Count me in…

We were in the vicinity less than a fortnight ago and when we went again the other day, we noticed that there were at least two or three other cafés including this one…

Soft opening

…that had had its soft opening already and I think there was one, or maybe two, other coffee shops as well besides the two “food courts” that I mentioned in that earlier post…plus at least two hair salons.

With our frail economy the way it is right now, I really wonder if this is a good time to set up a business or maybe it is…as usually, there will be lots and lots of people coming home and and many others visiting Sibu too for the magnificent annual fireworks and firecrackers extravaganza at the stroke of midnight come Chinese New Year’s Eve so these places would probably enjoy brisk business at the time but they would have to make sure that they are a cut above the rest to keep the people coming back, those permanent residents, that is.

This time around, we dropped by here…

Wonderful Food Court

…and I had the char siew noodles (RM5.00)…

Char Siew noodles

…from one of the stalls there which I thought was good. I remember we used to get this here but the roast meat stall had been taken over by somebody else and I do not know where they had moved to now.

Just like the other one, they use their thick own-made noodles, something like those in the celebrated KL Hokkien mee but it was their char siew

Char siew

…that stole the show. I don’t know which part they used but the meat was tender and succulent and it really tasted great. I went to the stall to ask if they sold the char siew or not but they said no – one would only be able to have it with the noodles, take it or leave it.

There is a stall right beside this one selling roast meat with rice and they had char siew too…but it did not look the same so I did not bother getting any from there to try.

My missus had the claypot mee (RM6.00)…

Claypot mee

…from this lady who has shifted her stall from here where she was for a while. I heard she was originally at another shop in this same vicinity before so probably she stays around here and this new place would be a more convenient location…or perhaps the old lady and her kampua mee proved too much of a competition for anyone else setting up a stall at that same shop, I wouldn’t know.

Well, she did not use the usual yee mee so it did not have that special fragrance and taste. Instead, she used her own handmade noodles and I would say it was quite good, different but I thought it was not bad but there was too much for my missus to finish and no prize for guessing who had to finish it off. She left the egg behind – much to my delight and I did spot a few prawns and some minced meat balls in it. Well, anything with prawns doesn’t come cheap these days, that sure goes without saying.

Among the many others, there were a few most probably halal stalls there – one selling nasi lemak, another selling roti canai, one that dishes out all the fried stuff like fried noodles and the like and one selling nasi lalapan, ayam penyet…though I did not see anything that I would feel I would want to have.

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They say…

Pasta originated from China, they say – Marco Polo brought it back when he returned from his travels. Well, whether that is true of not, to me, they are all different kinds of noodles. Even here alone, there are so many varieties – our kampua noodles, the kolo mee in Kuching and wantan mee are all different in texture and taste and of course, the different ways of preparation and serving make that even more so.

This version of dried noodles, the mee kua

Mee kua

…that is widely available here sure looks similar to linguine, doesn’t it? Of course I would not go so far as to say that they are the same – obviously, by virtue of the ingredients used in the making and probably the process as well, they are not but I had some in the house and I decided to cook it differently from the usual to see how it turned out.

Like pasta, this mee kua takes a longer time to boil unlike the rest here and after I had done that, I rinsed it in cold water to remove whatever excess starch there was and to stop any further cooking from the residual heat. I still had this packet of spices…

Burrito spice mix

…so I added two teaspoons of that and some chopped sweet basil from my ailing plant plus a pinch of salt and some pepper…

Ready to toss

…and tossed everything together.

I fried some chopped garlic in two tablespoons of cooking oil in my ceramic pan (Yes, I’ve used it already and I love it!!!) till golden brown and then I added some chopped pepperoni…

Garlic & pepperoni

…for some added taste. Once I could detect the fragrance from these two ingredients, I added the pre-tossed noodles into the pan and mixed everything together and served…

Breakfast is served

…with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top.

Well, it was nice but I would much sooner have it my old school way – tossed with shallot oil, chopped spring onions, dark soy sauce and a pinch of msg and of course, with Bovril, that would bring the taste to a whole new level…just that I cannot afford it now. Believe it or not, you see bottles of that (and Marmite too) at the shops and supermarkets kept under lock and key, right next to the cans of New Moon abalone!!! Sigh!!! The way the prices are going, there are many things we will just have to learn to live without like, for instance, at RM110.00 a kilo, it sure looks like I am not going to have any bak kua (barbecued meat) this year… Sobssss!!!!

Valentine…

We were heading to the town centre last Saturday in search of a nice place for lunch when we saw that some roads were blocked and there was a horrendous traffic jam so I took a detour and decided to drop by here but unfortunately, the guy selling the nice wat tan hor kway teow and all the fried stuff was closing for the day. Good grief! It was not even noon yet!!! Janggut was not around – I hear that usually, he would not be opened if he had some catering assignment to do – probably he had been enlisted to prepare all the pre-packed meals for the participants in that grand function at the town square across the stream – some big shot from the peninsula was in town.

In the end, we just decided to just drop by the hotel next door…

Paramount Hotel, Sibu

…and have a bite to eat at their Valentine Cafe…

Valentine Cafe

…there. It is actually quite a big place – I was only taking a photograph of the paintings on the wall and the lanterns they had put up for Chinese New Year. Yes, there were some decorations…

Chinese New Year deco

…for the festive season all over the café and also the hotel lobby.

Normally, I would not go and eat at hotels unless it is the venue for a wedding banquet or some kind of party…but I was here over a year ago and I had their potato tuna salad (RM11.00)…

Valentine Cafe potato tuna salad

…and it was nice so I thought we could have that and see what else they had on their menu.

They had a set lunch promo at the moment for only RM13.00 (excluding GST) and the things on the menu looked quite good so we decided to go for that. My girl and I had their spaghetti, mamak-style…

Valentine Cafe spaghetti mamak

…and hers was served first. It seemed that they cooked them separately, plate by plate and I had to wait for a while for mine to be served as my missus’ pineapple fried rice…

Valentine Cafe, pineapple fried rice

…was served next. It was very nice, a much better choice than the spaghetti, I would say…but the pasta was all right too, not anything to shout about but it was not bad.

My girl said that hers was kind of bland plus it was sour as she squeezed both the calamansi limes by the side…

Valentine Cafe spaghetti mamak

I tried a bit but thought it was fine. Mine had a stronger wok hei fragrance but it was a bit too salty for my liking. It sure looked like they were not all that consistent…but for one thing, I certainly would give them top marks for their presentation…

Vaelntine Cafe pineapple fried rice

They had other choices for their set lunch such as their kung pao fish or their black pepper chicken and there was also fried beef with ginger but we did not quite feel like having any of those.

You get a free drink (cordial) and an ice cream…

Valentine Cafe vanilla ice cream

…as well and if we deduct RM3.00, the price for that little cup at a coffee shop close by, the set lunch actually costs RM10.00 only, inclusive of a drink…and that is rather cheap for a hotel. That is why I don’t usually fancy eating at hotels – the prices can be quite steep while the food may be good but not quite sensational…plus I had had my fill of hotel food on my never-ending working trips before I retired.

However, the one here, I must say, is very reasonably-priced and what we had was ok which made me think that this would be a good place to get together with friends and hang around all afternoon to chat and catch up with one another. Unless they have a function going on, there are not many people around and the waiting staff is very nice and friendly.

Long gone day…

When I was blogging about the kuih bangkit that day, my regular reader and commentor, Irene, said she also loves kuih sepit, kuih S & lek tau ko and added, “Nowadays, I never see people make lek tau ko. These few are my childhood CNY cookies.” Well, I was positive that they do sell lek tau ko at a bakery in town so I made my way there to have a look and that was why I ended up having the somewhat disappointing kolo mee special at this coffee shop in the next block that morning.

Yes, they had lek tau ko but they were kind of black in colour – probably they did not remove the skin of the green beans when they ground them for the flour to make those. Besides, they were kind of distorted and did not seem to have those very nice shapes that used to appeal to us in the long gone days when we were kids. Somehow or other, it thrilled us to no end to pick an animal and bite its head off and eat it all up. Gee!!! We kids those days sure had some really violent tendencies, eh? LOL!!!

Well, it so happened that a couple of days later, my missus was at the shopping mall in town and she saw these…

Lek tau ko 1

…and of course, she wasted no time in grabbing a tub to take home and try…and yes, they were very nice indeed. According to the seller at the temporary stall there selling these goodies for Chinese New Year, these were made by some Hokkien lady at home.

The shapes, made using the special wooden mold, were very well done. This is a bird or a hen…

Lek tau ko 3

…I guess…and this one is probably a rat…

Lek tau ko 4

…and in the words of the mean ol’ Queen in Alice in Wonderland, “Off with their heads!!!” Muahahahahaha!!!!

I went and googled and yes, I remember what we, in my family, used to call those – kuih koya!…

Lek tau ko 2

I think it is luk tau peang in Cantonese, and by the way, in response to zmun2‘s comments, I stumbled upon the Chinese name for kuih bangkitshih fun peang, and that sure sounds like Cantonese too.

Believe…

I have been taking these leaves…

Daun hempedu bumi 1

…for a long long time now, way before I retired. I did blog about it here once, if anyone is interested.

They seem to be very hard to plant though. If you see a seedling sprouting out somewhere and you decide to transplant it nicely at a proper place, you can be sure it will wither and die very quickly. That is why I would just let it grow anywhere it appears and pluck the leaves (a friend of a friend said it must be an odd number, 3, 5, 7…but she said she heard it elsewhere and did not know why) every morning to brew and drink.

Lately, however, it seemed to sprout all over the place – in the flower pots…

Daun hempedu bumi 2

…and all the cracks and crevices…

Daun hempedu bumi 3

…so at this point in time, I have an abundant supply for my daily cuppa, once a day…though I did see somewhere that it is recommended that one should have it three times a day.

The problem is after a while, the plants will start to produce seeds and flower…

Daun hempedu bumi 4

…and the leaves that appear are very much smaller, I don’t know why. That was why when they appeared all over the place, I decided to pluck the leaves and dry them in the sun…

Daun hempedu bumi 5

…to keep so I would not have to worry about the supply running out. However, the “tea” that I brewed using those tasted kind of peculiar. Maybe that was due to fermentation or I did not dry the leaves long enough so in the end, I just threw it all away.

I don’t know if they still do that in Sarikei or not but at one time, I was getting a friend there to buy for me – the leaves, dried and crushed and put into capsules. I can’t remember exactly now but I think it was selling at RM13.00 for 100 or was it 50 capsules? I also heard that they did the same at a Chinese medical store here and were selling them at RM1.00 each. I went and googled and I found that these capsules are actually available elsewhere…

Hempedu bumi extract

I don’t know what extract they are talking about – maybe they get the juice from the leaves and put that in the capsules, not the dried and crushed leaves, but they do claim that they do bring a whole lot of the same positive effects that people are saying these “king of bitters” can bring about.

For one thing, I’ve read claims that it helps detoxify one’s body so if one is on some kind of medication, then one should not be taking these leaves, the same thing with lobak putih (white radish), they say. People say that it cleanses away all the tok (poisons) in your body. Yes, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback regarding the leaves but yes, I have also heard people saying that they have no effect on them as well. I guess like medicines and medical treatments in general, they may work on some but not on others…

So so…

First and foremost, I would like to thank my cousin and hubby and family in Perth, Australia for the very lovely Chinese New Year card…

Chinese New Year card from Perth, Australia

…that I received two days ago, exactly two weeks from the date it was sent, the one in the postmark. The monkey catches a fish, 年年有余, that’s nice, isn’t it?

Moving on to the post proper, this place (2.294135, 111.825980)…

Coffee shop sign

…in the Tuanku Osman area here, in the block of shops next to the one where this restaurant is located, seems to be very popular, judging from the crowd in the morning, Sundays especially. A long time ago, people were saying that the Malay stall there served the best mee jawa in town and at one time, I dropped by for the nasi lemak special whereby they served a bowl of curry or something else in a bowl by the side. I think I did blog about the latter – those days when I was still using my antique handphone and did not have any decently-nice photos but I can’t seem to find the post now.

On another occasion, we went there to try the fried kway teow with beef – if I remember correctly, the coffee shop proprietor himself was doing it but he has retired now and somebody else has taken over. The kopi-o-peng that we had was no good, unfortunately, not even remotely close to anything that I would want to have again.

Once, I heard that the kampua mee there was nice and then, there was talk going round that the kolo mee was good. That was why the other morning, when we happened to be passing by, we decided to stop there and we had their kolo mee special. It certainly did not look anything like any kolo mee that I had had before – they even had a few thin strips of beef tripe…

Tripe and fish balls

…and fried fish balls along with tofu stuffed with a teeny weeny bit of meat inside…

Tofu and meat balls

…and those frozen meatballs with the horrible smell and taste that I picked out of the bowl and left them all by the side…and they had pian sip in it too!

No, there weren’t any char siew nor minced meat (RM4.00)…

Kolo mee special

– none of the usual stuff one would find in a regular bowl of kolo mee…and no, it tasted nothing like it but yes, it was nice and I would say this much – that it was just so-so, at best a decently-all-right plate of kampua mee with all the add-ons.

It seems that the Malay stall at the back is still there and there is a guy at the middle stall selling all the fried stuff and what we saw him serving to the other tables around us did look rather nice. We would give that a try should we happen to be around here again.

Alternative…

I have the feeling that many true blue Sibu born and bred have made their way back home for the forthcoming Chinese New Year as I see a lot of people at the malls, heavy traffic on the road…or maybe, they are all those from the nearby towns making their way here to do their shopping to prepare for the festive season.

After the sunset church service last Saturday evening, my girl wanted to drop by here for dinner but when we glanced inside, it looked like the place was full…or at least, there were a lot of people in the restaurant so we decided to pick to an alternative instead and the obvious choice would be this one right round the corner. Somehow or other, we never go to the one right next door as most of the time, it is very crowded and one may have difficulty trying to get a table…plus I am not all that fond of very busy, packed places.

Anyway, that night, we decided not to order the usual dishes that we would have here like their very nice sweet and sour fish fillet, for instance, but I can’t say we have a wide selection to choose from and in the end, we settled for their lemon chicken…

Y2K Restaurant lemon chicken 1

…which, of course, we had had before but we love how they do it. Firstly, unlike the thick batter at most other places, the very thinly-coated pre-deep fried pieces of chicken are always a cut above the rest. Other than that, fresh lemon is used – that is quite obvious, I guess, seeing the slices on top…

Y2K lemon chicken 2

…unlike at many places where the lemon chicken reeks terribly of the bottled essence which is such a put-off.

We did not want to order the fried cangkuk manis with egg or the sweet potato leaves anymore so we had their midin (wild jungle fern)…

Y2K belacan midin

– something we have not had here for a while as well and my girl requested for it to be fried with belacan (dried prawn paste) and yes, they do it very well, much nicer than a number of places and one probable reason, of course, would be the quality of the belacan used. The not-so-nice ones would give the dish a not-very-pleasant fragrance and taste.

On the way in, we saw some guys at a table outside having this tofu dish…

Y2K tofu

…and it looked good so we also wanted that. Now, this would be one dish here that we had not tried before and at other places, it is served in a claypot but here, they use this stainless thing with a special stand and a small fire down below to keep it hot and nice.

The lady boss seemed quite reluctant to accept any more orders, possibly because in her mind, she was thinking that those would be enough for the three of us but I felt like having one more so I asked for their fried beef with ginger…

Fried beef with ginger 1

…and this too was very nice. Somehow or other, if we order this dish at any place in town, it will taste more or less the same except maybe the sizzling beef on a hot plate here…but we were pleasantly surprised that there was a difference in how they cooked that here and we loved it!

Y2K fried beef with ginger

That certainly was a delightful dinner and true enough, as the lady boss appeared to be expecting, we could not finish everything and had to tapao quite a lot of the tofu home. Actually, I suggested just leaving it behind but my girl loved it so much and insisted that we took it home with us so she could take it with her to her school to heat it up for one of her meals there in the week to come.

The total for the four dishes for three persons came up to RM52.00 and I did hear the lady boss telling the cook, her hubby, to cook for three persons – usually, I would ask that they cook for two and the total would be a little less but that night, I did not bother. Of course, most importantly, everything was to our satisfaction and we made our way home happily, having enjoyed the pleasant meal together.