Back to black…

My blogger-friend, Phong Hong, published a post recently on the masak hitam (literally translated, cooked black) that she cooked but it did not look quite the same. I checked the ingredients and they were nothing like what we would have in our Sarawak masak hitam – I don’t think they have curry and turmeric powder among the ingredients.

Of course, it would taste nice – with all those ingredients that went into the cooking, it couldn’t possibly be otherwise…like in the case of my failed attempt at cooking the dish from scratch – it did not look nor taste anything like it but yes, it tasted great. I had raisins in mine which is a crucial ingredient, it seems, and they said it was because I added santan (coconut milk) – there should not be any in the dish – and they also suggested using kicap manis(sweet dark soy sauce)  instead of the regular ones.

This originally Sarawak Malay delight…

Daging masak hitam Sarawak 1
*Archive photo*

…(unlike Sarawak laksa, which if I am not wrong, is a Kuching Chinese creation) is the favourite of many but both my missus and my girl are not all that fond of it, maybe because of the hint of the sweetness in it but no, it is not really sweet, just a hint of it, I said, like in the case of satay or char siew…and my girl does not like raisins, I don’t know why.

It is not really hitam or black, more of a darker shade of brown though I have seen some really black ones at wedding banquets like this one, for instance…

Daging masak hitam Sarawak 2
*Archive photo*

My missus insisted that they used browning but I don’t really know how they did it…but whatever the shade of black it may be, I love it! It does not matter that nobody the the house likes it so much and nobody is going to cook it – I can easily go out and buy at this favourite Malay food stall of mine at Bandong here. They have it every day and yes, theirs is very nicely done. You can buy the meat by the chunks, RM1.50 or maybe RM2.00 for one huge piece and they will give you a lot of the very nice gravy that goes so absolutely well with rice. The one here is also very nice and you can have it with your nasi lemak or whatever and they do sell it by the kilo as well for when you are hosting a buffet dinner party at home or something though I can’t remember the price now.

As a matter of fact, you can find it quite easily at all the Malay stalls and shops in town and they would all be pretty good but I did hear once that most of them do not cook from scratch and would use these…

Liza's perencah itam

…instead.

I did give a tub to my Ipoh masterchef/blogger-friend, Elin and she used it to cook her own version of the masak hitam dish and she loved it so very much, praising it the the skies. Here, you can read all about it here. I also gave some to a friend of mine, my girl’s lecturer in Sg Petani, Kedah and every Hari Raya, she would ask for more. Obviously, she liked it a lot too. Well, since it is so good, we never bother to cook from scratch anymore. All I would do would be to fry one Bombay onion, finely chopped and one or two stalks of serai (lemon grass) for the added fragrance, add the meat and paste and water and simmer till done. So very easy!

I told Phong Hong in my comment that I would get it for her to try but horror of horrors!!! When I dropped by the shop where I used to buy this, they told me that it was not available and they had not received any for a while now, so their guess was the company had gone bankrupt!

That afternoon, I went round some supermarkets and shops – I did see the asam pedas at one of them but I did not want that. Then, something told me to go back to the first shop, the one I went to that morning, to check a smaller one about two doors away and to my delight, they had what I was looking for and a whole lot of others from that same Miri-based company, Liza’s.

I quickly grabbed some for Phong Hong and I also bought her the Sarawak laksa

Liza's Perencah laksa

…to try. I’ve never tried it myself but I have heard people saying that it is very good, just that there isn’t much one can cook using one tub – maybe two or three bowls whereas if you use the regular laksa paste sold in packets, you would have enough to feed an army. One thing good about this one is you would not need to sieve the soup/gravy to remove all the fine ingredients. Well, if Phong Hong does not know how to go about it she can click the link to this one here…and there are a few others in my blog as well where I had featured a step-by-step guide to cooking Sarawak laksa.

I packed everything in a box and sent it to Phong Hong the very next day…and here’s a bit of good news. I received an sms from her a little after noon the following day after I had sent the parcel telling me that she had received it. Gee!!! As a matter of fact, I also sent a pack of sambal Sarawak laksa, the regular, to a friend in Banting, Selangor the day before and she too got it the very next day. Our national courier people can be quite efficient sometimes…when they want to. Double thumbs up, guys! Hehehehehe!!!

Happy trying, Phong Hong! Hope you like the goodies from Sarawak!

Hey mama…

All this while, I was thinking that the name of this place here…

KONG Ma Ma cafe, Sibu

…has got something to do with grandpa (Ah Kong) and grandma (Ma Ma). Well, in my post the other day, I was asking around to see if anyone knew where the beef noodles people had moved to and I got a response from my friend, Julia, in Perth. She told me on Facebook that she heard from her cousin that they had moved to Jiang Ma Ma in the Delta Estate area. Oh? I do know that Jiang is Kong in Chinese/Mandarin so does the name of the place actually mean grandma surnamed Jiang or Kong? Anybody?

Yes, I did hear that somebody has taken over the place and all the people at the stalls are new except the Malay lady who has been there for as long as I could remember…and since this is on the way to my parents’ house, we stopped by the other morning to have a look.

Yes, the beef noodles stall is there, all the way at the back in a really obscure corner. If I remember correctly, that is right in front of the washrooms. I did not see anyone eating the noodles unlike at the previous location where it seemed to be so very popular. Well, it was a hot morning as usual – it has been hot here for a while now – so I did not feel like anything soupy and served steaming hot so I opted for something else. Maybe when my girl is home for the weekend, we may drop by again and perhaps she would want to have this as she likes it a lot.

They have moved the Malay lady’s stall to the section on the right and there is a roti canai stall right beside it. Both were enjoying really good business when we were there at around 9 something – the place was crowded and I heard the lady at the roti canai stall telling a customer that she had run out so there would not be anymore available for the day. Good grief! So early!!!

I ordered the Malay lady’s mee goreng (fried noodles) special (RM5.00)…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special, egg

…and it came with one very nicely-fried egg, just the way I would like it, and a generous serving of fried chicken, breast…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special, fried chicken

…and I spotted quite a lot of tiny prawns…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special, prawn

…in the noodles too. I wonder how they peel those, they are so very tiny – it must be so tedious and such a chore.

Well, I sure enjoyed it…

KONG Ma Ma mee goreng special

…very much and I would say that this is one of the better places in town if you’re thinking of having something fried, Malay-style – noodles, kway teow, bihun…or even fried rice…and parking here is usually not a problem and it is free! The only thing is that the coffee shop tends to be rather crowded most of the time.

My missus had their Foochow fried mee, wet (RM3.50)…

KONG Ma Ma Foochow fried mee, wet

…and I did go and have a look to see whether it was that same guy that I spotted smoking the last time we were here – he had a cigarette in his mouth – while cooking but no, there are some new people now and they are occupying the original chu char place, not where the guy was, right in front of the toilets (where the beef noodles stall is now).

It was a little cheaper than elsewhere (RM3.80 or RM4.00) and yes, I could see the meat and the green veg – usually, one would be hard-pressed to see those ingredients…

KONG Ma Ma Foochow fried noodles

…among the noodles but my missus said that it was just all right, the serving was huge – there were lots of noodles and there was no msg overload but it lacked the much coveted wok hei fragrance so she was not very impressed by it.

I saw one stall selling “creamy laksa” with lots of cans of evaporated milk on the counter. I wonder if that is any good. Well, I am pretty sure that we would be back soon enough, probably for the beef noodles or something else. We’ll see…

Yet another one for you…

The other day, I spotted yet another new coffee shop in town…

Udak Kitchen, Sibu

…located here…

Lorong Sungai Merah 2C

…back to back with this one facing my regular car workshop and right next to the supermarket (green building) with the St Teresa Catholic and SIB Churches right across the road…

Supermarket & churches

I don’t know what the name means but it sure has some very interesting stuff on display such as the rattan food covers and the plates and I like their use of the kerosene pressure lamps for their lighting…

Decor 1

…and there were also the kompangs (Malaysian drums) and the old-school enamel trays…

Decor 2

…on another section of the wall, plus this old-fashioned telephone, another kompang and a miniature bicycle and a miniature trishaw…

Decor 3

…on the counter, with more drums beside it…

Decor 4

…and I sure do remember the old-time kerosene stove…

Decor 5

– I used one like that to cook in the late 70’s right through into the early 80’s, those five years when I was teaching in Kanowit and I do remember the pump kind of thing on the right too. People used that to pump kerosene out of a big tin…and yes, we had a yellow enamel tiffin carrier like that once. In my younger days, when my mum had something to do or was busy with something, my dad would take it to town in a rattan basket to buy some dishes from this restaurant for us to eat at home that day. It sure was a whole lot more environment-friendly then, those days before plastic and polystyrene.

I ordered the roti canai kosong/plain (RM1.40) from the lady at this stall in front…

Udak Kitchen roti canai stall

I don’t know if the prices have gone up but I don’t recall it being this expensive elsewhere. I did see a lot of the other customers eating that…

Udak Kitchen roti canai

…though and yes, it was very good, crispy and not tough and rubbery – best eaten when hot.

The dip did not look promising but upon tasting it, I found that it was very nice…

Roti canai dhal curry dip

– not quite dhal nor curry, probably something in between.

I also ordered the mee mamak (RM3.50) and it came with this little bowl of complimentary soup…

Udak Kitchen mee mamak and soup

…and one thing I must say about these Malay eateries, their plain clear soup is so very nice, good till the very last drop which is more than what I would say about their coffee (RM1.50)…

Udak Kitchen kopi-o-peng

…which is always so diluted and has hardly any coffee fragrance. Thankfully, the one I had that day was not sweet which usually is the case, so very sweet too!

The mee was all right, quite nice and loaded with ingredients – prawns, sotong (squid), tofu puffs, taugeh (bean sprouts)…

Udak Kitchen mee mamak 1

…and even peanuts…

Udak Kitchen mee mamak, peanuts

…all for R3.50 unlike at most Chinese stalls where you will get a plate of almost nothing else other than the noodles, and maybe some barely visible bits of meat and green veg, for RM3.80-4.00 or more…but having said that, I thought what I had that morning was nice enough…

Udak Kitchen mee mamak 2

…just that it was not something I would go out of my way to have. I may drop by again though and try something else – perhaps they may have something else to offer that is a whole lot nicer.

Share the joy…

My good friend, Annie, in KL would always drop by here…

Joystar Garden, Sibu

…everytime she comes home to Sibu for the simple reason that her mum stays close by so it is very convenient for her to come over with her twins and the rest of the family.

I had never been to the coffee shop myself and all I knew was that they have a restaurant upstairs and I have never been there either. But Annie has been telling me of some of the nice things that they enjoyed and every trip home, her twins would want to go for the mee mamak

Joystar, mee mamak
*Annie’s photo on Facebook*

…from this stall…

Joystar, mee mamak stall

…at the coffee shop. Gee!!! It must be really very good for them to want to go and eat the one here all the time. The problem was according to her it would have to be at night when some thin guy would be around to do the frying…but I seldom venture out at night all that often and oh dear!!! I just received word from her that the guy is no longer there. I guess I would never get to try it then. Sobsss!!!

She also told me that the Foochow traditional red wine chicken soup mee sua (RM6.50)…

Joystar red wine chicken soup mee sua 1

…was very nice so when I stopped by the other morning, that was what I ordered from this stall…

Joystar mee sua stall

…there.

Indeed, it was really good with two chunks of chicken, one shitake mushroom and yes, Ken, there was one hardboiled egg…

Joystar red wine chicken soup mee sua 2

…as well. Absolutely perfect! Hehehehehehe!!!! I certainly would not mind going back there again should I feel like having this.

My missus had the char bee lau too kha, (the fragrant root pork leg soup) mee sua (RM6.50)…

Joystar charbeelau too kha mee sua

but it was very light – it did not have any meng ngee (dried cuttlefish) and was not strong on the red wine and the ginger, a far cry from what we would cook ourselves at home so I don’t think we would want to have that should we happen to drop by here again.

Well, if anyone is interested in checking out this place (2.327923, 111.838586), it is past the Sungai Merah bazaar to the left of the traffic lights at the junction ahead with a Methodist church and SMK Tiong Hin on the right. Parking is easily available around the building and it is free. We were there at around 10 something and there were only a few tables occupied but I did notice that the chap fan and the nasi campur were already ready, piping hot, at their respective stalls…and both looked good. Perhaps I would try those someday.

Little town…

I have some kind of hedge growing all along the fence at the back of my garden. No, I did not plant it – it just grew out on its own and yes, I would have to go and trim it once in a while. I have not done it for a while now, probably not since before Chinese New Year and I had not been feeling too well not too long ago so it had grown somewhat out of control, past the tall fence of my neighbours at the back. Obviously, they were not too happy about the intrusion so they just broke the branches and left them dangling over at my side.

That was why I had to go through the chore of trimming it short and I collected all the branches in plastic bags to take them some place to throw away. We do have quite a few designated places here with a “REFUSE BIN CENTRE” prepared by the municipal council so I took the bags to one of them to throw away…and I always do the same with the grass swept up everytime the guy comes around to mow the lawn. No, I would never leave all those things at some corner of my garden to dry up and then burn them…and with the blistering hot weather…

Sunset on a hot day, last Saturday

…here these days, I sure would not want to contribute to the hazy air.

That morning, I took the bags to the centre at Rejang Park here and since I was there already, I thought I would just walk around the place. I went to the market and I saw some very nice kembong (fish) but a lady wanted them so I just let her have them all – there were not all that many, five or six only, I think. I went to the other stall and bought some prawns from the nice elderly lady there – RM16 a kg. Buying is easy – it is the chore of having to peel off the shell and remove the vein of each of them that I dread the most. Still, we would stock up on some of those in our freezer. Like I always said, you can’t go wrong with prawns – just add a few to your dish of fried vegetables and they will bring the taste to a whole new level.

My missus had cooked some phak lor sa chan (stewed five-spice pork belly) the day before and there was quite a lot leftover in the fridge so I walked over to the kompia shop there to buy some. There are a few different ways to eat kompia, other than eating them plain, that is…and one way would be by stuffing them with slices of stewed pork belly and eating them, dipped in the lovely sauce.

Well, that was exactly what I did the next morning. I sliced the kompia and toasted them in the oven (some people may prefer them deep fried), stuffed slices of the stewed pork in them…

Kompia with stewed pork belly 1

…and enjoyed eating them with the sauce…

Kompia with stewed pork belly 2

Of course, it is much nicer cooking your own at home – you can stuff a lot more meat inside and the sauce is more garlicky and flavourful and not so terribly diluted…

Kompia with stewed pork belly 3

As a matter of fact, I prefer to dip the kompia into the sauce to eat rather than serve them swimming in the watery sauce and ending up all soft and soggy. Personally, I don’t think they are all that nice that way.

Back to the kompia shop, the young man and the mum know me quite well by now though I can’t say I am all that regular a customer. They are very nice people and that morning, I placed my order and the mum got what I wanted for me and when I got home, I found that she had given me an extra piece. No, it is not that much, just one extra piece but a little gesture like that would go a long way in making customers feel good and get them to come back again and again. The father was there too, as usual – he is a little more on the quiet side, I think and he sure looks like he was a very handsome man in his younger days.

That is one thing about living in a little town – that special human touch. As you walk around, there will be people smiling at you, greeting you with all the pleasantries and small chat. I don’t think you will get much of that when you go shopping in some huge supermarket…and definitely not when you shop online.

I went and bought two packets of the char kway teow with see ham (cockles), RM5.00 each…

Rejang Park ckt with see ham
*Archive photo*

…from the old lady at the stall in this coffee shop. I know the family very well, maybe not her but her brother and some of her younger sisters but I guess she could recognise me so when she was done, she came over to chat, asking how my parents were getting on and all that stuff. Her char kway teow was good as always but this time around, it seemed that she was using the canned cockles which of course, I did not quite like. I think the next time around, I would rather go without if she does not have any fresh cockles at hand.

I also bought two packets of the chao chai hung ngang with fish slices (RM6.00 each) from the stall next to hers…

Happy Hours chao chai hung ngang stall
*Archive photo*

…and I would say that the guy was very nice and friendly too. He even took the initiative to separate the hung ngang (big bihun) from the chao chai soup, lest they ended up too soft and soggy and would not be all that nice in the end.

Well, that took care of dinner – it was a Friday so my girl would be home later in the day and I was very sure she would be delighted to eat all those things that I had bought – she is not all that fond of eating rice…and I really enjoyed my stroll around Rejang Park that morning…right here in my little town.

Does anybody know…

Does anybody know where I can get really good chicken rice in Sibu? The rice, that is. I find that the one here is nice but there is a need for some quality control. At times, it is just so-so, not really worth the trouble of making my way into town and going through the hassle of finding a parking space to go and eat. I liked the one here at our Sarawak’s own chicken rice franchise as well but I have not been since, not there nor any of the other outlets in town, so I do not know whether it is always this good or we just caught them on a good day.

This used to be the best in town but once, we found it rather disappointing but I did give it a try recently and thought it was not too bad, not as nice as before but it was good enough. Well, last Saturday, my girl said she would like to go there for the chicken rice and she did not want any of the pork so these were what we had…

Chopsticks chicken & duck meat platter

– the chicken, steamed and roasted, and also the roast duck and we also had the stewed eggs…

Chopsticks stewed eggs

All in all, inclusive of three plates of rice, the total came up to only RM17.00 plus. However, we did not think the rice was all that nice that day – it was all right, nicer than many around but no, it wasn’t anything like what it used to be.

And does anybody know where the beef noodles people have gone to? We liked it a lot and had gone there a few times just for that but when I walked around the place that day, they were no longer there! A lady selling mee sua was sitting at her stall, looking rather lost and forlorn. She did not seem to be getting any business at all and talking about business, it was lunchtime on a Saturday and the place was not very crowded, nothing like what it was like before. Does anybody know whether that was because of the poor economy in our country right now or people have moved elsewhere…where the food is nicer?

After lunch, my girl wanted to drop by the bakery round the corner, the subsidiary of our very own Sarawak fast food franchise, to buy some buns to bring to her school to eat in the week ahead. You see, with the current scorchingly hot and very dry weather we are experiencing right now, their water supply – they depend on the rain for that there – is running very low so there may be a need for water rationing and she does not want to do any cooking to avoid a whole lot of cleaning and washing up after that so as to save whatever little water they may have.

I just waited in the car and when she came back, she told me she had bought me these red velvet muffins…

UNIQBUN muffins

…to try. I remember I had bought the same before from another outlet of this same bakery, except that it was one whole loaf and yes, it was pretty good and so were these…

UNIQBUN muffins, red velvet

…that my girl bought that day, soft and moist, but of course, I was wishing I had the cream cheese frosting to go with it. It is the combination that I enjoy and love a lot and without the frosting, it would boil down to being…just a cake. Still, it was way nicer than these but I think those were cheaper. I don’t see those around anymore – I guess they did not sell very well so nobody is stocking up on them anymore.

And does anybody know where I can get really really good red velvet cake in town, complete with the cream cheese frosting and all?

Hello…

I had not heard from my dear friend in KL, Mandy, for quite a while and I was wondering how she was doing. She was not active on Facebook either – had not seen her there for a long time too. That was why I sent her a message to ask how she was doing but I did not get a reply until a couple of days later.

My handphone rang but it was somewhere in the house, not by my side, and by the time I got to it, the ringing had stopped. So, I called her back and yes, it was great to get to talk to her and to know that she was getting on all right, just that she had been so busy with her work and everything.

She said she had been here on her working trips twice, I think, but they stayed in Mukah, not in Sibu, and according to her, the road from the junction, a little past Selangau bazaar on the way to my girl’s school, to the town was much better than the Sibu-Selangau sector. I had thought of driving there and spending a few nights in the town enjoying the fresh seafood but when the time came, I changed my mind. Perhaps I should make a trip one of these days.

We talked for quite a while and when I ended the call, I got the prompt from the telco informing me of the balance that I still had and telling me that the call had cost me RM25.60. Good grief!!! For that kind of money, I could have bought two packs of the Sibu instant kampua mee and sent to her via our national courier, the so-called “fast post” and there would be enough to cover the cost of the noodles and the postal charges. Still, it was great to get to talk to Mandy after all this while so it was fine by me. That was what mattered most.

Later that day, I saw some friend LIKE-ing this ad from the telco…

DIGI ad on Facebook

…on their Facebook page. “Unlimited calls”, it said. I guess that meant one would be able to make free calls should one subscribe to the plan?

Of course, the ad got quite a few comments, none favourable, and I thought I would just add my two-cents’ worth…

Comments on DIGI ad

…and much to my surprise, I got an almost instant reply from them!

I did what they requested immediately and sent them my phone number, handphone model and all and I even forwarded a photograph I took of the prompt on my handphone…

PM to DIGI

I did check the call log and saw that we had spoken for over 10 minutes but I had deleted that once I had seen it so I could not attach a snapshot of it.

That was Thursday and according to their Facebook page, they would check their PM on Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. onwards. I did not hear anything from them on Friday and then, it was the weekend so I guess I would have to wait till today, Monday or later if I were to get any further response from them.

Well, I never expected anything initially but now that they had responded in such a manner, I would want to hear their side of the story, at least. I do not think I will be hearing much else from them after this though – I looked at all the complaints in the other posts on their Facebook page and this looks like their standard reply – the same response to everybody like it’s computer-generated or something of that sort.

Checking my account status, I noted that I had been their customer since 2002. Gee!!! RM25.60 for a 10-minute call, Sibu-Kuala Lumpur, RM2.50 per minute. Perhaps it is high time that I switched telco. What do you all think?