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.

Poon choy feast cooked from scratch for Chinese New Year!

Poon choy with abalone, Korean oysters, scallops, tiger prawns, fish maw, mushrooms, soy chicken, siu yoke (roasted pork belly), quail eggs, broccoli and daikon radish.

I love eating poon choy. I’ve had it in 2014, 2015 and 2016. I only paused after that coz this isn’t a dish you can eat by yourself. I’ve always wanted to try making my own version of poon choy. It’s not difficult, just labor-intensive coz you need to cook all the ingredients separately before combining in a big bowl. Nothing that can’t be done with proper planning. I nailed down all the ingredients I wanted to have inside and how long it’ll take to cook each one and came out with a shopping list and recipe.

I had ordered all the dry seafood the week before via online shopping. I got large dry scallops, Korean dried oysters and huge dried mushrooms from a specialty dried produce store. I read mushrooms need to be soaked for a day prior to cooking so the preparation started the day before I started cooking. I even timed when I needed to get the fish maw (12 hours), dried oysters (8 hours) and dried scallops (2 hours) into the soaking basin.

I also prepped the tiger prawns by deveining and removing the long feelers. This took longer than expected coz I don’t have much experience in deveining prawns. I usually get the frozen and peeled ones. It’s quite intuitive though and after this episode I’ll be able to do it a lot faster in the future. At the end of it, I didn’t even need to cut open the back – I could just twist into an opening in between the shell and pick up the vein. Next level up is doing it with a toothpick.

The prawns are cooked in a mixture of Japanese sushi vinegar, mirin and sucralose. I also boiled the quail eggs in this sauce. Mandy helped peel the shells of the quail eggs, which was her only contribution to this endeavor. Haha. To be fair, I actively told her not to assist me coz I wanted to be the one to cook her this poon choy feast.

The only two ingredients that wasn’t cooked from scratch are the abalone and siu yoke. The former came already pre-braised in a can. The latter I tapau from one of the chicken rice stalls near my house coz there’s no way I can make better siu yoke at home, considering I don’t even have an oven!

Next was the “master stock”. This was a mixture of oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, chicken stock, coriander, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce and sucralose but at the end of it was heavily flavored by the dried oysters, scallops, fish maw, and mushrooms too. I started with the plump rehydrated mushrooms before adding in whole chicken legs.

I also chopped up the stems of coriander leaves to add that distinct taste into my braising stock.

I then added in the rehydrated Korean oysters. This added SO MUCH FLAVOR to the stock. Dried oysters have the essence of umami inside them and they contribute so much savory taste to the braising liquid. It’s uncanny! I would say this is one of the most important ingredients in poon choy.

I also dumped in the rehydrated fish maw while chopping up the daikon radish. I really enjoyed the fish maw – it absorbs up so much of that delicious broth. It was one of my favorite things to eat in this poon choy big bowl.

The daikon radish goes in last and I let this whole pot simmer at low heat for about 30 minutes before adding in the scallops. Rehydrated scallops are very fragile so I used a strainer to keep them together. This makes it easier to scoop up and also prevents other sturdier ingredients from bumping into it. You want them plump and whole to be displayed in the poon choy.

All that’s left after that is arranging the ingredients into the bowl. There’s abalone, Korean oysters, scallops, tiger prawns, fish maw, soy chicken, siu yoke, mushrooms, quail eggs, broccoli and daikon radish. I also heated up a bit of the braising liquid with tapioca starch to make a gooey gravy to go with the poon choy.

It’s really delicious! This came out way better than I expected. Everything tasted so good! 10/10 – a success. 👏

Unfortunately, I’ll be eating poon choy till I go back for Chinese New Year. At least I have Mandy now so she can help out a bit. I wouldn’t have cooked this before she came into my life coz it’ll be impossible to finish by myself. Haha.

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.

Nissin x 7Eleven Premium Japan x Tsuta Japanese Soda Noodles – 1 Michelin star instant ramen review

Tsuta is the first ever ramen shop to get a Michelin star in 2015 and they’ve retained that star every year since. They recently did a collaboration with Nissin and the 7-Eleven Premium line of instant ramen to produce a ready-to-eat version of their famous noodles, sold exclusively at 7-Eleven Japan. As a Michelin star chaser, I owed it to myself to taste this interesting instant ramen. I shipped a few bowls in via personal shopper at a cost of around RM 400, which works out to RM 45 per bowl. Spoiler: It was damn worth it!

As the name suggests, Tsuta doesn’t serve typical ramen – they do soba noodles in ramen style. The broth they use is a chicken and clam combination, which is a lot less heavy than the typical pork stock. They’re also famous for finishing all their ramen with truffle, and this holds true for their faithful instant ramen adaptation too! This isn’t just a meagre drop of truffle you can barely taste – the broth is richly infused with truffle flavor and it shines through with every slurp of the ramen.

There are 4 packets of inside the bowl – a vacuum packed sachet of bamboo shoots, a piece of dehydrated pork belly with green onions, a sauce soup base and a foil of truffle oil. There are no powdered flavorings here. The thin, curly noodles look different from most ramen too. You’re supposed to put the dehydrated chasiu + green onion into the noodles and add hot water for 3 minutes. All the other packets go on top so it gets indirect heat and they’re only added after the noodles are cooked.

I love the light tasting broth that’s packed with umami flavor. You can really taste the seafood and chicken in it and there’s yummy notes of truffle in every mouthful that elevates this instant ramen head-and-shoulders above all its peers. This is truly the best instant ramen I’ve ever eaten – no contest. My housemate Mandy loved it too. Nothing comes close, not even its sister 7Eleven Premium instant ramen by 1 Michelin star Nakiryu. Tsuta’s instant ramen is breathtakingly delicious! 🤤

Macaroni and cheese 🧀, BBQ chicken drumsticks 🍗, broccoli 🥦

I’ve recently refined my mac and cheese recipe to product a thick, gooey sauce that sticks to each macaroni piece like delicious glue. My cheese sauce not only has cheddar, but also chicken stock, fish sauce, Shaoxing wine and sucralose, so it packs a real punch. I would not be remiss to say that anyone who’s tasted this is instantly transported to FlavorTown. Since then, I’ve worked more on the sides to find out the best pairing for this decadent treat.

This time I’m testing out fried chicken drumsticks with BBQ sauce as the side. I never bought cooking oil until my housemate Mandy moved in. I finally caved and purchased a small bottle of corn oil since not everyone likes the healthy no-oil taste. I poured in a measure and fried a couple of chicken drumsticks inside. I use a Happy Call Pan – a type of flappable pressure pan. It browns the skin and cooks the interior very well.

I served my mac and cheese with plain, unseasoned prawns the last round and I wanted to experiment with a heavier flavor profile this time. I tossed the cooked and rested fried chicken legs in some hickory smoke BBQ sauce. I really liked how well this tasted but unfortunately Mandy isn’t a fan of BBQ sauce. I had to wipe away the sauce for her portions of the drums.

The secret to my cheese sauce is flour. A lot of people omit this step but it’s essential to making a thick cheese sauce. You first melt butter in a saucepan then stir in the flour slowly to make a roux. Milk or cream is added next, stirring all the time so it combines well. I also add Shaoxing wine, fish sauce and chicken stock at this point. Cheese is added last and as soon as it melts, you pour the entire saucepan over the cooked macaroni.

I also had a side of broccoli to cut down on the heavy flavors. It’s simply microwaved with a bit of water so it’s still crunchy – the way Mandy likes it. It’s delicious! I like how the BBQ chicken drums go together with the creamy mac and cheese. Mac and cheese is another recipe that I’ve mastered and I can say with confidence tastes good.

Don’t you think so, Chika cat?

Nuromen Café Uptown PJ – Sarawak beef noodles from Kuching

I went to check out Nuromen Cafe with my housemate Mandy last night. I saw a video on Facebook and told her about it. To my surprise, she said she’s been there many times! I was puzzled coz she just arrived in KL 3 weeks ago and I’ve been out with her almost every time. I know I haven’t been here. It turns out that Nuromen Café in Uptown PJ is the official branch of Nuromen in Kuching. It serves Sarawak style beef noodles and Mandy’s a regular at the Kuching outlet.

As an illustration of how small the Sarawakian community is, a friend tagged the artist who drew this mural (also from Kuching) when I posted it on Facebook yesterday. Both Mandy and I are from Sarawak too. I guess Sarawakians just have an incestuous tendency to stick together.

I miss Kuching style beef noodles. I believe Open Air Central Market in Kuching serves one of the more definitive versions. That was my first experience back when I was living in Kuching as a kid. My sister was actually born in Kuching and our family lived there for the first 7 years of my life. I was born in Sibu due to an accident – my mom went into labor when they came to Sibu for Ching Ming. That’s also why my birthday is in Ching Ming. Haha.

Nuromen Café also serves a few Sarawak classic drinks like Teh C Special (RM 4.50) and Teh C Pandan Special (RM 4.50). This drink was created by a coffee shop in 7th Mile, Kuching. We got both to try. It was diluted, not the best representation of Teh C Special.

The interesting thing about Nuromen is the way they do hot pot style beef noodles. You’re given a simmering bowl of beef soup a la hot pot and you cook your own beef slices inside. It’s a cross between hot pot and beef noodles. Mandy told me she usually orders this to eat with rice. You can also pair it with noodles.

We ordered their signature Premium Sirloin Beef Platter Special (RM 42) – it’s a set for 2 pax with 160 gram premium sirloin beef slices, stewed beef, assorted vegetables and beef stock. Nuromen claims all their beef is sourced from Australia and NZ. It’s not local beef or Indian buffalo. This set comes with the more premium marbled sirloin cut. The beef slices are ultra thin so it cooks in just a few seconds.

There’s a separate bowl of cooked stewed beef. We didn’t quite like this. I think my buffalo stew is way better.

I also made a separate a la carte order for 100 grams beef slices (RM 11.50). This is a leaner cut of beef. I wanted to see the difference between the sirloin and regular beef. We preferred the sirloin.

Of course, it’s not beef noodles unless you have noodles. You can order their garlic tossed kolo noodles for RM 3. This is the classic beef noodle pairing. I love the strong scent of garlic and the familiar smells and aromas. This is my kind of comfort food. The noodles are the proper kind we use in Sarawak too.

The staff gave us free ice cream when they saw we’re finished with our meal. This happens in Kuching too according to Mandy. It’s a nice touch.

The food at Nuromen Cafe is pretty good – some misses on the drinks and stewed beef but their signature noodles and beef slices are legit. The bill came up to RM 68.50 for two with drinks. It’s an authentic Sarawakian taste that we’ve both missed. We’ll be back for sure.

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