Coming back home…

I received an invitation to lunch from my friend/ex-classmate, Robert, the other day and I asked if he was celebrating his promotion to grandpa status recently and he said no, but there were some ex-classmates or schoolmates who had come home from Australia and New Zealand and that called for a get-together.

I made my way to the restaurant, probably the oldest surviving restaurant in town, and on the way, I walked through this lane where this dianpianngu shop is located and spotted this  piece of street art…

Sibu street art

…a recent addition to the existing ones all over town. That’s the guy behind that very popular Foochow delight – I guess that makes him some kind of an icon around town. Somebody shared on Facebook extracts from a Chinese newspaper reporting on how the place was packed to the brim with people coming home for the Ching Ming Festival the other day and they all made a beeline to the place to enjoy what they loved and missed so much.

That lane was not a designated parking area for motorcycles but it was nice and cool in the shade in between the two blocks of shops so everybody took the liberty of leaving their vehicles there but it would not be so good for anyone trying to take a photograph of the artwork on the wall…unfortunately.

It had been blistering hot here lately, just when I was quite happy that we had been getting quite a bit of rain in the previous weeks. My missus and I got to the restaurant…


…earlier than the rest so we sat and waited, enjoying the nice air-conditioning and the braised peanuts…

Braised peanuts

…that were served.

I did not want to be obtrusive so I very quickly snapped a photograph of every dish that was served so there was no time for some nice angles or whatever. This was one of their signature dish, the very nice ang sio pek chai (braised Chinese cabbage)…

Hock Chu Leu ang sio pek chai

…but the vegetable was barely visible under all the mushroom on top.

The shot of the midin (wild jungle fern) came out blur and this one of the sweet and sour pork ribs…

Sweet and sour pork ribs

…did not come out too good either, sorry about that. I remember how we used to enjoy this in our younger days when my dad would buy some and bring home in the yellow enamel tiffin carrier. They still do it very well, almost like how I remember it to be, though I wished there was more meat and less bones in the dish.

We also had fish, sweet and sour too, and all the  slabs of the ngor hu were buried under the sliced Bombay onions so I have decided not to include to photograph in this post. I do not know the name of the fish in English or even in Malay but it is quite easily available at the wet market. It must be a very big fish, I think, as it is always sold in thick pre-cut slabs so you can just pick how many you want. It is very nice, even if it is just deep-fried but I do not buy it anymore as at times, it is lor kor and is not at all palatable. I don’t know what lor kor is in English or Malay either but sometimes, with very big fish, the texture of the meat is kind of tough or rubbery and is not nice at all. Thankfully, what we had that day was very good and of course, I had my fair share of it. I love good fish!

I think this was the sea cucumber soup…

Sea cucumber soup

…but I gave my bowl to my ex-classmate sitting right next to me as soon as I spotted some bamboo shoots in it. I remember once I was having the set lunch at a hotel café here and was served a bowl of complimentary soup. I saw what looked like three slices of ginger in it and as I was going to get rid of those, I noticed that they were, in fact, bamboo shoots so I ate them up. Ooooo…they were so sweet, so very nice but I came down with a gout attack and could barely walk for a week. I have refused to touch any since.

This restaurant is famous for its Sibu-style Foochow sio bee

Hock Chu Leu sio bee

…and the ones we had that day were very nice. The last time we had these here, the skin was hard in places – probably something went wrong in the steaming or whatever…and my sister-in-law did buy some home for Chinese New Year and they were extremely salty. It seemed that they had so many orders and had to prepare so many at one go during that time so quality control just went out the back door. The ones we had that day were as nice as those we had here – my missus actually felt they were nicer but those at that other place were consistently good enough all the time. However, they too should pay more attention to the quality control as there were days when I thought they were so good and on other days, they were good too but kind of so-so only, not as great.

We also had the Sibu Foochow-style fried noodles…

Hock Chu Leu Foochow fried noodles

…and it was as authentic as it could be, very much like the ones I enjoyed eating so much in my growing up years unlike many of those wannabes that one would find in the shops these days.

It sure was great meeting my old friends again and thank you so much. Robert, for the delightful lunch treat and for arranging the gathering.