I did that…

I did that before! I planted a whole lot of ladies’ fingers, 10 plants altogether in 2016 and yes, when they started to bear fruit, we had a tough time trying to eat them all. Eventually, we grew so sick of the vegetable that I did not care if I would never ever see it again. As a matter of fact, I refused to buy it whenever I went marketing.

Well, the other day, I did blog about how my girl and the mum have taken to planting vegetables, brinjal AND ladies’ fingers!!! So far, we have yet to see any brinjal but, yes, the ladies’ fingers have started to flower…

…and bear fruit…

The first two they harvested were way over a foot long – they did not know what variety it was that they planted and they thought it was the currently very popular extra-long ones. Unfortunately, they were not and the two were way too old, so old that they were very hard and totally not edible.

Having learnt their lesson, the second time around, they harvested around five when they were less than 6 inches long…

…and those were perfect! We certainly enjoyed eating them very much.

I sure am glad that they are bearing fruit…

…around this point in time when we are not all that keen on going out. With these growing in my backyard, we can pluck them to cook for our vegetable dish time and time again while happily staying home.

There aren’t many ways to eat them though. Most of the time, we will slice them and fry with sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

…or we will steam or lightly boil them and ulam with sambal belacan (dried prawn paste)…

…and yes, we’ve thrown them, along with some brinjal and pineapple slices into our fish (head) curry…

…too.

So far, we’ve never tried stuffing them with fish paste to cook yong tofu style…

Perhaps we can try doing that when the brinjal plants start to bear fruit as well.

Here’s where the story ends…

It had its humble beginning in the 70’s as The Blue Splendour Restaurant occupying two shoplots on the first floor in the block of shops directly opposite the Sarawak House/Premier Hotel. Many would agree that the food served there was among the best in town, if not THE best. I held my wedding reception there and later, my late parents celebrated their Golden Jubilee there as well.

When the Wisma Sanyan, Sarawak’s tallest building at the time, was completed, it moved there. taking up most of the 5th Floor. Yes, it became really big and was the venue of many grand dinners. I checked my archive and I only have this post on my ex-colleague’s son’s wedding banquet held there and this one where I was invited to my friends’ mum’s 80th birthday bash. The business flourished; any opportunity we had to host a dinner, we would have it there until one day, for some personal reasons, best kept private, the owner decided to call it a day and closed down the place.

I think it was in 2010 when this place was open…

…and much to our delight, the chief chef from the Blue Splendour Restaurant was the one behind it, along with his wife, the very friendly Captain of the waiting staff in the old place and of course, we were delighted that the food served at this new place…

…was just as nice, perhaps even nicer than the old place so just as in the old place, whatever reason I had to host a dinner…

…I would not hesitate to make a reservation…

…there.

One of the main attractions here was this irresistible dong po pork belly (东坡肉)…

…served with mantao (steamed dumplings)…

I would definitely order it everytime I had the opportunity, definitely something not to be missed. There are other places serving stewed pork belly with mantao

…like this too but no, none of them came anywhere near theirs.

I loved this fish dish…

…so much but it was too big to order that everytime we dined there. Of course. whenever we had a dinner for 10, I would not miss this dish, that was for sure!

Their creamy butter prawns…

…were really good too. My girl loved it so much so it was on our must-order list everytime we dropped by.

I think it was in 2016 when they moved to a new place, their own building…

…a stone’s throw away from their former location. Probably it was too big for them to handle but when we went there, twice, we felt that generally, the quality of the food had dropped and the prices were more expensive than before so we stopped going.

It was only in 2019 when my friend told me that I could go there again as the quality of the food was as good as before and the prices were more affordable too that I went back again and yes, it was great – just like before. Why, when my cousin came home from Sydney, Australia that year around Christmas, I took him for lunch there and he loved it!

Unfortunately, our happiness was short-lived because the other day, they announced on social media that they would open till the 30th of June only. That is indeed absolutely tragic!!!

I guess with the pandemic going on and on like it is never going to end, there is really no point in carrying on. Unlike many other people, they would not have to pay rental for the use of their premises since they own the place but for a restaurant this big, they would have a whole lot of cooks and waiting staff working for them. Since dining in is not allowed for so long already, it is really not feasible to keep the place running and paying all their salaries/wages for nothing.

I guess this is where the story ends and to the people at The Blue Splendour and later, the Ming Mei Shi Restaurant, thank you for the years of great food and wonderful memories!

名美食大酒家 Ming Mei Shi Restaurant (2.293896, 111.836528) is located at 25,27,29, Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 1A in the Fortune Commercial Centre, the area of shops behind the Rejang Medical Centre, right beside the Doraemon Supermarket there.

How I miss you…

The pandemic has dragged on and on for so long now and one thing that I do miss a lot would be our traditional Chinese full course sit-down banquet.

In Hokkien, we call it “ciak chiew” (direct translation: eat wine) even though a teetotaller like me would not touch a drop, that’s for sure. In the old days, there would be a bottle of brandy (V.S.O.P) on every table and some bottles of beer and soft drinks for anyone thus inclined to help themselves. At the current prices of those hard liquor these days, we do not get to see that anymore.

Way back then, there would be 12 courses, at least, the last two being our traditional Foochow sio bee (meat dumplings)…

…and Foochow fried noodles…

…because many of the guests, usually all in the family, lived very far in the interior (sua par – direct translation: jungle) and the mode of transport being not very well developed in those days, it was considered as having good manners to make sure that they would not go hungry on the way home.

The banquet would start with what is called The Four Seasons elsewhere except that here, we would be served a whole lot more than just four…

We called it the leng pua (cold dish) as at the time, the selections in the plate comprised cold cuts of meat. I remember specifically the thin slices of char siew pig’s tongue – I loved that a lot!

Eventually, somebody came out with the sio pua (hot dish)…

…and since then, diners would have a choice when making the reservations – whether they would want it cold or hot.

The second dish would be the soup and in the old days, it was fashionable to serve sharks’ fins soup, the bigger the fins, the more its snob appeal. Of course, that is frowned upon these days so something else is served instead. A popular substitute would be the very nutritious ginseng black chicken soup…

There must be a fish dish, usually very fresh pek chio (white/silver pomfret), steamed but when they did not have any that was all that fresh, they would fry it and serve with some kind of sauce, sweet and sour, for instance…

Personally, I would prefer the fish done this way.

Pork may come next, or maybe, it would be served after the poultry dishes. In the old days, it would always be sweet and sour pork but these days, it may be cooked in other ways…

Other than the chicken in the soup, there would be a chicken dish. In the old days, it was just roast chicken…

…buried under a whole lot of keropok (prawn crackers) and being a little kid at the time, no prize for guessing what would get all my attention.

A popular alternative and one that would be considered a little bit more special would be the steamed chicken with ginseng and other herbs wrapped in aluminum foil…

The sauce, I must say, is simply awesome and full of wholesome goodness!

Sometimes, you may be served duck instead…

…or in some cases, you may get a combo of the two – chicken and duck in a plate.

There would be a vegetable dish, mixed vegetables (chap chai or what people call chak kin or something like that), perhaps depending on how much one had paid for the banquet. That might come in a yam basket…

…and if one was served a platter of broccoli with huge sea cucumber (and beef tendon)…

…it would be quite obvious that the host had paid quite a substantial sum for the meal.

These days, when the platter of prawns…

…whichever way they may do it, is served, that means that you have come to the end of the dinner.

Dessert in the old days would definitely be the peach and longan combo…

…something that would be long-awaited by the kids at the dinner but these days, you may get a plate of Chinese pancake and a fruit platter…

…instead. That peach and longan dessert is no longer something kids would die for especially now that we can buy them in cans at any supermarket or grocery store and they may end up sitting in the pantry and nobody wants to eat it. Times sure have changed.

The pandemic has dragged on and on and sadly, the end is nowhere in sight. At one time, when dining in was still allowed, they had 5 per table with fewer and smaller servings. How pathetic!!! The way things are going, it sure does not look like we will ever get to ciak chiew and enjoy the traditional full course sit-down Chinese banquet the way we have enjoyed it all our lives ever again.

Busy…

I had to go some place that morning as there was something I had to attend to and my girl had some professional matters to settle in school so I said I would drop her off there at around 9.00 a.m. and pick her up later.

I was still caught up with what I had to do when she sent word that she might need more time as there were some complications and I replied her, telling her that I might take longer than expected too so it was perfectly all right. It turned out that I could not reach an agreement over the matter so I decided to take my business elsewhere and settle it there on more favourable terms as far as I was concerned. Everything worked out well in the end and by the time, I was done, it was already 11.30 a.m.

My missus had a routine appointment with the doctor at the polyclinic that same morning so she announced that she would not be cooking lunch and asked us to take care of ourselves. That was why I decided to go to this outlet of our Sarawak’s own fast food franchise at the other end of the block of shops where I was at that point in time to buy two lunch sets…

…for my girl and I.

Each set comprised one fish fillet, the New Zealand hoki

…one fried chicken – I chose the spicy…

…their very nice savoury rice…

…and some cucumber pickle.

Actually, for the piece of broasted chicken, the girl asked if I wanted the original or the spicy and I wanted the former and she said that in that case, I would have to wait. I changed my mind instantly and asked for the spicy instead – they had two pieces available then.

I must say that I enjoyed the chicken very much especially considering that not only was it not oily, it was not fat as well unlike the ones at Colonel Sanders’ where it may be dripping in oil and you may be able to see the layers of yellow fat under the skin. The fish fillet here is everybody’s favourite but lately, everyone has been grumbling that the slice has been shrinking, getting smaller by the day. It did come with a bit of mayo and a wedge of lime though.

The lunch set…

…sure did not come cheap though. I remember seeing the price on the menu – RM10.50 per set but obviously, I saw wrongly or maybe that was the one with the fish fillet but without the chicken – it was RM29.60 for two, RM14.80 each, RM31.40 altogether with the 6% SST added.

Looking on the bright side, however, it was very fast and convenient – just order, pay and take that home to sit down and enjoy and yes, I would say that we did enjoy it very much.

SUGAR BUN@PEDADA, the Delta Mall outlet (2.310929, 111.846391), is located facing Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai, in the block of shops on the left – ASTRO Sibu is the first shop in the block on the right.

Love grows (where my rosemary goes)…

Dining in is out of the question here at this point in time so that was why we did not go anywhere to celebrate my missus’ birthday the other day, Thursday, like what we would do in previous years.

We did not feel like cooking up a storm so other than the mee sua (longevity noodles) in traditional Foochow red wine and ginger chicken soup that we had for brunch that morning, we did not cook anything else that day.

I browsed through the Facebook pages to see if there was anything of interest and this…

…caught my eye. I thought that looked really good so I quickly contacted them

…to place my order.

I asked for the family grilled platter (RM118.80)…

…as there seemed to be quite a lot so I was quite sure there would be enough for all of us to enjoy.

We got two pieces of the lamb and two of the beef…

…that we cut into smaller slices so everybody could get to eat and there would be enough to go round.

Initially, everyone was grumbling that the beef was tough – I tried it and I thought it was all right, not like the New Zealand ones that we bought and cooked ourselves. I did think it was kind of dry though and did not taste all that great. The lamb, on the other hand, was fine, tender and tasty.

However, when I got to the beef at the bottom, soaking in the sauce, I found it to be very tender and bursting with flavours. It certainly outshone the lamb but I would give top marks to the rosemary chicken…

I tried it first and found it to be so very delicious it simply swept me off my feet.

I have never thought much about grilled chicken chops or whatever chicken anywhere but this one sure puts it in a brand new light. Should I happen to drop by here to eat…someday, I sure would want to order it if it comes in a dish on its own. I encouraged everyone to have a go at it and they all agreed that it was very good and all of it was gone in no time at all.

My girl wanted this 3-in-1 Korean fried chicken wings set (RM50.80)…

…with 6 pieces of the soy garlic ones, 6 of the Korean sweet & spicy and 6 of the cheesy wings and of course, I did not have a problem with that – whatever she wants, she’ll get!

Everyone loved all three and they could not decide which one was their favourite. As for me, I thought they were all nice but just like those at the Korean franchises here, I did not think they were anything to die for.

I went to collect my orders at around 5.30 p.m. and was home by 6.00 p.m. We asked my sister to join us and she was there already when we got back so we started eating right away. I should have checked before leaving the place because once we got home, I found that they had missed out the potato salad that was supposed to be in the family platter. If I had known it would be an all-meat dinner, I would have prepared a salad or a coleslaw or something.

They certainly were very generous with the sauces though – peanut and black pepper. The former was nice, not quite like the ones at the satay stalls but we liked it a lot and the latter was very nice too, definitely not something straight from the bottle like the ones at the stalls selling some pseudo-Western cuisine.

NICA+ or NICA PLUS (2.296883,111.825859) as it is called, is located on the ground floor of the block of shops to the right of the Old Sing Kwong Supermarket (Kin Orient Plaza) along Jalan Tun Abang Hj Openg, directly below the KIMCHEE KOREAN BAR.BQ restaurant on the first floor.

Been thinking about it…

Ever since that time when I bought the fresh bay kar/ikan tenggiri/mackerel fish paste from this seafood stall near my house, I have been thinking of using it to make some tod mun pla (ทอดมันปลา) that I like very much.

My missus made some really lovely ones…

…before but unfortunately, she did not have all the ingredients that day so I did not get to enjoy what I was thinking of.

We had some nice ones (5 for RM12.50)…

…at the Thai restaurant here and here (3 for RM10.90)…

…but they have all called it a day now.

My friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, made some…

…for me once but they are not on their menu so I don’t think I will ever get to eat those again.

Well, it so happened that I managed to get two packs of fish paste (RM10.00 each)…

…from that seafood stall so I asked my missus to make more of her yummy Thai fish cakes and I went and bought a few strands of long beans and sliced them thinly…

…for her to use.

I did not notice it the previous time but this time around, I saw that it actually involved a whole lot of work. My missus had to prepare all the ingredients…

…including a lot of Thai basil leaves and sawtooth coriander from my garden and I heard a whole lot of pounding going on in the kitchen.

Finally, it was done…

…and we had that for lunch and dinner and there were some left over till the next day even. Compared to the prices I had to fork out at the Thai restaurants, this was indeed so very cheap, so many pieces for the RM20 worth of fish paste.

We used to buy the ones from Jakar or Sarikei…

…but those are seasoned and when making fish balls using those and cooking them, there is no need to add any salt or msg as there would be more than enough of those in the fish paste for the soup or whatever dish one is cooking…and one does not know what else they have added. This fish paste from the seafood stall is unadulterated, pure fish paste – no salt, no msg so one can add one’s own seasoning according to taste.

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.

Bad name…

I do remember eating ikan patin in my growing up years but I cannot recall how my mum used to cook it. Perhaps that was the fish that she used to cook with ginger in soy sauce, the one with the black wobbly skin that I liked a lot.

However, eventually, people started farming the fish and it had that horrible mud smell – they said that it was because the fish ponds did not have running water – so we stopped buying and eating it altogether. Another fish that shared the same fate was the ikan sultan

I am very wary about buying it these days as I would not know how to tell the difference – whether it is the farmed variety or not and whether it has that mud smell or not.

In the meantime, those (cheap) frozen fish fillet made their appearance at the supermarkets here. Some call it dory, some call it white fish but whatever it is, it is what they will cook for you when you go to a Chinese restaurant or chu-char (cook & fry) place or when you go for your favourite chao chai hung ngang (with fish)…

…at a coffee shop or when you go for a plate of fish and chips…

…at some classy café or restaurant.

It is quite tasteless so whether it is nice or not will depend on how and what it is cooked with. Unfortunately, I had had the displeasure of eating what they call dory with a jelly-like texture and an unpleasant smell – probably, this is some kind of imitation and one really can’t tell when it is not sold as a whole fish.

Anyway, this…

…has taken the town by storm lately – pangasius from Vietnam.

The lady at one of the neighbourhood shops in the next lane did ask me to buy…twice but both times, I said no. As far as I know, this is also called dory (not to be mistaken with the John Dory in New Zealand) and for want of a more unique name, catfish in the US! Eventually, my sister told me that she had been buying and cooking it and she said it was very nice.

I still was not convinced and it was my missus who went and bought a pack…

I told her to cook chao chai (fermented preserved vegetables) soup…

…with it with lots of our traditional Foochow red wine…

…and yes, it was very very nice and yes, I did enjoy it to the max as well with its fish texture, no smell whatsoever and very delightful taste.

Some of you may have heard of the bad press this fish has been receiving from the catfish people in the USA – well, what’s new? Haven’t they been saying all kinds of things about all kinds of things to support/protect their own industries? Well, if you’re one of them and have your doubts about this ikan patin from Vietnam, you can watch this Channel News Asia documentary– I am sure you will find everything you want to know about the fish.

Bringing it back…

Not too long ago, I was told by my friends here that they have discontinued their belimbing prawns because their tree died and they could not find a regular supply of the fruit. Of course, I was disappointed as that is one of my favourite dishes on their menu. Needless to say, I was thrilled when they sent word that they are bringing it back and it is currently available at their café.

According to this website, “this rather understated ingredient is not widely used outside of Malay and nyonya cuisine…and not to be confused with starfruit, which also shares the same Malay name, this is a small sour fruit which adds a wonderful sour note to dishes with a crunchy juicy texture.

I decided to have it with spaghetti…

…that morning instead of rice since I am cutting down on carbs and even though it was very nice, I only managed to finish two-thirds of the pasta – I’m slowly becoming a rather small eater lately, it seems. I should have asked for less since I can’t/am not allowed to eat so much these days but personally, I think I’d enjoy it more with rice.

For one thing, the belimbing

…that Peter managed to buy and use was the green variety and according to him, this is extra sour unlike his yellow ones before. I think I prefer it a little toned down. Other than that, it was very spicy but no, I did not have a problem with that. Blame it on the weather but this current batch is an absolute killer – my missus just bought a few kilos to make her own blended chili dip the other day and of course, she loved it!!!

I was the only one there that day but I think there were a couple of orders that had to be delivered to the customers’ offices and one came to collect himself, takeaway. If anyone would like to enjoy these belimbing prawns or anything else on their menu, for booking and delivery, call 016 578 7614.

I did hear, however, that there are some of my other favourites that are no longer available – they are not all that keen on cooking a lot and keeping everything frozen for too long. As far as I can remember, some of those that one can order include their kacang ma chicken…

…their green curry…

…their butter chicken…

…and their Payung chicken…

Yes, their mushroom roll…

…is available but I guess it would be best to just call them and ask so as to be sure. One good news especially for lei cha

…lovers is that it is available every day now, not just on Friday or only on Thursdays and Fridays like before.

I certainly would want to go back again for the belimbing prawns but with rice the next time around…

…and incidentally, while I was there that day, Peter treated me to this lovely toasted freshly-baked bread from the hotel bakery at the back, generously served with peanut butter and butter…

Yes, it was really good but I think that more or less used up all my somewhat limited ration of carbs for the day. Sigh!!!

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.

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.