Cafe on the corner…

Now, who knows Bee Guan? Well, if you are as old as I am and grew up in this little town, you probably would know the shop at the corner of the Sarawak Building…

The Ruai

…where the Sarawak Hotel, at one time the No. 1 hotel in Sibu, is…

The Sarawak Building & Hotel

Bee Guan was the shop belonging to the Teo family and it used to be here then, along what was Cross Road, now Ramin Way, right next to the Rex Cinema…

Rex Cinema

…across the road from this Chinese primary school…

SRJK Chung Hua Sibu

That was where I would buy all my DC comics – Superman, Batman, Spiderman…you name it, I had it, and all my black vinyl records, LP’s, EP’s and singles by names such as Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell and our local talents such as Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers, the ones from Singapore like the Thunderbirds (and Heather), Naomi (Suriya) and the Boys (and Henry), Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings featured in this special video clip in conjunction with the island republic’s 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebration in 2015…

…and the list goes on and on and on. This was also where I could faithfully buy my copies of The Dolphin (a Borneo Literature Bureau publication) and every Saturday, we would go to collect my father’s subscription of the weekly tabloid from Brunei, The Borneo Bulletin.

Right now, there is a newly-opened coffee shop, the Ruai, occupying that little corner but the shop sign has not been put up yet. Well, from the name and some of the decor that they have put up here…

The Ruai decor 1

…and there…

The Ruai decor 2

…one would know what kind of food they serve here. No, they do not have those cabinets with sliding mosquito-netting doors…

The Ruai nasi campur counter

…so it is not so easy to see what dishes they have unless they turn the lids a bit like in the photograph – that probably would help a little.

I heard someone saying that the food “bay hak nang ciak” (not suitable for us to eat) but the fried mee and kway teow were quite nice. That was why I ordered their fried kway teow with kerang/cockles (RM4.00)…

The Ruai fried kway teow with kerang

…but there was no sign of the kerang at all. Eventually, I saw those microscopic canned clams in soy sauce in it. At best, I would say it was all right, not anything to get excited about and I just tried a bit and tapao-ed the rest home.

If you are wondering why I did not eat it all up, it was because we wanted to try the ethnic food that they are serving for their nasi campur. My missus had the sayur ensabi

The Ruai sayur ensabi

– they had the fresh ones not the kasam or preserved version that we used to have at this other place. I did not want that as people told me it was bitter but when my missus gave me a bit to try, I found that it was not, not at all and it was very nice; I sure would not mind having that the next time we drop by here.

She also had the pork cooked in soy sauce and the tapioca leaves that I also had…

The Ruai nasi campur

…along with the pansoh ikan keli (catfish cooked in bamboo).

The pansuh ayam (chicken cooked in bamboo) came out later so we asked for some (RM2.00)…

The Ruai pansuh ayam

…to try and yes, it was good just that the soup was a bit too salty; it went very well with rice though and we did enjoy it. Still, I would say that I very much preferred the catfish…

The Ruai ikan keli

…but of course, one would have to be careful with the bones. What my missus and I picked for our nasi campur came up to only RM9.00 altogether – cheap and nice and for sure, we would not mind coming back again for more. They did say that they would put up the daily menu up in front of the shop (after the Gawai), all the dishes available each day.

They open everyday from around 6.00 a.m., they said, till around 7.00 p.m. and for one thing, although we were there early, past 10.30 a.m., the dishes were ready already unlike at the other place where we had to go away disappointed more than once as they were not open yet.

THE RUAI (2.289479, 111.827220) is located at The Sarawak Building along Ramin Way, formerly Cross Road or Jalan Lintang to the left of what used to be the Rex Cinema, opposite the Chung Hua Primary School.

Red is the new black…

If I am not wrong, they had a black one, one of their newer flavours, and I think we did get to try it though we did not like it all that much as it was kind of bitter owing to the espresso coffee or dark chocolate or whatever.

Well, they have a new one out (RM4.80)…

MAGNUM red velvet

…now – the red velvet, limited edition – “inspired by red velvet cake“, it says on the outside.

They have a competition going on at this point in time…

MAGNUM red velvet 2

…where you stand a chance to win a gold coin or something but no, I’m not joining…

MAGNUM red velvet 3

– I don’t have that kind of luck, me, the born loser! Sobssss!!!

I did buy one from one of the 7 Eleven outlets in town to try though – I love red velvet cake and yes, it was very nice…

MAGNUM red velvet 4

…with the white chocolate coating on the outside and the red velvet flavour on the inside, not sweet – just right.

However, when it came to the swirl of cream cheese inside, I thought it was a tad salty…

MAGNUM red velvet 5

Still, I would say it was nice, just that at RM4.80 each, I certainly would not be buying it all that often, maybe just once in a while when I feel like pampering myself a little. Hehehehe!!!!

So sharp…

If you have been a faithful follower of my blog, you probably would remember this curry leaf plant of mine with one branch reaching up high into the sky

Tall branch
*Archive photo*

…like a coconut tree. A friend of mine gave me a German-made saw and all this while, I had been sawing off the branches including the one aforementioned but eventually, the plant looked quite untidy with stumps sticking out north, south, east, west…left, right and centre and I did let a few branches grow up high as well.

I got really put off by the fact that the leaves would get all spotted like the plant had some kind of ghastly infection or disease or something…

Infected curry leaves
*Curry leaf tree outside one of the teachers’ quarters at my girl’s school*

…so I would cut off those sprigs while the branches keep growing. I thought it would be easy to get those fresh leaves at the top but that day, my missus said that she could not bend the branches so she had to do without the curry leaves in her creamy butter prawn dish. Hmmm…she could have asked me to go and get some for her but she didn’t.

In the end, I decided to get rid of those tall branches as many of the leaves were spotted as well, anyway. I am not worried that there will be none left for us to use in our cooking as the new leaves would appear in no time at all…

Curry leaves
*Archive photo*

…and this time around, I used this new saw…

MR DIY garden saw 1

…that I bought from a MR DIY outlet here…

MR PIY garden saw 2

I can’t remember how much I paid for it but it was not expensive, in the region of RM14.00 or somewhere around there, I think.

It was so sharp and I really love using it so much. Honestly, I do think it is worth every sen that I paid for it. I can very easily cut through any branch, never mind how thick it is and just look at the clean cut it made…

MR DIY garden saw, clean cut

Nice and neat, eh? I was never able to do that with the saw I had because it was really big and often, I could not get the right angle and had to go in any direction and at times, I would run out of patience and halfway through, I would just break the branch instead of sawing it till the end.

It still needs a lot more work though…

Curry leaf plant today

…but I will just do it slowly, a little at a time. Elderly people like me should not over-exert ourselves – there have been cases of some dropping dead while working on something or playing a game, touch wood!

In the meantime, new leaves have started to appear…

New curry leaves

…and I am spraying them with this organic pesticide and so far, it seems to be working pretty well. We do not need that many, anyway, so even if the spots do show up eventually, there would be a few sprigs that are spot-free and we can use those…and the next time around, my missus would not have to bend down some tall branches to get the fresh leaves at the top, not anymore.

Brain…

Otak means brain in the Malay language and for the uninitiated, for the plural form of nouns in the language, the word is repeated so in this context, otak-otak would mean “brains”.

However, when we talk about otak otak, we are actually referring to that culinary delight that usually has fish as the main ingredient. I did blog about it a long long time ago in 2011 – I guess I had a different set of readers at the time and since there were some questions arising, I thought I would just blog about it again.

The first variety of otak otak that I ever tried were those wrapped in leaves and cooked over an open charcoal fire by the roadside…

Supermarket otak otak

…or at the Ramadhan (the Muslim fasting month) stalls. These days, they are available in the frozen section at the supermarkets and all you have to do would be to heat them up a bit in the oven, open…

Supermarket otak otak, inside

…and enjoy. I’ve tried the latter before and I thought they were quite nice and on the other hand, I did buy some not-very-edible ones from those stalls. I guess like everything else, one would need to know where to go or who to buy from so one will not end up having to throw it all away and wasting one’s money for nothing.

These days, here in Sibu, one can also get them at one of those Singapore nyonya curry laksa franchise outlets…

Katong laksa otak otak

I cannot remember how much they cost now – all that I can recall is how the packets were quite big but you will get just a little piece of the otak otak inside…

Katong laksa otak otak, inside

As for the taste, it was quite good, similar to those supermarket ones.

But if you go up north in the country to places like Penang, for instance, you will get otak otak of a different kind…

Penang otak-otak

Wrapped in banana leaves…

Wrapped in banana leaves

…and steamed, inside, you will find egg custard, chunks of fish and some fragrant leaves. I know many who are not fans of it – some do not like the egg custard, others do not like the smell of the leaves but I do enjoy it very much and I would order one or more to enjoy whenever I see any, like this one…

New World Park otak otak

…at the New World Park Food Court in Georgetown city centre.

Of course, many would swear by the ones from Muar, Johore. Unfortunately, I have never tried any fresh ones there, just these frozen ones…

Muar otak otak

…that a friend/ex-student gave me the other day. I thought they were all right, nothing to get excited about and no, you will not find me wanting more of that…but I did enjoy what I had at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur

Muar Restaurant, KL otak otak

…on more than one occasion and I liked theirs a lot so whenever I dropped by there for dinner, that would be one of the first things I would order from their menu.

Of course if you ask me to pick my favourite otak otak, it would be the one here at Payung Cafe

Payung Cafe otak otak

…which is all fish plus all the wonderful flavours of the very fragrant ingredients used in the making and it can be a bit spicy which I like.

So, there you are! A quick look at the otak otak that I’ve tried – I don’t know if there are others around here or in our neighbouring countries and if there are, I sure would love to have the opportunity to try them someday.

One down, two to go…

Well, actually, it’s two down…and there’s only one more to go and if you’re all wondering what I am talking about, I bet this will ring a bell…

Bacon delights from Phong Hong
*Archive photo*

– the box of goodies that I received sometime ago from my blogger-friend, Phong Hong.

I tried their bacon jam spread on some baguette slices that I toasted lightly in the oven and it literally swept me off my feet. It was so so so good!!!

In the meantime, I did tune in to the interview conducted by my ol’ friend, Mag, from the TraxxFm days on AFORADIO, the online radio station when she spoke to the people behind this whole thing, John and Georgina…

The story

…and it seems that the name they picked – Five & Two Foods…

Five & Two Foods

…has some biblical implication. It is actually a reference to the 5 loaves and 2 fishes at the Sermon on the Mount and those of you who are familiar with it would know that they were distributed to feed a multitude of five thousand.

From the interview, I gathered that these products are not available on the shelves at the shops and supermarkets and anyone interested would have to order online at their website or Facebook page and they will send it to you, provided you live within the country, only in Malaysia, that is.

Well, I decided to try another one…

The original Bacon Sambal

…the other day and as we had a lot of leftover rice in the fridge, I reckoned I could use the sambal to fry it with.

No, I did not add a lot of ingredients – just a bit of finely-chopped garlic that I fried in a bit of oil till golden brown and then, I added around half a bottle of the sambal and then the rice. After sometime, I tried a bit and found that it was not salty. No!!!! I most certainly would not want to add the rest of what was in the bottle, the precious commodity – who knows when the next one will come my way again! In the end, I just added a few dashes of Thai fish sauce, two eggs and some chopped spring onions and dished it all out…

Bacon sambal fried rice 1

…and garnished it with some sliced chili and what was left of the chopped spring onions…

Bacon sambal fried rice 2

…and served.

It was all right, just that the taste of the sambal was lost in all that rice so much so that one could hardly detect it. I did have what was left with plain rice – just add a bit to the rice and eat and yes, it was a lot nicer this way and I enjoyed it with these crackers…

Bacon sambal with crackers

…too! Just dip one in, scoop out a bit of the sambal

Dip scoop eat

…and eat! Yummmm!!!!

Well, I would say that I liked the taste of the bacon jam a lot, very much more than this sambal which was, at best, all right, not really anything to get me real excited like the last time…and that leaves just one more to go – the Angry Bacon!

Goosey goosey gander…

The other day, I blogged about these

From Raphael's mum

…that my ex-student, Raphael’s mum gave to me, something that I had never seen before, much less tried eating them. We thought they were tomatillos but my ex-classmate/friend, Robert’s sister commented on Facebook saying that they were gooseberries. I quickly went and googled but no, they did not look anything like these…so I told her that and then she said she should have specified that they were cape gooseberries or Physalis peruviana. Ah yes!!! They certainly look the same just that they have a much nicer colour than the ones we had…so I quickly went to update that post to give the fresh information thus obtained.

In the meantime, my friend, Mary, came back from Thailand and she bought these…

Cape gooseberries

…in Bangkok and brought then back to Sibu. She said that they were labelled as just gooseberries there and she passed me some to try.

Frankly, I had never seen nor heard of this thing before – all I knew was the expression, ‘to play gooseberry”. If a couple go on a date and you go and tag along, you are said to be playing gooseberry – I think locally, people will say you are “playing lamp post” or boh ciak chang in Hokkien, literally translated as “you do not eat onions”. As the saying goes, “Two is a company, three is a crowd.”

The yellow colour of these from Bangkok…

Cape gooseberry

…brought to mind our terung Dayak (Dayak brinjal) but no, these are not as sour – just a hint of it but mostly sweet and not only is there the difference in colour but it also tastes a little different from the ones I got from Raphael’s mum. I thought comparatively, those were sweeter but of course, they were very very much smaller, about the size of a pearl. Perhaps this is a different variety like how there are some tomatoes of different shades of red and orange and there are some green ones too or perhaps, our hot weather has stunted its growth so they are not as big.

The ones from Mary are much bigger, though not all that big but as big as a 20-sen coin

Gooseberry and coin

I cut one open to have a look and this is what the cross-section is like…

Gooseberry, cross-section

It sure does not look like a tomato, does it…or maybe, just a little? According to this website, it is a fruit of the potato family. Hmmm…it sure does not look nor taste anything like a potato…and it says that it has a lot of health benefits. You can click the link to go and read all about it.

Well, at least, now I know what cape gooseberries are and thank you so much, Mary, for the ones you gave to me. No, I only tried one and I am saving the rest for my girl when she comes home. She loved the ones from Raphael’s mum – I also saved them for her other than the few that I planted and she finished all of them in one sitting. I bet she will love these too…and hey! It’s Friday today and she’ll be home for the weekend. Yeahhhh!!!!

How am I supposed to live without you…

All our lives we’ve been taking soy sauce, usually the dark version, and when we came across the mushroom soy in my younger days, we have stuck to it since. Unfortunately, like most other sauces on the shelves in the supermarket, they all contain wheat…

Mushroom soy

…so now that we are on a gluten-free diet, we will not be buying any of those anymore.

I bought this Thai fish sauce…

Thai fish sauce

…sometime ago and yes, it does not contain wheat and yes, it is very nice. In fact, I find it much nicer than the made-in-China “fish gravy” that I used to buy before, more fragrant and tastier. I would use it for my kampung (village-style) fried rice and as far as I know, Thais use it a lot for their exquisitely exotic dishes including their very delightful Pad Thai.

Thanks to Phong Hong, I came to know about the Tamari sauce and we managed to grab a bottle from an organic shop here, RM19.00 a bottle. Then, I spotted this Shouyu

Shoyu & Tamari sauce

…at a shop near my house selling all kinds of organic stuff. It was tagged at RM15.00 a bottle but the guy sold me it to me at RM14.00 without my asking and yes, there’s no wheat in the ingredients…

Shoyu ingredients

…and according to the information on the label…

Wheat and bran in soy sauce

…”…wheat flour and bran…will significantly weaken the aroma of say sauce…”.

Well, we’ve yet to open it to try as right now, we are using the Tamari sauce and as you can see from the badly-stained label, somebody has been making good use of it…while the very much cheaper Thai fish sauce seems somewhat neglected even though they would ask for more air budu whenever we go for the nasi kerabu at our favourite place in town. They taste and smell pretty much the same except that one is more refined and looks a whole lot clearer and cleaner.

I did try frying some rice with lap cheong using the Tamari sauce…

Lap cheong fried rice with Tamari suace 1

…and it turned out very nice…

Lap cheong fried rice with Tamari sauce 2

…I would say. In fact, I never added dark soy sauce when frying rice this way – I don’t like how its strong taste would overpower the fragrance of all the other ingredients used, the very reason why I would never order kampua noodles with dark soy sauce – it is all kicap!

The way things are going, it does look like we can live without a whole lot of things…or at least, we can resort to the alternatives available instead.