Reciprocate…

My niece who’s working in Singapore will always make it a point to come back to Sibu specially for the birthdays of anyone in the family and she will always invite us to join in the celebration and everytime, the sweet girl will bring us “a little something” special from the island republic.

Well, this time around, it was on the occasion of her own birthday last Friday and to reciprocate, I asked her and her parents and also her good friend to join us for dinner here…

Dinner at Payung Cafe

…the following night, Saturday.

This isn’t really a fine dining place, more a casual, a very relaxing and comfortable place to hang out with very good service and really great food to enjoy.

Yes, there would always be fresh flowers…

Fresh flowers

…and pua kumbu (the tradition ethnic blanket) table cloth but we had something special that night – they gave us a sarong instead!

I would prefer some ethnic music (the traditional sape) or keroncong or perhaps some light Indian music (the sitar perhaps) which would be more in line with the lovely ambiance of the place but lately, it seems that they’ve been playing some covers of retro songs, acoustic versions usually and I quite enjoyed them though at times, I wished they would turn down the volume a little.

We had my girl’s favourite, their lamb masala and I asked for three servings of that (RM19.00 each, with rice) as usually they would have three chunks of meat in each so there would be enough for the 7 of us. We also had three servings of their butter chicken (RM18.00 with rice)…

Payung Cafe butter chicken

…and two servings of the pomelo salad (RM8.00 each)…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…but I only asked for one serving of their out-of-this-world belimbing prawns (RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns 1

…as I know the very nice and generous boss, Peter, would take it upon himself to cook this specialty of theirs for us himself and he would also give us a lot of prawns, definitely enough to go round and that night, he even picked the biggest ones…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns 2

…for us. When you get first class treatment like this, is it any wonder at all that we keep going back again and again?

We also brought our own gluten-free corn spirals and asked them to cook it for us and serve with their very nice beef bolognese sauce…

Gluten-free corn spirals with Payung's beef bolognese sauce
*niece’s photo on Facebook*

…but I only asked for two servings of the sauce (RM10.00 each) because it did not look like there was a lot in that packet of pasta until after it was cooked. It would be great if I had requested for three servings – that would be just nice, I think.

Peter, the boss, was most apologetic – he insisted it was overcooked and not al dente but I thought it was all right except that there wasn’t enough sauce and that wasn’t their fault but I did think they could have drained the pasta a little more so it would be completely dry at the bottom of the plate. Believe it or not, a few days later, he showed up at my door with four packs of the lovely beef bolognese sauce that he specially cooked himself for my girl to enjoy at home or in her school in the jungle with her own gluten-free pasta – of course, she was delighted. Isn’t that so very nice and sweet of him?

He also brought me this super awesome chicken in traditional Foochow red wine soup…

Chicken in traditional red wine soup from Peter

that I love so much and of course, I had mee sua

Mee sua

…the following morning on his birthday, following the Chinese lunar calendar. Thank you so much, Peter – you shouldn’t have gone through all that trouble. We truly were fine with everything that night.

Anyway, back to the dinner, I did not want to order those dishes that my niece had eaten before that night – I always had those for our dinners at home during Chinese New Year  and though I did not order a lot, there was more than enough to go round, so much, in fact, that we could not finish it all so we took one serving of the butter chicken home and gave the rest of the pasta, more than half of it to the staff to enjoy and it sure was a pleasant surprise when we were served this medley of ice cream…

Payung Cafe ice cream medley

– the flavours from left to right were durian, chocolate, peppermint and mango (quinee), a special treat for the birthday girls, my girl’s birthday was two days later. We were served glasses of drinking water without our asking for it and that prompted my niece’s friend, her first time here, to remark, “The service here is really very good!!!”

The total inclusive of drinks, came up to RM171.00, more or less the same as the dinner we had the previous night.

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

Now it’s your turn…

My cousin and her hubby from Brisbane, Australia, invited us to dinner here the following night after I had taken them for a Thai dinner here. Their son would be dropping by Sibu that day and would be joining us as well and of course, it was our pleasure to be a part of it all…

Dinner with cousin & family at New Capitol

They ordered the celebrated Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

New Capitol Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

…and their equally well-known fried kampua noodles…

New Capitol fried kampua mee

…and we had their just-as-popular chicken rice and the steamed chicken…

New Capitol steamed chicken

This was something like the best in Sibu in one sitting especially when they were here for a few days only and the son was here for just a couple of nights and we would not know when they would be dropping by again. To the most, they will probably come home just once a year.

We also had one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, their checkerboard duck…

New Capitol checkerboard duck

…which happens to be my girl’s favourite.

The corn soup…

New Capitol corn soup

…was very nice and so was the Thai/kerabu-style midin (wild jungle fern)…

New Capitol midin

The sesame spare ribs…

New Capitol spare ribs

…were good and their sweet and sour giant udang galah (freshwater prawns)…

New Capitol sweet & sour udang galah

…certainly were like no other sweet and sour dishes that we had had elsewhere and this one was truly a winner!

Yes, it was definitely a delightful get-together – there was so much to catch up when we are living so far apart and do not get to meet often. Thank you so much for the treat, Teresa & Richard – hope you had a pleasant stay and got to eat and enjoy a lot of the local delights, especially those favourites from days gone by. We sure are looking forward to the next time you all come to town again.

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.

This is for you…

My ex-student, Tham, shared on Facebook a photo of the serunding (meat floss, chicken)…

Serunding, chicken

…that he made and I pulled his leg saying, “You still know where my house is, right?” He did drop by once to give me the very nice butter cake from Mita Cake House in Kuching. The next thing I knew he was at my door, sending some of the very nice fruit of his labour for me to enjoy.

His better half, Daisy, also my ex-student, came with him and they had their baby boy with them too. They tied the knot in 2015 and I was at their wedding reception…and now, they have a two-month-old son already, may God bless them all abundantly in all that lie ahead.

They also brought me these…

Oregano 1

…from Daisy’s mum, a very nice lady, also a retired teacher like me. Those are a variety of oregano, so I was told…and this one with the white edges…

Oregano 2

…would be another variety, sweet majoram, I think this is called along with a whole lot of other names, and this one…

Oregano 3

…is probably the same as the latter though I’m not too sure. Daisy did rattle through all the related information but there was a bit too much for this somewhat slow and old brain to register. Hehehehehe!!! According to her, they are very easy to plant – just stick in the soil and that was exactly what I did. For one thing, like all those other herbs, these have a lot of health benefits as well.

She also gave me some mint…

Mint

…which I had before and it grew really well like this pot of daun pegaga (the gotu kola or the Asian pennywort)…

Daun pegaga

…of mine but it gradually withered away and eventually, it was gone. I hope I will be able to do a lot better with this one.

Talking about my daun pegaga, it sure looks really nice, so nice that I decided to move it to the front of the house beside the driveway. It also has a lot of health benefits and is a very common condiment for our ulam though for no obvious reason (other than the fact that we are too lazy to pound the sambal belacan), we hardly ever harvest any to eat.

This is another variety of daun pegaga, the one with a dot in the middle…

Water pennywort or dollar weed

the water pennywort, it is called and it grows rampantly wild in the drains around my house compound and ever so often, I would have to go on my hands and knees to pull them all out and get rid of them. One shop here planted them in pots and was marketing them as “money plants” – they look like coins, they said (and some people call it the dollar weed)! Well, I decided to do the same just for the fun of it in the hope that it will flourish and look as nice as the aforementioned daun pegaga.

Oh yes! Before I forget, thank you so much, Tham & Daisy and your mother-in-law/mum for the serunding and the herbs. Wish me luck with the latter! LOL!!!

Sweet Mary…

Gee!!! How time flies! It seemed like yesterday when we got together to celebrate her birthday and once again, we were invited to join the ever sweet, forever young and gorgeous Mary at her birthday bash this year…

Mary's birthday dinner 2018

Her authentic Thai chef, Jos, got her a birthday cake…

With Jos

– the very nice New York cheesecake from a leading hotel in town. I do think that their cheesecakes are second to none.

Jos and her counterpart, Su, did an excellent job in preparing the menu for the evening, starting with this very nice bihun with the lightly-fried golden eggs…

Bihun and eggs

…for longevity and prosperity and I so loved the soup…

Soup

…which was served in individual bowls. One was supposed to be for the guest sitting next to me but he showed up rather late by which time I had finished both bowls. Hehehehehe!!! As the English proverb goes, “it’s the early bird that catches the worm.”

For our vegetable dishes, there was this fried garlic chives with beef…

Asparagus with beef

…and the very very nice Thai young mango salad…

Mango salad

The fried chicken wings…

Chicken wings

…were very nicely done too, so very tender and juicy and the grilled barramundi…

Fish

…was absolutely superb too!

The giant udang galah (freshwater prawns)…

Prawns

…were so very big…

So big

…and absolutely out of this world and the HUGE lobster…

Lobster

…sure took everybody’s breath away.

I wonder if you’ve noticed that a few of the dishes were served on a bed of ulam raja leaves. Well, Mary proudly declared that they all came from her garden – the pot of seedlings I gave her on her birthday last year flourished and grew and are doing so well that these days, they do not need to buy any from the market anymore.

Happy birthday once again, Mary – it sure was a fun-filled and delightful evening and it was indeed an honour and our utmost pleasure to be able to join you and everybody that night, thank you so much for the invitation. May God bless you abundantly always, cheers!!!

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN (2.292836, 111.828287) is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

For me…

My friend contacted me the other day asking for my address as she wanted to send me some things.

I remember teaching two or three of her sisters before and I even visited her family home across river in the 80’s with my students at the time but I do not recall teaching her – maybe I didn’t.

Anyway, she passed me this can of corned beef…

Papua New Guinea corned beef

…to try, made in Papua New Guinea…

Made in Papua New Guinea

Her hubby works there, she said.

I checked the ingredients and it did say that there would be “traces of wheat”…

Ingredients

…so I guess my girl would not be able to eat it and I would have to wait till when she’s not at home before cooking it to see if it’s any good.

My friend also gave me this plant…

Snake plant

…from her garden. I guess this one is related to what they call the mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant. I did buy a pot once but it eventually withered away and died. No, not everything that I plant will flourish – I do have had quite a few disasters actually. It is claimed that this plant improves air quality. The optimal place to keep this relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance plant is the bedroom, because it converts CO2 into oxygen at night. I guess I will let it grow a bit bigger first before I do that – keep it in the bedroom or inside the house.

Thank you so much, Teresa – it is indeed most thoughtful and generous of you and thank you also for going through the trouble of sending them over to my house. I am indeed most obliged.

Mashup…

This post comprises a mashup of things that aren’t quite enough for separate posts on their own.

First and foremost, I must say thank you so so much once again to my very sweet and generous friend, Mary, for giving me these…

From Mary

…sets of easy-to-cook instant Thai delights. At this point in time, I am not sure when I will be using them to whip up those dishes yet – for one thing, I will have to go and buy some basic ingredients first but of course, when I do so, I will surely blog about it and give my true and honest review of the product.

In the meantime, I had some of those frozen beef balls in the freezer, Rambly’s, I think, and one morning, I took them out to cook my own version of the Indonesian bakso

Bakso 1

…using another packet of the noodles that I still had after cooking my Marmite mee that day.

There wasn’t much beef taste in the soup so I added a teaspoon of Marmite and a bit of salt and it turned out pretty nice. I also broke an egg into the boiling soup and the thinly sliced sawtooth coriander (刺芫荽 or ci yan sui/ketumbar Java) from my garden…

Bakso 2

…sure brought the taste to a whole new level.

Feeling inspired, I went and bought a packet of frozen minced beef to try and cook this same dish but it was disastrous. I think there was way too much fat in the beef so though it tasted all right, it turned out quite inedible and in the end, we just tried a bit and threw most of it away. One thing’s for sure, I will never buy those packets of minced beef sold at the supermarkets ever again. Once bitten, twice shy!

When we moved into our house in the late 80’s, the previous owner left a lot of plants behind, discarded, some in broken pots, others growing rampantly wild so we had to clear up the mess. However, we did save some that we could salvage and there was this one pot of aloe vera. You can read up on all the (health) benefits and uses of the plant here and according to this website, this is a plant used in the rituals against bad luck and envy, as it is said to be one of the strongest to fight against bad vibes. It is known for attracting prosperity and positive energy anywhere in the home where it is located. Many people believe that when the aloe vera plant grows…it is attracting good luck. If it fades, it is because it has absorbed the negative energies and has protected us.

The plant grew and multiplied in that one pot and I did transfer some into individual pots and they went on multiplying so I got some more pots for them. I have this very big one…

Aloe vera 1

…the mother plant, in my living room now and I took one to my girl’s quarters in her school in the jungle. For one thing, it is claimed that it is an air purifier and will absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen.

After all the repotting that I did, other than the big one in the house, I also have these four…

Alor vera 2

…and a few smaller ones as well. I sure wouldn’t mind giving them away, not all, of course, if anyone is interested.

Big fat momma…

I was driving along Jalan Kampung Nangka early that morning when an interesting banner caught my eye and of course, I simply had to stop to check it out.

I parked my car by the side of the road and walked to the stall…

Nasi Lemak Makcik Gemok stall

…and this very friendly and jovial lady…

Makcik Gemok

…came out. Her nasi lemak was selling for RM2.00 a packet…

Nasi Lemak Makcik Gemok bungkus

…and there was a salted fish…

Salted fish, egg, cucumber & sambal

…in it with a piece of omelette – no hard-boiled egg, no ikan bilis (dried anchovies) but there was a slice of cucumber and some peanuts…

Kacang

…as well.

The rice was not as lemak as I would like it, not quite like the one here but that one is now selling for RM3.00 and like the others that I had had, despite the tint of green, it did not have the fragrance of pandan…or maybe just a bit. I did like the texture of the rice though, not hard and dry like some and not too soft and soggy either, just right plus the sambal was really good, a bit spicy and very much to my liking.

You have the option to add something extra, if you want and that morning, the lady had this soy sauce chicken…

Ayam masak kicap

…and if I remember correctly, she said something like that would be RM2.00 a piece.

I took a snapshot of the chicken and she made a remark on that jokingly and that was when I asked her if I could take her photograph and she happily obliged so I took that one of her above. Then she suggested having another one taken of her beside her banner…

Makcik Gemok & banner

– actually, I was already planning to take a photo of that with the very cute caricature of her. I must say there is a very close resemblance, don’t you think? For one thing though, I really do not think she is a mak cik (auntie) – she certainly looks way too young to be one and as for the gemok bit, well, when it comes to gemuk-ness, she sure has a long way to go to catch up with me, the very sui tuapui (good looking fatty). LOL!!!

I sure would not mind dropping by to buy from her again – it always makes me feel good having a little small talk with such nice and pleasant people as and when the opportunity arises.

NASI LEMAK MAKCIK GEMOK (2.316525, 111.824230) is located at No. 75, Jalan Kampung Nangka, on the left if heading towards Sungai Antu and Sungai Merah, not far from the bend after which you get to the army camp, formerly the KD Sri Rejang base.