We call these ham chim beng (5 for RM2.00)…

…but the guy at the Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall in the next lane from my house called it ngor hiang kuih. Well, ngor hiang means five fragrances and is a reference to the five spice powder (ngor hiang hoon) used in the swirl in the ham chim beng.

Personally, I’ve always called it Chinese cinnamon rolls because that is what they are except that they are deep fried, not baked. I’ve seen them in my friends’ blogs like this one, for instance and this one in Ipoh with the sprinkling of sesame seeds, something that I’ve not seen before.

I was very early that afternoon, Merdeka Day, at a bit past 2.00 p.m. and that guy had just arrived and was busy carting the tables and burners and everything from his van to the five-foot way where he would set up his stall. I saw the kuihs in the van and I asked for what I wanted from the lady there that day, probably his wife.

These ham chim beng were quite nice, lovely soft bread texture but I could not detect much of the fragrance of the five-spice powder. I did buy some from the shop there (Swee Hung) one morning, sold in brown paper bags of 4 or 5, I cannot remember now, and they were very good. I was waiting for the chance to come across those again so as to blog about them but I have not seen them again after that.

Whatever it is, they are a whole lot nicer than the ones we had in Sibu a long time ago – they were small, flat and hard with a very thin swirl of the five spice powder. We were never inclined to buy those and would buy from Kuching everytime – my missus enjoys them a lot.

I also bought the or koi (50 sen each)…

…to try that day. The guy said that they had hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) in them but I can’t say I was that impressed. I think it was because of the cheap/low quality used – it was all right, quite nice, but I was not that fond of the taste and the smell. I can’t remember where right now but I am pretty sure I had some very much nicer ones elsewhere.

He did not have a lot of choices that afternoon. Perhaps some of them had not sent theirs over yet or they had taken the day off as it was a public holiday. Of course, I bought his very nice chai peah (5 for RM2.00)…

…again, all gone in no time at all the instant I got home and we sat down for afternoon tea.

Actually, I hopped over that day to buy some dabai (our local black olives) as other than some purple cabbage tossed in mayonnaise, we did not have a vegetable dish and I would not mind having some dabai to enjoy with our meals instead. I managed to buy these tiny ones, what we call dabai seluang

Seluang (minnow) is a very small fish found in abundance in the rivers around here. They are very delicious, fried till really crispy and eaten completely, bones and all but I have not bought any for a long long time as they are very small and such a chore to clean. I did ask one Iban lady selling them if she would clean them for me and she sure did not mince her words when she said, “Kalau malas, tak payah makan!” (If lazy, no need to eat!)

My late mum loved this variety a lot. They may be small but they are very lemak (rich) and the skin is not thick but despite the size, they are not cheaper than the regular ones – at this point in time, the going price is RM28.00 a kilo. Of course, I would not buy so much as this fruit is good for some two days only – they wrinkle fast and the skin becomes hard, not so nice anymore when they are like that. I would just buy around RM10.00 and eat for two or three meals and go and buy some more if/when we feel like it. After all, the shop is just round the corner and I can avoid the “peak hours” and go when there are very few customers around.

The Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall is located on the five-foot way in front of the TCM clinic between Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket and Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – with the Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end.