Sibu Ching Ming Trip Part I: Malu Apa Bosco? Big Prawn Noodles at Bosco Café, Sibu Pasar Malam, Kompia Burger, Ruby Restaurant

I just came back from a short trip back to Sibu to clean my mom’s grave. It’s Ching Ming, an annual practice by Chinese for remembrance of the dead. I brought along Mandy along and the first thing she wanted to eat was Foochow red wine mee sua. We headed to Happiness Café in Delta – they do one of the better versions in town. I wanted to eat kampua mee but I couldn’t resist ordering this too.

It’s a new stall selling kompia burger! Technically, this is chu nu miang – the sweet and soft version of kompia. I think it’s called thus coz chu nu means virgin in Foochow and virgins are supposed to be sweet and soft. Don’t quote me on that though. My Chinese is terrible and I could be making all these up. I asked the two ladies manning the stall if it’s their own stall but it turns out they’re only working here and couldn’t tell me the background of the stall.

The stall is called Zen Don Bin and they have different types of kompia burgers with beef, sausage and fish fillet patties. I asked for a recommendation and they unreservedly told me the Fish Fillet Burger with Egg and Cheese (RM 3.90) was their bestseller. This actually tasted pretty good! I liked the crunchy fish fillet and the creamy egg with the pillowy soft chu nu miang. Nice!

I also had my kampua mee fix. This is a tossed dry noodle that’s a Sibu specialty. You don’t find a lot of people making this with lard nowadays. There has been a trend of using vegetable oil on the pretext that it’s a healthier option. I suspect it’s also a cost-cutting measure too since lard is significantly more expensive. I love the ones with lard.

Mandy had the Foochow red wine mee sua. This is chicken soup with Foochow unfiltered red wine with sediment. It tastes surprisingly good. I’m not a fan of this dish but they do a really nice version here.

Of course, you can’t leave Sibu without trying the Big Head Prawn Noodles. These are freshwater prawns with huge heads that’s cooked into a Foochow style soup dish. The noodles are fried then boiled and it’s quite a distinctive local taste. The head juice from the prawn heads leach into the soup, adding tons of flavour.

This dish costs RM 38 at Bosco Café, which is considered a reasonable price. A lot of other places charge upwards of RM 50 for this.

My sister came back in the evening with my niece and nephew so we went to pick her up from the airport and headed to Ruby Restaurant for dinner. This is a favorite among our family. The must have dish here is their butter prawns but since my niece is allergic to dairy, we went for the Nestum prawns instead. It’s not as good, but decent.

We also had their famous pandan chicken. These are dark boneless chicken pieces marinated in various spices before being stuffed into a pandan leaf and grilled. It’s smoky, sweet and delicious!

I also ordered midin belacan – a type of jungle fern – for Mandy. You can’t leave Sarawak without tasting midin. It’s a crunchy type of vegetable with a core like okra – ever so slightly slimy.

This is sour lamb, another dish I always order at Ruby. The lamb pieces are tenderized till they’re melt-in-your-mouth and tossed in a sour mayonnaise based sauce. Very delicious!

We also ordered a tapah curry fish head since there were so many of us. Tapah is a local fish that’s similar to catfish. The flesh can be incredibly fatty due to their sedentary lifestyle but it’s a real treat – creamy mouthfeel juxtaposed with firm flesh. This is quite a small fish head but costs RM 63. Tapah is a local favorite so the prices tend to be higher.

The meal came up to RM 186 for the 4 of us plus 2 children. We usually run up at RM 50 bill for two pax so this seems par for the course. I feasted until I was absolutely stuffed! This is one of my favorite places to eat in Sibu.

Mandy has never been to the Sibu pasar malam before so we headed there after our dinner. Our pasar malam has lots of stalls specializing in pork. Sibu is a majority Chinese town so pork is the choice of protein here. You can get various different cuts of meat from pork belly to tail to even a full pig face!

I bought a few pieces of chai kueh and also a crispy apam balik. Both were dismal. I had better versions of both during my Penang day trip for work before coming back to Sibu.

It was still fun to walk around town and do all the things I normally wouldn’t do. It’s nice to see my hometown from the perspective of someone else too!

Part II of my Sibu Ching Ming trip coming soon!

Weekend Update: Outdark Malaysia, Xing Fu Tang Bubble Tea, Surprise Care Package, Homemade Sarawak Laksa

Saturday is our date night and I listed 3 options for Mandy to choose from – Carpenter’s Daughter, Big Hug Burger and Outdark Malaysia. They’re all around the SS15 area coz she wanted to check out Xing Fu Tang. That’s the latest bubble tea shop from Taiwan to open in Malaysia and the queues are insane. We actually went there first but had to wait till 7:30 pm for their drink allocation to open up so we headed to Outdark.

Outdark Malaysia is a Korean franchise that came from Busan. I went to Busan a few years ago for a work trip – it’s a nice place but I prefer Japan to Korea. They had a glass wall where you can write on with felt tip markers and Mandy drew both our names there.

I like the ambience of the restaurant – the warm lights provide a nice vibe. However, the tables can be a bit sticky despite the guy wiping it twice, the second time quite carefully. It may be the type of lacquer which makes it prone to retaining the stickiness from food instead of wiping clean.

We ordered the The Ultimate Cheese Kingdom (RM 88). This is their flagship dish of Korean fried chicken, tteokbokki and gooey cheese. There are sides of kimchi, short grained rice with seaweed, sweet corn with more cheese and mashed potatoes.

The server waits for the cheese to melt then wraps each fried chicken in a cocoon of cheese. It tastes pretty good. The fried chicken is covered in a sweet tomato and gochujang sauce which can be very cloying in large amounts but the savoury cheese cuts through the sweetness well. We both enjoyed it.

The bill came up to RM 104.50 including drinks which is decent for a weekend dinner. They serve reasonably priced soju compared to grocery stores too.

We left promptly at 7:30 pm and joined the long queue in front of Xing Fu Tang. There was a girl giving out tickets. Each slot (about 2.5 hours between slots) only has a maximum of 100 cups of their signature Stir-fried Brown Sugar Pearl Milk and 25 cups of their Strawberry Pearl Milk tea. I hear these tickets are fully taken up within 10 minutes! Each person can only have 2.

I wouldn’t doubt it. We got 84/100 for the brown sugar boba and 10/25 for the strawberry boba and we were there at 7:30 pm when the slot opened! Part of the problem is the newness – it’s only been open 4 days so people want to see what they’re about.

It took us 45 minutes before we got to the front. There’s a staff stir-frying the brown sugar pearls in a huge wok. This is then poured into a cup, making sure to get the liquid on every side, to produce their signature look. It costs RM 25 for two bobas which is on par with other imported Taiwanese brands. They also use a better barista fresh milk to make their drinks.

One quirky thing about Xing Fu Tang is they let each person who buys a drink have a go at their lucky draw. You pick a random stick from a huge basin and the number is matched to one of the drawers. This is similar to the Buddhist fortune telling sticks. You basically get your fortune told, with a grand prize of a free boba drink.

Mandy got Great Luck while I got Greatest Good Luck. We both wondered if they have a Bad Luck drawer. Probably not.

Xing Fu Tang’s flagship Stir-fried Brown Sugar Pearl Milk was disappointing though. It tasted tepid and dilute. It’s still better than the commercialized Chatime/Tealive but nowhere close to The Alley’s standard. It’s milky, but not very tea-like. Mandy gave it 7/10 compared to The Alley’s 9/10. The Strawberry Pearl Milk Tea was better – acidic and refreshing, yet sweet. I quite enjoyed it!

I made a care package for Mandy and surprised her by putting it on our living room coffee table with no comment for her to find. I filled it with Korean and Japanese face masks, a chocolate bar, a packet of Ribena, a lotion and a comic book. I noticed she really enjoys masks but finds them expensive on her salary so I thought I’ll get them for her. She uses them so frugally that I felt sorry for her. Haha.

Sunday night was my experiment with homemade Sarawak laksa. I bought the paste during my trip to Kuching over CNY. Mandy’s mom provided me with some mystery seeds which she says tastes good in laksa so I thought I’ll make some. I made a deluxe version with chicken leg, lots of prawns, sambal, lime, coriander and shredded omelette. You can barely see the rice vermicelli! It’s decent but missing something. I’ll cook the paste with prawn heads and shells next time. We’re off to Sibu next weekend for Ching Ming! I also have a work trip to Penang this Friday and another one to Ipoh when we come back from Sibu so it’s a busy week ahead.

CNY Trip to Kuching 2019 Part II: Pizza Ria, Kolo Mee, Sarawak Laksa, Prawn Fritters, Big Pao, Gula Apong Ice Cream, Crispy Tomato Mee

The first thing I did after sending Mandy off to the airport was take a Grab to Kubah Ria. I’ve been craving for Pizza Ria, our local Kuching pizza/pasta/pancake chain. This is their original outlet in Satok – they’ve been open for over 30 years at the same spot! My dad used to bring me here when I was a little kid (we moved to Sibu when I was 7).

I also indulged in my favorite beef pancake many times when I was working in Kuching around 24-25 but I haven’t eaten it since. That’s a good 12 years without this sinful creation. It’s basically mince beef inside a crepe that’s doused with tomato sauce but it’s extremely nostalgic. The best pairing is Pancake + Spaghetti (RM 8.50) – you get both options on your plate. You can even request to have it mixed up into a gooey mess!

The pancake used to be topped with a made-to-order sunny side up runny egg but they’re all line produced now so that reduced the enjoyment factor a little. The runny yolk mixed into the minced beef was one of my favorite things – a bite with umami tomato sauce, gossamer thin pancake, savory minced beef and creamy yolk is the perfect mouthful!

You can’t leave here without ordering a slice of pizza too. It’s not the best but I love it. You probably wouldn’t enjoy Pizza Ria if you didn’t grow up eating it. This isn’t exceptional cooking. It’s the taste of nostalgia. Every true-blooded Kuchingite should have fond memories of eating this, especially if you’re born in the 80s or 90s. I’m glad I had a chance to revisit my childhood. It was delicious!

I woke up bright and early to go to Choon Hui Café the next day. This is the place made famous by Anthony Bourdain. He claims it’s the best Sarawak laksa in Kuching. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open and wouldn’t be open until a few days after I leave. Alas!

Not to be dissuaded, I went opposite to the only kopitiam open at 7 am to eat some breakfast. I ordered kolo mee, which took over 1 hour to arrive! To be fair, the guy warned me that it’ll take a long time to arrive since many out-of-town people were back for Chinese New Year. I probably wouldn’t have minded if it tasted good.

Unfortunately, it was almost inedible. The guy was so rushed he barely tossed the noodles and the texture was disappointing. The flavour was barely there too. I left the bowl after eating two mouthfuls. That’s something I very rarely do as I don’t like wasting food. It was that dismal.

Thankfully, my morning meal was saved by Kelly’s Fritters. This was a stall selling various fritters. I went for heh piah (prawn fritters). These is a crispy Kuching specialty served with a chilli dipping sauce. I have fond memories of eating this during tea time at the start of my career in Kuching.

This tasted really good! The fritters were crispy and flavorful, with just the right amount of prawn. 🦐

I went to Sin Kwang Foochow Big Pau twice over two days but they sold out and closed before I arrived both days. 😭 This is another item I ate during my working days in Kuching. It’s a huge pao with pork and egg. Quite delicious! Too bad I didn’t have a chance to eat it again.

Mandy suggested Hock Hai Dim Sum Café down the road. They also have a big pao, at a fraction of the price of Sin Kwang (RM 3.40) but it was oversteamed. The bottom is hard and crusty.

There’s no egg inside and the mystery meat is a rolled-up ball instead of identifiable chunks. Sin Kwang’s version is way better.

I have never eaten gula apong ice cream in Kuching before. It wasn’t available back then. This is a relatively new thing. Now there are many different ones mushrooming around town. I had to try it!

I wasn’t impressed with DP Ice Cream Gula Apong’s version though. It was very icy and diluted. Disappointing.

Since Kuching hawkers don’t like making tons of money, a lot of stalls are closed over the first week of CNY. That includes all the belacan bee hoon stalls in Song Kheng Hai rugby field. Sigh.

However, I managed to get my tomato crispy mee fix. The best version is in Hui Sing Hawker Center but that’s quite far away so I had this at a random coffee shop in Padungan. It was pretty good too! I had this at an odd hour too – 3-4 pm in the afternoon. You can’t do that in most places. These noodles are kolo noodles that’s been deep fried and doused with seafood filled tomato sauce. They have a kueh tiaw version too but I prefer the noodle ones.

Another must-eat in Kuching is kueh chap – various innards and offcuts of the pig in a thin braising liquid. It’s served with rice sheets. I’m actually not a fan of kueh chap. I never crave for these things but it’s nice to eat once in a while. I can’t remember the last time I had kueh chap. Definitely more than a decade ago.

I also found a durian stall at the cat statue in Padungan. I hear this is the designated seasonal fruit vendor’s location now.

We don’t get branded durian cultivars in Sarawak, but that is slowly changing. This is a kampung durian for RM 10. Not bad!

I managed to squeeze in one last meal at Mee Sin Café before I had to catch my flight to Pontianak. I woke up very early at 6:30 am and went there to eat seafood kolo mee. They’re famous for sheng rou kolo mee (fresh meat kolo mee) but I prefer the seafood version.

The kolo mee here is very delicious! I requested for cha siu oil to be added so it’s red. The proper way to order this is “pang ang” (literally “put red”). The kolo noodles were springy and chewy, a very pleasing toothsome bite. This more than makes up for the disappointing kolo mee I had the previous day.

I’ll love to go back to Kuching again to catch up on the places that I’ve missed or were closed. I suspect I’ll come here more often now that my girlfriend’s hometown is Kuching.

CNY Trip to Kuching 2019 Part I: Lao Ya Keng Laksa, Mandy’s House, Chun Yang Tea, Topspot, Darul Hana Bridge, Pork Leg Rice

I planned a 4D/3N stay in Kuching starting Day 4 of Chinese New Year to visit my girlfriend Mandy in her hometown. I’ve worked and lived here for many years but it’s been a while since I’ve been back, with the exception of my cousin’s wedding the year before. So many things have changed, but there are constants especially around my old workplace of Padungan.

Mandy drove to the airport to pick me up. We checked in at my hotel and went out for a late lunch at Lao Ya Keng. She wanted to eat Sarawak laksa (we just call it laksa here) and this is one of the few places still open so late in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, I once told her that I found the tall and fair young woman who owns this stall attractive. I also told her the story about how I asked said laksa seller for her personal Facebook and added her. This was during the ethanol-induced loose lipped era before we got together. She remembered the anecdote from that time I mentioned it in passing and kept her watchful eyes on me the entire time.

I kept my gaze directly on my laksa bowl the entire time. I did not dare to peer elsewhere, lest my eyes accidentally locked on the roaming laksa seller. My neck was sore by the time we finished eating.

I have to state for the record – I only find my girlfriend beautiful and have no time for other girls besides her. I was also not forced to write this. Okay – Approved by Mandy Chua. No further changes required.

Mandy was quite against her family meeting me at first. She thought they’ll not like me. Little did she know, I do quite well with parents in general. As a well-spoken, educated and relatively good looking young man I seldom encounter issues in this realm. Hehe. Her mom asked me to sit down and eat lunch with them.

I spent the most of the afternoon here.

We managed to go to a new bubble tea place in Kuching called Chun Yang.

New as in Mandy has never tried it before. I was surprised to see that this chain originated from Taiwan!

I refused to believe it at first and lost the bet with Mandy after Googling.

We headed back to the hotel to refresh ourselves before a seafood dinner at Topspot. I wrote about it in a separate post, but it was a mediocre feast.

There was a huge fireworks show in Kuching as we left Topspot and we stopped the car by the side of the road to watch it. These are huge aerial shells, and lots of them too. Definitely government sponsored, you need a license for these large shells.

Mandy brought me to Darul Hana Bridge at Kuching Waterfront, which is one of the hottest new attractions in town. The place was PACKED with people. This may be due to the fact that it’s still early in the CNY celebrations so a lot of out-of-towners were there.

There were projected screens on the river that shows videos of Kuching.

The bridge across the river is brightly lit and very well maintained. Throngs of people took the trek over in the cool night breeze. We did as well. It was good, wholesome fun. I’ve never been here before. The waterfront of my time was dodgy and crime-ridden. Kuching has managed to gentrify the area successfully. Good work.

The next day we had a pork leg rice breakfast. I have been craving for Kuching style pork leg rice. I got a special (whole trotter) and a normal portion, with egg. I really enjoyed this thick-cut pork leg rice back when I was living in Chong Lin Park. These thinly sliced and meagre pieces did not hit the spot.

I was a little disappointed with the flavors and the amount of meat. The pork leg rice of my dreams may have been tinted by nostalgia (and the hunger resulting from smoking weed after 3 days of no food while on meth before eating) but this was quite mediocre.

We headed for a walk in India Street after that.

It was a nice 2D/1N before I sent Mandy to the airport for her flight back to KL. I was staying an additional 2 days before heading to Pontianak. Part II of my Kuching trip is a solo food adventure coming up soon!

Pontianak Trip Part II: Oukie Bakmie Kepiting, Kopi Asiang, Gado Gado Jln Merapi, Es Krim Angi, Bebek Boedjang, Mie Tiaw Apollo Daging Sapi, Roti Durian Cheese, Bubur Ikan Ahian, Che Hun Tiau Ahui

Bong came to pick me up the next morning for a Pontianak breakfast special. I haven’t seen him for at least 10 years! I knew he was working in Kalimantan and it turned out that he was in Pontianak at this time too. One of my to-eat items was Bakmie Kepiting. This is a local specialty of dry tossed noodles with crab meat (!). We headed down to Oukie Bakmie Kepiting (Oukie Crab Bakmi). 🦀

1. Oukie Bakmie Kepiting (Sibu)

There are several bakmie kepiting (crab bakmi) stalls in Pontianak, all bearing the same name – Oukie. Turns out Oukie was the original guy who brought this dish here and all the current stalls are his descendants (sons, daughters, nephews). Strangely, they all bear the name “Sibu” which my hometown!

We puzzled over this. Did the original Oukie come from Sibu? Do they claim that this bakmi is exactly like what Sibu offers? Coz it’s definitely not. We don’t have a similar dish in Sibu. Nothing close. The closest is probably Foochow noodles with crab, which is a relatively new invention.

Sometimes Bakmi Kepiting is served with a whole crab claw but these items are in high demand and sell out very fast. They were all sold out at this stall by the time we got there.

In addition to the crab meat, there’s fish balls, fish slices and a piece of crispy deep-fried wonton. The noodles are tossed with a variety of sauces and you’re served a hot bowl of soup on the side.

I really liked these crab noodles! I thought this will be a perfunctory visit just to experience their local noodles but I loved the combination of flavors in this bowl of noodles. It’s very good! There wasn’t a lot of crab meat though – just a sprinkling, but crab is expensive and this is street food.

I can’t remember how much it cost coz Bong insisted on buying me breakfast. Cheers!

2. Kopi Asiang

Bong also brought me to this local Pontianak coffee shop. I went to Aming Coffee yesterday and he said this place was very good too. It’s exceedingly packed and we had to take a table under the hot sun but the coffee was indeed excellent!

I tried the regular ones without condensed milk this time. Rich, fragrant and delicious – coffee here is a real treat! You can see the grease slick at the top of my coffee shimmering in the sun. The coffee beans are usually fried with butter or margarine, which is where the oil comes from.

He also ordered soft boiled eggs for us. This was served in a glass, complete with spoon so it’s easy for you to consume.

3. Gado Gado Jln Merapi

Gado gado is another food item on my hit list. It’s basically a cold noodle dish that’s more like a salad.

Rice vermicelli is topped with vegetables like bean sprouts and kangkong are tossed with tofu and crackers and the whole thing is doused with peanut sauce.

This is what it looks like when it’s served – the different crunchy and soft items make for an interesting dish with good mouth-feel. I enjoyed this one as well! It’s 24,000 IDR (RM 7) for this plate.

4. Es Krim Angi

This is probably the most famous ice cream parlour in Pontianak. They’re known for serving home-made ice cream in a coconut shell complete with coconut meat you can scrape up and eat together with the ice cream!

This “parlour” is actually a converted residential house that’s located beside a Catholic school. The place was *packed* despite being the middle of the afternoon on a working weekday. Motorcycles are the preferred mode of transport here so you’ll see heaps of them parked haphazardly in front.

The guys will tell you the flavors of the day and you choose which one you want. I went for all three – pandan, durian and chocolate. The chocolate and pandan was the best.

The ice cream is “sliced” out of the vats with a spoon so you get thin segments instead of a round scoop. I like this format, it makes for good eating! The flat surface fits perfectly on your tongue.

You can also choose the toppings you want – all complimentary. I went for a little bit of everything but I liked the squiggly transparent noodles best.

This coconut bowl of ice cream cost 23,000 IDR (RM 6.70). Excellent value! I like the combination of the slippery coconut flesh and homemade ice cream.

5. Bebek Boedjang

This spicy duck recommendation came from Bong. It didn’t even register on my radar and didn’t make it to my original list. I’m glad I tried it though coz it’s the best meal I’ve had, other than Pondok Kakap! This restaurant is in a huge wooden complex and I saw many Gojek and Grab Food drivers waiting in line to fulfil food deliveries.

To drink, we have an iced mango drink called Es Mangga Boedjang (15,000 IDR) with mango cubes at the bottom. This came recommended by the menu and the waitress but it was so sweet I didn’t care for it. I find most drinks in Pontianak overly sweet and cloying but if you like tons of sugar in your drink, you’ll enjoy this.

Bebek Paha Bakar Bumbu Rica (30,900 IDR) is the main event! This is smoked duck leg with spices. It’s served with rice, which is a 5,500 IDR add-on. The duck leg is still fork tender and has an intense smoky quality that I enjoy. The spices are a sweet-spicy blend that lends itself very well to nice. I wish I had space for 2 of these babies.

Cumi Tumis Cabe Ijo (16,960 IDR). Cumi means squid (sotong) in Indonesian. This is one of their flagship sides – squid cooked with green chillies. Wow! Does it pack a flavour punch! I was almost knocked out by the sheer intensity of seasoning on my palate. Welcome to Flavortown! There are tomatoes to add umami, onions for that pleasing aroma, tender squid and a gravy that’s sweet/salty/spicy. I used all of the gravy with rice, and when my rice was finished, I drank it by the spoonful.

Tumis Jamur Tiram (9,790 IDR) is another one of their signature side dishes – oyster mushrooms cooked in some kind of sauce which hits all the 5 flavor profiles at once. There’s some insane flavouring alchemy going on here. Delicious.

I left Bebek Boedjang a very happy man. The bill came up to 78,100 IDR (RM 23). That’s an exceedingly fair price for such a decent spread. An excellent meal that I wish was closer so I can partake of it once a month.

6. Mie Tiaw Apollo Daging Sapi

I have read stories about these two neighbours. Apollo was the original beef kueh tiaw and is run by siblings. Unfortunately, they had a huge falling out one day. One of the brothers moved out and rented a shoplot right beside Apollo and called it Mie Tiau Polo. They even had snarky signs put up!

Apollo said “Mie Tiaw Apollo. Sejak 1968. Tak Pernah Pindah.” (Apollo Mie Tiaw. Since 1968. Never Moved.). Polo put up one that read “Mie Tiau Polo. Pindahan Dari Sebelah.” (Polo Mie Tiau. Moved From Beside.) I thought that was hilarious! Unfortunately, the crabby signs have since been taken down so you can only see them in Google Images.

They only serve one thing – beef mie tiaw (which is something like kueh tiaw). They use all parts of the beef, including innards. You can see tripe, beef slices, tendon and even stomach on offer. The mie tiaw is fried in huge woks on high heat and the beef parts added.

I went to the original Mie Tiaw Apollo and the version they do is a wetter style. This isn’t as wet e.g. gravy filled as local Malay kueh tiaw but merely very moist. It’s also quite oily! The sodium levels are really high too. I found it almost unpalatably salty and had to struggle to finish it. I might enjoy it more if it were less greasy and salty coz the beef tasted pretty good and the flavors were decent. It’s 28,000 IDR or RM 8.50.

7. Roti Durian Orchard

What is this, you might ask? It’s a loaf of bread spread with durian jam and sprinkled liberally with grated cheese. If that sounds awesome to you, you’re at the right place! I didn’t know Pontianak is famous for this and only chanced upon this beacon of light while walking back from Apollo. I popped my head in and asked what they serve and immediately decided to try.

The loaf of bread is actually made up of 5-6 long buns and the clerk slices it in half and spread massive quantities of durian jam into the soft pillowy bread.

The entire shebang is then topped with prodigious amounts of grated cheese. It tastes heavenly!

This loaf was too much for me to finish so I had to eat it over two sessions – for supper and as a snack the next day.

I really enjoyed the flavors here. It’s rich, sweet and savory at the same time! The bread remains ultra soft even the next day. 32,000 IDR (RM 9.50) for the durian cheese loaf.

8. Bubur Ikan Ahian

This was my last savory meal before leaving Pontianak. My flight to KL was at noon so I woke up early to have fish porridge at Ahian. This isn’t really porridge/congee per se but fish soup served with rice. You can also opt to have the rice dunked into the soup, which they call “porridge”.

The front part of the restaurant is taken over by a fish processing station. Different types of fish are brought here to be broken down into slices and bones for cooking soup. They have a selection of different types of fishes at differing price points.

I opted for a mixture of all the fishes for 55,000 IDR (RM 16). It’s a little steep for local standards but a steal in Malaysia. The fish slices were all very fresh!

I loved the flavourful soup too. I don’t normally like soup but I enjoyed the strong flavors and sesame oil here. The soup is very different from the bland soup we get locally. This is savory and packed with taste! It goes so well with rice.

You can mix the remainder of your rice into the soup for the porridge style too!

9. Che Hun Tiau Ahui

Che Hun Tiau is a local shaved ice dessert. The famous one is called Ahua and located a stone’s throw away from Ahian fish porridge. Unfortunately, it was still closed when I went, although it opened 30 minutes later when I was leaving to return to my hotel). There are several other che hun tiau carts in that area so I picked one at random.

Ice is shaved on top of various items like red bean, a gelatinous mass of jelly, and my favorite – slippery strands of transparent noodles.

Here’s a closer look. I really enjoy the mouthfeel of the noodle things. This cost just 6,000 IDR (RM 1.75).

I had a fun 3D/2N trip to Pontianak. This was my first time here but I’ll be back for more eating adventures in the Kalimantan region! I like these remote semi-developed areas. I find them relaxing and unpretentious. It’ll be nice to head to a more rural area next time.

Pontianak Trip Part I: Nasi Ayam Asan 333, Aming Coffee, Chai Kue Panas Siam Ahin, Pondok Kakap, Thien Mie Mie durian, Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equator Monument)

I was really hungry upon touching down in Pontianak. My flight from Kuching was delayed for more than an hour! I had a list of everything I wanted to eat during my short 3D/2N stay in this remote part of Indonesia and I wanted to make sure I hit every single one. I did, and more! Here’s a list of the things I ate, drank and saw during my time in Kalimantan – in chronological order:

1. Nasi Ayam Asan 333

I wanted to try Nasi Ayam Afu but they were closed for renovations. Nasi Ayam Asan 333 Pontianak was my second choice – they’re just a 6-minute walk away.

The owner here is Indonesian Chinese and she told me they have an air-conditioned outlet just beside, which might me more comfortable. She pegged me as a non-local instantly.

I chose to sit here though coz I thought I’ll be really fast. The seating is via long rows of shared cafeteria-type tables.

This is what “nasi ayam” in Pontianak looks like. It’s a selection of many different meats – Indonesian Chinese style char siu, siu yoke, pork sausage, and chopped up roast chicken. Everything looks familiar, yet slightly off, like a strange alternate universe. The sauce is THICK and flavorful and there’s bits of pickled vegetable to cut the strong flavors. I really like it! It’s different from local Chinese chicken rice in Malaysia. It’s 33,000 IDR (RM 9.50) for this plate.

2. Aming Coffee

This is a sprawling coffee shop with two outlets located opposite each other. Locals come here to smoke, play games, hang out and drink coffee.

Just look at how packed it is!

Pontianak is majority Muslim so alcohol isn’t a common form of socializing. Instead, they drink coffee – even late at night!

It’s so busy here even during a weekday off-peak afternoon. Every single table was occupied and I had to share one with a local Muslim girl. She turned out to be a university student and was on her laptop doing some slides.

I ordered an iced coffee and a Milo toast (basically Milo powder and condensed milk inside one slice of toasted bread folded together). 16,000 IDR or RM 4.70.

3. Chai Kue Panas Siam Ahin

This is a shack located around the corner from Aming Coffee. Most places in Pontianak town are within walking distance of each other, if you don’t mind walking up to 10 minutes under the hot sun. Gojek is available for little more than ringgits for a short ride, which I took advantage of more than a few times.

This is the Indonesian take on chai kueh – a vegetable stuffed kueh. The Pontianak version is very, very oily though – they literally brush each kueh and the banana leaf it is steamed on with cooking oil! Minimum order is 5 pieces and I struggled to finish it due to the oiliness. I like how they’re steamed to order though. 7,500 IDR (RM 2.20).

4. Pondok Kakap

The best smoked crab ever! This is the first time I’ve had smoked crab and the intense smoky rendang flavors are awesome! It’s so delicious, I felt it deserved its own blog post. Read my review of Pondok Kakap in Pontianak here. It’s a bit expensive compared to the others but definitely worth the price.

5. Thien Mie Mie durian

This is a durian hailing from Sungai Jawi. I gather it’s a popular breed here. I paid 60,000 IDR (RM 18) for a small durian with only 5 seeds.

This is likely coz I found the durian stall outside Pondok Kakap – a high end seafood restaurant, among the best in Pontianak. I later saw durians of the same breed being sold for 5,000-15,000 IDR (RM 1.50 – RM 4.50) elsewhere.

Taste wise it was decent, although a little less ripe that most Malaysians would prefer.

6. Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equator Monument)

This was the only touristy thing I did in Pontianak. I heard Pontianak is the only city in the world to sit along the equator line so I thought I’ll go visit the Equator Monument. This monument slash park is located 30 minutes from town – a 64,000 IDR (RM 19) Gojek ride away.

It’s supposed to be a place of interest but the park is so run down and ill-maintained that I do not think a visit is warranted. It looks like a forgotten and deserted government-run attraction that time forgot. There’s a sleepy security guard but all the F&B stalls and kiosks were closed, probably due to lack of business.

There’s no entry fee but there’s nothing much to see here either. I found 2 other souls there – a couple from Surabaya. Including the security guard and the old makcik running the dusty and sad souvenir shop, only 5 people were present at the park.

It was disappointing. There’s not much to see or do, and I would recommend you skip this place unless you really want a photo with the equator monument.

Part II of my Pontianak trip coming soon!

Fraser’s Hill Valentine’s Part II: Strawberry farm, Allan’s Water boat paddling, Restoran Nine Thy Eight KKB seafood dinner and a Valentine’s Day present

I’m not sure who Aida Daniya is but she (?) seems to have taken over Fraser’s Hill with a vengeance. Not only does she have a picturesque tea house, said restaurant overlooks a beautiful garden and there’s also a strawberry nursery named after her. We walked down to the garden after lunch at Aida Daniya Tea House – there are well tended flowers and plenty of spots to take the perfect Instagram photo.

Wake up and smell the flowers! Background: I pretended to be possessed by a female ghost on the drive up. I let her come out to play.

My Mandy was very proud of this photo. 💁‍♀️

I tried to recreate her pose. Unsuccessfully. 💁‍♂️

We tried doing this trendy shot at Sekinchan but failed to get a good photo. This is a better attempt.

The flowers here are exceedingly beautiful – it must be the cool weather here. 🌸 The unforgiving sun down the hill tends to wilt flowers.

We headed over to Fraser’s Hill Strawberry Garden (now renamed Aida Daniya Strawberry Garden) but it was unfortunately closed. Luckily the gate was partially open so we took the opportunity to do a little breaking and entering.

The F&B outlets were closed but the nursery was visible. One strawberry fell down from its vine so I thought it’ll be permissible to consume the strawberry instead of allowing it to rot. I did feel mildly guilty about doing so but hey, it’s not like I plucked the damn thing from its creeper. That would delve into morally questionable territory, perhaps even theft by consumption.

It’s not very delicious but grown locally. 🍓

We also went to Allan’s Water. This is a place run by Tourism Malaysia where you can feed fishes and rent paddle boats for RM 8/15 minutes.

We went on a working weekday so there was no one paddling, just a family feeding the fishes. 🐠

The river section you can use is quite large, but blocked at two ends with strategically placed logs and obstructions so you can’t go too far.

It’s far enough to give you a sense of space and privacy though.

I found it very peaceful and the weather at Fraser’s Hill is perfect for this type of activity. The temperature was in the high teens all morning so you don’t sweat. There’s also a cool breeze going on that makes you feel like you’re in a different (colder) country.

My only complaint was that the life vests provided smells really bad. They probably haven’t been washed in years! It stinks to high heaven. Aside from that, paddling in the water under the mild sun and cool weather with my Mandy was perfect.

We decided to head down for our seafood dinner after so we drove to the Fraser’s Hill Clock Tower for some final photos…

…before making the 1 hour journey to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB).

We saw a family of monkeys (baboons?) on the windy road down. There was a male who got quite inquisitive and kept trying to look into our stopped car. I think he might have stolen my girlfriend’s handbag had she wound down the window. He looks like that type of monkey. 🐒

Our Valentine’s Day dinner was at Restoran Nine Thy Eight at KKB. Mandy loves crabs and I like Chinese food so a Chinese seafood restaurant was the perfect place to go. This is a sleepy restaurant that serves primarily locals and the occasional out-of-state people heading to Genting or Fraser’s Hill. The owner is very friendly and was happy to recommend several of their signature dishes.

This is Crab Porridge (RM 61.60) which is their flagship specialty. 🦀 It uses a whole crab cooked in very flavorsome porridge topped with some crunchy bits. We hesitated before ordering this coz Mandy likes other ways of cooking crab but she finally decided to give this one a try. It’s what this restaurant is famous for after all.

Here’s what it looks like after it’s been mixed. I’m not a big fan of porridge. I usually find porridge too mild but Restoran Nine Thy Eight does an excellent version of crab porridge. The congee is so flavorful and thick! It’s packed with savory and crab goodness. I finished the lion’s share of this porridge despite not generally liking congee. Delicious!

I also ordered another specialty of theirs – Catfish Steamed with Soy Sauce and Half Boiled Egg (RM 26). 🐟 How unique! I’ve never seen soft boiled egg paired with Chinese style steamed fish. It’s really good! The creamy egg yolk adds richness and mouthfeel to the soft and tender catfish meat. I wish this place was nearer so I can eat this every day. That’s the highest compliment I can give this dish. I want to smash 3 platters of this in a single sitting!

Tofu Cooked with Broccoli and Mushroom (RM 16). 🥦 We ordered this just to fulfil our vegetable quota. It tasted mediocre in comparison to the two other excellent dishes. It probably isn’t bad by in another setting but we’ve just had two superlative dishes so this seemed to pale as a result.

The bill came up to RM 120 for the food and drinks. I ordered a large beer and Mandy had carrot juice. Restoran Nine Thy Eight does their signature dishes very well. I highly recommend it and will be back if I pass by the area again. I’ll like to try their other flagship dishes. The prices are very reasonable too.

We got back home at around 10:30 pm and I presented my girlfriend her Valentine’s Day gift. I noticed her looking at a Swarovski pendant last month and skilfully brought her to Sunway Pyramid to look at other jewellery to see what kind she likes. It wasn’t very subtle but I got to know her tastes and preferences.

I bought her this gold necklace to go with…

…a golden M from Wah Chan’s official Disney Mickey Mouse collection.

This is what the pendant and chain looks like combined. It cost around 1.2k for everything. The M was supposed to stand for Mickey but here it stands for Mandy. It’s a coincidence they both have the same initial.

Happy Valentine’s Day Mandy! I love you. 💕

Fraser’s Hill Valentine’s Part I: Aida Daniya Tea House, steamboat dinner, a gruesome night drive up

I wanted to surprise my girlfriend with a trip to Pulau Ketam (which was our first trip together) on Valentine’s Day, but I thought going again so soon would be diminish the magic. I decided on Fraser’s Hill instead – a cool hilltop destination about 2.5 hours from KL. She’s never been there before and I booked a nice AirBNB on the top floor of Silverpark Resort with amazing views to spend the night.

She has her off day on Thursday (which coincidentally is 14th February) and I won’t start work until the 18th so it’s perfect for a weekday getaway without massive crowds of people. Indeed, Fraser’s Hill was almost deserted. It was also rainy and misty on the way up and I entertained (scared?) Mandy with ghost stories and pretended to be possessed by a female ghost. She was not amused. 😨

I planned this trip a month back and sent her a Powerpoint presentation to detail what I have planned for Valentine’s. Haha. What a corporate thing to do. It came complete with an itinerary, which we managed to complete!

I also arranged for flowers to be delivered to her workplace. I got her 12 roses.

She finished work at 6:30 pm and I flew in from Pontianak at 3 pm and I timed it so I just had enough time to buy ingredients for a steamboat dinner and pick her up from work. It was 10:30 pm by the time we checked into our apartment at Fraser’s Hill.

The place is very nice. It’s a studio unit with two queen beds…

Two balconies – this is the one facing down the hill (too misty to see anything unfortunately but the view is great on a clear day)

And this is the one facing inwards.

There’s also a full kitchen and I decided to cook her a steamboat dinner since it was so late when we got there.

Here’s the spread for the night! I got pork slices, two types of fishballs, bacon, soft tofu, assorted seafood, sausages, broccoli, eggs and mushrooms.

I used a tom yam – chicken stock base with Shaoxing wine and fish sauce. Unfortunately, I spilled the Shaoxing wine and fish sauce all over the back car cushion on the way up. It smells so bad now. I need to get it cleaned.

I also brought up some Mi Sedaap noodles I got from my recent Pontianak trip to enjoy with the steamboat. This is a new type of Mi Sedaap soup noodles with real egg. Only available in Indonesia.

My babe surprised me with a cheesecake that she made herself! She labored over this a few days ago coz she was thinking of what to get me. This is the first cake she has ever baked.

It’s really delicious! I would have said it’s yummy even if it’s not coz she made it for me, but honestly, this tasted great! It’s been contributing to my expanding waistline coz I’ve been eating it everyday since.

The next day we headed over to Aida Daniya Tea House for lunch after checking out. This place has amazing views and a comfortable balcony where you can enjoy the cool breeze and see the beautiful flowers growing at the cultivated park beneath.

This is the view we had sitting at the tables outside.

I ordered a double cappuccino (RM 15) as my morning coffee…

…and we got another couple to take a photo of us at the balcony.

We also ordered their English cream tea for two (RM 38)…

…which came with scones, clotted cream, jam and a selection of cakes and pies. The highlight was the orange cake, the pie and the other cakes were forgettable and the scones weren’t the best.

We also had something called an Irish Chicken (RM 25) which is a gruesome creation of a deep fried chicken roll slathered with mashed potatoes. It doesn’t taste half bad but it didn’t taste good either. The bill came up to RM 85.80. You pay for the scenic views and the nice ambiance, not so much the food. The food was quite mediocre but I enjoyed the quiet and cool surroundings. Recommended if you want a nice place to chill in Fraser’s Hill but manage your expectations on the food.

I love you my Mandy! <3

Part II of our Fraser’s Hill trip coming soon!

Restoran Pondok Kakap: Smoked Crab (Kepiting Asap) in Pontianak

Pontianak is famous for crab. There’s crab noodles (Bakmi Kepiting Ou Kie) and lots of seafood restaurants offering a local specialty – smoked crab. I was keen to check this out so I headed over to Restoran Pondok Kakap for some of their famous smoked crab. This restaurant is rated #1 on TripAdvisor and seems to get good reviews (except for one guy who claims he was overcharged for semah fish).

I was surprised to see how large Restoran Pondok Kakap was. It looked rather grand too and I told myself I’ll better pay attention to the menu prices before I order. Haha. It isn’t too expensive by Malaysian standards though – crab goes for 200,000 IDR (about RM 58) per portion. I mostly eat street food and local favorites here so it’s alright to splurge a little.

Es Jeruk (15,000 IDR). This is a pickle juice of sorts. Not bad but exceedingly sweet. Actually everything here is either very sweet or very salty. The flavor profile of food in Pontianak is dialed up to a 10. The dishes are very intense tasting. Indeed, you’ll here of them complaining our Malaysian food is bland (tawar).

Kepiting Asap (220,000 IDR). This is their famous smoked crab. The smoky flavors are super in-your-face and intense. I can smell burning wood in the crab. I meant that as a compliment. The sauce is similar to rendang – full of spices and flavor. There’s not much sauce but the little here goes a long way with rice! I love how the crab is filled with roe that I could dig out and eat with my rice. The meat was succulent and sweet too. 10/10.

For my vegetable dish, I went with Yam Pakis (30,000 IDR). This is a type of fern similar to midin in Sarawak. It’s recommended by Pondok Kakap and cooked with an acidic and sweet mixture that made my mouth water. I love the dried shrimp they sprinkle on top too. The sweet and sour flavors really whet my appetite. Excellent!

The total inclusive of white rice (7,500 IDR) and a 27,250 IDR tax came up to 299,750 IDR. That works out to RM 87. It’s not cheap but worth the price. I highly recommend the amazing smoked crab. It’s easily the best meal I had in Pontianak and I will definitely come back if I return. The smoky flavor profile and interesting rendang sauce of the crab is spectacular – not a flavor combination we can find in Malaysia.

Posted: 9:39 pm Pontianak time (10:39 pm Malaysian time)

Topspot Seafood Kuching: A CNY dinner with Mandy

I’m currently in Kuching to celebrate the tail end of CNY with Mandy (and to meet her family 😱). One of the things we wanted to do in Kuching was to eat a seafood dinner. There are many great places for seafood like Buntal and Petanak but we thought it’ll be a safer bet to eat in the city. Lots of places are closed during Chinese New Year.

I’ve been to Top Spot in the past, and even blogged about ABC (Ah Seng Seafood) and Bukit Mata Seafood Center. We went to BBQ Topspot Seafood (Ah Hock) this time. The guy warned us there’s a 1 hour wait and we’re on a special CNY pricing structure so it’ll be more expensive than normal.

One of the interesting things that all Topspot outlets share is the ability to choose your own mixed vegetable dish. There’s a row of various types of pre-cut vegetables, seafood, and other small assorted items and you take a plate and pile it up with the things you want. You pass it to the chef and he’ll cook up your special mixed vegetable dish. My favorite things to add in this are quail eggs and deshelled prawns.

I was also tempted to get a lobster (or at least one of the local slipper lobsters) but settled for King Prawns instead. These are huge freshwater prawns with big heads and long claw-like appendages you can eat.

Nowadays they even print and laminate menu cards with the updated CNY pricing so you know what you’re getting into. Off the top of my head, the huge freshwater King Prawns are RM 14/100 gram. I got two of those – one for each of us. I also wanted to eat fish and that limited the things we could order coz each fish is so large that you can’t eat much else.

This is o chio (black pompfret). RM 60 for this +- 800 gram fish. They recommended sweet and sour fish which turned out really good. This was the best dish of the night. Unfortunately Mandy isn’t a huge fan of fish so I ended up eating most of this myself. To be honest I didn’t know this was a black pompfret at first or I’ll have chosen a different fish coz I eat o chio a lot at zi char places.

Kuching-style oyster omelet (RM 28). This is how we do it here – the distinctive shape is from the wok. It comes out as a huge half sphere. The edges are crispy while the bottom bit is more moist. It’s not the soggy o chien that you get in Penang. This is a more crunchy variation. Served with fish sauce.

Midin! RM 14. This is a must eat in Sarawak. It’s a toothsome jungle fern usually cooked with belacan. This one is cooked with Shaoxing wine. We both liked it but it was served last and we were so full then we couldn’t enjoy the midin. There was at least a 30 minute lag between the first and last dish.

King prawn stir-fried with egg (RM 63). I went with their cooking recommendation but this turned out so oily and disgusting I immediately regretted it. Easily the worst dish of the night, without doubt. I should have asked them to simply steam it with Shaoxing wine. That would have tasted so much better. Urgh. The amount of cooking oil that the prawn retained is shocking. I tried sucking on the head and only got a mouthful of oil.

The food bill for 4 dishes with rice came up to RM 165. This is more expensive that what a normal meal here would cost due to the CNY surcharge. All this is communicated in advance and a proper menu with the updated prices given to customers – that’s a good thing. However, the 1 hour wait was excessive and the neighboring table (who came from KL and struck up a conversation with me) told us they found their meal underwhelming. They also found the seafood less than fresh. I agreed and said we could get better seafood in KL.

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