Help yourself…

When my ex-student and his Singaporean wife were at my house that day, they were very impressed and sang praises of the pineapple nuggets that I bought from here…

They seemed to know quite a bit about pineapple tarts and the rest – in fact, they have tried these…

…from Kuching before even.

These pineapple delights are a must for Chinese New Year because pineapple is “ong lai” in Hokkien and “ong” can be either king or good luck while “lai” means to come so it is believed that having these in the house will bring good luck.

I cannot remember when I started buying these pineapple nuggets…

…from the aforementioned bakery but yes, I was still teaching at the time so it would be before 2007 and I have been doing so every year without fail. I think I did not manage last year as they were all sold out so this year, I went early and was in luck! My brother-in-law went a few days later and went home disappointed.

This year, they also came out with this variety…

…that had cheese added. My guests from Singapore said that the original would win hands down and I must say that I absolutely agree. The taste and fragrance of the cheese in the pastry was somewhat overpowering and it drowned out the much coveted taste of the pineapple jam in the filling.

As a matter of fact, I bought two jars/bottles of each of the two but when my nephew, home from Shanghai, China, invited us out for dinner, I had nothing in the house to give so I just grabbed these to give to him, one of each. Otherwise, I could have given them to these connoisseurs of pineapple tarts from Singapore. Sorry, better luck next time! LOL!!!

I did try the pineapple tarts, rolls and nuggets from some other bakeries but they all paled in comparison. These…

…from Louis Bakery in the next lane from my house came in a close second. They made all three there and I got all of them in this very nice gift pack that my friend/ex-student, Alex, gave me…

…that day.

And talking about these festive cookies and stuff, I feel that the homemade ones were better because of the reduced amount of sugar added. For instance, if I am not wrong, my sister gave us the ones from this girl…

…who runs her own home-based business.

I loved her Nestum…

…a lot more than her oats…

…because of the coarser cereal used.

Other than these cereals, the use of nuts and seeds and whatever seemed to be catching on these days, for instance, in those Florentine biscuits…

This was the third one that we got to enjoy and they were pretty good as well. My missus bought them from this bakery…

…on the other side of town and she had nuts in these cookies…

…that she made herself as well.

Good grief! Gone are the days when cookies looked so elegant, so dainty and pretty – these were more like the ones I saw people abroad making using what they called “the spoon method”. Never mind the appearance, a cousin of mine who made hers using this method, told me. What is more important is the taste.

My missus also made these cheese biscuits…

…with chocolate rice added. With the extra cheese in them plus the Golden Churn butter used, they were very nice indeed. Unlike in previous years, she only made two types this time around. Instead, she just went and bought a whole lot from the aforementioned bakery.

The kuih momo

…were all right, nothing like when they first came into the scene. Those used to be so nice with the fragrance of the ghee used in the making, something we simply can’t detect at all anymore these days. It may be because of the ghee – those available at the shops and supermarkets these days aren’t nice at all. That is why I do not bother to buy and use when I cook my yellow rice (nasi kuning/nasi minyak/ghee).

Incidentally, these were called kuih makmur when they first appeared on the scene. How on earth did it get lost in translation and become kuih momo? Our midin (wild jungle fern) is often called “million” in the menus in Chinese restaurants and the other day, I saw one that has it in the list as “merlin“. Good grief!!!

Anyway, back to the cookies, my girl loved these butter scotch ones…

At one time, the butter scotch bread from Gardenia was the craze among the people here – so good you can eat it on its own! She also loved these cheese sticks…

…and yes, I must say that I wholeheartedly agree. They were really crusty and would snap when one bit into it, plus who can resist the delightful fragrance and taste of cheese?

I used to love those peanut cookies a lot, the ones at another bakery in town but I did not bother to drop by and check it out this year. My missus got these…

…but I was not impressed. They did not have much of that peanut taste and fragrance that I loved so much.

One thing we had not bought for a very long time would be this red, sweet, spicy and super-smelly sotong (cuttlefish)…

My missus bought some that day but I did not notice it until the son of some guests of mine opened the bottle/jar to eat. Goodness gracious me! The stench filled the whole living room! The instant they left, I simply had to go and help myself to it and it sure took a lot of effort to stop!

These…

…were nice too but not as nice as those really smelly ones. Both were RM26.90 for 200 gm, RM134.50 a kilo. *faints* In my childhood days, I used to buy from my school canteen, 5 sen a palm-sized piece of rolled sotong/cuttle fish, red or plain (orange) with a generous sprinkling of fine sugar. Those were the days!

It’s Day 6 into the Chinese Lunar New Year today. I don’t suppose there will be people dropping by but of course, if there is anybody thus inclined, you are most welcome! Come! Come! Come and help yourself!

I remember it well…

When I was little, everytime there was a wedding in the Malay or Melanau kampung (village), my mother would bring me along to what she called the “pengilan” (wedding reception). Of course, I was so very delighted – who wouldn’t be when there was all the nice food to enjoy! I would just go and eat and more often than not, I would not even get to see the bride and the groom…nor the hosts, the parents, that is, not that I was thus inclined. LOL!!!

I always admired the communal spirit of the Malays or the Melanaus. The whole village would show up and set up the kitchen in the house compound to cook the food in HUGE cauldrons…using (boat/rowing) oars as the ladles. They would shop for everything for the feast and one would not even need to use one’s own crockery and cutlery – they would bring everything and all throughout the pengilan, they would do the serving, the clearing up and the cleaning…or in other words, everything!

Upon reaching the house, all the guests would have to sit on the floor in groups of 4 and the food would be served. I cannot remember exactly now but of course, there was curry – four big chunks of beef, one each but the whole time, I would be wishing nobody would join our group so I could eat more than one chunk. Hehehehehe!!! Everyone had to eat with their hands but more often than not, I would just take one of the (serving) spoons from the dishes served and use that. I did not know how to go about it – eating with my hand and I would get the rice all over my face whenever I tried!

It was the general practice then to give money as gifts, around RM3.00 only. I thought that was so cheap compared to what they would give at a Chinese wedding, RM10.00! Of course, people give a lot more now! Once done, we would have to leave and vacate the space so other guests would be able to sit there and eat when the food was served. This would go on and on and on the whole day.

Gosh!!! That was so long ago though I remember it all so well. That was why I was delighted when the people here were having a promotion here last Friday – their nasi pangilan (RM15.00)…

…and I wasted no time at all in making a beeline there for it right away to give it a try.

It wasn’t quite the same though. They used to serve the dishes in separate small plates for four persons to share – here, we got everything in one plate, to each his/her own! There was ayam kurma (chicken korma)…

…and beef curry, both of which were so very nice and even though I am supposed to stay away from red meat, I simply did not have the heart to leave the meat by the side of my plate. I was glad they had potatoes…

…too – I always love potatoes in my curry.

The nasi minyak (oil rice)…

…was so good, bursting with the flavours and fragrances of all the spices that went into the cooking.

I do not recall any soup served at the pengilan I went to and I never had this pineapple soup…

…before. They call it kecini nanas and according to a Malay friend of mine, she had not had it for a long time and she loved it so much!

All in all, what stole the show was this salted fish pickle…

It was very nice and there I was, wishing that they had given a bit more. LOL!!!

All of us loved everything in the platter that came with a complimentary glass of grenadine syrup…

The very friendly lady proprietress, for reasons unknown, came over to our table the instant everything was served and took this photograph of us…

…that appeared eventually on their Facebook page.

The promotion was a success – everything was sold out so fast that they had to apologise on their Facebook page. They did mention that they would have it again the following Friday and there would be different dishes in the platter the next time around. Who knows, I may just show up there for another round of this!

MAT LAKSA (2.308351, 111.820696)…

…is located at No. 67 & 69, Jalan Kuda 2, Kampung Nangka, right across from Cabe Ijo in the next block, both facing the main entrance of Bisonte Grocer & Deli.

Fits like a glove…

TEN years ago, in 2013, my cousin in Melbourne, Australia went to see Cliff Richard live in his Still reelin’ and a-rockin‘ concert there and she bought me a souvenir t-shirt and a cap and sent them to me. I did use the cap a lot when I was doing my gardening – I loved the cotton material, very light and very comfortable to put on.

Unfortunately, the t-shirt…

…was too small for me despite its XL size so I was not able to wear it at the time. However, now that I’ve lost a lot of weight, it fits me like a glove…

…and of course, I couldn’t wait to put it on and go out to show off. LOL!!!

All my clothes are now way too big for me. My shirts and t-shirts will hang so very loosely on me and flap in the wind when I walk around, making me look like a scarecrow!

As for my trousers, it would take TWO of me, to fit into one! I managed to dig out the suit I wore in 1981 when I got married…

…but the trousers were a little tight around the waist. Goodness gracious me!!! Was I so very thin then? Thankfully, I managed to buy a nice pair at one of those bundle shops for only RM5.00 and my missus passed to me one that she had bought a long time ago but it was too big for her (the one in the above photograph). It sure fitted me very well, don’t you think?

In the meantime, she also went digging for t-shirts that nobody, for whatever reason, wanted to wear so in fact, they are still brand new. There is this Linkin’ Park one…

Yes, I loved their songs once including this one…and this one…as well as this one! Anybody else are fans of the group too?

There is this very cute one…

…as well as a rather plain one, B.U.M. brand. It was so very popular at one time but I do not seem to see it much anymore these days.

I did drop by a rather trendy shop here where they sell those Burberry products and I almost fainted when I saw the prices! For the uninitiated, our former PM used to wear those branded shirts that cost an arm or a leg and everybody did not mince their words when they blasted him for his extreme extravagance. I did buy a shirt though, long sleeves, RM150.00 after discount for Chinese New Year but no, I quickly put back that nice one with a RM300+ price tag, thank you very much!!!

My daughter has one like this…

I think I bought two, one for her and one for the mum. She uses hers very regularly to this very day but the one for her mum is still brand new and she passed it to me. I guess that is a perfect description of what a retiree like me does every day – eat and sleep!

It certainly looks like I do not have any problem when it comes to clothes. I hardly go anywhere these days so I do not need that many decent-looking ones. Most of the time, I can still wear my old t-shirts and my drawstring pants at home, never mind that I look like a scarecrow. LOL!!!

And talking about Chinese New Year, the other morning, my dear friend/ex-student, Alex, formerly an ex-blogger at jienster.com, dropped by my house to pass me these cookies/tarts…

…and layer cakes…

Gosh!!! Isn’t that so very sweet and thoughtful of him? Thank you so much, Alex, and a Happy & Prosperous Chinese New Year to you and all your loved ones. May God bless you all abundantly throughout the Rabbit Year! Cheers!!!

Tighten your belt…

With the escalating prices of virtually everything these days, it would be best if we could tighten our belts in whichever way possible. The Malay expression for that is to ikat perut or tie up your tummy. I guess that means eating less and thus save some of the money spent on food.

I must say that I am amazed by the increasing number of new eateries these days despite all that talk about the weakening ringgit and an economic recession and what I cannot understand is the number of customers making a beeline to these places despite the fact that the prices are shockingly astronomical, over RM20-30.00 for a bowl of something, for instance. They do seem pretty loaded, I must say but I, for one, would prefer to be frugal and count my pennies and not spend like there is no tomorrow.

The price for a plate of kampua mee has gone up to over RM4.50 at most places now, some even as high as RM4.80 and RM5.00 and they push the blame to the non-stop increases in the price of pork lately though we do know for a fact that in each plate of kampua mee, they will only give you a few miserable paper-thin slices of boiled meat coloured red to make it look like char siew. Obviously, they are merely jumping on the bandwagon to cash in on the opportunity to fleece the customers and squeeze them dry. Anyone can tell from those places selling their noodles at RM4.00 a plate or even less, that they can still make a profit and can carry on WITHOUT increasing the prices like that.

Back to the title of this blogpost, as consumers, I do think that at times like this, we should do something to tighten our belts and not go with the flow blindly. If they increase the prices, go some place else. Nothing is THAT nice that you MUST pay those insane prices to eat it. There are lots of others that are just as nice or even nicer…and even if some may pale in comparison, surely there are some that are nice enough. Basic economics will tell you that if the demand for something decreases, the prices will drop. In other words, if the buying stops, those unreasonable increases in prices will too!

I went to one kampua mee place that some claim is the best in Sibu but I am not so sure about that, I’m afraid. The last time I heard, the price had gone up to RM4.80 but the place was as crowded as ever, always packed with people and of course, I wondered why when it had become so expensive and many had told me that the quality had dropped – it wasn’t as nice as before.

I wanted to tapao home some of their pian sip (meat dumplings) and I told the lady to just add one or two dumplings and round up the price to RM5.00. Well, she told me that it would be RM4.80 for the regular, RM5.60 for the large, nothing in between!!! Yes, I did buy what I wanted that day but no, you will never see me going back there again, not when I also felt it did not taste as nice as before anymore.

There are so many other things that we can pick and choose instead of those noodles or the other expensive stuff. One steamed bak pao (meat bun) is only RM2.50 and ONE should be filling enough. Tee peang, the Sibu Foochow version of the oyster cake, is 70 sen a piece and also RM2.50 if there is any meat filling inside, that is if they have not increased the prices so far…and of course, I was delighted to come across these…

…at my neighbourhood fruit & vegetable grocery store round the corner from my house, going for only RM2.50 for a pack of 6!

They are smaller (around the size of our Sibu Foochow kompia) than the regular ones which seem to be shrinking as well these days or worse, they may not taste that great anymore, probably as the result of those people scrimping on the ingredients even though they retain the usual prices. I bought a pack the other morning and they certainly were like those authentic ones in the good ol’ days and tasted the way they should…

I did come across some that were not worth a second bite!

And why should we go for the nasi lemak at the shops when we have to pay RM3.50-5.00 a plate for the biasa (regular) and most, if not all of them, are not lemak – an absolute disgrace to the name? I know of one very popular place here that is so very popular and when a friend who had it there, shared a photograph of it looking impressive with the curry chicken or whatever added on Facebook, I asked him if the rice was lemak or not. I can’t say I was surprised, not in the least when he said there was no santan (coconut milk) in it – it was nothing more than plain rice, not lemak at all.

I, for one, have stopped going for our national breakfast dish outside not because of the prices but because I have not come across any that is truly lemak and deserves to be called thus. Instead, I would just head to the aforementioned shop and buy the one there at only RM1.50 a packet…

…the home-cooked one from a Malay lady here. It definitely is more lemak that all the rest and I like how the sambal is spicy and nice. Never mind that there is no egg – I can always boil my own.

And talking about eggs, that is something that is often in short supply lately and the prices keep increasing as well. The last time my missus bought a tray, I think, they worked out to around 50 sen each. Sighhhhhh!!!! I guess I do not have a choice as those are my daily source of protein. I take two…

…every morning and that would be around RM1.00 altogether…and RM2.50 in total, if I have the nasi lemak as well.

That’s not too bad, I would say! I guess I can still afford a decent breakfast in the morning, the most important meal in a day – no need for any desperate measures so far, praise the Lord!

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441)…

…is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end…and on the other end, to the left is the Kim Won Chinese Medical Store and Mini-supermarket.

They call me…

I liked the fried kway teow (flat rice noodles) from this stall here but I did not quite enjoy his char chu mee (fry & cook noodles) and I never went back there since.

The other morning, however, I was at a loss as to what to order and walking past the stall, I could hear the loud banging of the guy’s wok. I stopped to see what he was cooking and it did smell good, his fried bihun (rice vermicelli) but I did not feel like having that.

In the end, I asked for his mee mamak and this…

…was what I got!

Wait a minute! “mamak” is the name given to those Indian Muslims (in the peninsula), those running the nasi kandar and the mamak stalls and their fried noodles, the mee mamak, is indeed very popular, available even at some classy cafés and restaurants.

However, tagged with a name like that, I would expect it to be halal…or at least, it should not have any pork among its ingredients. This one that I had that morning had quite a bit of char siew

…though I am not sure whether that was pork or chicken. I did mention in my post the other day that folks here are switching from pork to chicken in their joint effort to protest against the sellers’ incessant, somewhat unscrupulous, increases in the price of the former.

The thing is we have all kinds of names given to all kinds of noodles, usually depending on how they are cooked. We went out for noodles one night not too long ago and my girl wanted the Singapore bihun

I wasn’t sure whether that would be something she would enjoy as it would be nothing more than fried bihun with curry powder added. It may be nice depending on what other ingredients are added and whether it has this coveted wok hei fragrance or not, otherwise it can be somewhat plain and quite disappointing.

Another one is the lakia mee

Now, “lakia” means dayak in Hokkien but unlike the mee mamak, this is not a recipe derived from how the dayaks or ethnic tribes fry their noodles. Actually, it is nothing more than the Chinese fried noodles, dry…

…but with lots of freshly-cut chilies added.

Anyway, back to the mee mamak, like the lakia mee, there will be a lot of freshly-cut chilies added too but the taste is different. If I am not wrong, it tends to be a little sweet, possibly through the addition of chili sauce and/or tomato sauce.

This one…

…that I had that morning had a lot of chilies, cili padi, no less…

…so it was very spicy and very much to my liking but unfortunately, I found it to be way too sweet. I squeezed the juice of that calamansi lime all over it to counter-balance the sweetness and it turned out to be really good after that.

I would say that I quite enjoyed it and I would not mind going for it again sometimes for a change but no, I would not go out of my way to come here for it even though at only RM6.00 a plate, I do think it is worth going for it a lot more than a plate of kampua mee, RM4.80-5.00 at some places now, with a few miserably thin slices of boiled pork coloured red to make it look like char siew and yes, that guy sure deserves a pat on the back for using glass plates instead of those horrendous gaudily-coloured plastic ones!

GRAND WONDERFUL FOOD COURT (2.309601, 111.845163)…

…is located along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, on your right. You can also go in via Jalan Pipit from Jalan Pahlawan – go straight ahead till you get to it on your left.

Thick or thin…

I’ve seen these…

…here and there but I never felt inclined to buy them to eat. My sister, on the other hand, said that she loved them more than the thin ones when I told her that they are selling these at the Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕)/apam balik stall in the next lane round the corner from my house.

One fine day, I decided to buy some home and it turned out that my girl enjoyed them a lot too. Since then, I would buy for her whenever I happen to be around there in the afternoon.

They are 50 sen each…

…and when there are any left over, we will keep them in the fridge and heat them up for breakfast the next morning.

I like to use those grill pans with lines or ridges to do that even though it is much easier to place them on a tray and put them in the oven for a while. They are nice when piping hot, straight from the oven but somehow, when they have gone cold, they will turn hard and no, they will not be so nice anymore when they are like that.

I did not know what they are called – I would just refer to them as the thick chai peah as opposed to the thin ones…

…which are a bit cheaper – 5 for RM2.00. The guy told me that they are called taugeh peah by virtue of those few strands of bean sprouts in them.

When eaten hot, they are nice and crusty on the outside and kind of chewy or rubbery on the inside…

Incidentally, for the uninitiated, these are savoury, not sweet. I can finish two or three, at least, in one sitting!

My missus made this chili dip…

…for her boiled pork that day and there was some left over in the fridge. I took it out and added two cili padi, cut into thin bits to eat the taugeh peah with…

…and it was so so good but personally, I prefer the thin and crispy ones, the chai peah…to these thick ones, the taugeh peah. What about you?

The Chinese pancake or ban chang kuih (慢煎糕)/apam balik stall…

is located on the pavement outside the TCM clinic along Jalan Ruby in between Kim Won Supermarket & Medical Store and Swee Hung.

Wood…

I happened to stumble upon a Youtube video showing a family going in search of what they called “mee papan” (wooden board noodles) and of course, my curiosity was aroused. What on earth was mee papan, I wondered? I had never heard of it before. I followed the family in the video clip but unfortunately, the place there were heading to was not open that day!

Eventually, I saw a lot of others as well and I found out from one of them that mee papan was actually sizzling hot plate noodles. In Hokkien, we call it thik pan mee (hot plate noodles)…

Yes, I remember it was the craze at one time, alongside those sizzling hot plate beef or venison or what have you in the Chinese restaurants and yes, I did get to enjoy it before but I cannot for the dear life of me remember where exactly I went for it.

I was enjoying the mee sua here, my favourite in town, one day when I saw the people from the chu-char (cook & fry) section at the back serving that to some customer and boy, it sure looked very good! I made up my mind instantly that I would go back to that coffee shop to give it a try and finally, I managed to do that the other day.

I must say that I was very impressed when it…

…was served. It looked really good and had a lot of added ingredients. I did notice that they had used chicken instead of pork – that is the on-going issue here right now. The price of pork had been shooting up like nobody’s business every other day but of course, it did not matter to me whether they had used pork or chicken or whatever. We should boycott the meat completely to teach those unscrupulous sellers a lesson they will never forget! Tsk! Tsk!

There you are! You can see underneath the hot plate, the wooden board…

…that had given this dish its name.

They added an egg…

…as well and it was perfectly done, just the way I would love it with the egg yolk still soft and runny.

I was pleasantly surprised when I was told that it was only RM7.00 a plate. I had expected more seeing how much ingredients they had added to it…

Yes, it tasted great and yes, I sure would not mind ordering that to enjoy again considering how much more affordable it is compared to a lot of things we have around us these days.

NEW HEE’S FOOD CORNER (2.311365, 111.846638)…

…is located along Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai, the very first one in the block of shops to the left of the Delta Mall, with the Astro Sibu office at the other end of that same block.

In a box…

My favourite fish and seafood stall not far from my house is no longer there. The boy told me that Madam Lau has retired, not running the business anymore but I do know that she had a stall at the central market and if I am not wrong, she also had one in the vicinity of the Sunday Market as well but I don’t go to those two places so I am not sure if she is doing it there or not.

This particular stall was on the narrow pavement against the wall of the building and customers would stand by the side of the road to pick and buy the fish. Many would park their cars illegally along the road on the opposite side even though there were ample parking spaces round the corner in front of the building.

It did not matter one bit though because there were hardly any cars passing through – those that did never had a problem, not at all so there would be no reason for the town authorities to force them to close down the stall. Just go round the kampung any time of day and you will see all the stalls by the roadside selling all kinds of things and all the cars parked illegally along the already VERY congested and narrow road to go and buy and nothing ever happens to them!

Now, the fish stall has moved to the front of the shop/supermarket – perhaps they have taken over but one young boy would still be there every morning to attend to the customers. The only difference now is once done, you will have to take your purchases to the cashier’s counter inside the supermarket to pay for them.

I have not dropped by for a long time now so I am not sure what fish they are selling these days. As far as I know, they have three types of farmed fish from the Batang Ai hydro-electricity lakes – the tilapia, ikan sultan and the barramundi (ikan siakap). They harvest them and send them over regularly so you can be sure they are very fresh, no mud smell at all. I liked to buy the barramundi – all of them would be of a standard weight, 600 gm, all the same…and the boy would clean it and do the butterfly cut for me, ready for steaming.

Well, I was browsing around one of the supermarkets here the other day when I saw this…

As far as I know, Malaysia exports this fish to Australia and those people overseas would not eat fish, bones and all, and would rather go for those pre-filleted ones. I assumed this was farmed from the last part that said, “Our hand-cut fillets are flash-frozen within hours of harvest, locking in the freshness and flavour.

Much to my surprise though, this did not come from Batang Ai. Instead, it came all the way from Perak in West Malaysia…

…selling at around RM20.00 a box, two pieces inside…

…400 gm altogether. My cousin in Bintulu said that they were selling this fish a little cheaper at around RM40.00 for a kilo there but theirs were plastic-wrapped, not in nice boxes like this. The fresh ones from Batang Ai are selling for around RM28.00 a kilo but they are whole fish, not filleted.

My missus steamed it for our meals the other day…

…and yes, I would say that it…

…was very nice, no unpleasant fishy smell, no bones, all fish! Personally, I felt the Batang Ai ones that we had before were nicer – smaller but smoother and silkier but these are so very convenient. We can just keep a few boxes in the freezer and take out to cook whenever we feel like having fish, no need to go through all that hassle of cleaning the fish prior to cooking and no need to worry about the bones when eating.

There were only two boxes left at the supermarket and we grabbed both of them. I don’t know if they will replenish the stock or not – that is the problem here. Once something is sold out, you may never get to see it again.

Let’s start the new year right…

The Chinese have this tradition of cooking up a storm and sitting down for a feast on New Year’s Eve and no cooking would be done in the subsequent days – there will be enough leftovers to ensure that nobody goes hungry.

We did not have a grand dinner on New Year’s Eve to ring out the old and usher in the new year as we were going for the sunset service in church that Saturday evening and I told my missus not to bother about cooking the next day, New Year’s Day.

I went out early in the morning to tapao some mee sua

…for our breakfast, following the Chinese symbolic practice for longevity, posterity and prosperity.

Unfortunately, my favourite in town was not open so I went here (RM8.00 a bowl)…

…instead. I had it there once and I thought it was all right. However, that morning, I found it rather disappointing initially but after I had added two or three spoonful of our own traditional Foochow red wine to it, it was perfect! Very very nice!

I also bought some chai kuih, ma ngee and Portuguese egg tarts from a stall selling fritters and stuff at that food court and after the mee sua and all those, we were too full come lunchtime so we decided to skip it and go some place nice for dinner.

That evening, I decided to try our luck and headed to that restaurant where parking is virtually impossible and even if you park far away and walk all the way there, without any prior booking, there will not be a table available – their business is always so good, full house most of the time.

When we got there, there were so many cars leaving – my guess was they were people right after watching a movie at the cineplex opposite. There were many cars, of course, eagerly grabbing the spaces thus vacated one by one and thankfully, I did manage to slip into one before all of them were taken up by somebody!

The restaurant was full, of course, what’s new? But we were told that the people at a table in the corner had finished eating and would be leaving soon so if we could wait a while, we could sit there when they had left. Gee!!! It sure looked like it would be a good year for us – everything seemed to turn out right for us that night!

We were served these braised peanuts (RM5.00)…

…as starters. Theirs were special because of the addition of those spices such as star anise, cloves and what not. I loved that uniquely shaped ceramic bowl that they used to hold the peanuts.

I had their prawns with wasabi and mayo

…once before and that night, we agreed to have another go at it especially when we would not be able to find this dish anywhere else.

I was devastated when I was told that their fried filleted white pomfret (pek chio/ikan bawal putih) with its very nice sweet & sour sauce…

*Archive photo*

…was not available. Initially, they said they had black pomfret (or chio/ikan bawal hitam) and then they came back to tell us that they had run out of that too but we could have fish fillet cooked that same way instead. Of course, we did not want that – fish fillet means…dory! Otherwise, we could have steamed ikan tapah instead. Well, no, thank you!

They said that business was extra good over the long weekend and they had run out of a lot of things such as their stock of fish, for instance and because of the holidays, they did not have the chance to replenish their stocks. Sighhh!!! We had gone through all that trouble to go there for this dish and in the end, we could not get to enjoy it. How disappointing!!!

My girl loves their chequerboard duck…

…but we were told that they would not serve it any smaller than the standard size – enough for a table of 10! I did not care! Never mind how big that was – I wanted it, that’s the bottom line!

Yes, it…

…was very good but we could barely finish half of it so we asked them to tapao what was left for us to take home. My missus would not touch duck with a 10-foot pole so since we could not have the fish, it looked like there wasn’t much for her to enjoy other than the prawns.

For our vegetable dish, I ordered the bitter gourd fried with beef…

…so she could help herself to the beef. I just ate the veg since I had to abstain from all kinds of red meat. Yes, we enjoyed this dish a lot – it was very nicely done, I must say. We sure would not mind ordering that again the next time we drop by here.

I had no intention that night of ordering their celebrated sio bee (meat dumplings)…

…because when we were out for lunch the other day, my sister-in-law was telling us that they were not nice anymore. I don’t know where she heard that but I ordered half a dozen and we all enjoyed them so much. Well, with these as well that night, I reckoned there should be enough for my missus to have a reasonably good dinner. I loved how the skin was not over-steamed till so soft and soggy like the ones we often see around here.

In my growing up years, I often heard my father praising Ah Sap Chay‘s roasted duck (she was the proprietress of this restaurant, since deceased) to the skies but of course, we cannot order that! I thought of going for their roasted chicken instead but it seemed that they only served the whole bird (RM60.00 each)! I think the next time we come here, we must come in a big group of at least 10 people so we can enjoy all the dishes.

It appeared to me that it was not really a good night to drop by because other than the fish, they had also run out of all the mango desserts. In the end, I just asked for the snow pear tong sui /糖水 (RM8.00)…

…which, thankfully, turned out to be very nice. It was a little too sweet for me so I had to dilute it with the drinking water I was having.

We enjoyed that delightful dinner, though it did not turn out quite the way we had hoped it would be. The total for the food came up to RM107.20 which I thought was all right since we had prawns and there was that huge serving of their chequerboard duck too!

7七夜cafe (2.307862, 111.848497)…

…is located off Jalan Sena in the blocks of shops opposite Jalan Deshon on the right, the same side as Wikitea while the New Capitol Restaurant 新首都酒家 (2.288619, 111.830057)…

…is located at No. 46, Lebuh Tanah Mas, off Jalan Kampung Nyabor, in the block of shops opposite the Sarawak House/King’s Trioplex/Premier Hotel at the very far end on the right.

So good to be here…

Well, that is the impression I get when I look at all the sparkling new eateries opening their doors all over town. In the past, people would close shop and move to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah or Kuching or elsewhere, anywhere where they would be able to make a whole lot of money. These days, it seems that they are all moving here…and I wonder why.

According to their website, this place originated in Taipei, Taiwan, founded by six Taiwanese and Malaysian partners engaged in the catering industry. To date, they have 3 outlets in Kuching and 1 here in Sibu. Towards the end of last month, they started serving what they called the Kiyokawa Ramen at their restaurant.

I gathered from their Facebook page that this tonkotsu ramen was the specialty of a certain Chef Lai who would take more than 30 hours just to cook the soup which, of course, would be very rich. This Chef Lai from Taiwan, it seems, is a Chief Ramen Master KYOKAWA. He has had many years of experience in ramen research. Before his debut, he studied at a three-year ramen champion store in Kyushu, Hakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. His credentials sure looked mighty impressive so of course, we wasted no time at all in dropping by the place to give it a try.

I asked for the Signature Tonkotsu Ramen (RM27.80)…

…with two thin slices of the charsu pork belly…

If I remember correctly, if you want four pieces, you will have to pay some RM32.00 a bowl. Gosh!!! That works out to around RM2.00 a slice. Ouch!!!

My! My! The spoon provided certainly was HUGE, I must say!! LOL!!!

I tried the soup – I am more into clear, refreshing soups, not so into such thick, rich ones and this one turned out to be somewhat bland, quite tasteless except that it was rather strong on the sesame oil added and I am not a fan of the oil…in anything!

I mixed everything together thoroughly including the seaweed and also the chopped raw shallots! Gee! I never saw the latter in any dish before except when we open a can of sardines and serve without any cooking. There was a bit of taste after that, very very mild and not anything I would get excited about. I suppose that is what it is supposed to be…like the time when I had a bowl at this Miri branch of a very famous Japanese restaurant in Brunei – that did not get me jumping with delight either.

My girl had the roasted garlic tonkotsu ramen (RM28.80)…

…which turned out to be more or less the same except that hers had the fragrance of the roasted garlic. I had the instant noodles version once and I was not really that impressed either – the Tokyo Shoyu one that I had around that time was nicer but we never bought anymore after that. I guess that speaks volumes as to how much we actually loved the noodles…but yes, to give credit where credit is due, we would like to extend our compliments to the chef for a job well done where the onsen eggs were concerned.

The mum did not want any ramen and ordered their braised pork belly dry noodles (RM14.80)…

…instead.

The pork belly slices…

…sure looked very good but no, she did not think they were anything to get excited about and she said she certainly would think twice about spending that kind of money on that bowl of noodles when she could derive a lot more pleasure from our own “homegrown” kampua or Kuching kolo mee. I certainly would say the same about the ramen that we had.

The prices, I must say, were shocking and when I mentioned that on Facebook, a West Malaysian friend said that was cheap compared to what they would have to pay over there. Goodness gracious me! Kus semangat!!! I can go for the very much nicer seafood aglio olio spaghetti here or the absolutely awesome fish & chips here or the kacangma chicken with rice here, not once but twice, and a whole lot of nicer things here, there and everywhere with that kind of money and derive a whole lot of pleasure and enjoyment.

To be fair, however, it sure looked like they had a whole lot of followers of their own. No, there were just a sprinkling of customers around the whole time we were there but we saw an endless stream of food delivery people going in and out to collect the orders and deliver them promptly. Obviously, there ARE a lot of people who enjoy what they serve here. Perhaps we should drop by again sometime to check out what else they have on their menu…but no, I don’t think we’d have another go at the ramen, thank you very much.

RICE KING SIBU (2.300910, 111.843590) is located at No.34, Ground Floor, Lorong Dr. Wong Soon Kai 4D.