New level…

I bet everybody remembers the sotong (squid) that I bought the other day. I asked my missus to pack some in small packets to keep in the freezer so I would be able to take them out to defrost and add to my bowl of instant noodles…

That would certainly bring the taste to a whole new level!

We also do the same with the smaller pek hay (seawater prawns)…

…for this same purpose or to add when frying vegetables, rice or whatever. In Hokkien, we call it cho liao or literally translated, use as ingredient.

One thing we may do when buying prawns would be to remove the shell, heads and tails, wash and rinse them very thoroughly and boil them to get the stock. My missus may pan-fry them first – she says it will give the stock a special fragrance, nicer than if we boil them just like that. A cousin of mine would always do this and use it to cook Sarawak laksa everytime he buys some prawns. Of course, we remove the veins and dispose of them separately. For one thing, we can throw the shell and everything into the rubbish bin after boiling and there will not be any stench coming out from there at the end of the day but usually, I will take and bury them in the garden for the natural fertiliser.

Anyway, back to the instant noodles that I cooked that day, one thing I would always add, never mind whether I have any sotong or prawns or not, is an egg…

and right before serving, I would sprinkle some chopped spring onion from my garden…

– just a bit of that will make a world of difference. We may use daun sup (Chinese celery) instead if we have that in the house and the good news is that I’ve planted some and they are growing really well. I may get down to blogging about it one of these days.

Let’s go eat…

Easter Monday was an occasional holiday (cuti peristiwa) for some schools in Sibu and my girl’s school, being formerly a Catholic primary school, was one of them. That was why their school did not reopen until the following day, Tuesday. As a matter of fact, it was among the few schools, six of them and later, two more were added to the list, that had remained closed even before the week-long mid-term break as they were located in the “high risk” zones and two more were added soon after as there were cases in those.

Anyway, we went out again that day to settle some matters and we finished at around 10.30 a.m. which was a bit too late to go home and cook lunch so I suggested going some place for lunch/brunch.

We dropped by here once for the chap fan (mixed rice)

…or what is commonly known as economy rice and they start at 10.30 so we decided to go over and see what they had for the day.

I had the soy sauce pork belly (bottom left)…

…and it was very nice! The lady boss told me that they had pork trotters mixed with it, something I would always order here and have always enjoyed and she gave me a chunk, all lean, but that day, I did not quite like it – it tasted like leftover meat that had been reheated over and over again. Perhaps I would have loved it a bit more if she had given me a piece with some fat instead.

The curry must be mighty popular since they cooked so much of it but somehow, I wasn’t thus inclined. The soy sauce chicken (top left) did not tickle my fancy either. In the end, I picked the ngor hiang/meat roll (top right)…

…that was very nice the last time but this time around, it was way too peppery and probably had a bit too much flour in it so we did not think it was all that great. My missus had the pork ribs (bottom right) and she did let us try a bit – yes, that was really very nice. We sure would go for it again next time if they have it on their menu for the day.

Of course, my missus MUST have the bamboo shoots, masak lemak – she loves it so much and the paku (wild jungle fern)…

…that I also had was great too.

My girl had the brinjal, her favourite, and also the long beans fried with egg (bottom left)…

I guess they were all right as I did not hear her complain.

I wouldn’t say it was so good that you would find us rushing back for more but it was nice enough and inexpensive. While we were there, even though it was kind of early, there were already people coming and going, tapaoing their picks for their lunch (takeaway).

I did not ask for the breakdown of the prices but I guess that should work out to around RM5.00 each with a nice bowl of complimentary soup each – the total, inclusive of drinks for the three of us, was RM21.70. I loved their new impressive-looking display cabinet, horizonal unlike the usual vertical ones, a lovely greyish black in colour, unlike the usual aluminum ones, with sliding mosquito-netted doors on top and I never have a problem finding a vacant space to park the car in that area of shops.

A-PLUS FOOD CENTRE/RESTAURANT (2.293355, 111.823653) is located among the shops along Jalan Kampung Datu, behind the block of shops (where Fresh & Pay Supermarket is) near the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg and Jalan Kampung Nyabor.

By ourselves…

My girl enjoys lamb a lot and other than the lamb racks and the lamb shanks that we had had for our dinners in conjunction with some special occasion, she had not had any for quite sometime now.

We used to drop by here for their very nice lamb chop with mint vinaigrette sauce (RM26.00)…

– this was probably the last time she had it there, in October 2019. As a matter of fact, they have closed down that outlet (and the other one in town) and relocated to a new place but because of the pandemic, we have not gone to check it out.

She also enjoyed the ones here (RM14.50)…

This guy, originally from KL, was the executive chef at a leading hotel in town before he joined the classier spin-off of our own Sarawak fast food franchise and eventually, he ventured out on his own. For one thing, not only is his very nice, it is also very cheap probably because of the coffee shop setting of the place, nothing fancy, just great food.

Another place that my girl likes is the one on the way to her school in the jungle. We used to pass by a few times a week and time and again, we would stop by for a bite to eat. However, I don’t think we have gone in that direction ever since she got her transfer to a school in town.

She likes their grilled New Zealand lamb shoulder (RM26.00)…

…which she would order every time we stopped by, nothing else.

Well, since we have not been going out and she felt like having lamb chops, the mum went and bought two packs of New Zealand lamb shoulder at over RM20.00 each to cook our own all by ourselves. There were three slabs in a pack so that means we could have two each…

My missus just pan-grilled them…

…and served them with this made-in-the-UK (despite its Chinese sounding name) bottled mint sauce…

…that she bought sometime ago but never used. I wonder why she bothered since we have a lot of mint growing in the garden and we can easily pluck some and make our own.

That certainly was a delightful meal and I guess that should be enough lamb for a while till the next time any of us feels like having some more.

All you get…

I liked the mini char siew pao from Johore that my missus bought not too long ago so I told everyone about them on Facebook. My friend, Annie, in KL promptly commented on my post and shared a photograph of this…

She likes this one too!

That was why when the ladies went out shopping the other day, I told them to drop by the supermarket and grab a pack for me if they see it there. Well, they did and yes, they got me a pack.

The very next morning, I could not wait to steam it to heat it up and give it a try. When I opened the pack, I was stunned. There were ONLY two…

…inside, two big ones but two is all you get in a pack, no more, no less!

Yes, they were very nice, piping hot, straight from the steamer and there were huge chunks of meat inside, with quite a bit of egg some more…

…unlike those miserable steamed paos here.

However, they are RM11.00 something a pack so it works out to almost RM6.00 EACH, two plates of kampua mee, mind you! At that price, I think I would give them a pass – at least, I’ve given them a try and I do know how good they are. Period.

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman.

Save it for another day…

That day, I went over to the hair salon in the next lane for a haircut and when it was done, I strolled over to the shop next door to see whether they had anything that I might want to buy.

I bought all that was left of the deep fried or koi (yam cake), 6 slices at 50 sen each, and the lady boss asked me to take the roast pork, only 4 slices left and I said o.k. The young son weighed them and calculated and charged me RM26.00 for both.

It did not occur to me at the time but that evening, when we took it out to heat up for dinner, my missus said there was way too much – we could just have two slices and save the rest for another day. I did not really pay attention when I was buying – I thought there were 4 small slices but actually, they were really very big. When I told my missus how much I paid, she was shocked! She said that one slice like that would cost at least RM10.00 at the roast meat stalls and shops. Maybe the young boy made a miscalculation…or maybe I did not remember correctly.

Well, we could not finish all of the 2 slices that we had for dinner that evening and the other morning, since there was a lot of leftover rice, I used it to cook some fried rice. These were the ingredients…

…that I had – lots of chopped garlic and daun sup (Chinese celery), the roast meat, cut into small, thin bits and my missus’ delightful blended chili.

I fried the garlic in oil till golden brown before adding the meat. After frying for a bit, I added the rice, followed by the daun sup and the blended chili. I felt there wasn’t enough “kick” so I added some pepper and chili flakes as well plus a sprinkling of salt and msg before adding two eggs.

Once it was done, I dished everything…

…out and served.

Yes, it was very nice and I especially loved the taste of the roast pork in the fried rice. I thought it was very compatible, nicer than when I had some char siew left and I used it to fry rice more or less this same way.

Seafood…

I have not gone to the central market here in Sibu since the outbreak of the pandemic last year so it has been over a year now. They are very strict with the SOP’s when anyone wants to enter but I do not fancy how everyone is free to move around as it pleases them and physical distancing seems to be the last thing on their minds. Lately I have noticed a lot of pork shops opening here and there all over town and other than those, now stalls selling fish and other seafood are popping up everywhere too.

I do not have a problem buying these from the shops in my neighbourhood so I see no reason to go to the central market at all and lately, I’ve been buying seafood from one stall located by the side of the building where this shop, hotel and food court are located. It will only open when there is a fresh supply of fish, prawns and what not and I was delighted to see it was open when I went over very early the other morning on Good Friday at around 6.40 a.m.

The lady boss and the workers were very busy taking out all the fish and everything and arranging them nicely at the stall. There was only one other customer that early, a lady so there was physical distancing and everyone was wearing masks.

My girl loves sotong (squid) so I bought some and we had that…

…cooked with assam (tamarind) and kunyit (turmeric) for dinner that evening. We were fasting and abstaining from meat the whole day so this was indeed a lovely treat.

I bought 2 kilos of the bigger ones…

…selling for RM20.00 a kilo. There were small ones but my missus does not like like those as cleaning them would be such a chore and will take like forever, the same reason why I am not fond of buying those small pek hay (seawater prawns).

There was enough for two servings like this…

…and I did ask my missus to pack a few in small packets so we can drop them into our instant noodles or use to fry vegetables like how we use prawns for this same purpose.

I did not buy any prawns as we still have those in the freezer but I was thrilled to bits when I saw some ikan terubok – the lady said their season is starting at this point in time – and I wasted no time in grabbing two of them. She also had some phak thik poh, literally translated as the blacksmith’s wife (tripletail fish or patipok or kuku laut in Malay, 打铁婆,松鲷 in Chinese), but they were way too big. She said that I could buy half, RM20 a kilo for the top and RM25 for the bottom. Of course I wanted the bottom – for reasons unknown, my girl loves the tail when it comes to fish. I told her to cut it into slices so we would be able to just fry and serve.

Once I was done, I made my way home, feeling really pleased with my loot that morning.

The fish stall is located to the right of CCL FRESH MINI MARKET against the wall at the end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, on your left just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall. You can also go in via Lorong Pipit 4, turning left into the lane at the junction where Starbucks Sibu is located and go straight ahead from there.

What on earth…

This place…

…is VERY new. I was quite impressed by what I saw on their Facebook page but I was avoiding the kampung area here in Sibu as there was a cluster in the neighbourhood at the time. Eventually, when it looked like it was safe to venture into those parts of the woods, I made my way there.

This was originally a seaside eatery at the beach…

…in the small town of Belawai. I did hear of people driving all the way there to buy the fish, prawns and crabs and to enjoy the nice food available. I read somewhere that this is their 3rd branch but I have no idea where the 2nd one is.

I got there past 9.00 a.m. that morning and it looked like they had just opened for business for the day. I asked the boy and he could not even give me a specific time. He just said that they would open at around 9 to 9.30 like that. There was a couple sitting inside the airconditioned section so of course, I chose not to go in there and picked a seat in the non-airconditioned area. Another couple came a bit later and they sat outside in the pavement area. I was glad there were so few customers at the time so physical distancing was not a problem at all.

I took a look at the menu but the items are so limited – for breakfast, especially. They do not even have nasi lemak! Well, at least they got the spelling…

…correct – the one officially approved by the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka but should it be ONE word or TWO? Gee!!! This is such a nuisance – much ado about nothing, if you asked me!

I asked the boy what payak means and he said prawns so of course, I wanted that. I had to wait a very long time, half an hour, at least before this…

…was served! Now WHAT ON EARTH was that? Whoever cooked that obviously needs a crash course on presentation badly to make what he or she dishes out look reasonably presentable. Well, if anyone is wondering, THAT was some very overcooked kuetiau (flat rice noodles) drowning in the sauce, so much of it that it actually looked like a soup dish!

They could have taken the few, very very tiny prawns inside and piled them on top like this…

– I counted five, all very fresh, very succulent and firm and sweet…

…but all of them were very small and they could have garnished the dish with a sprinkling of chopped spring onion and/or daun sup (Chinese celery) and a few bits of sliced fresh, red chili for a bit of colour.

The sauce tasted like what we get at home when we cook udang galah/freshwater prawns…

…or crabs with ginger and soy sauce and egg so I would not say that it was not nice, just that they could be a little bit less generous with the msg but this is definitely one way of frying kuetiau that I have never ever seen before in my entire life! A friend says that this is the Malay-style that is gaining popularity at a number of places in the country – he has tried it himself and he likes it!

It was only RM7.00 and the very watered down kopi-o (coffee, black) I had was only RM1.00 but no, if they think they will see me back there again for this, they can think again. Maybe I shall drop by round lunchtime to try their rice dishes – they did mention that they have western dishes at night but somehow, it did not get me jumping with excitement, not at all.

IFTITAH SIBU (2.308379, 111.8209780) is located at No. 55-56, Jalan Kuda, off Jalan Kampung Nangka.

Don’t bother at all…

My missus bought this…

…home from that supermarket in town and when I spotted it in the freezer, I was thinking that perhaps, we can use it to cook the Korean galbi tang (갈비탕)…

…that I love so much! This does not come cheap (RM30.00 a bowl) but it was so very nice that I would want to order it every time we drop by that Korean place, our favourite in town. However, we have not been there for a long long time now, probably not since the outbreak of the pandemic and I sure wouldn’t mind if we could cook our own to enjoy.

The ribs did not come cheap either! Over RM27.00 for five short ribs, over RM5.00 each. I told my missus we would have it this time but no, do not bother buying anymore at all. It is way too expensive! Unfortunately, I saw her taking them out of the freezer together with a pack of minced beef one fine day so I asked her what she was going to cook. She said that my girl wanted bakso so bakso, it would have to be then. Oh no!!! Bye bye, galbi tang!!!

My girl’s coursemate cooked that once and gave us quite a lot to enjoy and yes, it was very nice plus we did not have any radish in the fridge so we can’t cook what I wanted. My missus went ahead with her plan and we had the soup…

…for lunch with rice. I thought that was most disappointing, to say the least – it was so bland, none of the rich beef taste that one would get when going for those clear soup beef noodles. My missus said that she managed to remove half a bowl of the oil/fat and probably, that was the root cause of the problem. In getting rid of that, she got rid of the lovely beef taste in the soup and no, she did not add any salt, no msg either.

When we had it for dinner that day, my missus cooked some bihun (rice vermicelli) to eat with the soup but no, it did not save the day. Thank goodness for the sweet potato leaves…

…from my garden that we fried with udang kering/hay bee (dried prawns) sambal. The sambal and the sauce sure helped to make the hard and dry basmati rice that we are eating lately a bit more palatable.

Sigh!!! This low fat, low carbs, low starch, low sugar, low salt (and no msg) diet is really getting me down – everything does not seem edible, much less, appetising so most of the time, I would just eat a bit and maybe have a cream cracker or two in between meals AND they tell me that 3 cream crackers is equivalent to one bowl of rice. Oh dear!!! When did my life become so miserable? Sobssssss!!!

Break the habit…

The other day, the ladies and I went out all morning because there were some matters that we had to go and settle. We managed to get everything done past 11.00 a.m. and of course, since there was nothing in the house, we decided to stop by some place for lunch…

…before going home.

I picked this place as I was sure my girl would approve – she would love to go for the biryani rice anytime and yes, I was right! The last time we were here was in December last year, I think…before the Pasai Cluster when things went completely 0ut of control.

We did chat with the boss while we were there and he told us that business had gone down by at least 50%. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, not in the least, but somehow, I don’t think it is because people are staying safe and staying home. People like me are so used to not going out these days that it is no longer our habit to just go some place to eat, the way we used to. I do know of a few nice places that will not be crowded and should be pretty safe but somehow, going out does not seem to appeal t0 us so much anymore.

Yes, of course, my girl had the biryani rice and she picked the Indian butter chicken (RM18.00)…

…to go with it while the mum stuck loyally to the kalio ayam (RM14.50)…

…from the Indonesian menu.

I have been cutting down on my intake of carbs and sugar lately so I just ordered the tandoori chicken (RM14.00)…

…for myself but I did have a spoonful of my girl’s biryani rice and another spoonful, the plain white rice from my missus’ plate.

There wasn’t anybody else there for lunch that afternoon – one good thing about this place is there are not so many tables (they’ve taken out some of them, unlike before) and they are placed far apart and if there is anybody else, to the most, there will probably be another one or two tables so physical distancing is not a problem . We sure enjoyed our lunch – we always do when dining here and yes, if we have to eat out again, this will definitely be one of the choices we shall consider.

The 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.

Out and about…

I had not been out and about for such a very long time so of course, I did not stop by any place here for a bite to eat.

However, that morning, I had to go to the bank and normally, it would open at 8.45 a.m. When I got there, the main door was still locked and the security guards just ignored me. Luckily, one sweet young thing saw me and quickly came to tell me that they do not open till 10.00 a.m. these days owing to the pandemic.

Left to my own devices, I decided I would drop by a coffee shop for a bite to eat. There are a few, three, to be exact, in the middle of nowhere, so to speak, in the neighbourhood where I live. One is VERY popular and can be rather crowded and everything will be sold out by 10.00 a.m. The other one in the next lane round the corner from my house is all right but there is one where I hardly see anybody there and of course, that was the one that I picked.

I had the kampua mee that one time when I stopped by there and I thought it was all right, nothing overwhelmingly good but it was o.k. I did say that I would go back there again and try the fried stuff and that was what I had…

…that morning, their Foochow fried noodles, wet (with sauce).

Yes, there was no one around, just the few coffee shop people sitting there and chatting away. One young guy was frying something though I wondered why he was doing that since there were no customers around to eat what he dished out. I placed my order and went to take my seat. I must say I was impressed by how clean the coffee shop was – yes, they had a lot of things but at least, they were all nicely arranged, not all over the place like in some coffee shops.

They had everything all ready for you to check your temperature and record the details in a book and they even had this…

…stuck onto the table as a gentle reminder and everyone had their masks on the whole time! Ever so often, I would drop by some place and see somebody with his mask pulled down, the nose exposed or worse, the mask dangling from one ear. I really get so pissed off by the attitude of the likes of these.

The instant the plate of noodles (RM4.00)…

…was served, I was swept away by the very strong and most delightful wok hei fragrance. Gee, this is going to be good, I thought! Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived. This was cooked by frying the noodles in the intense heat of the wok and after that, the sauce/gravy was cooked and poured all over the noodles. Personally, I prefer the moon (braised) method and when they cook the mee this way, I like the sauce dark, not pale like this. Other than that, the mee was a bit on the firm/hard side, not soft enough for me.

I liked how generous the guy was with the meat and the vegetables even though I am not crazy about those frozen meat balls. It probably would look nicer without those, replaced with a couple of very thin slices of char siew – one thing’s for sure, that would add a bit of colour to the dish.

Yes, I wouldn’t mind coming back again – who knows I may stumble on something worth coming back for. I saw packets of Maggi chicken and curry in the display cabinet – maybe they fry those as well.

NGA CHUONG CAFE (2.312134, 111.837763) is located along Jalan Au Yong Selatan past Lorong Au Yong 4 on your left as you turn in from Jalan Pahlawan.