Just for old times’ sake…

When my brother was home from Auckland, New Zealand, he specially requested that we dropped by here…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant

…just for old times’ sake.

When we were little, on days when my mum was busy and could not cook the meals for the day, she would get my dad to take along a tiffin carrier to work and buy some food for us to eat and these sweet and sour meatballs from the aforementioned restaurant…

Hock Chu Leu sweet and sour meatballs

…were our favourite.

When we got there, I saw Ah Teck, the current boss who bought over the over 60-year-old place from the son of the previous one who is currently residing in Christchurch and I told him who I was. Yes, he said he started working there when he was 14 years old and he could remember my dad dropping by to buy food to take home and yes, he remembered the meatballs, just that they do not have them on their menu anymore. However, he was so very nice as to offer to cook the dish that night just for us – ching gay chu, he said, or in English, very easy to cook.

I did cook them once…

My own version of the sweet and sour meatballs
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…myself, minus those bits of carrot and sweet corn and peas, when my parents were still around and took them along with some other dishes that we had cooked for dinner at their house and yes, everyone enjoyed them. I will not be cooking them or any sweet and sour dish anymore now though as tomato sauce is not gluten-free unless I come out with an alternative using tomato puree or something.

Another dish that my dad used to buy home was this braised Chinese cabbage…

Hock Chu Leu braised Chinese cabbage

…which went down all right with me but kids being kids, I was not exactly thrilled by any kind of vegetables at the time. These days, I rather enjoy that dish and would not mind ordering it whenever I drop by here for  a meal. Way back then, if this dish was served at a banquet, there would be slices of abalone but that is worth its weight in gold these days, sold at the shops and supermarkets under lock and key, so they have substituted it with Pacific clams instead which are much cheaper but they aren’t really all that cheap either, actually.

The Foochow fried noodles…

Hock Chu Leu Foochow fried noodles

…were great – it couldn’t possibly get any more authentic than the ones here but the Foochow-style sio bee

Hock Chu Leu Foochow-style sio bee

…was a disappointment that night. I had those before and thought they were good but all in all, I do feel that the ones we had here were definitely heaps nicer and more consistently so.

They certainly were VERY generous with the sea cucumber in the soup…

Hock Chu Leu sea cucumber soup

…that we had and my brother loved it a lot! I saw some dried ones selling for over RM100 a kg at one place sometime ago so with that much of the stuff in the soup plus the Pacific clams that I mentioned earlier, I was quite sure it was not going to be very cheap, our dinner that night.

We all loved this kailan with liver…

Hock Chu Leu kailan with liver

…very much, something that we had never tried before and someone told my sister or my brother that this was a must-order dish, not to be missed, and we were glad we did.

My brother picked up the tab for our dinner that night, a whooping RM116.00 altogether, less than NZD40.00 for the four of us. I guess to him, it wasn’t all that expensive – they certainly cannot get anything like this there for just NZD10 per head.

Then, the waitress brought out a plate of sweet and sour fish…

Hock Chu Leu sweet and sour fish
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…from the kitchen and served that to the people at another table. “Sweet and sour fish!!!” he exclaimed, and his eyes glowed at the sight of it. “Yes, I had it before,” I said, “and it was very nice but we are very full now. That will have to wait till the next time you come home.” LOL!!!

HOCK CHU LEU RESTAURANT (2.288654, 111.826974) is located at No. 30, Jalan Tukang Besi, formerly Blacksmith Road, opposite the LehDo Hotel, formerly the Lido Cinema which is right beside the Standard Chartered Bank, Sibu branch.