Flip it over…

In my previous post, I mentioned a certain ustaz (religious teacher) from Penang who used to sell roti canai and murtabak at a stall in front of the Bandong shops here in the morning but he has since left town and is no longer around. In the meantime, I noticed some boys setting up a stall in that same area at the so-called Bandong Walk (2.313880, 111.825717)…

Roti canai stall at Bandong Walk

– the area has been nicely upgraded and proper stalls have been constructed for those intending to do a little bit of business there.

These very nice and friendly boys from Johore will offer you a chair as soon as you have placed your order so you can sit comfortably and wait (like that lady in the above photograph), a far cry from those places where they make you stand in the hot sun and queue to pay them money for what you want. Outrageous, I must say, and I just cannot understand why there ARE people willing to subject themselves to such humiliation. Not me, never mind how good what they are selling may be!

This is the dough…

Roti canai dough

…all neatly-arranged in  a covered tray, ready to be used and this is the kuah dal (dhal gravy/dip)…

Kuah dal

…in a covered container.

These are the other ingredients…

Other ingredients

…that would go into your order should you be thus inclined, including the eggs for the roti telur and the sardines for the murtabak sardin.

I wanted two roti canai kosong (RM1.00 each) and two roti telur (RM2.00 each) and this young and handsome boy got down to work right away, spreading the dough…

Spreading the dough

…on the worktop and when it was good and ready, he lifted it up gently…

Ready to flip

…and started flipping it…

Flipping

…over and over again to make it thinner and broader.

Once done, he folded them into squares and placed them on the metal hot plate to cook…

Onto the hot plate

…flipping them regularly to make sure that they were all browned to perfection on both sides…

Cooked to perfection

Somebody did tell me once that she heard somebody saying that their roti canai was nicer than the ustaz‘s but I would beg to disagree. I did not think they were as nice and the dhal dip here was very much nicer but to give credit where credit is due, I was quite happy with what I bought.

I asked for their business hours and they told me they would open at around 6 or 7.00 a.m. till 11.00 a.m. and in the afternoon, they would be here – according to them, they are affiliated, the one and the same.

They also have these nasi lemak bungkus (RM1.00 each)…

Nasi lemak

…for sale so I bought two, one for me and one for my missus, to try. I would say they were all right, nothing to get excited about but for RM1.00 each, I see no cause for complaint. That…

Our simple lunch

…was a pretty good lunch we had that day.

The other end…

I think I’ve said this before – how I hate people telling others about something nice that they’ve eaten and they do not give the specific details or information so that they can go and try and enjoy too. Often, I would see people sharing a photograph of something that looks rather nice on Facebook and when somebody asks where they have eaten that, they would just give the name of the road or worse, the area. I just cannot understand why they bother sharing the photograph in the first place.

This was exactly what happened when I went looking for one and ended up at the wrong place. Somebody told somebody about what she ate somewhere that was very nice and that somebody told me about it and all the related information regarding the people and what not…but when it came to the coffee shop concerned, she just said she was told that it was in the block of shops at the other side of the Sibu Bus Terminal…

Sibu Bus Terminal

Yes, I do know that block of shops but there are at least 8 coffee shops altogether, or 7, as there is one that occupies two shoplots and I really do not see any difficulty at all in remembering and telling people the name of the shop…

Ak Kia Kopitiam 1

Ak Kia or duckling, in Hokkien but don’t ask me why it is thus named as I really do not know.

This time around, I did not have a problem as the nice guy at the wrong shop that I went to told me specifically which one it was – the one at the other end…

Ak Kia Kopitiam 2

…just around 100 metres from this hotel…

Li Hua Hotel II

– the very first shop in the block, if you are coming from that direction.

Yes, the person in question did say that the coffee was very nice and yes, indeed it was, the kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) that I had…

Ak Kia Kopitiam kampua kopi-o-peng

There is a kampua mee stall in the front portion of the shop…

Ak Kia Kopitiam kampua mee stall

…but we did not order anything from there as we went there for the sole purpose of trying what the person was praising to the skies, the KL Hokkien mee (RM5.50)…

AK Kia Kopitiam KL Hokkien mee 1

For the uninitiated, there is a difference between KL Hokkien mee and Singapore Hokkien fried mee and the Penang one which is actually the Penang prawn noodles or har mee like the one here that I particularly enjoy.

Like most, if not all, coffee shops in our town, they give you the spoons and chopsticks dipped in hot boiling water, the one here in a stainless steel canister, but unlike elsewhere, here, they gave us the sliced fresh chili and a bottle of the dark soy sauce for us to add ourselves…

Chili and soy sauce

The mee was the big, firmer one that one would find in KL Hokkien mee over in the peninsula , not the regular not-so-yellow noodles that we have here and yes, there were the crusts from the melted pork fat…or pork rind…

Pork rind

…and there were some tiny shrimps in it too…

Shrimps

…other than the meat and the cabbage.

So what did I think of it? Well, I must say it…

Ak Kia Kopitiam KL Hokkien mee 2

…was nicer than what I had here (cooked by some guy from Penang) or here though I did think it could do with a little stronger wok hei fragrance and maybe a little bit more garlic…and perhaps they could simmer it a little bit more to reduce the amount of gravy/sauce and make it thicker.

I would agree with my missus when she said that it was very nice but at the end of the day, she would still enjoy our own Foochow fried noodles a lot more…which, incidentally, is comparatively cheaper.

Much to my surprise…

This was last Saturday night, the evening before Father’s Day.

Actually, we were planning to go to that new Thai place after the sunset service in church – my girl wanted to check it out and at the same time, give me a special dinner treat that night. We could not do it on the actual day, Sunday, as I would have sent her back to her school in the jungle before classes resumed the very next day. However, it was raining that night and the air-conditioning was extra cold and my girl, who is not so well-insulated like me, felt somewhat unwell by the time the service ended so we had to head straight home.

It so happened then that coincidentally, I got an unexpected call from Peter, the boss of Payung Café, asking me to drop by to collect some things that he had cooked and packed nicely for me to take home and enjoy. That sure was a pleasant surprise! I thought it would be some new dish that he had created, nothing really substantial, nothing to get excited about but boy, how wrong could I be!

There was salmon…

Salmon from Payung Cafe 1

…two thick slabs of it…

Salmon from Payung Cafe 2

…with the special dip for it…

Dip for salmon

…but it was good on its own so we did not really need that.

No, that wasn’t all! There was also the salad…

Salad from Payung Cafe

…celery, tomato and sliced Bombay onions on one side and potatoes and egg on the other and the dressing that came with it was so very nice as well.

As if those weren’t quite enough, there were also these delightful wedges…

Potato wedges from Payung

I could not really figure out what went into the cooking but my guess was there was garlic and a lot of herbs. They tasted really good and I did mention to Peter that he should add it to their menu – that should go down well with the regulars, I’m sure…plus it would be something parents could order for their kids to enjoy.

That sure was a lot for the three of us – we only managed to finish one slab of the salmon and had to save the other for the next day and there was at least half of the salad left as well. Of course, we did not get the nice plating that they had at their café, he and his staff that night…

Salmon platter at Payung Cafe 1
*Karan’s photo on Facebook*

They’re really so creative and I do feel that such nice presentations sure go a long way in making something taste a whole lot better…

Salmon Platter at Payung Cafe 2
*Karan’s photo on Facebook*

I wonder if they are going to have this as a permanent feature in their menu – that big platter would be enough for 4 or more, at least, I think.

That was indeed a pleasant surprise, a truly delightful dinner and an unexpected Father’s Day treat, thank you so very much, Peter.

Goodbye and hello…

My girl had planned to go to Korea (Busan and Jeju) with her colleague and her colleague’s friends since last year and they started making the air ticket and hotel bookings way back in January…and she specially wanted to take her mum along seeing how she is so hooked on those Korean dramas and Korean food which explains the ever ready supply of kim chi in all those jars in our fridge at home. Thank goodness she is not into K-pop – well, for that matter, she is not really into any kind of music and songs…and no, I am no fan of kim chi or anything Korean and I had heard of people going on their own and all that walking and climbing and running here and there to visit all the attractions…and losing weight more from the lack of nice (and affordable) food than all that exercise –  no, thank you!

They were leaving that very same day when I was flying off to Kuching for my nephew’s wedding. I had booked my ticket on the evening flight at 6.30 p.m. just so we could go to the Sibu Airport together…

At Sibu Airport

…and I would be able to say goodbye to them and wish them well – they departed earlier at around 3.

Once they had left, I dropped by here…

Sugar Bun, Sibu Airport

We had noodles for brunch that morning, no lunch and with  3½ hours to kill, I decided to do what I do best – eat!

The fish fillet…

Sugar Bun fish fillet 1

…seemed to have shrunk by at least one-third and I prefer the coarser bread crumb coating they used to have before. This one came across like one of those fish fillet sold in boxes at the supermarkets in town. Well, if it was any consolation, I thought it was all right…

Sugar Bun fish fillet 2

…and so was the broasted chicken…

Sugar Bun broasted chicken

…that came in the plate along with the pickles…

Sugar Bun pickles

…and the savoury rice…

Sugar Bun savoury rice

…but I thought RM16.50 for that plus one free drink was somewhat on the high side.

I went for one round on one of those Rest & Go massage chairs, 30 minutes and I did go online on my laptop to reply to some comments on my blogpost that day…but no, I don’t think there is free wifi at the airport – I had brought my girl’s wireless modem (that she uses in the jungle to go online) along. Then I went outside for a bit of fresh air a few times and I walked around – really, time does seem to stand still when you’re waiting! It actually seemed like forever, going by so so slowly…so to kill time, I decided to check this place…

Aero Kopitiam

…out.

It’s a nice small eatery…

Aero Kopitiam counter

…right beside the arrival gate and these are the things on their menu…

Aero Kopitiam menu

I had a glass of pretty decent kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) and this plate of mee goreng (fried noodles)…

Aero Kopitiam mee goreng

…which was all right too – more or less what one would get when eating at many Malay shops and stalls in town, nothing really to shout about but at RM9.00 for the drink and the mee, I thought that would be a much more preferred choice should you be at the airport in Sibu and are hungry and looking for a bite to tide you over till the next meal. Something there smells really nice – I had noticed that every time I landed and was walking out of the airport but I never did go and check. Maybe it was the dishes for their nasi campur…but it sure would not be the mee, that much I can say.

If you would like something lighter, maybe this snack shop…

HS enroute cafe

…would be an option or maybe you can pick up something from the convenience store…

Sibu airport convenience store

…but I did check out their Walls’ Magnum ice cream once though and I found that the prices were a lot higher than what you would need to fork out at the shops and supermarkets in town.

There is another café…

Sibu Airport departure lounge

…in the departure lounge and a convenience store beside it. I learnt something that day – one can’t take nice photos while shakin’ all over sitting in a massage chair. Yes, I had another round of that – 30 minutes…before I boarded the plane and flew over to Kuching.

The Air Asia flight was on time, a little early, in fact and a cousin of mine was there waiting for me to take me to my uncle’s house – he was hosting a pot luck party, all the aunties and cousins in Kuching bringing something and all those of us from out of town were invited. Hello, everybody!!!

There was this kaki babi pansuh (pork leg cooked in bamboo)…

Kaki babi pansuh

…and this attempt by my cousin at cooking Foochow fried noodles…

Cousin's fried noodles

…which was not quite there but very nice, much nicer than the real thing at some of the shops in town here, I would say…and I think she made this salad too…

Cousin's salad

…and somebody brought this roast chicken and duck combo…

Roast chicken & duck combo

…and there was suckling piglet, babi masak hitam, chang (dumplings) and so on and so forth but unfortunately, most of the photographs came out blur.

Gosh!!! There was so much food, all over the tables all over the house that I was wishing I had starved and saved all my tummy space while waiting for my flight at Sibu Airport. Thank you so very much, everybody. It sure was nice to see everyone again and what can be better than a happy get-together with so many of one’s much loved and dear ones all at once. We really should do this a lot more often…

Bag full of money…

No, no…I am not talking about my bag, unfortunately, but that is the name of this place

Wang Full Kuching

– Wang Full, wang meaning money in our Malay language…and it actually reminded me of this movie – I loved the songs in it! LOL!!!

That morning, seeing that the popular Kuching laksa place in the city was closed and we had no intention of going over to Anthony Bourdain’s favourite where the crowd, I heard, was spilling over onto the road, my cousin took me here instead.

There is a kolo mee stall…

Wang Full kolo mee stall

…but we did not order anything from there.

We did have something from the kueh chap stall…

Wang Full kueh chap stall

…though and yes, it was very nice…

Wang Full kueh chap

…no smell at all, unlike what I had here once but I do think the one we have here in Sibu has an edge over this one plus I am not all that fond of those slices of whatever with the hard white thing – if I am not wrong, those are the ears, anybody cares to enlighten me on this?

Of course we ordered the Kuching laksa from the stall there…

Wang Full Kuching laksa stall

…and it sure did look good…

Wang Full Kuching laksa 1

…and I guess this was the large, RM6.00 only with all those big prawns…

Wang Full Kuching laksa 2

…unlike those at some places in Sibu.

I read a review complaining about the level of msg but no, I did not feel a thing and these days especially, since I have been staying off the stuff at home, I am ultra-sensitive to that white stuff and any lingering taste of it after eating something outside would put me off instantly…but this one was fine, very nice, no problem at all. The chicken feet/claws seemed mighty popular but no, none for me, thank you very much.

For one thing, I really liked the very nice and friendly lady at the laksa stall, a far cry from some of the grumpy, not-at-all-friendly ones especially at those very popular shops here, there and everywhere. With people like that, I would much sooner go and eat elsewhere, never mind that I would have to settle for something a little less. I would not give any of my money, the little that I have, to anybody who treats people like dirt…and I just cannot understand why people are more than willing to put up with this kind of disrespectful attitude.

For you for me…

I was looking for a shop in Padungan, Kuching that used to look really old and dark with a counter in front with all the stuff for sale and a man, not very young, who was always shirtless or wearing a pagoda singlet. My parents loved the phong peah from that shop in particular and my mum enjoyed their kee chang (alkaline glutinous rice dumpling) so I wanted to buy some to take home for them.

Then, I found it!!!…

Sin Hian Chia, Kuching

It looked completely different from what I was familiar with in those long gone days. In fact, I hear it is now a pit stop for tourists visiting Kuching – the buses would stop here for them to buy what they want to take home…

Sin Hian Chia

When I was there, I saw a guy and some family members of his, probably from Singapore – they bought so much that the helper had to go next door to ask for a carton box for them to use to carry the things so I had to wait quite a bit for them to be done before I could pay for my purchases.

I would not have known that THIS was the shop if not for these…

Kee chang & ang tao chang

– the kee chang and the ang tao chang (red bean dumplings) except that I was quite put off upon seeing that they now use those nylon strings instead of thread to tie them. I am not too sure as to how safe it is to boil the dumplings tied with those strings…but nonetheless, I decided that I would make an exception this one time since we cannot get any nice ones in Sibu and I bought some to take back home for my mum.

I did ask the lady in order to confirm that this was the right shop and when she heard my description, she exclaimed, “Aiyor!!! Lu kui chap nee to bor lai liao?” (How many decades have you not come here?) Once I was sure I was at the right place, I bought the phong peah

Phong peah

…for my parents and I also bought these tubs of lek tao kor

Lek tao kor

…which was very good but more expensive and not as nice as the ones in Sibu that we bought for Chinese New Year – these were a bit sweeter but on the whole, I thought they were good enough, not bad at all. After all, beggars can’t be choosers – this traditional delight is very hard to come by these days, especially the really good authentic ones.

There were people who bought things me for as well when I was in Kuching and that included Nicholas’ aunt, my cousin, who flew over all the way from Brisbane, Australia to attend the wedding. She gave me a very nice XXXL t-shirt which fitted me like a glove and these…

Tim Tam strawberry champagne flavour

…which were very nice with the distinct strawberry fragrance plus a little bit of liquor taste.

With the Dumpling Festival just round the corner, I went with one of my cousins in search of nyonya changs to buy and take home but unfortunately, the Green Road old lady selling my favourite was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it was because it was a public holiday that day or she had not resumed business since the Gawai Festival…or she had taken the time off during the 2-week school holidays…or she had a whole lot of orders and she was too busy at home making those dumplings.

In the end, my cousin stopped by here to buy some of theirs for me to try. No, theirs were not nyonya but the big ones with the sweet or nee (yam paste)…

Or nee

…tasted a little like it.

My! My! There was so much meat inside…

Lots of meat

…and it’s all lean. Actually, I do like a bit of fat in my Chinese dumplings…and I do love salted egg…

Salted egg

…in them.

The small ones just had the meat and a whole lot of peanuts…

Peanuts

…in them. I heard somewhere that these dumplings with peanuts are the Hakka version. Anybody in the know can confirm this? For one thing, I do know for a fact that there were a lot of Hakkas in Kuching before the Foochows invaded the city. Hehehehehe!!!!

Another cousin got me these special homemade ones…

Homemade

…with lots of meat and chestnuts…

Meat & chestnuts

…and salted egg too…

Salted egg

…and I liked how they were tied with thread…

Thread

…not those plastic nylon strings.

Yes, they were all very nice and yes, I sure had a lot of changs this year to enjoy over the Dumpling Festival season but my favourite would still be the nyonya ones…and thanks to my friend, Richard, I did get to enjoy those this year and I had a few stashed up, saving them for the actual day.

For old times’ sake…

When I was in Kuching for my nephew’s wedding, I took the opportunity to walk around the area around the hotel where I was staying…for old times’ sake.

This hotel…

Riverside Majestic Hotel, Kuching

…where I’ve stayed before a few times, is located right across the road from mine in what was called “The Golden Triangle” of the city. The Hilton, where my nephew’s grand wedding reception was held, is right behind it (with Tune Hotel right across the road) and the Pullman’s a stone’s throw away. There is a shopping mall adjoining this hotel but I did not manage to go and check it out.

I did drop by here…

Sarawak Plaza, Kuching

…though – the Sarawak Plaza and it actually looked kind of sad, nothing like what it used to be. I guess most would flock to the very much bigger and more impressive malls in other parts of the city  plus maybe it was because of the Gawai and the public holiday that weekend so there was hardly any life there…except at the fast food franchise outlets by the side to the extreme right. If anyone is interested, yes, that eat-all-you-can Hartz chicken buffet place is still there on the lower ground floor but I did  not bother going down to check their current prices.

Well, having said all that, believe it or not, I actually managed to buy something from the gift shop there – these cuties…

Luggage tags from the Sarawak Plaza Kuching

I thought they were so cute and simply could not resist grabbing a few to take home. I wish they had not missed out the apostrophe though. Sigh!!!

Things weren’t much better at this Tun Jugah mall…

Tun Jugah, Kuching

…opposite. The hair salon was packed, probably because it was the weekend and a public holiday but other than that, there was hardly anybody except for a sprinkling at the bookstore and the food gallery…

Tun Jugah, food gallery 1

Maybe it was that time of the year – even this favourite Sarawak/Kuching laksa place…

Chong Choon, Kuching

…that some insist is the best in the city, nicer than Anthony Bourdain’s favourite, was closed so there were only two or three stalls open at the food gallery…or maybe on any other day, there are only those few, I wouldn’t know. I used to enjoy some of what they had here a long time ago but this time around, I did not see anything that would be worth wasting my calories on. There were some employees at the stalls, chatting away and none of them paid me any attention when I was walking around. Why, they did not even bother to clear the tables…

Tun Jugah, Kuching food galelry 2

…where there were customers earlier! They have done up the place very nicely so it was kind of sad to see how things have changed, so different from how busy it was, the way it used to be.

This is another hotel a little up the road…

Abell Hotel, Kuching

…of that same name, the name of the 3rd Governor of Sarawak during those colonial times. It is newer than those established ones around but I have never stayed there before so I do not know how good it is. I used to love going to that eatery on the ground floor when it was at its former location a long time ago but I have not been there since they moved here.

There used to be a cinema, the Capitol, here – since demolished, and at the block of shops right beside it, there was one…

Chicken rice shop

…that was so very popular for its chicken rice. They told me that the current people are not the ones who were there before – the original people have moved to a shop towards the other end of this same block but I did not notice it when I was walking around that morning.

However, I do know for a fact that the people at this barbecue meat place…

BBQ specialist, Kuching 1

…were formerly the celebrated ones at the shop across the  road from the Capitol and the Odeon Cinema was right beside it. They are here now…

BBQ specialist, Kuching 2

…still enjoying brisk business and so is that “tim sam” place next door. The latter used to be beside the Pavilion, facing the Kuching General Post Office – both of which are beautiful buildings of colonial architecture. Personally, I am no fan of their pao, sio bee and har kao (that’s all they have, just these three things) but obviously, everybody else does not agree with me for the place was packed to the brim, as always, that morning.

A short distance away is this totem pole…

Totem pole, Padungan

…with what looks like Fort Magherita on top and yes, there are more cats here – you will get to see lots all over the city.

I went along the road and took a shortcut through one of the small lanes to that Sarawak laksa place that I have mentioned earlier and since it was closed, I moved on from there to this hotel…

Longhouse Hotel Kuching

…a short distance away. This used to be one of the leading hotels in town alongside the Aurora (now Merdeka Palace) and the Borneo Hotel but today, it is a pale shadow of its old self. My friends used to work at the coffee house there, now a coffee shop, and I used to hang out there with them. On Saturdays in the mid-70’s, there would be a live band performing and needless to say, I would be there rockin’ and rollin’ the night away.

Going round the corner, I spotted this hotel…

Padungan Hotel Kuching

I am pretty sure there was a bank here. I don’t think it was the HSBC – I think it was the OCBC. Can somebody in the know confirm this, please? What I do remember vividly is that there was a man who would set up his stall at the corner in front every night, selling char kway teow and we would walk over from the hotel regularly to buy, “Char kway teow gor kak, kway teow chay chay, nui chay chay, taugeh chay chay!!!” (fried flat rice noodles 50 sen, lots of the noodles, lots of egg and lots of bean sprouts) Yes, it was only 50 sen then, believe it or not and no, the guy knew us very well so he would just laugh it off everytime we said that.

I did walk further in search of one particular shop but that would be in tomorrow’s post…and if you go around the area behind that plaza in the 2nd photograph above, you will get some nice views of the Sarawak River like the ones in my earlier posts here or here and you may even get to see these colourful fishing boats…

Kuching, fishing boats

…at the wharf where the ill-fated MV Rajah Mas and Pulau Kidjang used to berth a long long time ago. I used to come to Kuching then using the former (I never did go on the latter) for only RM10.00, deck fare…but unfortunately, there is no way I can do that all over again…for old times’ sake.