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!

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.

Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse

longhouse

Last post from the Kuching Season 1 Project Alpha blogger trip! This time we headed to a longhouse in Annah Rais – I’m familiar with this area, there’s a hot spring in Annah Rais which took us ages to find last time we were there. Here I present to you Aud’s tulan face – she doesn’t take very kindly to people waking her up (or the sun either). >.<

tuak

What do you do when you go to a longhouse? Why, my dear friends, you indulge in the hospitality of the local folks by drinking some tuak (rice wine). It’s also for sale for RM 10 per bottle. I drank most of the gratis tuak and bought a bottle so that everyone can have a taste and even lugged it to the bus (but finished it before I got to Kuching).

kettle

Old skool kettle for…boiling coffee or something.

headhunters

We Maoris, we once were warriors – headhunting and shit like that.

peeling prawns

I met this lady who has a husband working for PDRM. I instantly sat down and helped her peel shrimps while talking with her, much to Aud’s amusement. She knows Inspector K, MK, Sargeant AD from Narcotics too! Good thing she didn’t ask me how I knew them. ;)

betel nut 
 
…and what longhouse visit would be complete without an old woman chewing betel nut?

Bukit Mata Seafood Centre

bukit mata seafood center

Permata Carpark in Kuching is host to some of the freshest catch from the seas if you’re not in the mood to drive down to Lundu or Serian. It’s smack dab in the middle of the city. My favorite is ABC Seafood (Stall #10) and we went to Bukit Mata Seafood Centre (Stall #25) this very day a week ago during the Project Alpha shoot.

bukit mata

Verily, much has changed in Kuching but the popularity of this al fresco (a very atas word meaning open air) seafood court has not waned.

seafood

We had beef, prawns, ferns native to Sarawak, fish, noodles, bamboo clams and crabs.

crabs

Me and Aud ate quite a bit of the chilli crab – it’s pretty big by normal crab standards if you don’t compare it to Alaskan King Crab.

crab claw

Mmm…crustaceans.

crab meat

The sauce is tangy and sweet, with a hint of spiciness to it. It goes very well with rice, I just love the eggy and starchy texture of the gravy.

lacerations

It was so good that I didn’t realize I cut my index finger multiple times while digging for that elusive crab meat. Lacerations galore. >.<

Orang Utans @ Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

We were at Semenggoh Wildlife Center to look at Orang Utans (which always reminds me of the way Caucasians pronounce it – orang as in “Oh, the phone just RANG) during the Project Alpha shoot in Kuching. This place is about 40 minutes from Kuching city proper.

orang utans

This looks like Mr. Hussein when he was captured, except his beard hasn’t turned white from fear of Death From Above (TM).

orang utan trees

One thing that I learned from the trip was that orang utans sleep in trees at night. These are tall trees on which they built nests using twigs to avoid pythons and other predators. I wonder how it can support the weight of an orang utan with those slender branches at the very top. That’s a view of their nest – they actually build one every single night to sleep in!

orang utan nest

Perspective: This is how high they build their nests.

guide

We had to walk down a muddy path to the feeding platform. These orang utans are semi-wild, fruits are placed there and the orang utans knows it. However, they will only eat the fruits if they can’t forage food – apparently they also eat stuff like lizards.

feeding platform 

Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any orang utans…

orang utan

Except this one.

human orang utans

…and a bunch of escaped primates. ;)

Let sleeping cats lie

cat

I’ve been so sleep deprived during the long weekend that I can’t even think straight. I want to write about the Kuching Project Alpha shoot but I’m so sleepy I don’t think even propping up my eyelids with metal toothpicks would do the trick.

Thus, I shall just put up this photo of a sleeping feline I saw in the longhouse visit and get some sleep. Not. Able. To. Type. Coherant. Sentences. 

Jojo Struys 1

Oh ya, speaking of Project Alpha, first time I met Jojo, she was with Stephanie Chai (a fellow Sarawakian!). She just started a wedding portal called The Wedding Guide.

I reckon this would come in handy for me soon considering I’m turning 29 in about two months. ;)

Now…the only problem is finding the bride. Heh!

Sarawak Laksa @ Madam Tang's Cafe, Kuching

madam tangs

You know how I always say I prefer Asam Laksa to Sarawak Laksa? Well, I don’t know if it was the rather intense workout this morning but I just had lunch with the Project Alpha Season 1 bloggers at Madam Tang’s Cafe in Petanak and it was fucking good.

madam tang interior

The Sarawak Laksa Special (RM 10.80) comes with a lot of huge, juicy prawns. It is as good as the one in Golden Arch Garden Laksa which was a favorite haunt of mine when I was working in Kuching due to the proximity to my office back then.

sarawak laksa

Sarawak Laksa is a bit different from the other santan (coconut milk) laced concoctions and it was refreshing (not sure if this is the correct adjective but it feels right to me) to get reacquainted with this superb specialty from my hometown again.

A squeeze of lime into the belacan paste mixed into the Sarawak laksa is a ritual I haven’t done in a long time. Heavenly.

beef noodles

The Beef Noodle Special is pretty awesome too! We had a taste of it and ended up ordering a bowl to share.

I also managed to meet up with a lot of Kuching bloggers and good friends today – that was another highlight of the trip! :)

sarawak laksa special

Next up is dinner at Topspot @ Permata Carpark which is really famous for their seafood. I’m still full from lunch though so I’m not sure if I can handle a lot of that tonight. >.<

Meow!

kuching

Hello Kuching! It’s been a while since I was here, and a lot of things have changed – new malls Spring-ing up (haha bad pun), new hotels, and generally a lot more vertically inclined buildings scattered around the city. I daresay it’s about as developed as Penang now.

It’s a full day of shooting for us Project Alpha Season 1 bloggers and I only slept 4 hours last night so today is gonna be a long day! I’m quite excited though coz things look so new and different now.

We’re staying at 360 Hotel if anyone wants to drop by. It’s a pretty good boutique hotel.

Most of the people are here for the first time, and as a Sarawakian, I had to put up with a lot of “Oh, Kuching also got Shell/7-Eleven/(insert common franchise)”.

 >.<



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