With my own eyes…

I dropped by that place in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) here in Sibu to see with my own eyes how they made the yew char koi that my sister was talking about when she gave us a few to sample that day.

They were very nice and friendly people, a couple and a younger lady, probably the daughter or somebody and they did not mind it at all when I asked them a lot of questions nor did they bat an eyelid when I took so many photographs from left, right and centre.

This is the dough for the yew char koi

…and the lady used this contraption to cut it into strips…

…five at one go. This is something new to me – I’ve never seen anybody using that before.

They probably needed a wider plank to use as their work surface because it did not cut right through the edges so the lady had to cut them one by one with a dough cutter…

I do not know what she brushed on the strips…

– I did not ask, probably water or oil and after doing that, she placed the strips of dough, one on top of another…

…before she made a dent right through the middle, lengthwise, using a chopstick…

Having done all that, she took the strips one by one and I saw that she stretched the limp and rubbery dough first…

…before dropping them into the hot oil. All this time, I assumed that the 3-inch dough would rise to the occasion by itself in the hot oil to become a foot long! LOL!!!

I’ve never seen this being done before – they fried the yew char koi in the vigorously boiling hot oil first after which they moved them to the not-so-hot oil next to it…

…to simmer until they became a very nice golden colour.

Finally, they removed the yew char koi from the oil and placed them on a rack to cool and to let the excess oil drip onto the tray below…

I bought a few (RM1.20 each) to take home and enjoy that day and while I was there, I also saw them making something else, something that I had never seen before.

This was the dough that they used to make them…

…covered with a whole lot of sesame seeds and some brown stuff – I think that was cinnamon powder. I could taste it when I ate it.

The lady cut it into strips and stretching each strip a bit, she made a loop out of each of them and tied the ends together in a knot before dropping them into the hot oil…

…to cook.

They looked a little bit like pretzels (RM1.00 each)…

…but no, they certainly were not pretzels.

I shared the photograph on Facebook and somebody said that at all those places in the peninsula where they fry yew char koi or what they call yew tiao there, they would definitely have this too but not here in Sibu or not that I know of. I went and googled and found out from this website that they are called horseshoe fritters or ox-tongue pastry. Elsewhere, they call them ma kiok (马脚) or horse’s hoofs.

They tasted like our ma ngee (horse’s ears/butterfly fritters) but they were not so sweet, only slightly so and with the hint of the cinnamon in them, I would say that they were a cross between those and ham chim beng. Talking about ham chim beng, I saw some very nice ones at the stall and the deep fried or koi (yam cake) looked really good too. I certainly would want to buy those to try the next time I stop by.

Incidentally, it looked like the coffee shop/restaurant had called it a day. There was this stall in front, a lot of things inside the shop but no tables and chairs for customers to sit and eat and the kitchen at the back is now a shop in its own right with its own entrance at the side, occupied by some people selling freshly slaughtered chickens.

KIM CHUO FOOD CENTRE (2.310950, 111.830541) is located among the area of shops in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah, Sibu and the Civic Centre market beside the Sarawak Energy/SESCO customer care office (to the right), opposite the ShareTea outlet there.

Not the same anymore…

These…

…are Chinese crullers or what we call yew char koi but some people call them yew tiao (油条) while the Malays call them cakoi.

I had the opportunity to watch them frying these at the pavement outside their shop at Market Road a long time ago and I was amazed to see the short three-inch strip of dough, pressed down the middle lengthwise with a thin piece of wood or whatever to make a dent, rising to the occasion the instant it was thrown into the hot oil. It expanded till at least 12 inches long and it could be torn into two along that aforementioned dent…

For a very long time now, we could not get any good ones here in Sibu. If there are any, they are not the same anymore and I would not bother buying, not at all.

Yes, we have a lot of Malay stalls selling these cakoi but no, theirs are not the same at all, very dense and doughy, not cushiony soft, not even a little bit crusty on the outside and filled with air holes…

…like the ones we grew up eating and enjoying.

I came across an old couple making and selling theirs outside a coffee shop in the vicinity of the Permai shops and tamu (native jungle produce market) but that was in 2019, before the pandemic. I don’t know if they are still there or not. For one thing, the old man did not use the cutter to make a dent in the strip of dough. Instead, he placed two strips together and dropped them into the hot oil to fry. Despite the difference, it tasted great, almost like the ones in our growing up years and yes, I did buy from them a few times.

I have not been to those part of the woods since so I do not know if the old couple are still around making their yew char koi for sale or not. In the meantime, my sister was delighted to stumble upon these very good ones at this coffee shop…

Photo from Google Maps

…next to the Sarawak Energy/SESCO customer care office among the shops in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah here.

I had the kampua mee there…

…once and I thought it was very nice but some people grumbled that the serving was kind of small. Yes, I remember there was a stall on the pavement in front of the shops selling all kinds of kuihs.

My sister said that they sell or koi (deep fried steamed yam cake), ham chim beng (Chinese cinnamon rolls) and so on but they only sell yew char koi, fried on the spot on Saturdays and Sundays. She gave us two to try and yes, everyone agreed that they were good, just like those before. I certainly would want to go over there one of these days to buy some more and perhaps, I may pick a few of whatever else they have for sale to try.

KIM CHUO FOOD CENTRE (2.310950, 111.830541) is located among the area of shops in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah, Sibu and the Civic Centre market beside the Sarawak Energy/SESCO customer care office (to the right), opposite the ShareTea outlet there.

We love it…

I met Victor’s parents when I dropped by here one morning.

When his dad saw me, he quickly came over to tell me that the fried noodles…

…were very good, showing me the packs that he had picked to take home and enjoy. Yes, I know, I said and indeed, I used to buy home myself too but come to think of it, I have not done so for quite sometime now, no thanks to the pandemic. I think I’ll do that on my next visit.

I loved their cucur (fritters)…

…too and I used to stop by just to buy those but for reasons unknown, they seem to have stopped making those. I heard that this lady’s ayam masak merah and nasi tomato were so good that my friend came to buy every day one Ramadan but unfortunately, when I went over myself, they were always sold out!

The chicken rendang

…is very good too, Victor’s father added and of course, I told him that I did try that the other day and yes, it was very good.

This time around, I wanted to buy their beef rendang, I told him but unfortunately, it was not available that morning. In the end, I just bought the chicken rendang again for my missus and for myself, I picked the daging masak hitam

…to try. The ladies in the house are not into this dish, dunno why.

One bone that I would have to pick about it was how very little there was! Of course, the reason is obvious – beef is so very expensive but I did tell the lady that they can just increase the price. Like what I’ve said so many times before, after all, what has not increased in prices these days? Just add a ringgit or two or more but do not scrimp on the quality or the quantity – usually, some people may complain for a while but after some time, they will get used to it and will go on buying and eating, never mind the increase in price.

Other than that, I would not say that the daging masak hitam was the best I’ve had in town. It was a bit on the salty side, probably because of too much kicap (dark soy sauce) and a bit too strong on the aromatics, those spices that they add to the dish. I would stick to the chicken rendang next time.

I got the chicken rice with ayam madu (honey chicken)…

…for my girl. She loved the chicken and the soup that came with it and she enjoyed the chili dip but she did not seem to enjoy the rice all that much. Needless to say, she prefers her mum’s a whole lot more.

That morning, I bought the roti jala (RM2.00)…

…for breakfast/tea and yes, we loved it! We particularly enjoyed the curry gravy dip that came with it – I sure would want to buy this again next time.

I could not remember how much these cucur bubuk (dried krill fritters)…

…were and frankly, I did not get my expectations up high when I bought them as I was not impressed by how they looked. Much to my surprise, my girl loved them and gave the green light should I feel like buying some more next time. Alongside these, there were the cucur cekodok (banana) – I wonder if they were any good.

Yes, give and take a bit here and a bit there, the bottom line is we do love a lot of the things that they sell here. Rest assured that I shall be going back there again…and again!

KOPI KOPI Café & Kitchen is located at the blocks of shops, at the back facing Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) and the main road.

Two more!…

The other day, I went back to the Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎粿)/apam balik stall in the next lane round the corner from my house because there were two more things I had yet to try.

The guy was very busy making those pancakes – he said that some guy placed an order for 20 and he told him to come and get them at around 3 but he was there already at 2.30 and was waiting in the car. Well, it did not matter one bit to me as I did not intend to buy any. I am of the opinion that at 80 sen a piece, no meat, margarine not butter and just a bit of crushed peanut in the pancake, it is kind of pricey.

On my previous visit, I was intrigued by the sight of the black ang ku kuih (red tortoise cake), 70 sen a piece…

…and I did say then that I would buy those the next time around to try. I had seen yellow/orange (sweet potato/pumpkin) and purple (yam) ones before but not these black ones (even though they looked kind of green in the photograph). I went and googled and I saw something about such black ones being made using black sesame but my missus said they used some kind of grass for the purpose.

Perhaps it is what they use to make the black grass jelly (仙草/xiān cǎo), I wouldn’t know but I was quite positive that I could detect a hint of something herbal as I was eating it…

Inside, it was pretty much the same as all the rest, the same mung bean filling…

Another thing that I wanted to try was this deep-fried kompia stuffed with meat filling (80 sen a piece)…

…but they turned out to be quite disappointing. They felt like they were not fried enough…

…so they were kind of rubbery, not nice and crusty like the expensive but so much nicer ones here…or those here that used to be 90 sen a piece, dunno now plus I did not think the filling was all that great – everyone agreed that it was a little too salty.

Of course, I had to buy their chai peah (5 for RM2.00)…

Of all the things sold at this stall, this is our favourite but for reasons unknown, it was not salty at all that day. Perhaps the people making forgot to add the salt but it was perfectly all right – we ate them with my missus’ own-made chili dip and yes, it was so good!!! I suppose I shall keep on going back to the stall for this, not so much for the rest of the stuff they have to offer there.

Incidentally, if I am not wrong, it’s the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival today so do enjoy your tang yuan (汤圆) – tang Soup is soup and yuan Yuan is round and that implies reunion, full satisfaction. In the old days, the poor farmers couldn’t afford meat so they had these balls instead. Eating them during this auspicious festival is a required custom. All the children are told that people can add one year to their age after eating tang yuan.

We are not fond of the ones, usually colourful, in sweet syrup – we prefer those coated with crushed peanut and sugar…

…and yes, we will make these, without fail, every year to preserve the tradition, the customary practice – our heritage.

To all of you celebrating, a very Happy Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival – do enjoy eating your tang yuan!

Pick up…

I did drop by here the other day and even though the nice lady boss said that things were starting to pick up again, it did not look all that convincing. Perhaps it was already mid-morning and most of the things were sold out so it appeared to me that they were not getting all those things from their regular suppliers for sale. As a matter of fact, I thought it looked quite pathetic at the time.

Well, I went back there again early yesterday morning around 7 something and yes, I sure felt so delighted that they had most of everything that they used to sell, maybe even more!

Gosh!!! I can imagine how hard it must be to decide which to choose…

…but the instant I saw these…

…I grabbed a pack instantly without any second thought whatsoever.

I don’t know if the old guy is still around or not – at one time, they said that he would just sit there and supervise while the younger ones in his family would do all the work. It did not matter really as their pulut panggang was a cut above the rest, 10 sen more expensive but so much nicer. I cannot remember when it was exactly but I was told eventually that they decided to call it quits – they would not be making anymore.

Imagine my happiness when I saw these and yes, they were still very good. They had the panggang-ed fragrance plus that of the lemak-ness (richness) of the santan (coconut milk) and also, the banana leaf – all the makings of a really very good pulut panggang.

Unfortunately, now that I am on a low-sugar diet, I should avoid pulut (glutinous rice) as it is over-starchy and has a high hidden sugar content and it does not help one bit that unlike the ladies in the house (who would eat it just like that), I must have it with condensed milk or kaya (coconut jam) or sugar. Never mind! I promise I will not buy it again, just this once to buang gian (appease the craving).

As a matter of fact, many of these Malay kuihs are sweet so I should avoid most of them like these coated-with-sugar-and-desiccated-coconut basong

…for instance and these putu mayam (right)…

…which is eaten with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut and sugar on top. The kuih Melaka or ondeh-ondeh (left) should be fine as they are filled with gula Melaka and I read somewhere that this palm sugar is all right for people with a problem with the level of their blood sugar.

I’ve never seen these…

…before – they look like ondeh ondeh except that they are not ball-shaped and the gula Melaka is given separately, not inside. My guess is you dip the kuih in the syrup to eat but no, I did not buy any that morning. Perhaps I’ll give it try if I see it again.

Their bingka labu (pumpkin cake)…

…is very nice and you get 3 pieces for a ringgit, so cheap. Unfortunately, they are sweet so I will have to give them a miss – please, lead me not into temptation but these roti jala

…should be fine, eaten with the nice curry gravy provided and these kuih renjes too…

The skin is similar to the kuih jala, made from some bland/tasteless egg batter, and in the case of these, you will find some curried long beans and other vegetables wrapped inside.

Believe it or not, these are just about half of the selections available. I can’t possibly take a snapshot of each and everyone of them as there is still another section with all the stuff that they cooked themselves.

Other than the curry puffs that I bought on my previous visit, they had these fried noodles – the mee, bihun and kway teow

…and also their very nice mee jawa

…and their chicken rice and their ayam madu (honey chicken)…

…and last but not least, there was their nasi lemak kukus (steamed coconut rice) with a choice of chicken or beef rendang, daging masak hitam or fried chicken (RM6.00 a pack)…

I bought two packs of the chicken rendang and one with the fried chicken for our lunch.

Of course, the rice was not up to my level of lemak-ness but I did feel that it had an edge over the one round the corner that I had a few days before. The sambal was very spicy and very nice and the rendang

…was really very good. I shall try the beef and also the daging masak hitam next time.

Finally, there were these packs of nasi lemak

…if one is thus inclined, wrapped in brown paper or packed in plastic bags. These probably are those home-cooked ones from some people in the kampung, sent here for sale.

Looking at all the yummy stuff all lined up for everyone to pick and choose, I must say that indeed, happy days are here again!!! LOL!!!

KOPI KOPI Café & Kitchen is located at the blocks of shops, at the back facing Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) and the main road.

How much more…

The other day, when I shared on Facebook the photos that I took here

…somebody commented that it was a tempat kayangan or something like that, implying that the things were more expensive than elsewhere but she made no mention as to how much more nor where I would be able to get such nice ones and how much they would be going for so don’t ask me – honestly, I do not know!!!

Well, I do know of one place where the tee peang (Fuzhou oyster cake) was cheaper, dunno now and that was the stall at the Sibu Central Market but of course, these days, wild horses will not drag me to that hot spot – that high risk place. I did go and buy to try a long time ago before the pandemic but no, others might praise it to the skies but I was not that impressed so I never went back to buy again.

I quite liked the ones at the fruits & vegetables sundry shop near my house but if I remember correctly, the prices were more or less the same. According to the lady boss, the old lady concerned had not been well lately so she would not be making those (nor the pretty good mang ngee in the afternoon) anymore. Other than those, there were others here and there – I don’t remember the prices but anyway, they did not tickle my fancy, including the ones from here…or here.

Well, I stopped by the shop again the other day to see what else they had. I did not want the meat ones as I had just bought them not too long ago. Unfortunately, the kosong ones, those without any meat filling, were all sold out.

I did not feel like having the deep fried stuffed kompia (RM1.00) each…

…either but I did ask for three of the Chinese French toast with meat filling (RM1.00 each)…

My girl enjoyed these but she prefers the ones at one bakery here in the town centre.

I also bought the sweet potato fritters (50 sen each, 6 for RM3.00)…

…and yes, they were pretty good.

I asked for the chai peah to try as well, also 50 sen each, 6 for RM3.00, a bit more expensive than the ones here…and not as nice! The taste was all right but the ones here were not as thin and crispy, a bit chewy/rubbery and a tad more oily so I did not really enjoy them.

I did not want the cucur pisang (banana fritters) but I did ask for two of their ngor hiang (meat rolls, RM3.00 each)…

…to see if theirs were any good.

So far, our favourite would be the ball-shaped ones here and we liked the one we had here too. I do not remember any others that we had had before so if we had any, I guess they were all quite forgettable. My missus used to make really good ones but for reasons unknown, she has stopped making for quite sometime now. Yes, I would say they were nice enough but I wouldn’t say they got us jumping with delight especially when my missus can make very much nicer ones. They tasted great but the filling was a little mushy – one does not get that all-meat feeling, unfortunately.

So other than the cucur pisang, I have tried everything that they sell at the stall. Never mind that the things may cost a little bit more, not much, but other than the tee peang, personally, I don’t think I would be making my way back there for any of the rest.

HOCK LOK HONG CAFE SHOP 福樂園茶室 (2.284690, 111.832669) is located at No. 1, Lorong Lanang 2 at the traffic lights where you turn in from Lanang Road heading toward the Sibu Rejang Esplanade and the Li Hua & Kingwood Hotels.

Decisions…

Sometimes, when you drop by these kuih (cake) stalls selling all kinds of teatime delights and they all look so good, you really can’t decide which one to buy…

One solution would be to buy a few to try and if there are any that are good, take note of those so the next time around, you can buy them again.

Another thing that you can do is to ask around to see if anybody else has been to that same stall and get their opinion. However, I tried asking the guy at the Chinese pancake/apam balik or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall but he would not commit himself. He insisted that everyone’s taste bud would be different so what one likes, another may beg to differ and of course, there is a lot of truth in this. Like I always say, to each his own or one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

I went back to the stall (again) the other day and I bought these (5 for RM2.00)…

My missus bought these before sometime ago because when she was there, the chai peah was all sold out.

According to the guy, these…

…are chai peah too but they are different because they have mangkuang/sengkuang (turnip) and taugeh (beansprouts)…

…and chopped spring onions inside.

We all thought they were very nice that previous time and my girl said that she liked them more than chai peah but personally, I felt otherwise. Now that is exactly what I mean – to each his own.

I bought some ham chim beng, the Chinese cinnamon rolls (5 for RM2.00)…

…again, my missus’ favourite but my girl isn’t thus inclined. She loves the western ones at those franchise places all over KL selling those cinnamon rolls and pretzels but not these. Yes, yes, I know – what’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

The guy’s mum made these ang ku kuih (70 sen each)…

…and I bought one of the red ones to try. It was all right but it was very small, not that much mung bean paste inside. One thing that I liked a lot was how it was not sweet at all, perfect for someone on a low-sugar diet like me but perhaps, those who like things sweet would be better off buying those elsewhere.

I did not buy the black ones – the guy did tell me what they were in Chinese but I could not make head or tail of what he was talking about. I think he did say that these black ones are savoury, not sweet. I can’t say that the colour turns me on but I would want to buy one one fine day to try and see what it is all about.

I did not buy the serimuka (kuih salat) on the left either but I took a packet of the kao teng kuih (nine-layer cake) on the right, also 70 sen each or was it 60 sen, I don’t quite remember now…

…to see if it was any good or not. Yes, I could detect a hint of the santan (coconut milk), a very very light hint so no, I was not impressed. The texture was all right and just like the ang ku kuih, it was not sweet at all.

These huat kuih (发糕), the traditional Chinese steamed cake, 60 sen each, 5 for RM3.00…

…was nice as far as the texture and the taste with its light fermented fragrance went but yes, these too were not all that sweet plus they were extremely small, maybe half of the usual size or even smaller.

I did not buy any of the deep fried stuffed kompia

…but they sure looked good and they were very generous with the filling! Perhaps I shall have a go at those the next time I stopped by this stall.

Incidentally, for your information, I read some comments somewhere saying that in the morning, this enterprising and diligent guy runs his stall at the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) area, behind some Star Cafe. I hardly venture to that part of the woods because it is VERY crowded in the morning around the market and the shops in the vicinity.

The Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall is located on the five-foot way in front of the TCM clinic between Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket and Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end.

So wet…

It has been so very wet lately – it sure looks like we’re getting a lot more rain than usual these days. Not too long ago, the downpour was so heavy that most of the town was submerged in water. Even my house compound was flooded and praise the Lord, it abated just before the water went over the edge of the door to go into the house.

Most of the time, it will rain in the middle of the night and will go on till mid-morning or around lunchtime. On other days, it will start mid-afternoon and drag on till night. At times like these, my heart goes out to those running their businesses at their roadside stalls like my favourite fish & seafood stall in the morning not far from my house or this Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕)/apam balik stall in the next lane in the afternoon.

I remember once, a long time ago, I went to the shops in the neighbourhood at 4 something to buy something that I needed. It rained heavily before that but thankfully, it stopped. When I reached the car park, the ban chang kuih guy was putting up his canopy and setting up his stall. That was way past his usual time at around 3.00 p.m. and at 5 something, before 6.00 p.m. he would have to close his stall here and shift to the pasar malam (night market) to continue selling there.

He told me he was sitting in his van the whole time, the poor thing, waiting for the rain to stop. What if it did not stop, I wondered. On another occasion, I dropped by the pasar malam one evening and everyone was ready to start when the rain came suddenly and I was thinking to myself – what would happen to all the things that the hawkers had prepared for sale…or the ingredients if they were those stalls that would do the cooking on the spot? Would they have to throw everything away? That would be so sad, wouldn’t it?

Well, it rained heavily here in the afternoon for a few days in a row but that day, the weather was all right. I noticed that we had run out of fruits in the house so I decided to hop over to the fruits & vegetables sundry shop in the next lane to buy some – my girl will need those especially as she is not so into vegetables. I am not into fruits so much these days unlike before when I would eat a lot of bananas and papayas because I am on a low-sugar diet.

I saw that the ban chang kuih stall on the pavement beside the shop was open for the day…

…but there did not seem to be any business at all.

The stoves were in full swing…

…and there were some of the kuih, all ready for the taking…

I decided to buy a few pieces – the ladies in the house enjoy eating them while I would have to refrain from indulging in them as they do sprinkle sugar in them before folding them up and removing them from the copper pans so I just bought one for myself and two for each of them.

Personally, I am not a fan of these, especially the thick ones. These paper-thin crispy ones are fine when hot but if you do not eat them right away, once they are cold, the texture becomes different. They turn rubbery and I’m afraid I find them quite unpalatable when they become like that…and they do not come cheap!!! I remember them going for 70 sen a piece but that day, I had to fork out 80 sen for one.

I would much sooner go for the chai peah (vegetable fritters) – the ones at this stall, 5 for RM2.00 would rank among the top when it comes to my favourites in town. I think the ones here

…are the best but the old couple come real early in the morning and everything will be sold out by around 8.00 a.m. and since I do not usually venture out of the house that early, I would rather drop by here in the afternoon for the ones this guy sells.

That day, I spotted the bingka ubi (tapioca cake)…

…and I remember that I did buy some before, also 5 for RM2.00 and they were really very good. Unfortunately, for want of some quality control, they were not so lemak (rich with santan/coconut milk) that day but I liked how they were kurang manis (sugar reduced), not too bad for somebody on a low-sugar diet like me.

When I shared the photo on Facebook, my friend, Annie in KL, spotted the tee peang on the left- she misses those…but I feel these aren’t all that nice, just like the ones I bought from the aforementioned old couple selling the very nice chai peah. The ones at the fruits & vegetables sundry shop beside the stall are nicer but they are only available in the morning or you can buy the ones here in the morning or at their stall at the pasar malam at night.

I wonder what those on the right are called. My missus bought them once because the chai peah was sold out and we enjoyed them a lot. They tasted like chai peah but they were around half an inch thick and thus, were not thin and crispy and if I remember correctly, there were a few strands of taugeh (bean sprouts) in each of them. I think I shall buy those the next time I drop by and blog about it.

The or koi (yam cake) from this stall was just so-so, not anything to get excited about either but we did enjoy the ham chim beng (Chinese cinnamon rolls)- that is another thing I shall buy next time. My missus loves it!

And talking about the chai peah being sold out, my friend dropped by the stall a couple of days after I shared the above photos on Facebook at around 7.00 p.m. and again, they were all sold out!!! As a matter of fact, from the photo that he took, I could see that most of the kuihs laid out at the front of the stall were all sold out – there wasn’t much left…

I guess that is a good sign – we do need to render our support in any way we can to these local businesses in these trying times.

For the uninitiated, the guy would come at around 2.30 p.m. (before 3) and he would start setting up his stall. You can buy all the kuihs he brings along with him then but no, there would not be any ban chang kuih until he is good and ready. He doesn’t go over to the pasar malam anymore like what I had mentioned earlier – he told me his mother would be there but the other day, somebody shared a video clip on Youtube but I only saw some young guys at the stall, no old lady. I guess he will be around here till he has managed to sell most of everything before calling it a day but of course, if you go later, there will not be much of anything left.

The Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall is located on the five-foot way in front of the TCM clinic between Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket and Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end.

Rolls…

We call these ham chim beng (5 for RM2.00)…

…but the guy at the Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall in the next lane from my house called it ngor hiang kuih. Well, ngor hiang means five fragrances and is a reference to the five spice powder (ngor hiang hoon) used in the swirl in the ham chim beng.

Personally, I’ve always called it Chinese cinnamon rolls because that is what they are except that they are deep fried, not baked. I’ve seen them in my friends’ blogs like this one, for instance and this one in Ipoh with the sprinkling of sesame seeds, something that I’ve not seen before.

I was very early that afternoon, Merdeka Day, at a bit past 2.00 p.m. and that guy had just arrived and was busy carting the tables and burners and everything from his van to the five-foot way where he would set up his stall. I saw the kuihs in the van and I asked for what I wanted from the lady there that day, probably his wife.

These ham chim beng were quite nice, lovely soft bread texture but I could not detect much of the fragrance of the five-spice powder. I did buy some from the shop there (Swee Hung) one morning, sold in brown paper bags of 4 or 5, I cannot remember now, and they were very good. I was waiting for the chance to come across those again so as to blog about them but I have not seen them again after that.

Whatever it is, they are a whole lot nicer than the ones we had in Sibu a long time ago – they were small, flat and hard with a very thin swirl of the five spice powder. We were never inclined to buy those and would buy from Kuching everytime – my missus enjoys them a lot.

I also bought the or koi (50 sen each)…

…to try that day. The guy said that they had hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) in them but I can’t say I was that impressed. I think it was because of the cheap/low quality used – it was all right, quite nice, but I was not that fond of the taste and the smell. I can’t remember where right now but I am pretty sure I had some very much nicer ones elsewhere.

He did not have a lot of choices that afternoon. Perhaps some of them had not sent theirs over yet or they had taken the day off as it was a public holiday. Of course, I bought his very nice chai peah (5 for RM2.00)…

…again, all gone in no time at all the instant I got home and we sat down for afternoon tea.

Actually, I hopped over that day to buy some dabai (our local black olives) as other than some purple cabbage tossed in mayonnaise, we did not have a vegetable dish and I would not mind having some dabai to enjoy with our meals instead. I managed to buy these tiny ones, what we call dabai seluang

Seluang (minnow) is a very small fish found in abundance in the rivers around here. They are very delicious, fried till really crispy and eaten completely, bones and all but I have not bought any for a long long time as they are very small and such a chore to clean. I did ask one Iban lady selling them if she would clean them for me and she sure did not mince her words when she said, “Kalau malas, tak payah makan!” (If lazy, no need to eat!)

My late mum loved this variety a lot. They may be small but they are very lemak (rich) and the skin is not thick but despite the size, they are not cheaper than the regular ones – at this point in time, the going price is RM28.00 a kilo. Of course, I would not buy so much as this fruit is good for some two days only – they wrinkle fast and the skin becomes hard, not so nice anymore when they are like that. I would just buy around RM10.00 and eat for two or three meals and go and buy some more if/when we feel like it. After all, the shop is just round the corner and I can avoid the “peak hours” and go when there are very few customers around.

The Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕) stall is located on the five-foot way in front of the TCM clinic between Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket and Swee Hung (2.316161, 111.840441) along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – with the Bethel Hair Salon at the extreme end.

The only thing I can do…

During my growing up years, the elders in the family and the kampung (village) gave me the nickname, “Nyangoi” in Melanau because of my protruding chin and because of the resemblance, or so they said, I was also called Bob Hope and later on, Jay Leno too.

On the other hand, there were some Chinese older folks who told me that it was very good – they claimed that I would always have things to eat, never lacking when it came to food. Well, looking at how family and friends are always giving me all kinds of things to eat, it sure looks like there is some truth in what they said, don’t you think?

Just the other day, I felt like having some steamed paos so I went to our neighbourhood shop in the next lane to buy some of their homemade ones. Unfortunately, even though it was very early, around 7 something, the meat ones were all sold out, leaving behind those with coconut, peanut and red bean paste, none of which tickled my fancy.

I went home empty-handed, resigned to my fate that I would not be having any steamed pao to enjoy when my sister dropped by my house and lo and behold! You’ll never guess what she brought for me – steamed paos!!! She loves the ones from here and it so happened that she was there that morning and she bought a few to enjoy. It sure was nice of her to think of me too. Gee!!! Isn’t it true what they said – that with the structure of my chin like this, I shall always have things to eat? LOL!!!

For one thing, when it comes to steamed meat paos here in Sibu, they give you just a teeny-weeny bit of egg only, one eighth…or they do not give you any at all. I simply cannot understand why as one egg costs around 40 sen and a quarter would be 10 sen only. Surely they can afford to add that little bit especially when they keep jacking up the prices like nobody’s business.

Well, left without any choice, the only thing I can do would be to boil my own and place it inside the pao and that was what I did that morning…

I cut the paos into halves and I boiled an egg and cut it into quarters…

After that, I took one of the wedges and push it inside the pao

…and did the same with the remaining two before putting them all into the steamer to steam till they were piping hot.

Yes!!! That certainly did the trick! I must say that with the extra egg…

…I enjoyed the pao a whole lot more that morning. I guess I shall have to do this myself everytime I buy steamed meat paos to eat and enjoy.

Huong Hiong Confectionary 芳香(詩巫)餅家 is located off Jalan Bengkel, beside Victoria Inn on one side and the circular building (the SEDC Medan Niaga Tanahmas) that houses all the Malay stalls on the other, to the right of the New Capital Restaurant.