No plans…

I did not have any plans to do anything or go anywhere on the day of my birthday as the ladies were out of town and I was home alone.

That morning, I got a call from my good friend, Lim’s wife, asking me if I was at home. They will always remember my birthday without fail each passing year and I knew what they were up to so I said, “Yes, but don’t come!” but they showed up at my gate, nonetheless, to pass me these…

From Lim & family

Lim had just come back from KL and he bought this pork belly bak kua

Pork belly bak kua

…and they gave me a whole pack of it. That sure was a timely gift, I thought – with the ladies out of town, I could have that for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The durian cheese cake…

Durian cheesecake

…from that franchise cake shop was really good! Somebody did mention that to me once and now that I’ve tried it and enjoyed it so much, don’t be surprised to see me dropping by there for more of the same.

In the meantime, I also got a surprise phone call from my old friend, formerly known as ahkamkoko. I think the last time I saw him and his wife was way back in 2015 after which he left for his post-graduate studies in New York on a Fulbright scholarship. Well, he’s back now and is presently attached to a  school in Kuching and they were here over the weekend for a friend’s wedding and he asked if I was free for lunch that day. Well, of course I was and we arranged to meet here.

It was a blistering hot day so we went and sat upstairs in a very much nicer setting than the regular coffee shop kind of place on the ground floor – the air-conditioning certainly was a welcomed relief…and of course, I had to order my favourite fish maw soup (RM11.00) for them to try. It was all right that day but I thought it could do with a little less msg and a bit more quality control.

I also ordered the ngor hiang (RM8.00)…

A-Plus ngor hiang

…and they enjoyed it very much. I thought it tasted slightly different that day – maybe it was because of the lokan (clams) used in the minced filling, I wouldn’t know but I liked it a lot better on previous occasions. They said that there would not be any extra charge to go and dine upstairs but I do recall this dish being a little bit less, RM7.80, when we had it downstairs but never mind, as it wasn’t much of a difference.

The waitress came and informed us that the cook had made a mistake with our order for their honey pork ribs and had cooked a sweet and sour version of the meat instead but we could cancel the order, if we so wished. We said that we did not mind and would have it all the same (18.00)…

A-Plus sweet and sour pork

…and yes, I rather liked it even though it was not what I had in mind initially.

We had the bitter gourd omelette with lap cheang (Chinese sausage) – RM13.00…

A-Plus bitter gourd lap cheang omelette

…but the cook or whoever did not beat the egg well so there were parts where the salt had not completely dissolved so it was very salty and that sure affected our enjoyment of the dish.

Thankfully, the stewed pork leg served on a bed of fried cangkuk manis with egg (RM17.00)…

A-Plus stewed pork leg and eggs and cangkluk manis

…plus two stewed eggs by the side was great, as always.

The total came up to RM74.00 altogether (inclusive of rice and drinks) and of course, I insisted on picking up the tab – my birthday and a welcome-home treat for my friends.

After lunch, we dropped by here for the gelato and sat there to chit chat and catch up with one another’s lives.

It seemed that my friend’s wife, Michelle, a West Malaysian, had never been to Payung before so I insisted that we went there for dinner that night. Unfortunately, my friend absentmindedly locked his keys inside his car and had to call somebody to pick the lock and open it at around 6 something and that took a good one hour or so and that held us up and we only got to the café past 7.30 or just before 8.

Peter, the boss, had gone home as he had had a long day with his gardening contracts and what not – that is why they are closed on Sundays and will only open after 5 for dinner – plus he has to be home at night to keep his old mum (almost 95, I think) company (the others in the family would take turns and come during the day to do that). I bought a cake from this bakery for everybody to share and they insisted that I cut it and they all sang the Happy Birthday song…

Happy birthday with friends at Payung

Gee! That sure was sweet of them!

No, I did not take any photograph of what we had that night, not in the dim evening lighting and anyway, I have had photographs of everything on the menu here in my previous posts on the place but Michelle was bowled over by the herbs salad and the tempoyak and the otak-otak fish and the belimbing prawns – she does not eat prawns usually but after having tasted the delightful soup/sauce, she could not resist two or maybe, three. They were out of their green curry chicken that night so we had the Payung fish (ikan keli) and yes, I also ordered the pomelo salad (the papaya salad was not available either). All in all, I would say they enjoyed the dinner a whole lot more than the lunch we had earlier in the day and Michelle, especially, kept singing praises of what we had  that night.

I don’t know how much the dinner was – we got their durian ice cream on the house as it was my birthday – because my friend quietly went to pay when I went some place for a while for a bit of fresh air. Thank you so much, Jarod & Michelle for the treat – it sure was nice seeing the two of you again and good luck, God bless with the little one, coming real soon!

Well, it sure looked like I did have a great birthday after all, don’t you think? LOL!!!

A-PLUS FOOD CENTRE/RESTAURANT (2.293355, 111.823653) is located among the shops along Jalan Kampung Datu behind the block of shops (where Fair Price Supermarket is) near the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg and Jalan Kampung Nyabor while NICA GELATERIA (2.302620, 111.842988) is located at Wisma Liberty/Wisma Sri Minyak at No. 14, Block 3, Jalan Pedada – on your left, past the Jalan Ulu Oya Road traffic lights if you are coming from town and 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.

Natural…

I read somewhere online that what is natural is best and what is processed may not be all that good – they were talking about butter and margarine.

Well, the kelulut honey, unlike the commercially processed and produced ones sold at the shops and supermarkets, is definitely 100% natural and my dear friend, my ex-colleague, Carole, is rearing those stingless bees for it. She was also at that wedding dinner that night and she asked me to drop by her house to get it from her.

She has all these hives…

Hives 1

…all over her house compound…

Hives 2

…and the bees are in those rectangular boxes on top.

The hubby opened a couple…

Honeycomb 1

…so I could have a glimpse at the bees and the honeycomb inside…

Honeycomb 2

They planted these flowers, what the Malays call bunga air mata pengantin (bride’s tears), the pink…

Pink

…as well as the white…

White

…variety. If I am not wrong, these are called Mexican creepers and also coral vine, Coralita, bee bush or San Miguelito vine but many people are planting them for the bees so much so that they are starting to call it bunga pengantin kelulut. My neighbour has it growing on his fence in front of the house and it sure attracts a lot of bees, the stingless ones as well as the not-s0-harmless varieties.

I’ve noticed that the bees are also attracted to my dill flowers…

Dill flowers

…which I’m sure will contribute towards bringing the taste of the honey to a whole new level as the flowers are as fragrant as the leaves. I was told recently that in New Zealand, they plant the manuka flowers for their bees so the taste of the manuka honey is pretty consistent unlike the kelulut honey which will depend on what flowers or sources of honey they have access to. I understand that during the fruit season when the trees will all be flowering, the honey will be extra nice.

I told Carole about the bees and my dill flowers and yes, she heard about that too and she showed me the ones she planted – they are still very small; I am sure it would be quite  a while before there will be any flowers.

She gave me a bottle of the honey and I got two more bottles from her – of course, I paid for the fruit of her labour, RM25.00 each…and she also gave me this jar of tempoyak (fermented durian) that she made herself recently…

From Carole

How very timely! My missus just used up our stock of the very much coveted stuff a couple of weeks ago.

Thank you so much, Carole – I sure will drop by again as and when I need any more of the honey.

‘Tis the season…

…to get married and the very next day after I went to my ex-student’s (SMK Kanowit, 1978-1992) eldest daughter’s wedding banquet here, I attended another one here…

Wedding cake

– my ex-student at Chung Hua, Sibu (1983-1991), later my colleague, tied the knot so of course, many of my ex-students, her classmates, were there too. I had a snapshot taken with the boys…

With my ex-students, boys

…and if you think I looked sleepy and tired, as a matter of fact, I was! It had been a long day – I was out with the ladies and after lunch, we went to see a movie so I did not have the chance to enjoy the luxury of my usual afternoon nap and soon after we got home, I had to get ready and go to the venue early as parking can be such a pain around that hotel. I must say I was immensely flattered as I was the only one of their many former teachers over their years in school invited to the dinner.

It rained after the movie but luckily, by the time I got there, it had stopped and the evening, though a bit gloomy, was nice and cool…

Evening, Sibu

The first dish was the leng pua (cold dish)…

Leng pua

Here, for our Chinese sit-down dinners/banquets, we have a choice between hot or cold and never mind which one we pick, there will always be more than just four in the platter unlike the Four Seasons one would see elsewhere.

The second dish was the dry/fried version of the not-to-be named dish so of course, I did not take a photograph of it. I wish people would request for a change in the set menu and have that replaced with something more acceptable.

The sweet and sour fish head…

Sweet and sour fish head

…was great and so was the steamed/baked herbal chicken…

Chicken 1

…wrapped in aluminium foil…

Chicken 2

This was probably sea cucumber…

Sea cucumber

…but it was overloaded with msg so I just had a bit and that was it – I sure liked the one I had the previous night a lot more.

After that came this yam basket…

Yam basket

…but no, I was already quite full by then so I hardly touched that. I bet there would be a lot of msg in it too.

Well, to give credit where credit is due, their Chinese pancake with mung bean filling…

Chinese pancake and mochi

…was really good, much nicer than the one I had the night before but the mochi was kind of disappointing as the texture was not quite there.

After that came the fruit platter and that was it, only six dishes excluding the desserts – this seems to be the regular thing these days but we did not have prawns! Hmmmmm!!! Anyway, I was already filled to the brim…and the dishes were extremely slow in coming out so much so that after the first few dishes, my brain had already received the signals telling me that I was already full and I just could not eat anymore.

I had a good time though – it sure was great getting to see my ex-students again and also my ex-colleagues (Sacred Heart, Sibu, 1992-2007). Thank you for the invitation, Sze Nee and my heartiest congratulations to you and your hubby, may God bless the two of you with endless love and everlasting happiness in the years ahead. Cheers!!!

THE LOONG JIN RESTAURANT GRAND BALLROOM is located at Level 1 of the Tanahmas Hotel (2.288121, 111.830214), Lot 277, Block 5, Jalan Kampung Nyabor.

Time for tea…

This place, literally translated to mean drink tea

Lim Teh

…is not all that new and we did drive past…

Shop

…a few times but it was always packed with people spilling onto the road so we never wanted to stop to check it out.

The Sibu Twin Towers, otherwise known as the Waterfront Residence…

Near twin towers

…is located about 100 metres ahead, round the corner and if you are wondering where the other half of Mr. Bean’s  citron-green 1977 British Leyland Mini 1000 Mark 4…

Mr Bean's car, outside

…is, it is stuck to the wall inside the coffee shop…

Mr Bean's car, inside

…and this is on the other side of that same wall…

Writing on the wall

…in the left section of the coffee shop. Those of you who can read Mandarin would probably know what that is all about but unfortunately, it is all Greek to me.

I decided to try the Malay/Muslim stall…

Andy

…there and had the nasi ayam penyet (RM6.00)…

Nasi ayam penyet

…and yes, what you see is what you’ll get! There was that not-so-penyet (clobbered) over-fried piece of chicken drumstick, kind of hard and dry, with the rice and some raw cabbage and cucumber served with the somewhat watered-down nasi lemak kind of sambal. I would say that I can easily get the same a whole lot better at quite a few places elsewhere.

The sup tulang (RM7.00)…

Sup tulang

…was just as disappointing. It looked like it was freshly-cooked and of course, I quickly removed the supermarket factory-produced fried shallots on top as soon as it was served and it came as no surprise that the meat was as tough as leather…

Tough

…and the soup was just o.k. If you are looking from some very nice sup tulang, you can go for the truly delightful one here instead – as for the one here, you can just give it a miss.

The ladies ordered their choices from the chu-char (cook & fry) stall at the back – I heard that the guy was here before and yes, we went there quite  a number of times and yes, we did like what he dished out. Well, he has moved here now, so I’ve been told.

My girl had the hung ngang (the big bihun) in the egg in traditional Foochow red wine soup…

Egg soup hung ngang

…and she said it was very good. The mum had the sambal kway teow

Sambal kway teow

…and she too liked what she was served and was singing praises of the huge see ham (cockles/kerang) in the dish. I think each of the dishes was RM7.00 and I paid RM14.00 for the two, if I remember correctly.

I did meet an ex-colleague of mine the other night and I asked him what was nice here – I saw him sharing photographs of what he ate here a couple of times because when I walked around, I did not see anything that really tickled my fancy. He said the aforementioned stall at the back was good and the pan mee from the stall next to that Muslim/Malay stall as well, the dry version in particular.

Well, I’m not really a fan of pan mee, wet or dry, so you will not see me in a hurry to go back there again, that’s for sure.

LIM TEH is located at No. 42, Ground Floor, Lorong Lau King Howe 1 in the vicinity of the Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum round the corner from the Waterfront Residence, aka the Sibu Twin Towers.

Father’s daughter…

My ex-student invited me to his eldest daughter’s wedding banquet at a leading hotel here one beautiful evening last week…

Beautiful evening

– he is blessed with two very handsome sons and three pretty daughters, so one down, four more to go! LOL!!!

Of course, he invited many of his ex-classmates, many of whom were my students when I was teaching in Kanowit (1978-1982)…

Ex-students

…and two of my ex-colleagues…

Ex-students

…as well.

The food was great starting with the sio pua (hot dish), our version of the Four Seasons…

Sio pua

…and as always, we have more than four. With the bubbling thick sauce poured over everything in the dish, I would say it was something like the very popular poon choy that I had once in the peninsula.

I was glad that they decided to do away with the not-to-be-named soup and had this very nice chicken and fish maw soup…

Chicken & fish maw soup

…instead.

This is my favourite dish here, their duck…

Duck

…stuffed with glutinous rice…

Stuffed

…and the steamed fish…

Fish

…whatever fish that was, was very good too.

The braised sea cucumber…

Sea cucumber

…was awesome, very nicely done and the creamy butter prawns…

Prawns

…as well but I’ve often wondered why they would always keep the crustaceans till last. More often than not, by that time, I would be so very full, bursting at the seams already and even though I would want to eat a lot more, I just could not possibly do so.

Dessert was some fried Chinese pancake with mung bean paste inside…

Chinese pancake
*Ex-student’s photo*

…and this peach and longan combo…

Peach & longan

– the favourite of many during my younger days. I remember the time when we would sit through the 12-course Chinese dinner waiting anxiously for this dessert dish to be served and we sure enjoyed that so much. Sadly, kids these days would not even give it a second glance and would be quite happy pre-occupied with their smartphones.

Yes, the food was very good that night but I do think they need to do something about those part-time waiters and waitresses that they would engage for these grand functions, the wallflowers…standing idling by the side of the ballroom and each time, I needed a refill, my glass of iced water, I would have to get up and get it myself. Tsk! Tsk!

Thank you so much, Hoi Kian, for remembering your old teacher and inviting me to your daughter’s wedding. Congratulations to the couple and also to the proud and happy parents, God bless, all, always. Cheers!!!

THE KINGWOOD BALLROOM (2.2832589,111.8327029) is located on the 6th floor of the Kingwood Hotel at No. 12. Lorong Lanang 4. 

Offer…

I did say in a recent post that I would not be all that keen to buy Bovril or Marmite these days as they do not come cheap and I would just have to learn to live without them. However, I came across this special offer…

Bovril special offer

…at a supermarket the other day, selling for RM26.00 but one would get a small bottle valued at RM10.50 so it would work out to only RM15.50 for the big bottle. Incidentally, I saw a similar offer for Marmite at another supermarket but I had already bought this one so I would not want to buy that even though the expiry date is not until the end of 2019.

I saw this photograph…

Photograph

…at the back of the box and of course, I wasted no time in reading their recipe for the dish…

Recipe

It sure looked like how I would cook my Bovril noodles or mee sua except that I would never add that bit of water for the sauce. As a matter of fact, in the preparation of kampua or kolo mee or my version of the mee sua, the noodles must be drained absolutely dry. If you go for the noodles at a stall or shop in town and there is a bit of water at bottom, it would be best that you go elsewhere next time – there should not be anything of the sort, no sauce whatsoever unlike wanton mee over in the peninsula.

I had never  tried cooking pasta of any kind this way though and I heard that they serve this…

Bovril pasta
*Photo from their Facebook page*

…at this café in town but I never dropped by there as it did not look like they had anything much that would be gluten-free. Probably I can stop by one of these days to give it a try and write a review of it – it sure looks good in the photograph.

In the meantime, I went and took some of my girl’s gluten-free spaghetti to try and cook my own. I peeled and sliced one shallot and fried it in some oil…

Fried shallot and oil

…till it had turned slightly brown – that would be the time to remove it from the hot oil as it would eventually turn golden brown in the residual heat. If you wait a little later, it might get burnt and not only would it look bad, it would taste bad too, and kind of bitter as well.

I poured the oil onto a plate and added a spoonful of Bovril and chopped spring onions…

Ingredients

…from the ones growing in abundance in my garden, saving a bit for garnishing later. You can add a pinch of msg…and pepper and pounded chili/chili sauce, if you so desire.

After boiling the spaghetti – this gluten-free one took much longer, around 15 minutes till it was al dente, I drained it well and tossed it with the aforementioned ingredients and served it with some slices of my missus’ own-made fish cake (there was still one left in the fridge at the time), garnished with the fried shallots and spring onions and I also fried an egg to go with it…

My Bovril gluten-free spaghetti 1

Personally, I felt it was, at best, just all right…

My Bovril gluten-free spaghetti 2

– nowhere near our freshly-made kampua mee or mee pok…or the dried mee kua/mee sanggul or those instant noodle-like egg noodles sold in the supermarket nor was it in any way, nicer than mee sua.

Let me go and try that one at that café one of these days and I’ll get back to all of you on this.

Hit or miss…

I’m sixty-six today…

66th birthday mee sua, 2018

We had an early celebration that day as the ladies had their own plans and my girl went and bought a cake…

Specially for you

…from one of the bakeries in our neighbourhood, one of my favourites – the Japanese baked cheesecake…

Birthday cake

…and yes, we did enjoy it.

We went out for dinner that night at that place that was closed when we went last week. I would say it looks nicer in front…

Simply Delicious

…with its bakery section…

Bakery

…on the left of its entrance…

Wedding cake

…now.

We asked my sister to join us and we ordered a few dishes to share, starting off with their Ceasar salad (RM12.90)…

Ceasar salad

The dressing was kind of sour but when mixed together with everything, we thought it was quite good.

We wanted the seafood chowder but it was not available so we decided to go without any soup.

The bacon and mushroom baked rice (RM18.50)…

Bacon & mushroom baked rice

…was very nice – everyone loved it…but the serving is quite small though, probably just right for one person and without everything else, I would not think there would be enough to go round.

The lamb shank (RM42.00)…

Lamb shank 1

…looked like it had been stewed over and over again for a long time but  it was quite all right inside…

Lamb shank 2

I had the lamb shank here before and it was very much nicer (and cheaper too – RM33.50 in 2015) – perhaps they no longer have that same chef at the helm. I would say that the one here, RM33.90 only when we had it there in June this year, would win hands down…and we had a very good one here as well except that we have not been there for quite a while so I am not sure whether it is still on the menu and if  is, whether it is still as good. I have this thing about my lamb shank being served on a bed of mashed potatoes but no, the one we had that night only had some crinkle-cut fries by the side. All things considered, I don’t think that is one dish we would order should we happen to drop by here again.

The pork cutlet (RM22.50)…

Pork cutlet 1

…was a disappointment as well – it was on the tough side and very salty. The waitress was right – the slices were very small and she also said it would be marinated with black pepper only, no sauce…

Pork cutlet 2

What was served with it in the gravy jug looked like mushroom.

The kitchen was closed from 4.00 p.m. till 6.00 p.m. but we were in no hurry to go anywhere so it was perfectly all right with us – we just waited till it was time to order and yes, the service was good (even though the waitress seemed more comfortable and chose to speak Malay instead of English) and our orders did come very fast. There were hits and misses before when it was under a different name but personally, I liked the setting before…and yes, even though the caption below their new name stated, “SIMPLY THE BEST, listening to Miss Tina Turner belting out the song in a loop (with a video clip of the staff doing some kind of dance on repeat on their television screens, not that they were good at it, not even a bit) the whole time we were there was pushing it a bit too far.

SIMPLY DELICIOUS is located at No. 14 & 15 on the upper ground floor of the Delta Mall (2.312168, 111.846980) located along Jalan Pedada, now renamed Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai.