Bring it back…

When they reopened and resumed business when they were allowed to, mainly for takeaways at the time, they removed a lot of items from the menu. From the business point of view, there was no point cooking a whole lot of stuff and storing in the freezer just to throw them away in the end when nobody ordered those. I guess it made more sense to just concentrate on the more popular dishes with a higher turnover.

One was this Payung fish (ikan keli)…

…that my girl and I liked a lot. I don’t think this is our Melanau ethnic style, more likely one of the Chinese dialects even though my late mum and all the rest in the family would cook it this way too and we all loved it so much and she would always add a dash of brandy (XO no less) to hers.

Later when my mum was bedridden, she would sometimes ask my sister to go and buy to cook for her so now, my sister knows how to cook it, just that the thought of buying the fish and cleaning and preparing it does not appeal to her. She said it would take her the whole morning to do that, 30 minutes to cook and 5 minutes to eat. Why go through all that trouble when we can just go and buy and enjoy to appease the craving once in a while?

I did speak to Ah Peng, one of the guys at Payung Café and yes, he described the whole process to me that would include cleaning the fish with boiling water TWICE and everything, definitely not something I would want to do. He also said that he could not get any good ikan keli lately – all those available at the market were the farmed ones, fed with chicken innards or something – I can’t remember what he said now and they would be very big, the texture would not be nice plus there would be some kind of an offensive smell. I guess when fish is too big, there is the tendency for it to be “loco” – rubbery, tough and hard, not nice at all.

When I shared the above photo on Facebook, praising it to the skies and lamenting that it was no longer available, Andy got in touch with me and told me that they had it over the last few days but it was all finished. Of course I was delighted when he said that they would cook some more the following day but the next day, he contacted me to let me know that they could not get the fish so I would have to wait another day. Finally, the good news came the next morning – they had the fish and they would cook it that afternoon and of course, I wasted no time in going over to grab some.

I bought three servings for ourselves and one for my sister and since we did not have a vegetable dish, we agreed to drop by here…

…now occupying the shop right behind the stall…

…to buy their Indian rojak or what they call the rojak thamby (RM5.00)….

…which to me, is more like the Indonesian gado gado

…because of the peanut (satay) sauce, not quite the Indian rojak or pasembur

…that I am quite familiar with. I had it a long time ago, 2017, to be exact…

when the shop was at another location (in Sg. Merah) and I thought it was really good.

My missus would not touch ikan keli with a 10-foot pole so she bought this beef satay

…from there. It was very nice but a little bit on the tough side – thankfully, it was not as tough as when I bought the same from there before, so hard that I could not manage to eat it! That is why when I buy satay from the Malay shops and stalls, I would ask for lamb or chicken.

Because we had so much to eat, we agreed to keep the ikan keli till our no-meat Friday (today) but we did heat up one of the servings (RM15.00, without rice)…

…to be shared between my girl and I. We thought it looked a bit different from before (I don’t think it was the lighting) but it tasted just as great with the fragrance of the serai (lemon grass) and other aromatics and they sure seemed extra generous with the salted black beans this time around.

We enjoyed our dinner that evening, especially after desperately trying to finish the leftovers from our reunion dinner some one or two weeks ago!

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 and NOOR SATAY ISLAMIC CAFE is located at the shops in the vicinity of Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) in the corner at the back of the parking spaces to the right of the now-shaded hawker centre..

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

7 thoughts on “Bring it back…”

  1. The ikan keli looks pretty good but unfortunately, like your missus, I will never touch it and first thing I will vote out when it involves a whole lot of tedious work to prepare. I totally agree with your sister on her statement.. “Why take the trouble to cook when one can easily just go and buy to appease the craving”. Oh yes, rojak tamby and satay for me but I prefer chicken satay to beef. 😊😊

    Oh? So you do not eat unagi too when you go to Japanese restaurants – same family, eel/catfish. The meat is so smooth, so sweet, no smell at all unlike salmon and many of the other favourites. My missus may eat a bit of unagi but no, she will not order it herself. My girl’s favourite! More expensive than salmon!
    Of all the satay, I like chicken the least but dunno what beef they use here these days, so hard, like wood…so I will not order beef anymore. My missus should know as we encountered this problem a few times before – maybe she forgot! Growing old and forgetful these days. Thank goodness it was not too tough, quite ok but no, you would not see me rushing back to buy more.

  2. By now, I think you know that I am not into Japanese/Korean cuisine and if no choice I have to follow my kids when they are craving for it, I will only take sushi, some kind of deep fried fish skin and the steamed egg. Don’t know what they called it. 😂😂.

    Ah yes! Chawanmushi! I like that! I don’t mind Japanese for a change but Korean, I am more selective – not into anything kim chi or tastes like it.

  3. I like ikan keli, usually the deep fried ones or cooked with chili paste that are usually available at the Malay nasi campur stalls. I have never attempted to cook one myself and judging from your description of how tedious it is to clean, probably never will! LOL!

    My mum used to cook masak kunyit with it too, the same kampung way I cook my freshwater prawns. Maybe one of these days if I can get Ah Peng to buy and clean for me, I’ll cook it this way. Have not eaten for so so so long!!!
    We do get fried ikan keli at the ayam penyet stalls and shops, pecel lele. Very nice too! My daughter will order that anytime, over the chicken – the mum, of course, will stick to the chicken. LOL!!!

  4. Don’t think we have ikan payung in Johore.
    We do have claypot catfish though.
    I think that’s the most popular way of cooking catfish in Johore.
    The Chinese don’t usually deep fry catfish.
    We do that to ikan tenggiri though, which happens to be my favourite too.
    Dip that fish in sour chilli sauce, it’s like heaven!

    Oh, our Indian rojak got more stuff, got tahu, got fried crab etc.
    Sauce is also thicker than your version. Taste wise, it tends to be sweet and spicy.

    1. Yes, our Indian rojak is not quite there with its satay peanut sauce – not the same.
      It’s ikan keli…Payung is the name of the cafe where this dish is available.
      Claypot catfish? Never heard nor seen before. I sure would love to try. I love ikan keli!

  5. The one with the salted black beans looks really odd when you mix all the ingredients together. But I am sure it tasted good us like what you have mentioned.

    Not a sight to behold but imagine the fragrances and tastes of everything together, a perfect combination. Not so boring as the typical Chinese fried fish with black bean sauce.

  6. I would love to soak up that sauce of the Payung fish with lots of warm rice.

    You’ll love the strong ginger taste, I’m sure…and lemon grass and all the rest. Lovely aroma from all the ingredients.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own. For food and other reviews, you may email me at

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