RM 30 Coconut Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles @ Dian Xiao Er

dian xiao er prawn noodles

I’ve heard people telling me about this after I posted about the RM 33 big prawn noodles in a coconut available at Glory Cafe in Sarikei. Rowena and Alex both told me that Sibu itself has a version of this which they copied from Glory Cafe so I went to check it out with my dad yesterday. It’s located far inside the Ding Lik Kong industrial area near Igan River, which is about a 20 minute drive from Sibu town.

ding lik kong 31

It’s actually quite easy to find, I just forgot about the place. My dad called my uncle and got us oriented and it was just a matter of following road signs after that.

dian xiao er

The name of the coffee shop is Dian Xiao Er and it’s located along a block of shophouses that has three (!!!) coffee shops – it’s the middle one and they have a large banner promoting their Coconut Tom Yam Big Head Prawn Noodles.

dian xiao er sibu

The guy taking our order was a very friendly and chatty young kid who seemed to take a liking to me. He told me that there’s at least 5 different places in Sibu that offers the same thing now – all duplicates of the original recipe from Glory Cafe. He also confided that he’ll be shifting work places at the end of the month and he personally did not think this was as good as the Sarikei version.

sibu coconut big prawn noodles

I was pleased to see that the big head prawn (大头虾) is indeed quite large with claws intact.

big head prawn

The big head prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) is favored by Sarawakians due to the more intensely flavored meat. The other common type of prawn here is the big white prawn (Litopenaeus vannamei) which is milder. You can see the difference – the former really has a huge head in relation to the size of its body. If it were an inanimate object, I’ll compare it to a bobblehead or a chibi anime character. smirk

claws 2B pencil

The claws are very important too as the meat from them is equivalent to a *2B pencil*!

me big prawn noodles

I had a taste of the tom yam soup and I thought it was quite similar to Glory Cafe except for five key differences:

  • Calamansi lime not cooked in
  • Lemon grass stalk is chopped up (makes it hard to eat with the short inedible bits)
  • Cheap canned mushrooms from China used here
  • Not as much coconut juice
  • Spicier tom yam soup but less prawny broth

uncooked calamansi lime

The uncooked calamasi lime is the obvious one as Glory Cafe in Sarikei has a very mushy lime that’s almost *disintegrating* compared to this relatively fresh specimen and that adds a lot to the tom yam flavor profile.

sibu me dad

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal and it turns out to be cheaper than driving down to Sarikei for their RM 33 Tom Yam Coconut Big Prawn Noodles. It’s also better than the notorious RM 35 big head prawn noodles in Min Kwong. There are some problems with the recipe and it’s not exactly similar to the original one in Sarikei – anyone would be able to tell from a blind test taste.

sibu big prawn noodles

However, the one in Dian Xiao Er is a reasonably good facsimile of the original Glory Cafe Tom Yam Coconut Big Head Prawn Noodles and I’ll recommend it if you don’t feel like driving down to Sarikei – you can have your fix right in Sibu! It’s located at Lorong Ding Lik Kong 31.

Ruby Restaurant revisited

big prawn rice

I haven’t been to Ruby Restaurant in quite a long time. My dad and I wanted to go on Wednesday but that was their off day so we had to go somewhere else instead. However, I was quite determined to head over since I’ve enjoyed their food a lot and so I went with my dad again and found them open.

ruby restaurant christmas

The place is much as I remembered, with a warm inviting interior and their small neon sign outside (the large signboard seems to have been taken down). The Christmas decorations are up though! :)

ambarella juice

We both ordered kedondong juice. Kedondong is a tropical fruit also known as ambarella (Spondias dulcis) and it’s makes for a tart and acidic drink.

butter prawns

I wanted to have their creamy butter prawns and the owner told me they have the large prawns that I like so I jumped at the chance to have that. This seems to be big white prawns instead of big head prawns but delicious regardless – the prawns are so crunchy you can eat them, shells and all but still soft and moist inside. I love their butter sauce – it’s so rich and appetizing.

puo chai chinese wine

My dad also ordered a vegetable dish – puo chai cooked in Chinese white wine. I was quite surprised at how good it tasted. Ruby Restaurant used to be a favorite of mine before I switched to Ming Mei Shi – which serves a more KL-style dai chow. I like the localized Ruby Restaurant better now. This is delicious, not overcooked, with a hint of raw Chinese white wine.

sour mayonnaise lamb

The other dish we had was recommended by the owner when I asked for something new. She suggested sour mayonnaise lamb. I asked her what the acidic component is and she *pretended* not to hear me twice before smiling and said it’s a trade secret. That definitely sounded promising and even my dad loved this – the addition of citrus or vinegar brightens up this otherwise cloying dish and the lamb isn’t overtly gamey too.

ruby restaurant sibu

The bill was quite reasonable – the prawn dish *alone* came up to RM 40 due to the two large prawns but the lamb and vegetables are surprisingly affordable. The two of us polished off everything in sight!

ruby dad me

My dad mentioned that everything they served tasted delicious and I have to agree. We had just come from a terrible dinner the night before and it’s nice to revisit an old favorite like Ruby Restaurant again.

sour mayo lamb

It’s even better when you find that the standards have increased and not dropped – Ruby Restaurant is truly a gem! smirk

Umai and other local delights @ Fisherman Restaurant

claypot tom yam prawns

I’ve been craving for umai lately and had the chance to eat it again for dinner with Arthur last night. Fisherman Restaurant is a popular local restaurant to bring visitors coz it has a lot of Melanau native delights like lokan, umai and ikan terubok. These are all Sarawakian dishes – they even have dabai (a local type of olive) when it’s in season.

umai

Umai is a local version of ceviche. Fisherman Restaurant does it in a style that’s similar to umai jeb in Mukah. I’ve had it when I went to Mukah in 2008 – it’s very fresh fish (in this case white pomfret or ikan bawal putih) that’s been cured with lime and mixed with chopped onions and chillies.

sarawak prawn crackers

It’s delicious when you eat it with the prawn crackers they serve as an appetizer.

prawn crackers umai

(although it’s traditionally eaten with sago pearls)

individual prawn claypot

We also ordered an individual serving of large prawn in a mini claypot. These prawns are huge and used in big head prawn noodles. The prawn is cooked in an assam tom yam broth soup and it costs RM 20 per prawn. It’s worth it though coz they do it very well – the broth is flavorful and spicy and the prawn meat is firm and juicy and sweet.

paku santan

The fibre quota was fulfilled by paku santan. It’s a local fern cooked Melanau style in santan (coconut milk) and shrimp. I really liked this dish too, everything the cook sent out really hit the mark.

fisherman restaurant

That’s why Fisherman Restaurant is so popular despite being relatively decrepit – peeling paint on the walls, dated single-unit wall air conditioners, and a musty interior. There were a lot of people who came after us coz we went really early – the place was quite full. I do wish that they put some money into renovation though – it looks the same (except a bit more worn) as when I went in 2008!

fisherman restaurant sibu

This isn’t even the original restaurant – they were located at a different part of town at first and shifted to this place.

fisherman restaurant us

I have to say that the best dish of the night is the roast lamb with mint sauce. This is a newer dish that came to pass with the current generation (the son came back from New Zealand where he had his own restaurant and brought some recipes home) and it’s cooked really well. I have to say that it’s even slightly better than my late mom’s famous lamb (sorry ma). smirk

roast lamb mint

The roast lamb here is sliced generously thick and the meat is juicy. You’ll love this if you’re fond of the slightly gamey taste of lamb, and they don’t overcook it unlike other places. They have two sauces – the mint sauce and a garlic inspired Asian dip, the former is the one you want since the latter is uninspiring. It costs RM 50 for the dish with two large slabs of lamb, definitely a must-order if you visit.

thick lamb slabs

The bill for the two of us came up to RM 126.40 but the roasted lamb (RM 25 per slice) and the tom yam prawns (RM 20 per prawn) accounts for RM 90 so the dishes aren’t really that expensive if you don’t order the premium stuff. Thanks for dinner Arthur! It’s always good to catch up when I’m back home. :)

Dinner at Payung Cafe, Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu

My better half came back with me to visit my dad during the weekend and since it was just a 24 hour trip, we only had *one* dinner and this is the place we chose to go to – Payung Cafe! I was one of the first people to visit when they started six years ago (we were even asked to name the first iterations of the desserts which are refined staples now) and I make it a point to visit when I’m back in my hometown.

Payung Cafe Sibu 2014

Payung Cafe opened in 2008 and it was very unknown back then since they only had dinner service and the place was shuttered during the day with no signboards. It didn’t help that it looked like the reception area for a marine survey company either. However, the same Joyce who gave us the number of Glory Cafe in Sarikei is also very active in a Chinese language local forum and a bunch of us paid this newly opened place she heard about a visit.

Payung Cafe Couple

The rest, as they say, is history. smirk

Payung Cafe Christmas

The food here is unique and the service is great. That’s what makes Payung Cafe a favorite among certain locals and visitors alike despite the relatively higher prices it charges on average. The Christmas decorations are up when we went – we opted to go to the original al fresco outlet instead of the new Payung Mahkota (which is located in the lobby of a hotel). I feel the former has a much better ambiance since the latter can be a little antiseptic due to it’s location.

For starters, we all shared a Pomelo Salad (RM 8). I love the choice, the pomelo comes in large chunks and the dressing is restrained, making it a fresh and vibrant dish. My late maternal grandma used to have a pomelo tree and I remember this fruit as being bitter but like Brussels sprouts, it seems to have been genetically modified to be less bitter nowadays!

Pomelo Salad

It’s sweet and juicy and we all were ready to dig into our main courses after popping a couple of the large chunks of fruit.

The special of the day is Sour Chicken (RM 16). It’s not on the regular menu, this is written on the chalkboard that lists what’s fresh and cooking on that very day and I like to order from here since I’ve tried most of their menu items. This is something I’ve never had before and all of us loved it! The chicken is moist and tastes appetizingly sourish.

Sour Chicken

I asked how it was made since we were all trying to guess what the sour element is and was told it’s a mixture of laksa leaves (Vietnamese coriander/Persicaria odorata/daun kesum) and coriander seeds (which provides the sour citrus tang). I highly recommend this dish – it’s delicious!

I also ordered Kacama Chicken (RM 16) for my dear. I wanted her to try this uniquely Sarawakian dish while she was here. Kacangma chicken is made from a herb the Hakka people call yi mu cao (益母草) or motherwort. The taste is like nothing else, it’s traditionally used as a “confinement dish” and the liberal use of pounded motherwort makes this dish taste bitter and earthy.

Kacangma Chicken

Kacangma chicken is always doused with copious amounts of alcohol which is intentionally *not* cooked off. It’s meant as a tonic as thus the alcohol is never fully evaporated or burned off – some preparations are so strong you can get *tipsy* from drinking the stew! Payung Cafe’s version is quite strong too but it’s delicious to me! It’s an acquired taste, kacangma…

Of course, the Otak-otak Fish (RM 13) is always a must-order when you’re there. The price has more than doubled since 2008 but if Payung Cafe had a flagship or signature dish, this would be it. They actually make it in-house every day! The ground fish meat with tapioca is wrapped inside a banana leaf and baked to perfection.

Otak Otak Fish

The otak-otak is served bursting from the seams and the generous use of chilli and tumeric makes this a dish not for the faint-hearted. It’s very spicy but if you can take the heat, you’ll love it. It’s very different from the steamed otak-otak from Johor or grilled otak-otak we get in Malacca. They really make one of the best versions around.

Durian Shake

My better half also had the Durian Shake (RM 8) – a very thick concoction sure to please all durian lovers and connoisseurs of milkshakes.

Payung Cafe Ling Dad

The bill came up to RM 82 for the three of us, which is quite reasonable for dinner at Payung Cafe.

Sambarina Ice Cream

We made room for dessert and shared a Sambarina Ice Cream (RM 8) which is made in a yin-yang fashion with large scoops of chocolate and creamy vanilla ice cream stuffed into a jumbo sized ramekin and topped with a mixture of crushed nuts and other crunchy bits. I approve!

Mulu Ice Cream

My dear loved the Mulu Ice Cream (RM 10) – a beautiful creation of huge slabs of their own ice cream layered and sandwiched with cake and cream and sprinkled with muesli. It’s a gorgeous and deliciously messy end to a wonderful dinner together.

Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles served inside a coconut for RM 33

coconut tom yam big prawn noodles

Behold! This Coconut Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodle is the latest innovation from Glory Cafe in Sarikei and it’s not just served inside a coconut, it’s cooked with *coconut juice*! I’ve been eating their famous tom yam spin on big prawn noodles since 2008 and it’s worth the hour’s drive from Sibu. It used to retail for RM 14 and was subsequently raised until the current price at RM 33 per bowl (or coconut, rather).

glory cafe sarikei

The first time I went, I was so taken by their take on the big prawn noodles that I wrote a glowing review. Strange thing was, the owners actually took notice and printed out my blog post and pasted it on their stall. Thus, the next time I went, they actually served me a complimentary bowl of their tom yam big prawn noodles for the early exposure!

glory cafe

I drove down to Sarikei to show my better half and my dad what this storm in a teacup bowl is all about over the weekend. We just had lunch and wasn’t sure what time Glory Cafe closes so it’s a good thing Joyce got us the number and I called ahead. It used to be cheaper than the notoriously priced RM 35 big prawn noodles in Sibu so people in the know started coming here but it’s now almost the same price.

big prawn noodles sarikei

The Coconut Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles here tastes a lot better though! They still serve the old version in a bowl instead of inside a coconut but the new coconut variant is better. The updated recipe is actually very sweet and I asked what the difference was – it turns out that they actually use coconut juice instead of water to make the tom yam soup for the big prawn noodles!

coconut tom yam prawn noodles

There are two different options for prawns/shrimp – RM 25 for a coconut bowl of big white prawn (Litopenaeus vannamei) and RM 33 for the larger giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii). The latter is actually cheaper in Sarikei coz it’s closer to the source and it’s what people here call da tou xia (大头虾) or big head prawn. We went for the latter since it tastes a lot better and it’s the traditional prawn to go into big prawn noodles.

prawn noodles in coconut

It’s absolutely delicious! My dad was still full so me and my dear shared a coconut bowl of the tom yam big prawn noodles. There’s actually not a lot since the volume inside of a coconut is rather small (the husk makes up a large mass of the actual coconut) but it’s the perfect serving for one.

sharing plates

There’s one large big head prawn inside split into four and about a fistful of noodles but it tastes soooo good – the broth is spicy and savory and sour and sweet at the same time, this really hits all the notes. I wished we ordered a coconut bowl each but that would be too much since we just ate lunch.

coconut juice

We also ordered coconuts for drinks (RM 3.50 each) and my dear tried their new homemade coconut pudding (RM 6). The coconut pudding is very popular – almost every table ordered it, and we wanted to check it out too. It’s made in-house with coconut milk and coconut juice and it’s not the same thing as the coconut jelly that we have in KL and Thailand. It’s sweet and the perfect counter-balance for the tom yam big prawn noodles.

coconut pudding

The tao geh nio gave me a strange look when I paid the bill and she said I looked familiar and I told her about how I used to make the hour long drive down just to eat their noodles and wrote the original review they printed out six years ago. Haha. This is a relatively new dish – it was just launched last year so if you haven’t been back in a while, I would highly recommend Glory Cafe’s Coconut Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles.

glory cafe us

It’s definitely worth the time to drive down but keep in mind that they’re very full during weekends and the last order is before 4 pm.

8 photos from our road trip to Sarikei

1. Big Sarikei Pineapple

new sarikei pineapple statue

There’s a new twin statue of the iconic Sarikei pineapple in the older part of town! This is the “unripe” version, it’s green instead of yellow. smirk Technically, it’s not a statue since it’s not an effigy of a figure, person, or animal but a fruit – pineapples are the primary export of Sarikei and they’re famous for producing these prickly fruits.

2. The Journey from Sibu

sarikei 2014

My better half flew down with me from KL to visit my dad over the weekend. I decided to drive down to Sarikei since she’s never been there before so the three of us packed into a car and headed down to the small town. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Sibu on a two lane road.

3. Entering Sarikei

red bridge

A beautiful red curving bridge is located at the border between Sibu and Sarikei. You can also reach there by a ferry service across the river but we took the route that takes us through Bintangor (another rural town).

4. Sarikei Clock Tower

sarikei clock tower

This is another famous landmark in town – erected in 1973, it’s been around for a while and recently the town seems to have found some funds to refurbish it. Yes, this is NOT the original clock tower – I have a photo of the earlier tower with a hollow center during my Sarikei trip in 2008.

5. Pasar Sungai Rejang

sungai rejang market

This roughly translates to “Rejang River Market”. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia and connects much of Sarawak. This building houses the old wet market in town and there’s lots of interesting stuff in there!

6. Scenes from Sarikei Wet Market

sarikei market

There is a stall here that sells authentic home made Sarawak laksa paste but unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived.

7. Salted Fish

salted-fish

Salted fish is a much beloved food item here. There are many different kinds of fish being dried, salted and sometimes fermented – everything from whitebait to local species to imported cod.

8. The Original Sarikei Pineapple Statue
(accept no substitutes)

sarikei pineapple statue

This is the original (bigger and ripe) Sarikei pineapple! It’s located by the waterfront and it’s almost bleached white from the constant cleaning. Contrast the Sarikei pineapple statue with a post I wrote when I went on a trip with a couple of friends during my winter holidays back from university in Melbourne – this is Sarikei back in 2002 where it’s a much dirtier but vibrant shade.

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