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?

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Been around…

Yes, they’ve been around a lot of places. A long long time ago, the couple used to be here and my girl enjoyed what they dished out so we would go there quite frequently and then one fine day, for reasons unknown, they moved away and we did not like the one who took over the stall so we never went back there again. In the meantime, I did hear of them moving here, there and everywhere and maybe, I did catch up with them and got to eat what they dished out once or twice but I cannot remember exactly where or when.

Anyway, we were here for the beef noodles that day when I noticed a lot of people having char kway teow so I walked over to the stall…

Bateras Food Court kway teow stall

…to have a look and lo and behold! It was that same couple. So they were presently at this food court but we had had our brunch already that day so we did not order anything from them. The next time we went there, they were closed so we adjourned some place else instead. I saw on Facebook that my friend, Annie, had the kway teow when she was back in Sibu that day and she said it was nice.

We did manage to get to eat the sambal kway teow (RM5.00)…

Bateras Food Court sambal kway teow

…finally when we went there the third time.

Yes, it was nice with quite a lot of prawns and egg and lap cheong (Chinese sausage)…

Bateras Food Court sambal kway teow 2

…too but I think I like the one here better despite there being less ingredients in it for RM4.00. However, that one’s a different recipe and for me, if it is sambal kway teow, my favourite in town would be the one here, right next door to this shop…but everything would be sold out before 10.00 a.m. and that lady would just call it a day. I think she’s still around doing what she does best but I have not gone there for a while now as I do not usually venture out that early.

I also ordered something to try from this stall…

Bateras Food Court mee sua stall

…at that food court – their chicken soup mee sua (RM6.00)…

Bateras Food Court chicken soup mee sua

It was all right, quite nice but no, it wasn’t what I would enjoy a lot – the one with our traditional Foochow red wine. I may want to try some of the other things the guy has to offer the next time I drop by here like his tom yam selections, perhaps but if it is mee sua that I want, I would much sooner go elsewhere.

Unlike when this food court first opened, there are some fairly good stuff here now…and I do mean fairly. Personally, I have yet to come across something here that would keep me coming back again and again for more.

A lil’ lower now…

The last time I had some really nice kao-teng koi (9-tier cake) or kuih lapis (layer cake) was way back in 2011 when I came across the very delightful Lulu nyonya kueh stall at Sg Wang in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. I did go to their stall at Mid Valley on my last trip to KL too and my guess is they have other stalls in the other malls as well.

I am sure they have very nice ones in Kuching as well, if you know where to go for the best in the city, but I cannot remember when I had any from there for the simple reason that I do prefer serimuka

Kuching, serimuka
*Archive photo*

…and kuih cangkeh

Kuching, kuih cangkeh
*Archive photo*

– the ones with the green top and the brown lower half so I would go for those instead.

We do not get very nice kuihs here in Sibu but the other day, I saw these (4 for RM1.20)…

Kao-teng koi 1

…here at this coffee shop

Friends' Kopitian stall 1

…where they do have quite a lot to offer…

Friends' Kopitian stall 2

…though I am not sure how nice everything actually was and I was wishing they would put everything in plastic containers or one of those bread storage things with a lid that you can lift to take what you want…or at least, they could have a big plastic sheet to cover everything when nobody is buying. It sure looked like the people running the chap fan (mixed rice) and kampua mee stall there are the ones operating this stall right in front of the shop.

One could tell from the bright colours that there wasn’t very much santan (coconut milk) in them so they would not be as nice as one would like them to be…but they are nicer than most if not all of the rest that we can find around town. They are a little lower now though as there are only five layers…

5 layers

…unlike those in the past when there would be nine and the novelty in eating these when we were kids was to peel off the layers…

Layer by layer

…and eating them one by one. What delight that brought us at the time! I remember there used to be a lot of different colours but at many places these days, there are only two – pink/red and white.

They also have these coffee-flavoured ones…

Coffee kao-teng koi

…but between the two, I would stick to the original.

The chai peah and the ham chim beng are two other things that we have tried from here and yes, they are quite nice.

Still good…

We had not been here…

Thomson Corner, Pedada Sibu

…for quite sometime now – no particular reason, just that it is a little out of our regular daily routine routes and we did not feel like going out of our way for anything there. Noticed how they’ve painted over the images of the sponsors on their shop sign? It seems that the municipal council here will charge shops for signs that advertise something but not if it is just a plain, straightforward shop sign.

For me, the main attraction here would be their Sarawak laksa

Thomson Corner, Pedada Sarawak laksa

…RM5.50 for the regular and RM7.00 for the large. Yes, it was my favourite in town, a lot more like the original/authentic ones in Kuching and I was glad to find that it was still as good as before and the sambal belacan (dried prawn paste dip) and the lime…

Sambal belacan & lime

…that came with it sure helped enhance the taste a good deal.

I don’t recall it being this expensive though but then again, what has not increased in price these days? It is RM5.00 (or is it RM6.00?) for this one here that I like very much too but there, you will only get three prawns. In this L-sized one (and I do think it is a bigger bowl as well), I got four…

Thomson Corner Pedada Sarawak laksa, prawns

My missus had the kampua noodles with pork (RM3.20)…

Thomson Corner Pedada kampua

…which is more expensive than at the regular stalls in the coffee shops around town but the serving was huge (a lot more noodles) and she could not finish all of it. Otherwise, she said, it was all right.

They also have an outlet, not a very big one, at a mall here and that one does not serve pork so you may be able to get their Sarawak laksa and some other things but you will not get the kampua noodles and the rest that you can find here. For one thing, that place is air-conditioned so it may be a better pick in the very hot weather that we are experiencing right now.

I don’t think there is any connection between this one and the Thomson Corner at Nanas Road in Kuching. This one started off at the ground floor of the Catholic Centre, beside the Sacred Heart Cathedral and when I used to go and wait for my girl, who was in the St Rita’s Primary School next to it, I would drop by for a drink and I would always go for their red bean shake (RM4.00)…

Thomson Corner, Pedada red bean shake

…that I enjoyed a lot. I had it again that day and yes, it was still good.

I don’t know if it was because we went at around 11, past the mid-morning tea break and too early for lunch, so it was not very crowded. Yes, there were some people, quite a number, but no, business did not seem to be as busy as it was in the past. Whatever it is, since they do have some very delightful stuff to offer here, I do hope that they do well enough to keep them going…

Coming back home…

I received an invitation to lunch from my friend/ex-classmate, Robert, the other day and I asked if he was celebrating his promotion to grandpa status recently and he said no, but there were some ex-classmates or schoolmates who had come home from Australia and New Zealand and that called for a get-together.

I made my way to the restaurant, probably the oldest surviving restaurant in town, and on the way, I walked through this lane where this dianpianngu shop is located and spotted this  piece of street art…

Sibu street art

…a recent addition to the existing ones all over town. That’s the guy behind that very popular Foochow delight – I guess that makes him some kind of an icon around town. Somebody shared on Facebook extracts from a Chinese newspaper reporting on how the place was packed to the brim with people coming home for the Ching Ming Festival the other day and they all made a beeline to the place to enjoy what they loved and missed so much.

That lane was not a designated parking area for motorcycles but it was nice and cool in the shade in between the two blocks of shops so everybody took the liberty of leaving their vehicles there but it would not be so good for anyone trying to take a photograph of the artwork on the wall…unfortunately.

It had been blistering hot here lately, just when I was quite happy that we had been getting quite a bit of rain in the previous weeks. My missus and I got to the restaurant…

Lantern

…earlier than the rest so we sat and waited, enjoying the nice air-conditioning and the braised peanuts…

Braised peanuts

…that were served.

I did not want to be obtrusive so I very quickly snapped a photograph of every dish that was served so there was no time for some nice angles or whatever. This was one of their signature dish, the very nice ang sio pek chai (braised Chinese cabbage)…

Hock Chu Leu ang sio pek chai

…but the vegetable was barely visible under all the mushroom on top.

The shot of the midin (wild jungle fern) came out blur and this one of the sweet and sour pork ribs…

Sweet and sour pork ribs

…did not come out too good either, sorry about that. I remember how we used to enjoy this in our younger days when my dad would buy some and bring home in the yellow enamel tiffin carrier. They still do it very well, almost like how I remember it to be, though I wished there was more meat and less bones in the dish.

We also had fish, sweet and sour too, and all the  slabs of the ngor hu were buried under the sliced Bombay onions so I have decided not to include to photograph in this post. I do not know the name of the fish in English or even in Malay but it is quite easily available at the wet market. It must be a very big fish, I think, as it is always sold in thick pre-cut slabs so you can just pick how many you want. It is very nice, even if it is just deep-fried but I do not buy it anymore as at times, it is lor kor and is not at all palatable. I don’t know what lor kor is in English or Malay either but sometimes, with very big fish, the texture of the meat is kind of tough or rubbery and is not nice at all. Thankfully, what we had that day was very good and of course, I had my fair share of it. I love good fish!

I think this was the sea cucumber soup…

Sea cucumber soup

…but I gave my bowl to my ex-classmate sitting right next to me as soon as I spotted some bamboo shoots in it. I remember once I was having the set lunch at a hotel café here and was served a bowl of complimentary soup. I saw what looked like three slices of ginger in it and as I was going to get rid of those, I noticed that they were, in fact, bamboo shoots so I ate them up. Ooooo…they were so sweet, so very nice but I came down with a gout attack and could barely walk for a week. I have refused to touch any since.

This restaurant is famous for its Sibu-style Foochow sio bee

Hock Chu Leu sio bee

…and the ones we had that day were very nice. The last time we had these here, the skin was hard in places – probably something went wrong in the steaming or whatever…and my sister-in-law did buy some home for Chinese New Year and they were extremely salty. It seemed that they had so many orders and had to prepare so many at one go during that time so quality control just went out the back door. The ones we had that day were as nice as those we had here – my missus actually felt they were nicer but those at that other place were consistently good enough all the time. However, they too should pay more attention to the quality control as there were days when I thought they were so good and on other days, they were good too but kind of so-so only, not as great.

We also had the Sibu Foochow-style fried noodles…

Hock Chu Leu Foochow fried noodles

…and it was as authentic as it could be, very much like the ones I enjoyed eating so much in my growing up years unlike many of those wannabes that one would find in the shops these days.

It sure was great meeting my old friends again and thank you so much. Robert, for the delightful lunch treat and for arranging the gathering.

I’d come for you…

The last time we dropped by here, I saw somebody eating the Singapore fried Hokkien prawn noodles and I thought it looked very good and I could detect the very nice fragrance too so I made up my mind there and then that I would come again just for this (RM8.00)…

Singapore fried Hokkien prawn noodles

Unfortunately, looking at it more closely, it did not seem as great. There were two rather small udang galah (freshwater prawns)…

Two small prawns

…cut into halves so it looked like there were four. There was no sotong (squid) and the sambal and calamansi lime…

Sambal and lime

…that came with it did not save the day. We used to have a really good one here – the guy was a chef in Singapore before he came back and opened his own stall here but he did not stay long at one place, moving here and there and at one time, he even moved to Ipoh where his wife came from. I have no idea where he is right now and whether he is still in the business.

I used to enjoy it very much when I was in Singapore in 1973/1974 and I sure enjoyed the one that Alfred, my Singapore friend, went through all that trouble to bring all the way for me to enjoy, wrapped in the opeh leaf, the way it should be. This one, of course, came nowhere near and I sure would order something else instead should I happen to be around here again.

My missus loved their Foochow fried noodles during our previous visit and this time around, she decided to try their KL Hokkien mee (RM6.00)…

KL Hokkien mee

…which was not to her liking as she did not like all the pork fat crusts in the dish.

My girl’s sambal bihun (RM4.50)…

Sambal bihun

…was very nice – it had the much coveted wok hei fragrance but I thought it was a little too light on the sambal so anyone who is more into that would find this somewhat disappointing. Looking at it, we thought that was tang hoon (glass noodles), not bihun (rice vermicelli) but we were not too sure and we did not bother to ask to find out.

Of course, since we were there on a Saturday, the popiah (spring roll) stall was open. The lady was nowhere in sight and there was a young boy and a young girl running the stall and doing everything. My guess was they were the lady’s children enlisted by the mum to help out since they would not need to go to school on weekends. What impressed me a lot was how the two seemed so very happy the whole time, smiling away and enjoying what they were doing.

I ordered the dumplings (7 for RM5.00)…

Dumplings

…that I knew my girl would like and I also requested for the very nice popiah (RM2.80 each, 2 for RM5.00)…

Popiah

The lady did appear later and she did stop by our table to say hello…and yes, those were her children. Some people are truly blessed to have such wonderful kids – many these days would not bother to lift a finger to help to do anything and would rather while their time away online on their ipad or smartphone.

Well, we would come back again sometime for the popiah, of course, and the next time around, we’d probably try something else to see if there is anything else here that is worth dropping by for.

I give to you…

No, I never intended to buy this…

Prima Taste fish soup La mian

…for myself. I actually bought a few packets to give to somebody but she simply would not accept anything from me so in the end, I had to take everything home and eat it all myself.

This is the celebrated made-in-Singapore brand – the curry and the laksa versions were rated the best or among the very best in the ramenrater’s blog and this fish soup version also got a 5 out of 5 review. My niece did give us a packet once and my missus ate it – she said it was very nice and I think I did buy some for my girl to enjoy at her school once…or maybe twice and yes, she did say that she enjoyed it. I do not recall ever eating it myself though and if I did, I do not remember reviewing it.

Well, there are two sachets in each packet…

Sachets

…and I could detect the smell of the sesame oil in (B), the fish soup spice oil so if you are not a fan of that, perhaps you should just leave it out. I am not crazy about it either but it is not really strong so one can hardly detect it all that much.

As usual, I boiled the noodles first and then drained away all the water…

Noodles

It takes a lot longer to cook than the regular instant noodles – I don’t know if this is like some Korean ones that they were telling me about – it may be boiled for a long time and it will not become overcooked or soft and soggy.

After that, I boiled a little bit of water and emptied the contents of the two sachets into it before adding the noodles and when it had resumed boiling, I poured everything out into a bowl, garnished it with a little bit of chopped spring onions…

Prima Taste fish soup la mian, served 1

…from my garden and served.

The soup wasn’t exactly clear – it was a bit milky but not as milky as those fish noodles one would find in some shops. Yes, I did boil an egg to go with it…

Egg, hard-boiled

…and I am sure that if I had added some extra ingredients like fish slices, prawns or sotong (squid), those would definitely go a very long way in enhancing the overall taste.

On its own, I thought it…

Prima Taste fish soup la mian, served 2

…was all right, nothing really sensational to merit the price it is currently selling for and I would much sooner go for something a whole lot cheaper and perhaps, very much nicer as well. For one thing, unlike the curry or the laksa, one does not feel jelak halfway through owing to the richness of the cloyingly rich milky soup.

I do not remember exactly but I believe they are currently selling at some RM7.00-8.00 a packet at a supermarket here. Others may feel otherwise but on my part, I do think that with that kind of money, I can easily buy two packs of 5 packets each of these, for instance, and have a good enough breakfast to start the day.