Back to you…

My missus did drop by earlier this month but my girl had not been back here since my grand high school reunion bash in early April.

We were out and about that morning, things to do, errands to run and come lunchtime, we stopped by there…

Payung

…to pass to Peter, the boss, a small tub of the buah emplam sambal that we made and of course, to have a bite there.

There was some decoration up for Hari Raya and I don’t know if that was it or they would still be working on it but when I posted the above photo on Facebook, somebody commented, “Where’s Gawai?” and started ranting about how a certain minister in his televised message wished everybody Happy Holidays and Selamat Hari Raya but neglected to say a word about the Gawai nor the Kaamatan Festivals celebrated in Sarawak and Sabah respectively.

I quietly replied that they could just hang a Dayak shield or their Iban pua kumbu tablecloth on the bamboo frame…and the problem would be solved. Gee!!! Some people can be so sensitive about these things. Actually, this bit of effort on their part should be appreciated as I have not seen any decoration at all at the other cafes and restaurants here, unlike Christmas or Chinese New Year.

That hot afternoon, I asked for their durian belanda/soursop juice (RM7.00 a glass)…

Durian belanda

…that I enjoyed so much the last time we were here, just slightly diluted and no sugar added. The ladies followed suit and yes, they loved it too! Definitely a whole lot nicer than any at the coffee shops or some restaurants.

I had my favourite, their lamb curry (RM19.00 with rice)…

Lamb curry

…and yes, I did mention before that my missus now has a new-found love here and yes, she asked for it again this time around, their butter chicken (RM18.00 with rice)…

Butter chicken

…while my girl picked her favourites here as well, from their western selections. She went for their mashed potatoes (RM8.00)…

Mashed potatoes

…and their beef spaghetti (RM17.00)…

Beef spaghetti

Of course, as always, we enjoyed the food to the max and this time around, the bill was a bit more than usual, probably because we had fresh fruit juice for our drinks and the total came up to RM83.00, but that is not even half of what I had to fork out at that place the other day – with that kind of money, we can easily come here twice and enjoy the food a whole lot more…and still have change!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

They’re everywhere…

If I am not wrong, this is the latest attention to their chain of food courts…

Popular Food Garden

…that one can find here, there and everywhere – there is one in the small Selangau bazaar too!

That night, my girl went out with her friend so the mum and I were left to our own devices and I decided we could go and check out this place.

Most of the stalls were closed even though the sign said this was a 24-hour place but there were a few that were open such as the kampua mee stall, the dim sum stall…one stall selling a fusion of western, Japanese and whatever dishes, a number of Malay stalls and a chu-char (cook & fry) place at the back in one corner.

The young lady at the latter could only speak Mandarin, obviously not conversant in Hokkien but we managed to place our orders and sat down to wait to be served.

We had the three-layer tea (RM3.20 a glass)…

Teh-C special

…which paled in comparison with what I had here.

My missus had the Foochow fried noodles (RM5.00)…

Foochow fried noodles

…which seemed a bit more expensive than most places but I think there was a lot more meat in it.

I asked for the special…

Foochow fried noodles special

…which was supposed to be RM8.00 but they charged me RM7.00 only as they had run out of liver.

We did enjoy both our orders and seeing how the dim sum stall looked so pathetic, no one ordering anything from there, I went and asked for the sotong kangkong (RM6.00)…

Sotong kangkong

…and it turned out to be really good.

While we were enjoying our orders, I noticed a group of Iban ladies, all in a family perhaps, with a young boy, probably still in primary school, talking to the aforementioned lady and she was able to converse fluently in Malay with them and I was impressed by the boy when he spoke Mandarin to the lady! We have many non-Chinese here going to the Chinese primary schools and of course, they are conversant in the language and needless to say, when applying for jobs, especially when they always state in the situations vacant advertisements, “Knowledge of other languages will be an advantage,” these people will have an edge over many of the rest.

Since we liked what we had that night, I guess we would want to come back some other day to see what else we can enjoy here.

POPULAR FOOD GARDEN, this particular branch (2.293207, 111.827906) is at one end of the building where the Ngui Kee Departmental Store was a long time ago, at Jalan Bako, off Jalan Tuanku Osman or you can come in via Brooke Drive, right beside/in front of Orchid Hotel.

Facelift…

This Japanese place here…

Sushi Tie

…has been around like forever – not my favourite place for Japanese but the food was all right – not great, just all right and not that cheap either…plus the cubicles were so narrow I could hardly get in without having to push the furniture for a bit of extra space. I must say that I was quite impressed by what it looks like this time around as it certainly is very much nicer now than around 10 years ago and yes, there is a lot more space…

Sushi Tie, ground floor

…for me to move around comfortably. I guess they must have their own following for there were quite a lot of people having their lunch there that day.

I did not even realise that it was closed for a major facelift and renovations until my girl told me that they had reopened after everything was done and she would love to drop by and see if they had anything good on their menu.

The golden spider (RM20.90)…

Golden spider

…was very nice, their soft shell crab with salted egg sauce, much nicer than what we had here but the dragon roll (RM20.90)…

Dragon roll

…paled in comparison with something similar that we had at that other place.

I had the unagi tamago don, regular (RM23.90)…

Unagi tamago don

…which was all right, just that I thought it had a better presentation in the menu.

My missus had their karaage lunch (RM24.90)…

Karrage lunch

…while my girl had the unagi version (RM32.90) which looked more or less the same except that she got unagi instead of those four chunks of fried chicken.

On the whole, we enjoyed our individual picks and for dessert, my girl had the adzuki caramel (RM10.80)…

Adzuki caramel

…while I chose the adzuki ice shiratama (RM12.80)…

Adzuki ice shiratama

…with the three rubbery glutinous rice balls on top, not that I am all that fond of those. My missus said she was full and did not want any.

All in all, we thought it was an o.k. lunch, not anything that would get us rushing back for more and definitely not at those prices. The total came up to RM151.60, RM4.50 for three glasses of green tea, and with the 6% SST (RM9.10) and the 10% service charge (RM15.16), it went up to RM175.85. I certainly can think of many other places where, with that kind of money, we would be able to enjoy a very much nicer lunch…twice, at least!

SUSHI TIE, HQ PEDADA (2.293156, 111.836099) is located at No. 24, Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 1A in the area of shops behind Rejang Medical Centre.

Familiar faces…

I was driving past this coffee shop…

(Klang) Claypot Bak Kut Teh

…in town (it was known by a different name before) the other morning when I caught a glimpse of a familiar face…

One of the stalls

…at one of the stalls there so after I had parked my car and done what I had to do, I walked over to have a closer look.

Yes, it was her all right together with the older-looking lady who has always been assisting her wherever she went. She was at this coffee shop, among the shops opposite the school where I was teaching before I retired and if my memory serves me right, she was at the coffee shop behind the KPJ Sibu Medical Centre earlier on and I used to drop by in the early morning for breakfast those times when my mum was admitted there and I remember her telling me that she knew my father from the time when she was at the coffee shop where the original Ngui Kee was, next to the then Cathay Cinema and later, the Star Cineplex. She certainly does get around, doesn’t she?

Well, she is here now, at this present location, but she said, when I commented that she had put on weight, that she had stopped for around a year because she had problems with her legs. I guess all that standing doing the cooking day in and day out was too much a strain on the legs, the knees in particular. She said that the son and the hubby are taking care of that stall in her former place now and she and her assistant are here.

I ordered the kopi-o-peng and it came without a straw…

No straw

…and that I must say is truly commendable. There is going to be a ruling on this soon – no more plastic straws by 2020 and it is good that the people here have given it a headstart. As for the coffee, let’s just say that it was not the best nor was it the worst either.

I decided to have the lor mee (RM5.00)…

Lor mee

…which was, at best, all right and all the while, I was quite pissed off that for reasons unknown, it did not have any kangkong (water spinach) and they added those khiew chai (curly vegetables) instead. I am quite sure it is very easy to get kangkong anywhere here anytime of year.

It sure was good to see the ladies again after quite a while. I wouldn’t know when I would stop by again though as the coffee shop is around a rather congested part of town and parking can be quite a pain – that is the main reason why I had not gone back for the very nice bak kut teh at another stall in that same shop.

(KLANG) CLAYPOT BAK KUT TEH (2.291262, 111.826307) is located along Jalan Sanyan, formerly Causeway, in the block of shops behind the Petronas station, formerly ESSO at Jalan Kpg Nyabor.

She’s gone away…

There used to be another lady here, quite pretty, fair complexion and rosy cheeks because of the heat from her cooking. I quite enjoyed what she dished out and would go back time and time again for more and on weekends, I noticed that her handsome son would be there to lend a hand.

One fine day, when I dropped by the shop, I noticed that she was no longer there. They told me that she had called it quits to go with her son to Kuching – he was going there to further his studies. I don’t know if she had decided to set up her business there or not, perhaps she is running a stall somewhere there, I wouldn’t know.

Well, that first time I was here after this one took over her place…

Mei Le stall

…I was of the opinion that she should do something about her stall to make it more presentable and at least, have nicer photographs of what she was selling. I did not feel inclined to order anything to try that first time around but not too long ago, I saw a friend sharing photographs on Facebook of what she had there that looked quite good and she seemed to like it. That was why the other day, I decided to give her a chance and went back there to see if she had anything I would enjoy.

After browsing through the photographs, I eventually decided to order her bai gu mee (pork rib noodles)…

Bai gu mee 1

…though I must say that I did not have my hopes up that high. However, when it was served, I must say that at first glance, I was quite impressed. It did look impressive…and yes, it was very nice!

It (RM5.00)…

Bai gu mee 2

…certainly was a lot nicer than what I had here (RM6.50). She used our local alkaline-free eyew mee (our version of the yellow noodles) and whatever she tossed it with, it tasted really great…even without any contact with the sauce from the pork ribs. Yes, the ribs were to my liking, tender enough…and I imagined it would be compatible too if served with rice.

I certainly would not mind going back there again for more of this or maybe I would try something else the next time around. Incidentally, the coffee shop boss who took back the kampua mee stall from the previous guy is not doing it anymore – there is a lady there now assisted by a young boy. I guess I would not know if these new people are any good unless I go and try one of these days.

MEI LE CAFE (2.313147, 111.846968) is located along Jalan Gambir, a stone’s throw away from the Delta Mall, straight ahead from the first turning to your left as soon as you turn into that road from Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai.

Extra…

This…

Mee Daddy 3-in-1 X-tra

…was my late father’s favourite when he was still around. On some days, he would get the helper to cook him a bowl for breakfast and on some nights, he might cook it for his supper himself. I do like it a lot too but I am not very particular about which brand I eat and usually, I will just go for the cheaper ones.

For one thing, it is more expensive than most, if not all, of the rest, over RM4.00 for a pack of five while there are many others going for around RM3 something and I do know of some Indonesian ones selling for around RM2.80…and at times, there may be 6 in a pack even.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when there is no necessity for them to pay for transport and shipment, I cannot understand why, when it is made right here in Sibu…

Made in Sibu

…it cannot be a little cheaper. Is it because flour costs more here since we have to import that from elsewhere?

Anyway, I spotted the word x-tra on the packaging the other day and I was wondering what that was all about so I grabbed a pack and took it home. There is nothing on the packet to explain what that extra-something is and my guess is that there is more noodles in this one than in the regular packet. I do know for a fact that some people would need two packets – one will not be enough.

Of course, these days, when I cook instant noodles, I will boil the noodles first and then drain away the water and after that, I will rinse it well. In the meantime, I will boil some more water, empty the sachet(s) of seasoning and whatever into it and add the noodles before serving. I’ve read articles online about how they coat the noodles with wax or whatever and cooking it this way will remove it and render it less harmful to health.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons why we should not consume instant noodles too often but looking at the shelves and shelves of these at the supermarkets, it sure looks like people simply do not give a damn. These days, the Korean ones, though a whole lot more expensive, are very popular.

Anyway, back to how I cook instant noodles, usually I would just use half of the seasoning which I am sure contains a lot of salt and msg and throw away the rest. However, with this brand, I would use all of it…

Contents

…as I find that it is not as salty as the rest and I do not feel the msg overload all that much. There is also a sachet of onion oil (Oooppsss!!! I got it upside down in the photograph!) or shallot oil as I usually call it and of course, I would add all of it for the fragrance and the flavour and when I cook it the other morning, I also sprinkled a bit of chopped spring onion from my garden on top…

Mee Daddy, cooked & served

…before serving.

I had it with a lightly-grilled sausage and egg and some sawi manis so I would say that was quite  a balanced meal. don’t you think? There are carbohydrates, protein and vegetables – not all carbohydrates like when people just eat it on its own.

Whatever it is, it is best not to consume this way too often and in my case, I will just stock up some in the pantry for days when there is  nothing else to eat in the house.

Better way…

When my girl was first posted to her school in the jungle in March, 2013, the Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road was not all that good or maybe I had no experience driving long distance then so I drove very fast there and back for fear that I would not get home before dark. In the meantime, there was an on-going upgrading of the road and the construction of some overtaking lanes and after a couple of years, I started to enjoy the leisurely drive every week.

We would leave home early and stop at Stapang or Selangau, roam around the market to see if there was any jungle produce that might tickle our fancy and have a bite to eat at one of the coffee shops at those places before proceeding to our girl’s school before lessons ended for the day.

Then came the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway or what we would “affectionately” refer to as the Pain-Borneo Highway or Hellway. It has been gong on for a few years now and it sure does not look like it is ever going to end. Usually there are not many people working, just a few here and there and I simply cannot imagine where it is going or where it is coming from.

It would not have been so bad if they did not make a mess of the original road plus there are so many lencongan (diversions), one after another so one would be driving in a zig-zag manner all the way so what once was a 99 km drive is probably now at least 200 km. Talking about the diversions, I can go this week and find some very nice new ones and the following week, they will look like an earthquake has struck! Such poor quality work! I certainly hope that if ever they get the highway done, it will not be like this.

Anyway, sometime ago, I was at my regular petrol station and I was chatting with my friends there, the petrol attendants and I was telling them how horrible the road conditions were. There was a boy there wiping and cleaning the pumps and he suggested that I used Jalan Pasai Siong…

Jalan Pasai Siong

…adding that the road would be a whole lot better, no potholes, no diversions, nothing. However, it was only after my girl’s colleague mentioned that same thing to her that I decided to give it a try.

Not far after Stapang, you would get to a junction – you can see a road sign pointing right to Jalan Teku Pasai Siong and to Sibu/Sarikei straight ahead and a little further up, there is a bigger signboard with one arrow pointing to Sibu and the other, Bintulu/Miri. Instead of going straight like what I usually did, you turn right. You can see from the above photograph that it is a very narrow two-lane road, one coming and one going, not too winding but kind of hilly so one would go up and down smoothly as the slopes are not steep.

Before I embarked on my little adventure, I logged into Google Maps and went on a “drive” along that road. It felt so very long, nothing but jungle on both sides of the road and frankly, it does feel that way when you are driving along this road, like it is never going to end. However, I kept track of the distance and found that it was only 35 km (21.7 miles) and if you are driving along the Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road, SMK Luar Bandar is 21 miles away – and that was before they had all those lencongan (diversions), still quite a distance away from this Jalan Pasai Siong/Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road junction. Maybe I was not driving very fast as I was not that familiar with the road yet so I found that we did not really make good time, perhaps by 15-20 minutes only.

Not far from the aforementioned junction, you will pass by this very nice temple…

Temple

…and along the way, other than the oil palm estates, the pepper gardens, the pineapple farms, you may see some country houses…

Country house

…and padi fields and some longhouses…

Longhouses

…too.

If I remember correctly, there are two streams and bridges…

Stream and bridge

…to cross and when you get to these shops…

Shops

…where the 1Malaysia Clinic, Teku is, you will know that you’re almost there.

When you get to this roundabout…

Roundabout

…turn left into Jalan Ling Kai Cheng and go straight ahead to the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Deshon (Selemo junction), the sole traffic lights the whole way and none of those horrendous lencongan (diversions), none at all to make your driving a horrible nightmare!

Besides, there are hardly any cars so you can just cruise along happily – no F1 Grand Prix driver-wannabes, no road bullies tailgating you at a dangerously close range when they cannot overtake, no excessively-overloaded lorries, long trailers and inter-town buses behaving like it’s their grandfather’s road, overtaking when they please – no signal, no horn, no warning whatsoever, never mind right or left and scaring the living daylights out of you. Here, along this somewhat deserted/quiet road, if you come across one that is slower than you, it is so easy to overtake because there are no other cars, none on-coming and none going.

There is a part somewhere in the middle where the patching and repairing have made it kind of bumpy so the ride would not be all that smooth but that is chicken feed compared to the torture you have to go through when driving through those diversions. Do be careful and watch out for unexpected curves, just a few here and there – you may be speeding uphill and when you reach the top, you may find that suddenly, you have to turn right or left and not go straight over the edge!

The school holidays are here, praise the Lord so I will not have to drive to my girl’s school in the jungle for the next two weeks but when it reopens, no prize for guessing which road I would take!

*Photos taken from Google Map and adapted/edited for use in this post. I did take a few that I shared on Facebook sometime ago but when one is driving, the photographs taken may not be all that nice.*