Only the names have been changed…

It used to be called by this name…but now, it has been changed to…

Niang Jia

…literally translated as mum’s house/home, while inside, everything pretty much remains the same…

Inside

Other than the name, the menu is different now too though I would not say any of the items would be anything I would find at my mum’s house. I saw laksa and mee sua in the list but I was kind of put off by the tints of blue – they probably have a lot of the bunga telang (butterfly pea flower) growing at home. Yes, they have a dish with blue rice that looked like it would be nice but I certainly would  draw the line at a blue hard-boiled egg!

We dropped by for lunch the other day and my attention was drawn to the gong lou mee. As far as I know, while the Sibu kampua noodles and the Kuching kolo mee are native to Sarawak, Sabah has its own konlou mee , its own version of the tossed and served kind of noodles, and I ordered that right away to see if it was any good even though personally, I did not think very much of the one I had there many years ago  or the one I had at another place here more recently.

This was I got (RM16.80)…

Noodles

…in the end with the butter milk chicken by the side, one nicely-done poached egg and two lightly-blanched leaves of green vegetable. The noodles came across to me like fried egg noodles or our own freshly-made thinner and curly kampua mee – it did not seem anything like boiled-to-cook noodles tossed in whatever ingredients.

Having said that, I thought it was quite nice, a tad salty but it was all right after I had broken the egg yolk and mixed it along with the vegetable and garnishings altogether with the noodles…and yes, the chicken was very nice, no doubt about that.

I was served this chicken soup…

Soup

…compliments from the chef – I guess that would be what I would get had I ordered the mee sua and though I did not think it was anything like our own home-cooked version, my girl liked it a lot. Maybe it was the wine used.

My girl wanted the mee mamak that the mum had on one of our previous visits and even though they said the serving would be smaller (RM15.80)…

Mee mamak

…we thought it was the same except that for RM2.00 more the last time, we got two sticks of their very nice satay and the peanut sauce to go with them…plus the prawns were very much bigger too!

I was delighted to see porchetta in the menu – I had seen that in friends’ blogs and online and was looking forward to giving it a try someday, just that I don’t think it is available anywhere here. Unfortunately, I was duly informed that it was still in the process of being cooked and it would be available had I come in for dinner. I guess I will just have to try my luck another time then.

In the end, we asked for their golden squid (RM15.80)…

Golden squid

…which turned out to be really nice and we did enjoy that a lot.

My ex-student, John, whose family runs the place says that he prefers the previous menu and I must say that I would agree too. It did seem to go down quite well with the locals though – there seemed to be a lot more people there now. Maybe they were all there to give it a try – the trick would be to please them enough to get them coming back for more. Hopefully, they are able to do just that.

NIANG JIA, formerly LADOREE CAFE & EVENTS (2.302891, 111.842997), is located at Wisma Liberty, Lot 4047, Block 3, Jalan Pedada (now Jalan Dr. Wong Soon Kai).

Each passing day…

I just received this Chinese New Year greeting card from my cousin and her family in Melbourne, Australia…

CNY card

…a few days ago. Well, it was a bit late for Chinese New Year’s Day proper but still very much in time for the festive season which ends on Chap Goh Meh (the 15th Night) next week, thank you so much to all of them!

This card is really special as it is not just a card. In fact, it doubles as a desk calendar at the back…

Desk calendar

…12-in-1 so I do not even have to turn the page twelve times in a year.

Yes, I am really hopeless with these things – I get the 12-page desk calendar from the Mouth & Foot Artists every year and unless I have given them away to somebody, they are all somewhere in the house, still brand new.

My 2016 Year of the Monkey a page-a-day wall calendar…

Wall calendar

…is still hanging on the wall on the cover page, not even the 1st of January…

A page a day

…talking about standing still in time. LOL!!! My dad used to love this kind of calendars whereby without fail, he would dutifully go and tear a page each passing day to see if it would be a good day or not. I kept telling him that they would print the same thing year in, year out and only the numbers had been changed but it all fell on deaf ears. Ah well! As long as it made him happy, we just let him be.

What about all of you? More into digital clocks and calendars…or you are completely dependent on your smart phone?

A little wine…

Yes, we still have A LOT of leftovers in the fridge – chicken curry, satay beef, masak hitam beef and kacang ma chicken and that day, I was feeling like I have had enough of all those rich foods and was thinking of having something mild and not so heavy.

Well, I still had some of the giant udang galah (freshwater prawns) in the freezer so I took out one of the smaller plastic containers to defrost and cook. There were not all that many, 9-10, perhaps, just enough for one meal.

I marinated them with a tablespoon of sesame oil and quite a bit of our traditional Foochow red wine…

Prawns

…and then I added some garlic and the spring onions from my garden, finely chopped and a lot of ginger, julienned and topped it all with the Chinese celery also from my garden…

Ready

After getting it all ready, I put it in the steamer and steamed the dish for some 15-20 minutes…

Steamed

Yes, it was nice enough – it probably could do with a little more wine and I’ve seen drunken prawns served at the restaurants with egg white all over it. I was not all that keen to do the same as only the whites would be used – I had to find some other thing to do with the yolks.

That sure was a welcome change and everyone enjoyed it…

Served

Now what shall I do with the rest of the prawns in the freezer? I guess I can just keep them. They would be as good as new if I do not take them out or there is no prolonged blackout in our town, a regular problem at my girl’s school in the jungle with the electricity  supply from the ancient & cranky diesel-run generators, touch wood!!!

One out of two…

I was in the vicinity of this coffee shop one morning before Chinese New Year and I went in to the chu-char (cook & fry) stall there that we would frequent quite regularly to order their Foochow fried noodles but the young boy was all apologetic. He said that they would cook selected dishes and serve with rice but no, noodles of any kind would not be in their menu. He suggested that I ordered something from the kampua mee stall in front but I was not in the mood for that.

I did say sometime ago that I would drop by next door to try the roti canai but I never got round to doing that. It looked like they had a different guy manning the counter now…

Roti canai guy

…not that it mattered – I just went ahead and placed my orders and sat down to wait.

I saw on the menu an item called roti prata…and all this while, my understanding is that we call it roti canai in Malaysia and they call it roti prata or paratha in Singapore but it is one and the same thing. According to Wiki, in Southern Malaysia and in Singapore, the dish is known as roti prata, [similarly] to the Indian paratha or parotta. The Hindi word paratha means “flat”. Of course, I simply had to order that to see what it was…

Roti prata

…and when it was served, I thought it looked like the roti canai dough minus all the stretching and twirling to get it nice and fluffy and layered but cooked in the same way on a hot metal plate. No, I did not think it was anything that tickled my fancy – it was tough and rubbery and hard and tasted kind of doughy and even the very nice and spicy dhal dip could not save the day.

On the other hand, the roti telur

Roti telur

…(roti canai with egg) that I also ordered was very nice so I guess it would be safe to assume that the roti canai would be great too. Well, thankfully, at least one of the two was nice though I was wishing they could be a bit more generous with the dip – I really had to stretch it towards the end so I would not end up eating roti telur plain, without any dip. Perhaps I could have asked for more but I did not do that.

I can’t remember how much I paid that morning but I am pretty sure the total, inclusive of the kopi-o-peng, that I had was over RM4.00, probably RM1.00 for the roti prata and RM2.00 for the roti telur.

RESTORAN CHEF ALIBABA/SALAM ALIBABA KAFE is located right beside SYARIKAT KIONG CHUONG CAFE (2.291062, 111.827381) along Jalan Kampung Nyabor at the bend where one turns left or right when coming from Brooke Drive, in the same block as Malaysia Hotel right next door.

Memories of the past…

This was the final year of the prestigious Cambridge English Language 1119 Examination, an independent test like the American TOEFL – the following year, it was bought over by the Malaysian government and incorporated into the English Language subject in the SPM Examination and its quality and value have since dwindled over the years while Cambridge went on to host other similar English Language examinations like the IELTS.

Quite a few students here would sit for it every year and the fees were by no means cheap. Some of them did go for some kind of preparation at the tuition centres but unfortunately, most did not manage to do well.

It so happened that I had a friend in the department who went on a working trip to Cambridge and she did manage to bring back the marking scheme and the examiners’ reports. I studied those carefully and then I called those of my boys who would want to sit for the examination that year and shared with them all that I knew so they would not go in blindly.

It certainly made me feel so happy and proud that they did so very well – I remember there were at least 5 or 6 who got a distinction A1 and a few more managed a distinction A2 and these were two of them…

Raphael & Mark

…who got A1 – Raphael is now residing and working in the US while Mark is now a Jesuit priest, pursuing his doctorate degree in Oxford, England.

The two of them and the others were at the reunion that night and they contacted me to ask if I would be interested in joining them. Of course I was! But there were just about 9 of them – I certainly had a lot more than that in the top or the top two classes every year. Maybe the rest heard that I would be there so they all had cold feet and chickened out. LOL!!!

They picked the relatively new restaurant run by the family of one of them as the venue and yes, a few of them had a few beers…

Beer

My boys are grown men now, double their age from the time when I was their teacher.

I asked Andy and according to him, the chief chef is originally from Sibu, back here after 5 years in Melbourne. Australia and his assistant is from Miri.

This herbal chicken…

Herbal chicken

…that they dished out was really very nice. They did it differently from the other restaurants – no paper wrapper, no cling film, no aluminium foil were used in the cooking.

This…

No sharks fins

…was very nice too and no worries, there was no sharks’ fins in it – save the sharks!!!

The cereal prawns…

Cereal prawns

…were great and we also had this broccoli and mushroom dish…

Broccoli mushroom

…and the sea cucumber soup…

Sea cucumber coup

We sure enjoyed the steamed fish, ikan sultan

Fish

…done in a way that I had never seen before – I think that was their own pounded chili on top and everyone agreed that It tasted absolutely great.

We also had the crispy pata, more popularly known here as the Philippine pork leg…

Crispy pata

…and that looked like the same pounded chili by the side. For dessert, we had the canned peaches but with laichee instead of longans for a change and it was good – cold and refreshing!

It sure was a delightful evening of who did what to who, who sat where and so and so forth, recalling those fond memories of the past…and of course, there were those questions – who is where now, who is still single and available. We were so caught up with everything while enjoying the lovely dishes served that we didn’t realise it was almost 10 and time to make our way home.

Oh yes! I asked them how much I would have to pay for my share of the dinner and they told me that they had discussed that among themselves and had got it covered. Gee!!! Aren’t they all so very sweet and nice, my boys?

SIONG KEE RESTAURANT (2.293215, 111.836281) is located along Lorong Chiew Siik Hiong 1 in the Fortune Commercial Centre, behind the Rejang Medical Centre. It is at the corner opposite Lok Ming Yuen Cafe behind which is Sushi Tie, the Japanese Restaurant.

Family business…

Andy has been my Facebook friend for a long long time but I could not recall having a student by that name and I could not recall anyone who looked like that either. I did not know what he was doing but he was very active in one of those international non-governmental organisations and more recently, I saw his name in the list of councillors in the town’s municipal council.

It was only when he and his family took over this place

Siong Kee 1

…and started running their kampua mee business…

Siong Kee 2

…on the ground floor and their restaurant on the 1st Floor and Andy shared a whole lot of photographs on Facebook that I realised he is actually the son of this celebrity in town! They used to have stalls all over the town like some kind of franchise but they’ve closed down all of them to concentrate on this one now.

Well, it so happened that my ex-students, all from the same year as Andy, invited me there on the 4th Day of the Chinese Lunar New Year for a reunion…

Reunion

The mother…

Mother

…was at the helm when we arrived and much later, when we were leaving at almost 10.00 p.m., his father had taken over…and even at that time, there were still a lot of people there enjoying the kampua mee among other things.

This was a special treat from Andy, their celebrated kampua mee

Siong Kee kampua, black

– somebody asked for the dark version and it was really very nice. I did not think it was all that great when I tried it in 2012 nor was I overwhelmed by what I had at one of the stalls more recently in 2017 and at RM3.50, it was the most expensive in town so I never went back for more.

Well, according to Andy, it is now RM4.00 a bowl, restaurant standard price, and instead of the miserable few slices of boiled meat coloured red, theirs would be served with eight slices of real char siew. The kampua mee here was also RM3.50 a bowl – I guess It must have gone up to RM4.00 as well seeing how the prices of everything have gone up there…but having said that, I really enjoyed the kampua mee there and I did not mind forking out a little extra for something I enjoy…and I certainly would say the same about the one here…

Sionge Kee kampua

More about the reunion with my ex-students coming right up in the next post! Do stick around!

SIONG KEE RESTAURANT (2.293215, 111.836281) is located along Lorong Chiew Siik Hiong 1 in the Fortune Commercial Centre, behind the Rejang Medical Centre. It is at the corner opposite Lok Ming Yuen Cafe behind which is Sushi Tie, the Japanese Restaurant.

Take me to church…

Oh no!!! It’s Sunday already and the week-long Chinese New Year break has come to an end. That means that we will be making our way to our girl’s school in the jungle today before school resumes tomorrow.

This is the church…

St Mary's Sibu

…that we frequent here but we would usually go for the novena and the sunset service on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, we would be busy preparing this and that for my girl for the week ahead so it would not be so convenient for us to go then, only when we do not have a choice like when we have something on the previous night.

We did, however, go for the special Chinese New Year service at the usual time for all the Sunday morning masses here (7.30 a.m.) on the 1st day of the new year that day and we only got to eat the longevity noodles…

Mee sua

…the mee sua in our traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup after we came back, not the first thing in the morning like what we would usually do before.

The place was gaily and appropriately decorated…

CNY 1

…for the auspicious occasion…

CNY 2

…here…

CNY 3

…there…

CNY 4

…and everywhere…

CNY 5

At the end of the service, there was the customary setting off of firecrackers…

Firecrackers

…and the distribution of ang paos…

Ang pao

…to all present and also oranges…

Oranges

…two per person.

We did bring our own…

Our own

…though – we were encouraged to do that so we would have more than just two specially-blessed oranges to usher in the brand new year.

It certainly got off to a good start, our Year of the Pig, don’t you think so?