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!

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!

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.

Fireworks with Mandy: An early Chinese New Year celebration!

I will be heading back to Sibu tomorrow so I wanted to have an early Chinese New Year celebration with Mandy. I’ll be meeting her in Kuching on the 4th day of CNY but we wanted to do something here first. We saw a fireworks stall while eating chicken rice the other day. They also sell CNY snacks like ngaku (arrowhead chips) and we bought a container of that while browsing their selections. We went back again over the weekend to get some fireworks to let off together.

The guy said the large fireworks cakes were not in stock yet, and the only ones they have are the smaller 25-shot ones for RM 58. I’ve lit similar configurations and they have a pretty nice ending so we got one of that. We also bought 20-shot Roman candle tubes for RM 45 and some dragon eggs, Pop Pop bangers, and sparklers. We saw a neighborhood park near our condo and thought it’ll be nice to let these off there.

Well, all except the fireworks cake that is. This one is louder and slightly illegal, and people are apt to complain if we lit this in a residential area. I went to the shophouses opposite and stopped the car at a dark corner before lighting the fuse.

Our own mini fireworks show. This is the 25-shot Happy Boom Shoot fireworks cake.

The finale tubes are nice.

We then adjourned to the neighborhood park to play with the Roman candles. These don’t produce a salute or bang so it’s alright for residential areas.

Mandy expressing childlike delight at the Roman candles. Haha.

We also tried doing a synchronized video.

These are the Dragon’s Eggs.

It was really fun! I’m glad we had our own small CNY celebration before I went back to Sarawak. I like seeing how Many enjoys playing with fireworks and it’s nice to do things like these together as a couple.

We also made a potato heart. <3 Haha.

Happy CNY everyone!

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.

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