Thumbs up…

Last Friday, we had to drive to my girl’s school in the jungle to fetch her and bring her home. Her colleague, originally from Kuching, hitched a ride from us as she was coming down to Sibu for the weekend. I asked her if she wanted some lei cha for lunch – it is a very common Hakka delight in Kuching, available at a lot of places and according to her, her mum used to cook their own but she has given up now as it entails a lot of work in the preparation.

Of course, she jumped at my suggestion…

Payung Cafe lei cha 1

…so there we were at the only place in town where one can get to eat this – only for lunch on Friday (RM6.00, usually with free dessert)…

Payung Cafe lei cha 2

…and yes, she was very impressed indeed and gave her double thumbs up! She said it was bitter, the way it should be, and very much to her liking – not like those watered-down versions, not (so) bitter ones in Kuching and elsewhere.

Well, since we were already there, we thought we might as well go along with her to keep her company and have our lunch there and since it was our no-meat Friday, we had the Payung fish, their ikan keli (RM15.00, with rice)…

Payung fish

…that my girl wanted though it is not exactly gluten-free as there is soy sauce in it but a little bit once in a long while is all right. She loved it, of course, and the tom yam prawns (RM17.00, with rice)…

Payung tom yam prawns

…was so very good too. As always, they gave us a lot more, probably two or three times their regular serving at no extra charge.

I ordered their ikan bilis special (RM8.00)…

Payung ikan bilis special

…and my girl sure enjoyed it a lot! Funny how she never seems all that keen when we fry out own at home but she loves the ones here – from what I gathered, they would dry the dried anchovies in the sun for an extended period of time so that when they fry them, they would be extra nice and crispy.

We also had their pomelo salad (RM8.00)…

Payung pomelo salad

…and Peter, the boss, treated us to their tomato salad…

Payung tomato salad

…on the house and of course, we all got the free dessert…

Payung complimentary dessert

…meant for those dropping by for the lei cha.

Incidentally, if you intend to stop by there for that on a Friday, perhaps it would be best to call first to reserve. Luckily, I did call to do that (016-8906061) before we left the school and by the time we got there past 1.00 p.m. they were all sold out already except for one other set that somebody had reserved to go and eat at 6 in the evening for dinner.

On the way to the school, we stopped by the market at Selangau and managed to get hold of some bua’ terbulus/buah engkala and I asked them to prepare for us to eat with our lunch. Well, not only did they do that but they even went through the trouble of presenting it nicely…

Bua' terbulus

…for us to enjoy. Aren’t they great, these wonderful people here?

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

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Reason to celebrate…

I have not been here…

Mum's

since I don’t remember when but obviously, judging from the crowd there night after night, it is the favourite of many.

Well, it was my paternal cousin’s birthday last Wednesday but he called me the following morning, Thursday, to invite me to dinner that night there as this place has its weekly day off on Wednesdays so there we were that night, my missus and I and my sister and all in his immediate family.

Yes, as always, the place was packed but even so, the dishes came fast and furious. We had the kiam sor hay kiu (salty crusty prawn balls)…

Salty crusty prawn balls

…and the butter boneless chicken…

Butter boneless chicken

…and the salad sotong

Salad sotong

…or what they call the batter-coated deep fried squid, served with mayonnaise here.

There was also the hot plate venison…

Hot plate deer meat

…and for our vegetable dishes, we had the midin (wild jungle fern)…

Midin

…and the cangkuk manis

Pork leg cangkuk manis

…or rather, that was their braised pork leg served on a bed of cangkuk manis and needless to say, I feasted on the former, not the latter. LOL!!!

I loved the steamed fish head too…

Steamed fish

…but by the time it was served, I was already bursting at the seams. The servings were huge! The dinner, inclusive of Foochow tofu soup…and rice and drinks for ten people, came up to a little over RM200.00.

Thank you so much, Ah Siong, for the invitation and once again, Happy Birthday, God bless always and may all your wishes come true. Cheers!!!

MUM’s is located along Lorong Tunku Osman 1, the first shoplot in the block in front of the SM Methodist side entrance/exit, right beside Y2K Cafe (2.294220, 111.825753) which is the shop next door, to the left.

King…

Raja in Malay means “king” and ulam is the Malay word for vegetables, fruit or herbs eaten raw with sambal belacan (dried prawn paste chili dip) as an accompaniment to rice…

Ulam raja & sambal belacan
*Archive photo*

…so ulam raja would mean the king of all those stuff eaten in such a manner.

I’ve been planting these ulam raja plants for a while now but I never had the variety with those purplish pink flowers. A friend of mine all the way in Mukah did give me some seedlings once but none of them survived.

Not too long ago, my missus went to her friend’s house and she had a lot of this particular variety so she gave my missus a whole lot of the seeds. I wasted no time at all in planting them but out of so very many seeds, in the end, I only got around 3-4 plants…

Ulam raja plants
*Archive photo*

…and that was around May. Thankfully, those have been growing very well since so imagine my delight when I spotted the flower…

Ulam raja flower, pink 1

…appearing!

I really love the shade of pink and its winning combination with the yellow and brown and the green around it…

Ulam raja flower, pink 2

…and I can’t wait for the other buds to bloom as well.

I don’t think it has fully bloomed yet but from the look of it…

Ulam raja flower, pink 3

…it is not going to be very big unlike the yellow ones…

Ulam raja flower, yellow
*Archive photo*

…that I also got from my friend in Mukah. Those were big and they flourished and bloomed so well but in time, the plants grew old and they all died and sadly, all my attempts to plant some more using the seeds were not successful so now I do not have any of those anymore.

I do not have any of those orange ones…

Ulam raja flower, orange
*Archive photo*

…either now – I got the seedling from my friend, Peter, the PAYUNG CAFÉ boss and the flowers were smaller too but it sure looks like these are even smaller, about the size of a 10 sen coin. We’ll see…

Bread and butter…

It is not easy to get gluten-free stuff here in Sibu. We do have some difficulty getting gluten-free soy sauce even. I don’t know why but they do not seem all that keen to stock up on those stuff regularly even though they do seem to sell really well and mind you, they sure do not come cheap. When you come across something nice and you rush back to grab some more, more often than not, you will find that it is all sold out and they can’t tell you when there will be another shipment of the stuff, probably never.

I hear it is not as bad in Kuching and talking about that, my dear ol’ friend, Yan, now based in the city, sent me this pack of gluten-free quinoa spaghetti…

Quinoa spaghetti

…for my girl and also these boxes of chickpea and buckwheat pasta…

Chickpea & buckwheat pasta

This jar of organic gluten-free, palm oil-free peanut butter…

Gluten-free organic peanut butter

…is more for me, I guess but I’ve yet to give it a try so I have no idea right now as to how good it is. Gotta go out and get some bread and bananas and fruit jam so I can enjoy some more of those most delightful Elvis Presley sandwiches. LOL!!!

No, that’s not all – there is also this packet of figs…

Figs

I may have eaten figs before though the ones I had may not be organic – if I am not wrong, they have a lot of health benefits.

My girl had had a few successful attempts when it came to making gluten-free cakes not only when using those ingredients that came in a box…

Gluten-free chocolate cake
*Archive photo*

…but also when making them from scratch.

So far, as far as I can recall, she did manage to buy some pretty nice gluten-free cookies and biscuits from off the shelves as well though I don’t think she was ever successful in making her own.

It is the same when it comes to bread except this one

Gluten free bread
*Archive photo*

…also using the ingredients that came in a box, that sure looked like bread but did not taste quite like it while this one…

Gluten-free pizza bread mix
*Archive photo*

…turned out pretty well but there was just enough for two not-very-big pieces of pizza using what was in that one box.

Then there was that one time when she made what is called cloud bread and though I thought it was very nice and quite like bread…

Cloud bread
*Archive photo*

…she never made it again or maybe she did but it was not successful the second time around so that was it!

Well, my brother was home from New Zealand for the 1st Anniversary of our dad’s demise and he brought these…

From New Zealand

…for my girl.

She has yet to try the cake – we reckon it would be something like what I got from my god-son/ex-student, also from New Zealand but she could not wait to try making the bread and it came out looking like this…

Date & walnut bread

She should have used a smaller baking tin but we did not have any – I think it would have been thicker, otherwise.

She toasted a slice, spread some butter and jam on it…

Date and walnut bread toast

…to let me try and yes, it was very nice.

I did try eating it on its own, just like that and I thought it was something like carrot cake, with the nuts and dates in it, minus the carrot and the strong cinnamon taste but yes, it was good, just that it was not like…bread.

A different way…

In my growing up years, we would always have Bovril or Marmite…

Marmite

…in the house and we usually would eat porridge with those and sometimes, my mum would use those to make soup to go with our meals. I do vaguely recall having them with bread too.

Personally, I liked Marmite more as I thought Bovril had some kind of rusty taste but eventually, especially after I had tasted the latter with noodles

Bovril mee sua with fried egg
*Archive photo*

…my opinion changed somewhat. I seldom buy Marmite anymore these days though because nobody else in the house likes it and it sure does not come cheap even though it is just yeast extract, not beef but then again, it’s the same with Bovril these days though bottles of the real beef or chicken varieties may be available at some supermarkets.

I do know for a fact that there are some very popular dishes at Chinese restaurants, Marmite crab, for instance but I have never tried those and I did see somewhere the other day packets of the instant Marmite whatever that one can use to cook the dishes. Other than with porridge, I’ve had Marmite with butter on bread or cream crackers and I quite enjoy it like that and the other day, I tried noodles with it too.

Well, it so happened that I had some instant noodles in the house – those cheap ones selling for less than RM3.00 for a pack of 6 packets but even though the expiry date was not until next month…

Expiry date

…the bumbu (seasoning) had gone hard so I just threw it away and used the noodles my own way. I actually like their noodles – they take a bit longer to cook and they stay nice and firm like some Korean noodles that I had had before – most instant noodles that will go soft and soggy if you boil them a little too long.

These were the ingredients I prepared…

Ingredients

I fried some sliced shallots in a bit of cooking oil (some would prefer to use lard, I know) – do make sure to turn off the heat once it has started to turn brown otherwise it may end up burnt and will taste bitter. It will continue to cook in the residual heat and will be golden brown soon enough. I also had some sliced spring onion from my garden and I used the chili powder from inside the packets of instant noodles. As for the Marmite, I just added around a teaspoon of it – for one thing, it is salty and besides, I would not want its taste to drown out the fragrances of the other ingredients. You may add a pinch of msg as well if you so desire.

Once I had cooked the noodles, I drained them well and tossed them in all the ingredients and served…

Marmite mee with egg 1

…with one hard-boiled egg.

Of course, you may want to blanch some green vegetables and have them by the side or you can have some thin slices of char siew on top for a more balanced meal but I did not have those in the house so this…

Marmite mee with egg 2

…would have to do for my breakfast that morning.

Yes, I did enjoy that with Marmite instead of Bovril and actually, for the uninitiated, they cook our Sibu kampua mee more or less the same way – the only difference is that they use chio cheng (light soy sauce) instead of those in the preparation.

What they say…

Last Sunday morning, I had to go out to do something and my tummy was acting up on me. It probably was the heat the day before when we had to leave the house before dawn to go to my girl’s school in the jungle for the replacement classes and then take her home again in the blistering hot afternoon for the weekend. While I was out, I decided to go for something to eat and even though the best thing for me in my condition would be a bowl of porridge, I just did not feel like it.

In the end, I stopped by this coffee shop…

Tung Ming Cafe

…where I liked the kampua mee

Tung Ming Cafe kampua mee
*Archive photo*

…and also the chin th’ng mee (noodles in clear soup)…

Tung Ming Cafe chin th'ng mee
*Archive photo*

I ask some people that I know why they prefer the coffee shop at the other end of that same block when personally, I do not think what they dish out there is all that nice. From what they say, it seems that they feel this place is rather dirty.

Hmmm…I guess they should do something to clean up the shop, arrange everything nicely and neatly and not simply throw here, there and everywhere and spruce up the place a bit. Otherwise, I do not think it is that bad and obviously, many do not think so too – there are always a lot of people stopping by there for a bite.

I should not be having anything too oily so I opted for the chin th’ng mee but with pian sip instead of the slices of meat (RM2.80)…

Tung Ming Cafe chin th'ng mee & pian sip 1

…and yes, I did quite enjoy it…

Tung Ming Cafe chin th'ng mee & pian sip 2

…along with my kopi-o that was only a ringgit a glass (small).

Yes, they did give the hot water as required by our municipal council for me to dip the chopsticks and spoon before using them to eat. The only thing that I was not all that in favour of was their use of plastic to serve something piping hot – I would rather that they use porcelain or glass instead.

TUNG MING CAFE (2.307601, 111.824983) is located along Lorong Delta 10, the second shop in the first block of shops on your right, after the first one – a grocery store, as you turn into the lane from Jalan Delta in the vicinity of the houses behind the Delta Public Swimming Pool.

The walk…

This is Bandong Walk…

Bandong Walk

Those who were around in the 70’s and 80’s would probably remember the glory days when the eateries here would be jam-packed with people. It was a very popular place where the younger set would hang out at night, enjoying the food and one another’s company. Eventually, the crowd stopped coming – I hear it was because the place got very dirty and was infested with rats.

I must say that I am very impressed by the effort made by the people concerned to upgrade the place – the area in between the block of shops is near completion but I have no idea as to when it will reopen for business. I do hope that everyone, shop owners and members of the public alike, would make a concerted effort to keep the place very nice and clean and not let it go to rot all over again.

For some reason, some of the stalls by the side of the road are not open any time of day though I did gather from a reliable source that all of them have been rented out to somebody. Perhaps some of them only open at night and some only in the morning, like this one, for instance…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk, new sign

– my favourite nasi lemak in town!

They do seem to be enjoying brisk business…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk, stall

…which is good as that would mean that it will definitely make enough and more to keep them going and I can continue to drop by to enjoy the nasi lemak

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk nasi lemak sambal sotong 1

…there or have it packed to take home and eat.

There is a canopy at the back and customers can sit in that somewhat makeshift area…

Bandong Walk, under the canopy

…to enjoy their breakfast. Personally, I am of the opinion that they should have something more proper, more presentable and a lot nicer.

I had the coffee…

Bandong Walk kopi-o kao

…from the stall beside the nasi lemak stall and surprisingly, it was really very good. Often have I complained that the coffee at the Malay shops are quite hopeless, not nice at all but this one is one of the few exceptions to the rule and believe it or not, it was just RM1.00 a glass!!!

There is another stall next to the drinks stall where a lady would be frying noodles and I noticed that she even sells kampua mee. Perhaps one of these days, I would drop by again to give it a try.

Back to the nasi lemak, it certainly is cheaper…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk, price list

…than the ones at the shops and what I had, with the sambal sotong (squid)…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk nasi lemak sambal sotong 2

…was RM3.00 plus RM1.50, RM4.50 only altogether, the same as what one would need to fork out if one would go for the regular here and elsewhere.

To me, a good nasi lemak would be one whereby the rice is really lemak, rich with the taste and fragrance of santan (coconut milk) and would taste so good without it being drowned by a multitude of sins and this is just about the only one that I have tried and enjoyed that truly lives up to its name.

The NASI LEMAK BANDONG WALK stall (2.313869, 111.825808) is located at Bandong Walk, Jalan Bandong somewhere in front of the block of shops where Mastura Delite and the 1Malaysia clinic are.