Don’t change…

My girl wanted to drop by here for lunch that day because when we were here a fortnite earlier, it was on a Friday, our no-meat day, so she was not able to order her favourite here, their sizzling beef on a hot plate…

Of course, I did not have a problem with that and off we went!

Yes, it was very good, as nice as ever and to everyone’s liking and for our vegetable dish, we had the butter baby kai lan (Chinese broccoli)…

…which was good too.

There were a few other dishes that we used to order but I thought of trying something different for a change so I asked the young boy taking our orders (the lady boss’ son) if they had any “lok bak“. Unfortunately, he was monolingual and did not know what I was talking about – he did not know what “rusa” or “venison” is and unfortunately, I don’t know what it is in Mandarin so I asked him to call his mum who is conversant in Hokkien but unfortunately, they did not have the meat.

Eventually, I settled for “beef tendon in a claypot” on the menu and this…

…was what we got.

Well, it wasn’t in a claypot – the lady boss said it would be in one, a small one and no, the serving was definitely not small. It would not have mattered much if it had tasted great but no, I was not impressed, not at all. The sauce in the sizzling hot plate beef was heaps nicer!

Other than the taste, I was quite put off by what I could (or could not) find inside! There was hardly any beef tendon at all and just a few paper thin slices of beef. Instead, there were a whole lot of oyster mushroom and fried tofu, cut into thin long strips. Honestly, sometimes, it is better to stick to what’s familiar, things that we know are nice. This is one dish I would never order again.

The bill came up to RM63.00 for the three dishes, not cheap but of course, beef is not cheap and perhaps, that was a sign of the things to come, the rising prices. We just have to expect the pinch when we eat out these days.

After lunch, my missus wanted to go and buy some roast meats for dinner. There is a very popular stall at a coffee shop down the road – if I am not wrong, that is the older brother of the one in our neighbourhood that I frequent quite a lot so I suggested trying the ones here…for a change.

We were here once in 2020 but it did not sweep us off our feet so we never went back again. In the meantime, my good friend/ex-classmate, Robert, said their roast duck (sold out when we went that day) was the best in town so I told my good friend, Annie, when she came home for Ching Ming that day but she said it was salty and not to their liking. Ah well! I guess I would just have to try it myself.

My missus paid RM30.00 for this much…

…and yes, the roast duck was very good, not salty, tender and nice. The char siew was all right, nothing to make it stand out above the rest and the siew yoke (roast pork) would have been very nice but the crackling was so very salty that we had no choice but to give it our thumbs down! All things considered, I think I’d rather go to the stall here that I really liked a lot or I’d just stick to my regular stall – everything there is pretty good and being right round the corner from my house, it is a whole lot convenient to go there and buy.

NICE HOUSE RESTAURANT (2.29201,111.82739)…

…is located in the vicinity of the Tunku Osman shops, opposite Rejang Bookstore.

It’s Friday…

Ever since I bought the beautiful ikan terubok (chee khak/toli shad) that day, I had been looking forward to Friday, our no-meat day when we would cook that to enjoy.

It looked so fresh and fleshy too and I was quite sure it was going to be good but the boy told me there was no roe (egg) in it. It did not matter though as we are not really into those but somehow, I have the feeling that if there are eggs in the fish, it is more lemak (fat/rich).

My missus trimmed the tail and the fins…

…to get it ready to be panggang-ed (grilled/baked) in our Tatung pot. We decided not to line the foil with daun kunyit (turmeric leaves) this time around so we just rubbed it with a bit of salt and wrapped it up before putting it in the pot.

A Kelabit teacher-friend of mine saw my photograph on Facebook and commented that he never gutted the fish that he would cook over an open fire to eat. Yes, that is one thing my late mum taught us – to never clean the fish as it would not be so sweet and nice if we did that. She loved to eat the black stuff inside, something a bit bitter but I think that is an acquired taste. I tried it before and no, I did not think I would want to eat it again so everytime we cooked the fish, we would just throw it away.

It sure looked so good when it was done…

Just look at all the juices that had seeped out of the fish, an indication as to how lemak (fat/rich) it was. I love drowning my rice with the juices and eating them together! Omega 3 plus plus!!! Absolutely yummy!!!

To eat the fish, the scales had to be painstakingly removed…

…completely so we would not have deal with them all over the fish, here there and everywhere as that chore might affect our enjoyment to some extent.

A lot of people commented that they would not buy the fish because there are a lot of bones. Bones? What bones?

Of course, there are some BIG ones that are easily removed, not as many and not so hard to spot and get rid of as in the upriver empurau (wang poo liao) and its “cousins”. Those fish may be very sweet, so very smooth, so very fine…but the task of picking out the bones and getting rid of them is so time-consuming and it takes away much of the enjoyment of eating those super expensive fish! Another thing is if the fish have been caught and kept frozen for a long time, they will sell them to you at those ridiculous prices but sadly, they are no longer as sweet, not really nice anymore.

Anyway, back to the ikan terubok, I don’t know if those were from a different source – some say there are those from Bangladesh (cheap and used mainly to make those salted ikan terubok) but there used to be another variety where the top half of the fish was full of tiny bones like those in the ikan lumek. We would eat and leave that top part behind. Much to my delight, those that we get these days do not have those tiny bones so we can enjoy it from one end to the other.

Of course, at RM60.00 a kilo, RM48.00 for the one that I bought that day, I would not be buying it all that often. Once in a while will be fine especially with the rising prices of everything these days – one would need to be a bit prudent in one’s spending now, don’t you think?

That day, we had these long beans fried with sambal hay bee (dried prawns)…

…for our vegetable dish and this Chinese-style (oyster) mushroom and egg drop soup…

– my girl loved it! She said it was like sharks’ fins soup.

Cups…

I used to fly between Sibu (SBW) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL) very frequently when I was still working as I was involved in a lot of things with the ministry and the other sections like exams, for instance.

Going was never a problem as the flight, I remember, was at 11.50 a.m. – ample time to do a lot of things before leaving for the airport to catch my flight. Coming home was a problem though because the one and only flight in a day was at 7.50 a.m. so I had to be at KLIA by 6.50 a.m. (one hour before the flight) which meant that I had to leave the hotel very early as KLIA isn’t exactly a stone’s throw away from KL city. There was a 50% surcharge if we took a taxi between 12 midnight and 6.00 a.m. so of course, I had to pay extra every time.

Another problem was breakfast since it would be way too early to go for the hotel’s complimentary (buffet) breakfast! At times, I would wait till I got to KLIA before going for the miserable breakfast options at McD or KFC, miserable but affordable unlike at the other eateries, for instance, the RM23.80 nasi lemak at the Asian Cafe! Sometimes, I would buy some drinks and Gardenia buns from 7-11 and at other times, I would buy some cup noodles to cook and eat before vacating the hotel room.

Cup noodles? Gosh!!! That was so long ago that I cannot even remember what brand I used to buy and what flavours I liked. Anyway, the other day, I had these made-in-Korea ones…

My missus went and bought some…

…and she said they were nice so of course, I wanted to give them a try!

Inside the cup, there were the noodles…

…with some dried ingredients and a sachet of seasoning…

I emptied the sachet into the cup with the noodles…

…and poured in some boiling water a little past the line indicated inside the cup. My missus said I should add a bit more as it was a little salty.

I waited for 4 minutes, as instructed…

…before tossing the noodles and loosening the strands and leaving it to stand a while longer.

So, what did it taste like? Was it nice? My missus said it was over RM4.00 each!!! For that kind of money, I would much sooner run to the nearby shop and grab a packet of kampua mee for RM3.50. I certainly would enjoy it a lot more and I would still have some change leftover.

I can’t remember what lobsters taste like – in fact, I can’t remember if I have ever eaten a lobster before and anyway, this tasted like…instant noodles, that usual umami (msg) taste, nothing more and nothing less. I don’t know if I imagined it or what but I thought I could detect a bit of udang kering (dried prawn) taste, just a bit, so slight that it could have easily gone unnoticed.

I must say, however, that I liked the texture and taste of the noodles. They were firm and QQ and did not have any taste – most of our local brands have their own taste and some come across like plain biscuits, not quite like noodles.

I cooked two half-boiled/cooked Omega-3 eggs to go with the noodles…

…and yes, I did enjoy them.

I must say that at the end of the day, I would much sooner go for our Malaysian own Maggi kari – for RM4 something, I can buy a pack of 5 and enjoy myself a whole lot more.

I’m not in love…

There were others here before but more recently, I liked the kampua mee with dong quai soup from this guy there and his version of the Sarawak laksa was pretty good too. One fine day, some new owners took over the coffee shop and the poor guy was asked to move elsewhere. I did drop by to try their kampua mee and at best, I would say it was pretty decent, just not anything to get me rushing back for more.

Recently, I noticed that the coffee shop has been taken over AGAIN and now comes under a different name so that day, I made it a point to stop by and look around.

There wasn’t much that I could eat so I settled for plate of the kampua mee (RM3.50)…

…from this stall…

…there.

I would not say it got me all excited as I found it rather bland and the noodles…

…were overcooked, way too soft and soggy for my liking. I asked for a bit of chili sauce to go with it and yes, that did help a bit.

The complimentary soup…

…was not too bad but unfortunately, it failed to save the day.

For one thing, everyone at the coffee shop spoke only Mandarin and Foochow so I had a problem communicating with them. I saw a photograph of their pek ting eyok (Eight Herbal Treasures) on display at the stall and it looked very good. Unfortunately, it was not available that morning and later, I found out that it was pork leg – I had the impression from the snapshot that it was chicken. The mee sua in traditional red wine and ginger chicken soup looked very good too in the photograph but I don’t think I’d be dropping by to give it a try in the near future.

They have chap fan (mixed rice) at the coffee shop and even though it was still early, around 10.30 a.m., the dishes had started coming out and I saw some people going for it already. I must say that some of the dishes looked very good and it made me wonder if one can order any fried noodle dishes from the kitchen at the back or not. I guess I’ll never know because I am not planning to go back there again…or at least, not this soon.

JIN JIN CAFE, formerly Soon Kien Wang Cafe and Wan Long Cafe (2.312977, 111.847257) is located past Delta Mall, if you are coming from town, at the corner among the shops at the junction of Jalan Gambir and Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, formerly Jalan Pedada.

We’re in charge…

The other day, after enjoying my fish soup kway teow here, I decided to walk over to my favourite fish & seafood stall at the end of that block of shops to say hello to the very nice Mdm. Lau there. I did not drop by for quite sometime as I had not been so mobile lately.

Unfortunately, she was not around! She had left her young boy helpers in charge and according to them, she was at home making up for lost time because her daughter had come home from Singapore and they had not seen each other for over two years, all throughout the horrible pandemic.

I bought some of those little fishes, quite a lot of bak chik and there were two kembong left and I took those for RM12.00 altogether and I decided to buy one whole ikan senangin, not a very big one for RM20.00. I could not remember what fish the latter was until I checked my post here – it turned out to be the very nice ngor hu or the threadfin.

One of the boys asked if I would like to steam or deep fry it and since I was not too sure, he just cut it up into slices for deep frying. He said he could do it differently depending on what I would want to do with it, like what he did to the ikan siakap (barramundi)…

…that I bought from him once.

Oh? So he was the one! Mdm. Lau has a few helpers, young Malay or Melanau boys, all very nice and friendly, very trustworthy and able to work independently so I do not really remember all of them. I asked him if there was any siakap that morning but he said that they did, just a few but he would not sell them to me as they were two days old, not freshly delivered from Batang Ai that day. Now, isn’t that nice? I am pretty sure others will just sell it to me quietly and run laughing all the way to the bank!

It was then that I saw the ikan terubok (chee khak/toli shad)…

It was so fat and looked so fresh and nice plus it had been a while since we last ate one.

However, one of the boys kept repeating the price, “RM60.00 a kilo! RM60.00 a kilo!” Obviously, he was trying to discourage me from buying, not because it was not good – he did admit it was very nice but because it was so expensive.

I had just bumped into my girl’s coursemate on Facebook – they were together in Sg Petani, Kedah and in Wellington, New Zealand and they had just moved her to Daro in the Rejang Delta. I gathered from Mdm. Lau that she gets their ikan terubok from there but my girl’s coursemate said they were not in season at this point in time, very difficult to come by. I sure was lucky and of course, I insisted on buying one for RM48.00 (less than 1 kg) and taking it home happily!

It is not difficult to get hold of the salted ones…

…and the salted roe (eggs)…

…here. Folks from West Malaysia would buy these by the boxes to take home everytime they fly over to Kuching to spend their holidays.

I do enjoy eating those too but to me, nothing beats eating the fresh ones, rubbed with a bit of salt and wrapped in aluminum foil and baked…

…in our Tatung pot…

We tried baking it in the oven but it was not as nice.

These days, we would line the foil with daun kunyit (turmeric leaves) for the added fragrance…

It is simply out of this world, so very sweet, so very fragrant, so so delicious – a whole lot nicer than cooking the fish any other way!

The fish & seafood stall…

…is located to the right of CCL FRESH MINI MARKET against the wall at that end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.

I enjoyed it…

I saw the photograph of the fish soup in front of the stall when I was here that afternoon and it sure looked so good. I made up my mind right away that I would drop by there to give it a try – after all, it is just round the corner from my house, very near! Unfortunately, it had been raining quite a bit these past few days and I was not able to make it till yesterday morning.

To be frank, I was a little bit disappointed when it (RM6.50)…

…was served – it seemed a lot nicer in the aforementioned photograph.

I thought I saw freshly-made oval-shaped fish balls (like those freshly-made minced meat ones) and in the end, I only got two factory-made frozen ones from the supermarket. Actually, they can easily make their own nowadays – we can buy the fish paste (from Jakar, Sarikei) and roll them ourselves.

There were some sliced fish fillet…

…and thankfully, they were nice, no smell, nice fish texture so I had no complaint about it and yes, I loved the meatballs!

Normally, for fish or fish ball soup, I would ask for tang hoon (glass noodles) to go with it but I did not see that in the list, only mee (noodles), bihun and kway teow and I opted for the latter…

It was nice but I do prefer tang hoon. Perhaps I did not look carefully – I must make it a point to do so the next time I drop by here for this.

Yes, you can bet your bottom dollar that I shall be back there again soon for more of this…

…because I enjoyed it so much, the soup especially. It was love at first sip and believe you me, I had to refrain from asking for a second bowl!

In case you are wondering, this is in this BIG food court and it is the stall at the back, the one to the right…

…where I once had the lor mee and the mee sua and both weren’t too bad either. This is the left half and there are two more stalls in the section on the right, this one and the kampua mee stall – the rest were vacant and sadly, the whole place looks like this most of the time, almost deserted…unlike those days before the pandemic.

GRAND WONDERFUL FOOD COURT (2.309601, 111.845163)…

…is located along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, on your right. You can also go in via Jalan Pipit from Jalan Pahlawan – go straight ahead till you get to it on your left.

Light and easy…

I was still feeling full after that lamb shank I had for lunch – I enjoyed that and had the lion’s share but my girl insisted on going out for something light and easy that evening.

She wasn’t too happy to see that my appetite had not been all that good these days and my taste buds had been acting kind of cranky. That was probably why I thought some of what we had for lunch were salty when the ladies said they were all right. In the end, I relented and we ended up here.

She asked for their beef spaghetti bolognese (RM19.00)…

…with their own-made bolognese sauce using lots of fresh tomatoes and Italian herbs. I do enjoy that too…usually, anytime a lot more than the commercially-available bottled sauces that come across to me like tomato ketchup straight from the bottle.

I did not feel like having that, of course and asked for their pomelo salad (RM8.00)…

…instead. This has not been available for a while now, since they reopened fully after the pandemic, so we just went for their Payung rojak most of the time. It sure was nice to be able to enjoy this again, very refreshing, indeed.

I also ordered their mashed potato (RM8.00)…

…which is different from the regular mashed potatoes elsewhere by virtue of the garlic and whatever ingredients added. That day, I was kind of turned off by the taste though so I just left it there. In the end, my girl finished it off for me – she enjoys it very much.

My missus had their mushroom roll (RM9.00)…

…and I did help myself to one. I thought it tasted great but like most of what I had for lunch, I thought it was very salty so I did not have any more.

I did not encounter a similar problem with the jelly pisang (RM9.00)…

…though when I helped myself to the jelly and the bananas (and the milk) but no, being on a low sugar diet, I did not touch the ice cream.

My missus and I just had drinking water on the house while my girl had their coconut milk shake (RM9.00). She insisted on picking up the tab, her treat for Father’s Day, and the total came up to RM62.00 altogether.

We finished early, at around 6.00 p.m. by which time, there were already three other tables – probably families there to celebrate the special occasion and there was a private function on the top floor upstairs that night, an appreciation dinner for the volunteers at the recent Sibu International Dance Festival 2022 so everyone was kinda busy at the time. I was glad to hear that they did enjoy brisk business over the two-week Gawai Dayak break too.

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.

Today’s special…

Yesterday was Father’s Day so we decided to go out some place for something special for lunch.

Ever since my sister shared a photograph of the lamb shank she had here

…on Instagram, we had been waiting for the chance to go there and give it a try ourselves.

We had the M (medium), RM39.00 and it was served with this what-they-called nasi mandi

The lamb was so very good, fall-off-the-bone-tender and so very flavourful, bursting with the fragrances of the herbs that it was stewed with.

We felt the rice was very fragrant too like one of those nasi Arab or Indian biryani rice but unfortunately, it was a little on the dry and hard side and there wasn’t much gravy/sauce to mandi (bathe, in Malay) it with and because we had ordered a lot, we left quite a bit of the rice behind.

Actually, we had no idea what nasi mandi was but a reader was kind enough to post a comment to enlighten me about it (See comment below). It seems that according to Wikipedia, mandi (مندي) is a traditional dish that originated from Yemen, consisting mainly of meat and rice with a special blend of spices, cooked in a pit underground. A Malay friend commented on my sister’s aforementioned photograph asking if it wasn’t nasi Mandy, whatever that was. Well, at least, we now know it is indeed something along those same lines as nasi Arab or nasi biryani, thank you, SW in the UK, whoever you may be.

The grilled chicken with ayam percik sauce (RM18.00)…

…would have been very nice too – we particularly loved the sauce/gravy, if only they had given us a lot more of it. The ladies thought the chicken was all right but I found it somewhat salty plus it was overdone, a little on the dry and hard side. I certainly enjoyed the lamb shank a whole lot more.

This plate of plain rice…

…came with the chicken and just as in the case of the lamb shank, it would have been a whole lot nicer if they had given us a lot more of the very nice ayam percik gravy to enjoy the rice with.

The sotong goreng ala tempura or fried calamari (RM16.00)…

…was, to me, a little on the salty side but the ladies were fine with it. It turned out that they used the giant frozen sotong (squid) which is usually a little hard and rubbery and not all that sweet and nice.

The Penang-style char kway teow (RM12.00)…

…never came and in the end, we asked for it to be packed for us to take home. I never got to try it so I can’t say how good it was but actually, I insisted on ordering it as when we entered the restaurant…

…I saw somebody eating fried kway teow with a whole lot of prawns and it sure looked very enticing! It turned out to be another item on their menu – the seafood noodles where you have a choice of noodles and whatever seafood you would want in the dish. Perhaps I will order that next time.

Service was excellent – the young Malay girls were very nice and friendly, very efficient and fast and there was a Chinese man in charge (the girls told me he was the manager and the place is Malay-owned).

We did not have to wait very long for the dishes to come out of the kitchen (except for the char kway teow) and if I had a bone to pick about anything, the thought did cross my mind that they could vary the presentation of each dish a bit. All of them had more or less the same things by the side.

There was a huge cauldron of chicken soup – I went and asked and yes, as I had suspected, it was complimentary but nobody ever said anything about it and there wasn’t any sign to let the customers know. There was a jug of iced water with slices of lemon and glasses by the side – I think one can help oneself to that FOC too…but nobody said anything about that too. My missus’ teh tarek (pulled tea) was RM6.00 a glass while the plain water that my girl and i had was on the house.

All in all, we did enjoy the lunch and yes, we would not mind going back there again…especially for the lamb shank that I did enjoy tremendously.

OLE OLE KAMPUNG by ROOK 3 (2.291155, 111.821081)…

…is located at Lot 8, Lorong Lau King Howe 1.

Just as good…

I have not been to this kuih stall at Rejang Park for a long time, probably not since the outbreak of the pandemic. As a matter of fact, I did not even know whether they were open for business around that time.

The problem is parking by the roadside right in front of the stall is virtually impossible and one would have to park on the other side of the shops at the commercial centre and walk all the way. I sure would think twice about venturing out and doing that when the pandemic was at its height.

Well, it so happened that my missus went shopping at the shops in the vicinity that day and she stopped by the stall to pick up a few things for tea that afternoon. Yes, she did buy a pack of their chai kueh

I wouldn’t say that the ones here are the best in town but they are pretty good, just as good as some of the nicer ones that I have bought elsewhere. I sure would want to buy if I happen to be around there.

She also bought their or koi (deep fried yam cake)…

…that used to be the best in town. Then, the quality dropped and it became very soft and wobbly, obviously the result of not enough yam and too much flour so I never bought the ones from there ever again.

I guess my missus did not know that as I used to be the one going out to buy these things in the hot afternoon so she bought quite a lot home. I gave it a try…

…and much to my delight, it was very good. I could feel the mashed yam inside and no, it was not all flour, not wobbly at all. The slices are much smaller now but the problem was my missus just grabbed all that she wanted and paid for the whole lot at one go and she did not know the price of each item that she bought.

I guess she does not know either that a lot of the kuihs there are homemade by folks staying in that housing estate, left there at the stall for sale and generally, I would say that most of them aren’t that great, not worth the calories.

She bought some mang ngee (horse’s ears) but it was horrible. Their ang koo kuih

…is very nice but she did not buy any. Maybe it was because these are sweet and I am supposed to be on a low sugar diet.

My daughter loved their chai peah

…too but no, she did not buy those either.

Well, now that I know they are back in action full swing and since I am not too fond of what I can get from the stall in the next lane from my house, I will be making my way here like before whenever I feel like having some nice kuihs for tea.

LIM TIONG KHAY Chinese kueh stall (2.306707, 111.836471)…

…is located beside the Chinese medical store among the shops at Rejang Park in the block facing Jalan Teruntum to the left of what was formerly the Zenith Mint Cinema.

I got no time…

I used to do it very frequently in the early morning, everytime we had leftover rice in the house. No, I did not do it like Uncle Roger’s egg fried rice. Instead, I would just fry it my own way, usually in my simple kampung-style

…and blog about it.

My problem these days is I do not have the time anymore as we have to leave the house at the break of dawn so my girl can get to school by around 6.00 a.m. Lessons do not begin till around 7 but there are lots of duties and responsibilities to take care of especially when it comes to small primary school kids. That, of course, means that there is hardly any time for me to cook breakfast. Instead, we would have to buy some things earlier…or on the way back to the house.

Well, the other morning, my missus fried this plate of fried rice, kampung-style…

…and yes, I think I did say it before that she does it a whole lotta better than me!

She uses more or less the same ingredients – ikan bilis (dried anchovies), egg, chopped spring onion, shallots and garlic, peeled and sliced…

…but instead of using mushroom soy like me, she uses kikkoman soy sauce and dunno what else – I noticed that everytime she was frying rice, she would open the refrigerator door again and again so perhaps she always added some other things as well but I never asked what.

Yes, I do add a bit of msg – Uncle Roger would certainly approve but no, she will never touch the stuff. As far as I know, they will add a lot to their fried rice outside and with their giant wok and all that banging and the advantage of having a huge fire, theirs will turn out very nice too, if not nicer. At best, I would just say that mine is…edible, not as nice as what my missus dishes out…

Anyway, I do miss cooking something nice for breakfast, be it fried rice, some noodles (haven’t had my Bovril mee

…for so so long now) or sandwiches loaded with a whole lot of good stuff such as ham, bacon and egg. for instance…

There is just so much that one can take of the things outside – you end up buying the same old things and in the end, you get put off by the mere sight of them. Sighhh!!!