Brain…

Otak means brain in the Malay language and for the uninitiated, for the plural form of nouns in the language, the word is repeated so in this context, otak-otak would mean “brains”.

However, when we talk about otak otak, we are actually referring to that culinary delight that usually has fish as the main ingredient. I did blog about it a long long time ago in 2011 – I guess I had a different set of readers at the time and since there were some questions arising, I thought I would just blog about it again.

The first variety of otak otak that I ever tried were those wrapped in leaves and cooked over an open charcoal fire by the roadside…

Supermarket otak otak

…or at the Ramadhan (the Muslim fasting month) stalls. These days, they are available in the frozen section at the supermarkets and all you have to do would be to heat them up a bit in the oven, open…

Supermarket otak otak, inside

…and enjoy. I’ve tried the latter before and I thought they were quite nice and on the other hand, I did buy some not-very-edible ones from those stalls. I guess like everything else, one would need to know where to go or who to buy from so one will not end up having to throw it all away and wasting one’s money for nothing.

These days, here in Sibu, one can also get them at one of those Singapore nyonya curry laksa franchise outlets…

Katong laksa otak otak

I cannot remember how much they cost now – all that I can recall is how the packets were quite big but you will get just a little piece of the otak otak inside…

Katong laksa otak otak, inside

As for the taste, it was quite good, similar to those supermarket ones.

But if you go up north in the country to places like Penang, for instance, you will get otak otak of a different kind…

Penang otak-otak

Wrapped in banana leaves…

Wrapped in banana leaves

…and steamed, inside, you will find egg custard, chunks of fish and some fragrant leaves. I know many who are not fans of it – some do not like the egg custard, others do not like the smell of the leaves but I do enjoy it very much and I would order one or more to enjoy whenever I see any, like this one…

New World Park otak otak

…at the New World Park Food Court in Georgetown city centre.

Of course, many would swear by the ones from Muar, Johore. Unfortunately, I have never tried any fresh ones there, just these frozen ones…

Muar otak otak

…that a friend/ex-student gave me the other day. I thought they were all right, nothing to get excited about and no, you will not find me wanting more of that…but I did enjoy what I had at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur

Muar Restaurant, KL otak otak

…on more than one occasion and I liked theirs a lot so whenever I dropped by there for dinner, that would be one of the first things I would order from their menu.

Of course if you ask me to pick my favourite otak otak, it would be the one here at Payung Cafe

Payung Cafe otak otak

…which is all fish plus all the wonderful flavours of the very fragrant ingredients used in the making and it can be a bit spicy which I like.

So, there you are! A quick look at the otak otak that I’ve tried – I don’t know if there are others around here or in our neighbouring countries and if there are, I sure would love to have the opportunity to try them someday.

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Doin’ it well…

This (2.293453, 111.836235)…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe

…started off as a dim sum place with chefs specially brought in from China and yes, we did frequent it quite a lot then. When those guys had left, the local ones took over – there were not that many selections available after that but yes, there were the usual delights and enough choices for a good dim sum breakfast…and sometime later, probably the result of a change in ownership or something, I wouldn’t know, they ventured into shabu shabu/steamboat as well, upstairs on the 1st Floor and we did go for that once.

The last time we dropped by, we had the dim sum and I also tried the kampua noodles with slices of ang chao (the residue from the making of our traditional Foochow red wine) pork and yes, I thought it was very good – I did enjoy it that day.

Then, one afternoon last week, I decided to drop by for lunch – this place is located along Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 1 among the shops in the commercial area behind the medical centre where my mum is presently warded so it was quite convenient for me to walk over. It appeared to me that they have moved the kampua mee stall further in and right now, there is a chicken rice and roast/barbecued meat stall…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe chicken rice & roast meat stall

…in front.

The coffee (RM1.50)…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe kopi-o-peng

…I had was very nice and I sure would not have any second thoughts in ordering my usual kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) here again the next time I drop by.

I asked for the roast pork…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe roast pork

…and the roast chicken…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe roast chicken

…as well as their steamed chicken…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe steamed chicken

…all of which were very nice and went very well with the chili dip that came with my order (RM7.00)…

Mitsu Shabu Shabu Cafe mixed meat platter

They also gave some fried tofu and pickled cucumber by the side and I loved the plating, right down to the heart-shaped rice. Somehow when the presentation is pleasant to the eye, one seems to enjoy eating one’s order more, what do you think?

The chicken rice was very nice – I would say it can rank among the best in town and I sure would love to drop by here again for more.

Temple of the king…

The Jade Dragon Temple or the the Yu Lung San Tien En Si Temple (玉龍山天恩寺) is located 27 km away from Sibu town. It is believed to be the largest not only in Malaysia but in South-east Asia as well, comprising 3 different forms of practice under one roof – Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

The colourful wall fronting the main Sibu-Mukah/Bintulu & Miri road has a nice dragon design…

Dragon on the wall

…on top.

There are a few big temples inside including this one…

Temple 2

…and this one…

Temple 2

…for instance, and other interesting structures…

Possibly, acknowledgements

…and arches…

Arch

…and pavilions…

Pavilion

…all over the sprawling compound and some intricate carvings (or carved tiles) and lovely paintings…

Fairies

…here and there…

7 fairies crossing the sea

There is also this circle of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac/horoscope surrounding a feng shui ball…

Chinese zodiac animals & feng shui ball

Probably, there is a fountain in the middle but it was not turned on when we were there that morning.

I did mention in an earlier post that we would drive past every Sunday when we sent our girl back to her school some 99 km away from Sibu but we never stopped by despite having heard a lot about this place of interest. That was why when my blogger friend, Nick, from Sungai Petani in Kedah, was here, I took the chance to come here on a visit.

If I am not wrong, this had been earmarked as a must-visit for tourists to Sibu but when I looked around at the place, I was somewhat disappointed by the dire need for good and proper maintenance. Some of the tiles had come off or were cracked or badly stained and there was some litter here and there. The toilets were obviously hardly ever used, not exactly dirty but I would not say they were very clean – as a matter of fact, the one that my missus used was not functioning properly – there was no water in the tank.

I don’t know if there is a permanent staff there to look after these things – I did see some building material and equipment being dumped all over the place but there wasn’t anybody working other than the two guys who were giving the wall a new coat of paint. 2017 being Visit Sibu Year, the authorities concerned should get into action quickly to spruce up the place so that it…

View of the main road from inside

…would be truly a place worth visiting while one is in Sibu.

While waiting…

That evening when Nick was coming back from Mukah, I went to the hotel to wait for him and in the meantime, I went to the coffee shop downstairs, the so-called food court…

Medan Hotel & Bus Terminal Food Court
*Archive photo*

They are selling the steamed paos (buns) that used to be very nice there – they are no longer at that former place now and I gathered that they are making them somewhere in Sibu Jaya and are made available at this particular coffee shop on a regular basis…

Steamer

I did buy their very nice char siew pao (RM2.00) not too long ago but I did not think it was as nice as before – the dough was not as great and the filling as well. I would say that it was not anything I would be in a hurry to buy again.

This time around, I decided to try their bak pao (meat bun)…

Bak pao

…which was, at best, all right to me…

Bak pao, filling

…not anything to get excited about and not really worth the money – if I remember correctly, it was RM2.50 each.

They did not have our local Foochow-style sio bee – Nick tried that when he was at the pasar malam (night market) and he did not like it much. Mostly sengkuang (turnip), he said, hardly any meat. For one thing, I certainly would not buy any from those stalls at the night market and for another, it is the same with everything else – when you go some place, it would be good to know a local who can tell you where you can get the best around. One just can’t simply go anywhere and try anything and everything that they see.

I tried the bak chang (meat dumpling)…

Bak chang

…too. I think this was RM2.00 each, cheaper than most around town including those at the shops and stalls round the corner from my house and nicer too. At least one can get to see some meat…

Bak chang, filling

…in the filling.

I saw that the bak kut teh stall here, one that has outlets at a number of places around town, was selling Sarawak laksa (RM5.00)…

Sibu Bus Terminal Food Court Sarawak laksa 1

Nick wanted to try that but we did not manage to slot that in with the little time that we had. I heard that he had that in Mukah but of course, I would not know how good or how original or authentic that one was.

This one lacked the fragrance and flavours that good Sarawak laksa should have though it tasted all right, something like a rather watered-down version of the curry mee…but the prawns were really the pits, like jelly…

Sibu Bus Terminal Food Court Sarawak laksa 2

…so much so that I just left them by the side. Well, if you guessed that I did not ask Nick to go and try it, you are right.

He was tired after the trip so he said he wanted to rest and sleep in his room and would venture out on his own when he got up. That was why I did not take him out that evening and told him that I would see him the very next morning before his flight home.

Mashed potato time…

When my girl was home last weekend, she mentioned that she loved the mashed potatoes here…

Payung Cafe centrepiece

…so very much, much more than the ones we make ourselves at home. I guess this place needs no introduction now and despite being hard pressed for time, shuttling between my parents’ house and our own and the medical centre and trying to cope with every little thing in between, I made it a point to take her there for that (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe mashed potatoes

I guess nothing pleases a father more than seeing his child enjoying something that is made available to him or her.

I noticed that they had mushroom soup (RM5.00)…

Payung Cafe mushroom soup

…on their menu and I ordered that to try. Yes, it was so very nice and no, you will not catch us eating those in the cans and packets ever again after this. We did check the ingredients to make sure it was gluten free and indeed, it was – just mushrooms, potatoes and milk, the boss said – no flour was used in the making.

We got one huge bowl of the soup but of course, that was specially for us. I understand that the usual serving would not be so big. We enjoyed it a lot, thick and rich and nice and we imagined adding prawns and squid (sotong), clams (lala) perhaps or mussels and we would have one very delightful bowl of seafood chowder.

Other than our usual pomelo salad (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…I also wanted to try their sour chicken (RM16.00, with rice)…

Payung Cafe sour chicken

…which is their variation of the Cantonese sour duck. No, it was not the same as the sour duck that I had before – it had all those herbs and other ingredients so as to make it a cut above the rest. I wanted to try it as I saw an article in a Chinese newspaper sometime ago – they interviewed Peter, the boss and this dish was the main feature in that publication. Personally, I would go for our favourites here, the spicier and stronger tasting delights that they serve, but I thought this would be all right sometimes for a change, a good option for anyone who is not into anything hot and spicy.

After that quick lunch, we had to rush off quickly to…where else but the medical centre.

It makes no difference now…

We had a little problem the last time we had kway teow here…

Sri Tanjung Cafe
*Archive photo*

…as we ordered their kway teow goreng and char kway teow and got two different ways of cooking those flat rice noodles.

Well, we went back to the place at Sungai Antu, opposite RTM, their Sibu office and station, the other day and my missus had their nasi lemak special (RM6.00)…

Sri Tanjung nasi lemak special

The rice on its own was not anything to shout about but the sambal was very nice and extra spicy. My missus liked it a lot so I tapao-ed RM5.00 of that home.

I loved the egg she got with its very runny yolk…

Runny yolk

…and the chicken rendang that came with the special…

Chicken rendang

…was very nice.

I asked for the kway teow goreng or char kway teow, the special (RM6.00)…

Sri Tanjung kway teow goreng 1

…of course and it makes no difference what you call it now; you will end up getting the one and the same thing, the girl said.

It was very nice and no, they do not claim that it is anything like Penang’s or anything anywhere else – it’s their own version of fried kway teow and one thing’s for sure, you simply can’t go wrong when you have lots of prawns…

Lot of prawns

…in it.

I was rather disappointed with my egg though…

Egg, overcooked

It was overcooked, nothing like what my missus had with her nasi lemak and I got a piece of fried chicken…

Fried chicken

…with my order. I would prefer the rendang that my missus had. I certainly would make my preference known to them should we drop by again and I happen to order this…

Sri Tanjung kway teow goreng 2

…the next time around.

All in all, we did enjoy what we had that day, a little pricier than some places around here but it did not matter as long as what we had was good enough.

Sara…

This place (2.307544, 111.820744)…

Sara Cafe Sibu

…in the vicinity of Simpang Tiga, Sibu is walking distance from my parents’ house, some 100-200 metres away and even though it has been around for quite a while now and we virtually drive past every day on our way home after visiting my parents, for no apparent reason, we never stopped by to check the place out.

They certainly have a lot of things on their menu…

What's available

– you can check their Facebook page for a glimpse of some of those that they have in store…and these western delights…

Western menu

…are available any time of day – most places serve these in the evenings – right up to when they close at around 5 or 6.00 p.m.

The coffee here was really very good…

Sara Cafe kopi o peng

…a far cry and a lovely change from the ones at most of the Malay eateries where it is mostly extremely sweet with hardly any coffee fragrance.

I had their nasi lemak special (RM5.50)…

Sara Cafe nasi lemak special

…but all I got over and above the usual…

Sambal, peanuts and salted fish

…one would expect when ordering this was this fried chicken wing…

Fried chicken wing

…which certainly looked kind of small compared to those elsewhere. The rice was nothing great despite the nice tint of green because it was not lemak but of course, when eaten with the sambal and everything else including the somewhat over-fried egg…

Fried egg

…I thought it was all right but the one I had here was much nicer and costs 50 sen less.

My missus had their ayam penyet (RM7.00)…

Sara Cafe ayam penyet

…and yes, she did enjoy it and they even gave a few pieces of tempeh

Ulam & tempeh

…by the side but what won her over was the very nice and spicy sambal

Sambal

She loved that!

Well, considering the convenience of its location, we may drop by time and time again to try whatever else they have on their menu.