Morning…

I dare say that this Taman Selera Muhibbah hawker centre near my house was the main attraction come nightfall every day here in this little town. You would have to park your car far away and walk all the way there and it was always so crowded, hot and stuffy and the place was kind of dark, not pleasant to the eye so in the more recent years, I hardly ever went there at all.

It so happened that sometime ago, the authorities closed down the place for a facelift and moved all to hawkers to another place much worse – those who went there had nothing nice to say. A lot of mosquitoes, they grumbled! Well, they demolished the original place and built a nice new one in its place and FINALLY, after a very long time, it reopened for business.

Of course, the crowd came flocking back and of course, I kept my distance. Lately, however, when I looked across the road from my bank opposite, I seemed to notice some people there in the morning – normally, this place would open only at night so the other morning, I decided to just walk over and have a look.

There were some stalls open but when I asked a nice friendly old lady at one of them, she said that they were not open for business. Most of them were there to prepare the ingredients and what not for their business in the night. She asked me to try my luck at one stall along that same stretch and yes, I did manage to get them to cook me this very nice-looking Foochow fried noodles, moon, served in a claypot (RM7.00)…

There was another guy at another table – it looked like he had a plate of fried kway teow (flat rice noodles) from that same stall (No. 6)…

…and I could detect the very nice wok hei fragrance as it was being served.

Yes, I would say that the noodles that I had…

…was very nice, almost like the ones I grew up eating and loved so much but not quite – for one thing, they used chicken instead of pork and yes, I would give them due credit for the amount of ingredients, something quite rarely seen around here these days.

I asked the girl from the next stall, Stall No. 6 – Simon Peter (No, not one of the 12 apostles) if I could have their ang tao peng (iced red bean) without sugar but with gula Melaka instead and she replied cheerfully that it would not be a problem at all and this was what I got (RM4.00)…

It was quite a chore trying to mix everything together in that cup but I did manage somehow and yes, it was so so so good – very generous with the red beans (mushy but still whole) and the gula Melaka but they used evaporated milk instead of santan (coconut milk). I did not mind at all but I guess one can put in a request for the latter if one wants. I sure would love to come back again for more.

As I was driving away from the place, I noticed that the kampua mee place, Siong Kee, and some other stalls on the other side were open. I think I shall stop by there the next time I am in the neighbourhood to see what they have at that side. According to my friend, Mango No. 5 is No. 46 now so it should be over at the other side as well. Personally, I was thinking that since they have rented the place, why don’t they open in the morning and around lunchtime like the hawkers here…or here? I am sure if they can serve a few nice dishes for some delightful chap fan (mixed rice) lunches, there will definitely be customers dropping by for a bite.

TAMAN SELERA MUHIBAH Hawker Centre (2.310492, 111.845999) is located at the Delta Commercial Centre, off Jalan Pedada (now Jalan Datuk Dr Wong Soon Kai), right beside the AmBank branch there. 

Cowboy…

We used to call him cowboy, the very nice & friendly fat Malay guy in some kind of a cowboy hat whilst running his nasi campur (mixed rice) stall along Bandong Walk but lately, we do not get to see him (nor his wife) there anymore.

The stall is still there…

…enjoying brisk business everytime we drop by but it is run by some young people, no sign of the old folks around at all.

I don’t know when I first stumbled upon this stall – this blogpost was in January 2009, those days before the pro-active YB of that constituency initiated Bandong Walk, making the place look a whole lot nicer and more presentable now. I was still using my antique handphone to take the blurry photographs at the time but you can see how simple the stall was, nothing much but the food was so good and there has been no turning back since.

We do not go there that regularly anymore, unlike those days when we used to go and babysit my bedridden mum in the morning and did not have time to cook. My missus and my girl did stop by a few times recently during Ramadan to buy some of the dishes home though and the other morning, when my missus and I were out most of the morning to send the car for servicing and what not, we decided to stop by there to see what they had in store since we did not have any time to do any cooking at home.

My missus picked the chicken rendang (RM7.50, RM2.50 a piece)…

…and boy, it was so so good! The moment I opened the tiffin carrier, I was swept away by the delightful whiff of its fragrance, believe you me. Needless to say, it was so delicious but a little bit on the spicy side.

For the vegetable dish, my missus picked this pumpkin masak lemak/cooked with santan/coconut milk (RM5.00)…

…and yes, that was good too.

I’ve always loved how the Malays cook their fish even if it is just the kembong

…so I asked my missus to buy some if they had any…and they did! They were not cheap though, RM3.00 each and there were 4, RM12.00 altogether but they were very nice. I was glad that they did not use those frozen ones sold in bulk at the supermarkets – many Malay shops and stalls use those and they were not nice, not sweet at all.

There you have it, our lunch that day…for only RM24.00. That sure beats going to the Chinese restaurants and chu-char (cook and fry) places and getting fleeced especially when what you are served may not even be half as nice.

Missing in action…

Over the years, there have been a few stalls at the Ramadan bazaars that sold some very nice stuff but they have been missing in action since.

One of them would be this one in 2017 selling those awesome slabs of grilled lamb

My girl was asking me what had happened to them but unfortunately, I haven’t the slightest clue.

Well, it so happened that I stumbled upon this on Facebook…

…so I told my girl about it. Of course, she wasted no time in making her way there to grab some…

…to try. Selling at RM15 a plastic tub, with their mild but very nice own-made black pepper sauce…

…it was in no way the same as what we had before in 2017, far from it. Thankfully though, it was VERY nice and my girl was glad that she went and bought some to enjoy.

While she was there, she also bought some cucur udang (prawn fritters)…

…at 3 pieces for RM5.00. They were big though and just look at the number of prawns. She thought it was even nicer than the very nice ones that we had here not too long ago or those in Kuching that we liked so much!

These pulut panggang

…with sambal filling…

…were most disappointing though. People here do not usually buy these – we would very much prefer our own kosong (empty/plain) ones. My girl said that she used to buy them when she was in Sg Petani, Kedah. I guess they had very nice ones there, not here and they did not come cheap, RM2.00, half the length of the regular ones.

The instant I saw the staples, I was put off already. In fact, there is a law that bans the use of those for packing food just that NO ACTION has ever been taken by the municipal council or any of the relevant authorities. They are very hard to remove/open and I cannot imagine the consequence if one should drop accidentally into the food and is subsequently swallowed. I guess those people have adopted the policy of crossing the river when they come to it, no need to make a fuss since nothing has happened…YET!!!

Now, moving on, another one that had gone missing in action was this very nice and friendly lady, selling her nasi minyak with ayam berempah

It was so delicious that I kept going back again and again to buy from her.

Well, Hari Raya Aidilfitri/Puasa falls on Saturday, tomorrow. Here’s wishing all family and friends celebrating this auspicious occasion Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

All of the food stalls at the Ramadan bazaars would have closed down for the year already. I heard the Kambing Grill one that day announcing on Facebook that it would stay open for only a couple of days more. Well, it was good while it lasted, so thankful that we did manage to get to enjoy some very nice stuff this year! Hopefully, I’ll get to see everyone back again next year.

Round two…

No, I did not go to any of the Ramadan bazaars all over town but neither did the ladies…after the first time. One reason for that, of course, was the fact that the weather had not been very kind. Yes, it would be scorching hot on most days, typical of the Muslim fasting month every year but on other days, we would get heavy downpours and on one of those days, even a freak storm that caused a lot of destruction.

At the time of writing, Hari Raya Aidilfitri is still two weeks away but word has it that they will close shop around this weekend to make all the preparations, do all their own cooking and baking for the grand festival towards the end of the month. I guess there is probably just enough time for one last round, that’s all.

Well, the other day, I noticed that we did not have much of anything for dinner in the house so I suggested to my girl that perhaps it would be a good time to hit the streets and go to the Ramadan Bazaars again and yes, she was very keen on the idea…and off she went with her mum.

Obviously, they were not very adventurous because they went back to the same ol’ one they went to previously at Kampung Bandong but I can understand why they did that. Over the years, what they sold here had been a cut above those at the other bazaars in town so one simply couldn’t go wrong in choosing to come here – no need to try one’s luck elsewhere only to be disappointed in the end.

My girl was somewhat disappointed with the nasi tomato she bought the last time and this time around, she gave the nasi biryani a try. There was a stall manned by a couple who did not pre-pack everything like what the rest would do all the time. They would only pack everything one by one when you ordered…

…and they sure were very generous with everything.

My girl never liked the nasi biryani at the Malay shops and stalls – she said they all tasted the same, like their yellow rice – the nasi kuning or the nasi minyak or the nasi kunyit and what have you. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet!

She loved this one…

…though, RM13.00 with the very nice fall-off-the-bone tender lamb curry…

She said chicken was RM8.00 and they had beef as well.

At most other places, they will give you the rice and the meat curry, some acar timun (cucumber pickle) and perhaps, a piece of papadum. Here, my girl got a very generous helping of the acar timun

…and also this delightful vegetable dhal curry…

Initially, I felt the price was a bit steep even though we do know jolly well that lamb is expensive but they were so generous with everything and it was so very very nice. My girl sure enjoyed it to the max – hopefully, she would be able to go again one more time for another round of this. Otherwise, she would have to wait till next year!

I said I did not want anything as I was still on my soft diet of plain porridge but my missus bought me this chicken liver…

…which was a little spicy but it was so very nice that I could not resist eating a whole lot of it with my porridge even though the two were not all that compatible.

She went to our regular nasi campur stall at Bandong and got herself these prawns…

…and also these young oil palm shoots, masak lemak (with santan/coconut milk)…

…and both were exceptionally good.

As far as this stall is concerned, it isn’t much of a problem as it opens regularly throughout the year (except Sundays…and maybe Saturdays, as well) but in previous years, they took the whole month off after Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

We certainly were happy with our purchases this second round – hopefully, we can hop over one of these days for one last time before this month of fasting and feasting draws to a close.

A little early…

My niece, the one working in Singapore, came home for the Easter weekend and she wanted to invite us out to dinner to celebrate her father’s birthday…

…at the end of this month. Yes, it is a little early but she can’t make it home again at the time so she wanted to have it way in advance.

As everyone knows by now, I have been somewhat ill-disposed lately so I told them to go ahead and have a good time – I would just stay home by myself and sit this one out. No, the sweet girl would have nothing on the sort and insisted on going to tapao some nice dishes from here and bring to my house so we can all enjoy the celebration together.

Other than the cake from Marcus, my sister-in-law cooked this gorgeous chicken soup with the symbolic “golden eggs”, shitake mushroom, scallops and abalone, New Moon Brand, no less…

I simply couldn’t resist a second helping! There wasn’t any longevity noodles (mee sua) though – if she had told us early, we could have prepared that, lots in the house.

This pork belly dish…

…was very nice, served with these steamed buns (mantao)…

…but I think the braised pork belly that we had for our Chap Goh Meh dinner would win hands down.

Their variation of the pek chang kay (poached/steamed chicken), the spring onion chicken…

…was very good but I prefer it plain, unadulterated.

The sweet and sour fish fillet…

…would have been very nice if eaten there, piping hot from the wok. Unfortunately, it was already cold and the crusty batter coating had gone all soft and soggy. I shall have to order that to give it another chance the next time we go and dine at that restaurant.

We had this own-made tofu…

…before, one of their signature dishes and yes, it was just as nice this time around.

We also ordered this Foochow fried noodles, wet (with sauce/gravy)…

…for our Chap Goh Meh dinner that day and we did say it was good, just that it wasn’t quite like the real thing. I guess if you are looking for something authentic, something like what we grew up eating over the years, it would be best to try elsewhere.

On the other hand, the fried noodles, dry…

…was very good and I particularly enjoyed their fried kway teow

…much nicer than many in town, including my brother-in-law’s favourite here.

A point of interest to note, if you drop by this Chinese restaurant, which is not some crowded and noisy coffee shop or food court and order a plate of their noodles or kway teow for breakfast or brunch, they do serve single servings at RM6.00 a plate – the same or perhaps even cheaper than the rest elsewhere. I sure wouldn’t mind dropping by sometimes for the kway teow again.

My niece also ordered this plate of bitter gourd fried with egg…

…and with so many dishes, that would be more than enough to go round but no, she got so carried away that she did not know where to stop. LOL!!!

My brother-in-law went to this restaurant and bought their Sibu Foochow sio bee

…and they turned out to be VERY nice! When my cousin was home from Brisbane that day, we went there for lunch but we did not order those. Somebody said it was a blessing in disguise as with the change in management and ownership, new people at the helm, their sio bee was horrible, no longer like what they used to be. Well, I would say that was absolutely untrue!!! I enjoyed it so much but my brother-in-law did say he bought freshly-made ones, not something from their stock of the frozen sio bee that they usually make for sale.

We heated up the packet of the yogurt lamb curry…

that I got for Chinese New Year and my missus made some more som tam

…for everyone to enjoy. I did not touch either of them as there were simply too many choices that I was at a loss where to start or end!

My niece also headed to the Ramadan stalls, the main ones in the town centre and bought this ayam panggang (BBQ chicken), half a bird at only RM10.00…

…and a few sticks of satay

They were all right, just that I know of a few places that have an edge over these that she bought.

They were grumbling that the sotong bakar (grilled squids)…

…were so very small but they did seem to enjoy it a lot. I did not touch it, of course, in view of my current skin affliction. I did not touch the nasi kerabu

…either as I am not sure what they have in the sambals and last but not least, there was this platter with an assortment of keropok lekor, cucur pisang and so on…

…that I did not touch either as I was already bursting at the seams.

As always, we had a wonderful time, enjoying all the food and catching up with one another’s lives. I always enjoy these family gatherings which serve to strengthen our family ties and bring us all closer to one another.

JING DU RESTAURANT (2.293190, 111.835860)… 

is located on the ground floor at No. 17, Lot3545, Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 1A.

Wings to fly…

A long, long time ago, I loved the barbecued chicken wings at Simpang Tiga here. The guy who resembled that Malay singer, M. Nasir, called himself Raja Simpang Tiga. He would barbecue a whole lot of the chicken wings…

…starting at around 2-3.00 p.m. and at the same time, he would cook some other things he would be selling and make some nice Malay kuihs as well. At around 5.00 p.m. he would transport everything in his van to the pasar malam – he would run his business at a stall there every night.

My parents’ house was pretty close by, around 500 metres away and everytime I dropped by in the afternoon, I would be lured by the fragrance of the chicken wings cooking over the hot burning charcoal fire. Needless to say, I simply HAD to hop over and grab a few home for our dinner.

Word had it that he marinated the wings with gula apong , our local nipah palm sugar, and he was selling them at RM1.00 each at the time. Well, out of the blue, one fine day, my-sister-in-law mentioned that chicken wings marinated in gula apong were very nice. I did not manage to ask her further – my guess was she came across Raja Simpang Tiga at the pasar malam and got to enjoy his chicken wings…after all these years.

I kept telling my missus what she said and eventually, one fine day, she cooked some…

…herself using her air fryer. Don’t you think they looked absolutely gorgeous?

Yes, they were nice but no, they were nothing like the Simpang Tiga ones that would sweep me off my feet without fail everytime. For one thing, my missus used her air fryer which of course, is no match for barbecuing anything over a hot burning charcoal fire – you cannot hope to get that intense fragrance using an air fryer, I’m afraid.

Another thing is when these people barbecue anything, they will keep basking the meat in oil and sauces/marinades using a serai (lemon grass) stick. That will surely bring the taste of what they are cooking to a whole new level plus it will be gleaming and glistening, looking so very alluring…

Using an air fryer, you just throw everything in, press the buttons…and wait for the bells to ring before you can take it out. It is quite obvious that it will pale in comparison both in appearance as well as in taste.. At least, if you are using an oven, you can open it periodically to bask the meat regularly in oil and the marinades, not when you are using an air fryer.

Well, it was a good try, that I cannot deny. It was nice but no, it was not THAT nice. We can give it a try again and hopefully, it will turn out better next time. Of course, it is best not to do this and that to the recipe – whatever little you may add, e.g. a pinch of garlic, will change the taste and it will no longer be the same, that’s for sure.

In the meantime, it so happened that by sheer coincidence, I saw a Kuching friend’s post on Facebook. She said that upon her hubby’s request, she was cooking barbecued chicken wings with gula apong. That sure took me by surprise as I had not heard of anybody doing that before so I asked her about it. She said that she ran out of honey once and tried substituting it with gula apong and there had been no turning back since.

See!!! I am not the only one saying that it is very nice…

…Go ahead and give it a try! I assure you that you will not regret it.

Fasting…

It is here, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, 2023 and I sure am glad to say that it has got off to a very good start. It has not been raining, maybe in the middle of the night when everyone’s fast asleep, but the weather has been good during the day. Come evening time, it would still be cloudy, nice and cool and dry, simply ideal for a stroll around the Ramadan Bazaars to see what they have in store this year. Unfortunately, I am not doing too well lately, health-wise so going out is absolutely out of the question at this point in time.

My girl went out on Sunday afternoon with her mum and she bought this nasi tomato (RM10.00)…

…with chicken rendang, sambal egg and pickles for herself for dinner from our regular Malay kuih & food stall at Bandong. They sure bought a lot of things home but that was the only item with a 2-digit price tag. Cheap, eh?

They got me this beef liver…

…with French beans for me – I so love how the Malays cook their liver, never mind beef or chicken and there was this sambal petai

…too.

We fell in love with the salted fish pickle…

…when we had that with our Nasi Pengilan not too long ago and the ladies wasted no time at all in grabbing a tub to cart home.

My missus wanted the sambal kedondong

…not my favourite as it is milder, not so sour and fragrant – I prefer emplam but I guess it is not in season right now.

Of course, my girl had to grab two tubs of the bubur pedas

…her favourite to eat just like that for her meals the following day.

My girl asked me if there was anything I wanted so I told her to get the laksam

…and the nasi pulut kuning with chicken rendang

…from the Pelangi Kiosks located at another part of the same kampung (village) both at only RM5.00 each.

Believe it or not, other than the nasi tomato, everything else was in the region of RM5.00 – RM6.00, so unbelievably cheap! The ladies did buy some local Malay kuih(s) but I did not take any photographs of those. Another time perhaps! However, my girl did mention that they were all 50 sen each – that is the usual price at the Chinese stalls and shops. I remember they were only 20 sen a piece before but of course, this did not come as surprise – what has not gone up in prices this days. I did notice also that they were all smaller…but there was one thing I must be thankful for – the quality was still there. All that they bought were VERY nice, just as nice as before – none that I would say is a waste of calories.

To all my Muslim relatives and friends, Salam Ramadan and Selamat Berpuasa. May God bless us all.

Right next door…

The other day, my sister dropped by my house to pass us this chiew chu koi (tapioca cake) to enjoy. Yes, we can get this very easily here but no, I wouldn’t say that all of them are very good. These were just like the ones my mum used to make during our growing up years, the taste, the sweetness, the texture…

…and everything. Yes, I remember there were these strands of fibre from the tuber…

…in the ones my mum made too. Generally, we can get reasonably good ones at the Malay stalls here…

…or elsewhere

…but my favourite so far would be the ones here…

…from the Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall in my neighbourhood but the slices seemed to have been lightly fried and on the whole, the texture and the taste were not the same.

I asked my sister where she got hers from and she said “Billion Point” right next to the dianpianngu place in town…

I remember that place – I thought it was a branch of this one but it turned out that it wasn’t and the name in the snapshot I took at the time was different. They were 60 sen a piece, made by the guy’s aunty and they also had steamed paos from Sarikei.

No, you would not catch me rushing back for more but anytime I feel like enjoying some chiew chu koi like the ones my mum used to make, I would know exactly where to go.

West to east…

This girl would show up without fail every year…

…at the Ramadan stalls in front of the RASCOM camp along Jalan Oya, here…

…selling her nasi kerabu and all the culinary delights from the East Coast of West Malaysia. People from all over town would go all the way there to buy and so did I…but it was only because I was on my way to my girl’s jungle school in Selangau or on the way home. Even then, the idea of parking my car so far away and walking to the stalls did not really appeal to me.

Of course, that was before the COVID-pandemic and now that my girl has been transferred to a school in town and I no longer drive past the area, I don’t think I will drop by but not too long ago, my friends in Sibu Jaya were telling me about the people opening up a shop here…

…at the SHELL station round the corner, singing praises of the Kelantanese dishes that they managed to buy from there. I did not know but I just guessed that it must be those people from the RASCOM Ramadan stalls.

Well, the other day, I saw on one of the prominent Sibu pages on Facebook this photograph…

They are selling those favourites of many at a shop but it did not look like the aforementioned at the SHELL station. Aha! I see soldiers! It must be around that area not far from the RASCOM army camp. Yes, it did state quite clearly that it is beside SHELL, Mile 9 before the traffic lights to RASCOM Camp, Kemunyan, beside a shop selling fertilisers. That last bit is the confusing part – I don’t know of any shop selling fertilisers in the vicinity.

I looked through the photographs in the post but I did not see the girl. I must say, however, that ALL the dishes that they are selling are most mouth-watering, indeed including this laksam (RM6.50)…

I may make my way up there one of these days to buy but frankly, I would much sooner make my way to the Pelangi Stalls/Kiosks along Jalan Kampung Nangka to buy the ones there, RM5.00 only and yes, it was so very nice but who knows, I may just go for a leisurely drive all the way one fine day to grab the ones here to try.

Anybody driving past that place every day? Wanna do some home delivery?

They’re back…

I cannot remember the last time I bought some to enjoy – if I am not wrong, that was sometime in September, 2020 at the Pelangi Stalls. They would only appear early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to sell this at RM5.00 a pack and also their nasi kerabu. Prior to that, I did manage to get hold of some from my regular Malay kuih stall at Bandong, selling for RM3.50 a packet.

Then, throughout the pandemic, they were nowhere to be seen. It certainly looked like they had given up their business venture for good until the other day when I saw their post on Facebook, announcing their return, not only on weekends but every day. Of course, I wasted no time at all in making my way there to buy a few tubs (they’re no longer selling them in plastic bags but the price is the same, still RM5.00 each)…

…and cart them home to sit down and enjoy with my girl and the mum.

Inside each tub, you would find the very nicely-made rice rolls…

…very soft and smooth, something like our Chinese chee cheong fun or hor fun/kway teow except that they were all rolled up, not in strips.

There was a pack of raw vegetables…

…and this very nice pounded chili dip…

It was so very spicy, probably from the use of cili padi but we loved it to the max!

Last but not least, there was the super delicious broth…

…usually made with coconut milk and creamy fish paste and other ingredients, served alongside the noodles.

We poured that into the tub and mixed everything together thoroughly…

…and ate. Boy!!! That was so so so good! I certainly would be making my way back there again soon to grab some more to enjoy!

I did stop by a stall in front of a primary school at Bandong to buy some barbecued chicken wings…

…to enjoy with the laksam. Gosh! Gone are the days when chicken wings were only RM2.00 each but I heard people saying that the ayam panggang (barbecued chicken) from this stall was the best so I just had to buy and try. Unfortunately, they were a little bit too salty…

…though it had that awesome, very nice barbecue fragrance. I don’t think you will see me going back there for more, I’m afraid. Actually, I bought one whole barbecued chicken from another stall in the vicinity for only RM22.00 each a week earlier (yes, the chicken wasn’t exactly big) and I thought it was much nicer. I’d much sooner go there instead.

I managed to grab hold of some very nice nasi pulut kuning with chicken rendang once at the Pelangi Stalls and it was VERY nice but they did not have that that morning. I certainly would be on the look out for it when I go past that way again.

NASI KERABU ASLI KELATE (2.311303, 111.820699) is located to the extreme left of the stalls at Pelangi Food Kiosks…

…in front of Wisma Azra, Jalan Kampung Nangka.