My Vietnam…

I love ASEAN cuisines, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Filipino. Unfortunately, we only have some places selling some Indonesian delights and a Thai restaurant that people say has gone downhill since the Thai chefs went home.

No, we do not have any Filipino restaurants here even though many Chinese restaurants in town serve that crispy pata and they call it Philippine pork leg and yes, we have had a Vietnamese place once and a stall in a coffee shop too, but they did not last very long.

That was why I couldn’t wait to check this place out in Miri but unfortunately, I did not think it was all that great. Thankfully, we went to a really good one in Kuching but the way things are going these days, I don’t suppose we will ever get to hop over again to go and eat there.

Well, it so happened that my missus picked up two packets of this…

Instant Vietnamese beef pho

…at the supermarket at the mall round the corner from my house. Boy! Was she excited when she cooked one to try!!! She loved it so much and she told me straight away in no uncertain terms not to blog about it so they would not be sold out (like what happened to the Aussie wagyu that day) and she would be able to rush over and buy some more…which she did and she came home with around a dozen packets of the beef and some of the chicken.

One can easily guess from all that in Vietnamese on the packet that it is made in Vietnam. Phở bò means beef (flat) rice noodles (kway teow) and Hà Nội is Hanoi in Vietnamese, the capital of Vietnam.  The chicken one is phở gà Hà Nội.

Inside the packet, you can find the noodles and three sachets…

Sachets

Inside the red one is something like chili sauce and the gỏi rau, translated to mean vegetable salad, looked like dehydrated spring onion, fried shallots and fried garlic to me. I guess the xương hàm in the big sachet is the seasoning in liquid/sauce form, unlike most where it is usually in powder form and there are small bits of meat in it.

I boiled the noodles in a bit of water, emptied the contents in all the sachets into the pot, added a few Thai basil leaves from my garden and poured everything into a bowl. I served it with a few slices of beef (Aussie wagyu, no less) and some of the chili (from my garden) that I pounded with ginger and lime, garnished generously with chopped spring onion (also from my garden)…

Instant beef pho 1

Yes, I really must say it was so so so good despite being nothing more than just instant noodles.

According to my missus, they’re only RM1.90 a packet…

Instant beef pho

…and the chicken one is also very nice. I certainly will give that a try one of these days.

DELTA – THE MARKETPLACE (2.311968, 111.847043) is located in the basement of the Delta Mall, Taman Seduan 8, Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.

One day…

I abstain from meat for just one day every week, Friday and I must say that it is quite problematic looking for things to eat outside especially at 6.00 a.m. in the morning when most of the shops would be closed. Kampua mee without meat would be all carbs and may be somewhat plain and not that appealing.

Much to my delight, my regular Malay kueh stall at Bandong opens real early every morning for the benefit of those stopping by after their morning prayers at the surau nearby to buy something home for breakfast.  They have their very nice nasi lemak, of course and I can just avoid the add-ons like their chicken curry or beef rendang or I can go for their fried kway teow (RM2.50)…

Bandong fried kway teow

…or mee goreng (RM2.50)…

Bandong mee goreng

…instead. These used to be RM2.00 only though during those days before COVID-19. They would wrap them up using a plastic sheet into a bungkus but I guess you get less when they do it that way. I noticed that morning that they had fried bihun and even halal kampua mee too!

If you are not into rice and noodles, you may pick something from the array of kuehs. They have so many things for you to choose and that morning, I decided I would try their bread pudding…

Bread pudding

I bought this before and I did like it very much but this time around, it looked kind of different. I thought it was all right – I prefer the regular ones that they used to sell before.

I was about to grab a pack of their pulut panggang that morning when I spotted the ketupat lemak

Ketupat lemak

…beside it, so so so good with kaya (c0c0nut jam) or condensed milk so I bought those…

Ketupat lemak

…instead and yes, they were very good – I do not have to go all the way to the tamu in Permai where the Chipsmore old lady (now you see her, now you don’t) said she would sell hers twice a week…depending on your luck.

I sure am glad that I can always drop by here on Friday every week, otherwise I would have to cook myself a bowl of instant noodles at home…or buy a loaf of bread ahead of time to make an egg or tuna sandwich in the morning, sorry, no ham, no bacon, no sausages! LOL!!!

Buns…

My good friend/ex-classmate, Robert, kept telling me to drop by this coffee shop…

Tai Shan Lai Cafe

…near Longbridge Road, directly opposite Catholic High School, for the special own-made bread there but I never did. If I remember correctly, that was sometime last year, long before the COVID-19 outbreak. For one thing, that area is terribly congested and looking for a place to park the car is quite impossible plus I am not really into bread.

However, the other morning, I was manoeuvring through the back lanes and alleyways in that area as many were jammed and the cars were brought to a standstill and I happened to drive past that coffee shop. I caught a glimpse of the buns in the display cabinet…

Buns in the display cabinet

…and that reminded me of what Robert had told me. I went one whole round and came back again but via another lane and managed to park my car at the back of the row of shops on the right of Longbridge – the coffee shop is right across that lane to the left.

I spoke to a nice young girl at the shop and she told me that they use special ingredients to make those buns – I did not quite catch all that she said but I remember that as she went on and on, she did mention “expensive butter”…

Golden Churn tin
*water for their cats in the “expensive butter” tins, placed around the coffee shop*

I asked her how the buns would be served if one were to eat them there and she said that there was a guy who was not there at the time and he would use the buns to make burgers from RM12.00 up, depending on the ingredients added. In the end, I just bought two (RM5.00 each)…

Tai Shan Lai Cafe special buns

…home to try.

The next morning, I cut the bun and toasted the halves till nice and crusty on the outside and then I buttered both halves on the inside and added a slice of mozzarella cheese each and placed them back into the oven to toast till the cheese had melted.

I fried an egg (perfectly done, of course, with the yolk still runny) and grilled some slices of smoked bacon and placed them on a bed of lettuce on the bottom half, sandwiching everything inside with the top half…

Bun sandwich with smoked bacon, egg and cheese

…and ate.

Yes, it was very nice but owing to its size, it was quite a struggle to finish all of it on my own. I made an identical one for my girl for her breakfast and she could only manage to finish half of it.

I would love to drop by again when the guy is around and try one of his burgers using these lovely buns.

TAI SHAN LAI CAFE (2.285856, 111.832134) is located to the left of Lanang Road (heading towards town), right past its junction with Longbridge Road, across the road from the main entrance of Catholic High School.

Not always right…

Well, I must say that the things growing in my garden do not always turn out right. I have not had much luck planting chilies, for instance. I think I did get to eat a few once and another time, for reasons unknown, all the green chilies just dropped from the plants.

It is the same with the ones I am currently nurturing. I think there were some seeds among the kitchen waste that I buried and they sprouted and flourished and grew really well. So many chilies appeared but eventually, I noticed them starting to rot even before they ripened. That left me with no choice other than to pluck them and get rid of them.

There was this solitary one…

My chili

…however, that turned out really well. Hopefully, there will be a few others coming soon.

My cangkuk manis/mani cai is another thing that I plant that has never been doing all right. At best, I may get a handful of leaves for my masak sayur rebus but it does look a little bit better…

My cangkuk manis

…lately.

That day, I managed to pluck quite a lot…

Cangkuk manis leaves

…not enough for a dish by itself but I could have fried it with some baby corn or pumpkin or sweet potatoes.

In the end, I used it for my fried bihun with those canned clams in soy sauce

Fried bihun with canned clams in soy sauce & cangkuk manis

…for our lunch that day and I threw in that aforementioned chili, sliced thinly, as well.

Ah well!!! As they say, something is better than nothing! LOL!!!

Tainted blue…

My friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, dropped by my house that day to pass me the nasi kerabu that he cooked himself. He did call me earlier to let me know but I said I could go and get it myself, no need to trouble him to come all the way but the nice guy insisted.

He said that he ate it somewhere but he was not impressed so he went asking around the people at the market and one knew of a Kelantan lady who was willing to share with Peter the tips on how to cook that Kelantan culinary delight.

To be honest, I did not get my hopes up too high as except for one place here, all the rest that I tried failed to make the mark. I looked at what Peter gave me…

Nasi kerabu from Peter

…and I liked how the rice was very lightly tainted blue. Some of those that I had had the displeasure of eating before were so horrendously blue and because what came out over the next few days was that same colour, I was pretty sure it was all artificial colouring. I really wonder why they cannot use the flower – if they do not have any, they can come to my house and pluck – all along my back fence!

There was an assortment of vegetables including kangkong and cabbage , herbs like mint and flowers such as the very fragrant bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and they were all cut so very thinly, till real fine. What I always thought was kerisik (toasted grated coconut), a must-have with nasi kerabu was, according to Peter, a combination of kerisik AND serunding ikan (fish floss). Gee!!! I didn’t know that before.

Other than those, there were the fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and the salted egg. I did not see any air budu (salted/fermented fish sauce) nor sambal chili, just one type of sambal. My guess was he mixed them altogether, all-in-one, so to speak and Peter gave me quite a lot of it.

Usually, when we eat this at the shops, we would have something by the side to go with it – we love ayam percik but it could just be fried chicken or ayam berempah…or a fried fish but there wasn’t any in Peter’s nasi kerabu. What I didn’t know at the time was Peter’s nasi kerabu did not need any of those…unlike the nasi lemak at so many places that needs the curry or the rendang or whatever to camouflage the lack of lemak-ness in the rice and how plain and ordinary it is.

I had that for dinner that evening and like what one must do when eating this, I mixed everything together thoroughly and ate. Boy!!! It sure swept me off my feet – I never expected it to be so so so good and I really enjoyed it! I sent word to Peter right away that he must make this their weekend special and rest assured, without fail, I would be the first in line!!!

Thank you so much, Peter! Bravo! Bravo! I must say that you did a really good job!

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.

My choice…

Well, I wouldn’t say I had much of a choice. At 6.00 a.m., most of the coffee shops would be closed and at the few that may be open, if you’re lucky, you can get a hot drink and kampua mee as chances are they will tell you that the water has not started boiling yet so you will have to go some place else.

I decided to drop by here once again as this is the only one that starts real early and at 6.00 a.m., all the stalls, except the chu char (cook & fry) place at the back, would be in full swing, even the roti canai stall. That sure is a surprise as those people usually do not start so early.

Usually, I would order the sambal kway teow from this stall

Kopitiam Fantasy kway teow stall

…there as it has always been good, never fails to please – spicy with its lovely char (fry) fragrance plus the nice taste of the sambal and that is only RM4.00 a plate.

This time around, I wanted to try the Penang char kway teow (RM5.00)…

Kopitiam Fantasy char kway teow

…because I had that at the coffee shop across the road and it was really very good and had a whole lot of prawns but that was RM6.50 a plate. Unfortunately, when I ordered that, the lady said she did not have any prawns that morning. Oh dear! No prawns, no cockles, just lap cheong (Chinese sausage)? What kind of Penang char kway teow is that?

Nonetheless, I went ahead with my order as I couldn’t go any place else anyway and I was quite sure it would be all right especially with the lady’s super spicy chili dip…

Kopitiam Fantasy kway teow stall, chili dip

This is so good really and goes so well with whatever the lady dishes out. She said that it is a recipe handed down from her father – she used to help him make this when she was young.

The kway teow

Kopitiam Fantasy Penang char kway teow

…was pretty good but I think I would stick to the very much cheaper sambal kway teow here and if I want some very nice Penang char kway teow, I would go to the coffee shop across the road as it does have an edge over this prawnless one. Of course, that one is RM1.50 more expensive and it will have to be much later – I shall not be able to drop by there THIS early in the morning, that’s for sure!

KOPITIAM FANTASY, otherwise popularly known as Tiam Tiam Lai (2.292435, 111.835066), is located among the shops in the Jalan Chew Siik Hiong area of shops behind the Rejang Medical Centre, facing Jalan Mahsuri.

Yesterday’s gone…

Way back in the 50’s and 60’s when I was still little, sometimes my dad would send me to buy some tauhu chui (soya bean milk) and tee peang (40 sen each nowadays, 50 sen at some places)…

Tee peang

…from a guy at the junction of Market Road and Island Road – my dad’s shop was right around the corner at Old Street. The freshly-made soya bean milk would be sold in recycled glass (beer) bottles – plastic was unheard of in those days and I do remember him selling Chinese fried or koi (yam cake) too.

This man would set up his stall that looked something like this…

Street hawker stall
*I don’t know the source of this photograph – got it from a discussion forum and it was shared by someone in the group*

…on the pavement against the wall of Yu Chiong – the shop is still there to this very day but of course, you do not get to see the stall anymore. If I am not wrong, there was a cobbler there once but no tauhu chui and tee peang stall.

It seemed at the time that the two would always go together as they would use soya beans to make the tauhu chui and then use the pulp to make the tee peang

Tee peang, inside

…but I do not seem to see this correlation between the two anymore these days.

In Singapore , these Fuzhou delights are called oyster cakes for the obvious reason that they have oysters inside, among a whole lot of stuff – I saw a recipe that called for pork, prawns and so on. I have never tried those but there are those who have and they say that those aren’t quite the same and aren’t as nice – our Sibu tee peang is better.

We do not have those here but, yes, we have the ones with meat filling (RM1.50 each). Those first made their appearance here sometime in the 80’s or 90’s, I think, when somebody would fry them on the spot at his stall set up on a trishaw at the Tiong Hua Road end of the Sarawak House overhead bridge and people would show up by the droves to buy those from him, present company included.

Of course he is not there anymore but the ones with meat filling are also available at the shop where I got the kosong ones featured above or you can get them from that handsome boy stall at the pasar malam (night market) and I think there is a stall as well at the central market in the morning, frying and selling these. There is a corner shop at Rejang Park that sells these too but they only have the kosong ones, not those with meat filling.

Yesterday’s gone and all that is left of the street hawker’s tauhu chui & tee peang stall is the memories of it in my childhood days. In time to come, nobody would know it ever existed and hopefully, in time to come, there will still be people making tee peang

Tee peang, best with chili sauce

…as nice as the ones we grew up enjoying and loved so well over the years.

SWEE HUNG (2.316161, 111.840441) is located along Jalan Ruby, in the block of shops on the right – next to a hair salon at the extreme end.

Wasn’t like that…

I don’t know why we seldom cooked ang tao (red bean) – most of the time, we would have let tao (green bean or mung bean) to ciak liang because they are believed to have cooling properties.

After I got married, it became even rarer as my missus has some kind of allergy, dunno if it is psychological or what but everytime she eats anything with or tao sar (black/red bean paste), she feels giddy so she would never touch those red beans. As a matter of fact, she is not really a fan of the green ones or anything with mung bean paste either.

Talk about being incompatible, I, on the other hand, love anything with mung bean paste like those tau sar peah and how I enjoy eating those big and plump ang koo kueh with lots of mung bean paste filling inside and everytime I drop by here, I would order their ang tao peng (iced red bean)…

Thomson Corner ang tao peng

…my favourite in town – they’re very generous with the santan (coconut milk) and the gula Melaka (palm sugar) and I love how their beans are always perfectly done, so soft and mushy and yet, still whole and not all lumped together like some kind of paste.

Now, sometime in the midst of the MCO partial lockdown, I went and bought a packet of red beans but if I remember correctly, it wasn’t like that at all before. There were very red in colour, very beautiful…

ang tao

…while the red beans that I used to know were of a dull red colour and bigger.

I guess there are different varieties. They use the bigger ones…

Swee Kang ang tao peng

…at that popular cendol and ang tao peng place in Kuching. and I am fine with those. If I am not mistaken, the ones in Penang are even bigger…

Penang cendol

…and I am o.k. with those too as long as they are not the salty variety – some places use those huge kidney -shaped red beans that I do not quite enjoy.

Anyway, back to the red beans that I bought, I had a bit left so I soaked them in water and put them in the slow cooker with some pandan leaves, knotted…

Red beans, soaked and pandan leaves

…and added brown sugar to the soup according to taste.

After hours of slow cooking, they were ready but somehow or other, they were not as soft and mushy…

Ang tao, cooked

…as I would like them to be. Even the taste was a bit different, not like the ang tao way back in the good old days. While I was eating it, I was telling myself that I might as well be eating let tao and I would enjoy it  a lot more.

Ah well! At least I’ve managed to finish the whole pack! One thing’s for sure, I shall not be buying anymore ever again – after all, I am the only one in the house eating it so if ever I feel like it, I can simply go to the shops for a bowl, the whole works, and be done with it.

The SIBU THOMSON CORNER (2.296517, 111.840710) is located at Pusat Tanahwang, right across the road from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road.

Two by two…

My girl loved those wraps long ago before she thought she was gluten-intolerant but she stopped buying altogether when she suspected she might be. After going through all the tests, it was found that her suspicions were unfounded. However, for reasons unknown, she never went back to buying them to enjoy anymore.

Well, it so happened that I was at a supermarket here the other day when I spotted this…

MISSION pizza crust

…and of course, I wasted no time at all in grabbing a pack of two to try.

I saw my foodie friend in KL sharing photographs of the pizzas she made on Facebook using these thin crusts and somebody was quick in “splashing cold water” – a dime a dozen, the likes of this – saying that it was nothing more than a thicker version of their wraps.  Never mind! Since I bought it already, we might as well give it a try and be the judge of it ourselves, first hand.

That day, my girl took them and made this seafood one…

Seafood pizza with MISSION pizza crust

…with mussels and tuna using our old school stand-up gas cooker with an oven and it turned out really great. The crust was nicely done, very crispy and fragrant and we sure loved it!

At the same time, she made this one with bacon…

Bacon pizza with MISSION pizza crust

…and I would have loved it a lot more – you simply can’t go wrong with bacon – but she made that using our smaller counter-top oven. It looked kind of pale as the mum said the instruction on the pack said 10 minutes only. Of course, it was not as crispy and we did not think it was all that nice that way – the other one was heaps better!

We enjoyed both of them, nonetheless and yes, should we feel like it again, we sure would go out and buy, no need to use frozen roti canai or one of those for our pizza base anymore.

Not much…

My girl has gone back to school for a couple of weeks now. Even before the pupils had to go back, she was already back in school to make all the necessary preparations. She did not have to go too early though – there  by 7.30 a.m. by which time, most of the coffee shops would be in full swing and I could go anywhere I chose for breakfast.

However, that did not last too long as by the time the senior pupils came back, she had to be there every morning at around 6.00 a.m. to make sure they observed social distancing while queuing up, take their temperature, get them to wash and sanitise their hands and all those things…and the rest of the classes will be coming back this week, a lot more to deal with.

Well, 6.00 a.m. is not a good time for me as except for a sprinkling here and there, nothing much other than kampua mee, the rest of the shops will still be closed so I will just have to come straight home and eat whatever I can find. I am getting quite tired of steamed paos and bak changs, cookies/biscuits and bread and I think I’ve had quite enough of instant noodles too.

On one of the mornings, I did drop by my regular Malay kueh stall at Bandong here to see what they had that might tickle my fancy. It sure looked like everybody was back in action and they were getting most, if not all, of the usual supplies for sale. I did buy their bingka labu, putu mayam, pulut panggang to keep in the fridge for breakfast or tea as and when I feel like it.

I didn’t want their nasi lemak again as I just had that not too long ago so I bought two packs of their mee jawa (RM3.00)…

Kopi Kopi mee jawa, takeaway

I had it there sometime ago

Kopi Kopi mee jawa

…and yes, it was very nice and so is the one from the nasi lemak stall…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk mee jawa

…along Bandong Walk a stone’s throw away but that one does not open till at least 7.30 a.m.

Going back to the takeaway mee jawa that I bought that morning, my missus did not want it – she has this aversion to mee jawa as she had it ONCE at the hospital canteen and she did not like it at all, so very sweet, she said and she never had it again after that even though like everything else, there are the good ones and there are others that are not so good. In the end, we heated it up for my girl for lunch and yes, she enjoyed it. I quite liked it too.

KOPI KOPI Café & Kitchen is located next to Penyet Bandong at the back of the blocks of shops facing Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) and my regular kueh stall is right beside it.