Don’t wait too long…

I dropped by my regular Malay kuih stall at Bandong the other morning but there wasn’t a very wide variety of choices available. The boy said that many had not got back into the swing of things and were not delivering their stuff for sale yet. Gosh!!! It had been over two weeks since the Raya and yes, I did notice around town that some of the Malay/Muslim shops were still closed. That is a stark contrast from how some here will open their shops even on the 1st day of Chinese New Year, double or even triple their usual prices, grabbing the opportunities as they come along.

In the end, I bought this pack of nasi lemak (RM3.50)…

Nasi lemak

…to try but like the one I had the other day, it was not lemak (rich in santan/coconut milk) at all and despite the tint of green, I could not detect the hint of pandan in the rice. The sambal was nice, though not spicy at all, and there was a salted fish…

Salted fish

…in place of the regular fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and together with the (albeit overcooked) egg, it was all right, just that you would not catch me buying that a second time.

Meanwhile, the nasi lemak guy at his stall a stone’s throw away was back in business and enjoying brisk business with a lot of customers eating there or buying packs and packs to take away – it actually took a long time for my orders to be ready but it did not matter as old retirees like me have all the time in the world.

While I was sitting there waiting, everytime he opened his insulated pot with the rice inside, I could catch the waft of the lemak-ness. Now, THAT is what all nasi lemak worthy of the name should be like.

I asked him why I did not see him during Ramadan and he said that he opened at around 4.30 p.m. till 6 something only. No wonder I missed him – I would make it a point to go earlier, at around 3 as later than that, the bazaar would be very crowded and one would probably have to park the car a long distance away. It certainly was my loss though as he said in that one month, he also had nasi biryani and nasi minyak – I sure would love to try those, if only I had known.

He said that he went home (Sarikei) for the Raya and was in Rajang for a couple of days and came back here and within a week or so, he was back in the thick of things. It sure looked like he had increased his prices since that time when he came back – the nasi lemak is now RM3.00…and you have to add RM1.50 to that if you want the fried chicken wing or the sambal kerang or the sambal sotong

Nasi lemak sambal sotong Bandong Walk

I asked for the sotong (squid)…

Sambal sotong

…as I did ask him about his kerang (cockles) and he said that he used the canned ones and yes, his nasi lemak was as good as ever, definitely my No. 1 in town.

In the meantime, I also happened to drop by this coffee shop opposite the car workshop that I go to the other day. When I first went there in 2015, I did go and have a look at the chap fan (mixed rice) dishes at the zi-char (cook & fry) place at the back. Everything looked rather good, something like our own home-cooked dishes and I did hear from my friend, Annie, in KL that her mum, who lives close by, would sometimes buy from there – cheap and nice so all this while, I had been wanting to go back and give it a try but I never did.

Well, that day, I had their fried noodles, wet, expecting to get our usual Foochow fried noodles, with sauce and this was served (RM3.50)…

Uncle Lau Corner mee goreng basah

…instead. It tasted quite good though it did not have the coveted wok hei fragrance nor was it in any way, anything like our Foochow fried noodles.

I asked the workshop boss and he told me that it was an Indonesian, working for the new owner, cooking in the kitchen and that the people who were there before had called it a day or had moved elsewhere. I guess I can strike this one off my list of must-go-and-try places now.

Well, lesson learnt! If there is anything that I want, jump at it – jangan tunggu lama-lama (don’t wait too long)!

Mak Met’s Breakfast Station (2.314192, 111.825581) is located at the shops along Jalan Bandong in Kpg Nangka here, facing Bandong Walk. and THE NASI LEMAK STALL (2.313869, 111.825808) is located at Bandong Walk, Jalan Bandong somewhere in front of the block of shops where the 1Malaysia clinic is and UNCLE LAU CORNER (2.328131, 111.840397) is located back to back with Udak Kitchen which is to the left of Everwin, Sg Merah along Lorong Sungai Merah 2C, off Jalan Teng Chin Hua.

A little bit better…

The Dragon Boat Festival (端午节[duān wǔ jié]) aka the Chang or Dumpling Festival came and went and I sure was thankful that I got the lovely homemade ones from some friends of mine…

Hokkien chang from friends
*Archive photo*

…and the awesome out-of-this-world nyonya chang from my good friend and ex-colleague, Richard…

Richard's nyonya chang

…and also an assortment of those from my sister-in-law – she got them from her friends and had more than enough to go round. That reminded me of the time when I was teaching in Kanowit (1978-1982) when without fail, every year, the students would bring some from home for me and at the end of the day, I had so many, enough to set up a stall at the pasar malam (night market), in fact. The joy of teaching in a sub-urban school!

Anyway, the other day, while we were having our lunch here, I saw a lady at another table eating one and she seemed to be enjoying it. I knew for sure that they did not have those there so after we had had our fill, I strutted over to this place at the other end of the block. They do sell some Chinese kuehs there and yes, we did try some of those before and there were some that we did quite like.

There were only two left…

Friends' Kopitian Hokkien chang 1

…and yes, the lady running the kampua mee stall there said that she made them herself so I grabbed both to take home and try.

I must say they were a little bit better than some…

Friends' Kopitian Hokkien chang 2

…and had chunks of meat inside…

Friends' Kopitian Hokkien chang 3

…and even some bits of fat…

Friends' Kopitian Hokkien chang 4

I like that as those will make the chang a bit more oily and somewhat nicer, or to me, at least.

As far as the taste went, I must say that these were quite good though I had had nicer ones but sadly, most of the time, the meat was not visible to the naked eye and I am rather wary of those that they tie using nylon string instead of the traditional dried straw…

Friends' Kopitian Hokkien chang 5

No, unfortunately, there was no sign of any hay bee (udang kering/dried mushrooms) nor shitake mushroom, no chestnuts, no salted egg yolk in them – I wouldn’t mind paying a lot more for the whole works, actually. After all, this is just once a year, not all the time. As it was, for RM3.50 each, perhaps I would enjoy a plate of kampua mee more and still have change…

FRIENDS’ KOPITIAN (2.296353, 111.840831) is located at Pusat Tanahwang, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road, to the right of the SHELL petrol station along that road.

Same name…

When I was a little boy, my grandfather had a shop by this same name…

Hock Kee Corner

– a textile-haberdasher shop, if I remember correctly, occupying half of No. 8, Old Street, now Jalan Chew Geok Lin while my father was in the other half selling his outboard engines, lawn mowers and air conditioners.

This coffee shop is not located anywhere near there though – it is at the corner shop along this lane…

Lorong Wawasan 9C

…in the same row as the hotel in Unicity…

Li Hua Hotel Unicity

…directly opposite the Mr DIY outlet there. I did see a coffee shop named “Old Street” there too but no, I did not go and check it out – perhaps I shall do that another day.

The kopi-o-peng (RM1.80)…

Hock Kee Corner kopi-o-peng

…was so-so and there was a kampua mee stall, another one selling dim sum that looked like the one here or here and a fried kway teow stall that did not seem to enjoy much business while the people at the Muslim stall, right beside the kampua mee stall…

Hock Kee Corner Muslim stall

…seemed very busy so I decided to give it a try. I could tell from the language they were speaking that they were Melanaus – in fact, there seems to be quite a lot of them here in Sibu operating these halal food stalls all over town.

I asked for the nasi lemak special (RM6.00)…

Hock Kee Corner nasi lemak special with salted egg added

…and paid an extra ringgit, RM7.00 altogether for that one half of a salted egg. Yes, the last time I bought some salted eggs, they were already around RM1.30 each, uncooked.

The sambal was great…

Sambal

…though not spicy at all and they did give one salted fish alongside the few peanuts and two slices of cucumber and the egg…

Fried egg

…though a little overdone, was fried the way I would like it and the chicken wing…

Chicken wing

…was like chicken wing, nothing exceptional about it.

Sadly, the green-tinted rice was not lemak at all, none of the rich santan (coconut milk) taste and despite the colour, I could not detect any pandan fragrance in it either. I guess it is pretty obvious that should I happen to drop by here anytime in the near future, I would not be ordering this again.

Perhaps the next time around, I could try the pork chop or one of the items on the menu at this western food stall…

Hock Kee Corner Ting's Western

…right next to it. I did hear from a friend I met there that morning that the lor mee at the stall directly opposite wasn’t great and I did not see anything there that would tickle my fancy but more likely than not, I would go for this egg drop soup with liver and kidney added…

Egg drop soup with liver and kidney

…from the stall at the back. We would usually cook this soup with a nui pao (egg purse/poached egg) and lots of ginger and the traditional Foochow red wine and eat with mee sua but more often than not, minus the innards. The old lady at the stall said that this is the comfort food of ladies in confinement. LOL!!!

HOCK KEE CORNER is located at Lorong Wawasan 9C in the vicinity of Unicity (2.342337, 111.831781) off Jalan Wawasan, on your left if you are coming from Bulatan Teng Chin Hua in the vicinity of the University College of Technology, Sarawak, Kolej Laila Taib and Woodlands International School, heading towards the Batang Igan Bridge.

We made our own…

Last year, I was told that I could buy the best ketupat pulut at Simpang Tiga here on the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, not available on other days – one day only in a year so I went and bought some home. Unfortunately, though it tasted great, very lemak (rich in santan/coconut milk), it was over-soft, almost soggy and too sticky so I was kind of disappointed and for that reason, this year, I did not bother to go and buy anymore.

However, this time around, my missus went and bought the empty shells from the market to make our own at home…

Ketupat pulut

…and yes, they were very nice. I sure enjoyed eating them with kaya (coconut jam).

We still had quite a lot left in the fridge that day so I decided to make some minced beef satay sauce to eat them with and these were the ingredients that I had…

Ingredients for minced beef satay sauce

– some minced beef, one finely chopped Bombay onion and two tomatoes, also finely chopped, two stalks of serai (lemon grass), bruised at the ends and a can of satay sauce.

I fried the onion and serai in a bit of oil before adding the tomatoes…

Onion, serai & tomatoes

…and then, the beef…

Beef

I did taste the sauce at this juncture and I thought it was very nice – would be great if used as a pasta sauce. From what I gathered from Peter, the Payung boss, I think this is quite close to theirs except that I think they have garlic in theirs plus he said that they would add some Italian herbs, just that he never specified which.

Finally, I added the satay sauce…

Satay sauce

…and simmered till it was a bit dry and I had it with the aforementioned ketupat pulut

With the ketupat pulut 1

It was all right – I did not think it was all that compatible with the mildly-sweet santan-rich ketupat

With the ketupat pulut 2

I am sure it would be much nicer with the plain ones…or bread or rice or even with pasta…

Minced beef satay sauce

…or with the taco shells we had that day or in those wraps, available at the supermarkets but we can’t have those as they are not gluten free.

Afternoon tea…

There is this stall at Rejang Park here…

Rejang Park Sibu
*Archive photo*

…selling Chinese kuehs (cakes) in the afternoon. I’ve blogged about the nice things I’ve bought from there time and time again but I do not recall ever featuring the stall itself…

Rejang Park Chinese kueh stall

I did not even realise that it has a name but it does!

If you are coming from the now-closed down cinema (or the bus stop), it is located on the five-foot way, after the coffee shop (Esan Cafe) and the Chinese medical store. In the past, it would only be open at around mid-afternoon but they do open earlier these days, I hear – around noon but of course, since they get a lot of their cakes from people making them at home, those would not be delivered till later so perhaps you would not have a lot of choices if you drop by that early.

As far as I can remember, our favourites here would be their own-made chai peah (vegetable fritters)…

Chai peah

…and their or koi (deep-fried yam cake) but the former is not gluten-free so we would not buy those anymore these days. As for the latter, they did not have their own when I dropped by that afternoon, RM1.00 for a very big piece, and the man told me that the lady making it has just given birth and of course, she will not be up and about making those till after her month-long confinement…so in the meantime, it will not be available.

Some people say the popiah (spring roll) is nice too but I think I did try it once and it did not get me rushing back for more. I quite enjoy their chai kueh (steamed vegetable cake)…

Chai kueh
*Archive photo*

…and would buy them when available but I do not think they made those themselves.

Quite recently, they started making their own ang koo kueh (red tortoise cake) and they had them in red or yellow/orange…

Ang koo kueh, yellow
*Archive photo*

…selling at RM1.00 each. All this while, we could not get good ones here in Sibu – usually, the ones available all this while in Sibu would be very small with a thin line of mung bean filling inside that one could hardly taste. The ones these people make are nice and people say the yellow ones are made from sweet potatoes or pumpkin, the purple ones from yam…and they do have black ones too, whatever they are made of. I do know of someone making them at home upon order if and when she wants to make and hers are very nice too but one would have to order quite  a lot at a time – it would be more convenient to just drop by here and grab theirs.

That day, they only had the red ones left…

Ang koo kueh, red

…even though it was just around 2 in the afternoon. Perhaps they did not make any in the other colours that day, I wouldn’t know, but I was fine with red and wasted no time in grabbing some to take home for afternoon tea.

LIM TIONG KHAY Chinese kueh stall (2.306707, 111.836471) is located beside the Chinese medical store among the shops at Rejang Park in the block facing Jalan Teruntum to the left of what was formerly the Zenith Mint Cinema.

Time’s up…

It sure was a very long mid-year break, starting from the 25th of May right through the Gawai Festival and Hari Raya Aidilfitri until yesterday, the 24th instant.

We only had a few days left and we had not been here because it was closed for the Gawai Festival – all their employees here are ethnic Dayaks so all of them would have gone home then for the celebration. It did reopen after a week or so but somehow or other, we did not stop by until last Friday. I think my girl did suggest going there once but it was a Monday and they were closed – they have their weekly off day every Monday.

I noticed the reduced prices on their menu…

No GST

…now that there is no GST in the country and I must say that it is really good of them to take the initiative to do that so customers will know exactly how much less they are paying now.

It was a blistering hot day but no, I did not have that coconut cendol special. Instead, I asked for their ngor bee th’ng or bubur buang panas in Malay (RM3.30)…

Bubur buang panas

…and yes, it sure was nice…

Ngor bee th'ng

…and refreshing.

I also ordered one of our favourites here, their sotong kangkong, large (RM9.50)…

Sotong kangkong 1

…to share…

Sotong kangkong 2

…and needless to say, we had THE thing that we went there for, their Sarawak/Kuching laksa (RM5.70)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa 1

Others may have their personal favourites elsewhere but to the three of us, this…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa 2

…is our No. 1 pick among all that we have in town as we feel it is closest to those good ones in Kuching and of course, we enjoyed it to the max.

I guess we did manage to get to enjoy most, if not all, of my girl’s favourites during the break before we sent her back to her school in the jungle.

SIBU THOMSON CORNER(2.296517, 111.840710) are located at Pusat Tanahwang, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road,  in the block of shops to the right of the SHELL petrol station along that road.

Short break…

This place was closed for a short break, around a week from the 11th until the 18th for Hari Raya Aidilifitri and the boss said that he had to replace those recent public holidays when the employees had to work as they did not close on those days.

I did mention in an earlier post that their Indian chef went home for around a month leaving the Indonesian counterpart to hold the fort. The latter was able to cook a few of the dishes on their Indian menu but not those that would require the use of the traditional tandoori oven but the fish curry that I had that day came out quite different – I thought it was very nice just that it was different.

Well, the guy came back and they put up this notice on their Facebook page

Cafe IND notice

…just in time before the school mid-year break ended. I asked my girl if she would like to go there for lunch and of course, she jumped at the suggestion without a second thought.

As always, the mum stuck loyally to the Indonesian menu and had her favourite kalio ayam (RM14.50)…

Cafe IND kalio ayam

…with a special request for it to be extra extra hot. I did help myself to a bit of the gravy and yes, it was so very nice but no, I did not think it was all that hot. LOL!!! I guess we have been eating all that spicy stuff till our taste buds are numb so we do not feel it that much, not at all.

Of course, my girl wanted the nasi biryani but she could not decide between the mutton curry and the butter chicken curry so in the end, I asked her to order the biryani kambing (RM21.00)…

Cafe IND biryani kambing

…while I ordered the butter chicken curry with basmati rice (RM18.00)…

Cafe ING butter chicken curry with basmati rice

…and the two of us could share.

I did try a bit of her biryani rice and yes, she is right in saying that it is the nicest in town – others do not seem to have that same taste and fragrance and some do not seem anything more than yellow-coloured rice.

The chicken used in the butter chicken curry is actually the tandoori chicken which had to be cooked first in the oven and then used to cook the dish…

Cafe IND butter chicken curry

…so this would take a little longer than usual but yes, it was very nice and well worth the wait.

Needless to say, my girl was very happy to be able to enjoy her favourites here before going back to her school in the jungle at the end of the week. I wonder what is going to happen to this place though, as well as all the rest such as this one here with their authentic Thai chefs from Chiang Mai, for instance, if the proposal to use only local Malaysian cooks by the most wise and learned minister concerned is implemented. I, for one, would be very very sad.

CAFE IND (2.290813, 111.829294) is located along Laichee Lane, right behind one block of shops facing the main road (Jalan Kampung Nyabor) where the Bank Simpanan Nasional, Sibu branch (2.290561, 111.829071), is located.