Like it’s her birthday…

Well, it most certainly WAS her birthday, my sister’s, on the 13th of January and she took us all out for dinner here…

MJ Hu Seafood Restoran

I had never been here before but I had seen a foodie friend’s Instagram posts on Facebook so of course, I was keen on going to give it a try.

The curry fish (RM60.00)…

Curry fish

…was very good, very spicy and the lovely gravy went absolutely well with rice. I did not think much of the fish though – I think it was a red snapper.

The butter prawns (RM40.00)…

Butter prawns

…were very nicely done too and the crustaceans were very firm, very fresh but this is one dish that one can get at most any other place and some can do it just as well and it was the same with the tofu dish…

Minced meat tofu

…that we also had that night.

The Thai-style midin

Thai-style midin

…on the other hand, was in a class of its own and the strips of mango in it sure were an added bonus. Everyone loved it to bits!

However, the star of the evening had got to be their specialty, the pig’s tail (RM25.00)…

Pig's tail

I never had that before and I could not believe how nice that was – I loved it so much and I sure would want to go back here again for more.  We were joking about it that night – how a pig only had one tail and a very short one at that and how many pig’s tails would be needed to cook one dish. That was hilarious!

It was a lovely dinner, indeed – I certainly would want to go back there again to see what other nice dishes they have on their menu. Thanks so much to my sis for the treat and a very Happy Birthday once again – God bless always and may all your dreams come true. Cheers!!!

MJ HU SEAFOOD RESTAURANT(2.291971, 111.834740) is located along Lorong Mahsuri 2, the second shop on the left after Kuching Cafe, opposite Bateras Supermarket.

They came from the city…

They came from the city, Kuala Lumpur, to our humble little town of Sibu, seven of them altogether…

My KL friends and I

One of them, Jenn, my blogger friend, contacted me to let me know and of course, I was delighted and offered to be their food and tour guide but she told me there would be seven of them. In the end, I prepared an elaborate itinerary for the 3 days when they would be here – where to go, what to eat, what to see but they would have to walk around on their own or call Grab since they can’t jolly well fit into my old jalopy, all of them.

On the day they arrived, I waited for them at the hotel and after they had checked in, we walked round the corner to the back to where else, if not here!

They brought along these goodies…

Goodies from KL 1

…for me…

Goodies from KL 2

…thank you so much. I must say that the heong peah in the first photograph (extreme left) was really good, a whole lot nicer than all that I had bought before from the bak kua shops in KL and elsewhere. The pastry was so very nice and flaky and the filling was moist and sticky, just the way I like it – the rest were all hard and dry! I’ve not tried the other things though – will probably save them all for Chinese New Year.

For our lunch, we had the pomelo salad…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…and the Payung rojak

Payung rojak

…to start off and they enjoyed them both. They were particularly intrigued by the bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) petals and the buah kedondong leaves in the rojak.

I ordered the kacang ma chicken…

Payung kacang ma chicken

…for them to try, knowing that this Kuching Hakka specialty would be something they had never tried before. I was not in the least surprised that some of them did not like it and the rest weren’t exactly excited by it either. I guess this is an acquired taste and many will not like it the first time. As the Campari slogan goes, “The first time is never the best!” – if you can catch the drift. LOL!!! I did not eat it that day, of course, as they came on a Friday, my no-meat day, and that was why I did not order all the other very nice meat dishes.

On the other hand, they loved the Payung otak-otak

Payung otak-otak

…so much – in fact, they were so impressed by it that they immediately placed orders for some to take home and they were head over heels in love with the belimbing prawns…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns

…too so much so that they kept going for the soup even after they had eaten all the crustaceans and they were full of praises for the mushroom roll…

Mushroom roll

…as well!

For dessert, I ordered their dreamy nite…

Dreamy nite

…and what a coincidence it was when it was served and this song came on right at that very moment! Talk about making a grand entrance. LOL!!!

We also had the favourite of many going back to my teenage years in the 70’s, the jelly pisang

Payung jelly pisang

Well, as expected, they enjoyed the lunch so much that even after they had left and gone elsewhere they were still talking about these Payung specialties that they had – obviously, they had left a lasting impression on their minds.

I asked them why they decided to come here, of all the places, especially when I have been asking everyone to come and visit but no, they are more keen on going elsewhere. Well, they said that one of them found out that the air fares were very cheap and asked the rest and on the spur of the moment, they decided to make the trip. Well, thank you so much to everybody for coming – it was great having you all here…and do come again sometime!

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.

End of the year…

We went to the Christmas morning service in church that day as we were at my cousin’s daughter’s wedding reception and could not go for the one at night on Christmas Eve and we did not have any special dinner that evening either. We had one at home on the night of Christmas Day instead and of course, we invited my sister and my brother-in-law and his wife to join us.

I bought a pair of New Zealand lamb foreshank for around RM35.00 only and my missus stewed them with bolognese sauce…

Christmas dinner stewed lamb shank

…and yes, it was very nice. She did not serve them on a bed of mashed potatoes even though my girl made some and served that separately and yes, we sure enjoyed it a lot…except my brother-in-law perhaps – he’s not so into western cuisine, not lamb especially.

That was why my missus had these chicken wings…

Christmas dinner air-fried chicken wings

…cooked using the air fryer that was given to us by my niece in Singapore and also his favourite, my missus’ chicken curry but I did not take a photograph of the latter.

We also had those giant tiger prawns…

Christmas dinner tiger prawns

…from Sabah that my generous friend, Eric gave me and everyone was impressed by the humongous size of those crustaceans! These were just the first batch – because they were so big and there were so many, my missus had to do it a few times in our small oven.

My girl saw this ham…

Christmas dinner gypsy-flavoured ham

…gypsy flavoured, whatever that is at the supermarket round the corner from our house and did not hesitate to buy it for our dinner. A long long time ago, I bought a very small one like a hand grenade from the supermarket on the lower ground floor of Sogo in KL and we loved it so much. Unfortunately, I had not come across any like that since. This one was quite big, maybe not as big as a bowling ball but it was big. Everyone said it was a bit too salty but I was fine with it and enjoyed it very much.

My missus tried to replicate the mangosteen salad…

Christmas dinner mangosteen salad

that we had at the Vietnamese restaurant in Kuching and loved so much. Everyone else liked it but I felt it was a bit too sour – the one we had in Kuching was much nicer.

It was New Year’s Eve a week later – that’s the thing about the end of the year, one festival after another and Chinese New Year is on the way, just a fortnight away. We went to the special service at the church after which we had a pot luck party so we did not have a special dinner of our own at home.

We had not had our family New Year’s Eve/Day dinner together for six years, at least, not since my girl got posted to her jungle school. She would have to be there a few days earlier for meetings, registration of pupils and what not and they had to work even on New Year’s Day and school would reopen the very next day on the 2nd…but I think even before that, when she was studying in Sg Petani, Kedah and Wellington, New Zealand, we did not have the chance to sit down together as a family on this very special occasion.

I, for one, cannot understand why they must start school on the 2nd (and if I am not wrong, they do not have a public holiday in some states!). During my time, even way back in the colonial days, school would reopen on the first Monday of the year. I’m sure those extra few days will not make much of a difference and will not turn those kids into geniuses, not at all. Stupid is as stupid does!

Well, finally, after so many years, we were able to sit down as a family on New Year’s Day and my missus cooked this gluten-free pasta…

New Year dinner pasta

– one of those that we bought and stocked up at one time, not that we would need it anymore these days. I don’t know what sauce she used but yes, it was very nice.

She also baked this slab of deboned chicken, Italian-style…

New Year dinner Italian chicken

…and my girl said it was nice. I thought it was just so-so, not anything I would ask her to cook again.

She made this lovely salad…

New Year dinner salad

…and baked potatoes…

New Year dinner potatoes

…for the sides to go with the roasted leg of New Zealand lamb…

New Year dinner rack of lamb

…that I bought for over RM70.00. I think next time, I shall just stick to the lamb shanks as they seemed to be cheaper and at the end of the day, it was what it was – lamb.

Yes, that was a delightful dinner and most importantly, we got to sit down together as a family to eat together on these significant occasions. Those guys in their ivory towers should realise that no amount of teaching in that Moral Education subject in school can ever come near to actually doing it and practising it ourselves – action speaks louder than words!

2 in 1…

We went to the Christmas morning service in church that morning and my aunt, my late mum’s cousin, stopped by our seats to invite us to her Christmas Open House that day and of course, we accepted her invitation happily.

We did not know at the time that she was born on Christmas Day, her 78th this year so it was, in fact, a 2-in-1 affair.

Her church-going friends brought this Japanese baked cotton cheese cake…

Japanese baked cotton cheese cake

…my favourite, so there was the singing of the birthday song, the candle blowing and cake cutting. The cake had gone up in price like nobody’s business – long long ago, a small oval one was RM10.00 and then it started going up. The last time I bought one, it was RM14.00 and one of the ladies that day told me it is now RM18.00. No, thank you! I’d just go for something more affordable instead.

My aunt served quite a lot of dishes – her phak lor (braised) sa chan bak (pork belly)…

Phak lor sa chan bak

…was so good that I could not resist going back for more.

She also cooked this…

Pork with potatoes, carrots

…and she got somebody in the kampung to cook the curry…

Curry

…and the masak merah

Masak merah

The photo of the rendang came out blur so I have left that out.

She bought these Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

Sio bee

…which were really very good – I think I shall go and grab some soon and blog about it. She also bought the ngor hiang

Ngor hiang

– my girl enjoyed it but I thought it was just so-so, nothing to shout about.

There weren’t any vegetable dishes but a friend brought this very nice mango pickle…

Mango pickle

…and there was dabai

Dabai

…plus these rambutans from my garden…

My rambutans

…my contribution to the party and somebody brought these lovely cream puffs…

Cream puffs

…for dessert.

We had a jolly good time – everybody knew everybody as we are a small church community but we couldn’t stay too long as we had to rush back and get working on our own Christmas dinner at home that night but that will be in another post. You’ll stick around, won’t you?

We were there…

Last year, when my cousin from Sydney, Australia was home, he was able to attend his youngest brother’s second daughter’s wedding. This year, the eldest daughter got married earlier in Miri and the wedding reception here was held on Christmas Eve at a leading hotel in town and all of us were there to share the joy of this happy occasion.

The dinner that evening started off with this dish…

Phoenix Court Paramount Hotel Four Seasons

…the Four Seasons, just that here, you will get more than four most of the time.

I loved the roast chicken…

Phoenix Court Paramount Hotel roast chicken

…more than the slices in the middle with some kind of sauce, Thai chili sauce most likely.

The steamed kim chio (golden pomfret), Teochew style…

Phoenix Court Paramount Hotel steamed fish

…was great and there was this broccoli…

Phoenix Court Paramount Hotel broccoli

…with mushroom and whatever else too.

Everyone at my table were in agreement over the fact that this prawn dish…

Phoenix Court Paramount Hotel prawns & jellyfish

…was the best that evening and the jellyfish in the middle was very good too.

The dinner ended with Chinese pancake with red bean paste filling and a fruit platter for dessert.

Congratulations once again to the happy couple and to the proud and happy parents, cousin Jimmy and his wife, Lily, and thank you so much for the invitation. It  certainly was a lovely evening, getting together with my next-of-kin on my paternal side of the family.

PHOENIX COURT (2.293350, 111.820971) is located at Paramount Hotel at No. 3, Lorong 9A, Jalan Kampong Dato here in Sibu.

Reserve…

This was on the day of the Dongzhi (冬至) or the Winter Solstice Festival, 22nd December, 2019.

No, we did not go out to celebrate – all we did to observe the festival and preserve the tradition, our heritage was to cook those glutinous rice balls (湯圓) and coat them with crushed peanut and sugar to eat. We are not into those colourful ones served in sweet syrup.

We went out for lunch that day simply because we were feeling like going for what we enjoy here in Sibu after having been away in Kuching and before that, in Miri and my missus wanted to come here.

Gosh! The place was packed! Except for the few small(er) tables, all the big ones were taken. I did not know whether they were people celebrating the festival or those with folks coming back to Sibu for that, followed by the Christmas holidays.

Business must be really good as according to the lady boss, they had been real busy and had to resort to taking bookings by the hour starting at 5.30 p.m. If that one was taken, you would have to reserve the 6.30 p.m. “shift” or the 7.30 p.m. one. Luckily, that day, the smaller tables were available so we grabbed one for 4 – there were only 3 of us.

We had this claypot fish…

Ruby Restaurant claypot fish

…which was nice but I felt it was a bit on the mild side – it was nicer the last time we had this dish. They were very generous with the yam though and I enjoyed that.

My girl wanted their own-made tofu…

Ruby Restaurant tofu

…and what put theirs above the rest in town was the addition of hay bee (dried prawns). One would be able to detect a light hint of that when eating the tofu.

We had their cangkuk manis fried with egg…

Ruby Restaurant cangkuk manis

…too, easily among the best, if not THE best in town.

The lady boss taking our orders felt that was enough for the three of us but I insisted on ordering a pork dish and we had their deep fried pork ribs marinated in fermented tofu (豆乳/tāu-jú)…

Ruby Restaurant tauju pork ribs

…and yes, it was very good. I sure would want to order that again next time.The total for the food came up to only RM51.00 – perhaps that explains why there is always a crowd here. It is nice…and cheap too!

And talking about having to make prior reservation, there is another place here where you definitely have to do so too. Many have been turned away disappointed especially during the Christmas and New Year period including my cousin, home from Sydney, Australia – he loves this place!

Well, the other night, we had some leftovers for lunch and that night, my missus wanted to cook something for dinner and I told her not to bother – we would go out some place instead to eat and be done with it or for sure, the following day, we would be eating leftovers again.

We went here but it was closed! My missus saw a FOR RENT note on the entrance – they probably had called it a day which would be kind of sad as we did enjoy some of the dishes there…and it makes me even sadder that many have fallen along the way in the face of our dwindling economy. Times are hard, very hard!

In the end, we went to the aforementioned restaurant as my girl wanted her favoutite dish there, the sizzling beef (RM15.00)…

Nice House sizzling beef

…and to go with it, we asked for the midin fried with belacan (RM9.00)…

Nice House midin belacan

I wanted to try something else other than the usual and ordered this beef tendon hotpot (RM20.00)…

Nice House beef tendon hotpot

…which was kind of disappointing as I would prefer all tendon instead of a whole lot of beef, tofu and mushroom and not that much tendon, plus it did not taste all that spectacular. My girl’s sizzling beef was a whole lot nicer.

We did not have any problem getting a table that night – it was a weekday night and school had reopened but there were quite a lot of people and many of the tables were taken which came as no surprise as here too, the food is nice…and cheap.

RUBY RESTAURANT  is located at No. 71, Jalan Kampung Nyabor right next to HOME COOK CORNER  (2.292756, 111.825335) with the AmBank Tunku Osman branch in the very next block and NICE HOUSE RESTAURANT (2.29201,111.82739) is located in the vicinity of the Tunku Osman shops, opposite Rejang Bookstore.

Prepare…

Even before Christmas was over, we could see those red Chinese lanterns and other festive decorations going up here, there and everywhere and Payung was no exception with theirs…

Payung Cafe lanterns

…all the flowers…

Payung Cafe flowers

…and everything else, the whole works.

Every year, without fail, they would get this very nice homemade kuih bangkit

Payung Cafe kuih bangkit

…from somebody in Mukah. While everything is shooting up in prices around here, this is still selling for RM22.00 a tub, that same price ever since they started selling it in 2016 and if you buy 10, you will get one free.

In previous years, I would order a few of their dishes to serve at home – that would save us/my missus a bit of work as she would not have to cook too much and besides, anything from Payung was always well-received by family and friends dropping by. If you are keen on ordering, you can find the information below…

Payung Cafe order for CNY

I do not think I will be doing that this year as right now, I am thinking of a completely Chinese theme and the only Chinese dish in the list is the kacang ma chicken but I am pretty sure my missus would want to cook her own.

In the meantime, they have released this information – their opening hours during Chinese New Year…

Payung CNY opening hours

Most places will close for three days, at least but they will close only for one day, the 1st Day of Chinese New Year which is, in fact, a very good thing as there will be people coming home from near or far and they will not have any difficulty looking for a nice place to go and eat.

Incidentally, a cousin of mine brought my attention to the fact that for reasons unknown, Payung has been categorised in Facebook as a vegetarian/vegan restaurant and a Malaysian/Asian fusion restaurant as well. Well, it is not entirely a vegetarian place but there are many dishes that are suitable for vegetarians, for instance their mushroom roll and all the salads and if anyone is into pasta, the mushroom carbonara spaghetti that I had in my previous post is completely meat free and now, since the new Indian chef arrived, they have added a few new dishes to their menu, among them, the vegetarian palak paneer (available only on Fridays or by special order) and his chappati.

Come lunchtime every Friday, they have lei cha (now RM7.00)…

Payung Cafe lei cha

…which is vegetarian too but I have yet to acquire the taste for that.

One Friday morning, I had not had breakfast when I dropped by and I ordered their tomato noodles (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe tomato noodles 1

…with fresh sweet corn kernels added. This is also meat free, suitable for vegans/vegetarians. I think Peter used to add black fungus but he had stopped doing that after hearing all the horror stories about the stuff which I thought, all this while, would be great for health.

They have just re-introduced this dish…

Payung Cafe tomato noodles 2

…back on their menu and I must say that I really enjoyed it, very tasty, very flavourful. I sure wouldn’t mind going back for this again sometimes.

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.