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).

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.

Let’s eat out…

I did not feel like cooking last Friday after we got back from bringing my girl home from her school in the jungle for the week-long Chinese New Year holidays so we decided to go somewhere for a nice dinner instead. Besides, I gathered that she had gone down by a kg because what she got in her lunch packs from her home catering service there all week was not to her liking.

We thought the fish here was great – their sweet & sour fried sea bass..(RM48.00)

Sakhon sweet & sour fish

…so we decided to go for it again and yes, we sure enjoyed it a lot again this time around.

We tried the stir-fried prawns with salt and chili (RM20.00)…

Sakhon prawns

…and that was good too and so was their baby kailan with garlic and salted fish (RM15.00)…

Sakhon baby kailan

We did not order any tom yam so we were not that keen on having any plain rice. Instead, we ordered their pineapple fried rice (RM18.50)…

Sakhon pineapple fried rice

…which was so very nice that my girl kept praising it to the skies and of course, we let her have the lion’s share since she enjoyed it so much. The serving was not very big, maybe enough for two together with another dish or two – my girl said she wouldn’t mind dropping by here and order this dish and eat it all by herself, like how people go for a plate of noodles or whatever elsewhere.

We certainly would come here again sometime and in case anyone is thinking of dropping by over the Chinese New Year festive season, they are open throughout while many places around here would be closed.

SAKHON THAI RESTAURANT (2.308351, 111.820696) is located at No. 67 & 69, Jalan Kuda 2, Kampung Nangka, right across from Cabe Ijo in the next block, both facing the main entrance of Bisonte Grocer & Deli.

Not too far from here…

Last Friday, we went to get my girl from her school in the jungle and we gave a lift to her colleague/housemate to the Sibu airport for her flight back to Kuching for the week-long Chinese New Year holidays.

My girl wanted to go to our Sarawak-own fast food franchise there but I was not keen on the idea as it is not a very big place, often crowded with passengers and being at the airport, the prices are higher than their outlets elsewhere plus one would have to park the car in the parking zone and walk all the way to the terminal and pay the fee using one of those machines before leaving.  I called a friend to see if there is an outlet at Sibujaya, the satellite town not too far from the airport, right around the corner and yes, there is one…

Sugar Bun Sibujaya

…in the section with all the new shops so I guess this outlet would be pretty new…

Sugar Bun Sibujaya side entrance

…as well.

Inside, there is the regular counter…

Counter

…and another one for the pizza

Pizza

…and there is seating upstairs as well, on the first floor.

My girl had her favourite fish fillet (RM11.90)…

Fish fillet savoury rice

…with their very nice savoury rice while the mum had their claypot chicken curry (RM12.30)…

Claypot chicken curry

…that came with a plate of rice and pickles – one would get this with any of their claypot dishes…

Rice & pickles

I had their assam fish once and though I did enjoy it very much, I had the head so there wasn’t much to eat. I asked my friend who runs the place and he told me that I could ask for the body and that was exactly what I did that day so this was what I got (RM12.60)…

Assam fish

…and yes, that certainly was a delightful lunch which is saying quite a lot actually, considering that I am not so much into franchise places.

SUGAR BUN Sibujaya (2.239502, 111.977727) is located at Lot 1226 Block 1 Manyan Land District at the Sibu Jaya Commercial Centre.

Second home…

When I was little, come Chinese New Year, my father would take me and my brother to the barber for a haircut. I remember sitting on a plank placed across the arm rests throughout the whole process. He said we would have to get our hair cut before the day of the festival to get rid of the bad luck in the old year and to this day, I still observe this traditional practice.

These days, I get Andy to cut my hair – he learnt the skill from Peter, the boss of Payung. I think I did mention before that Peter started off as a hair stylist in 1981 when he came back from overseas and opened his own salon here – as a matter of fact, I got him to do my hair for my wedding in December that year…and later, Peter started taking on students and began running a hairdressing school. To this day, he still has a small salon at the back, behind the café and his die-hard customers will still go back to him as and when the need arises.

Well, Andy has a younger brother, Karan who was here helping out at Payung for two years before he went back two years ago. He did learn a bit from Peter as well but there, he enrolled in the L’Oreal Academy in New Delhi and now he is a qualified professional hair stylist. I sure was taken by surprise when I dropped by the café the other day and there he was! He had come back for a holiday and that just about shows the attachment those who had worked here before for the place, their second home, so to speak, and for Peter who always treats them like family…and he did not tell anyone, not even his brother that he was coming so everyone was shocked/surprised when he showed up. LOL!!!

Peter had bought him some durians…

Durian

– he so loves the fruit and I also got to enjoy them, talk about being at the right place at the right time. The season is coming to an end now so it is getting more expensive – Peter said that he got 6 for RM60.00 and he also bought these langsat or duku

Langsat or duku

– I can never tell one from the other…and there is another variety that we call lau sai bua in Hokkien.

Andy insisted that Karan did my hair this time around and so he did. Here’s a snapshot of me and “my Chinese New Year hair” with Karan…

With Karan
*Peter was busy in the background, preparing our bowls of mee sua*

…taken the other night when Peter asked us over for the much-coveted mee sua

Payung mee sua

…in the traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup as a special treat in conjunction with Karan’s homecoming. Like Andy, he loves mee sua a lot and also our Sibu kampua mee – needless to say, he wasted no time at all and went to enjoy a plate of that for breakfast the very next morning after the day he arrived.

At first, I thought that was white fungus in my bowl but when I looked closer, it turned out to be lenggeng kua (dried longans). Usually we would add wolfberries or goji berries (枸杞) and red dates and shitake mushroom only but they have this in addition to all that and while eating, I also came across a bit of dong quai ( 當歸), just a bit so that was hardly noticeable in the soup but maybe that is their secret as to why their mee sua is so very nice but unfortunately, it is not on their regular menu.

My missus did buy some dabai from the wet market that morning so we cooked some and brought them along and yes, Karan loves dabai too! It is pretty obvious that he loves a lot of things here and misses everything so much that instead of going some place else for his holiday, he chose to “come home”.

Welcome back, Karan – it sure is so good to get to see you again. I do hope you will have the most delightful stay here…and yes, thanks so much for the very nice haircut! Wink! Wink!

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.

You got it wrong…

Last Friday, as usual, we drove to my girl’s school in the jungle to get her and bring her home for the weekend. I gathered that she had not been eating well all week as the food she got in the lunch packs from a caterer in her school was not to her liking so to cheer her up, I suggested stopping by the Japanese place for our late lunch and of course, that instantly brought a smile to her face!

We had some reruns, the sushi from the carousel that we had before on our previous visits but I don’t think we had this one…

Sushi 1

…before nor this one…

Sushi 2

…or this one…

Sushi 3

I also ordered this unagi cheese maki (RM13.00)…

Unagi cheese maki

…and yes, we all thought it was very nice.

The yasai (vegetable) tempura (RM6.80)…

Yasai tempura

…was all right and like the last time we had those with the not-all-that-nice soft shell crab, the pumpkin was the nicest while the rest of the vegetables were just so-so. There was a lot more actually but by the time I got around to snapping a photograph of it, my girl and the mum had already helped themselves to a couple of pieces from the basket.

I ordered a mackerel dish and I thought I would need some rice to go with it so I ordered the plain curry rice (RM8.80)…

Plain curry rice

The curry was not bad, a little spicy and went well with the rice and knowing how my girl likes the miso soup, I have the complimentary bowl to her to enjoy.

Instead of the mackerel that we wanted, we got this instead – their fried ebi (11.80)…

Fried ebi

We should have checked the order chit once they had keyed in our orders but we did not…and when I pointed out to the girl that they had got it wrong, she wanted to take it back but I said it was all right. We would just have that and go for the mackerel another time. Now, wasn’t I nice? Hehehehehe!!!

I did not think the prawns, like the aforementioned soft shell crab,  were anything to shout about though – they were rather bland, quite tasteless and even dipping it in the sauce that came with the dish did not help much.

The total for all that we had came up to RM82.70 (inclusive of 10% service charge) and my girl insisted on paying for it this time around. She sure is such a sweet girl, really.

SUSHI MENTAI, Sibu (2.303279, 111.843161) is located at Wisma Sri Minyak, Lot 3065, S/L4, No. 23&25, Ground Floor, Pedada Lane 7 (Now Jalan Dr. Wong Soon Kai).