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.

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!

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.

CNY meetups: Rasa Sayang kampua + Chuang Yang Restaurant

As you grow older, the only time you really meet up with friends is during festive seasons. Mindy lives relatively close to me in KL but I’ve only seen her once in the past year. Interestingly, we’re practically neighbors in Sibu. That’s probably why we ended up in the same high school (though different classes and years). I got to know her from trying to tapau one of her friends back in school. Haha.

I haven’t had a proper plate of kampua since I came back and I thought we’ll check out One O One to see if they’re open. They’re not so we popped over to Rasa Sayang. My cousin loves the kampua here and so do many other people. I’m not such a huge fan since they’re not the most authentic version. Rasa Sayang uses the curly kolo mee noodles and minced meat.

It still scratched my itch though. There were so many people here today! We had to wait a long time and the menu was very limited – the guy told us there’s only kampua noodles and bian nuk. They sold out by 12 pm too. Crazy! Too many outstation folks back for CNY.

They pegged us as non-locals too – dude called them wanton instead of bian nuk.

Not bad but I’ll still need to eat a simple (and authentic!) plate of kampua before I got back. The kind with cheap soy sauce + chilli and the boiled pork masquerading as char siu colored red.

I also always meet up with my bro Eddy every time I’m back.

We went to Chuang Yang Restaurant for dinner the other day. This is located quite far from Sibu (somewhere in Lanang) but the food is pretty good.

Guinness pai guat (spare ribs). My favorite.

Mani chai with egg. One of the things Sibu does best.

Fried yam. Yum.

Midin. This is a fern that only grows in Sarawak. You’re bound to see Sarawakians eat this whenever they come back. It’s the fucking bomb.

This is deer (rusa). We get a lot of exotic meat here but most people don’t go for the extreme ones like bat and crocodile. Deer is pretty good though.


There’s also bitter gourd!

Best! Happy CNY everyone. Hope you’re having a great reunion with friends and family.

Syarikat Kiong Chuong Cafe – Malu apa bossku?

I used to date a married woman when I was working in Sibu more than 10 years ago. Malu apa bossku? I’ve always been very open about my colorful past. She tackled me at a vulnerable time in my life – I had just gotten out of drug rehab and started reintegrating back into polite society. This older person/cougar tackled me on my first week out! I know now that she was after my (relatively) young and succulent body but hey, sometimes we the buaya, sometimes we kena buaya. 🐊 It all works out in the end.

Anyway, this older person used to pick me up from my workplace and bring me out for lunch. Her favorite place was Syarikat Kiong Chuong Cafe. This was an old eatery behind my office then. My current girlfriend, who is infinitely more beautiful and younger than this old hag, commented that the owner must be OCD to arrange the soda cans like that. It’s actually a very common decoration in old coffee shops like these. BTW, I’ve also told her this anecdote from my past coz I love her.

The interesting thing about this place is that they’re renowned for their speed. Most of their items are already pre-fried and placed in the cabinet within easy arms reach. You’ll get your food within 5 minutes of ordering – no kidding. The corporate workers with their 1 hour lunch break practically demands this efficiency. I had missed this place so I thought I’ll come back with my dad today for lunch.

We arrived at 11:20 am before the lunch hour rush and ordered their famous sweet and sour fish. This is o chio (ikan bawal hitam) for RM 26. It’s a pretty good sized fish and it’s been deep fried so all the bones and fins are edible. I love their sweet and sour sauce too – I’ve also had their sweet sour prawns and both are equally good. I would say this is one of the items people order most often here.

I also got their pig brain’s soup since it’s the Year of the Pig. You hardly ever see pig brain being offered in KL – these more intense and unapproachable types of offal are usually more common in smaller towns. The pig brains here is quite intense tasting – you won’t mistake the flavor. I like it though. It’s stewed with chicken feet, pork bones, and their homemade pork balls so there’s not just pig brains inside this soup.

The vegetable quota was filled with this bitter gourd stir fried with taucu and assorted seafood and pork. I like the addition of sweet prawns and sotong. The chaps at Syarikat Kiong Chuong Cafe are friendly and the food comes out fast. The total for these 3 dishes including rice was RM 43. The food is more like Foochow home cooking so don’t expect fancy fireworks but if you’re after a hearty Sibu-style meal, you can’t go wrong here. I highly recommend them.

Sekinchan: A day trip to Pantai Redang, famous Sekinchan wishing tree, paddy fields, rice factory, bus café, capped with a seafood dinner

I went on a day trip to Sekinchan with Mandy last week. Sekinchan is a small village with fishing and paddy cultivation as its primary industries. It’s a sleepy small town where everyone seems to know each other. One of their most famous landmarks (?) is a tree by the Pantai Redang beach called the Sekinchan Wishing Tree. This is an old looming tree that has strands of red hanging on its branches. People write on red threads and throw it into the air so it hangs from the tree. It’s a wish fulfillment thing.

It makes for a really nice picture!

There is a Chinese temple beside this tree where you can get the red strands of clothes. I can’t read Chinese but there are recommended donation amounts for things like joss sticks. The threads are freely available for the taking but you’re supposed to put in a donation into the box. The donation can be any amount you feel like giving.

You take the red strip of cloth and write whatever you want on the provided table. This is usually a wish you want fulfilled. Mandy wrote both my name and hers in Chinese. Coz this is an Oriental tree, you see. It may not understand English. Haha.

The red cloth has two round metal weights at the end so you just need to lead one and it’ll hook around something. I managed to get it up on the tree on my second try.

Our names in Sekinchan for all eternity, bound by the red threads of fate. Or until a strong wind comes, which is more likely.

Pantai Redang is not a swimming beach. The sand is quite dirty and the water is polluted. However, it’s a nice place to chill and walk with your loved one.

There are stalls at one end of the beach selling seafood dishes and drinks. We got a coconut and took it to a hut by the beach to enjoy.

The best thing about taking leave to come on a weekday is the lack of people around. We had the beach hut all to ourselves and we spent a good hour here talking with our arms around each other. It’s fun. There’s a cool sea breeze, the smell of salt in the air, the warm indirect sun beside you, stray puppies coming to sleep by your feet, and a refreshing drink of coconut within arm’s reach. Bliss.

There’s also an abandoned café (I think) made of red Coca-Cola shipping containers which makes for a good photo opportunity. It has the Coke tagline and Sekinchan on one of the sides. This is my #emoforever contribution.

My beautiful Mandy does it better though. <3

There’s not much to do in Sekinchan. Like I said, it’s a sleepy little town but another place people go to is the Sekinchan Paddy Processing Factory and Museum. The road here is lined with paddy fields.

This is actually just a rice processing factory which has a small museum attached. Entry is RM 5/person and comes with a free small packet of Sekinchan rice.

The tours are guided, which an option of Chinese or English. I learned that rice factories add in 5% broken rice to meet government specifications. The technology is already there to produce 100% unbroken rice but this is more to keep with government regulations on rice price controls.

There are also 3D photo walls inside the museum where you can take photos.

…as well as various old scenes from Sekinchan past. It’s worth the 45 min or so coz there’s little else to do in Sekinchan.

You can also get cendol made with their special Sekinchan brown rice and ice cream there.

Of course, another popular destination in Sekinchan is the No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Café. I’ve written about it in a previous post.

The best part of the café is the photo ops, not the food per se.

Definitely worth a trip if you stick to the cakes and drinks though.

It’s a great place to get the perfect shot for Instagram.

You have to try Sekinchan’s local seafood before you leave. We choose a restaurant at random and ended up at Restoran Pantai Redang. This is a family run seafood location near the beach.

Mandy wanted to have their crabs. This is a crab of around 600-700 grams that’s simply steamed to preserve its original flavor.

It’s very good! Juicy and succulent, much better than the crab we had in Pulau Ketam. I love the Shaoxing wine flavored sauce too.

We saw the owner carrying in two huge fishes. They looked fresh, so we ordered two slices of that as well. It’s also cooked with minimal seasoning. I don’t think Mandy liked it but I really enjoyed the simple, clean flavors. You can only get fish as fresh as this in a fishing village.

Lala cooked in taucu and chillies were very decent as well.

We also ordered huge ass mussels steamed with garlic and rice wine. This was my favorite dish of the meal. They’re only RM 2 each and perfectly steamed so they’re still juicy and plump. This isn’t one of those overcooked mussel dishes you normally see – Mandy made sure to tell the owner to steam it for a short while so it’s barely cooked. Delicious!

It’s important to note that there’s no fancy techniques or complicated sauces at this restaurant. The food is cooked and presented simply, allowing the freshness of the seafood to shine. We both enjoyed the meal and it only came up to RM 127 including beer. Food alone was just RM 93 which is a great price for seafood of this quality. Sekinchan may not be for everyone with its slow pace of living and relatively uncommercialized tourist attractions but both Mandy and I enjoyed it immensely. I love going on trips with her.

No. 16 Bus Café in Sekinchan review: Excellent photos, mediocre food

“Do you want to go to the bus café in Sekinchan that’s inside a real vintage bus?” I asked Mandy. “Oh! That one lots of 小妹妹 (xiao mei mei) go one.” The irony of her reply is that she’s also quite young. She’s 24. Haha. I’m clearing my annual leave so I took yesterday off to go to Sekinchan with my Mandy. I’ve never been to Sekinchan. It’s about 1.5 hours away from KL/PJ and we had fun in another rustic, rural setting (Pulau Ketam) so I thought we’ll enjoy the day trip.

I timed our journey so we’ll arrive at Sekinchan Bus No. 16 Café right when they open for lunch. The café is an air-conditioned bus that’s mounted on a few shipping containers.

The kitchen is inside the shipping containers and the shell of the bus contains the café proper. There’s also al fresco seating at a small balcony to the side but the main draw is the authentic, vintage bus.

These are the types of buses that used to ply Malaysia’s roads. We had the exact same bus in Sibu! The green ones work the Lanang routes. I lived closer to town so I took the red Sungai Merah buses but the fittings are the same.

I remember the dingy interior, faded seats and the large “PRESS ONCE” button you push to let the driver know you want to get down at the next stop.

It’s very nostalgic!

It’s one of those themed cafes that people come to for the perfect Instagram shot. They’re not exactly known for their food. I knew that coming in. I’ve been to a few character cafes in Japan (where the food is generally excellent), only to be disappointed by their dismal attempts at a meal.

You’re here for the environment, not the food. You need to have this mindset when you come to No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Cafe coz the food is very subpar.

They have a very limited and streamlined savory menu under “No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Bento Boxes”. We ordered the chicken chop meal and the Korean fried chicken wings. Unfortunately, they said the Korean fried chicken wings weren’t ready yet so we switched to the Korean-style Chicken Bibimbap.

Mandy had a mango Barbican soda and I had their White Coffee. You can’t go wrong with bottled soda but the brewed white coffee was extremely diluted and borderline tasteless.

Mandy is laughing here coz she thought the shaved ice in the bucket meant to cool your drink is for pouring the drinks into, until I corrected her. Haha.

I thought both our food orders were horrible – I honestly don’t have anything good to say about the mains we ordered except that they’re both dreadful. Food isn’t their forte. I compared it unfavorably with airline food! Service was also spotty – the Chinese girl was disinterested and low-energy but the Malay girl fared better. Another gripe of mine is that the bus was way too stuffy during the afternoon heat despite the air-conditioning going full blast. I shudder to imagine how hot it’ll be with more people inside.

We also ordered their Dark Chocolate Cheese Cake with a LEGO chocolate dude on top. I did enjoy the malty chocolate cake – it tasted like it was made with Ovaltine, which is a nostalgia tinged memory for me. This was the only thing I enjoyed. I recommend you go for the cakes and drinks if you want to meet the minimum RM 30 per table spending. This minimum spend is only for weekends and public holidays though. We were hungry so we ordered a full meal. Our bill came up to RM 59 for two.

I really like the ambiance of No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Café. You can get excellent photos here. It was also empty when we came so we could take as many photos as we wanted. Don’t come here for the food coz you’ll be sorely disappointed. Think of it more like rent for use of their photography studio e.g. the bus café. I loved going with Mandy coz she’s really good with photos and she’s interested in taking nice photos so we had fun here.

Whether you’ll enjoy it depends on what you want to get out of this experience.

Nakiryu 1 Michelin star instant ramen review – a collaboration between Nissin and 7Eleven Japan

Nakiryu means “Screaming Dragon” in Japanese and they’re the second ramen shop to get a Michelin star after Tsuta. The ramen they do is very different from the light tasting Tsuta – Nakiryu’s tantanmen is unapologetically heavy, spicy and rich. I’ve eaten a previous version of their instant noodles (also by Nissin) in 2016. This was before they’ve won their Michelin star and the Nissin version then was in cup noodle format with all the seasoning and dehydrated protein bits inside the noodles. There was a sachet of hot oil to finish the ramen with and it tasted really good and nutty.

Their latest is a collaboration with 7Eleven Premium Japan. The recipe has been refined and inside the bowl ramen is a packet of powdered soup and dehydrated meat, a sachet of hot oil and a pack of finishing oil. You’re only supposed to put the powdered soup + dehydrated meat inside with the noodles when hot water is added. The other two goes on top of the lid to absorb residual heat and they’re only added when the noodles are done.

Nakiryu’s broth is so thick and creamy it’s almost like a starchy stew! There’s also bits of dehydrated meat inside to add texture. This is a type of ramen called tantanmen which is a Szechuan inspired ramen dish. It’s spicy and flavorful and there’s nutty undertones in the soup base. This isn’t a refined and gentlemanly ramen like Tsuta – the Nakiryu instant ramen is overpoweringly in-your-face.

I liked it but the previous discontinued cup version had a better ratio of dehydrated meat to noodles. The portion in this variation seems miserly in comparison. The powdered soup base also didn’t fare as well as Tsuta’s liquid soup base. I must compare these two as they’re both Michelin starred ramen outlets that produced an instant ramen version by 7Eleven Premium. I’m glad I tried it but both Mandy and I felt it’s overshadowed by it’s much superior and delicious tasting Tsuta instant ramen sister product. Or maybe I just don’t know how to appreciate these Japanese-Szechuan flavors – I was also decidedly unimpressed by 2 Michelin star Shisen Hanten.

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