Sing my heart out…

These days, they have live streaming at this karaoke pub in London and yes, I’ve been watching week after week without fail even though I would not say the singers are all that good. LOL!!!

Why do I bother to watch then, you may ask? Well, I love singing and I’ve always enjoyed karaoke…

To me, it’s a whole lot of fun even if one’s singing ain’t that great and I do derive a bit of enjoyment from just watching it. For one thing, it brings back fond memories of those wonderful nights at the pubs when I was in Plymouth, England in the autumn of 1994.

I did not venture out at night the first month I was there but I did go around in the daytime, weekends especially, to familiarise myself with the place and I saw that they had karaoke once a week on Monday nights at Bruno’s Bar, a small, dark and unimpressive pub right beside the Prince Regent…

…at one end of Union Street, Plymouth’s red light district, I was told.

Sometime in my 2nd month there, I finally made my way there and sang my heart out, my first time in the UK! The song I picked was this one and I was delighted that they had an excellent karaoke sound system and those Pioneer karaoke laser discs that I liked a lot. The video clips are great and the music is exactly like the original songs so if you can sing the originals, you would be able to sing to what they have on those discs. Besides, I used to frequent a pub in Sibu – they did not have the discs but they had the tracks on video tapes…and I knew exactly whether they would need to lower the key or make it higher and by how much, if necessary.

So how did my debut appearance go? Well, I must say that they were stunned! Obviously, they never had an Asian in their midst before, much less one who would go up on stage and sing…and the deejay said that he expected me to sound something like this – and he started speaking like Peter Sellers as a Chinese character or one of those in the popular TV series, “Mind your language”. Since then, there was no turning back and I was there every Monday, week after week until it was time for me to pack my bags and leave and come home.

I also found out that the mobile karaoke guys would be here at The Good Companion…

…along Mayflower Street (I read somewhere that it has been demolished already) on Wednesday nights and of course, eventually, I made my way there too and it became my routine, going to sing my heart out twice a week. The crowd here was younger and they told me it was because the Plymouth University was close by so they would get a lot of international students from Russia and places in Europe at the pub.

Beer was only a £ a pint there and the exchange rate at the time was RM3.50 to £1, so cheap. Back home in Sibu then, I would have to fork out around RM10.00 or more for a mug of draught beer. This may come as a surprise to many – they did not open till late over there, believe it or not – singing started at 9.00 p.m. and ended by 11.00 p.m.

They had very good singers there, not like the ones in the aforementioned live streaming. There was a guy, Tony, who would sing “Mandy” without fail and a very young plus-sized girl would sing Sinead O’ Connor. I never got to know them personally though, never got to know their names but ever so often, I would meet some young people in the city centre and they would all be calling my name and waving at me and I could jolly well guess that they were “my friends” from the pubs.

My final night was at The Good Companion and the deejay announced that I was leaving and he did not think they would ever have anybody like me coming their way again. This was the last song I sang and everyone took out their lighters (no, they did not have handphones then) and waved the little flame in the air – I was so so touched, to say the least. Sadly, all I have left left now are the beautiful memories at Bruno’s and the Good Companion but one thing’s for sure – they are forever cherished and will always live on in my hearts.

Going back to the live streaming, they also have this one from a place called Two Friends at Key West – if I am not mistaken, that is in Florida in the US. They seem to have better singers there and they sure do have a lot of fun too. Too bad they did not have this when I was in Plymouth – the folks back home would be able to watch me singing live on Youtube. That would have been a blast!!!

In the blink of an eye…

This is the last in a series of blogposts on my weekend trip to London in November, 1994. Indeed, it was a whirlwind visit, just over one weekend and it was over in the blink of an eye.

When we got up on Friday morning after our first night at the Malaysia House, the first thing we all did was to head downstairs to the basement for a truly Malaysian breakfast at the canteen there. Needless to say, after around two months in the UK, the nasi lemak tasted like heaven, absolutely something to die for!

I heard the others talking about waiting for some big shot to show up, the guy in charge of the Malaysian students in the UK. I don’t know if he was the ambassador or something but they said he managed the Malaysia House where we were staying. Of course, I had no intention of doing that so I went outside, giving the rest the impression that I was just going out for a bit of fresh air.

I walked to Regent Street and hopped on a double decker tour bus…

…and climbed on top and sat there in the open air and went on a tour of all the places of interest in the city.

I saw all of them – the Tower Bridge…

…Trafalgar Square, Westminister Abbey and all the rest. We even went past No. 10, Downing Street and Hard Rock Cafe, London too!

Actually, this was a hop on hop off bus and I could get off anywhere I liked to take photographs and get on the next one that came along but those were the days before the smartphone and selfies were unheard of…and I jolly well would not want to take photos without me in them for remembrance, just snapshots of sceneries – I might as well go and buy some postcards if I wanted those.

I ended the tour at Piccadilly Circus – that was where I stopped by a booking agent’s office and bought the tickets to the two musicals that I watched in a day that weekend in London. I also stopped by Planet Hollywood, London and bought a t-shirt from there – of course, I was the envy of all who saw me using it when I came back to Malaysia but personally, I preferred this cheap one…

…that I bought at a roadside stall at Regent Street.

Before I left the vicinity, I went to see what they had at The Rock Circus, the pop music spin-off of Madame Tussaud’s there. I sure enjoyed myself very much especially how when I walked near an exhibit…

…I would hear the popular songs by that singer or singers

…or groups.

After I was done there, I walked to Soho/Chinatown which people said was the red light district of London. No, I did not see anything (s)exciting at all or maybe I was not looking in all the right places. The only interesting thing that I stumbled upon there was an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for only £2 at a Chinese restaurant. That was cheap and of course, I walked right in!

Unfortunately, what they were serving was most disappointing – what we call the F4 dinners at school parties. For the uninitiated, F4 was a very popular Taiwanese boy band at one time and an F4 dinner would have 4 choices – Fried rice, Fried noodles, Fried bihun and Fried kway teow but they did not have that last one, just another noodle dish instead and they called it Singapore Fried noodles. The difference was that those noodle dishes that we had at the school parties were quite nice but no, I would not say the same about these that I had in London for want of a whole lot of ingredients. They were all so bland, absolutely tasteless, so much so that I suspected they did not add any salt or msg even.

Thankfully, there was another option – fried chicken wings and of course, I feasted on those to eat my fill and get my money’s worth. I don’t remember anything else that transpired that day. I probably went back to my room at the Malaysia House and had an early night – I did not get to sleep the whole night the night before all the way in the coach from Plymouth to London.

The next morning, I sneaked off again and made my way to Madame Tussaud’s which actually was not very far away, walking distance. When I got there, I was shocked to see the queue…

…but thankfully, they were very fast and the line was moving the whole time! In no time at all, I was already inside the building where I met the Royal Family…

…and a whole lot of famous people and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor…

…and all the rest. Personally, because I am more into music, I actually enjoyed The Rock Circus that I went to the day before more.

I went to watch the two musicals that afternoon and night and the next morning, I chanced upon a sexy model in her lingerie along Regent or was it Oxford Street and before I knew it, we were in the coach once more, on our way back to Plymouth. I guess it wasn’t much, really but at least, I’ve been to London – been there, done that! THE END.

Two in one…

I did blog about this before, briefly, but never mind – I don’t think I included all the juicy bits then! LOL!!!

Back to my weekend in London, England, 1994, on my first day there, Friday, I was in the vicinity of the Piccadilly Circus when I spotted a booking agent’s office among the shops close by. I approached the guy there quickly and asked for a ticket to Miss Saigon, the matinee the following day, Saturday. I was not all that keen on venturing out alone at night in a strange land. He said that would not be a problem at all and he collected £25 from me after which he told me that I would have to go back there the next day to collect it.

I went back the next day but he said that he could not get the ticket for the matinee, only for the show that night but he was willing to refund me the money. No, my mind was made up – Miss Saigon, I wanted to see so Miss Saigon I would get to see! I took the ticket from him and walked away.

Then, I turned and went back to the booking agent and asked him if there was any other show that I could watch since I had the afternoon free.

What do you have on mind?” he asked.

Phantom?” I replied and he burst out laughing, so amused by my response.

Come back next year!” he said.

He told me he had a ticket for Grease at the Dominion Theatre, not far away from where we were. walking distance and the show was about to start. He would give it to me at face value, £28.50 and yes, I took the offer. The next minute, I was on my way to the theatre – the guy walked with me most of the way to make sure I would not get lost and would get there in time.

There I was, seated so near to the stage…

…when I started having second thoughts. What was I doing there? I had watched the movie so many times in the cinema and on video tape and I knew all the songs. The exchange rate was only RM3.50 to a £ at the time – still, that came up to RM99.75 for the ticket but as soon as the show started, whatever reservation I had disappeared into thin air.

It sure was a fun show – everyone was clapping, cheering, singing and dancing away and of course, I happily joined in. This was the first musical I had watched in my entire life and it sure was an unforgettable experience! What I did not know then – I found out much later while browsing online – was that Debbie Gibson was playing the part of Sandy! Those of you who are familiar of the pop songs of the 80’s would probably know her big hit, Lost in your eyes.

It was dark already when I came out of the theatre – it was late autumn, coming to winter so it got dark very quickly. I had to rush back to Malaysia House (where we were staying) to bathe and change and head to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for Miss Saigon

…that same night.

As I was walking, a car pulled up by the side of the road right beside me. I saw a lady at the wheel and I thought it was one of those in our group. Probably she had been to see her relatives or friends residing in London and had borrowed a car and wanted to give me a lift. I approached the car, passenger side and the lady screened down the window. She was not very young, definitely no spring chicken, all dressed up in a fur coat.

I need company!” she cooed, seductively.

No, thank you!” I fumbled with my reply and quickly turned and went on my way as fast as I could. In my panic, I took the wrong turning at the junction ahead but luckily, I realised it soon enough so I went back the way I came and finally, got to Malaysia House, safe and sound. Phew!!!

In no time at all, I was on my way to the theatre and yes, I made it in ample time before the show started. There I was, perched high up in the gallery – we were given binoculars but I did not bother to use them and yes, I enjoyed it tremendously!

It was an epic drama…

…and I loved every minute of it right from the moment it started. I loved all the songs and luckily, I did not know them at the time so I was not singing my heart out – I would probably have done that if I had gone to see The Phantom. No, it wasn’t Lea Salonga anymore, playing the part of Kim but if I am not wrong, John Barrowman was Chris at the time. Anyway, I wouldn’t know him even if I knew it was him then. I only got to know him much later via Youtube.

When it came to the part when Kim had to say goodbye to her son, suddenly I missed my little girl back home in Sibu and the dam burst and I cried buckets!!! The young girl sitting beside me must be wondering why but at that parting scene where Kim shot herself and Chris came back into the house and they said their last goodbye, I saw the girl crying her eyeballs out! My friend in Auckland, New Zealand went to watch when the musical opened there and after she saw it, she grumbled that I did not tell her it was so so so sad. I guess she too cried her heart out! LOL!!!

It was already past 11 after the show ended and this “Cinderella” had to rush back to Malaysia House before they locked the door at midnight. Luckily, the couple behind me helped me and got me my ticket for the London Underground (I paid them, of course) – the machine rejected all the British currency I had with me! Yes, I made it just in time (many could not believe I had never been to London before seeing how I could get around without any problem whatsoever) and that was indeed a truly memorable day, one that I will never ever forget – TWO musicals in ONE day, believe it or not!

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in watching Miss Saigon, you can try these links in two parts, Part One and Part Two, on Youtube or you can try this link, for the better and clearer production than any you can find on Youtube, with Eva Noblezada as Kim and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi in the 25th Anniversary Gala Performance at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. Do make sure you have a box of tissue paper beside you and don’t say I did not warn you!

Streets of London…

In my blogpost the other day on that time in 1994 when I went to Plymouth, England, I did mention that one weekend when we were there, we managed to make a short trip to London. I don’t know about the rest but I sure had a great time and did a whole lot of interesting things there – I’m sure if I were to talk about all of them, it would stretch over a number of posts. Therefore, so as not to bore everyone to death, I shall do it a little at a time, in small doses and if there is some show of interest, I shall blog about some other things that happened during my brief weekend there.

This was on the morning of our final day in London, Sunday. We had the whole morning to ourselves before we boarded the coach to make our way back to Plymouth and everyone in the group wanted to walk from Malaysia House (where we were staying) to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards. I did not want to go as I was not really into things touristy and besides, it was already towards the end of November and the weather was getting cold so the guards would be dressed in their long and dull grey trench coats over their striking red uniforms so I did not think it would be a sight to behold.

Another guy in our group, Su, from Pahang did not want to go either so we went strolling along the streets of London together. I think it was somewhere along Regent or Oxford Street that we saw a caravan parked right in the middle of the road…

…and much to our delight, ooooopsss…I mean, surprise, a beautiful, curvaceous, sexy model dressed only in her lingerie emerged from it!

Some people were having a photoshoot that morning and the caravan was used by the model as her changing room. Very soon, a crowd gathered all around and I was rather amused to hear them trying to guess the colour of the lingerie the model would be wearing each time she came out of the caravan…

…and of course, there were people taking photographs of the model as well.

Those were the days before the smartphone so not that many people had a camera with them for them to do that. Luckily, Su and I had ours with us and of course, we happily clicked away…

As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them!

When the group came back from Buckingham Palace, we told them what we saw – the changing of the guards, a different kind of “guards”, not the ones at the palace that they saw and of course, when we had the film developed and the photographs printed, we could not wait to show them to the guys so they could see what they missed.

Now, anybody wants to hear about that evening when a lady dressed in a fur coat stopped her car by the side of the road while I was walking back to Malaysia House and tried to pick me up? LOL!!!

1994…

In September that year, I was sent by the ministry on a 3-month “Management in TESL” course in the UK, the representative from Sarawak, together with the rest, one from each state, and an officer from the ministry

Upon arrival at Heathrow, we boarded a coach that took us all the way to Marjons, now the University College of St Mark & St John, Plymouth where we were put up in this very nice and comfortable accommodation in what they called a house…

…in the campus proper, five of us in each unit and we had a room each.

No, it wasn’t an all-paid-for holiday – there were lectures to attend, lots of assignments to do and a major one to be submitted and accessed at the end, presentations and what have you. They even had an external examiner come in from the University of Exeter and I was immensely delighted to receive his commendation of excellence out of so many of us in the group.

We did sneak off to London one weekend; imagine going all the way to the UK and coming home without even stepping in the city. I’m quite sure I did blog about it but I can’t seem to find the post now. Never mind! Perhaps I shall do another one some other day.

Other than that, on some of the weekends there, my coursemates and I would board a bus or rent a car to go to places close by, like Bristol and Bath…

…for instance, Warwick, Birmingham, St Ives, Land’s End and yes, I was glad we did make it to Stratford-Upon-Avon…

…especially when I was not just an English Language teacher but I also taught English Literature before I retired and yes, I did manage to drop by Oxford too.

Some weeks, on Fridays, after we were through with the lectures or whatever we had for the day, one of the lecturers or a member of the staff would pack us all into the college coaster to take us to some places of interest close by. Of course, the highlight was the one when we were taken to Sheepstor in Devon where the resting places of the White Rajahs of Sarawak are…

…and needless to say, I wasted no time at all in leaving my “footprint”…

…there.

As they say, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and yes, we did have a bit of fun dancing on a Saturday night at the Students’ Union and we organised a gathering where some of us cooked a few Malaysian dishes for everybody to enjoy – I proudly presented our Sarawak’s own daging masak hitam that everyone praised to the skies but I had to use the halal chicken from the continental shop in the city instead of beef (there were Indians with us) and I boiled a few eggs and threw them in (like those stewed eggs in stewed pork leg) to make sure there would be enough to go round and we had a sing-along session, with the lecturers playing their guitars, after that and yes, I had so much fun and such great memories with the mobile karaoke guys and the regulars at the pubs in the city on some nights. I bet they never had anybody like me coming their way since.

Towards the end of the course, around December, there was an International Night, a Christmas party that was a whole lot of fun and prior to leaving the UK, just before the temperatures dipped below 0°C, we invited our lecturers to lunch…

…at a lovely Indian restaurant in the city.

I had always wanted to go back to the UK again, if possible to Plymouth specifically, but after I retired in 2007, I had to be around and help take care of my bedridden mum and later, my dad too and of course, I had my chauffeur duties, driving my girl up and down when she was at her jungle school and it was not until the middle of 2019 that she got her transfer to a school in town and I thought that finally, at long last, I would be able to make the trip.

Unfortunately, the pandemic broke out in early 2020 and it is still raging on and on like it is never going to end – sad to say, it sure looks like this is one dream of mine that will never ever come true.

Do like that…

I happened to see this Australian-Vietnamese chef, Luke Nguyen, on one of his food travel shows on TV the other day. He went round all the places in Vietnam enjoying all the gorgeous local culinary delights. I do love Vietnamese cuisine and the best that I have had the pleasure of enjoying would be this one in Kuching that I enjoyed a lot more than this one in Miri.

I saw on the aforementioned TV show how they eat those Vietnamese mint or daun kesum leaves…

Daun kesum

…with whatever they were eating just like that. I do have those growing in my garden and we do use them in our cooking like when my missus cooks chicken in the ethnic ayam pansoh (chicken cooked in bamboo) style or when I cook ikan buris wrapped in daun kunyit (turmeric leaves)…

Pa'is ikan buris

…but no, I would not want to eat them raw because of the extra-strong pungent smell which blends in rather nicely with whatever one is cooking when cooked.

The ones in my garden do not seem to be doing too well right now, growing but not flourishing. Hopefully, they will recover and look a whole lot better soon. The same goes to my Thai basil…

Thai basil

…which is another one of those leaves that they eat a lot in Vietnam, raw. We do use it quite a lot in our cooking…

Thai basil in beef pho

…but just like the daun kesum, we do not eat it raw. At best, I would just take the leaves, throw them into the piping hot soup and take it from there.

We have acquired the taste of this sawtooth coriander…

Sawtooth coriander

…the “cousin” of the daun ketumbar (coriander leaves) that is a must in Kuching popiah or as a topping in Kuching laksa. The uninitiated would quickly pick them up and get rid of them, grumbling that they smell of bed bugs! LOL!!!

We got ours from our friends at Payung and talking about them, they also gave us these Holy Basil…

Holy Basil

…seeds. Brew the leaves with ginger and mint…

Mint

…for instant relief from cough! It certainly worked quite well for me.

I must say that I rather enjoy watching those food and travel shows that feature our neighbouring countries and seeing how similar we all are in what we do and eat.

It’s your choice…

On their first night in Sibu, my West Malaysian friends from KL came here

Hai Bing Seafood

…for dinner.

I was told that they walked for around an hour from the vicinity of the Tua Pek Kong Temple looking for the place when it is just around 100 metres from the hotel where they were staying and if they were walking back from the temple, it shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes. That is the problem when you depend on those modern-day appliances, Waze or whatever you call it – they should have looked at the map(s) that I had printed for them and they would be able to see it there. As a matter of fact, I did suggest this place to them in the itinerary that I prepared for them.

They loved the crabs…

Hai Bing crabs

…of course, so very cheap they said, compared to prices in KL and they had TWO plates – one in their signature recipe, fried with egg and leek and what not, one style that they can’t find back home, they said and the other with black pepper.

They had see ham (cockles) and siput sedut (balitongs)…

Hai Bing siput sudut

…too and they loved them to bits!

For the vegetable dishes, they had their cangkok manis fried with egg and they actually liked the one here more than the one we had on their last day in town. Other than that, they had their midin, of course…

Hai Bingidin with belacan

According to them, they can’t get these two over in KL.

I did suggest to them that should they happen to come here, they must order the drunken prawns…

Hai Bing drunken prawns

…with those giant freshwater big-head prawns/udang galah but it looked like it fell on deaf ears. I had that once and I enjoyed it a lot but of course, that dish would not come cheap, not with those killer prawns!

Well, even without the latter, dinner did not come cheap – over RM400 for the 7 of them but they felt it was absolutely worth it and I am pretty sure that if they had a chance, they sure would want to come back here agian.

HAI BING SEAFOOD RESTAURANT is located right beside Eden Inn (2.285223, 111.831256), to the left, along Jalan Maju, right across the road from the Rejang Esplanade.

What did you do…

Back to my West Malaysian friends from KL who were in town the other day, they were left to their own devices most of the time so I did not really know what mischief they were up to while they were gallivanting all over town.

From the posts that they shared on Facebook, it seemed that they were extremely fascinated by everything at the Sibu Central Market and they enjoyed some of the stuff that they tried at the hawker centre on the 1st floor and they seemed to have fallen head over heels in love with our Sibu Foochow dianpianngu, there at the hawker centre and also at the celebrated place of origin here and also here.

They had lunch here and dinner here and though they felt that some of the dishes were nice, they were not exactly overwhelmed by them. That was why I was wondering if I had made the right decision in insisting on bringing them here for lunch on their final day in town.

Nobody said anything about the pandan chicken…

Ruby pandan chicken

…so I guess it was all right and I did not see anybody getting excited about the butter scotch prawn balls…

Ruby butter scotch prawn balls

…the favourite of many here, either. It appeared to me that they were not all that fond of dishes that were sweet and I could jolly well guess that that was the reason.

We also had the grilled lamb with the very nice lime and mayo sauce…

Ruby grilled lamb with lime & mayo sauce

– one dish that I do enjoy very much around here.

Somebody commented that the cangkuk manis fried with egg…

Ruby cangkok manis with egg

…was not as nice as one place that they went to on their first night in town (coming right up in my next post) but the rest were fine with it. I would agree to some extent that it was not as nice as before – the leaves, for one, were kind of old and I was somewhat put off by that and the eggs looked rather dull, like they had added some kind of sauce or whatever, not nice and yellow. Even my missus felt that same way the last time we were here.

They loved the midin, ching chao (fried plain with garlic)…

Ruby midin ching chao

…though and personally, I did not think the fried mee sua

Ruby fried mee sua

…was all that great that day. One of the ladies does not eat pork so I had asked for the meat to be left out and perhaps, they did not use lard to cook either and probably, that made all the difference. I certainly had very much nicer fried mee sua here on some of my earlier visits.

They all loved the tauhu tear, the Foochow-style tofu soup cooked with canned oysters…

Ruby tofu soup

…and their own-made tofu…

Ruby own-made tofu

…was a hit. They said it tasted so good, with its light hint of hay bee (dried prawns) and it was nice enough on its own, no need for any mayo or sauce.

Well, at least, there were hits and misses so on the whole, it wasn’t too bad, after all. The total for the food for the 8 0f us came up to RM195.00, including one dish of Foochow fried noodles that I did not order and I asked for it to be packed for me to take home and no, if it is Foochow fried noodles that you want, I would suggest that you go some place else – theirs isn’t the best around, that much I would say.

On their final night here, they went here for the super expensive prawn noodles (The last I heard, it was already RM45.00 a bowl – word had it that they had to fork out a whooping RM80 for that!!!) and their chao chai hung ngang (noodles in preserved vegetable fish soup which they actually liked more than the prawn mee) and here for the super super expensive empurau aka wang poo liao (unforgettable), steamed, before flying back the very next morning.

They came to Sibu with individual suitcases, all quite empty and after 4 days/3 nights, they went back to KL with all of them packed to the brim plus at least three extra styrofoam boxes filled with frozen fish and prawns and what not and their hand-carried luggage! They had to buy extra baggage for all that! And of course, they ate A LOT too while they were here but they did not manage to eat everything – too many things, too little time! Now, who says there is nothing in Sibu?

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.

They came from the city…

They came from the city, Kuala Lumpur, to our humble little town of Sibu, seven of them altogether…

My KL friends and I

One of them, Jenn, my blogger friend, contacted me to let me know and of course, I was delighted and offered to be their food and tour guide but she told me there would be seven of them. In the end, I prepared an elaborate itinerary for the 3 days when they would be here – where to go, what to eat, what to see but they would have to walk around on their own or call Grab since they can’t jolly well fit into my old jalopy, all of them.

On the day they arrived, I waited for them at the hotel and after they had checked in, we walked round the corner to the back to where else, if not here!

They brought along these goodies…

Goodies from KL 1

…for me…

Goodies from KL 2

…thank you so much. I must say that the heong peah in the first photograph (extreme left) was really good, a whole lot nicer than all that I had bought before from the bak kua shops in KL and elsewhere. The pastry was so very nice and flaky and the filling was moist and sticky, just the way I like it – the rest were all hard and dry! I’ve not tried the other things though – will probably save them all for Chinese New Year.

For our lunch, we had the pomelo salad…

Payung Cafe pomelo salad

…and the Payung rojak

Payung rojak

…to start off and they enjoyed them both. They were particularly intrigued by the bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) petals and the buah kedondong leaves in the rojak.

I ordered the kacang ma chicken…

Payung kacang ma chicken

…for them to try, knowing that this Kuching Hakka specialty would be something they had never tried before. I was not in the least surprised that some of them did not like it and the rest weren’t exactly excited by it either. I guess this is an acquired taste and many will not like it the first time. As the Campari slogan goes, “The first time is never the best!” – if you can catch the drift. LOL!!! I did not eat it that day, of course, as they came on a Friday, my no-meat day, and that was why I did not order all the other very nice meat dishes.

On the other hand, they loved the Payung otak-otak

Payung otak-otak

…so much – in fact, they were so impressed by it that they immediately placed orders for some to take home and they were head over heels in love with the belimbing prawns…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns

…too so much so that they kept going for the soup even after they had eaten all the crustaceans and they were full of praises for the mushroom roll…

Mushroom roll

…as well!

For dessert, I ordered their dreamy nite…

Dreamy nite

…and what a coincidence it was when it was served and this song came on right at that very moment! Talk about making a grand entrance. LOL!!!

We also had the favourite of many going back to my teenage years in the 70’s, the jelly pisang

Payung jelly pisang

Well, as expected, they enjoyed the lunch so much that even after they had left and gone elsewhere they were still talking about these Payung specialties that they had – obviously, they had left a lasting impression on their minds.

I asked them why they decided to come here, of all the places, especially when I have been asking everyone to come and visit but no, they are more keen on going elsewhere. Well, they said that one of them found out that the air fares were very cheap and asked the rest and on the spur of the moment, they decided to make the trip. Well, thank you so much to everybody for coming – it was great having you all here…and do come again sometime!

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.

Last one left…

This is the last post, just this one left, on my trip to Kuching in mid-December last year.

We walked past this Indian place…

Restoran Mahashafi, shop sign

…that morning before we went for our lovely brunch here.

The vadai looked really good and we bought 10 of them, 50 sen each…

Vadai

We rarely have this in Sibu, not so many Indians around, but we do get a good one sometimes. However, I think these days, ours is machine-blended so it is way too fine, so much so that we can’t see any of the dhal in it.

We tried one each and we loved it! Since we had planned ahead to go for brunch,  we did not eat anymore and in the end, we took them to our family reunion high tea at my aunt’s house – they were all snapped up in no time at all and anyone who had the chance to sample one said it was really good.

We went into the shop…

Restoran Mahashafi Kuching

…to look at the food and it did appear really good too. We were hoping we would be able to come back another day to eat there but we just simply did not have the time. I guess that would have to wait till our next trip to Kuching.

I did go back to the shop though before we came back to Sibu and I bought a whole lot of the vadai to bring back. Coincidentally, when I reached home, I got word from my friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, asking me to go and get some coconut mango…

Mangoes from Peter & Lim

…that they had plucked from the tree at his house so I gave him and our Indian friends some of the vadai to enjoy, saving only a few for ourselves. I don’t think I got to eat any, other than the one I had in Kuching – my girl ate them all, she loves them so much.

In the meantime, my good friend, Lim, dropped by to give me his mangoes – he also has a tree at his house, the long/oval ones. My missus took the red pulut hitam that I bought in Miri that day and cooked her version of the Thai mango sticky rice…

Mango pulut hitam

It was nice but I do prefer it with the regular pulut or glutinous rice. The red pulut hitam was not that sticky, best used to cook in its own way, not that suitable for this.

Thank you so much, Peter & Lim, for the lovely mangoes and I must thank Lim too for the goodies he brought back from his family trip to Sabah…and also for the serimuka that his mum made. He said that she was in town and his kids love serimuka but we can’t get any good ones here in Sibu so he was learning how to make it from her. Hmmm….when can I place my order, Lim? How much per tray? LOL!!!

RESTORAN MAHA SHAFI (1.559559, 110.344461) is located at 9.21, Jalan Barrack in Kuching to theleft from its junction with India Street, facing the left hand side of The Old Court House located right across the road.