Fairground…

There was a fun and food fair here last week probably held in conjunction with the launching of the Visit Sibu Year 2017 and if I am not mistaken, it is still going on right now until the Ching Ming weekend, 3rd April.

My girl and the mum did go the Friday the week before when she came back from her school for the week-long holidays but they said that they went early at around 5 something so most of the stalls were still closed and it looked like there were not that many compared to the food fairs in previous years.

That was why when we went again, we made sure we did not go so early, this time at around 6.30 p.m. There was this old-school Ferris wheel…

Ferris wheel 1

…that thrilled us to no end way back then in the 50’s. I would have thought they would have something a lot more interesting and exciting these days. I don’t recall having this…

Ferris wheel 2

…in our time but I guess that is more or less the same thing as the Ferris wheel, possibly a little more exciting with the feet dangling precariously over the edge in the air like that. We did have the carousel or the merry-go-round where we could ride  the horses and go round and round and they did not have that. I did see a small one with what looked like aeroplanes or spaceships – I guess in principle, that is the one and the same thing.

There was also a big area with all the Doraemon-themed rubber inflatables, probably all the slides but I did not bother to go closer to check. There were also those bumper cars that you can enjoy in air-conditioned comfort at the amusement centres in the malls and a lot of those fun-fair games stalls, nothing much to shout about really.

As for the food stalls, we stopped by this one…

Gabriel's Mexican chicken quesadillas 1

…but seeing that it was so expensive, RM10.00 each, I was not all that keen on buying…

Gabriel's Mexican chicken quesadillas 2

…but my missus insisted so she bought one…

Gabriel's Mexican chicken quesadillas 3

…for us to try. It was nice, period.

On the other side, there was a stall where they made these Chinese chive pancakes…

Chinese chive pancakes 1

They were selling for only RM3.00 each…

Chinese chive pancakes 2

…and they even had free samples for anyone interested in tasting it but we had no intention of buying so we did not bother.

I spotted this lady from the hawker centre near my house selling her satay and there were a whole lot of others selling all those Sibu Foochow delights…

Sibu Foochow delights

Ma ngee

…and those selling burgers, Taiwanese sausages…

Taiwanese sausages

…and so on and so forth. There was even a stall selling these pies

John's Pies

…but no, I did not grab any. The boy said they were still in the process of heating them up and I would have to wait for at least half an hour. I just told him I could always drop by the shop anytime for those should I feel like having any and left.

We stopped by this stall…

One of the stalls

…that my girl and the mum went to on their earlier visit. The fried or koi (yam cake) was not good but the sio pao

Sio pao

…was not too bad, chunks of meat inside, even though the outer appearance sure needed a lot of improvement and I would say the same about the curry puffs…

Curry puffs

…too. Well, the ladies wanted to go back there as they bought the Sibu Foochow sio bee

Sibu Foohow sio bee

…as well that day and they turned out to be very nice plus they were only 60 sen each, a whole lot cheaper than elsewhere…and my girl wanted to buy some of the frozen ones to take back to her school to eat there.

On the whole, I found it all rather unexciting and most disappointing. If it was intended to promote Sibu for the Visit Sibu Year 2017, they should have handpicked the very best in town to set up their stalls here – the best Sibu kampua noodles, the best kompia, dianpianngu and all the attractions…like how when they had a Penang food fair some place, they would get the best cendol people, the best char kway teow sellers to go and showcase the best of the best in the state…and not leave it to any Tom, Dick or Harry to set up the stalls according to their whims and fancies. If this is all I can expect to find in such future events, don’t count on seeing me there ever again, thank you very much.

Advertisements

Pick one…

My girl wanted to go back to this place again that day to see what other pasta dishes they have on their menu. She had the Alfredo the last time and I ordered the house pasta with extra roast pork minus the prawns for her and the mum to try and yes, they liked it.

Water is on the house and this time around, they came in these nice mugs…

Eternal Dining mugs

We promptly placed our orders and sat there waiting.

In the meantime, the nice waiter assumed that we would be sharing so on his own accord, he gave each of us one of those smaller individual plates. I do appreciate his initiative – that, I must say, is very good – but unfortunately, I noticed that one of the plates was chipped…

Eternal Dining chipped plates

They should ask the people concerned to be more careful in handling the crockery and considering the fine dining prices that they charge, if they want to maintain their image as a classy place, they should get rid of all those chipped plates and not use them anymore. Actually, I spotted one the first time I was here but I did not mention it…but just in case it is starting to become a habit, that has left me with no choice this time around.

I ordered the aglio olio pasta with chili flakes (RM18.00)…

Eternal Dining aglio olio pasta with sausage

…and asked for their very nice homemade sausage (RM23.00) that I had the first time I was here for the ladies to try. They liked it, tasted something like those chorizo sausages, they said. The pasta was more or less like what they call their house pasta but it was nice and we enjoyed it very much.

My girl picked the seafood cioppino (RM39.00)…

Eternal Dining seafood cioppino 1

…and that came with one HUGE freshwater prawn – if you go for those overrated very popular prawn noodles in town or elsewhere, one this size (cut into halves to make it look like you’re getting two) would set you back by at least RM30.00 or perhaps even RM50.00. There were also some of those not-very-cheap mussels…

Eternal Dining seafood cioppino 2

…and sotong (squids) in the pasta…and yes, it was nice but personally, when it comes to tomato-based sauces, I would prefer bolognese even though I am not entirely fond of that either.

My missus ordered their baked cheese rice (RM17.00)…

Eternal Dining porky baked cheese rice

…with pork from their set lunch menu so it came with a free drink, one ice-cold Ribena – it is a little cheaper if you opt for chicken and another option that I can’t quite remember now, fish, I think. They certainly were very generous with the meat and of all the three, I thought this one was the nicest of the lot.

I spotted some guys at the bar section enjoying the German pork knuckle but it was so huge that the 5 or 6 of them could not finish. It looked really very nice but I think I would have to find a few people to come here together with me if ever I were to get to try that.

All in all, it was a good lunch albeit a little heavy, service was great – everyone was very pleasant and friendly and other than the chipped plate that would call for a bit of attention on their part, we did have to wait quite a bit for everything to be served (but my more-patient girl retorted that great food would take a bit more time) plus I do wish they would turn down the music a bit. Maybe they can turn up the volume after 9.00 p.m. perhaps for those there for the drinks…

Just a passing glance…

I saw this at a shop near my house that day…

Adabi rendang powder 1

This was my mum’s favourite brand when it came to curry powder, those days when she was still cooking. I cast one passing glance at the back and saw the word kerisik (toasted grated coconut)…

Adabi rendang powder

…so without a second thought, I bought two packets, RM1.00 each, as they were not very big, thinking that now I would be able to try cooking rendang without having to go and buy a packet of kerisik and ending up stuck with the rest of it after using just a bit.

I still had one of the three packs of fresh beef…

Fresh beef from Perth
*Archive photo*

…that my Perth friend, who reads my blog regularly, gave me when he came home for Chinese New Year. I marinated the steaks in one with just salt and pepper and some thyme, all pre-sliced, and grilled them in a pan and yes, they were so very nice and tender, really really fresh. I opened another pack and tried cooking beef stew with it after looking at some youtube videos as to how I would be able to get it nice and brown but no, with all that spluttering, I decided to cut that part of the cooking short so the stew was rather pale even though it tasted great. I had one big pack left and despite my resolution not to cook curry and the like with it as all the spices and ingredients would drown out the nice beef taste, I went ahead and used it for my rendang.

When I got home, I looked at the packet again and horror of horrors!!! It was powder, not one of those instant pastes. *Cold sweat!* Then only did I realise my mistake – the kerisik mentioned was one of the items in the recipe, not the ingredients of what was in the packet. What? 10-15 shallots??? Goodness gracious me!!! And such a long list too! No wonder Malaysian/Malay dishes taste so nice – they really go all out, obviously.

Ah well!!! Since I had bought it already, I might as well give it a try. I cut the beef steaks into bite-size pieces and marinated it with the powder…

Beef, marinated

…after which, I put that in the fridge while I got everything else ready.

Of course, I did not use 10-15 shallots, just around 5 or 6…and 3-4 cloves of garlic, a chunk of ginger, one stick of serai (lemon grass) and a few slices of lengkuas (galangal). Two inches of garlic again? Inches? I think there was something wrong with the recipe but no, as always, I did not follow it faithfully and I added some kunyit (turmeric) and chili, no mention of those in the list…

Ingredients for pounding

…and I pounded everything till it was fine enough…

Pounded ingredients

Of course it would be easier with a blender but no, I never use that plus I did not find doing this all that difficult at all. I sure had a lot of training when I was helping my mum in the kitchen everytime she cooked curry – and yes, she would like it a little finer than this.

I heated up a bit of oil to fry the pounded ingredients till golden brown and after that, the sticks of serai (lemon grass) from my garden, bruised at the ends, went in plus the beef, mixing everything together well before I covered the wok to let the meat cook until all the juices had come out, adding a bit of water periodically when it got a little too dry. Two pieces of turmeric (kunyit) leaf, it said in the recipe. That sure is mind-boggling. Do I use the big ones…or the medium or the small? In the end, I picked two medium-sized leaves from what I had growing in the garden (they never get to be all that big, anyway) and sliced them thinly before throwing them into the wok. I did add a sprig of curry leaves as well as I did not have any kafir lime leaves (daun limau purut).

After letting it simmer for a while, I tried a bit of the gravy and boy, it sure was very nice!!! Of course, it had to be nice considering all those ingredients that went into it. However, that was not the end! There were still some ingredients that had not gone in yet. I added a bit of santan (coconut milk), just around half a cup…and the colour changed – I think it looked very much nicer without the santan. I tasted the gravy again and yes, it was nice, just not salty and though I would be fine with it like that, I added a pinch.

The recipe said I had to add asam jawa (tamarind paste) – no, even though I did have some in the fridge, I did not bother…and some gula Melaka (palm sugar). I added some and tasted again – no, I did not think that made it nicer. I sure would leave it out should I be cooking this again. I let it simmer a while longer to get the meat to be more tender before I dished everything out…

Beef rendang 1

…and served.

Now, don’t you think that looked absolutely gorgeous?

Beef rendang 2

Well, it tasted really good too…

Beef rendang 3

…and my girl who is not really into any curry and the like using those instant pastes – she says the taste does not go into the meat – loved it!

I still have another packet of the powder left so I will have to do this again…one more time. Maybe I’ll try chicken next time.

Brothers…

I taught the younger brother English, those years before I retired. He has since graduated from the university and is currently teaching in a school around an hour from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah so no prize for guessing where he spends his weekends. However, every opportunity he has, he will fly home to Sibu to help his mum at the coffee shop…

Friends Kopitian 1

She does all the frying and cooking at the back.

His elder brother is the one who runs the place…

Friends Kopitian

…located right across the road from Sacred Heart Secondary School and he makes and sells the drinks there. I did not teach him when he was in school but I knew him well as he was very good at singing and would perform time and time again at school functions and from what I gathered then, he did that outside too like at singing contests and so on.

I did drop by this shop once a long time ago – I think it was because it was too early and the one that I used to frequent a lot a few doors away was closed. I don’t think I knew then who ran the place but I had the kampua noodles and I thought it was all right, nothing that made it stand out above the rest…and that was what my friend, Annie, home from KL said about the bowl she had that day…

Friends Kopitian kampua mee

She loved the ang chao chicken…

Ang chao chicken

…very much though. That was available as one of the options at this stall in front…

Friends Kopitian front stalls

…if you choose to go for the chap fan (mixed rice). She did say, however, that she would prefer pork or pork belly to be exact. I did try a bit of it and yes, it was very nice – they serve this at many places here but most do not do it well. I find a lot of them rather diluted, not as fragrant and tasty so generally, they’re not as nice.

I was glad to note that they were doing very well – the place was so very crowded and we did have a problem initially trying to get a table or two for so many of us. My ex-student, the older one, is very active on Facebook and he would post photographs of what is available at the coffee shop and I did see the ones of the frothy  kopi-o-peng (iced coffee)…

Friends Kopitian kopi o peng

…that my missus and I had. It was nice but no, it did not sweep me off my first and I felt the same way about the ang tao cendol (plus sian chao)…

Friends Kopitian ang tao sian chao cendol

…that I ordered for my girl – it was very much nicer than the ones here but I prefer the ones here even though that one too would pale in comparison to what I had in Kuching. According to Annie’s brother who was with us that day, the ones with green beans instead of the red would be nicer so I guess I would have to go back there one of these days to try.

Annie said that her mum loved the fried pek koi (rice cakes) here and according to her, they make their own and do not use those imported in packs from China. My girl loves pek koi so she had that…

Friends Kopitian char pek koi

…and the mum as well. They said it was very nice and enjoyed it a lot…but Annie’s mum said that the dry version, not this moist one that the two had, would be nicer. It sure looks like we will have to try that too as well when we go back to this coffee shop.

I had the Foochow fried noodles…

Friends Kopitian Foochow fried mee

…and yes, if you want it done like the ones I had all those years when I was growing up, this would be the place to go to. I sure would want to have that again the next time around but then they were telling me that the fried rice is really good and I should have a go at it. Oh dear!!!

One thing’s for sure, whatever I would decide to have when the time comes, we would be back!

Better place…

This café has been around for a long time now, going way back to 2009, and the food is pretty good but I do not drop by all that often as parking in that area is almost impossible in the daytime and on a few of my previous visits, I was quite put off by the service like on this occasion and this one, for example. It actually surprised me greatly that it, in fact, won the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award in 2011.

However, that morning after we had sent my cousin and her hubby to the airport for their flight to Kuching, we decided to check out the shops in the area around Tunku Abdul Rahman Road, Lane 8B, right before you reach the mega-mall along that same road (on the left if you are coming down from the airport) as I did gather somehow somewhere that they had opened a branch there  and I was right (2.305251, 111.866347)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, branch

I asked the lady and she said that this outlet…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, inside

…was not air-conditioned initially but they closed it down for renovations and had just reopened in January, before Chinese New Year.

They even have a water feature outside…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, water feature

…and I was wondering about its position and direction – probably at the angle, the feng shui is better, I wouldn’t know.

I can’t say that I was all that fascinated by the decor though I did think the birds…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, birds

…were very nice and I would use those very nice watering-can vases…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, watering-can vases

…to plant something that is easy to grow to replace those fake ones.

Thankfully, the service was very good and we got our orders very fast – that sure was a far cry from the not-so-pleasant experiences that I went through at the original place.

I remember they had what they claimed to be the biggest roti canai in the country and yes, they did have that too here in their menu so I ordered one to share. The nice guy said I could take photographs of the process and I did…

Making roti canai 1
Making roti canai 2
Making roti canai 3
Making roti canai 2

Yes, we all were in agreement as to the fact that it was very nice (RM8.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, roti canai - large

…served with the usual dhal dip, curry gravy and sambal ikan bilis.

They had so many lunch sets to choose from but the lady boss, for whatever reason, did not want me to photograph the display of all of them right in from of the shop.

My girl had Set No. 32, the nasi bryani kambing  or the bryani rice, mutton (RM12.00)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe bryani kambing

…and while the rice was very nice and so was the curry, unfortunately, the meat…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, mutton curry

…was rather tough.

I had Set No. 30, the nasi lemak (RM12.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, nasi lemak

…and again, while the rice was very nice, very fragrant and rich with the santan (coconut milk), the chicken was over-fried…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe fried chicken

…till it was dry and hard plus the peanuts had gone all soft, not nice and crusty…and yes, pray tell me – where was the egg? Those very thin strips of yellow in the rice, was that omelette? Frankly, I do think we can get nicer nasi lemak at many other places in town and personally, my favourite would be the one here at slightly less than half the price…with half a hard-boiled egg!

My missus chose Set No. 37, the honey chicken rice set (RM8.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe honey chicken with rice

…and this turned out to be the best of the lot. The chicken was really delicious but there wasn’t any sauce to go with the rice. Thankfully, there was the curry gravy that came with the roti canai.

Iced barley water was RM2.80 a glass and iced water, 50 sen…and the music that day, which I thought was rather loud, was the complete soundtrack from this Bollywood movie – I shall deliberate no further on this.

Well, there are ample parking spaces here and it is free but considering the location, we probably would not be dropping by again all that soon unless we happen to be in the vicinity or are passing by like that morning when we went there.

Sunday…

This is one place that we have not gone to for a while now. Like most every place in the town centre, parking can be such a pain and it does not help one bit that there is a bank a hundred meters away. It would not be so bad that one can’t find a space – you will see all those huge flashy vehicles, double-parked all over, drivers not inside, blocking the way and you cannot even drive through. I wish we had that lorry driver in Penang or the one driving a trailer in Melaka. Some people here sure need to be taught a very good lesson.

A good time to drop by here would be on Sunday mornings…

Ample parking on Sunday mornings

There will be lots of places to park especially if you do not mind parking, say some 30-50 metres away. The spots right in front of the shop would be fully-occupied, of course. If they could drive into the shop to eat, I bet they would!

We went at around 9 something on Sunday morning after the service in the church. I seem to notice that people around here would start coming out at around that time for breakfast or brunch so you should be a little earlier than that if you want to beat the crowd. Usually by around 10, all the coffee shops would be packed to the brim. However, on working days, every Sunday, we would be getting ready for our weekly drive to Selangau to send my girl to her school and dropping by here would be out of the question.

I noticed that day that the tyre shop next door that provides car washing services was not open, for whatever reason – I think they do work on Sundays, usually and if you sit at the tables nearest to the shop, it can be rather noisy sometimes like when they are doing the vacuuming.

I also noticed that they are providing new chopsticks and spoons at the shop…

Chopsticks & spoons

…which is a good thing. The moment you are seated, somebody will bring a mug of boiling hot water and you can pick the ones you want and stick them into the mug to sterilise them a bit before use. So which one would you like – the black ones or those stainless steel ones? Personally, I am not all that fond of the metal ones. For one thing, I am not all that good at using chopsticks and for another, those would be rather difficult to handle. Someone told me long ago that they’re either Japanese or Korean, true or not?

Both my girl and the mum ordered the regular (RM6.00 each) – their combination of a bowl of kampua kosong (no meat) and a bowl of the beef soup. They decided to share the drink – the Tiga Masam (3 sours)…

Ah Sian Tiga Masam

…and my guess is there were asamboi (preserved dried plum), limau nipis and limau kesturi (lime and calamansi lime) in it.

I had my usual kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) and for a change, I asked for the mee pok (flat noodles)…

Ah Sian mee pok

…instead of the regular kampua ones and the beef soup. I loved how thinly they sliced the meat…

Ah Sian beef, thinly sliced

– when it is that thin, it can’t possibly be tough, I think, and would be just right for good ol’ toothless me.

I asked for the special (RM10.00) so mine was a very much bigger bowl, around double the size of the regular and there were tripe and tendons in the soup…

Ah Sian beef soup, special

Nice!

After our delightful breakfast/brunch, we went to the supermarket round the corner and yes, there were lots and lots of parking spaces and I just could not understand why there were all those cars parked along the yellow line by the building right in front of the entrance. Perhaps somebody should open a drive-thru’ supermart specially for the likes of those. Tsk! Tsk!

You got it all…

Well, not really! According to my cousin, they do not have an Indonesian place in Brisbane, Australia and just one Malaysian food outlet called Little Nyonya Kitchen or something or is it Singaporean…and then, there is that kampua noodle place that started off in Perth but she doesn’t think it is all that great – the son and daughter-in-law drop by quite often though, she said. It is AUD9.50 a plate there, AUD8.50 in Melbourne and AUD7.50 in Perth (and the chao chai hung ngang is AUD13.50 a bowl) so even without conversion, it is VERY expensive compared to RM3.00 or less here especially when they make their own noodles, not imported from here or anywhere else.

That was why I thought I made the perfect choice in taking them here for dinner on their second night in Sibu. I had not been here for quite a while myself for no particular reason other than the fact that somehow or other, we just did not drop by.

I ordered the sets to share…

cabeijo lalapan set

– one with the fried chicken (RM9.50)…

cabeijo ayam gurih

…and the other with the deep-fried bawal/duai hitam or black pomfret (RM16.50)…

cabeijo lalapan duai

…and the third one, the ayam bakar (barbecued/grilled chicken), RM12.50, and I stressed in no uncertain terms to the young and handsome waiter that I would not want it overcooked, dry and hard and yes, it was absolutely perfect this time – very nice, just like when we had it the first few times we were here. The skin was burnt though and I had that – it was extra-fragrant with the caramelised marinades on it and I was glad it was just the skin and the rest of the chicken thigh was fine. I’m afraid the photograph turned out blur and I did not take one of the sup tulang or beef bone soup (RM13.50)…

cabeijo sup tulang
*Archive photo*

…that we had either but it was pretty good.

I also ordered the Sarawak Melanau delight, the umai (RM15.00)…

cabeijo umai

…and the kerabu paku or wild jungle fern (RM10.00)…

cabeijo kerabu paku

…instead of the midin as we had that for dinner the night before and I thought they would welcome the change. Hooray!!! They are no longer using those cheap small and thin ikan bilis with the beady eyes that they had before, the ones that they are using for their nasi lemak here – unless they too have switched as well. I would give them a pat on the back for that!

They do charge that 6% GST now – I am not so sure but I think they did not do that on my previous visits but it was all right. Everyone enjoyed everything and our visitors from Down Under were full of praises of the unique and delightful cuisine and they absolutely enjoyed the three sambals, the prominent feature in this place – they would not be able to find anything like this back home.

It sure was lovely having the two of them around – so many things to eat, so many places to go to and so little time. I hope they will come again soon and will stay a little longer next time.