So this is it…

The other time when I was here, I saw packets of Maggi instant noodles, both their chicken and curry flavours and also Ibumie mi goreng in the cabinet. Well, I did try cooking my own a few times – either I was not impressed or it was all right but it did not really get me jumping with delight. That was why I made up my mind there and then to come back here one day and try one that is “professionally” done…

Well, dining in at many places in designated zones all over the town is not allowed these days – you can only stop by for takeaways but this place, being in the middle of nowhere in a residential area, is safe. I hear that because of the ruling, people have shifted to places where they are allowed to sit and eat and chat but thankfully, this is not one of them. There was just another table on the other side with three ladies and as I was about to leave, two men came and took a table in front.

I asked the young guy…

…if he had Maggi mee goreng on his menu and he said yes, so I promptly placed an order for a plate, curry flavour (RM5.50)…

It took quite a while because he was cooking what the ladies ordered first, plate by plate – they all looked like they were having fried kampua mee but he did not fry them all at one go. Maybe they were not all the same thing.

So this is it – what all that hoo-ha is all about! The real thing! Yes, I could taste the original flavour of the Maggi kari and its spiciness but no, sad to say, I was not overwhelmed unlike those people who seem to love this so much and keep praising it to the skies. I loved the green vegetables in my order and other than those, there were bits of minced meat and char siew, cut into thin strips and egg. All in all, I would say it was good enough to want to have it again but given a choice, I would much sooner go for something else.

NGA CHUONG CAFE (2.312134, 111.837763) is located along Jalan Au Yong Selatan past Lorong Au Yong 4 on your left as you turn in from Jalan Pahlawan.

It’s all right…

I went next door…

…the other day to get my road tax slip – I managed to renew my car insurance sometime ago but because of the pandemic, they could not go and pay the former for me until way past the expiry date and finally, when they did manage to do so, they called me to go over and get it from them. It was past 2.30 p.m. and much to my surprise, the coffee shop was still open. They usually close at 2.00 p.m. (and reopen come dinnertime) and they only open in the morning and for lunch on Sundays and they take the day off on Mondays.

The guy asked me to buy what looked like chili flakes (RM20.00) and he said it was very nice but I was not so keen. I noticed that he now has a BIG freezer by the side inside his shop and obviously, he has gone into selling some of his popular dishes…

…frozen.

I liked his daging masak hitam, served by the side with his reasonably good nasi lemak

…but for reasons unknown, the ladies in the house are not into that original Sarawakian culinary delight.

My girl used to love the curry, beef especially so when she was teaching in the school in the jungle, I would buy for her to take and eat there – it was not cheap though, only a little for RM10.00.

That was why in the end, that day, I decided to buy the lamb curry (RM40.00)…

…to try and see if it was any good.

My girl liked it…

– she said it was nicer than the curries at the Malay and mamak shops and stalls but I was not all that impressed by it. At best, I would say it was all right, not anything to shout about. It had its own taste, quite different from all the rest and no, it was not spicy at all. One good thing about it was the meat was fall-off-the-bone-tender, very nicely done!

I may go back again but no, I shall not be buying this or any of the guy’s curry again – perhaps I would want to try his rendang or masak merah the next time around or whatever else that he has in his big freezer that may tickle my fancy but if it is mutton/lamb curry…

…that I want, I would much sooner drop by here and tapao two servings home.

It is RM21.00 per serving (at least 3 huge chunks of meat) with biryani rice and whatever they give by the side so RM40.00 should be enough for two servings and I am quite sure there will be enough for us for two meals…or perhaps, I can persuade my friends at Payung to cook their very nice Bangladeshi lamb curry…

…or lamb masala – they usually do it around Chinese New Year for sale by the kilo but we can divide it up into smaller servings and eat slowly and derive a whole lot more enjoyment from them.

COLOURFUL CAFE (2.316673, 111.837539) is located in the Renew4U building at the junction of Brooke Drive and Lorong Kwong Ann 8, across the road from the Church of Jesus  Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

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.

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.

Out and about…

I had not been out and about for such a very long time so of course, I did not stop by any place here for a bite to eat.

However, that morning, I had to go to the bank and normally, it would open at 8.45 a.m. When I got there, the main door was still locked and the security guards just ignored me. Luckily, one sweet young thing saw me and quickly came to tell me that they do not open till 10.00 a.m. these days owing to the pandemic.

Left to my own devices, I decided I would drop by a coffee shop for a bite to eat. There are a few, three, to be exact, in the middle of nowhere, so to speak, in the neighbourhood where I live. One is VERY popular and can be rather crowded and everything will be sold out by 10.00 a.m. The other one in the next lane round the corner from my house is all right but there is one where I hardly see anybody there and of course, that was the one that I picked.

I had the kampua mee that one time when I stopped by there and I thought it was all right, nothing overwhelmingly good but it was o.k. I did say that I would go back there again and try the fried stuff and that was what I had…

…that morning, their Foochow fried noodles, wet (with sauce).

Yes, there was no one around, just the few coffee shop people sitting there and chatting away. One young guy was frying something though I wondered why he was doing that since there were no customers around to eat what he dished out. I placed my order and went to take my seat. I must say I was impressed by how clean the coffee shop was – yes, they had a lot of things but at least, they were all nicely arranged, not all over the place like in some coffee shops.

They had everything all ready for you to check your temperature and record the details in a book and they even had this…

…stuck onto the table as a gentle reminder and everyone had their masks on the whole time! Ever so often, I would drop by some place and see somebody with his mask pulled down, the nose exposed or worse, the mask dangling from one ear. I really get so pissed off by the attitude of the likes of these.

The instant the plate of noodles (RM4.00)…

…was served, I was swept away by the very strong and most delightful wok hei fragrance. Gee, this is going to be good, I thought! Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived. This was cooked by frying the noodles in the intense heat of the wok and after that, the sauce/gravy was cooked and poured all over the noodles. Personally, I prefer the moon (braised) method and when they cook the mee this way, I like the sauce dark, not pale like this. Other than that, the mee was a bit on the firm/hard side, not soft enough for me.

I liked how generous the guy was with the meat and the vegetables even though I am not crazy about those frozen meat balls. It probably would look nicer without those, replaced with a couple of very thin slices of char siew – one thing’s for sure, that would add a bit of colour to the dish.

Yes, I wouldn’t mind coming back again – who knows I may stumble on something worth coming back for. I saw packets of Maggi chicken and curry in the display cabinet – maybe they fry those as well.

NGA CHUONG CAFE (2.312134, 111.837763) is located along Jalan Au Yong Selatan past Lorong Au Yong 4 on your left as you turn in from Jalan Pahlawan.

I want more…

There are a few very popular places here that people would go to should they feel like having the traditional Foochow chao chai noodles dish.

This place

Yong Chuan chao chai hung ngang

…is the favourite of many and many would swear by this guy, now at a new location but because of the crowd, I would rather keep my distance.  #staysafe #staywell.

As far as I know, many will cook the soup with fish and fish balls and others would do it with chicken. If you are interested and would like to try cooking your own, you can click this link and hop over to my friend’s Kelly’s blog to have a look. It’s very simple, actually – Foochow cooking is generally very simple. Even my girl knew how to cook it and she did it once. As a matter of fact, she even blogged about it – unfortunately the blog has been dormant for years and years so they have got rid of it completely.

The only thing is you must have the ingredients, the main one being the chao chai – mustard greens preserved in ang chao (the residue of the fermented red yeast glutinous rice) used in the making of our traditional Foochow ang chiew (red wine), lots of the latter and ginger as well. Gosh!!! I saw on Facebook recently how they were selling “old” ginger in Perth, Australia at almost AUD60.00…and that’s before conversion!!! *faints*

Well, the other day, my missus decided to cook this…

Missus' pork belly chao chai noodles

…using pork belly and served it with the bihun-like brown rice noodles, leftover from what we had the other day.

Wowww!!! It was so so so good…

Pork belly chao chai brown rice noodles

…that after licking my bowl clean, I asked for some more. Unfortunately, my missus had cooked a serving per person, one bowl each, so there wasn’t anymore. Sobsss!!!

YONG CHUAN FISH NOODLES HOUSE (2.308016, 111.848896) is located among the shops on the right (next to WikiTea) along Lorong Sena 8, off Jalan Sena, directly opposite SMK Deshon.

 

Not ready…

They have lifted the MCO here in Sibu and switched to the more relaxed CMCO though I really wonder why as the cases are not decreasing and new clusters are sprouting out here, there and everywhere.

It seems that they are confining the lockdowns to specific areas with a lot of cases instead of the whole Sibu Division, including all the surrounding districts. As a result of this, it is generally business as usual elsewhere but with strict adherence to the stipulated SOPs (hopefully). I, for one, am not ready to venture out freely just yet and even though dining in is now allowed, I would prefer to keep my distance.

The other day, I saw that we had run out of butter in the house so I went to the nearby shops in the next lane to buy and I purposely went very early, at the break of dawn, so there would not be a lot of people around. The first shop that I went to had just opened and the two employees on the early morning shift were mopping the floor.

Unfortunately, they did not have any, out of stock so I went to the other shop in the vicinity. The boss went to the fridge to have a look and informed me that the brick ones (less than RM15.00 each) were all sold out but they did have the ones in tins, Golden Churn, no less – RM26.00 each so I bought that.

Since I was out already, I decided to go and tapao (takeaway) breakfast for everybody. I got my tiffin carrier from the car boot and went to the back of the coffee shop where the chu char stall was and placed my orders through the back door. I did not know whether there were any customers in the coffee shop or not at the time – I did not bother going in through the front as I was not keen on encountering any fellow human-beings around.

I bought this Foochow fried noodles, the “moon” version (RM4.00)…

Ah Kau Foochow fried noodle, moon

…for myself and my missus. Of course by the time I got home, it would have dried up – the noodles would have soaked up all the sauce/gravy but as a matter of fact, we find that some are very much nicer this way, not all but yes, there are places where we prefer buying the noodles home to enjoy. There are also people who say the same about the kampua mee at some places, not as nice when eaten there, much nicer when taken home to eat.

I bought the char pek koi (RM5.00)…

Ah Kau char pek koi

…for my girl – hers was dry so the aforementioned problem was not applicable here. I wanted to pay the guy RM12.00 for the three but he said the total was RM13.00 as char pek koi is RM5.00 a plate.

He started telling me that a packet of pek koi (rice cake) is over RM4.00, so very expensive so that is why he would have to charge more. No, I did not linger to chat with him – I just paid the money and left quickly. I think this COVID-19 has made me kind of anti-social – I used to enjoy small talk, mingling and chatting with people that I meet, ever strangers but not anymore. Sighhh!!!

AH KAU CAFE (2.316346, 111.839861) is located along Jalan Ruby, off Jalan Lim Han Swee, in the same block as Kim Tak Mini Supermarket, to the extreme left.

Sad…

I was here in October, 2019, way before the COVID-19 pandemic and even then, I would not say that the lady was enjoying bustling business at her stall. I did not like the noodles I had but even though she did not bother to warm up the bak chang before serving it, I liked it so much that I grabbed the two she had left and took them home to enjoy.

I did go back again once to grab some more and I even gave some to my sister to try but it was quite horrible that second time around – the taste was not quite the same and it was super salty. That was why I never went back since.

Well, it so happened that I was walking past that day and I spotted the lady in the corner, about to dose off to sleep. I could imagine how boring it must be sitting there, hoping and praying for customers and how few there would be in our current situation. My neighbour told me the other day that the people at the kampua mee stall near our houses said that they’d be lucky if they could make RM50.00 a day! I wonder how much this lady would make seeing that this place seems quite deserted most of the time.

Anyway, I decided to help her a bit and buy some of her bak changs home. Hopefully, they would not be so bad. They are RM3.50 each, still…

Mei Le bak chang

…more expensive but much bigger than such regular ones (no salted egg inside) elsewhere. We all had one each for lunch that day and it was filling enough – it was that big!

The rice…

Mei Le bak chang, unwrapped

…was perfect, not hard like some, not too soft and soggy like others but I was quite sure there was a lot more meat…

Mei Le bak chang, inside

…inside before. Yes, there was that piece of pork fat still and I loved that!

No, I don’t think that would get me rushing back there for more but yes, I don’t mind grabbing a few if I happen to pass by the stall again in the hope that it may help ease her burden a bit during these sad times.

MEI LE CAFE (2.313147, 111.846968) is located along Jalan Gambir, a stone’s throw away from the Delta Mall, straight ahead from the first turning to your left as soon as you turn into that road from Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai.

Try another one…

I had to go all the way to the other side of town that morning as I had something to settle at the branch of the bank there.

I got there early so I decided I would have breakfast first. I did not want to go for the kampua mee here again and the one here (not the one in the blogpost) did not look all that promising – there was only one customer in that coffee shop.

In the end, I decided to give this one…

Carfie Kopitian

…a try.

The shop sign appears old and faded but the shop itself does not look as shabby…

Coffee shop

…and there were quite a lot of customers there, not too many or else I would go some place else so I went inside to see what they had.

There are three stalls but only one was open. I did not actually look at all the photographs stuck all over the stall though. I saw they had Taiwanese beef noodles so I just ordered that and went to take my seat.

Instead of the usual own-made chili sauce that one will get when eating beef noodles, they brought a teeny weeny bit of pounded chili with dark soy sauce added…

Sylvester & the chili dip

As you can see, even Sylvester was somewhat flustered by that! LOL!!!

The noodles (RM7.00)…

Carfie Kopitian Taiwanese beef noodles

…came soon enough and yes, it was not too bad. Their own handmade noodles could have been less firmer – I thought it was a little on the hard side and personally, I wouldn’t mind if they had used our local alkaline-free not-so-yellow noodles instead. They were very generous with the beef and yes, it was tender enough – I did not have a problem with it.

On the whole, I would say there are nicer ones elsewhere but this would be good enough if you happen to be in the vicinity and you have beef noodles on your mind. Should I be dropping by here again, chances are I would try something else instead.

CARFIE KOPITIAN (2.264438, 111.845137) is located at CityVine, along Lorong Upper Lanang 12B, in the block to the right of the bank there.