Don’t listen to them…

It’s always like this around this time every year. Every Sibu-born-and-bred would make their way home to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families and of course, they would waste no time at all in going out to appease their craving for good ol’ Sibu kampua mee and share their photographs all over Facebook or Instagram.

An ex-student of mine and his family went here, one of my favourites in town and somebody commented that he could try the one here (RM3.20)…

Chopsticks kampua mee

– according to the guy, it was quite good. What? A friend did tell me that same thing once and I went to try but no, it was not anything that I would go out of my way for and definitely not when it is a once-a-year thing. I did get to eat it on another occasion and no, it didn’t change my mind.

I guess there is some truth in the saying, “Don’t believe everything you hear!” and as far as kampua mee goes, you will just have to go and try it yourself – don’t listen to what others say! After all, what’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

Then, there was this one time when I blogged about the sotong kangkong here and somebody said I should not go for the kampua mee there, not nice and should opt for the one with the yew cha koi/yeu tiao (Chinese crullers) instead.

It so happened that I was around those parts of the woods that day so I went to give it (RM3.00)…

Kampua mee

…a try but no, it was a bit too firm for me and the overall taste did not get me jumping with delight either.

I also ordered the pian sip, dry (RM3.00)…

Pian sip, dry

…and that I would say was its saving grace and I quite enjoyed it.

I guess I’ve learnt my lesson well and now, I shall not simply believe anything and everything that people say and will check out places that I feel like going to myself. Who knows I may stumble upon some hidden gems, yet to be discovered, around town?

CHOPSTICKS CHICKEN & RICE (2.312434, 111.845917) is located in the Delta Mall, Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Pedada) area of shops, facing the church along Lorong Taman Seduan 8, off Jalan Gambir and FUNG MING CORNER is located right beside PAU’S CAFE (2.298564, 111.893951) among the shops before you get to the Pasar Tani Permai to the left of Jalan Permai as you turn in from Jalan Ulu Oya, a little to the right of the Sibu General Hospital.

Open house…

I’ve known the open house tradition for as long as I can remember.

We had it twice a year, at Christmas and soon after that, at Chinese New Year. My dad was a businessman and he had many friends and customers who would come round to enjoy my mum’s curry, served with bread and everyone loved her cakes and cookies too, not forgetting our very special “Singapore rambutans” which would always bear fruit around that time of year. This year, I was glad to be able to do the same with the rambutans from the sole-surviving tree at the back of my house.

In my childhood days, come Hari Raya Puasa/Aidilfitri, I would go with my Malay/Melanau friends from the neighbourhood to the houses in the kampungs in the vicinity. Their open house concept was a bit different then – they would welcome anybody and everybody dropping by and once at a house, the old folks would “interrogate” us, asking us whose children we were and so on and so forth. In the small kampung community, everybody knew everybody so nobody was a stranger. I remember those tiny glasses in which they would serve the drinks and also their long tables filled with all kinds of cakes in a myriad of colours – they did not use to serve food as in curry and rendang and what not back in those days.

Later, as I grew bigger/older, I remember what a lovely time I had with my friends in the 60’s, right through till the 70’s when we went on our bicycles to visit house after house after house, relatives and friends alike, from morning till night and my friends would come on their bicycles to my house too! What joy that brought us and how sad it is that the young ones these days don’t do this anymore, or not that I know of, that is!

Unlike my parents before, I no longer have open houses come Christmas every year but I would have it during Chinese New Year which is usually not long after that – this year, they were only a month apart. However, we had not had that for some two years now owing to the demise of my parents, first my dad and then my mum.

I do enjoy holding open houses but sad to say, I did not have a lot of friends visiting me this year. Other than the guys from Payung and my good friend, Lim, and his family, and not forgetting, the wonderful people, my friends, from the petrol station that I frequent here in Sibu, nobody else came.

On my part, I only visited the elders in my family – my uncle (my father’s younger brother) and my aunt (my father’s younger sister) to convey my Happy Chinese New Year greetings and the latter did come over to my house with all in her family.

Some of my girl’s colleagues from her former school dropped by too, a special thank you especially to those who drove all the way from there to town just to come and visit. A friend of hers, going all the way back to Primary One, came with her family and another good friend of hers, also a teacher, was here with two of her nieces. Her coursemate, the very nice guy from Terengganu, who was with her in Sg Petani and Wellington, New Zealand and is now teaching in Sibu, visited us too with his wife and son.

All the rest were my ex-students including one from my English tuition class who scored straight A’s in English (SPM & 1119) and is now an English teacher in her own right. Among my ex-students who came were these two…

SHS students

…and another one who came with his family the day before as he did not read the messages carefully and ended up coming earlier.

Another student, who dropped by my house when he and his family arrived home from Kuching to pass me some lovely dishes that he brought all the way, made it a point to come by as well. He said that he did meet some of his ex-classmates and the mere mention of my name would send shudders up their spine and they were reluctant to come and visit. Hmmm…and I thought I was always very nice when I was teaching them – I guess it was the size that all of them found intimidating. LOL!!!

Then there were two from another former school where I was teaching in the 90’s – they came with their children and these two brothers and a sister, also from that same school, came with theirs…

The Toh family

Of course, I prepared ang-paos for the children…

Ang paos

…and those eligible bachelors and spinsters, never mind how old they may be, for good luck and I must thank my friend at my regular bank who would always help reserve those new bank notes for me for the purpose.

And a very big thank you to the Headmistress, the Senior Assistants and my girl’s colleagues…

St Rita staff

…from her current school who took the time to drop by as well, truly a lovely and special gesture that is most appreciated indeed.

In my neighbourhood, I only saw two houses that had visitors, probably just the members of the family. For some reason, the other houses in my lane were rather quiet. Perhaps like us in the past two years, they too had their reason, I wouldn’t know but what I do know for a fact was that many had their reunion dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year’s Eve so they could go some place the following day and would not be celebrating the festival here.

When I was in Singapore in 1973, I saw that they had their family reunion dinner and in the days that followed, they would just sit at the tables playing mahjong or whatever and I heard that this would be the usual practice in the peninsula too. Sad to say, it looks like the practice of holding open houses is gradually becoming a dying tradition.

Nonetheless, I, for one, would continue to observe and preserve our heritage and enjoy the bonding, all the good wishes and the positive vibes, all that joy and laughter shared with everyone who cares enough to stop by. Thank you once again to all who came this year and thanks to those who brought along a little something too…

End of the year…

We went to the Christmas morning service in church that day as we were at my cousin’s daughter’s wedding reception and could not go for the one at night on Christmas Eve and we did not have any special dinner that evening either. We had one at home on the night of Christmas Day instead and of course, we invited my sister and my brother-in-law and his wife to join us.

I bought a pair of New Zealand lamb foreshank for around RM35.00 only and my missus stewed them with bolognese sauce…

Christmas dinner stewed lamb shank

…and yes, it was very nice. She did not serve them on a bed of mashed potatoes even though my girl made some and served that separately and yes, we sure enjoyed it a lot…except my brother-in-law perhaps – he’s not so into western cuisine, not lamb especially.

That was why my missus had these chicken wings…

Christmas dinner air-fried chicken wings

…cooked using the air fryer that was given to us by my niece in Singapore and also his favourite, my missus’ chicken curry but I did not take a photograph of the latter.

We also had those giant tiger prawns…

Christmas dinner tiger prawns

…from Sabah that my generous friend, Eric gave me and everyone was impressed by the humongous size of those crustaceans! These were just the first batch – because they were so big and there were so many, my missus had to do it a few times in our small oven.

My girl saw this ham…

Christmas dinner gypsy-flavoured ham

…gypsy flavoured, whatever that is at the supermarket round the corner from our house and did not hesitate to buy it for our dinner. A long long time ago, I bought a very small one like a hand grenade from the supermarket on the lower ground floor of Sogo in KL and we loved it so much. Unfortunately, I had not come across any like that since. This one was quite big, maybe not as big as a bowling ball but it was big. Everyone said it was a bit too salty but I was fine with it and enjoyed it very much.

My missus tried to replicate the mangosteen salad…

Christmas dinner mangosteen salad

that we had at the Vietnamese restaurant in Kuching and loved so much. Everyone else liked it but I felt it was a bit too sour – the one we had in Kuching was much nicer.

It was New Year’s Eve a week later – that’s the thing about the end of the year, one festival after another and Chinese New Year is on the way, just a fortnight away. We went to the special service at the church after which we had a pot luck party so we did not have a special dinner of our own at home.

We had not had our family New Year’s Eve/Day dinner together for six years, at least, not since my girl got posted to her jungle school. She would have to be there a few days earlier for meetings, registration of pupils and what not and they had to work even on New Year’s Day and school would reopen the very next day on the 2nd…but I think even before that, when she was studying in Sg Petani, Kedah and Wellington, New Zealand, we did not have the chance to sit down together as a family on this very special occasion.

I, for one, cannot understand why they must start school on the 2nd (and if I am not wrong, they do not have a public holiday in some states!). During my time, even way back in the colonial days, school would reopen on the first Monday of the year. I’m sure those extra few days will not make much of a difference and will not turn those kids into geniuses, not at all. Stupid is as stupid does!

Well, finally, after so many years, we were able to sit down as a family on New Year’s Day and my missus cooked this gluten-free pasta…

New Year dinner pasta

– one of those that we bought and stocked up at one time, not that we would need it anymore these days. I don’t know what sauce she used but yes, it was very nice.

She also baked this slab of deboned chicken, Italian-style…

New Year dinner Italian chicken

…and my girl said it was nice. I thought it was just so-so, not anything I would ask her to cook again.

She made this lovely salad…

New Year dinner salad

…and baked potatoes…

New Year dinner potatoes

…for the sides to go with the roasted leg of New Zealand lamb…

New Year dinner rack of lamb

…that I bought for over RM70.00. I think next time, I shall just stick to the lamb shanks as they seemed to be cheaper and at the end of the day, it was what it was – lamb.

Yes, that was a delightful dinner and most importantly, we got to sit down together as a family to eat together on these significant occasions. Those guys in their ivory towers should realise that no amount of teaching in that Moral Education subject in school can ever come near to actually doing it and practising it ourselves – action speaks louder than words!

I can’t understand…

After our brief visit to the tamu (market), the hotel shuttle came to pick us up and send us to one of the malls in town, the very nice and impressive new wing. The ladies went off on their own in their shopping spree and left to my own devices, I went in search of the Vietnamese restaurant in the vicinity.

Before we went over the Miri, I spent some time googling for places to eat in the city and I found out that there was one right across the road. Unfortunately, I forgot which side of the mall it was and I did not manage to find it. In the end, I made my way back to seek refuge in the air-conditioned mall – it can get really hot in Miri, so hot that I would have to open my umbrella just to cross the road!

Inside the mall, I saw the outlet of this Thai franchise…

Tuk Tuk

…though I am not sure if it is a local/Malaysian franchise or an authentic Thai one but I have seen people blogging about it and how there were a lot of people making a beeline there to stand and wait in very long queues to eat the boat noodles, stacking up the bowls like the Leaning Tower of Pisa…and I was quite pissed off to see that some of them were chipped!

Of course, I asked for the boat noodles, beef in boat soup (RM1.90)…

Tuk Tuk boat noodles

…and to say that I was disappointed the moment it was served would be an understatement. What it lacked in looks was not compensated in taste – it was edible but no, it did not blow me away and no, I would not want another bowl, much less a whole lot more to stack up sky high once I was through. Frankly, I just can’t understand what all that hoo-ha was all about.

I did see a lot of other dishes in their menu but I was still full from breakfast at the hotel so I did not want anything else. Perhaps I should have ordered the pad Thai – I probably would enjoy it a lot more. For one thing, that tiny serving was just right to tide me over till dinner.

However, that was not all that I had. I simply did not want to miss the chance to try that very popular Thai dessert, the red rubies or tub tim krob (ทับทิมกรอบ) so I ordered that, RM3.90. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photograph of it (though I did snap one of it with my cheap handphone to share on Facebook) and anyway, I did not think it was anything to shout about either. There were some chestnuts, coloured red or left white swimming in a very diluted solution of coconut milk and no, there wasn’t any buah nangka (jackfruit) in it – I’m not a fan of that, anyway and if that is what it is like usually, I can’t understand why it has a following and some people seem to rave over it like it is something so out of this world.

I liked the Thai coconut milk custard (RM5.90 for 4)…

Tuk Tuk coconut milk custard

…a lot more but my favourite is still their mango sticky rice (RM11.90)…

Tuk Tuk mango sticky rice

Actually, I planned to drop by again before we left Miri to try some of the things they had in their menu but unfortunately, that was not meant to be – too many things to eat, too little time.

TUK TUK (MIRI) THAI BOAT NOODLE is located at GF3, Ground Floor, Permaisuri Imperial City Mall 4.401058, 113.990724) at Jalam Merpati in the city centre.

There’s no need…

I do not know about the other Chinese dialects and races but among the Foochows, it is considered good manners when somebody gives you something to say, “Nei ah! Nei ah!!!” (No need! No need!) What I do know is in western societies, it is not like that – if somebody gives you a gift, you are supposed to open it right away and sing praises of the gift and declare how much you love it – I guess you also do that out of good manners even though you do not like it. LOL!!!

Well, Eric, the guy behind The Kitchen Food Sibu Instant Kampua, once went and paid some money to a fine dining restaurant here and asked me to go and eat…and there was some change and the people there paid me the money as they did not want to keep it. That was because I was blogging about his noodles and sending them to friends near and far to help promote his venture and that was his way of expressing his appreciation, that nice guy.

The other day, I blogged about his new product, the Sarawak laksa ramen and I also helped publicise it on Facebook. He sent me an invitation to breakfast and I replied no, thank you. Then, I shared some promotion at a café here and he said, “Let’s go!” and once again, I said no.

I will always help promote my friends’ cafés and restaurants, products and events but no, I never expect anything in return though there are some very kind and generous people who will always give me stuff or treat me to something nice and even give me special discounts when I go and eat at their place.

Mine is not a money-spinning blog nor am I one of those who call themselves influencers – mine is just a personal lifestyle blog, a diary of sorts and I will blog about what I do, where I go to eat, things that are nice…or not so nice and so on and so forth and if something is not nice, I will say so, maybe a little subtly usually.

But this Eric would not take no for an answer. Finally, he said, “I’ll give you some fish!” I just assumed that he would be one of those who would go out to sea and fish as a hobby so I said, “Right here waiting!” Then, the other evening, he messaged me to ask for my address as he would want to give me some prawns. I asked if he caught them but he said no, he just received some fresh ones, most probably from Sabah, and in no time at all, he was at my house to pass me these…

Tiger prawns

Good grief! Those tiger prawns were so big that just one would be enough for a bowl of laksa but this one…

Huge

…is humongous!!! I don’t think I have a bowl that big!

Thank you so much, Eric…but no, don’t do that again! I will go on blogging about your products or anybody else’s for my own personal enjoyment – the pleasure is all mine but don’t send anything over, please. Nei ah! Nei ah!!!

Burnt…

That day, my missus had something up so I told her not to cook and I could drive her to do what she had to do after which we would go and pick our girl at her school when she was done for the day and we would go for lunch together.

As always, nobody had any idea what they wanted to eat and after a few twists and turns to avoid being caught in the lunch hour cum after-school jam here and there, we ended up here eventually. There were a lot of people but it was not really that crowded (and noisy) – I’ve seen worse and that probably was because it was already 1 something, about time to head back to the office.

There was this one guy with his lady companion at the next table and he was speaking to her the whole time like he was speaking to everybody in the room but that wasn’t half as bad as the music they were playing plus I did not quite care for the songs on their playlist either.

I did not go and have a good look but it seemed to be from a laptop or something on the counter and we were sitting right beside it. I remember they had a proper sound system – probably that had broken down or something in which case, they might as well not play anything at all. For the prices they are charging, I certainly would expect a more pleasant dining environment.

Anyway, back to our lunch, my girl had the lor mee while the mum had the beef noodles, both of which I had had before and no, I did not think I would want to order those again. Unfortunately, my well-intended advice fell on deaf ears but don’t get me wrong – they do have a lot of nice things on their menu like their kueh chap which we all love, for instance, their mee sua is pretty good, even their nasi lemak isn’t too bad and the list goes on and on and on…just that these two do not fall into that same category.

My missus was able to finish everything, helping herself to a whole lot of their very nice chili dip that they gave in a bottle but my girl could barely manage half of hers. Luckily, she also ordered these teriyaki wings (RM13.80)…

Noodle House teriyaki wings

…which she thought were all right but she could only manage two so we had the third one packed for us to take home.

I went for the sizzling nasi biryani with beef rendang (RM15.90)…

Noodle House biryani rendang

…except that it was not sizzling when it was served but I really enjoyed it…a lot!

The beef rendang was very nice and I loved the fragrance of the daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves) in it even though when it comes to rendang, one would usually find daun kunyit (turmeric leaves) instead of the aforementioned. The rice was great too just that it was not entirely like the Indian version with all the herbs and spices – I would say it was more like those at the Malay stalls. All things considered, I did think it was good and I sure would not mind ordering that again the next time we drop by here.

While we were there, I saw something under the glass table promoting something that I had not seen here before – their basque burnt cheesecake. This goondu has seen that in friends’ blogs and has always wondered what that is and why anyone would want to eat anything burnt so of course, I ordered a slice (RM8.80)…

Noodle House basque burnt cheesecake

…to try. It turned out to be something like the Japanese baked cotton cheese cake that I do like a lot except that the top was kind of cracked and kind of burnt in a way but that was intentional…and yes, I would say it was nice. Period.

Our lunch, inclusive of drinking water, 50 sen per glass, and the 6% SST came up to RM59.80.

NOODLE HOUSE (2.291406,111.829162) is located somewhere in the area immediately behind the Sibu Central Police Station at No. 2B, Ground Floor, Lorong Laichee 1, accessible either from Hua Kiew Road or Laichee Lane.

Branching out…

The Kitchen Food instant Sibu kampua is no stranger to a lot of people, I’m sure – this US blogger gave the dark soy sauce version a 5 out of 5 and the original version (white) a 4 out of 5.

Some of my friends have blogged about it too, here or here and here, for instance. It is very well-marketed throughout the whole country and even down south in Singapore and next door in Brunei and in countries overseas.

Not too long ago, I saw a photograph on Facebook shared by the very enterprising owner of the company, Eric and it seemed that he would be branching out into Sarawak/Kuching laksa as it looked like he was working on his own-prepared sambal laksa and true enough, that was exactly what he did!

That day, when I saw this…

The Kitchen Food Sarawak laksa ramen

…at the shop round the corner from my house, I wasted no time at all in grabbing a pack to try.

Inside, there were 4 packets, over RM2.20 each…

What's inside

…and other than the noodles, there were three sachets, one big one of the sambal laksa and two small ones. My guess was the latter two would be the santan (coconut milk) powder and the seasoning – there was no indication outside and both looked the same, white.

The noodles did not look like a lot but once cooked, there was definitely enough…

Noodles

…for a bowl. You boil the noodles for two minutes after which you drain and rinse it to remove the excess starch so the strands will not stick together in  a clump.

It so happened that a few days earlier, I had bought some big pek hay (white seawater prawns) from the market, RM45.00 a kilo, so I took some and boiled them and at the same time, I also fried some omelette and sliced it very very thinly and I blanched some taugeh (bean sprouts), tails removed, for the added ingredients in my bowl of Sarawak/Kuching laksa

Added ingredients/toppings

…I had some tofu puffs in the fridge too so I sliced those and in it went with the rest. Usually, in a bowl of this local delight, you will find some shredded chicken as well but I did not bother about that.

I used the prawn stock – the water used to boil the aforementioned prawns – to cook the broth. Once I had brought it to boil, I emptied the contents of the sachets into it, stirred till everything had dissolved and then I poured it into the bowl…

Ready to serve

…and garnished it with finely-chopped spring onion and daun sup (Chinese parsley) from my garden and served. I wouldn’t know but my guess is if you do not have any prawns and are cooking the broth using plain water, it may not be so nice.

Just as in the case of the made-in-Kuching instant Sarawak/Kuching laksa and those tak-payah-tapis (no need to sieve) sambal laksa, I would prefer to let the sediments settle first while pouring the broth slowly into the bowl or use a strainer to filter it so I would get a nice, clean broth, minus all those specks of the residue of the sambal but I guess that is just my OCD – others probably would not mind as much.

The fragrance filled the whole house while I was cooking, a whole lot more fragrant than when I was cooking it from scratch using the sambal laksa available at the shops and of course, I made sure that I had some pounded belacan (dried prawn paste) and calamansi lime to go with it…

Served

…the complete works.

We certainly enjoyed that to the max – it was really very very good but for die-hard true blue Sarawak/Kuching laksa connoisseurs like us, we would prefer bihun (rice vermicelli) instead of noodles or ramen, whichever way you choose to call it but perhaps the uninitiated US blogger would enjoy it this way, I wouldn’t know.

I saw that they have other new products – the spicy vinegar noodles and the red yeast rice kampua and they also have the two variations of the mee pok but no, I have not tried those. So far, I did buy their mee sua or our Foochow longevity noodles (just the noodles, no ingredients provided) and no, it did not get me all excited but of course, everyone loves the kampua – straight (handmade) or curly (machine made), original or with black soy sauce and everybody says that they are just like the real thing!!! You can check out the list here to see if you can grab hold of some from a store near you!