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Your wish…

Alfred saw my post where I had fish head curry…

Fish head curry
*Archive photo*

…and Vietnamese prawns…

Vietnamese prawns
*Archive photo*

…served with this very special bun…

Bun

…and he said he would like to have those when he came to Sibu and of course, I told him that his wish would be my command.

However, I decided to take them here for the “original” that many would say is the best in town…

Sheraton fish head curry

…but one of the ladies was of the opinion that it was kind of sweet and was not quite accustomed to it like that. Perhaps she would prefer what they call assam fish head curry which would be quite different, a little sourish – something like what I had a long long time ago at a place called Maxims in Miri and to me, that was really very nice as well. In fact, I do know for a fact that this fish head curry dish varies from place to place and between races too. I had the one in KL and it did not tickle my fancy and someone told me that the Indians have their own version too.

Unfortunately, they did not have those Vietnamese prawns on their menu so we had to order something else instead and settled for their so-called Peking duck. which included this plate of roast duck…

Sheraton Peking duck 1

…and the paper thin egg crepe, strips of scallions and cucumber and the special sweet bean sauce…

Sheraton Peking duck 2

…and  one of the waitresses would do all the rolling…

Sheraton Peking Duck 3

…and serve…

Sheraton Peking Duck 4

…so we did not have to do that ourselves. The difference between the one here is that they do not just give you the skin unlike at other places where they would roll up only the skin with everything else in the special white pancakes (but Alfred did say that they do have places in Singapore where they use egg crepe like what they do here…or some would give diners a choice between the two) and then, they would take away the meat and cook something else with it and take it out and serve again. I was told that at some places, they would use the meat to fry a plate of noodles – hmmm…I wonder what that would taste like and I sure would love to give it a try.

I guess everyone loved it. There were no comments all round but of course, my missus did not touch it – she doesn’t eat duck. Alfred liked the or nee (yam paste)…

Or nee 1

…and I really love how they serve it sandwiched in between cheese crackers, covered with sesame seeds at the side and deep fried…

Or nee 2

Very nice, I must say…though it may not go down too well with people who are not really into deep fried stuff!

After dinner, I took them to the hawker centre here just to look around as we were already too full and anyway, most of the stalls were closed – I guess Monday is their off day. We just had a quick drink and then I sent them back the the hotel to rest – they would be making their way back to Singapore the next day.

Do that for me…

I mentioned in my previous post that we bought some big freshwater udang galah (bamboo prawns) at RM45.00 a kg but no, we did not buy one whole kilo – just 6 of the crustaceans for RM27.00 (SGD10.00) and I wanted to bring them along to a restaurant and ask them to cook them for me…or rather, us.

We went to this place as my friend, Alfred, loved their butter scotch prawns that they had on their previous trip here and he would love to have that again but unfortunately, it was closed. No, it wasn’t because it was a Monday – normally, they would close on Wednesdays. They were taking the week off for their much-needed rest after the very busy Chinese New Year period and I guess they had gone off on a holiday some place.

In the end, we went here and they sure did a very good job of it…

Creamy butter udang galah

- in our favourite creamy butter prawn style. The prawns were so fresh and sweet, very firm and succulent and needless to say, everyone loved it to the max.

Of course, we had to have the midin

Midin

…since they enjoyed it so much and I also ordered the fried cangkuk manis with egg…

Cangkuk manis

I was also thinking of having venison…

Venison

…as well for them to try. Normally, at most restaurants here, they would fry it with soy sauce and ginger but the one taking the order said that they had one other style. Unfortunately, I could not really understand most of what she said and I just went ahead and ordered that anyway. As it turned out, I didn’t really like it as I could detect the use of black pepper sauce in it and I’m not fan of the stuff.

Alfred sneaked off to settle the bill and luckily, I was on his tail. The total came up to over RM60, inclusive of rice and drinks for the four of us and when I asked, we were told that they had charged us RM25 for cooking the prawns and I thought that was absolutely absurd! Once, we asked them to cook a fish…

Fish
*Archive photo*

…for a table of 10 persons or more and we were charged RM20 for that…and this was just a small plate of 6 prawns for 4 persons. Of course, I had to point it out and in the end, it was reduced to RM15.00 only…and Alfred only had to pay over RM50.00, around SGD20.00 which I guess was very cheap for them. The total for that plate of prawns came up to RM42.00 (RM27 + RM15) and for them, considering that back home, they may get one not-very-big one for SGD15.00, this was truly unbelievable!

Wait a minute! If you’re thinking that was it for the afternoon, you are very very wrong. Alfred insisted on dropping by here again for the banana cake…

Payung banana cake

He said that since he could not buy any back to the island republic, he wanted to have it one more time before leaving town…and he would want to eat their rojak

Payung rojak

…and mushroom roll…

Payung mushroom roll

…that he had the last time we was in town as well. He said they were “legendary” – something he must have again.

After that, we went here and there to get this and that and we stopped at the Sibu Resident’s Office to get their copies of THE book…and while we were in the vicinity, we did stop to buy some kueh lenggang (ketayap) and they loved the keropok lekor from  the stall at Bandong (afternoon only) – very nice, they said. It was past 4.00 p.m. when I dropped them off at the hotel to bathe, rest and get ready to go out for dinner at around 6 that evening…

The next day…

My Singapore friends only had one full day here this time around so we had to squeeze as much in as possible.

I picked them up at the hotel…

New Li Hua Hotel 1

…where they were putting up…

New Li Hua Hotel 2

…and drove them here for my favourite kampua noodles in town

RTM kampua

…and yes, they liked it too. Alfred did say it was not exactly authentic, more like a cross between kampua noodles and kolo mee and yes, I would say that he hit the nail on the head. Gee! He sure is becoming quite an expert now, eh? Hehehehehe!!!

After that, we drove around in search of this shop for the tom yam giant freshwater prawns served in a coconut but unfortunately, it was no longer there. We found out that they had moved to the Salim area on the far end of town on the other side so we decided we would just give it a miss this time around and reserve it for their next trip to Sibu…and since we were in the vicinity, we just headed to the nearby park and they went up the hill…

Up

…where you will get a bird’s eye view of the whole of Sibu town…

Aup 1
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…if you climb up this tower…

Aup 2
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…and there is this rope suspension bridge…

Aup 3
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…as well, among other things and after some time at the top of the hill, they came down…

Down

I know the kompia and the rojak here are pretty good and visitors can buy the feed to give to the thousands and thousands of kois and the rest in the lake but unfortunately, the stalls were closed – they close on Mondays. I guess that would give the fish a break as the guy there said that there would be a lot of people on weekends so the fish would get a lot to eat over those two days.

After that breather, we headed here for the nice Sarawak laksa that would be very much more like the authentic ones in Kuching, unlike what they had the last time they were in town even though they thought it really tasted so very good and had a second bowl but oh no!!! It was closed  – they close on Mondays too! Tsk! Tsk!

Then they were keen on having some yong tofu, so we stopped by here and they had these…

Yong tofu

It seems that one does not need to order in the fixed sets as depicted in the photos displayed at the stall. According to them, one can just order a bowl of fish balls with the tang hoon (glass noodles) and pick whatever else one would like to add to it and they would charge accordingly. There is a list of items with the prices at the stall…but it is in Mandarin.

They said it was nice and I ordered some sio bee for them as well – they were pretty good when I had them once but this time around, I thought they were not at all great. Too bad the middle stall was not open or they would have the big thick own-made noodles (like the one in KL Hokkien mee) with char siew or roast duck or stuff like those…

Noodles
*Archive photo*

- konlou noodles in KK/Sabah. I guess this one’s closed on Mondays as well. Sigh!!!!!

Next stop – the Sibu Central Market…

Market

…because Alfred wanted to buy some Bintulu belacan (dried prawn paste) and our local unpolished brown rice home…and while we were there, we stopped by the freshwater udang galah (bamboo prawn) stall and bought some big ones at RM45.00 a kilo. The prices have gone down now – the medium-sized ones that we would usually buy are back to RM30 a kilo now that Chinese New Year has gone past and besides, it is in season right now – there are a whole lot available but of course, one need not expect the restaurants around town to lower their prices. Don’t even dream that would ever happen! We also had pineapples, real nice and juicy ones – the so-called kelapa sawit variety and also the ones from Sarikei, very expensive in Singapore, but I did not take a photograph of those.

On the way back to the car, they said that they wanted to stroll around the hawker centre on the first floor just to have a look and they promised not to eat anything as it was almost time for lunch. However, they caught sight of this…

Pig's blood

…at the stall with the bright lights on…

Hawker centre

…and their defences came down! They said that they love it so much but they cannot get it in the island republic as it has been banned ever since the H1N1 or swine flu or whatever outbreak in the Asian region many years ago. I thought they would always cook this with kangkong (water spinach) but they said that they had asked for midin instead as they loved midin so much and would like to eat as much of it as possible while they were in town. That big platter of pig’s blood plus the ferns only cost RM8.00 (around SGD3.00) and of course, they enjoyed it very much.

They also ordered the rojak

Rojak

…from this stall and they liked it but I did not think it was all that great – I’ve had many others a lot nicer elsewhere. I had the ngor-bee therng (literally translated as five-flavour soup)…

Ngor bee therng

…which is supposed to be a cooling dessert but somehow or other, I did not think I derived as much pleasure from it was when I used to have it at a stall in town during my younger years. Time passes, things change…and one’s taste too, I guess.

Now, this, I like!!!

Free seating

At “some places” (not here, not in Sibu), you will be unceremoniously shouted at, scolded by the rude people there for sitting at the wrong table…or on the wrong stool. I really wonder how/why people can be so nasty – surely they can just say it in a more pleasant way. I always believe that it is not what you say but how you say it that makes the difference.

And YES, believe it or not, right after this, we went for lunch! LOL!!!

All in one night…

The one-week school holiday was coming to an end, so early in the morning on Sunday, I had to go to the airport to pick my girl’s friend/colleague and after an early lunch, I had to send them to their school, half an hour past Selangau Bazaar. That was why when my Singapore friends were back from their longhouse trip, I was not around and they were left to their own devices that afternoon.

I only managed to meet them at around 5.00 p.m. and because the restaurant that I wanted to take them to was still closed, we dropped by here as they insisted that they wanted to give it a try even though we were just an hour away from dinner time. We shared their signature barbecued pork ribs…

Ribs

…that they all liked and they also loved their classic pork burger…

Burger

After that, it was still early so we went to stroll around the pasar malam (night market) round the corner. I had to keep reminding them not to buy anything and save what was left of their tummy space for dinner. Luckily, it started to rain so we had to leave the place and head back to the restaurant.

I ordered the traditional Melanau dish – the umai

Umai

…which comprises raw fish with lots of calamansi lime juice and other ingredients. They enjoyed that though I would say it was rather sour but it went well with rice. They liked the paku (jungle fern) in santan (coconut milk)…

Paku in santan

…too but all of them shared this same opinion – they would prefer midin a lot more. Unfortunately, it was not available at this restaurant that night.

I also got them to try the lokan

Lokan

…which was basically the shell of the clams stuffed with the flesh/meat, minced and mixed with minced meat and whatever else…

Lokan - inside

…and deep fried. My! My! The ones we got that night were extremely small – about half of the usual size only. I wondered if this applied to the price as well…but knowing how things would usually go around here, I would think that was highly unlikely.

I did not want the prawns as I knew that would cost a bomb so we asked for three only…

Prawns

 …for the three of them. That turned out to be RM25.00 each so the total was a shocking RM75.00, just for the prawns alone. They loved the huge prawns and they were really good – firm, fresh, sweet and succulent…

Prawn

…but the soup, like the umai, was way too sour. There was no way one could just drink it like that or not a whole lot of it, at least. One of the ladies did not like how there was a little too much tumeric (kunyit)…and actually, when we cook our very simple version of this at home, Melanau-style, we do not make it THIS sour and we do not use a lot of tumeric or in fact, much of anything either, so we would have a lighter soup which, to us, would be very much more delightful. This, I feel, comes across more like gravy than soup – great with rice…but I do know for a fact that different people cook things differently like how the curry in one family may not be the same as that in another and preferences may vary too. To each his own!

I asked for TWO pieces of the lamb, each piece cut into two so each of us could just have a bit. After all, we were already rather full from the pre-dinner dinner. However, this was served…

Lamb

- four thick slabs of roast lamb! It worked out to RM20.00 a piece which I would say was not all that expensive if we compare that to the prices of lamb chops here, there and everywhere…but the total for the dish, RM80.00, was indeed quite a pinch! Nonetheless, they thought it was very nicely done and worthy of praise.

The bill came up to a whooping RM202.00, inclusive of rice and drinks…but they still said it was all right, less than SGD80.00. I would have to think twice about bringing guests here in future, really…and if I ever do, there would not be any lamb, that’s for sure…and no prawns either!

Now if you think that was it, you are very very wrong! They insisted that we dropped by here for the durian…

DIC
*Archive photo*

…and mango ice cream…

MIC
*Archive photo*

…and I also asked them to try the banana cake. Good grief! My friend liked it so much that he wanted to buy some to take back to Singapore. Unfortunately, they were out of the cake and only had enough for their own use so the plan had to be aborted. It was too dark to take any reasonably good snapshots (that is why I have to resort to those old ones above)…but if you stick around, there will be a photograph of the banana cake in one of the posts coming soon.

There you have it – our two dinners plus dessert, all in one night!

Something to remember…

I mentioned in an earlier post that my Singapore friends rented a car and drove on their own all the way to the longhouse in Kanowit

RK Kanowit 1
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…for a one-night stay. I wished I could go with them but unfortunately, the timing just wasn’t right.

They had a memorable and enjoyable experience and got to go jungle trekking…

JT
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…while they were there and they also had to pick stuff from the jungle…

Picking midin
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…to cook for dinner including some midin

Midin
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…and tapioca leaves

Daun bandong
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

They also cut some bamboo and the ingredients needed to cook ayam pansoh (chicken in bamboo).

However, I was rather disappointed to hear that they did not get to eat all that. It so happened that there was an Australian there already and  he was staying in the headman’s bilek (house) and my friends had to stay in another one under that same homestay programme. The wife in the one where they put up cooked dinner for them but they had none of all the aforementioned – they said they probably had that in the other bilek…but they were not too sure. Actually, I was expecting them to get together at the ruai (common corridor) to enjoy the food together…and luckily, they were very nice people and did not mind one bit and were quite happy with what they were served…and they said that the people they stayed with were very pleasant and hospitable and they really felt at home with them. Hmmm…they did not even know who had the ayam pansoh and all in the end but if I had been there, I probably would have kicked up a fuss and demanded for all that jungle produce. Tsk! Tsk!

They were supposed to go boating…

Boat
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…but it rained heavily so they decided to put it off till the morning the next day.

When evening fell…

Sunset
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…they had some traditional dancing – the ngajat

Ngajat
*Alfred’s photo n Facebook*

…to the music played with all their traditional instruments including the sape and the gongs and drums, big and small. I heard that the ladies joined in and had fun while my friend, Alfred, was shy and insisted he could not dance. They also tasted the tuak (traditional rice wine) but they said it was kind of sour. Maybe it was not the right time of year and they had run out of the good ones – usually, they would have new wine around May and June for the Gawai Dayak Festival which certainly would be a better time to visit to join in all the merry making.

The next morning, they decided to skip the boating as they could not wait to head into town for the Kanowit red kampua noodles. Unfortunately, they said the town was flooded with people, so very busy, the shops were so crowded and the roads were terribly jammed and they could not find a parking space so they just left and headed back to Sibu.

However, they were able to make a pit stop here for my favourite popiah

Popiah 1
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

- the best I have had anywhere and yes, they really liked it too…

Po piah 2
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

They also had the kampua noodles…

Kampua
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…from a stall at the coffee shop there and they said it was good.

After having had their fill, they headed to the brand new hotel…

New Li Hua

…just declared open earlier this month – another one in the same chain of hotels as the one where they stayed on their previous trip here. I had made prior reservations there for their stay in Sibu at only RM98.00 nett (around SGD38.00) per night for each BIG room with a king-sized bed, so they were able to check in as soon as they arrived…and return the rented car.

They said they enjoyed it all, very different and truly something to remember.

Look inside…

So what were inside those packets?

From Alfred

Anybody waiting eagerly to find out? Well, let me put you out of your misery and show what what was inside the little ones at the top. It looked like Kuching kolo mee

Singapore wanton mee

…and it even had those pickled green chili…

Pickled green chili

…but no, it wasn’t Kuching kolo mee. My girl and the mum had a packet each that evening when I went for the wedding dinner and they praised it to the skies…saying that it was so nice, nicer than any of the kolo mee they had had in Kuching, the texture of the noodles was different and they loved it a lot bla…bla…bla!!!

Hearing that, I just had to heat up a packet the next morning and have it for breakfast. Yes, it was indeed very very nice though I did not seem to be able to detect the taste and fragrance of lard. Later, when my girl woke up, she wanted the last packet for breakfast and that was it!

I asked my friend, Alfred, and it turned out that it was not kolo mee. This was the Singapore version of wanton mee, different from the ones in the peninsula that I never really fancy, drowned in some dark, oily sauce…and theirs had shredded chicken, wanton and mushroom as well. He said it was SGD3.00 a packet which I would not say was expensive, considering all those added ingredients even though the portion was kind of small.

Right below all those little packets was this very big one…

Wrapped in Opeh leaf

…wrapped in opeh leaf, the traditional way from back in the 70’s when I was there. I remember how I enjoyed this so very much then and I had not had it all this time since then…or maybe I did but it wasn’t served in the leaf and was not all that authentic.

It was so nice of Alfred to go through all that trouble to get me this Singapore Hokkien mee…

SHM 1

…as it is not easy to find one wrapped in the special leaf these days in that island republic. As you can see, this is very different from the dark and thick ones in KL and nothing like what they call Hokkien mee in Penang.

I sure enjoyed it to the max and this was only SGD6.00. Without converting to our currency, I would say it was quite reasonable – there was enough in that packet for two plates at least and there were a few prawns and squid…

SHM 2

…which would be more than what I could say about our Foochow-style fried noodles here with the pathetic bits of pork and green vegetables.  Most importantly, this certainly helped appease my craving in no small measure and brought back some really fond memories that would go all the way back to 1973.

However, Alfred, when you come to Sibu again next time, please do not buy this for me anymore…considering the price and all that trouble you would have to go through. I would say that I am very happy enough that you bother to come all the way to our little town and I can get to take you around to feast on nothing but the best we have around here…together. I sure am looking forward to your next trip – do make it soon, okay?

His girl…

I got an invitation from an ex-colleague of mine – his girl was getting married last Saturday so there I was, that lovely evening…

Sunset

…for the wedding reception at a hotel in town.

Photos

She was an ex-student of mine in my English tuition class and is now a doctor…and her hubby is also a doctor, an ex-student in my previous school…

The couple

…though I cannot remember whether I did teach him or not.

I was seated right beside this arch…

Venue

…so that explains why the snapshots of the food have that tint of purple colour…

Dish

…and at this particular venue, of course, my favourite would be the duck stuffed with lor mai kai-like glutinous rice…

Duck

…and needless to say, I feasted on that!

Congrats to the couple…and also to the proud parents. Thank you so much for the invitation – it sure was my pleasure to be able to share the joy of this very auspicious and happy occasion in your lives.