The coast is clear…

Despite the pandemic and the extended lockdown and restrictions on all kinds of movements, I would say that we are getting on all right all these months with all the stuff that we have in the house.

Of course, there are a lot of things that for various reasons, we have not eaten for a long time. Maybe it is because we want to avoid any crowd or we just do not want to go out to eat or the place is closed or dining in is not allowed and I am not crazy about ordering and getting food delivered to the house. However, sometimes, we may see photos of those things and that may trigger a craving in us and make us wish we can go and feast on them.

Not too long ago, I was browsing through my old blogposts and I stumbled upon this one with this photograph

…with all those to-die-for roast meats hanging in the display cabinet at the stall. It looked so good and I could not resist sharing the link to the post on Facebook…and my friends started scolding and grumbling away as that made them all lao nua (salivate).

This stall is located at a coffee shop round the corner from my house, the brother of the guy whose immensely popular stall selling the same is located right across the road from the Public Bank, Tunku Osman branch and on days when we have nothing much to eat in the house, I would drive over and buy some of what they still have. I like going at around 3 in the afternoon as the coast is clear – all the other stalls would be closed and there would not be a single living soul around. Of course, on days when I am not lucky, they would not have much left or worse, they would be closed having sold out everything for the day.

Well, the other day, my blogger-friend published this post in her blog and that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. So to appease the craving, that afternoon, I made my way to the stall and bought one chicken thigh (RM7.00)…

…and RM10 worth of roast duck, breast meat…

When it comes to duck, I do not like the drumstick as it tends to be a bit on the tough side.

That was quite enough for the three of us for one meal so I saved the char siew (RM10.00)…

…for another day.

I must say that I sure bought quite a lot that day, RM27.00 altogether…

I guess that would be enough for a while, no need for me to go over and buy some more again in the not-too-distant future…I think! LOL!!!

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.

At least…

We can enjoy very good dim sum at a restaurant here so everytime we felt like having that, we would head straight there. There was another one that used to be quite good but it seemed to lose its appeal slowly and eventually, called it a day. Of course, there are those stalls at the coffee shops but generally, I found them expensive and not really worth the calories. I liked the one here on the other side of town but I had not been to those parts of the woods for a long long time so I don’t know if they are still in business or not.

Well, lately, I’ve seen quite a number of blogger-friends sharing photographs of some of the dim sum delights that they tapao-ed home or some kind friends or neighbours bought for them or they managed to get them via home food delivery. We had not had dim sum for a long long time – the last time was in June, 2019, I think so of course, I started wishing that we could have some too.

I hear that the aforementioned restaurant is open and eager customers can go and buy and take home to enjoy – if I remember correctly, I think my sister did say that she went there at least once. However, it had appeared in the daily list of places visited by individuals tested positive for COVID-19 so somehow or other, I just do not feel like going there, never mind that theirs is the best in town.

There is this place…

…near my house that started quite recently at this chicken rice place, sometime this year, I think, before the lockdown but knowing what these coffee shop dim sum stalls are like, I never bothered to stop by and check it out.

It has survived all this while, all throughout the extended lockdown, and the other morning, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go over and have a look. They seemed to have a lot of choices…

…but they were mostly different variations of dumplings…

I know one place here where they have a lot but if you’ve tasted one, you’ve tasted them all – they all taste the same.

This one looked good…

…but no, I did not order those and I would not want to touch these, the favourite of many…

…with a 10-foot pole. LOL!!!

I placed my orders and they steamed them…

…before packing them for me to take home.

The crystal har kao (RM6.50 for a basket of 3)…

…looked very good, just that my missus felt that they could do a better job with the skin. I couldn’t agree more as it was way too khiew (chewy) to the extent that it became too rubbery and a chore to bite and chew.

Everyone liked the antique siew mai (RM5.50 for a basket of 4)…

…though – these were really good and they thought the lor mai kai (RM5.00)…

…was great too.

The ladies did not like the sweet char siew filling in the steamed pao (RM5.00 for a basket of 2)…

…but to me, it was very nice except that the skin could have been softer and more cushiony – it was a little on the hard/tough side. Personally, I feel we can find better (and cheaper) ones at another place here.

On the whole, give and take a little, I would say that I was quite happy with what I bought – at least, they were reasonably good enough for me to appease my craving for dim sum. They did not come cheap though – I asked for two baskets of the har kao and two of the char siew pao, one each of the rest and the total came up to RM33.50. I probably would come back again but I certainly would be in no hurry to do that…and if I do, I definitely would bring along my own tiffin carrier or Tupperware containers. Really cannot tahan seeing all that rampant use of plastic! Tsk! Tsk!

CHOPSTICKS CHICKEN & RICE (2.312434, 111.845917) is located in the Delta Mall, Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Pedada) area of shops, facing the church along Lorong Taman Seduan 8, off Jalan Gambir.

I remember the boy…

Yes, I remember that handsome boy helping out at his family’s tee peang (our Sibu Foochow version of the oyster cake) stall

…at the pasar malam (night market) here in Sibu. As a matter of fact, all this while, I was wondering if their stall was still open or not.

The night market was asked to close because of the pandemic and when the authorities allowed it to operate, there were all kinds of rules and regulations – only a few stalls were allowed to open each night and even going in would be such a hassle – one would have to queue up and go through the hassle of observing the SOP’s before entering. Unfortunately, once inside, it was a free-for-all, no physical distancing, no lines on the ground as to where to walk or where to stand at a safe distance from the other customers. I, for one, would not want to go there, thank you very much…and one might end up going there only to find that the stall was not open! What a nuisance!

Actually, the people at this particular stall used to operate from a coffee shop in town in the morning and at the pasar malam at night. I used to go there to buy from them, never at the night market – the problem then was it was often sold out…and being in a congested part of town, parking was a pain. Eventually, they decided to run their business at night only, at the pasar malam.

It so happened that the other day, my sister dropped by my house to give us these…

…and she said they were from the people from that particular tee peang stall. They are now at this coffee shop – at one time, many would swear by the kampua mee there and insist that it was the best in town. Of course, that old guy is no longer there. I guess they have decided not to bother doing it at the night market and to set up their business here instead.

The tee peang seemed bigger…

…than before but they did not seem all that generous with the filling…

…despite the fact that it had gone up in price, RM2.00 now from only RM1.50 a piece before.

Having said that, I would say that it…

…was still very nice, as nice as I remember it to be.

I don’t know whether the handsome boy would be there to help out or not. From what I heard the last time, he was a therapist by profession with some TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) shop so he was free at night to go lend a hand at the pasar malam. Perhaps, one of these days, I shall drop by there and have a look but as far as the tee peang goes, we have reasonably good homemade ones at the neighbourhood shop in the next lane and also at the apam balik/mànjiānguǒ (曼煎粿- Chinese pancake) stall in that same vicinity in the afternoon…and according to a friend, they have very good ones here too. I’ve yet to go and check it out.

HOCK LOK HONG CAFE SHOP 福樂園茶室 (2.284690, 111.832669) is located at No. 1, Lorong Lanang 2 at the traffic lights where you turn in from Lanang Road heading toward the Sibu Rejang Esplanade and the Li Hua & Kingwood Hotels.

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.

Cross the street…

We did not have much left for dinner that day so I told my missus not to cook because that would mean there would be leftovers which we would have to go on eating the following day(s).

I decided to drop by here to tapao the fried kway teow (flat rice noodles), RM10.00 for the three of us, from the chu char (cook & fry) place at the back. We’ve been there a number of times and yes, we did enjoy what we had everytime. It was around 4.00 p.m. and yes, it was open but I wasn’t sure whether they would be cooking or not at that very odd hour in the afternoon. The kampua stall was closed and there wasn’t a single soul around other than a young guy sitting there looking extremely bored. I placed my order and walked across the street to stock up on the Low GI bread that I do enjoy quite a bit. We’ve run out for a while now but I did not feel like going out to buy…anything, for that matter.

When I got to the bakery, I saw that there was one loaf left so I asked for that one and I saw that there were quite a few chia seeds bread (RM6.50 each)…

…available. I used to buy that for my girl to take to her school in the jungle and eat there but since she came back, I don’t remember buying it anymore.

I went and googled and I must say that I was rather impressed by all the health benefits of eating those seeds…

Among others, according to this website, those seeds may reduce blood sugar levels and lower your risk of heart disease. As far as I know, my girl takes those seeds in her drink sometimes.

I tried a slice with butter and peanut butter…

…for breakfast the next morning but it was…just like bread. I must say that some may have a nicer taste and texture, depending on the bakery, but I’m afraid I did not think this was one of them. Personally, I would rather go for the Low GI bread which is nice and 20 sen cheaper, only RM6.30 a loaf.

I toasted a slice to eat with my half-boiled egg with butter added…

According to a reader in Canada who comments on my posts sometimes, instead of soy sauce, they eat it with butter so of course, I wanted to give it a try.

Come to think of it, I do add butter to the egg when I make my egg sandwiches. I will cook the eggs till the white is hard and the yolk is no longer runny but still moist and then I will mash them, adding butter…and cheese too! My mum used to add salt only when she made those sandwiches for us – life was a lot simpler, less complicated then. LOL!!!

I’m afraid it did not sweep me off my feet – I still prefer my half-boiled eggs with soy sauce and pepper…

As they say, old habits die hard!

Yes, I did buy a loaf of the Low GI bread as well that day to keep in the fridge. The two loaves should last quite a while so I would not have to go out and buy anymore for sometime. #staysafe #staywell #stayhome

As for the fried kway teow that day, it was nice but there was so much of it that the three of us were unable to finish it all which, of course, meant that like it or not, we ended up having some leftover to bring forward to the next day.

AH PING CAFE is located in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah, Sibu right across the lane from AROMA BAKERY (2.311151, 111.831515) after the Maju Tyre shop at No. 36 (G/F), Taman Damai along Jalan Dewan Suarah.

Surprisingly so…

That day, when my ex-student/lawyer friend, Louis, went out of his way to drive to my house to send me the sio bee and the changs (meat dumplings) that he had bought from a coffee shop here, he told me that among the latter, there was one that was different – they told him it was kacang (nuts).

I was wondering what that actually was. At the non-Chinese stalls, when they tell you there is kacang in the buns or dumplings, chances are that would be or tao sar (red/black bean paste) or ang tao (red beans) and very rarely, it would be sweetened crushed peanuts. Nonetheless, I decided to save it, along with the rest, till the actual day. With the horrendous pandemic dragging on and on like it is never going to end and the so-called full lockdown extended till the end of the month, I had no intention of going out to buy and this way, at least, we would have some to enjoy to preserve our heritage, our tradition, our culture.

In the meantime, my friend, Rose, in Kuching blogged about the ones that she had including some Hakka chang here and also once again, here. Oh? So they’re traditionally Hakka, eh? As far as I know, the old couple running the coffee shop and making the changs and the sio bee are Hainanese/Hailam.

That morning, I took them all out of the freezer to steam and heat them up and when they were ready, I took the kacang one…

…to see what it was like.

Inside, there were lots of kacang

…and when I tried them, I found them to be soft like the stewed/braised ones that they sell in cans or serve at the Chinese restaurants. Nice, very nice!

When I looked inside, much to my surprise, I saw that it had meat…

…as well, not just kacang.

Yes, there was quite a lot of meat…

…and a bit of shitake mushroom too and I must say that I really liked the taste as a whole.

Gee! Should the situation improve and I am able to go out again, I certainly would make my way to that coffee shop to grab some more to enjoy!

SIN KIAW CAFE (2.291287, 111.826611) is located along Ramin Way, the first shop on your right as you turn in from Jalan Kampung Nyabor, right behind the petrol station located at the bend.

Wings…

We loved the baked honey chicken wings…

here but eventually, the chef left and opened his own place here and of course, we were delighted when he started serving them…

…at his current location and needless to say, we ordered those to enjoy time and time again.

Of course, we have not been there for a while now and chances of our doing so are even less at this point in time as dining in is not allowed. So far, I have not dropped by to buy and take home to eat for two reasons mainly – one, I hardly ever go out and two, my missus can cook some very nice chicken wings…

…her own way.

I do not know what sauces she uses to marinate those wings but they really taste great – maybe she coats them with a bit of honey too sometimes but not so much as hers are usually not so sticky…

Actually, she has other recipes for chicken wings. A long time ago, she used to coat them with a lot of melted cheese and cereal (Nestum or bread crumbs) and put them in the oven to bake and yes, those were mighty popular when we served them at our home dinners.

I did mention in my blogpost not too long ago that these days, with a lot of time on her hands, she may want to try out some new recipes. and the other day, she baked these…

– chicken wings marinated in teriyaki sauce, coated with sesame seeds and yes, they were very nice but I did feel that the yangneyom chicken (양념치킨) or Korean fried chicken

…wings that she cooked the other day were nicer but those were deep fried and these were baked.

Talking about chicken wings, do you have a preference for any particular part? I, for one, will always eat the drumette which actually has a lot more meat but it is more like chicken breast. We usually reserve the flat or wingette, the middle part, that is…

…for my girl to enjoy because of the nicer texture of the meat and we do not bother to eat the tip as there isn’t much meat there, just skin.

That day, when my missus cooked these chicken wings for our meals, she also cooked some chicken rice…

…to go with them. We enjoyed it and that sure saved us the trouble of having to go out and buy some home to eat. With the pandemic dragging on and on, it’s best to just #staysafe #staywell #stayhome.

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.

Stayin’ strong…

My missus and I went out early on Sunday morning at 8 something as there was something we had to go and get.

We happened to drive past this coffee shop…

…and I saw that it was open. They had blocked the entrance and the tall Indian mamak boss, originally from West Malaysia, was standing there. I told my missus that we could buy his nasi biryani for lunch so she would not need to do any cooking that morning – every week, for an hour or so in the morning, we would be pre-occupied, following the online Sunday service at one of the churches in Singapore and of course, she seconded the motion.

This guy was a chef at a hotel here a long long time ago. The food was really good and we would drop by very regularly, usually for the eat-all-you-can buffet dinner on Sundays after the evening mass at the cathedral in town. However, he eventually left and it was downhill all the way. I did drop by once and again, another time but no, there wasn’t anything that would keep me going back for more.

It must have been around thirty years ago when he started this place and we liked the nasi biryani so much that we kept going back for more. However, this is around the busiest part of town so parking is virtually quite impossible and illegal parking would be the order of the day if you intend to go anywhere in the area and get anything done…and if by any stroke of good luck, you are able to grab a vacant space, you may not be able to find a table at the coffee shop – yes, business is that good every day!

Well, perhaps it was too early on a Sunday morning and we’re supposed to be under a full lockdown at the moment so there were ample parking spaces for me to park the car and wait while my missus went and bought our lunch.

Each set comprised the biryani rice with a dhal dip and a bit of pickle…

…and my girl and I got the mutton…

…while the mum got herself the chicken.

It was nice, nicer than here, my girl said (that place has since closed down) and a lot of other Malay shops and stalls serving their local versions of nasi biryani which may be nice too in their own right, like the one here before. Maybe they have a new chef/cook now as it did not taste like how it was in the past. This time around, I found it to be over-generous with the curry powder and very strong in the fragrances and taste of the Indian spices used, both in the rice and in the curry. Unlike before, it was super spicy but of course, we did not have a problem with that.

My missus paid RM40.00 for everything – obviously, the prices have increased from RM8.00 for the chicken and RM12.00 for the mutton in 2017 and that is around two-thirds of what I would usually fork out for our orders here. However, the latter is a nicer, classy place, not just a coffee shop and my girl will insist that the authentic North Indian chef’s biryani rice there is simply the best in town! I guess like it or not, I shall have to drop by there one of these days to buy that home to enjoy – dining in is still not allowed plus they open at noon, not a very good time as it would be around 1.00 p.m. before I get home and we can start to eat.

NUR ISLAMIC CAFE (2.292183, 111.825945) is located along Jalan Kampung Nyabor in the Tuanku Osman area of shops, right beside the Academy Book Centre, Sibu, across the road from the RH Hotel.

Sweet surprise…

I received an sms out of the blue that day from my ex-student/lawyer-friend, Louis, now residing with his family in Kuching. He asked if I was at home and of course, I replied that I was. These days, I would be home most, if not all, of the time. He said he was on his way to my house.

Oh? So he was in Sibu again? He comes over very often – I guess he has a lot of cases here but most of the time, he would be here for a day or two and he would have to rush back to his missus and boys in Kuching, not much time for much else while he was in Sibu.

He said he had some things for me and I just assumed that somebody had sent some stuff from Kuching to me through him but no, it turned out that he bought some Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

from here for me to enjoy. As far as I know, without fail, he will drop by that coffee shop everytime he comes back to Sibu for his favourite beef noodles in town.

For me, the sio bee from this coffee shop…

…are small but they are very nice, going all the way back to 2012 when I first tried the ones from their branch along Island Road, since demolished to give way to some construction there. They were 70 sen each then – the last time I bought some, the price had gone up to 80 sen, dunno how much they are now.

Their bak chang is also very nice and yes, Louis did buy me a few…

…to enjoy as well.

He also got me this one…

…but he was not sure what was inside, kacang or something, he said. Here, if people say it’s kacang, it can mean peanut or tau sar (red bean paste). At the time of writing, I have not tried it yet so I don’t know which that would be.

Thank you so much, Louis, for the sio bee and the chang, so very nice of you to think of your old teacher and to go through the trouble of buying and sending them all the way to my house – it sure was a pleasant and sweet surprise.

The Dragon Boat Festival or 端午节 Duānwǔ Jié, usually called the Chang (Dumpling) Festival falls on the 14th of June this year so it is just a few weeks away. I guess when the time comes, I can just buy a few of the nice ones from here to eat to preserve the tradition, our heritage.

SIN KIAW CAFE (2.291287, 111.826611) is located along Ramin Way, the first shop on your right as you turn in from Jalan Kampung Nyabor, right behind the petrol station located at the bend.

I’m not getting excited…

So far, we only enjoyed his crispy prawn and chili sambal. My girl quite liked his lamb curry but I was not really impressed and all of us agreed that the ayam masak merah was at best, just all right but not anything like the real thing.

That left us with just one more thing that I bought from the guy that we had not tried yet – his kapitan chicken curry (RM45.00)…

That day, I took it out of the freezer…

…to defrost and later, my missus heated it up for our lunch.

Yes, it tasted pretty good…

…something like what they call the ayam berlada

…at the Malay food stall at Bandong Walk but I would say that those people there do a much better job at cooking this dish.

My missus cooks it…

…too sometimes so I would not say that it was anything to get me excited . After all, we have had something like it before and time and time again so to us, it really wasn’t anything special.

I have not tried his chicken rendang but looking at how things have turned out with what I have bought from the guy so far, I probably will just give it a miss.

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.