Not quite right…

I still had the red snapper…

Red snapper from BIL

…that my Bintulu brother-in-law gave us when he came back to Sibu for the Ching Ming Festival and it had been sitting in the freezer all this while; I don’t know why my missus never took it out to cook and the other day, I decided that I would do it and get it out of the way once and for all. I always have this thing about stuff lying idle in the freezer or the refrigerator, probably because I am moderately OCD. Hehehehehe!!!

I had these ingredients from my garden – the big  daun kunyit (tumeric leaves) for wrapping and I did cut a bit into thin strips, the curry leaves and the serai (lemon grass) and also the daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander)…

Ingredients from my garden

I also pounded these…

Pounded ingredients

…garlic, shallots, chillies, kunyit (turmeric) and lengkuas (galangal) and I used the paste to rub the fish, both sides and also inside…

Fish & pounded ingredients

…before placing it on a bed of the big kunyit leaves.

Fish & the rest of the ingredients

Then I stuffed the inside with some of the daun kesum and the serai and I placed all the rest on top of the fish before covering it with another layer of the daun kunyit and wrapping it all up and putting it in the oven to bake for over 30 minutes.

The fragrance filled the whole house and I was anticipating something really very very nice. Finally, it was done…

Fish, done

I saw this lady on tv and she said that if the fish eye is white, then it is cooked. Hmmmm…that’s new to me! I never took note of that before…but yes, indeed, it was done…

Fish, perfect

…to perfection.

However, we all thought it was just all right, nothing to shout about. I have done something a lot simpler with ikan buris and ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret) and both turned out really great. Perhaps this way of cooking is not quite right for red snappers.  I had it served sweet and sour once…

Sweet and sour red snapper
*At Fisherman Restaurant*

…and it was very nice and if I am not wrong, they use the head for fish head curry (you can have a choice between this or the more expensive ikan tapah). Maybe if I had deep-fried or grilled it first before wrapping it all up, it would be nicer but I guess I will never know – for some reason or other, I never buy this fish from the market myself.

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Living without you…

Kway teow (flat rice noodles) is gluten-free and so is bihun (rice vermicelli) and kueh chap (white rice sheets) but unfortunately, at all the food stalls and shops outside, they would use soy sauce in the cooking and that contains wheat so it is not gluten free. Yes, we do have gluten-free soy sauce but it is mighty expensive, over RM15.00 to around RM20.00 a bottle so one would need to use it sparingly…and besides, it does not actually taste like what we are used to.

That is why I would buy pad Thai…

Pad Thai from Flavours Thai Kitchen
*Pad Thai from Flavours Thai Kitchen*

…for my girl sometimes – she loves it a lot and it does not contain soy sauce; Thai fish sauce is all right, no wheat in the ingredients. The implication here is that there are other ways of cooking whereby we will not need to add soy sauce at all and it can taste really nice as well.

Well, last Friday, I bought some kway teow and taugeh (bean sprouts)…

Kway teow taugeh and prawns

…and there were some prawns in the freezer so I decided to fry the noodles for dinner my way, without the use of soy sauce. Usually my girl would go for lunch upon arriving in town on her way back from her school in the jungle and that would be around 3.00 p.m. at least. As a result of that, she would not be hungry by evening time so I thought this would be just nice for a light and simple dinner.

I pounded some chilies (4) and chopped all the cloves in a bulb of garlic till really fine and I also had some Thai basil leaves, curry leaves and spring onions from my garden, all finely chopped…

Other ingredients

I heated a bit of oil in the wok, fried the garlic till golden brown, added the prawns followed by the chili, spring onions, Thai basil and curry leaves. Once everything was good and ready, I added the kway teow. You can add salt (and msg) if you wish but I just  used Thai fish sauce and a generous sprinkling of pepper. Then two eggs went in and lastly, I added the taugeh before dishing it all out…

My gluten-free fried kway teow

Yes, it was very nice and one can have it with the Thai chili sauce…

With sweet Thai chili sauce

…made in Thailand, if one so wishes. We used to buy our popular Malaysian brand but it has wheat in it (and the tomato sauce too) while this one contains modified corn starch and that is perfectly all right.

I guess all it takes would be a little getting used to – living without soy sauce…and the same goes for a lot of things as well like how we never use mittens in the kitchen. The dish cloth would be enough for the job should we need to remove some baking trays or whatever from the oven but my girl mentioned in passing that it would be nice to have one.

That was why when I saw them at a DIY shop here, selling for only RM3.90 each, less that USD1.00, I quickly grabbed two…

Mittens from Mister DIY

…for her and yes, she was delighted that day when she came home and saw them…and of course, I was glad she liked them. I really do know her so well.

I would say that we are getting on all right, living without wheat (and oats and barley) and soy sauce and are getting quite used to it by now.

A cut above the rest…

I guess many/some of you would know by now that I am not into franchises, not even our own Sarawak ones like this one, for instance…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah

…as usually the food is good, not great and a little bit more expensive generally. At such places, one would have to go to the counter…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah, counter

…and order what one wants and pay for it/them and everything would be placed in a tray after which, one would have to do some kind of balancing act to take everything to a table…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah seating area 1
*Note that there is a very nice seating area on the 1st/mezzanine floor too!*

…to sit down eat. At times, when the food would not be ready that fast, they would give you a number and you can take that to your table with the drinks you have ordered and you sit there and wait to be served.

This particular outlet has been around for quite sometime now but I never stopped by to check it out – I guess you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all but my missus was telling me about the fish dishes that she and my girl had a couple of times (at other outlets, not here) and they were very good. That was why last Friday, we went to this one and I certainly was amazed as to how different this one is…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah seating area 2

…compared to the rest. The fittings and the decor all look expensive, not quite typical of a fast food restaurant, much less a franchise.

This seating area…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah seating area 3
*Note the pizza counter on the other side, a collaboration with the Singapore franchise.*

…sure looks comfortable, two here and if you turn left and go down the corridor, there will be more inside…and I guess one can sit here and relax and enjoy the free WIFI and their tea or coffee…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah coffee

…which certainly seems cheaper than those coffee places in town, not that I’ve been to any, except maybe…one.

They even have this place outside…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah seating area 4

…for those who would like a breath of fresh air.

It’s the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan right now so they have these promotional offers…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah Ramadhan offers

…at the moment but no, I was there for the fish so fish it was.

I ordered the sambal eco-fish (RM15.60)…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah sambal eco-fish

…for myself and yes, it was very nice. A friend said that the sambal

Sugar Bun Sg Merah sambal & soy sauce dip

…was nice but no, I beg to disagree. It tasted like the ones you get in cans or bottles and those are not to my liking, that’s for sure. However, the soy sauce dip was surprisingly very nice. It looked like just soy sauce and chili but it tasted like there was calamansi lime juice and whatever else in it. I sure enjoyed it very much.

My missus had the claypot assam fish (RM12.20)…

Sugar Bun Sg Merah claypot assam fish

…and it was absolutely delicious. The sauce was simply out of this world and I could not refrain from helping myself to it and enjoying it with my rice. For one thing, this dish would come with one fish head and there isn’t all that much to eat when it comes to the head of the tilapia; I wonder what happens to the rest of the fish, the body.

The service here was excellent, very cordial and prompt too and I was particularly impressed by how they could speak perfect English which is more than what I could say about those waiting staff at some/many of those wannabe western and fusion cafes and restaurants in town.

Well, we certainly enjoyed both our orders and yes, we would love to drop by again sometime. It may be a bit far for those staying around the town centre but I guess the location is ideal for students at the university and also the college and international school a short distance up the road and those staying in the housing areas in that part of town.

SUGARBUN & PEZZO SG MERAH PETRONAS STATION (2.333595, 111.840638) is located at the side of the petrol station along Jalan Teng Chin Hua, going in the direction of the University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) just after Island Club and the Sibu Benevolent Society Old Folks’ Home.

What I saw…

When we were here around a week or so earlier, I saw some ladies having what looked really nice so I made up my mind there and then that I would be back to give it a try.

My missus headed straight for the nasi campur (mixed rice) that we had on our previous visits and obviously, she liked their sotong (squid)…

Mia nasi campur sotong and paku

…as that was what she picked again this time around along with the paku (wild jungle fern) and this, her favourite – bamboo shoots…

Mia nasi campur bamboo shoots

I wouldn’t touch that as I just ate three thin slices once and I came down with a gout attack – I never had that since. Altogether, the total for all that came up to RM5.60, RM2.30 for the sotong, RM1.00 each for the two veg and RM1.30 for the rice.

I saw somebody having their teh tarik ais (pulled tea, iced), RM2.30…

Mia teh tarik ais

…and it looked kind of different from the usual with the colour of tea on top and that of the milk in the bottom half so I ordered that to try. It was all right, nice but nothing to get excited about.

So if you’re wondering what it was that I saw that attracted my attention, it was this…

Mia mee jawa special 1

– their mee jawa special (RM10.00).

If you go for the regular, it is only RM5.00 so one is actually paying RM5.00 extra for the two freshwater udang galah (bamboo prawns)…

Mia mee jawa special, prawns

…RM2.50 each and they were not really all that big.

I would say, however, that it tasted very nice. The gravy was different from the rest that I had before. Their gravy was pinkish orange from the use of sweet potatoes in the making and it was kind of thick and sweet. The one here did not have that shade and I liked how it was not sweet and all things considered, I would say that I enjoyed it.

Other than the prawns, they also gave one fried egg and slices of fried chicken…

Mia mee jawa special 2

…but RM10.00 for that sure is not cheap. Besides, you probably would need to have the patience of a saint as I had to wait a mighty long time and that probably was because the coffee shop was full and everybody seemed to be having something different from the rest. I would just go back to their nasi campur the next time we drop by here.

For your information, it is now the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan so they are closed during the day and will only open at 5.00 p.m. till 2.00 a.m. which seems just right for iftar but unfortunately, they close a little too early for suhur/sahur.

MIA CAFE & RESTAURANT (2.308507, 111.820287) is located among the shops at Jalan Bunga Normah 4, around Simpang Tiga, Sibu, facing inwards overlooking the houses along Jalan Kuda, off Jalan Kampung Nangka.

Too late…

I wanted to try the Penang char kway teow at this stall…

101 Food Court fried kueh tiaw stall

…here…

101 Food Court

formerly called M.U Cafe but my guess is somebody else has taken over and renamed it thus and I do not know if it has any connection with this place that goes by the same name.

Unfortunately, we were too late; the guy was already cleaning up his stall and calling it a day…or perhaps I should say that he was closing shop way too early as we got there at around 11.00 a.m. and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. Maybe he only opens for breakfast and brunch or business was exceptionally good that day so he had run out of noodles.

I saw somebody having nasi lemak and it looked pretty good but when I looked around the place, I could not find any Malay stall. Eventually, I spotted where it came from…

101 Food Court No. 19 nasi lemak stall

– Stall No. 19 run by two very nice Chinese ladies.

We were at a loss as to what to eat so in the end, we just decided we would order something from them to try. My missus had the chicken rendang rice (RM5.50)…

101 Food Court Stall 19 chicken rendang rice

…which came with one fried egg and I must say that the rendang

101 Food Courst Stall 19 chciken rendang

…was really very good – not spicy, or not to us, at least, but it tasted great.

I was wishing she had ordered something else as I had asked for the nasi lemak

101 Food Court Stall No. 19 nasi lemak 1

…with chicken rendang too which would mean that I would only have one thing to blog about. However, the ladies got my order wrong and brought me a bowl of chicken curry (RM6.00 altogether, including the nasi lemak) instead and I guess the one who served us overheard what my missus and I were saying and was absolutely apologetic and even offered to take back the curry and get me the rendang instead. We managed to convince her that it was perfectly all right and as a matter of fact, I was quite happy as I would have something extra to feature here plus we could compare between the two.

The rice had a very slight hint of the richness of the santan/coconut milk, barely noticeable, but it was all right when eaten with everything else that came with it…

101 Food Court Stall No. 19 nasi lemak 2

The curry, though watery and not spicy – quite typical of Chinese curry…

101 Food Court chicken curry

…was very good but between the two, we thought the rendang had an edge over it; the latter was nicer.

All in all, we enjoyed our orders and yes, we would be back again to see what else we could try. I saw a stall in front selling all kinds of Japanese delights, sushi included and there is a western food stall (though it looked like it only opens at night) among the many at that place.

101 FOOD COURT (2.291330, 111.841751) is located in the vicinity of the shops around Medan Mall, Jalan Wong King Huo, back to back with Jiali Cafe along Lorong Tong Sang 4, two or three doors to the left of Wan Li Sheng Rou Mee.

Cafe on the corner…

Now, who knows Bee Guan? Well, if you are as old as I am and grew up in this little town, you probably would know the shop at the corner of the Sarawak Building…

The Ruai

…where the Sarawak Hotel, at one time the No. 1 hotel in Sibu, is…

The Sarawak Building & Hotel

Bee Guan was the shop belonging to the Teo family and it used to be here then, along what was Cross Road, now Ramin Way, right next to the Rex Cinema…

Rex Cinema

…across the road from this Chinese primary school…

SRJK Chung Hua Sibu

That was where I would buy all my DC comics – Superman, Batman, Spiderman…you name it, I had it, and all my black vinyl records, LP’s, EP’s and singles by names such as Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell and our local talents such as Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers, the ones from Singapore like the Thunderbirds (and Heather), Naomi (Suriya) and the Boys (and Henry), Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings featured in this special video clip in conjunction with the island republic’s 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebration in 2015…

…and the list goes on and on and on. This was also where I could faithfully buy my copies of The Dolphin (a Borneo Literature Bureau publication) and every Saturday, we would go to collect my father’s subscription of the weekly tabloid from Brunei, The Borneo Bulletin.

Right now, there is a newly-opened coffee shop, the Ruai, occupying that little corner but the shop sign has not been put up yet. Well, from the name and some of the decor that they have put up here…

The Ruai decor 1

…and there…

The Ruai decor 2

…one would know what kind of food they serve here. No, they do not have those cabinets with sliding mosquito-netting doors…

The Ruai nasi campur counter

…so it is not so easy to see what dishes they have unless they turn the lids a bit like in the photograph – that probably would help a little.

I heard someone saying that the food “bay hak nang ciak” (not suitable for us to eat) but the fried mee and kway teow were quite nice. That was why I ordered their fried kway teow with kerang/cockles (RM4.00)…

The Ruai fried kway teow with kerang

…but there was no sign of the kerang at all. Eventually, I saw those microscopic canned clams in soy sauce in it. At best, I would say it was all right, not anything to get excited about and I just tried a bit and tapao-ed the rest home.

If you are wondering why I did not eat it all up, it was because we wanted to try the ethnic food that they are serving for their nasi campur. My missus had the sayur ensabi

The Ruai sayur ensabi

– they had the fresh ones not the kasam or preserved version that we used to have at this other place. I did not want that as people told me it was bitter but when my missus gave me a bit to try, I found that it was not, not at all and it was very nice; I sure would not mind having that the next time we drop by here.

She also had the pork cooked in soy sauce and the tapioca leaves that I also had…

The Ruai nasi campur

…along with the pansoh ikan keli (catfish cooked in bamboo).

The pansuh ayam (chicken cooked in bamboo) came out later so we asked for some (RM2.00)…

The Ruai pansuh ayam

…to try and yes, it was good just that the soup was a bit too salty; it went very well with rice though and we did enjoy it. Still, I would say that I very much preferred the catfish…

The Ruai ikan keli

…but of course, one would have to be careful with the bones. What my missus and I picked for our nasi campur came up to only RM9.00 altogether – cheap and nice and for sure, we would not mind coming back again for more. They did say that they would put up the daily menu up in front of the shop (after the Gawai), all the dishes available each day.

They open everyday from around 6.00 a.m., they said, till around 7.00 p.m. and for one thing, although we were there early, past 10.30 a.m., the dishes were ready already unlike at the other place where we had to go away disappointed more than once as they were not open yet.

THE RUAI (2.289479, 111.827220) is located at The Sarawak Building along Ramin Way, formerly Cross Road or Jalan Lintang to the left of what used to be the Rex Cinema, opposite the Chung Hua Primary School.

Come and go…

In Chinese (Hokkien) we say, “Oo lai oo khi,” which may be literally translated as got come, got go, something along the same line as the give and take philosophy in life.

Well, last Saturday, after the nasi Arab lunch, we went to the supermarket round the corner to browse around and I picked up some stuff that I thought would be nice for my girl’s colleague for the Gawai Festival coming up next week – the one who would give her a lift back to town every Friday unless there are matters arising and we would have to go and pick her instead which isn’t very often so that would save us a lot of trouble and cut our travelling/my driving by half, more or less.

No, she does not charge anything but my girl would chip in when they stop at a petrol station to fill up the tank and she would give her a little something (ang pao) periodically. That was why I thought it would be nice to give her something for the forthcoming auspicious occasion that she will be celebrating to express our gratitude and appreciation for her help all these years.

True to what they say, “As you give, thus shall you receive,” and that evening just before I went for the sunset service in church, I received word from my friend, Mary, asking me to drop by her restaurant the next morning as she and her crew would like to give me this steamed kampung chicken…

Steamed kampung chicken from Flavours Thai Kitchen

…for no apparent reason, just out of the goodness and generosity of her/their hearts. Isn’t that so very sweet of them?

When I went there that morning, Sunday, I decided to tapao my girl’s favourite, their pad Thai

Flavours Thai Kitchen pad Thai

…home and those were what we had for brunch that morning before we made our way to my girl’s school in the jungle for just one more week before the two-week mid-year holidays starting right after tomorrow, Friday.

We made our way home ourselves, my missus and I and after dinner that night, I got a surprise call from my dear friend, Richard. Why, it’s that time of year again and in no time at all, he was at my house to give me some of his awesomely yummy out-of-this-world simply-the-best own-made nyonya chang (meat dumplings)…

Richard's nyonya chang

…like what he will do year after year, without fail.

I googled to check and I found out that this year, the Dragon Boat or Chang Festival, also known as the Duanwu Festival will fall on the 30th of May,  Tuesday next week.

I had just had dinner but no, I could not possibly wait another day and that was why I immediately took one, unwrapped it…

Richard's nyonya chang, unwrapped

…and ate.

Boy!!! This Richard keeps getting better and better each year and this year, it was exceptionally good – none that I’ve bought in Kuching or Malacca nor those from Singapore would come anywhere close and look at all that meat in it…

Richard's nyonya chang, so much meat
*Sorry for the slightly blurry pic – the challenge of night photography with the insufficient lighting*

Thank you so so so much, Richard, and also to you, Mary & everybody at Flavours, both truly unexpected but most welcome indeed and I do believe these were special blessings for the insignificantly small gesture on my part to get a little something for my girl’s colleague for the Gawai Festival – what goes around comes around, got come, got go!

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.