Not bad at all…

Congratulations to the lovely people at Payung Café, Sibu…

Payung Cafe Sibu 1
*Archive photo*

…on their nomination as one of the finalists for the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award 2015/2016…

Andy & Peter at the Award Presentation Ceremony
*Andy’s photo on Facebook*

…for best kopitiamThey succeeded in grabbing the coveted award for Outstanding Food Outlet in the Kopitiam category in 2013/2014 but unfortunately, they are not that successful this time around.

As a matter of fact, their getting into the final three sure came as a surprise as even though I did know that the judges were in town (and as far as I knew, they were also in Sarikei, Mukah and Bintulu) not too long ago, I did not know that Payung Café was in the running again. I was the one chauffeuring them around the last time and from their reaction, I was pretty confident that Payung would win that time two years ago – it seemed to me that this time around, they drove all the way themselves so they had their own transport while they were in town.

zmun2 of muntalksfood.blogspot.my did ask me once which place I would suggest if one had only one night in town and could only go to just one place here and my answer was obvious. We have Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Indian, western and Italian restaurants here but there are all these restaurants everywhere – whether they are better than the ones here or not is another story but Payung is in a class by itself altogether.

No, it does not fall into any specific category. What they serve here might be something Peter, the boss, had tried and enjoyed somewhere and he came out with his version of the dish even though the name may be the same like their butter chicken…

Payung butter chicken
*Archive photo*

…for instance, which is quite different from the curry one would find at some Indian restaurant and their beef spaghetti bolognese is unlike what everyone would be more familiar with, that’s for sure, and personally, I would much sooner go for what they serve here.

Their otak-otak (fish)…

Payung otak fish
*Archive photo*

…is one of its kind and the mushroom roll…

Payung mushroom roll
*Archive photo*

…is the favourite of many.

I can go on and on about the food here but that alone is not what makes this place special – after all, there are many other places in town where the food is also very good and some may even feel it is better elsewhere.

One thing that puts this place a head above the rest would be the decor…

Payung decor 1
*Archive photo*

– how they are able to use those very simple stuff such as ordinary flowers…

Payung Cafe decor 2
*Archive photo*

…that no one would give a second glance at and make them look so good…

Payung Cafe decor 3
*Archive photo*

…and of course, there is the ambiance as well, the whole package…

Payung Cafe Sibu 2
*Archive photo*

My late aunt loved coming here everytime she came over from Kuching – she said she felt like in Bali and my ex-student/godson, Andrew, currently residing in Christchurch, New Zealand, said that it was like being in a completely different world and once out of there, it would suddenly dawn upon him, “Oh! I’m in Sibu!!!”

All these, along with the very friendly and efficient staff makes dining here special, a real feel-good experience.

Congratulations also to the guys of Café Café – they were one of the finalists for Outstanding Food Outlet in the restaurant category but sadly, they did not win either. They have two outlets here in Sibu, the original one in the town centre where it all started …

Cafe Cafe Sibu

…and another one…

Cafe Cafe@Giant
*Archive photo*

…at the Giant Hypermart Mega Mall that we do go to time and time again as parking is a whole lot easier there. They now have two more outlets in Kuching, one at Rubber Road and the other at Song Plaza, four altogether.

An immensely popular coffee place here also got into the list of finalists, in the café/bistro category but like the aforementioned two, they did not manage to grab the coveted award as well.

Still, it was not bad at all, all three of them, don’t you think? Our own homegrown from our good ol’ little town! Keep up the good work, guys! Better luck next time…and to the rest, try harder – your turn may come in 2019 for 2017/2018.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River while Café Café, Sibu (2.287274, 111.826501) is along Jalan Chew Geok Lin in the middle of the block of shophouses on your right along that road – the Tua Pek Kong Temple with its 7-storey Pagoda is straight ahead and Café Café@Giant (2.325540, 111.853538), is located on the ground floor of the Giant Hypermart Megamall located to the left of SMK Bandar Sibu along Jalan Ling Kai Cheng

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Let’s get ready…

There certainly seems to be a whole lot of events going on in Sibu this year but I guess that’s to be expected considering that 2017 is Visit Sibu Year.

Not too long ago, there was the Sibu International Dance Festival and just last week, the Sibu International BASE Jump attracted jumpers from all over the world. According to the news report, there were enthusiasts from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States and Malaysia.

Well, the Mooncake or Lantern Festival also known as the Mid-Autumn or Zhongqiu Festival falls on the 4th of October this year and preparations are on the way at the town square

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 1

…for a grand celebration…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2

…starting on the 3rd until the 26th.

The 1Malaysia Food Fair will be held simultaneously at the Phase 2 section of the square, right across the road.

I dropped by the other evening…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 3

…to have a look and it being the Year of the Cockerel this year, this…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 4

…has been given centre stage.

There were still a lot of people working on them but that did not stop members of the public of all colour and creed  from crowding around and posing to have their snapshots taken…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 5

These are lanterns made of cloth…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 6

…and of course, our Sibu iconic symbol, the Swan…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 7

…has not been left out but my favourite would be these elegant-looking butterflies…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 8

I am very sure they would look very nice when lighted up at night…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 9

…but I guess the only way to find out would be to drop by when everything is ready.

Come over…

2017 is Visit Sibu Year and Bubu

Bubu

…the friendly crocodile, is the official mascot.

I stumbled upon this very nice display at one of the shopping malls in town the other day. It probably has been there for sometime, just that I did not drop by…or walk past that way and hence, I did not see it before this.

I thought it was very nicely done – I could see the buah dabai (our local black olives)

Dabai and all the rest

…and the duku or langsat and it amazed me to see how cleverly they managed to replicate the hairs on the rambutans. Can you spot our famous/infamous delicacy, the sago worm?

There is the buah manggis (mangosteen) and buah nangka (jackfruit) in this section…

The Hornbill and more

…and the pitcher plant aka monkey pot alongside a nice carving of the Hornbill, our state bird, and you can see the midin (wild jungle fern) here, there and everywhere.

Well, it is already September, less than four months left in the year so what are you all waiting for? Come over and find out for yourself all that this little town has in store for you.

If you come over now, there is a new attraction, a new pasar malam (night market) at the Sungai Merah Heritage Walk…

Sungai Merah

…where the Lovers’ Bridge is located…

Lovers' Bridge

One of the NGO’s here has set up this structure…

LOVE Garden

…in the vicinity…

Lock the Love

…so couples can attach their pairs of padlocks…

Padlocks

…onto the frame. I think I did see them selling those at a stall/booth close by so no worries, you do not have to bring your own.

As for the night market proper, I don’t know if we were too early that day or many of the booths/stalls were still vacant, yet to be rented out. There was one selling soya bean products…

Soya Bean stall

…and another one specialising in the bak kua (barbecued sliced pork)…

Loong Kee

…one of the better known names in Kuala Lumpur.

I was glad to see this guy wearing a mask…

Hygienic

…while doing the grilling. That is a good hygienic practice, I must say. Unfortunately, he was not doing it over some hot burning charcoal…

Pork satay

…but nonetheless, my missus did buy the pork satay (RM2.00 per stick) from him to try. It was very tasty but a bit too salty for our liking.

You can get to enjoy some fried chicken at this stall…

MR Fried Chicken

…if that tickles your fancy and there is kompia

Kompia stall

…our so-called Foochow bagel, at this one and there are chicken claws…

Chicken claws

…available here. Eyewwwww!!! No, thank you!

This one selling rojak and kompia and a lot of other fried stuff as well seemed to draw quite a lot of people…

Free testing

…and as I went closer to have a look, I could see what the attraction was. Free testing! No, I did not bother to sample anything – by then, I was feeling a bit hot and uncomfortable so we decided not to go any further. I think there is a stall further up selling roast chicken or duck or whatever – I could see something like that in the distance and no, we did not feel like having that either.

The sun was setting…

Setting sun

…when we crossed the bridge and went back to where I had parked the car and left.

As far as pasar malams or night markets go, I do feel that the main one in the town centre has an edge over this one – for one thing, there are a lot more things, especially our local Sibu/Foochow delights and on the whole, it is more interesting.

Having said that, you may want to check out this one if you are keen but most people who come here will probably stay for a weekend and maybe a day or two more so they may not have the luxury of time. Besides, if one is staying at a hotel, chances are he or she would be at the town centre, quite a distance from here and it would not be so convenient to drop by unless one has one’s own transport…or a local resident, be it a relative or a friend, to bring them here.

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.