The blacksmith’s wife…

I did mention in my blogpost the other day that we had run out of all the fish in our freezer so last Friday morning, I quickly made my way to my favourite fish and seafood stall not far from my house to see what I could get hold of.

Thankfully, it was open – it sure looked like the weather is not too bad these days and the lady had a lot of fish and prawns for sale. She asked me to buy the blacksmith’s wife or in Chinese, the phak thik poh (打铁婆,松鲷 or tripletail fish or patipok or kuku laut in Malay), whole but I simply refused.

No, it wasn’t because it was not nice. In fact, ever since the first time we had it here, I would not hesitate to buy whenever there was any for sale. You see, once, I was persuaded by that young boy at my neighbourhood fruit & vegetable sundry shop in the next lane to buy one threadfin (ngor hu), whole. It was not very big, he said. Yes, it was very very nice initially but as we went on eating it, the pleasure we derived from doing that grew less and less and by the time we managed to finish all of it, we did not care if we would never see any ngor hu ever again!

Eventually, the nice lady agreed to sell me TWO slabs…

…but at a higher price than if I were to buy it whole. Of course I did not mind as there were only three slabs altogether plus the tail part and the head (almost half of it) and I sure do not feel like having any fish head curry so I would not know what to do with that!

We fried one for our lunch and dinner that day, Friday and yes, it was very nice…

…We sure enjoyed it very much. The lady did tell me how much the two were in total but I can’t remember now – probably around RM28.00, less than RM30.00.

There was cencaru, the smaller kembong-like fish with those huge marble like eyes but I think, I am not that fond of those. Yes, the lady said that the ikan jamar that I bought the last time was nicer so I bought those again, two kilos, TEN altogether. I asked for them to be cleaned and packed in twos so we could fry them two at a time, no need to take them all out of the freezer at one go to defrost and to cook and put back the rest.

There were a lot of or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret and I asked for SIX of the smaller ones, to be packed individually after cleaning. This way, we can fry one for lunch each time and if we want another one for dinner, we shall fry another one. In the past, I would buy one big one for two meals but I found that after reheating, come evening time, the fish would be a bit hard and dry, not so nice anymore.

All in all, I spent RM126.00 on the fish that morning but that should be enough to last for quite a long while. Besides, my doctor said I needed the protein and fish would be a very good source.

I still have some seawater pek hay (prawns) and freshwater ones (chia chui hay aka tua thow hay (big headed prawns)/ udang galah in the freezer but with my cholesterol level shooting through the roof, those would be best avoided at this point in time.

That day, my missus took two to cook our traditional Melanau style sayur rebus

…and after simmering the prawns with the other ingredients, she added the cangkok manis from our garden, torn of course…

…to bring out the taste and the sweetness and some pumpkin…

Here, I cooked that same soup but with unripened papayas and it was nice too – the ikan bilis would be optional, not a problem leaving that out since there were the prawns already for the stock.

Just add a bit of salt according to taste, no need for any msg and you can enjoy the clear and refreshing soup, so sweet from the prawns and the ingredients added.

The fish & seafood stall is located to the right of CCL FRESH MINI MARKET against the wall at the 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. You can also go in via Jalan Pipit from Jalan Pahlawan. Go straight ahead till you reach the place towards the end of that road on your left.

One step away…

We were there a few times during our stay in Kuching for the simple reason that it was just one step away, so to speak, around 100 metres or so.

On our first morning there, I went for the kueh chap that I quite enjoyed but someone was telling me that the one at night with its stronger broth would be nicer.

I was there again another time with the ladies and my sis who had arrived in Kuching by then for the wedding and she and my missus had the kolo mee pok (flat noodles)…

Lau Ya Keng, Kuching kolo mee pok

…while my girl had the kiaw, dry…

Lau Ya Keng kiaw, dry

…and yes, she loved it! They also ordered the kueh chap to share and we did finish it but nobody said anything about it though my missus did comment sometime later that it was not really to her liking – she did not elaborate as to the reason why. Personally, I thought it was quite good – to each his/her own, I guess!

The morning before we left Kuching, I went there again because I wanted to try the kolo mee (RM5.00)…

Lau Ya Keng, Kuching kolo mee

…first hand for myself. It was o.k. but I did not think it was anything to shout about. Long long ago, way back in the 70’s, I used to drop by here for the kolo mee – the stall was where the Sarawak laksa stall is today and it was so very nice that everytime I was in the vicinity, I would stop for a bowl.

I had their kiaw, soup (RM8.00)…

Lau Ya Keng, Kuching kiaw, soup

…too and was somewhat shocked when told the price – I think it would work out to 80 sen A dumpling!.

This meat dumpling dish is something like our pian sip in Sibu but it has a lot more meat inside…

Lau Ya Keng, Kuching kiaw, close up

…not something that I would fancy especially when it was all lean minced meat so it was a little coarse.

I think there is more fat in the meat here in Sibu and they just smear a bit onto the skin like applying butter onto bread so when eating it, we are actually enjoying eating the smooth and slippery no-chewing-needed skin, not so much the meat. Even the taste of the soup base was not the same and all in all, I do prefer our good ol’ Sibu Foochow pian sip to the Kuching kiaw.

My girl went there later that same morning with the mum, my sis with some of my Kuching cousins and all the rest – she had the very popular meat porridge but she did not like it simply because it was what they told me, the Teochew style – the rice grains while softened from cooking, are still whole and not in an overly starchy state so it was not what she is accustomed to.

Earlier, I went back there again too – I think that was on Saturday, the day before – in the afternoon because I wanted to try the pork satay. The stall…

Lau Ya Keng pork satay and fish ball stalls

…only opens in the afternoon and boy, the place was packed!

There was not a single table available so I asked two sweet young things if I could sit with them and they did not mind it one bit. It turned out that one of them was from Kuching and both were working in Kuala Lumpur. The Indian girl was having the Sarawak laksa and no, I did not want to order that as someone, I can’t remember who it was now, told me to give it a miss. I asked the girl for her opinion and she confirmed that it would be better that I went for that elsewhere.

I ordered this bowl of fish balls, stuffed tofu and tang hoon (glass noodles) soup…

Lau Ya Keng fish ball tofu & tang hoon soup

…from the stall next to the pork satay one and YES!!! At least there is something that I wouldn’t mind going back there for – it was really very nice! I loved the dip and I really enjoyed it. Ah well! I always have this soft spot for clear soups so you may beg to differ, if thus inclined.

I can’t recall how much that was but I do remember that the satay was 80 sen per stick and you will have to order in multiples of 5…

Lau Ya Keng pork satay with ketupat

…and I would not want 10, that for sure. I asked for a bit of the ketupat too – I always love that with my satay, if and when available.

Unfortunately, despite all the fave reviews, I did not think the satay was all that nice. I felt the peanut sauce tasted different from the usual ones we would get here, there and everywhere or maybe it so happened that they burnt it a bit that day so even the colour was a bit different from photos of it that I had seen elsewhere.  It was all right, edible but not something that would get  me all that excited about, thank you very much.

LAO YA KENG (1.558573, 110.345601) is located at No. 19, Carpenter Street, Kuching.

Quiet night…

Gosh! It’s New Year’s Eve today and I still have a backlog of Kuching posts yet to be published.

This was on our last night in Kuching and we had kept that evening free so that my girl would be able to go out with her friends, going back all the way to primary school. The mum went to the mall next door again and she had an early dinner while she was there so I was left to my own devices.

Thinking that I would like to have some rice after so many days, I strolled to The Open Air Market which despite its name, is not a market but a hawker food centre instead, and that other section of the place…

Open Air, Kuching chu char hawker stalls section

…was open, all ready to roll but I had a change of heart and walked to the other section…

Open Air Kuching, hawker stalls section

…to see what I could have instead.

The place looked quite pathetic, quite dead with so very few people around, nothing like the way it used to be in its glory days in the 70’s when the customers would spill over onto the road, figuratively speaking, that is…or maybe, everyone was suffering from a hangover after Saturday night.

The steamed paos and siew mai stall was open but I did not feel like having those, not for dinner. Ah Mui, the beef noodles stall, was closed – they do not open on Sundays, I hear…and many of the other stalls were closed too. Maybe they do not open at night, a Sunday night especially.

I asked for  the tomato kway teow from this stall…

Open Air Kuching fried noodles stall

…but they were out of kway teow and I settled for the crispy mee (RM4.50)…

Open Air Kuching fried tomato crispy mee

…instead. It was nice, just as good as the (more expensive) one I had here the last time I was in the city though it did not look as presentable.

Back in the 70’s, we would frequent one particular kolo mee stall here. We called the fat lady running it, “Gypsy Woman” by virtue of the huge ring earrings that she wore. She was no longer there, of course but this one…

Open Air Kuching red kolo mee stall

…did seem to attract quite a number of customers so I asked for the big bowl (RM5.00)…

Open Air Kuching red kolo mee

…to see if it was any good. It was all right, nice but not anything that would make me go out of my way for.

I walked sadly back to the hotel that quiet night feeling kind of down and disheartened that all these places that used to bring us so much joy way back in the good ol’ days had turned into pale shadows of what they used to be.

THE OPEN AIR MARKET (1.559021, 110.342409) is located across the road from Electra House along Jalan Power in Kuching.

Mooo…

I heard of this place on my last trip to Kuching – they said the beef noodles were nice but I did not have the chance to go and try as it was a little out of the way from where I was staying and even more so where I was staying on my recent trip to the city. Why! I read somewhere that it even has a branch in Uptown PJ, Selangor.

Much to my delight, I spotted this stall…

MOOnCUP BY NUROMEN, Plaza Merdeka, Kuching

…on the lower ground floor of the mall adjoining the hotel so of course, I just had to stop by to give it a try.

For the uninitiated, nuro (牛肉/niúròu) means beef and men (面/miàn) means noodles so nuromen (牛肉面/niúròu miàn) actually means beef noodles.

I asked for the beef noodles special (RM10.50)…

MOOnCUP by Nuromen, Kuching beef noodles special

…and got the very nice kolo mee-like noodles, kosong (empty/without meat)…

Mee kosong

…and this lovely beef soup…

Beef soup

…which had quite  a lot of beef, beef tripe and tendons in it…

Beef, tripe and tendons

The chili dip was great and on the whole, I sure did like it a lot more than the Ah Mui beef noodles that I had at one of their current outlets – we so loved the old man’s beef noodles at the Open Air Market in Kuching a long long time ago, way back in the 70’s!

As I was leaving, I noticed this sign…

Sign

My missus did buy some hay peah (prawn fritters) from a stall in the food court on the 3rd floor and took some back to the room and yes, we thought it was really good, as nice as Peterson’s which some say is not so nice these days, not like before.

Of course I bought some…

Hay peah

…for my girl and the mum to try and yes, the hay peah was just as good and cheaper too plus there was a lot of crushed peanut in the chili dip – there wasn’t any in the one they bought earlier.

I sure would not mind stopping by for the beef noodles and/or hay peah should I happen to be passing by this way again.

MOOnCUP BY NUROMEN is located on the Lower Ground Floor of the Plaza (1.558279, 110.344049) at No. 88, Jalan Pearl in Kuching.

Stone cold…

Back to my Kuching posts, another of my maternal cousins invited us to dinner that 2nd night there and after our brunch earlier that morning, we did not want a heavy lunch as we were saving tummy space for the scrumptious feast that awaited us. That was why we just went to check out this place…

Stone Ice, Plaza Merdeka Kuching

…on the lower ground floor of the mall adjoining the hotel where we were staying.

Initially, I was wondering why it was thus named – Stone Ice but later, it dawned on me that it was actually the direct translation of the Malay term for ice, air batu.

We tried the ABC or air batu campur special (RM6.00)…

Stone Ice Kuching ABC

…that I ordered to share. It had cendol, red beans, cincau (black jelly)…

Stone Ice Kuching What's in the ABC

…and whatever else inside but no, it did not get us jumping with delight. I think if that is what one wants, the best place to go to in Kuching would be here. Word has it though that their branch at Satok has been taken over by someone else and the quality has gone down.

My girl and the mum had their Sarawak laksa (RM8.00)…

Stone Ice Kuching Sarawak laksa

…and according to them, at best, it was edible – not anything they would want to have again and if it is authentic and truly great Sarawak laksa, maybe you would want to go for the one here.

I do believe that generally, the rule of thumb is you will need to know where to go for the best of anything and all you can get at shopping malls and food courts…and for that matter, upscale cafes like the one here and at the hotels as well, will be some more expensive, half-baked versions of the real thing that may be nice but not quite there, not really like the real thing!

I also ordered this sotong kangkong RM10.00)…

Stone Ice Kuching sotong kangkong

…and yes, that was all right and I had the belacan bihun (RM8.00)…

Stone Ice Kuching belacan bihun

…which I swore I would never want to eat again after the first time here.

Now, why on earth did I go and order that again, you may ask? That was simply because I seemed to notice that this is the favourite of many in Kuching and many would be dying to come home to appease their craving for it…and I wanted the two ladies to try.

Well, my fears were confirmed – they did not like it at all and since I had ordered it already, I might as well eat it myself. I squeezed the juice of the calamansi lime over it and mixed the prawn paste and chili with everything in the bowl and ate…and I actually thought it was quite nice after all! I sure wouldn’t mind going for it again sometimes.

This STONE ICE outlet is located on the lower ground floor of the award-winning Plaza Merdeka (1.558279, 110.344049) at No. 88, Jalan Pearl in Kuching.

In comparison…

One morning, before we went to Kuching, I dropped by this new so-called food street in town…

Chopsticks Food Street, Sibu

…which is, in fact, not a street and nothing more than a big coffee shop with a number of stalls selling the usual stuff, nothing spectacular or at least, not that I saw. It is a branch of this place in the Delta Mall area which, of course, is very much closer to my house, just round the corner.

The kueh chap stall there is the same one as at that other place, a branch of it, so to speak – if I remember correctly, they were saying that this one was at a coffee shop in town before and they moved so somebody else took their place there.

I had the kueh chap special (RM8.00)…

Chopsticks Food Street kueh chap

…which was all right, not anything that would get me to go back all the way for and while the chili dip…

Chopsticks Food Street Sibu chili dip

…was nice, it could do with a little bit more belacan (dried prawn paste) and chili to give it that much coveted kick – I’ve had nicer ones elsewhere, that much I would say.

In the meantime, when I was in Kuching, I went to this place that they call Lao Ya Keng, which I thought, all these years since the 70’s, meant, literally translated, a lousy place (See correction in comments below)…

Lau Ya Keng Kuching

…where there is this kueh chap stall…

Lau Ya Keng kueh chap stall

…that seems to be the favourite of many in the city.

I had their kueh chap special (RM9.00)…

Lau Ya Keng kueh chap special

…which cost a ringgit more than the one I had in Sibu and the bowl was smaller, around two-thirds the size. The broth tasted different, nice but different and was stronger, not so diluted or watered down and they were a lot more generous with the ingredients, except for the half an egg, but I had to enjoy eating everything without touching their chili dip – it was completely different from the ones we would get in Sibu and no, it did not tickle my fancy.

Thankfully, both did not have that repulsive smell like the one I had here some years ago which probably would be an indication that they did not clean the innards properly but I do know of people who insist that kueh chap is not kueh chap without the smell.

In comparison, I would say both were all right – something one might consider having when at either of these places but not anything I would purposely go out of my way for.

CHOPSTICKS FOOD STREET (2.279983, 111.840216) is located along Lorong Aman 2A, off Jalan Aman in Sibu while LAO YA KENG (1.558573, 110.345601) is located at No. 19, Carpenter Street, Kuching.