and they sure were very generous with those.

We certainly enjoyed the dinner though it was rather heavy for the five of us. We actually requested for small servings and asked them to cook for three and looking at the amount we got, we’d probably have to reduce that to two next time. But we had a great time talking about this and that and catching up with everybody’s lives and when it was time to leave, my cousin’s hubby went to the counter to settle the bill.

What a pleasant surprise we got when the cashier informed us that everything had been paid. Goodness gracious me!!! It so happened that an ex-student of mine, now a lawyer by profession, was having dinner there as well and he so very kindly and generously picked up the tab for us. Gee!!! Thank you so much, Iggy – I do appreciate the gesture very much but please don’t do it next time – my heart may not be able to take any more surprises like this. LOL!!!

And I really must thank my cousin too for these…

Aussie Tim Tams

…that they brought all the way from Australia and these sweet treats from the cruise…

Cruise chocs and sweets

…plus some stuff from Miri as well. It certainly was great to see the two of them again.

Still there for me…

We were early that day, still too early for lunch so we went to one of the malls in town to loiter around. That was when I got a message from my friend, Annie, from KL who was home for a few days, asking me if I was home. I told her where I was and she said she was on the way to pass me these…

From Annie

– more of the lovely own-made wine-infused Chinese sausages and all the goodies from Marks and Spencer.

The All Butter Viennese in the yellowish orange packs have always been my favourite but somehow or other, for reasons unknown, they have dropped the word Viennese but I guess these would be the same as those that I have had in the past – I have yet to open them though. I did try that box of Viennese Kisses as the expiry date was closer, around the end of the month and yes, they were very nice – exactly the same with the wonderful buttery fragrance but they were very small, each around the size of our 20 sen coin, the old ones – not one of those rather confusing new ones.

Thank you so much, Annie. You really shouldn’t trouble yourself to bring me all the nice things everytime you come home – your mum gets you everything so I really don’t know what to give you in return to reciprocate. Sighhhh!!!!

Back to the mall, we stopped by there as we wanted to go for the nice popiah (spring rolls) here…

Jiali Cafe

…among the shops in the area behind it. I wonder what the name means in Mandarin. If I am not wrong, jia in Foochow means by yourself and li means come so if we put that together, it means come by yourself or come on your own…or it can also mean do it yourself or help yourself (like when one is inviting, at a dinner, someone to eat the food laid out), depending on the context.

The last time I was here was in May last year so I was not sure if the lady was still there and I sure was delighted when I got there and I spotted the stall and I did not hesitate to order a few to share (RM2.50 each)…

Jiali Cafe

However, the lady was not around and the young man, probably the son, did not seem all that generous with the mangkuang/sengkuang (turnip)…

Jiali Cafe popiah, cross-section

…and gave a lot more of the green vegetables instead but it was still very good and I sure would not mind coming back again for more.

I saw a girl eating mee sua and it looked very nice, served in a really big bowl and I thought I would like to have that as well.  However, upon reaching the stall, I noticed that they also had claypot noodles (RM5.50)…

Jiali claypot noodles 1

…and I decided to order that instead to try. It did not look all that great and there were not a lot ingredients in it other than some fish balls and those imitation crab sticks, that I left all behind, and a bit of the curly vegetables. Other than that, I didn’t think they used the regular yee mee – it sure looked like those dried egg noodles…

Jiali claypot noodles 2

…available in packs at the shops and supermarkets here and they lacked that special fragrance and taste and the texture was not there either. It tasted all right though but with all the choices at this particular place, I probably would not be ordering that again.

My missus had the Foochow-style noodles, soup (RM4.00)…

Jiali Cafe Foochow-style noodles, soup

…and it looked and tasted really great just that we would love to have some green vegetables in it.

I saw someone at the next table eating what looked like those Singapore fried Hokkien prawn noodles (RM8.00) from this same stall selling all the fried noodles and stuff and it did smell good! No prize for guessing what I would be having the next time I drop by here! Hehehehehe!!!!

So big…

That night, after Uriah See‘s live performance here in Sibu, on the way back to the car, I spotted these beauties (RM9.90)…

Deep fried squid

…each of them on a stick, displayed standing upright at one of the stalls at the mall…and boy, they were so big! Knowing how my girl loves sotong (squid), I asked her to buy one to try and enjoy for supper. She was reluctant at first probably because it was getting late and she did not want to hold me up and make me wait but I kept persuading her and in the end, she relented.

She just bought one that night and I did try a little and yes, I would say it was very nice and at that price, I think it is not expensive at all. If you order a plate of fried sotong at some Chinese restaurant here, for sure, it would not cost anything less than RM10.00 and if you put all those little pieces together, I am pretty certain you will not get one sotong this big.

When I went to fetch her from her school last Monday, she mentioned that she would like to have that again but we had already driven past and I did not want to turn back amidst the heavy traffic. That was why, when I went to get her again on Friday, I made it a point to stop by and let her go and buy all that she wanted.

To give you an idea how big it was, it was actually around twice the size of my girl’s hand…

L size

…just imagine that! And this was the L size – I wonder how big the XXL (RM13.90) would be.

This used to be a Japanese place selling those boat takoyaki and stuff like that but it looks like they are now going into some franchised Taiwanese street food as well…

Bobo Ikayaki

Frankly, I am not a fan but I have to admit that I did enjoy this very much!

If you spend more than RM30.00…

Over RM30

…you would get this big pack of orange juice…

Free drink

…enough for two, at least, on the house.

I wonder what the PLU in the receipt stands for but that last one, RM4.50, was probably the inoki (mushrooms) that my girl finished off in the car on the way home so I did not get the chance to snap a photograph of those.

The one at the top would be these (RM11.90)…

Squid with rice & cheese 1

…deep-fried squid stuffed with rice and cheese and/or whatever (tasted like curry) with a squiggle of honey mustard on top…

Squid with rice & cheese 2

I thought this one, in comparison, is a little expensive especially when you do not get one whole squid – I wonder what they do with the tentacles…and besides, it was not really to our taste so we did not enjoy it as much.

If you’re a local or you happen to be in town, perhaps you would want to drop by this megamall here to check this out at a stall there.

In between…

This is Pekan Stapang

Stapang

…or Stapang Bazaar, located halfway in between Sibu and Selangau and in comparison, it is a lot smaller than the two of them. However, the location makes it an ideal stop if you urgently need a toilet break. Go right in after the single row of a couple of blocks of shops on your right and you will get to the public toilet…

Stapang public toilet

…facing the playground…

Selangau playground

Be forewarned, however, that it is 30 sen per entry unlike the others in Sibu or Selangau where you only need to fork out 20 sen per entry. There is a lady stationed there and my guess is her duties include keeping the place clean so yes, it is clean unlike some public toilets even in the big towns and cities.

This is the market…

Stapang market

…and being a weekday that day when I had to send my girl back to her school after attending something here for two days, there were not many sellers around, just a few ethnic women selling some jungle produce and stuff. I think it is a lot busier on Sunday mornings.

I saw a man selling some rather fresh-looking wild boar meat at only RM20.00 a kg but my missus was not at all keen. Well, for one thing, she is not fond of the meat but neither is she all that fond of duck, lamb and quite a lot of other things. In the end, I did not buy and we left the bazaar, heading back to Sibu.

I did not go straight home though. Since we were free, I decided to drive to Sibu Jaya, a township a little to the left of the Sibu Airport. If you turn right and go straight ahead, you will eventually get to Sibu town proper, 15 miles away. I’ve been there a few times but my missus just went once a long long time ago when they first started developing the place as some kind of low-cost housing residential area with a few shops…and of course, it did not look nice at all. That was why when anyone talked about this place, she would insist on how miserably horrible it was but I do feel that lately, they have done quite a great deal and a good job at that. To me, it does look nicer (and perhaps, bigger as well) than some of the towns around here like Bintangor or Kanowit…or perhaps even Sarikei and Kapit.

When we got there, we saw blocks and blocks of shophouses, mostly under construction but a few facing the original town centre have been occupied. Gee, I thought! This place is getting bigger and bigger! I saw a bank but I am not too sure if there is more than one and yes, there is a big KFC outlet even…which is more than what I can say about three of the aforementioned towns!

We stopped by the ethnic jungle produce market and I saw a couple selling ikan keli (catfish). They said that those were caught, not the farmed ones. The bigger ones were RM20 a kg while they also had smaller ones going for RM15 only. The lady was willing to cut and clean for me so I asked her to pick big three nice ones for me – they turned out to be exactly 1 kg!

My missus does not eat these either but yes, she can cook them…

Ikan keli

…very well. This is the Chinese/Foochow style with soy sauce, lots of ginger and garlic and lemon grass and all and because we did not have any bottle of brandy in the pantry, already opened, my missus added whiskey instead – lots of it! These fresh ones really taste a lot nicer than the farmed ones – we get a lot of those at the markets here…and of course, the way my missus cooked it, I enjoyed it to the max!

I picked a few pieces and saved them for my girl – she loves ikan keli too, especially when cooked this way – she would be coming home again the following day, Friday so I would want her to enjoy it too.

Scarborough Fair…

No, I did not go to Scarborough nor did I go to any fair, just that the lyrics of the song go like this:
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme

and that day, when I wanted to cook a slab of salmon that I had in the freezer, I rubbed the skin with some salt and pepper and some rosemary and thyme…

Salmon

…and that brought the second line in the wordings to mind but no, I did not use any parsley or sage even though I do have those two spices in my rack.

I bought two pieces of the fish here, one a little smaller – around two-thirds of this one, I think – sometime ago before our Chap Goh Meh steamboat dinner. I can’t remember how much they cost now but the most expensive item in the list that day was the box of mussels, RM35.00, which was quite reasonable as there were so many of them in it so my guess is that the two pieces of salmon cost a little less than that.

Well, if we go for a salmon dish outside, it may cost a bomb like this one that my girl had once, RM38.00 and it was burnt, the skin part, that is…

Burnt salmon
*Archive photo*

…and this slice at the since-closed-down place…

Salmon dish
*Archive photo*

…set me back by RM39.90 so it certainly makes a lot more sense to go and buy and cook our own.

Well, the problem is quite frankly, I did not know how to cook the fish as I had never cooked it before so I went and watch a video clip on youtube. It seemed that after drying it well, I would have to fry it skin side down in hot oil…

Frying

…and in the meantime, I would have to splash the oil onto the top side to cook it. Once the skin was crispy enough and nicely done, I had to move the fish to let it stand and cook a bit on its sides and that was it!

I was afraid that it would be overcooked…

Salmon, served

…and my girl would not like that. That was what happened when the mum cooked the other slice prior to this. We’re so used to deep-frying ikan bawal (pomfret), kembong or whatever – just throw in and let it fry!

I thought the top half did look a little too well-done…

Top half

…but the bottom section seemed quite o.k…

Bottom half

Well, my girl had that for her dinner and she loved the crispy skin and she said no, it was not overcooked, just nice. Phewwwwwww!!! However, we could not detect the scent or fragrance of the rosemary and thyme…unfortunately.

I still had three of the mussels left so I cut them into halves to fry some thinly-sliced leek with egg…

Fried leek with mussels and egg

…and yes, it was very nice. This one wasn’t much of a problem, not at all.

I think I’ve cooked all that I bought before Chinese New Year and Chap Goh Meh now…finally!