Wondering…

I am not really all that religiously-inclined but when we dropped by a mall in town that day, I was appalled by the decor…

Star Mega Mall Christmas decor

…they had put up for Christmas this year.

I was not crazy about the theme here, I think that was last year, and also at one supposedly classy restaurant in town, Frozen, but at least there was snow…and snowmen and I think there was a reindeer too, things that have long been associated with Christmas like Santa Claus, Christmas trees and presents but this got me wondering as I just cannot for the dear life of me figure out the connection between Christmas and Pikachu. Yes, it is the current craze or at least, it was not too long ago when lots of people went round catching those Pokemons or the short form for the Japanese name, Pocket Monsters. I guess those business people are trying to cash in on its popularity but somehow, it just doesn’t give me the feel or the spirit of Christmas.

Prior to stopping by this place that day, we had gone for lunch here. My girl wanted the bryani rice here but it was closed – Monday is their off day every week so we decided to go for more of our own Sarawak ethnic Dayak cuisine and ended up here again. True to their word, they had entirely different dishes in their selection that day except for the tapioca leaves that all three of us picked…

Anak Borneo tapioca leaves

…and they did it really well that day – it was always nice but we thought that day, it was even nicer. I guess it is a good thing to have different dishes on different days especially for the regulars – that way, they would not get bored unlike at some chap fan or nasi campur places here. You will see the exact same dishes day in and day out!

However, I was hoping to go for more of their kacang ma chicken with tuak (the traditional ethnic Dayak rice wine) and their pansoh babi (pork cooked in bamboo) but unfortunately, those were not in the menu for the day so instead both my girl and I picked the fish with the sourish terung Dayak (Dayak brinjal, which to me seems more like something from the tomato family)…

Anak Borneo terung Dayak fish

…and the umai

Anak Borneo umai

– our Melanau version of the Japanese sashimi, which we both enjoyed.

My missus picked the chicken curry…

Anak Borneo chciken curry

…and the two of us also had the pig’s intestines and pig’s blood with pineapples…

Anak Borneo pig's intestines & blood

…which we thought was pretty good as well.

The total for all our individual selections, plus rice, came up to RM19.50 altogether. I wonder when they will be having the kacang ma chicken and the pansoh babi again – I sure wouldn’t mind going back there again for those especially.

There’s no place like home for the holidays…

Well, there’s no place like home, that goes without saying, and my girl, for one, is happy to be back now that the school holidays are here and she would not need to go back to her school in the jungle till next year.

I hear the Christmas decorations are up but I have not gone round much except to the mall near my house and there is this one solitary Christmas tree there…

Delta Mall Christmas tree

…and these snowmen…

Delta Mall snowmen

…for those keen on having their photographs taken. The economy is not in very good shape with all the rising prices of virtually everything and probably for that reason, the decorations are somewhat minimal. I hear these snowmen were from the year before last, recycled.

Other than the aforementioned, there were also these…

Delta Mall Christmas cuties

…and the gingerbread house…

Delta Mall gingerbread house

Something is better than nothing, I guess – at times like this, it is good for us to try and be a bit prudent in our spending. After all, what is most important is the true meaning of Christmas, not the lavish spending and all that extravagant feasting and partying.

Well, our celebration is going to be very low key this year. Other than going to church, I do not foresee much cooking and celebrating now that we suspect my girl is gluten intolerant and would have to avoid wheat and so on…and who would have guessed there is wheat in soy sauce as well!!! This means that when we go out to eat, we would not be ordering any of those noodles and stuff made from wheat flour. Kway teow (flat rice noodles) and bihun (rice vermicelli) would be fine but not fried, as they always add soy sauce in the cooking.

That was why when we were out for brunch last Saturday morning, she opted for the Sarawak laksa

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa 1

here, still our favourite in town. The current prices are the same as when we were here in April, RM5.50 for the small/regular but the consoling thing is that the serving is very big and small eaters may have a problem eating all of it.

The large (RM7.00)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa 2

…is huge, so huge that even I had to struggle a bit to finish everything.

Of course, everytime I drop by here, I must have their ang tao peng, the red bean ice (RM3.50)…

Thomson Corner ang tao peng

They do it quite well, I feel, quite a lot of the beans underneath all that shaved ice, rich in santan (coconut milk) though I would not mind a bit more gula Melaka (palm sugar).

The following day, Sunday, after the morning church service, we went here for the tom yam bihun (RM6.00)…

Happy Hours tom yam bihun

that she also enjoys though she would prefer Sarawak laksa actually. The mum had the same but with hung ngang (the bigger version of the bihun) while I had the hung ngang too but with clear soup…

Happy Hours hung ngang, clear soup 1

Looking back at my post way back in May, I am glad to note that the things here…

Happy Hours hung ngang, clear soup 2

…are still priced the same despite the way things are going around here.

What about over where you are? Prices shooting up or are they pretty much the same as before?

Coming over…

There seems to be quite a number of West Malaysians coming over and setting up their businesses here like this yong tau foo place, for instance, and a number of stalls here and there which makes me wonder – is it better here? More money to make…or perhaps, there is less competition so there is no need to fight tooth and claw and struggle to survive?

This chee cheong fan stall here

Jiali chee cheong fan stall

…is another one of them. The guy had a few immigrant workers running the whole show for him – I did not see him doing anything. In fact, I did not even notice he was there, sitting at a table by the side till one of the guys pointed him out to me. I wouldn’t mind that myself – just sit and watch everybody else so busy and see all the money rolling in. Hehehehehe!!!!

I ordered No. 3, the one with char siew (RM6.00)…

Jiali chee cheong fan

…and yes, the chee cheong fan itself was very nice, really fine and smooth, not chewy – I thought it was just perfect. I would prefer it if they had served the sauce separately though, for me to dip as and when I felt like it, and not drown everything in the plate like that…and the sambal was just so-so, didn’t get me all excited, I’m afraid. On the whole, however, I thought it was good enough and something I wouldn’t mind ordering and having should I happen to drop by this place again.

My missus went and ordered from this stall on the left…

Jiali sambal kway teow stall

– the one with the WELCOME sign, their sambal fried kway teow (RM5.00)…

Jiali sambal fried kway teow

…and yes, she thought it was good and enjoyed her pick. If I heard what my missus was saying correctly, you can add a ringgit more and have some prawns in it.

I also had something from this Muslim food stall…

Jiali Muslim food stall

…that seemed mighty popular – a lot of people were having things from that stall and the fried mee and the fried noodles that I saw them serving looked very good. Maybe I would try those another day.

I went for their nasi lemak special (RM6.00)…

Jiali nasi lemak special

…and for once, I could detect the nice santan richness in the rice. No, it was not as rich as I would have loved it to be but it was there, the taste and the fragrance and I quite liked that.

For the special, you have a choice between fried chicken or masak hitam beef…

Jiali masak hitam beef

…and I chose the latter…and I thought they were quite generous with it.

It wasn’t on a Saturday so the popiah stall was not open. In fact, I am not even sure if they are still around on Saturdays and Sundays. They have some new people at the fried noodle stall at the back, the one that we used to order from and my girl enjoyed their sambal bihun that looked like tang hoon or glass noodles to us…but never mind that they are no longer there, there are lots one can choose from the other stalls so needless to say, we would be back again should we happen to be in the vicinity.

Well, for the uninitiated, these stalls are located at Jiali Cafe (2.291776, 111.841426)…

Jiali Cafe
*Archive photo*

…among the shops behind Medan Mall along Jalan Wong King Huo.

Wishing you well…

Congratulations and wishing you all the very best, Rosaline, on the recent grand opening of your business venture…

Ruai Cafe, Bintulu - address

…at this shop…

Ruai Dayak Cafe, Bintulu - shop

…in Bintulu.

Rosaline was my student in Kanowit way back in the late 70’s or early 80’s when I was teaching at a secondary school there, 1978 – 1982. You can see her in this photograph (in dark blue)…

Getting ready

…and it looks like they are stuffing the bamboo tubes to cook the very nice pansoh meat or fish.

For the uninitiated, the ruai is the common room or corridor inside a longhouse…

Ruai in a longhouse
*Archive photo*

…outside the biliks where each individual family stays. This would be where the longhouse folks would hold their celebration during festivals like the Gawai Dayak when there will be a lot of feasting, drinking and dancing…

Dancing in a longhouse
*Archive photo: from my Singapore friend, Alfred’s album on Facebook*

Of course, with a name like that, you can expect to enjoy all the Dayak ethnic delights at Rosaline’s shop such this paku (wild jungle fern)…

Ruai Dayak Cafe paku

…and this one – I’m not sure what that is, probably ensabi…

Ruai Dayak Cafe ensabi

…that some call sawi Dayak.

I managed to get some photographs from Rosaline’s Facebook page to share here and this looks like kacang ma chicken…

Ruai Dayak Cafe kacang ma

…and this meat dish…

Ruao Dayak Cafe meat

…sure looks good!

You can click this link to visit their Facebook page…for more photographs and there is even a video clip of somebody at the shop playing the sape, their traditional “guitar”…

I, for one, enjoy such ethnic native cuisine a lot and I sure would love to drop by and try, if only I were in Bintulu.

Far and wide…

Yesterday, I blogged about a place in Singapore where those in the island republic could drop by for the much coveted Sarawak Sibu kampua noodles, especially the ones from here who are currently residing there.

Well, an ex-student of mine from Kanowit where I was teaching, 1978 – 1982, who is now working in Kuala Lumpur shared this photograph of what he had…

Pandan Jaya kampua and pian sip 1

…on Facebook. Now that looked really good, the bowl of kampua mee and the pian sip on top.

Oh my!!! It certainly is spreading far and wide these days, as far as Australia, don’t play-play! You do not even have to fly all the way to Sibu to eat this anymore, it seems. Gone are the days when you could not even get it in Kuching and my friends in college in the mid-70’s used to moan and groan and complain about the Kuching kolo mee, craving for our own Sibu kampua mee all the time.

I asked my ex-student where he had that but he did not know the details. He did forward to me this photograph of the stall…

Pandan Jaya kampua stall

…though. I guess these were his own photographs. He did share with me some snapshots of the very nice kolo mee he had at Pantai Indah but I googled and found out that he got those from somebody’s blog so I would not include them in mine.

I am not sure but it looked like he went back the very next day and this was what he had…

Pandan Jaya kampua & pian sip 2

…the second time around and he got me the address:
Restoran Pertama
Jalan Pandan 2/3, Pandan Jaya

I went and googled and got this…

Restoran Pertama Pandan Jaya

…street view pic of the place (3.134424, 101.740939).

So if there is anybody from here craving for this hometown delight, he or she can drop by this shop to give it a shot…or if anyone who is keen on sampling, this probably would be a good place to head to – I hear that man is from Sibu, unlike the Foochow-speaking Miri guy in yesterday’s post.

Addicted to you…

Kampua (noodles) and kompia are synonymous with Sibu. As a matter of fact, I have heard stories of people who had been away for a while even if it was just for a week-long tour and the moment they touched down, they would head straight to the coffee shop for their kampua fix before heading home.

Needless to say, those who live and work elsewhere, when they come home, for instance, when they come back for Chinese New Year, they would go and eat like there is no tomorrow. I’ve seen some stopping by so many places and sharing the photographs on Facebook of the kampua noodles that they had eaten…all in one morning, believe it or not!

Well, my friend in Singapore, the one originally from Sibu who was here briefly over one weekend not too long ago, contacted me via Facebook, all excited about this kampua mee stall…

Sarawak Sibu Kampua Mee, Singapore
*Friend’s photograph*

…that she came across in Singapore.

She said that the guy…

Kampua mee guy, Singapore
*Friend’s photograph*

…is from Miri and speaks Foochow and makes his own noodles. She gave his kampua mee an 8 out of 10 but she did not like the pian sip though as she found the skin rather thick. According to the guy, she said, he used those factory-made ones so of course, those would not meet the standard of discerning pian sip lovers.

I shared their link on Facebook and tagged those friends of mine in Singapore and in no time at all, one went to try and sent me this photograph that he took of the stall…

Sarawak Sibu Kampua Mee stall
*Friend’s photograph on Facebook*

…and the  things he ate…

Sarawak Sibu Kampua Mee kampua & pian sip
*Friend’s photograph on Facebook*

The kampua mee

Kampua mee, Singapore
*Friend’s photograph on Facebook*

…got his nod of approval, very authentic, he said, just like any of the original ones that one would get to enjoy in Sibu but he too was not so thrilled by the pian sip as he found the skin too thick for his liking. We also buy the skin here from the stalls at the wet market and they are also sold at most/supermarkets in town. I don’t know if it would help but I’ve seen at a lot of stalls here people sitting down by the side rolling the pian sip skin sheet by sheet to make them thinner so it would be nice and translucent when cooked…like the ones that I enjoy very much here.

It seems that they have a lot of variations, deviating far and wide from the original, and of course, the die-hard true blue kampua mee lovers would frown on those. Perhaps it is to cater to the taste of Singaporeans and others who may not be so attached to what is authentic and would not mind trying the rest which may be more to their liking. Well, if anybody is interested in dropping by to give it a try, this is the location:
115 BUKIT MERAH VIEW #01-30
151115 Singapore
…and you can click this link to view their Facebook page to see what’s in store…and incidentally, I hear that you can put in a special request for the “Sibu chili sauce” to go with your kampua mee, otherwise you will get the regular ones.

Go, go ahead and try and let me know how you find it, whether it is to your liking or not.

Anything else…

We dropped by here again for brunch last Saturday – I was told that there would be new dishes regularly, not the same things day in and day out so I wanted to see if there was anything that I had not tried yet that I might like.

Unfortunately, it was closed. I was puzzled – their regular off day would be Sunday, lunch and dinner, but that was Saturday. I asked the people at the coffee shop and they said they would not be open for lunch but it would be business as usual that night…and they did not know what the reason was. There wasn’t even a notice of some sort pasted at the stall to inform customers and to apologise for the inconvenience caused. I PM-ed them via Facebook, “Not open today?” and I got a reply very much later, a simple, “No.” Period.

Anyway, since I was there, I decided to check out the other food stalls at that same shop. I was told that the kueh chap guy moved from here and yes, I did have that a few times when he was there and I would say his would rank among the better ones in town. Word had it too that the kampua mee guy was at some small alleyway beside the Hock Hua Bank in the town centre in the evenings a long time ago – I did go there for the bak chang (rice meat dumplings – I think they are at the Sibu Central Market hawker centre now) but I do not recall having the kampua noodles there.

For one thing, I would say that the kopi-o-peng kao kao (iced black coffee extra strong) here…

Champion Corner kopi-o-peng kao kao

…is consistently good. I’ve had it every time I come here and it has never failed to satisfy.

There are other stalls as well including the chu char (cook and fry) place at the back but I picked the one in front located at the section on the left…

Champion Corner stall

…if you are facing the coffee shop from the front.

My missus had the chao chai hung ngang (RM4.50)…

Champion Corner chao chai hung ngang

…which did not look all that good with all the fish cake slices, no fish, no prawns but she did not say a thing so I guess it was edible.

I ordered the black vinegar pork leg rice (RM6.00)…

Champion Corner black vinegar pork leg rice 1

…and I loved it! It was very nice, nicer than some other places where I had had the same and I was glad they did not give me the trotters…

Champion Corner black vinegar pork leg rice 2

…with nothing other then the skin and bone and  the cartilage, no meat though I did wish they had served it in a separate bowl instead of in a plate together with the rice like that.

It so happened that the sister-in-law of Annie, my friend in KL, dropped by this same shop with her son, Anson. The boy had the kueh chap while she had the pek ting eyok too kha from this very same stall and she said it was nice. I ordered the fried kompia to try and liked it as well. It sure looks like this is a pretty good place to drop by for breakfast, brunch or lunch – so far, all that we have tried are pretty good.