Branching out…

The Kitchen Food instant Sibu kampua is no stranger to a lot of people, I’m sure – this US blogger gave the dark soy sauce version a 5 out of 5 and the original version (white) a 4 out of 5.

Some of my friends have blogged about it too, here or here and here, for instance. It is very well-marketed throughout the whole country and even down south in Singapore and next door in Brunei and in countries overseas.

Not too long ago, I saw a photograph on Facebook shared by the very enterprising owner of the company, Eric and it seemed that he would be branching out into Sarawak/Kuching laksa as it looked like he was working on his own-prepared sambal laksa and true enough, that was exactly what he did!

That day, when I saw this…

The Kitchen Food Sarawak laksa ramen

…at the shop round the corner from my house, I wasted no time at all in grabbing a pack to try.

Inside, there were 4 packets, over RM2.20 each…

What's inside

…and other than the noodles, there were three sachets, one big one of the sambal laksa and two small ones. My guess was the latter two would be the santan (coconut milk) powder and the seasoning – there was no indication outside and both looked the same, white.

The noodles did not look like a lot but once cooked, there was definitely enough…

Noodles

…for a bowl. You boil the noodles for two minutes after which you drain and rinse it to remove the excess starch so the strands will not stick together in  a clump.

It so happened that a few days earlier, I had bought some big pek hay (white seawater prawns) from the market, RM45.00 a kilo, so I took some and boiled them and at the same time, I also fried some omelette and sliced it very very thinly and I blanched some taugeh (bean sprouts), tails removed, for the added ingredients in my bowl of Sarawak/Kuching laksa

Added ingredients/toppings

…I had some tofu puffs in the fridge too so I sliced those and in it went with the rest. Usually, in a bowl of this local delight, you will find some shredded chicken as well but I did not bother about that.

I used the prawn stock – the water used to boil the aforementioned prawns – to cook the broth. Once I had brought it to boil, I emptied the contents of the sachets into it, stirred till everything had dissolved and then I poured it into the bowl…

Ready to serve

…and garnished it with finely-chopped spring onion and daun sup (Chinese parsley) from my garden and served. I wouldn’t know but my guess is if you do not have any prawns and are cooking the broth using plain water, it may not be so nice.

Just as in the case of the made-in-Kuching instant Sarawak/Kuching laksa and those tak-payah-tapis (no need to sieve) sambal laksa, I would prefer to let the sediments settle first while pouring the broth slowly into the bowl or use a strainer to filter it so I would get a nice, clean broth, minus all those specks of the residue of the sambal but I guess that is just my OCD – others probably would not mind as much.

The fragrance filled the whole house while I was cooking, a whole lot more fragrant than when I was cooking it from scratch using the sambal laksa available at the shops and of course, I made sure that I had some pounded belacan (dried prawn paste) and calamansi lime to go with it…

Served

…the complete works.

We certainly enjoyed that to the max – it was really very very good but for die-hard true blue Sarawak/Kuching laksa connoisseurs like us, we would prefer bihun (rice vermicelli) instead of noodles or ramen, whichever way you choose to call it but perhaps the uninitiated US blogger would enjoy it this way, I wouldn’t know.

I saw that they have other new products – the spicy vinegar noodles and the red yeast rice kampua and they also have the two variations of the mee pok but no, I have not tried those. So far, I did buy their mee sua or our Foochow longevity noodles (just the noodles, no ingredients provided) and no, it did not get me all excited but of course, everyone loves the kampua – straight (handmade) or curly (machine made), original or with black soy sauce and everybody says that they are just like the real thing!!! You can check out the list here to see if you can grab hold of some from a store near you!

Back in the past…

After my breakfast that morning, I embarked on a very long walk and headed to The Kuching Waterfront where I strolled along leisurely, enjoying the early morning peace and quiet and the lovely scenery of the river and beyond, watching the tambangs (wooden boats) on the Sarawak River and sitting on the benches here and there to relax. After all, I had all the time in the world and was not in any hurry to go anywhere.

It was already 9.00 a.m. when I got to this building, the Chinese History Museum…

CHM1

…opposite the Tua Pek Kong Temple at the junction of Main Bazaar, Temple Street and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman (that heads towards Padungan where the hotel I was staying in is located). The building was originally the Chinese Court set up by Rajah Charles Brooke, the 2nd White Rajah of Sarawak, and declared open on July 1st, 1912.

My timing was perfect as it had just opened for the day…

CHM2

…so I went in through the entrance…

CHM3

…located at the back, not facing the main road. There was a sign by the door that stated that photography was not allowed except with permission but it was too dark to take any decently-nice photographs, anyway and I did not see anybody around at the time to ask if I could snap a shot of a thing or two.

I only took one of this rickshaw…

CHM4

…and this old school coffee shop marble top table and rattan chairs…

CHM5

There were not many exhibits but I was tickled by the recording of the Foochow dialect in the section on the various Chinese communities. You press the button and you will hear a couple talking about the high prices of things and one of them said it did not matter, they would just have to work hard and scrimp and save for their children’s education. I thought that was so Foochow, true and true.

After I had come out of the museum, I went down Main Bazaar – I had a lot of friends staying above their families’ shops there in the 70’s. I spotted my friends’ family’s Guan Ho Leong optical shop that used to be at No. 56, now at the corner at the junction of Main Bazaar and this street…

BG1

…where some friends of mine also lived before.

Going up the other stretch past the Carpenter Street and Ewe Hai Street junction, one would be able to see the gate…

BG2

This plaque by the side…

BG3

 …explains why the road was thus named.

All this while, I thought the whole stretch of road was Carpenter Street right up to the temple at the very end where the road meets Wayang Street. I did not know that from this junction with Bishopgate onwards, the stretch where Kim Joo is, it is actually Ewe Hai Street. I guess we get to learn new things every day.

One call away…

The other day, I dropped by a supermarket here and there was an event going on right outside the entrance. I did not bother to find out what it was all about but I did see something like a children’s colouring competition about to begin. I noticed there were stalls all lined up selling things so out of curiosity, I decided to stroll around to see what they had in store.

I saw one selling this kao teng koi (9-layer cake)…

Kao teng koi

…and this serimuka or kuih salat, the glutinous rice lightly stained blue using the butterfly pea flower (bunga telang)

Serimuka

…and I was rather surprised that they were selling them at only RM3.00 each! Normally at such events, fund-raising usually, they would jack up the prices and the kuihs were cut into around 10 small pieces inside a packet so in comparison, considering that I would have to pay RM1.00 for 3-4 pieces at the Malay kuih stalls, it did look like the price they were asking for was very reasonable.

The ang koo kueh

Ang koo koi

…was RM4.00 a packet and there were 5 pieces inside so it worked out to only 80 sen each. You will not get anything for less than RM1.00 here or here but these were a little bit smaller.

The lady was telling me in Mandarin about how no artificial colouring, all natural, was used in the making and whatever else she said – I wasn’t paying attention as I was not in the mood for any small talk that day. I only wanted to take the stuff, pay the money and leave.

I took my purchases home and sat down to try right away. Wowwww!!! Much to my delight, the kao teng koi was so very lemak, the texture was perfect – a whole lot nicer than the nice one that I stumbled upon here and the serimuka likewise. These certainly put those sold all over town to shame – I would never want to buy those! I think there is a Malay expression or something that says that those are not worth getting one’s teeth dirty for!

The ang koo koi was very good too – the skin was absolutely perfect and either there was no added sugar or they cut down a bit on it (perhaps that was one of the things the lady was rattling on and on in Mandarin about) so it was not as sweet as the ones sold commercially elsewhere.

I was thinking that these would make lovely desserts if one is hosting a dinner gathering like what we had the other day or they would be perfect for some light refreshment with tea or coffee after a prayer meeting or something along those lines at home.

You can place your order at this number…

Who do you call

…and go to the house to collect if they do not provide home deliveries. You can always ask about this and other details if you are keen – after all, it’s just one call away…

Corn…

In my childhood days, my mum would clear the land at the far end of the compound where our old wooden house was to plant corn. She would soak the kernels in water till they had sprouted roots and make holes in the ground into which I would put in two or three of the seeds. The variety of the corn then was not very nice – the young ones were all right but the older ones were not that tasty and quite a chore to chew.

These days, we have the sweet corn or what people call the Ligo variety…

Fresh corn

…but the prices have been soaring lately and they do not come cheap anymore, 4 for RM6.00, RM1.50 each.

When I shared a photograph of the corn on Facebook, a friend commented that he would buy them regularly but at times, they were sweet and at other times, not so. I replied telling him to look at the stems where they had cut the ears of corn…

Freshly cut

If it is white and fresh, then the corn would be fine. It it has turned brown and dry, then one should not buy it as chances are it will not be sweet and nice anymore, rather bland, in fact. The ones that I bought that day looked like they had been harvested the day before, not 100% fresh but they were still all right.

For this reason, I often wonder about those that they sell already peeled – have they done that so buyers would not be able to check as to whether the corn is fresh or not? It’s the same thing with those sold in pairs wrapped in plastic or cling film at the supermarket. How old exactly are those? Will they be as sweet as the freshly-harvested ones still?

Cooking is very easy – you just peel the ears of corn till you reach the final layer…

Peeled

Some say it will taste nicer if you leave that intact when you cook it compared to removing it all completely.

Just boil the peeled corn in water with a little bit of salt added…

Ready to boil

…and you will be able to enjoy eating them…

Corn on the cob

…in no time at all. It is so very easy.

Of course, there are other ways to do it – steam them or grill them on a hot plate, barbecue them and serve with butter (though usually, they will just use margarine and I am not fond of the taste and smell) or cook in soup like the ABC soup, for instance.

Affordable…

It’s coming up to that time of the year again and these Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits a.k.a. pek guek tong chiew pia

Pek guek pia

…have made their appearance at the shops here.

I just grabbed two the other day and headed straight home and it was not until much later that I realised that it was not the brand that I like, the one where they state very clearly right across the front that the biscuits mengandungi lemak babi (contain lard) and are hence, not halal

Kinsen pek quek pia *Archive photo*

I find that these are crumblier and have the nice fragrance of lard unlike the former which are a little sweeter and harder.

The packaging is similar and they are priced the same – RM6.00 a packet, same as last year but I really must be careful when out shopping and make sure I do not come home with stuff that aren’t really to my liking.

In the meantime, we stumbled upon these biscuits…

Heritage Highland shorties

…at the supermarket here, the one that stocks up on a lot of imported stuff.

When I was in the U.K., I used to look out for these biscuits and cookies with the £1 sticker on the packaging as even at RM3.50 to a pound at the time, the rest were all not that affordable, not something that the likes of me could afford. I used to buy one very nice ginger nut biscuits with that £1 price tag at another supermarket here, only RM4 something a pack and they were very nice but I have not seen any there lately.

These were 2 for £1…

Price tag

…but they were going for over RM5 a pack. They are definitely a lot cheaper than many of our local Malaysian brands and I really hate those that come in big packs and when you open it, there are a lot of empty spaces in the plastic tray or packaging inside, mostly in between the few rows of biscuits so there aren’t that many in the end, actually. Somebody should sue them for an obvious intention to deceive the buyers.

It turned out that those aforementioned imported biscuits were very nice so I went back to the supermarket to grab some more. We have yet to try these…

Heritage shortcake biscuits

…also selling for over RM5.00 but these…

Heritage All butter Scottish shortbread fingers

…also going for around that same price, more or less, were gone in no time at all.

I so love these Scottish shortbread…

Hertitage Scottish shortbread fingers

…for the lovely butter fragrance especially but the very celebrated Walkers’ ones are priced here at over RM20.00 a pack and it is not even my favourite brand! I certainly will go back to buy more of these before they are all sold out.

One thing about this supermarket, once something is sold out, you do not know when the next shipment will come so other than the regular stuff like Tim Tams and what not, you may not get to see it back on the shelves ever again.

We get our supply of Australian/New Zealand fresh milk from here too, usually cheaper than elsewhere in town and right now, Meadow Fresh is going for RM3.99 a carton, RM4.99 for low fat. You will never see such prices where our own Malaysian locally-produced milk products are concerned, that’s for sure. Hmmm…it is RM6.99 in KL, it seems and it is currently out of stock! Eat your hearts out, folks! LOL!!!

TA KIONG EMPORIUM (2.2933,111.82713,783) is located at No. 42-46, Jalan Tuanku Osman and opens daily from 8.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.

Silly…

My girl had something to send to the department’s office in Selangau so I went to the POSLAJU office near my house to do it for her. I do recall sending stuff there before and as far as I know, they did get everything in the end, no problem at all.

However, that morning, the young man at the counter told me that it would be outside their delivery area and they would redirect the mail to the General Post Office in town and the people from the office in Selangau would have to come all the way to Sibu to go there to collect. I don’t know if that was what had been happening all this while and this time around, it was addressed specifically to an officer at the office and the guy said that she would be contacted by phone and asked to collect the mail personally – somebody else from the office would not be able to get it for her.

I told him that would be so silly as if she had to come to town to get it, she could just go straight to my house and I could hand it to her, no need to pay them all that money for doing nothing. Over the years, driving to and fro between my house and my girl’s school in the jungle, I did see the POSLAJU van a few times but I did not know where it was heading, Bintulu perhaps…and as far as the van was concerned, it certainly was LAJU (fast) though I would not say the same about their service and their delivery.

Anyway, the wife of an officer at the Selangau office, an ex-student of mine, is my girl’s colleague so I asked my girl to ask her if she could pass the letter to pass to him to take to work and pass to the officer concerned…and of course, that was not a problem at all so things worked out o.k. in the end.

Well, it so happened that the other day, I decided to drop by this bakery…

Yat Bakery

…in town in the area of shops behind the medical centre where my mum used to be warded everytime she was unwell. My dad loved the buns…

Yat Bakery buns

…the ones with the pandan lotus paste filling…

Pandan lotus paste filling

…while I prefer the pek tau sar (white/mung bean paste) but these two were not easily available, always sold out.

That day, there wasn’t any of the latter left but there were two packets of the pandan lotus, RM2.20 each (probably RM2.00 only in the past), so I just grabbed them both. There were others like the red bean paste, the peanut and the butter but I was not interested in those.

In the meantime, I thought I would just buy their swiss roll for the aforementioned ex-student’s wife to show a bit of appreciation for her/their help. I remember we used to buy them before and they were very nice, RM6.80 each (maybe it was RM6.00 before) but they certainly were a lot bigger than the rest. I got her the vanilla and I decided to try the strawberry…

Yat Bakery swiss roll, strawberry

…which turned out really nice – so soft, very nice subtle fragrance of strawberry, definitely much nicer than the strawberry cakes that we bought before from the more upscale bakeries in town as far as the texture and taste went except that it did not have any fresh strawberries inside. I think should anybody’s birthday come around, I shall go here to order the cake…or I’d stick faithfully to Marcus’ – his cakes are, of course, second to none.

A friend on Facebook saw the above photograph of the swiss roll when I shared it on my timeline and he commented that their coconut roll bun was very good too – I think I did see that that day but I was never into that. Perhaps I’ll grab one to try the next time I drop by there.

YAT BAKERY (2.293035, 111.835887) is located along Lorong Chew Siik Hiong 1A, directly opposite Uncle Dom, at the other end of the block of shops where Sushi Tie is in the commercial centre behind the Rejang Medical Centre.

Wait in line…

Believe it or not, I only ate their paos (steamed buns) once in 2013 for the simple reason that they were selling them at night when they would push the steamer to their gate and sell to customers stopping by. For one thing, I would not be so keen to drive into that dark, narrow and somewhat congested road at night so I never went back for more. Well, at least I’ve tried!

The good news is they no longer do that – in fact, they have a shop of their own now…

Hong Cheng Bread House

…if I am not mistaken, ever since 2016 but still, I never dropped by. I heard that they only open at around 12 noon and everything will be sold out by 3.00 p.m. and there will be so many people every day that one will have to stand and wait in line just to buy. I hardly ever venture out at that time of day if I can help it especially when it can get so scorching hot nowadays.

It so happened that my girl had something on the other day so she did not come home for lunch and would only be done by 3.00 p.m. Just nice, I thought, for me to go past 2.00 p.m. and stop by along the way to grab some of those buns. Luckily, there were not so many people, no need to wait in line but there were people coming and going non-stop.

I asked the lady…

steamed paos

…for their bak pao (meat bun) and their char siew pao and when I got home, I tried them to see if they were still as good as before. As a matter of fact, many will tell you they…

Big

…are the best in town!

The bak pao

Bak pao

…was all right, probably nicer and had a lot more meat than the ones here but that was only RM1.30 each whereas these were going for RM2.20 each. Looking back at my old post, they were only RM1.80 each that one solitary time when I went and bought some to eat.

The filling of the char siew pao, also RM2.20 each…

Char siew pao

…certainly looked nothing like char siew as we know it but it tasted really good. Between the two, I prefer this one a lot more, I must say.

A long long time ago, somebody told me that she felt Ah Pui pao was the best in town and when I asked her where Ah Pui was, she said Lanang Road. I replied that Lanang Road was a very very long road and asked if she could be more specific in giving the location…but she never replied after that. I even went to a coffee shop named Ah Bui but no, there were no paos there.

This time around, when I shared the photograph of the shop on Facebook, somebody commented, “Some said the best…but I personally prefer Lanang Ah Pui one.

You’re not the 1st to tell me that but nobody ever told me exactly WHERE! Lanang Road is a very long road. I went to Ah Bui coffee shop, no pao there,” I replied and his response was: “Ok, just before the Aman Road roundabout… next to tyre shop…best to go around six something evening…the bak chang also nice.

There must be 1001 tyre shops along Lanang Road but I logged into Google Maps and “walked around” and I found a shop – Kung Fung Food Industries, next to a tyre shop near the aforementioned roundabout but it was closed when the Google car was passing by but there was a logo and there was a fat guy in it so I guess that must be it. Now who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and that old people are not internet-savvy?

I definitely will drop by one of these days and grab some of the paos from there to see how good they really are.

HONG CHENG BREAD HOUSE (2.291838, 111.838213) is located among the block of shops to the right of the junction of Jalan Tong San and Lorong Langsat if you are coming via the latter from the roundabout at Jalan Pedada near Rejang Medical Centre.