Nearby…

When I woke up that first morning in Kuching, at around 7.00 a.m., I walked to this shop…

Choon Hui 1

…located nearby, right around the corner and I was shocked to see all the illegally parked cars along the road outside even though it was still so early in the morning.

The place was FULL and I had to sit at a table where there was a young guy enjoying his bowl of Sarawak/Kuching laksa but after asking him, of course, and he said that he did not mind, a very nice young man who even took his leave politely when he was done after which, I had the whole table to myself.

I cannot recall exactly when the last time I came here was but I do remember it was before I retired and I was staying at the hotel next door, either conducting a course for English teachers or attending a workshop or seminar and early one morning, my very dear friend, Jimmy, since deceased – he passed away in a tragic road accident, and I walked over for breakfast. I don’t think I ever went back to the shop…

Choon Hui 2

…since, not even after all that publicity when the late Anthony Bourdain dropped by and fell in love with the Sarawak/Kuching laksa from this stall…

Laksa stall

…there especially when there are locals who will tell you that this one is not the best in the city and there are other nicer ones around. I did not go for the laksa though – for one thing, it was way too early and for another, we do have one place here with pretty good laksa and I would not want to go for anything we can go for anytime in town.

I went for the kolo mee instead even though we may have some wannabes in Sibu that come pretty close but some do not even know for a fact that when it comes to kolo mee, one has to give this chili soaked in vinegar dip…

Kolo mee chili vinegar dip

…not that bottled chili sauce that one would get with kampua mee.

I remember having the kolo mee here before and it was good and that morning, I asked for the special (RM6.00)…

Kolo mee

…and even though I would not say it was the best in town, it was definitely kolo mee, not kampua mee in disguise.

I also remember enjoying the popiah here before and despite the fact that I had just made my own at home over the weekend before coming over to Kuching, I could not resist ordering two (RM3.30 each)…

Popiah

…and it was served with this sweet sauce with bits of chili in it.

Yes, it was very nice…

Popiah, cross-section

…and I made up my mind there and then that I would walk over early Sunday morning before my flight back to Sibu to buy some to take home.

CHOON HUI CAFE 春园茶室 (1.552768, 110.354468) is located at No. 34, Jalan Ban Hock in Kuching to the left of the Hotel Grand Continental there.

Invitation…

The news that I would be going to Kuching spread like wild fire, or within the family, at least as I was keeping a low profile. Normally, when I go some place, I would keep very quiet about it until I come back home.

One of my cousins contacted me to invite me out but I told her not to bother as at that point in time, I did not know what my ex-Kanowit students had planned but she said that her mum (my late maternal uncle’s wife, my late mum’s second brother) insisted that we must go out for dinner. Eventually, it turned out that there was nothing on that night the day when I arrived so I accepted their invitation.

They took me here

Ah Tou

…and good grief!!! The place was packed and we were placed in the 7.30 p.m. “shift”! Despite the crowd, the people were super efficient and the food was served very fast.

The deep fried pork marinated with tau joo (fermented bean curd)…

Pork

…was perfectly done, not dry and hard like at some places here in Sibu and it was served with sambal belacan – that certainly was a winner!!!

The fried bihun (rice vermicelli)…

Bihun

…looked somewhat plain but much to my surprise, when I tried it, it was really very nice. I wonder what went into the cooking.

Their own-made tofu with minced pork on a hot sizzling plate…

Tofu

…was so good that I kept helping myself to it. It was their special tofu that appealled to me, great taste and nice smooth and soft texture. I think I did hear somebody say that this is one of their 招牌菜 (zhāopái cài), a signature dish of theirs.

The creamy prawns…

Prawns

…were very good as well and the midin (wild jungle fern)…

Midin

…was…like midin, nicely done, nothing to complain about.

By the time the curry fish…

Curry fish

…was served, I was really way too full to eat much of it and I guess everybody else was filling that same way too. I think in the end, most of it was packed for them to take home.

That certainly was a splendid and most delightful dinner on my first night in Kuching and I do think that it does live up to its name – according to one of my cousins, it is one of the Top 5 seafood restaurants in Kuching, thank you so much, Auntie Grace and family for the treat.

AH TOU SEAFOOD 阿頭海鮮 (1.50351, 110.35043) is located at 48, 900B, SEDC Woodhouse in what is called the BDC RH Plaza area of shops at Jalan Song.

Ember…

When I reached Kuching that day, a cousin of mine picked me up at the airport and after picking up her sister at her place of work as well, we made our way to visit a maternal uncle of mine, my late mum’s youngest brother, and his family. We stayed there briefly and chatted for a while before we went for lunch here…

Ember 1

a place recommended by a friend of ours on Facebook. In his Google review, he gave it four stars and commented, “Really excellent bbq’ed roast pork and char sio. Very good otak otak too!

The rice…

Ember 2

…was decent and I must say the meat platter…

Ember 3

…that we shared was really good.

The char siew

Ember 4

…was very much to my liking especially when we can’t get decently good ones in Sibu but it fell short of the much higher expectations of my two cousins. I guess they know of other places where they can get something nicer. I would prefer it sliced thinly though like what they put on top of their kolo mee.

The siew yoke

Ember 5

…however, got their nod of approval and yes, I thought it was really good too.

This certainly took us by surprise, their otak otak

Ember 6

…because they certainly looked bigger in the photos that we saw. These were finger size, so very small but only RM2.50 each and yes, I loved them a lot, something like a cross between the Muar and the Penang ones, not exactly like one or the other and definitely not the same as the out-of-this-world Payung ones here in Sibu.

They were out of organic chicken so their steamed chicken was not available that day. I had a plate of rice all to myself while the two sisters shared another plate but one of the empty plates given for them to use was chipped and my cousin got them to change it. It is good that many places do not use those hideous plastic or melamine plates but I do wish they would be more careful with their ceramic ones and if they are chipped, they should get rid of them. Some of those in this line of business do not seem to realise that such things do give a place a bad name.

After our lunch – the bill came up to a little over RM40.00 – we made our way to visit my cousins’ mum, my late maternal uncle’s (my late mum’s eldest brother) wife before they took me to the hotel.

EMBER TRADITIONAL CHARCOAL COOKING (1.517652, 110.366673) is located at Jalan Song, Tabuan Heights in Kuching.

If only for a while…

On Wednesday last week, I flew over to Kuching for a few days to attend my ex-Kanowit student’s daughter’s wedding. Do stick around for all the subsequent posts on this trip.

I took the World’s No. 1 low-cost airline – they will not miss telling you, their captive audience, when you’re on their flights. I booked my “tickets” online and the airfare to Kuching was only over RM70.00 and the return, over RM90.00 but after clicking here and there and doing this and that, the total with some charges thrown in came up to over RM280.00. That was perfectly all right with me as I had hardly travelled anywhere for quite sometime now and besides, I had not seen my ex-student and some of the others for 40 years – I sure was looking forward to seeing them again.

I bought the value pack which would entitle me to certain privileges including insurance and a free meal…

AA FM1

…even though, it was going to be such a short flight and I would not need to eat anything en route. They passed me everything in a bag and I took it to the hotel with me. This was one very rare occasion when I ate anything vegetarian…

AA FM 1b

…and it was rather nice, something like sweet and sour meat. I had expected those chunks to be pumpkin and soft but the texture turned out to be something like tofu and yes, I did enjoy it when I finally got down to eating it much later.

It was a very pleasant flight – I managed to check in and drop my baggage off even though I had to do it all by myself now at the kiosk and at the counter. They no longer ask passengers to line up in groups according to their seats but boarding was all very smooth and orderly and we arrived in Kuching…

Kuching 1

…10 minutes ahead of schedule. Ain’t that great?

I put up at this hotel that I do like a lot and I had stayed there many times before. I asked for a deluxe queen room, RM88.00 per night, and I specially requested for Room 303 because I liked the arrangement of the room plus it was near the lift, no need to walk too far…and yes, when I checked in, I was given that very room! Other than that, they still have my particulars in their record so when I called them to make the booking, it was such a breeze and it was done in no time at all.

This is new…

360 Xpress City Centre award

– it looked like they just won an award from Traveloka. and this time around, there is free wifi in the privacy of your own room, no need to go online on their PC’s in the lobby.

My flight back from Kuching was even faster – it landed in Sibu 25 minutes ahead of schedule. Unlike in Sibu, we were asked to line up in groups there but we had to use the stairs whereas that day, in Sibu, we had the convenience of using the aerobridge.

This time around, I was given this…

AA FM 2

…and my girl loved it! It had the fragrances of all those lovely Indian spices…

AA FM 2b

…but personally, I liked the previous one more. Unfortunately, they will not let you pick your complimentary meal when you opt for their value pack but you are allowed to change if you are willing to pay for it.

I had a most delightful 4-night stay in Kuching…

Tambang

…and I sure am looking forward to the next opportunity when I can hop over again even if it’s only for a while.

360 Xpress City Center Hotel (1.554731, 110.352754)  is conveniently located in the Padungan area of Kuching city centre at Wisma Phoenix, Jalan Song Thian Chiok.

The same place…

This was a few weeks back. My favourite Malay kuih and everything stall/shop at Bandong here has opened up a small place by the side…

Kopi Kopi

…serving drinks so customers can buy anything and everything at the stall …

Stall

…and bring over to enjoy them there with the drinks available.

I noticed that they had porridge too…

Porridge

…but no, I already had breakfast elsewhere that morning so I just bought a few things for tea later that day.

In the meantime, the nice satay stall formerly sited in the parking area round the corner…

Noor Satay

…has moved to this shop there…

Shop

…that used to be occupied by this coffee shop which has since moved to the town centre, right beside the BSN branch along Jalan Kampung Nyabor. At one time, sometime ago, they moved to this shop here but I heard they felt the rent was too high so they moved out and took over the aforementioned shop. Unfortunately, there were some massive renovations going on at that point in time so they were not able to open their shop for a long time.

Thankfully, it is now business as usual and that day, I stopped by to buy some of their satay. Of course, I asked for more ketupat

Ketupat

– I love that and a lot more of the kuah, the satay peanut sauce. I really can’t stand places where they are so very stingy with the sauce – they will just give you a little bit in a small saucer, never mind how many sticks you order and I would have to beg for just a little bit more. Tsk! Tsk!!!

I bought 10 sticks of chicken (70 sen each) and 10 lamb (80 sen each), RM15.00 altogether and I liked how they had got some ready already and all they had to do was to put them all back onto the barbecue pit…

Satay

…to heat them up and to grill them a little bit more.

I wonder if they still have their nasi campur for lunch – I sure enjoyed it when they were at the other place.

The stall/shop that used to be called MAK MET’s BREAKFAST STATION is located at the shops along Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) where PENYET BANDONG is in the evening and NOOR SATAY ISLAMIC CAFE is right round the corner at the back of the parking spaces to the right.

Rare…

That afternoon, when my girl and I went walking around that brand new food court in town, she spotted this stall…

Stall

…and told me they had fried carrot cake there. I did not notice that giant radish or what we call pek chai thow/white carrot there on the sign.

Unlike over in the peninsula where it is called koey kah at some places, this is something quite rare here – there may be a stall or two somewhere that we do not know about. So of course, I gotta try that and I asked for it to be packed for me to take home.

It did look like the cake had been pre-fried a bit, probably with a bit of soy sauce, first…

Pre-fried

…and I saw the guy pouring a little bit of oil onto the hot plate to which he added some chopped garlic, pork rinds(crackling)/chicharron and dunno what else…

Fry the ingredients

…to fry for a while before he added the steamed (white) carrot/radish cake…

Add cake

…after which he added the taugeh (bean sprouts) and finally, the egg…

Add taugeh and egg

…and when it was done, he fished everything out and packed it nicely (RM6.00)…

Done

…for me to take home. I would say it was very nice and I did not see him adding any msg which is a bonus point in their favour. I sure would not mind going back for it again.

KIM HOCK PREMIER FOOD COURT (2.301777, 111.843215) is located along Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada) somewhere opposite Wisma Liberty and Wisma Sri Minyak.

Milkshake…

It was blistering hot that mid-afternoon and we were thinking of going for something cold like the ang tao peng (iced red bean) here but when we got there, we saw that it was packed, the people spilling onto the road and being a Sunday afternoon on a long weekend, I guess they would sit there to chat while drinking and eating so nobody would be leaving and vacating their tables all that soon.

In the end, we decided to go and check out this new place…

Kim Hock Premier Food Court

…in town. It opened quite recently but we had not gone there to look around because there were always a lot of cars parked outside, every morning and needless to say, around lunchtime as well so we just kept our distance.

We spotted this stall…

Bintangor Roajak stall

…there and I ordered that (RM6.00)…

Bintangor rojak

…to give it a try. It was nice but the crispy thing in it…

Hard

…was kind of hard so we just left most of it behind.

As for the something cold that we were looking for, we did not see any or maybe we were not looking hard enough – the place is very big and there are a lot of stalls selling all kinds of stuff. In the end, we decided to go for something from this stall…

Christine de Fruits

I had the avocado milkshake and my girl had the mango (RM10.90 each)…

Milkshakes

…which were at best so-so, not that cold and for that kind of price, I would much sooner go for that Mango No. 5 that I had not too long ago – with all that shaved ice in it, I do think it would be more suitable for cooling down on a very hot afternoon plus there was a whole lot more mango…and it was a little bit cheaper.

Well, that’s two down – I doubt we will ever manage to check out all the stalls there because there are simply too many!

KIM HOCK PREMIER FOOD COURT (2.301777, 111.843215) is located along Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada) somewhere opposite Wisma Liberty and Wisma Sri Minyak.