You said…

My friend/ex-student shared her photograph of the chao chai hung ngang

…that she had here…

…on Facebook and sang its praises so enthusiastically.

Chao chai is a variety of (Chinese) preserved vegetables – a bit fermented, a little sour and a little salty while hung ngang is the big bihun (rice vermicelli). Of course I had to make my way there to give it a try but it was not open that morning – I think it was Ching Ming (the Chinese Tomb Cleaning Festival) that day.

Not long after that, more recently, she put another photograph on Facebook insisting that it was so very nice that she simply had to go and enjoy it again and of course, I went there again too but once again, the stall…

…was not open! The nice lady at the stall next to it told me that they do not open on Mondays.

Well, last Friday, I went to the wet market in the vicinity and seeing that it was open, I went right in and placed my order with a special request for extra fish balls and NO meat (RM12.80)…

It was served soon enough and finally, I got the chance to give it a try.

The soup was very nice, sour and flavourful (with the taste and fragrance of the chao chai) enough but I did feel that it paled a little, just a little, in comparison with the one I had here that day. The fish fillet in my order then was bland, not nice at all but I did try one of my missus’ fishballs and it was very nice. The ones here were obviously own-made too and they were bigger but I thought they were a bit bland and not as sweet when it came to the taste of the fish used in making them.

I must say, however, that the egg here…

…was perfectly poached, with the yolk still runny, exactly the way that I like it and yes, they got my order spot-on – there was no meat in it!

On top of all that, this one here is a lot more expensive than the ones we had at that other place (around RM8.00 only). I think if I were to give that one over there a 10, I would give this one a 9…or maybe just an 8.

DIANDIANLAI CAFE (2.310079, 111.831103) is located in the block of shops facing the Sibu Civic Centre (car park) along Jalan Dewan Suarah that links Jalan Melur and Jalan Suarah.

The one you love…

The last time my old friend, Jasmine, was home all the way from Adelaide, South Australia, was in 2019 and she insisted that I simply must take her to eat her favourite angkau (monkey) kampua mee and she would not settle for any others in town no matter how I insisted that they were so much nicer.

For the uninitiated, you can read all about that guy in this 2014 blogpost here. He was at another location then and then he disappeared but after searching high and low and asking a lot of friends, I finally managed to track him down and of course, Jasmine was delighted to get the chance to go and enjoy his noodles before she went back to Australia.

She has not been home for so many years now because of the pandemic and now that things have settled down a bit, she is talking about coming home again next year! I bet she would want to go and eat her favourite angkau kampua mee – no less than two plates at a time! That shouldn’t be a problem this time around as I did hear that he is still at that same location where we found him in 2019.

Well, the other morning, I decided to drop by there and I had a plate of his noodles (RM3.50)…

It looked like his son was the main person manning his stall now while he and his wife…

…were merely there to assist him.

Just like the many times when I ate his noodles before, I did not think it was anything sensational. At best, I would say it was all right, just not anything to get me excited about. I guess as they say, “What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander!

My friend/ex-student, Louis, was there not too long ago and he said that I should give their beef tripe soup (RM4.00)…

…a try as he thought it was very good. Yes, the gu tor was perfectly done, so soft, really delightful with their special chili dip…

I sure enjoyed it a lot but I had this feeling that the soup could have been nicer with a dash of vinegar or our traditional Foochow red wine, just that I was too lazy to go and ask for one of those.

I don’t know whether or not I shall be going there for this or anything else again should I happen to be passing this way anytime in the near future but one thing’s for sure, I certainly would be back when Jasmine comes home to Sibu sometime next year.

UNCLE TEH’S CORNER (2.305679, 111.848404)…

…is located along Lorong Pahlawan 7C to the right of the Edaran Tan Chong Motors (Nissan) showroom there in the vicinity of the Sibu Bus Terminal.

Just ask…

A friend of mine told me that the kampua mee at this particular place was very nice and he would often stop by for it or their mee sua or Sarawak laksa before going to work in the morning.

Of course, upon hearing that, I could not wait to go there and try but unfortunately, parking in the vicinity can be such a pain so I never did. If I am not mistaken, a foodie friend of mine here is a regular too and he sometimes shared his photographs on Facebook and Instagram.

Well, it so happened that the other day, as I was driving past, I spotted a vacant space right in front of the coffee shop so of course, I wasted no time at all in parking my car there and stepping inside.

I ordered a plate of the kampua mee, white (RM3.50)…

…and this was what I got!

There was a big group of ethnic (Iban) customers and each of them had their specific orders so I guess the couple at the kampua mee stall were busy at the time, cooking what they wanted and serving them. Probably they were regulars as the wife of the guy at the stall who spoke VERY fluently in Iban was happily chatting away with them as the dishes they ordered came out…one…by one!

My patience was wearing thin so I asked if my order was forthcoming as I had to be some place else in 15 minutes and they kept insisting it was coming even though I did not see the guy cooking it. Tsk! Tsk! Finally, at long last…it came!!!

The loud and chatty lady said that they had run out of meat so they had taken the liberty of adding some minced meat…

…instead, insisting that it was all the same. WHAT??? What do you mean, the same? It would not have been so bad if the meat was nicely seasoned and pre-cooked before adding like what they usually add in Kuching kolo mee but this was plain minced meat, no seasoning and boiled just like that so it was so bland, quite tasteless!!!

The LEAST they could have done was to ask me first whether I would want it that way or not. What is so difficult about that? I would have asked for the kosong (no meat) instead but no, they did not bother to do that. Honestly, that was so presumptuous of them to simply assume that it would be all right by me.

As for the noodles, the taste was not quite there and they could have cooked them a little bit longer so they would not be so hard and chewy. In the end, I added the chili sauce…

…provided and that did help a bit.

The complimentary soup…

…was bland, of course but a bit better than the ones at a lot of places in town.

Another thing that pissed me off was the whole time I was there, the guy had his mask covering his mouth only – his nose was not covered. I would always give these people the benefit of the doubt – maybe it slipped down while he was doing all that work but at least, he should pull it upwards periodically. The wife was worse! Her mask was dangling under her chin and eventually, she nonchalantly took it off!!! And she was the one walking around doing all the serving…and ALL that talking at close proximity with the customers unlike the hubby who was confined to his stall.

I am not revealing the name of the coffee shop nor the names of the people involved to protect the innocent. Frankly, I did not think it was nice and no, I would not want to go and eat that again even without the unpleasant episode regarding the meat plus the long wait and indeed, I am so puzzled as to why there were people praising what they had to the skies! I could easily have hopped next door and enjoyed something a whole lot nicer!!!

Maybe not…

I cannot remember who it was that shared a photograph of the beef noodles…

…that he had here so I was thinking of dropping by to give it a try and the other day, after I had shared a photo of the wat tan hor that we had here, my good friend/ex-classmate, Robert, suggested that we went and tried the one there.

I told him about the beef noodles and he said that he never tried because when he and his wife, Angela, dropped by here, they would always order the wat tan hor from this stall…

…nothing else. That sure sounded promising – that it was so very good that they would go for it again and again.

We sure did not waste any time in making our way there last Sunday morning and I ordered a plate for my girl (RM6.00)…

It looked kinda pale – we had quite a few around here and they all looked a lot more appealing. Thankfully, the kway teow looked all right…

As for the taste, it did not get us all excited. My girl said that her favourite in town would be the one from the Seremban guy here but unfortunately, last I saw him at his new location, he was not cooking that anymore.

I ordered the beef noodles (RM12.00)…

…for myself despite the fact that I could see it was the Taiwanese version with the dark soup that I am not entirely fond of. It may be a few ringgit cheaper than the massively-popular one here but no, it was nowhere near as nice as the one there. The soup was a little sweet and spicy too. We did try the beef noodles at this coffee shop once but it was from a different stall, the second one, not this one and no, it did not get us coming back for more.

My missus had their Foochow fried noodles, wet/with sauce/gravy (RM5.00)…

…but no, she did not think it was as good as some of the ones she loves including the one from that guy at the coffee shop in the next lane from my house even though they did seem quite generous with the added ingredients here.

Incidentally, while I was at that coffee shop that morning, I saw a familiar face at this stall in front….

He was the kampua mee guy with the dong quai soup here that I liked a lot and his laksa was pretty good too. Unfortunately, some people took over the coffee shop and he was unceremoniously kicked out so he moved here. However, he could not sell the same things anymore as there was already a stall there selling them. Obviously, he did not like it there so he shifted to this new location.

I chatted with him briefly and promised that I would drop by again soon to enjoy those favourites of mine. Will I be ordering anything from the aforementioned chu-char (cook and fry) stall again? Well, maybe not…

MOTHER CAFE (2.310920, 111.831572) is the last shop in the block on your left along Jalan Dewan Suarah if you are entering from Jalan Melur, the shop right behind the Sibu Civic Centre (Dewan Suarah).

I waited…

I had to go and see my doctor last Friday, a routine follow-up visit to make sure everything was going o.k. and what not so I went very early – at 8 something and it was not till past 11.00 a.m. that it was done. As far as I was concerned, that was perfectly all right as I had put aside the whole morning just for this so I just sat there and waited and waited and waited.

My girl had a meeting after school at 11.45 a.m. so the timing was just right. I was there past 12 and I waited and waited and waited. It was almost 1.00 p.m. when she came out, not a very good time as we had agreed to go some place for lunch before heading home and most places would close at 2.00 p.m. so if you show up so late, they may not be too happy to extend their opening hours just for you.

We stopped by here for the Sarawak laksa but it was packed and there were people queuing up, waiting for a table. We adjourned here for the yong tofu but they had already called it a day and yes, it was the same with most of the food stalls here. Many would close around noon and they would reopen at 5 or 6 in the evening to cater for the nighttime crowd.

It was our no-meat Friday so of course, that narrowed down our choices to just a few. Most would be struck off our list automatically, never mind whether they were still open or not. In the end, we decided to try our luck at this stall here for the char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles).

Sorry, they were cleaning up the place already but we spotted another stall in that coffee shop selling chao chai hung ngang (preserved vegetables with big bihun)…

…and much to our delight, there were a whole lot of options given.

I asked for the one with fish fillet (RM8.00)…

…while the ladies wanted the one with their own-made fish balls and we left specific instructions with the ladies at the stall…

…to leave out the meat.

The chao chai soup was really very nice, bursting with flavours, not too sour, absolutely perfect but the fish fillet in my bowl was so bland, so very tasteless. I should have followed the ladies and gone for the fish balls too and what was worse, I spotted in MY bowl…MEAT BALLS!!! I was furious and luckily, the ladies at the stall were mono-lingual and could speak only Mandarin. All I could say was, “I already said I did not want any meat! What is so difficult to understand?” In the end, I decided to just go ahead and eat it and continue with my abstinence from meat on another day.

While waiting for our orders to be served, I went to the adjoining section of the coffee shop to see what they had. The stalls there were closed too except for the chu char (cook & fry) place at the back. I ordered their wat tan hor (RM5.50)…

…and yes, I insisted that no meat should be added. I saw a photograph of a dish with a whole lot of prawns so I asked for those to be added to my order but the lady said that was for that dish only, their mala fried noodles. Honestly, I cannot understand why they could not take the prawns and use them in their wat tan hor as well.

Anyway, with or without the prawns, minus the meat, it would have been very nice…

…with its strong wok hei taste and fragrance but sadly, it seemed that the cook had forgotten to add the salt and msg so it was so very bland…except for the soy sauce that was used to fry the kway teow in the initial stage. I also loved how they were very generous with the green vegetables.

Despite the fact that I thought both dishes were pretty good, I could barely finish half of each as I was not in the mood at that point in time. I don’t know whether I shall be coming back here again for these or any of the other dishes there as the place is always very crowded and I am not that fond of going there, not at all. Perhaps I can try going after 1.00 p.m. like that day – there were only a few customers around at the time.

六月饮食坊 JUNE CAFE (2.292649, 111.834878) is located at No. 16, Lorong 3541, Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 7, directly opposite/right across the road from Kopitiam Fantasy.

In some small way…

My sister gave us these bak chang (meat dumplings)…

from here to try.

Incidentally, if anyone is thinking of hopping over there to buy their fried stuff, the yew char koi/yeu tiao (Chinese crullers) and their ma kiok (horse’s hoof), they are now doing it on Fridays and Saturdays only. If I remember correctly, they used to do it on Saturdays and Sundays.

The bak chang (RM3.50 each) was nicely wrapped…

…tied with a string, not the traditional dried grass. I am fine with either one of the two, as long as it is not those raffia or nylon strings – I wouldn’t know what would seep into the water and the changs while being boiled for hours to cook.

The dumplings were symmetrically conical…

…with a lot of meat…

…inside.

Of course what’s most important would be the taste and probably for want of some ingredients, five spice powder perhaps, it did not taste quite the same as the rest, the regular ones. I must say that it was nice in some small way but I would not mind it one bit if it could be a little less salty. Personally, I still prefer the ones here, especially the ones with peanuts in them but those are RM4.50 each.

My sister also gave us these ang tao changs (red bean dumplings), RM2.00 each…

…and yes, I must say that I liked it a lot!

For one thing, I loved how the glutinous rice was not translucent and yellow or orange in colour as the result of the addition of alkaline water (kee) to red bean dumplings to make the rice QQ and jelly-like. That is not something to my liking, I’m afraid.

Other than that, the addition of that little piece of pandan (screwpine) leaf…

…gave it that lovely fragrance, not unlike some of those very nice nyonya kuihs made with glutinous rice.

It is a little bit sweet and of course, glutinous rice is starchy, notorious for the hidden sugars, so you will not find me running back for more, not when I am sticking steadfastly to my low-sugar diet, thank you very much.

KIM CHUO FOOD CENTRE (2.310950, 111.830541) is located among the area of shops in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah, Sibu and the Civic Centre market beside the Sarawak Energy/SESCO customer care office (to the right), opposite the ShareTea outlet there.

I loved you more…

We loved dropping by this place before when it was just a one-shoplot eatery because we enjoyed the food a lot. Why, we even went there for the eat-all-you-can buka puasa (breaking of fast) buffet in 2019!

Eventually, it became more and more popular and the crowd grew bigger and bigger…and they extended the place and even changed the name from La’zzaty Cuisine to Kedai Makan Nasi Ulam (not to be mistaken with the nasi ulam over in West Malaysia and elsewhere) for the simple reason that their customers love their ulam (raw vegetables and leaves eaten with their awesome sambals).

Well, that afternoon, we went back to the roadside stall as the lady said that she would be cooking her sambal petai (stinky beans) but no, much to our disappointment, she did not have it so we just left and on our way back, we decided to stop by here as they had what they called a mini Ramadan bazaar on the pavement in front.

We bought two of this rice set…

…with ayam percik to share. The chicken came with plain rice and half a salted egg and some raw vegetables plus two different types of sambal.

I did not know at the time that they had those sambals in the pack and I went and bought a tub of it…

…as well. Thankfully, it was not a big one. Personally, I felt that the chicken was at best, just all right – I have had very much nicer ayam percik elsewhere.

The beef liver…

…looked tempting but no, I was able to resist the temptation unlike my missus who insisted on buying a bit of their perut sapi (beef tripe)…

I did try a bit but it did not tickle my fancy. I don’t think my missus managed to finish that little bit even so that sure spoke volumes about how much she enjoyed it.

I did not like the daun ubi (tapioca leaves) masak lemak

…either. They cooked the leaves whole so it was a chore to chew plus it did not taste great and we felt it was not lemak enough.

I don’t know why my missus insisted on buying this asam fish (ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret)…

…because I always buy this fish, fresh ones and she can cook this very well herself. Thankfully, it turned to be really nice so in the end, I was glad that she did…especially considering how most of the things we bought turned out to be not that great!

The bubur pedas

…looked so good, so much nicer than the one we bought from the aforementioned roadside stall. Unfortunately, it was extremely salty and did not even taste nice at all – in the end, nobody wanted to eat it so we just threw it all away.

My girl also bought their murtabak ayam and daging (chicken and beef)…

…that was all right though not anything to get excited about – I have had murtabak a lot nicer elsewhere.

On the whole, we did not think the food was as nice as before so it is not likely at all that we shall be going back there for more.

KEDAI MAKAN NASI ULAM (2.307198, 111.828479) is located at No. 8, Jalan Nibong 1, Off Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, opposite the Sibu Buddhist Temple.

I know that we have loved before…

After we had our delightful lunch here that day, I suggested going out for something light and simple, things here that we have loved before for dinner so we would not have to do any cooking that day.

My girl did talk about going for the wat tan hor a few times already but we never got round to doing that. I did take a snapshot of what we were served that night (RM12.00) but I accidentally deleted it. For one thing, I must say that it was nothing like this…

…not at all. The serving was huge, meant to be shared by two, in that big plate but there was so very little kway teow (flat rice noodles), none of the miserable three minute shrimps and very little bitter gourd drowning in the egg gravy! It tasted all right though, that much credit I would give to what we had that night but at that price for so little, I sure would think twice about going back there for it again.

I also ordered our favourite honey chicken wings (RM12.00)…

…and yes, we enjoyed those but they did seem to look a whole lot nicer, those days when they were only RM9.80 a plate…

I did not like the beef satay (RM2.50 a stick)…

It seemed that they no longer marinated the meat the same way they used to so it had a somewhat peculiar taste, very strong on the spices so I did not really like it this time around. The chicken tasted o.k., RM2.00 a stick but even though the prices have remained the same, I am pretty sure there was more meat on the sticks before…

We had a waffle with kaya (RM4.50)…

…for dessert and all in all, inclusive of drinks, the total came up to a whooping RM59.00 and to think that I only had to fork out RM60.00 for what we had for our lunch that day, I would say that it was somewhat steep especially considering that it is nothing more than a coffee shop, not some classy and more exclusive restaurant!

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.

You think I don’t know…

There is a new coffee shop in town selling authentic ethnic (Iban) cuisine, two or three doors away from the one that I usually frequent.

It has been around for a while now but I never did stop by to check the place out as parking is a pain all along that road (Jalan Maju) plus I was not all that keen on going here and there during the pandemic. I finally got down to it the other day and bought two of their vegetable dishes to take home and try.

The ladies said they came from Kapit (the one at that other place is from Durin) but no, I did not see any babi hutan (wild boar), just some pansoh ayam (chicken cooked in bamboo) but I was not keen on that as they usually use those old mother hens that are somewhat tough and may have an offensive smell. Even if they had wild boar, I would not want to buy as word had it that the ones from Indonesia were the carriers of the recent ASF (Asian Swine Flu) outbreak here.

Yes, we enjoyed the daun ubi (tapioca leaves) or what they call daun empasak or what we call daun bandong (that’s probably Melanau)…

This is a very easy dish to cook. You take the leaves…

…(remove the stalks) and pound or blend them before frying them with pounded ginger, ikan bilis (dried anchovies), serai (lemon grass) and add salt and msg (or ikan bilis stock cube) according to taste. I did blog about cooking it here, with pumpkin added.

Some people will tell you to just gosok (like what you do when scrubbing clothes on a washboard but I do not like it that way as these leaves can be quite a chore to chew and doing it this way is not enough and may take away some of the enjoyment of eating them.

One thing to remember is that these leaves must be cooked really really well. When we had them here

…I did not like what we were served because it tasted somewhat green, like it was raw or not cooked enough. According to this website, for instance, cassava (tapioca) are high in hydrocyanic acid which is poisonous, but when cooked the acid disappears… and be sure to discard the water the leaves are boiled in. Cassava or yuca leaves must be cooked for at least 10 minutes.

Thankfully, the one I bought from this “new” place was nicely done and we did enjoy it even though I do think they do it better at that old place.

I also bought this…

…that day but it was a let-down! It was in a covered glass casserole so I could not see what it was. I asked the ladies and they said it was daun kasam, pickled or preserved vegetables so I asked if it was ensabi (a very bitter vegetable that I do enjoy very much. You can find it at the jungle produce market – I don’t think anybody sells it in the regular vegetable section at the wet market) and they said yes.

When I got home, I found that it was kangkong (water spinach). Well, it did not matter that much that it wasn’t ensabi but it was EXTREMELY salty and the stalks were quite impossible to chew. I sure did not enjoy it and ended up throwing most of it away. Next time, if it is kasam ensabi that I want, I shall just go to that old place a few doors away down the road. All this while, when I bought things from there, they never told me anything was something when it wasn’t – don’t think that I don’t know these things!

Early morning rain…

It was raining that cold morning here and I was feeling like having something hot and soupy so I stopped by here to see if they had any pek ting eyok (Eight Treasures) chicken or not. It turned out that they had that but with pork trotters (too kha) only and with the recent ASF (Australian Swine Flu) outbreak, I wasn’t quite ready to go back to eating the meat just yet.

In the end, I asked for the mee sua (string/thread noodles) in the traditional Foochow red wine & ginger chicken soup (RM7.50)…

It struck me right away when it was served that it was VERY red in colour but no, it did not get me all excited. You will end up with the soup like that if there is some residue in the wine (not well-filtered) or it had settled at the bottom of the bottle after a long time…or if you add a bit of the ang chao (lees, the Foochow red wine residue) to marinate the meat prior to cooking it.

Fry the meat with a lot of ginger in sesame oil before adding the water for the soup and it will be red like this…

Just don’t get your hopes up too high because for that superior taste, it will depend on the quality (and the amount) of the red wine used and so it was with this bowl of mee sua that I had that day.

I would say it was nice but no, it was not something that would get me all excited like the one here (since closed) or this one here. and I do feel that there are others elsewhere just as nice or perhaps, even a little bit nicer.

I asked for the egg to be poached…

…for a change instead of the usual hardboiled and this was what I got.

This place is the favourite of many here when it comes to their pan mee

…and yes, I did stop by to enjoy it a few times before but I don’t recall ever having their mee sua before so I am not sure if they had jacked up the price by 50 sen (RM7.00 elsewhere, RM5.00-6.00 a long time ago) or it has always been like that.

I wonder if there is any place in town serving pek ting eyok chicken. It would be best with duck, the way the Foochows would cook it traditionally, of course, but somehow or other, it is hard to find any duck dishes, whichever way they cook it, around here.

MING XUAN CORNER (2.312754, 111.846595)…

…is located in the second block of shops on your right if you are turning in from Jalan Pedada at the junction after Delta Mall, heading towards Lorong Taman Seduan 8, somewhere opposite the Bread Sense Bakery outlet there on the other side.