Float on…

I was amazed when I read this piece of news in some tabloid (I think it’s from Singapore) the other day – Hong Kong is in danger of permanently losing an iconic landmark (or seamark) — the famed Jumbo Floating Restaurant because I did not realise that it was still around after such a very long time.

Opened in 1976, it used to be one of the highlights for tourists visiting Hong Kong. I was there when I went in the mid-80’s…

I remember we had a lavish meal there but no, I did not take any photographs of what we ate – people in those days did not have the habit of taking snapshots of everything they ate.

One thing I can remember is that after we had finished eating, we were allowed to bring the chopsticks

…home to keep as souvenirs for remembrance. Believe it or not, we have kept ours to this very day, precious antiques…

Located in Aberdeen Harbour…

…the restaurant was featured in several movies including the James Bond flick, “The Man with the Golden Gun” starring Roger Moore, Jackie Chan’s 1985 film “The Protector” and Stephen Chow’s “The God of Cookery“.

The three-story-high restaurant spanning 76 meters (249 feet) has reportedly served over 30 billion customers since its opening day, including royals such as Queen Elizabeth II, Hollywood stars, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Cruise and Hong Kong actor, Chow Yun-fat.

Everyone was encouraged to dress up in the Chinese Emperor’s and Empress’ clothes for photographs sitting on the throne and what not but no, we did not go for it. I went and googled to see if I could find photos of people doing that and guess who I saw! My Penang blogger-friend, Isaac…

I think he was there with his missus quite recently in 2010. They did have a photo taken while sitting on the throne but they did not dress up in those ancient Chinese costumes…and yes, he did take some shots of the food he ate – you can click the link to hop over to his blog and have a look!

The 5th…

It’s the 3rd of June today, the 5th Day of the 5th Month in the Chinese Lunar Year, the day of the Double Fifth or the Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival (端午節), fondly known as the Chang or Dumpling Festival. The Chinese eat zongzi or chang on this special day because they are considered a symbol of luck, as the pronunciation of zong is very similar to the pronunciation of zhong (中). This character has a positive connotation, used in words such as 中奖 (winning a prize).

I found this piece of information from this website rather interesting. During the early hot days of summer, people would easily fall ill and epidemics spread. This made the month seem evil, so people in ancient times regarded it as an important time to prevent diseases and keep evil spirits away. Therefore, the Dragon Boat Festival was originally regarded as a traditional medical and health festival. It is traditionally a festival for people to ceremonially come against diseases and poisonous insects. As the coronavirus pandemic continues across the world, this year’s Dragon Boat Festival has a renewed focus on health.

Well, every year, since time immemorial, my very dear friend, Richard, would make his own homemade nyonya chang and he would always give me some. This was last year, 2021 and this was in 2020 and in 2019 and yes, he does it without fail year after year after year. My mum used to make them but these days, unless Richard makes and gives us some or we manage to get some from Kuching…or Singapore, we would not get to enjoy this special Peranakan version of the meat dumpling.

Earlier this year, however, I received word from Richard informing me that he would not be making any as his mum said they would give this year a skip owing to the outbreak of the swine fever that day. I was thinking that perhaps I could just go and buy one or two from the neighbourhood shops or from here to eat so as to uphold and preserve the tradition, our heritage.

Before I got down to doing that, my sister gave me some very nice ang tao chang (red bean dumplings)…

…that she got from her cleaner. They were very nice, no alkaline water (kee) so they were white…

…not yellow or orange and not jelly like as in kee chang (碱水粽/枧水粽). I thought they tasted like basong, the Malay pulut/glutinous rice delight that I like a lot…

I decided to save them for the actual day of the festival so I just stuffed all of them in the fridge – I guess it would not matter one bit if it was red bean…

…not meat dumplings.

Much to my surprise, the other day, however, Richard appeared out of the blue at my gate with these, his nyonya dumplings…

…for 2022! He said that his mum had a change of heart and gave the green light so he made some and went round distributing to family and friends.

There were two, tied with string…

Richard said that those were chicken and of course, I could not resist taking those out the very next morning to steam and heat them up…

…to enjoy and appease my craving!

Yes, as always, never mind whether it was chicken or pork…

…it was so so so good with the fragrance and taste of the ketumbar (coriander) plus the slight sweetness of the other ingredients in the generally savoury filling.

I had to resist the temptation to heat up some more to eat and thankfully, I was able to control myself so I do have some today that I can heat up and enjoy…

…to observe this age-old traditional Chinese practice during this time of year.

I hope you all have some at hand, never mind if you made them yourselves or bought them from somewhere or some good friend gave them to you. Thank you so much, Richard, for the ones that I shall be enjoying today…and to all of us celebrating this auspicious occasion, a very Happy & Blessed Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival! May all of us be abundantly blessed with good health and good fortune!

The one you love…

The last time my old friend, Jasmine, was home all the way from Adelaide, South Australia, was in 2019 and she insisted that I simply must take her to eat her favourite angkau (monkey) kampua mee and she would not settle for any others in town no matter how I insisted that they were so much nicer.

For the uninitiated, you can read all about that guy in this 2014 blogpost here. He was at another location then and then he disappeared but after searching high and low and asking a lot of friends, I finally managed to track him down and of course, Jasmine was delighted to get the chance to go and enjoy his noodles before she went back to Australia.

She has not been home for so many years now because of the pandemic and now that things have settled down a bit, she is talking about coming home again next year! I bet she would want to go and eat her favourite angkau kampua mee – no less than two plates at a time! That shouldn’t be a problem this time around as I did hear that he is still at that same location where we found him in 2019.

Well, the other morning, I decided to drop by there and I had a plate of his noodles (RM3.50)…

It looked like his son was the main person manning his stall now while he and his wife…

…were merely there to assist him.

Just like the many times when I ate his noodles before, I did not think it was anything sensational. At best, I would say it was all right, just not anything to get me excited about. I guess as they say, “What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander!

My friend/ex-student, Louis, was there not too long ago and he said that I should give their beef tripe soup (RM4.00)…

…a try as he thought it was very good. Yes, the gu tor was perfectly done, so soft, really delightful with their special chili dip…

I sure enjoyed it a lot but I had this feeling that the soup could have been nicer with a dash of vinegar or our traditional Foochow red wine, just that I was too lazy to go and ask for one of those.

I don’t know whether or not I shall be going there for this or anything else again should I happen to be passing this way anytime in the near future but one thing’s for sure, I certainly would be back when Jasmine comes home to Sibu sometime next year.

UNCLE TEH’S CORNER (2.305679, 111.848404)…

…is located along Lorong Pahlawan 7C to the right of the Edaran Tan Chong Motors (Nissan) showroom there in the vicinity of the Sibu Bus Terminal.

Two years on…

The last time we got together at this very restaurant like this was in 2019, the last time my niece, the one working in Singapore, was able to come home to celebrate her parent’s birthday and that time, it was her mum’s. Since then, because of the pandemic, for over two years, she had not been able to fly back – not for anybody’s birthday nor for Chinese New Year.

Finally, things ain’t so bad right now and she managed to come home again on Sunday and of course, we wasted no time in getting down to celebrating her father’s birthday, my brother-in-law, at that same restaurant, just like in the good old days.

We had the longevity noodles – the fried mee sua

…with the auspicious gently-fried “golden” eggs and boy, how I missed their Thai mango chicken…

It was so good that I just could not stop helping myself to it again and again…and again!

The butter spare ribs with salted egg…

…paled in comparison and as a matter of fact, I thought it was a bit too salty for my liking.

Their own-made tofu…

…was very good, as always and luckily for my food blogger friend from Penang, he could get to enjoy the much coveted midin

…when he dropped by this very restaurant the night before. I was sure my niece was so very disappointed that it was all sold out that night, considering that she had not enjoyed the wild jungle fern for over two years!

In the end, we settled for the cangkuk manis

…which was a consolation as what they have elsewhere (including the stunted sayur manis from Sabah) isn’t exactly the same and some will insist that ours here is nicer!

The sea cucumber soup…

…was so very good that night. It tasted like there was some special Chinese cooking wine in it but the ladies insisted it was black vinegar and yes, it got their nod of approval as well.

I was pleased to note that except for the mee sua, they have switched to using those lovely ceramic plates and bowls instead of those horrendous no-class-at-all gaudily-coloured plastic or melamine ones.

Of course, we had our favourite cake from Marcus…

… but I heard my brother-in-law and his daughter and her friend talking about what transpired when they went to order and collect the cakes – it seemed that somebody in the house is unwell so word has it that Marcus may decide to stop making his awesome cakes for good. That is so so so sad as there can be no denying that his cakes are second to none.

It sure was a delightful gathering that night and we sure am glad that we could get to see our niece again after all this time. When we got there earlier in the evening, there was only one table and they had almost finished eating – they probably went very early! We placed our orders and everything came out of the kitchen super quick and boy, the servings were HUGE!!! We did not specify the number so I guess they just cooked for 8, all of us together that night. The bill came up to only RM155.00 for the food, around SGD50.00 only!

While we were there, the customers started to trickle in and by the time we were leaving, the place was almost full and everyone had settled down at their tables and was starting to get comfortable. I bet it would be quite noisy considering that it was rather crowded by then – thankfully, we were leaving already!

A very Happy Birthday once again to my brother-in-law, God bless always and thank you to my niece for the scrumptious treat – it sure was great to see you again after all this time!

RUBY RESTAURANT  is located at No. 71, Jalan Kampung Nyabor right next to HOME COOK CORNER  (2.292756, 111.825335) with the AmBank Tunku Osman branch in the very next block.

Warm welcome…

It sure was a pleasant surprise last week when I received word from a long-time blogger friend, one of Malaysia’s top food bloggers, from Penang informing me that he would be coming to Sibu on Saturday!!

After the initial disbelief and when the news finally sank in, we arranged to make contact as soon as he reached town and that was exactly what we did after he had arrived and checked into the hotel around n00n that day. Of course we agreed to meet up for lunch but no, he did not want to go anywhere, only to Payung!!! He said that after reading all my blogposts on the place, he simply could not wait to drop by and check it out.

He and his fiancee loved the Payung rojak (RM12.00)…

…a lot and yes, they were amazed that it was nothing that the rojak buah that they have in Penang and everywhere else in the country. It is simply in a class of its own! They loved the addition of the bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) petals but I forgot to draw their attention to the buah kedondong (ambarella) leaves.

They enjoyed the belimbing prawns (RM17.00)…

…too and yes, they did not know of this very sourish belimbing buluh, something completely different from the very familiar starfruit that everyone knows. They said that it sure tasted different from anything they had tried before and yes, it was very nice.

I was not sure whether they would like the kacang ma chicken (RM16.00)…

…as it may be an acquired taste to a lot of people. Truth be told, I did not like it myself at first but gradually, I grew to like it and now, it is among the top in my list of favourite dishes. That was why I did not order it initially but my friend remembered reading about it and would love to give it a try.

I also asked for the Payung fish (RM15.00)…

…that my girl and I never fail to enjoy, the ikan keli (catfish), cooked the way my mum used to do it all throughout our growing up years. Usually, the Malays would just deep-fry it and serve (lele penyet) or they may cook it over a charcoal fire (ikan bakar).

We had rice to go with everything else and also this nasi kerabu (RM12.00)…

…which I feel is more like nasi ulam, not quite like the nasi kerabu that we love a lot.

I had to pick my girl after school that day and because of the heavy traffic (for reasons unknown), instead of sending her home first, I asked her to tag along and go with me to the café. She had this beef spaghetti (RM19.00)…

…with their own made-from-scratch bolognese sauce, one of her favourites there.

All those dishes for the four of us came up to only RM98.00 and we sure had a delightful time eating and chatting about anything and everything like we had been friends for years and years!

My friend brought me a whole lot of things including these bottles of very special sesame oil…

…that another blogger-friend (from Melaka) gave me once a long time ago and also these tambun biscuits…

…that she also gave to me that time when she came to Sibu.

No, that was not all! There were also these tambun biscuits from another brand…

…and these special double-baked ones…

Thank you so much, Ken and fiancee…and a very warm welcome to the two of you to Sibu. I hope you had a lovely time during your brief stay in our little town.

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.

The very next day…

I went back to that old lady’s stall at the coffee shop here the very next day that day because my girl saw the photographs of what I ate there and said that she wished she could have the same as well.

Well, as always, her wish is my command and I made my way there, past 10.00 a.m. that morning, to buy the old lady’s really nice mee goreng special for all of us that day for lunch.

While I was there, I took the opportunity to try her kway teow goreng special (RM6.00)…

…as I noticed the day before that she had those flat rice noodles on her menu and I had never tried that before.

Believe it or not, it was just past 10 o’ clock, that time of the morning when many here would go for their mid-morning tea break and she told me she was down to her LAST chicken wing…

…already so I would not be getting any with my orders for her mee goreng special. Good grief!

Business must be really good that day because she was frying rice when I got there and she said that was the last plate – she had run out of rice too but yes, she still had her nasi lemak (coconut rice). She probably ran out of fresh chilies as well because unlike the day before, she did not give me any, just bottled chili sauce with soy sauce added.

Thankfully, she still had her very nice daging masak hitam

…so I could have that with my orders.

I asked her to pack it separately from the noodles that I ordered because the ladies in the house are not that fond of our exclusively Sarawak dish, so black and so sweet (with raisins added), they said but they loved what we got from the old lady. They insisted that it was more like the local Malay rendang, not so black and so sweet like the masak hitam. Come to think of it, hers was more like how they cook their beef or chicken liver at a lot of places here

…my favourite!!!

The kway teow

…was nice, same recipe but between the two, I think I would prefer the mee. Minus the chicken wing plus one fried egg (RM1.00 each, she told me the day before), the mee (and the daging masak hitam too, of course) was only RM4.50, RM13.50 only for our lunch that day and the servings were so huge that there was enough left over for our dinner even!!!

Of course, it would taste a lot nicer, eaten there, piping hot from the wok but unfortunately, according the old lady, she takes Sunday off every week and she closes early on Saturdays, around 10.00 a.m. “Lelah (tired)!” she said which did not surprise me one bit as she said she is in her 70’s already – she sure does not look it and is a whole lot more active than others her age! On weekdays, she opens at 7.00 a.m. till around lunchtime (noon). I guess we shall have to wait till there is a school holiday or something before we can make our way there for another round of her mee goreng special.

FAST CAFE (2.319250, 111.832257) is located in the vicinity of Sungai Antu at No. 11, Jalan Tapang Timur, off Jalan Kampung Nangka.

Someone that I used to know…

I cannot remember when I first started patronising this old lady’s stall…

…but I do recall that she was at this same coffee shop a long time ago when it was known by a different name – Happy Garden until she disappeared all of a sudden for whatever reason, I did not know.

It was not until 2009, 13 years ago, that I stumbled upon her again at another coffee shop, right across the road from this present one. Of course, I was delighted and started dropping by for her mee goreng (fried noodles)…

…and nasi lemak (coconut rice)…

I did not know what transpired at the time and all of a sudden, that particular coffee shop, Peter Cafe, called it a day. Thankfully, this time around, the old lady moved back to her stall at the previous coffee shop opposite – eventually, it changed its name to Fast Cafe

…and she has been there to this very day.

In the meantime, others appeared in the vicinity – this one with their very nice mee jawa is very popular and this one where I used to go to for the nasi kerabu had customers spilling on to the road! Despite the competition from these other shops, the old lady stood her ground and went on with her business – I did drop by time and time again and what she dished out had always been consistently good.

I did not think I had much of an appetite to eat anything that morning but I had to go for something so I would have something to blog about and in the end, I decided to go and check her out after a very long time, not since 2016 perhaps.

Thankfully, she was open despite it being the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and I promptly placed my order for her mee goreng special (RM6.00)…

…which came with her very nice daging masak hitam

…and one deep fried chicken wing. If you want one fried egg with it, done the traditional old school way, you will have to pay an extra RM1.00, RM7.00 altogether.

Yes, the noodles tasted great and a squeeze of that calamansi lime sure helped bring the taste to a whole new level. I found myself enjoying it to the max and despite the fact that I did not have the appetite to eat anything initially, I was able to finish everything that was in that plate…

The complimentary soup…

…was very nice and I liked how she had taken the trouble of frying her own shallots for her own use. Many places would use the factory-made ones, packed in plastic packs and sold in the supermarkets and those have a horrible smell that will put me off instantly!

I also liked how, when she served the noodles, she brought along these…

…without my asking. If you go to the Chinese chu char (cook and fry) stalls and shops, don’t dream of getting any at all unless you ask for it and when you do ask for it, they will ask you whether you want the bottled chilli sauce or the freshly cut chilli in soy sauce! If you pick the latter, don’t be surprised if you get some miserable tiny bits of chili…and no, they will not give you both, don’t dream!!!

I asked the old lady how long she has been in this business and she said maybe around 10 years, a long time – obviously it has been so long she can’t even remember herself. One thing’s for sure, I would definitely be dropping by again!

FAST CAFE (2.319250, 111.832257) is located in the vicinity of Sungai Antu at No. 11, Jalan Tapang Timur, off Jalan Kampung Nangka.

Everybody wants…

My friends flew over from KL the other day and they were stunned to see people grabbing bags and bags of those Gardenia bread at the airport shop.

Well, needless to say, those people were all flying back to Sarawak (and Sabah too, I guess). We have become so notorious for this that there have been memes and Tik-Toks about Sarawakians and Gardenia bread all over Facebook and Instagram again and again.

My friends said they had never paid much attention to the bread from that company but nonetheless, they grabbed a pack…

…to give to me.

At one time, we loved their butter scotch…

…so much that anyone passing through the LCCT (what was KLIA2 at the time) simply MUST bring a few bags home to give to everybody.

Eventually, we had so much of it that we got so sick and tired of it that even the mere sight (and smell) of it would put us off. Imagine a number of people coming back to Sibu at the same time and each of them would bring a few bags for you and you end up with enough to open a shop selling it. LOL!!!

We never tried this flavour before…

…though and I loved the pleasant fragrance of the pandan and santan (coconut) and gula Melaka – it reminded me of the so-called onde-onde cake that I bought once to try and when I toasted a slice on a non-stick pan, it felt like I had a pandan chiffon cake baking in the oven.

Yes, it was very nice…

…eaten just like that or toasted lightly on a non-stick pan.

My friends also brought me these…

– my favourite from Marks & Spencer. These are sweet, of course so I shall have to go very very slowly and savour just a piece or two a day since I am now on a low-sugar diet. I used to finish the whole tube in two or three sittings, believe it or not.

These, also from Marks & Spencer…

…should be fine, not as sweet, I’m sure. Any with cheese are more often than not, savoury but my girl would love them a lot, I’m sure so I think I shall just leave them to her to enjoy.

Thank you so so so much to my thoughtful and generous friends from KL for remembering me and going through all that trouble to bring all the things over just for me. Hope you all had a delightful stay here, God bless & take care always.

Love comes from the most unexpected places…

I was in the house that morning when this…

…came via some courier service.

My girl was outside so she accepted it on my behalf from the guy. “It’s for you,” she said. I was kind of puzzled as I was not expecting anything – no, I did not go shopping online nor did I order any home delivery and I was not expecting anybody to send me anything either.

The name of the box was not familiar and for a while, I thought that somebody had sent me a few bottles of essence of chicken after reading my blogpost on it that day. The nature and shape of the box plus that FRAGILE sticker made me think of some glassware that was given to me free when I bought a few bottles of wine sometime ago.

I spotted in very fine print the email address of the sender so I knew who had sent it and seeing this…

…by the side of the box, I expected some nuts inside. “It’s from Aunty Mandy,” I told my girl, “and my guess is there are nuts that you can enjoy inside.”

Of course, she knows my very dear friend, Mandy, so very well. She was always there whenever we went over, never mind whether it was to KL, Penang or Sungai Petani. She would go out of her way to drive to where we were to make sure we were all right and to take us around. One Chinese New Year, when my girl could not come home for the celebration, she went all the way there to take her and a friend (from Sabah) out for dinner. Yes, she truly is a gem – precious and so very hard to find!

I opened the box and there was this note inside…

That was so very sweet and thoughtful of her, really, to remember and think of us during these difficult times. It has been so many years since we last saw her and I don’t know if we will ever meet again. Nonetheless, it is so very comforting to know that we are in her thoughts, always.

No, there weren’t any nuts nor essence of chicken. Instead, there were these bottles of sambal

…and when I shared the photo on Facebook, it drew quite a lot of responses. Obviously, a lot of people have tried and they all loved it a lot.

One will expire in November and the other two, in 2023, next year which means that I have ample time to sit down and enjoy them one by one slowly. Thank you so much, Mandy! Indeed, the best of all surprises would be one that is most unexpected and comes with lots of love.

One of these nights…

We shall drop by here for dinner one of these nights. Before the pandemic, we used to come here so very often, almost every time one of my in-laws was celebrating a birthday, for instance and everytime somebody came to town.

I did introduce the place to a lot of people and they all loved the food here. Needless to say, after that first time, they kept wanting to come back for more.

I cannot recall whether it was I who introduced the place to my friend/ex-student, Louis, but we did go there a number of times, including this one time way back in 2009 with my dear friend, Eng, all the way from Penang, ex-blogger Constance, from Melaka and another dear friend, Richard (the one who makes the most awesome nyonya chang every year)…

Well, Louis was there again the other night and he shared a few photographs of what they had on Facebook. There was my favourite, the butter scotch prawns…

…and they also had their own-made tofu that my girl loves a lot…

I do not remember ever having their or chio/ikan bawal hitam (black pomfret) but Louis had it, sweet and sour, that night…

All this while, there are always people having their steamed ikan tapah, Teochew style – that seems pretty popular as I often see people having that but looking back at my 2009 post, it seemed that we had that fish then served with some Portuguese sauce…

Yes, I remember that was very nice – I wonder if they still do it that way or not. I wouldn’t mind ordering it if they do.

Back to what Louis and company had that night, they also ordered this baby kailan dish with beef…

…and this one, the mixed vegetables…

There were seven of them and the total came up to only RM150. I thought that was very cheap compared to what I paid for the 6 dishes for 3 persons here and the servings that day were not this big some more plus we did not have fish!

Perhaps we shall drop by here for lunch because the place is not very big so physical distancing may be a problem as it tends to be very crowded round dinnertime and unlike at that other place, al fresco dining is not available here.

RUBY RESTAURANT  is located at No. 71, Jalan Kampung Nyabor right next to HOME COOK CORNER  (2.292756, 111.825335) with the AmBank Tunku Osman branch in the very next block.