Dinner at Payung Cafe, Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu

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

Payung Cafe Sibu 2014

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

Payung Cafe Couple

The rest, as they say, is history. smirk

Payung Cafe Christmas

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

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

Pomelo Salad

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

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

Sour Chicken

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

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

Kacangma Chicken

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

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

Otak Otak Fish

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

Durian Shake

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

Payung Cafe Ling Dad

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

Sambarina Ice Cream

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

Mulu Ice Cream

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

Nyonya cuisine at The Mansion, Malacca

majestic hotel

I had a rather enjoyable Nyonya dinner at The Mansion at the Majestic Hotel in Malacca – a historical period building that has been turned into a rather nice inn. It’s not one of them budget lodging houses despite how the exterior looks.

mansion malacca

It’s right in the middle of town and the river that courses through Malacca (or Melaka as it’s spelled here) is just opposite the street, if you fancy a stroll by the waterfront.

pianist

The hotel even had a pianist playing soothing Bach (or was it Chopin?) scores while you’re eating your food. I’m being irreverent, I wouldn’t know one from the other although I had piano lessons till Grade 4.

peranakan food

Dinner was buffet style, with most of the dishes located in a central area – there are classic Peranakan food like udang masak nanas (prawns cooked in pineapple curry).

mansion toilet

The toilets are superbly maintained and clean – I was immediately soothed by the scent of vanilla instead of the usual odor of ammonia assaulting the nostrils. Oops…I probably shouldn’t have had this aside, kinda puts people off after talking about shrimp. smirk

bubur cha cha

Back to the food, I was quite full from lunch so I had several bowls of bubur cha cha – a sweet hot soup-like dessert made with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and yam, tapioca, sweet potatoes, all diced up into miniature cubes instead of the clumsy chunks that’s usually served up. It’s much more refined fare over here.

nyonya cuisine

There’s also classic Nyonya mainstays like pai tee (crispy pastry cups filled with an assortment of ingredients) and of course:

popiah
Popiah
Fresh spring roll made of sauteed sweet turnips wrapped in a wheat flour crepe

nyonya otak otak
Otak Otak with Kerabu Nanas
Spicy mackerel paste wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled, served with a tangy pineapple salad

lemongrass satay
Satay Lilit
Grilled chicken skewered on a lemongrass stalk

nyonya food

I didn’t know that otak otak is *only* made from mackerel! It’s information plagiarized gleaned from the leaflet that was on the table, which describes the unique Nyonya cuisine which is a product of inter-marriage between Chinese immigrants and the local Malays.

wine nyonya food

Fun (unresearched and vaguely remembered) fact: There’s a difference in salutation when a Chinese male marries a Malay female and the other way round. I believe the latter is called Nyonya and the former is Baba but I could be very mistaken since that was textbook stuff I recall from half a lifetime ago when I was studying Form 3 History.

kueh

I also found out Shiraz also goes well with Nyonya food but I’m blasé about Chardonnay. However, the best and arguably most well known product of this cuisine is the kueh (or pastries, but dismiss that mental image of pastries coz these are different) with the complex play of textures and flavors!

Restaurant Peranakan, Aunty Koh Cendol, and the Melaka road trip

peranakan restaurant melaka

Restaurant Peranakan is the aptly named place known for it’s Peranakan cuisine. It’s often been cited as the #1 place to go for Nyonya food in Melaka. Peranakan (or Straits Chinese) is a distinctive racial group in Melaka – it comes from Chinese settlers marrying locals and is an entire culture unto itself, the hotbed of which lies in Melaka.

peranakan restaurant

Nyonya food is conglomeration of Chinese and Malay food, but there are some really unique dishes they call their own. I had lunch here while on a road trip to Melaka.

restaurant peranakan

Peranakan Restaurant has a really nice décor which reflects the heydays of the Baba Nyonya clan.

Ayam Buah Keluak

ayam buah keluak

This is perhaps the most well known Nyonya dish. It’s chicken cooked with kepayang tree nuts. Buah keluak is actually poisonous before being prepared for cooking. It prompted a lot of Googling when I mentioned that coz someone ate the inside of the nut.

buah-keluak

I like this dish – it’s a very rich and flavorful one due to the buah keluak. I ate some of the insides of the nuts too – it’s sourish and contributes to the flavor of the chicken. Peranakan Restaurant makes the best ayam buah keluak I’ve had.

Ayam Pongteh

ayam pongteh

I’ve had this at Donald & Lily’s Authentic Nyonya Food too but that pales in comparison with Peranakan Restaurant’s version.

Ikan Tenggiri Asam Pedas

ikan tenggiri asam pedas

This is a really good and spicy fish dish that I found worthy of mention – it’s cooked with brinjals, tomatos, and ladyfingers and has a sweet, spicy and sour (more towards the latter) gravy that goes very well with rice.

Udang Lemak Nanas

vivid prawns

This is a very rich dish of shrimp cooked with pineapples and lots of oil. I set the camera to Vivid and it almost hurts my eye to look at it.

udang lemak nanas

Here’s one that’s easier on the ocular devices. ;) It’s also one of the dishes I’ll recommend at Peranakan Restaurant.

Nyonya Chap Choy

nyonya chap choy

It’s mixed vegetables, nothing special here.

Kangkung Belacan

kangkung belacan

This dish has strayed into mainstream Chinese cooking that a lot of people forget it’s Nyonya origins. If you want the most authentic version, I guess here’s where you go.

Taufo Peranakan

taufo peranakan

I’m not a huge fan of tofu but it disappeared pretty quickly so I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s pretty good if you like the stuff. ;)

Fo Yong Tan

fo yong tan

I think this is the egg omelet unless I’ve completely messed up my bearings. Forgettable.

Sambal Bendih

sambal bendih

Okra with a splash of sambal on top. Simple, but good.

peranakan restaurant food

I spent the whole time piling my plate with all the different stuff so I could take a photo. Their flagship dishes are really good, while some are mediocre, but IMHO, Peranakan Restaurant is the place to go for authentic Nyonya food if you’re in Melaka.

nissan almera

I was there on a the Eat, Play, Drive road trip with a bunch of other bloggers. We drove down on several Nissan Alameras. I had the opportunity to drive the IMPUL tuned one (which is my main ride, with a very auspicious plate too – WXN 6330). Simon, Joshua and Kelly (another group) was kind enough to let me drive the stock Nissan Alamara for a stretch.

nissan almera eat play drive

I prefered the Nissan Alamera tuned by IMPUL that was issued to my group – there’s keyless ignition and the specs are pretty decent. I found the acceleration to be a bit lacking, but as they say, it’s not a sports car, but a sedan that’s surprisingly affordable for its class. I was quite impressed by the price of the car for it’s specs.

nissan almera impul

Thanks for the invite Hui Ping! :)

auntie koh cendol

This was also where I had the famous Klebang Original Coconut Shake and while we were driving there, we also stopped by Aunty Koh’s Cendol. This place churns out really good cendol – perfect for a hot day!

auntie koh

It’s primarily manned by a single woman – the aforementioned Aunty Koh. Cendol is a shaved ice dessert with squiggly green jelly and kidney beans (we use red beans in Sarawak).

aunty koh cendol

Gula Melaka (caramelized palm sugar) gives it that distinctive sugary sweet taste, which is tempered by santan (coconut milk).

melaka cendol

You’ll be amazed by how many people come here for the RM 3.50 (large) cendol.

aunty koh

I was tempted to have two (and I think I did have two) but I also heard that this place is famous for it’s taibak (RM 1.50) – which is a very simple shaved ice dessert made with red and white flour squiggles. I found the taste very similar to something we have in Sibu called “wu wei tang” (5 taste soup) which is another shaved ice dessert that has dried apples and other misc ingredients among it.

taibak

It’s simple but refreshing.

cendol melaka

However, I still prefered the cendol at Aunty Koh Cendol. They claim to be Melaka’s best cendol and I’m inclined to agree. I’ve had cendol in lots of places from Penang to Kuantan (click on the tag cendol) and this is among the top ones I’ve had the pleasure of eating. :D

Donald & Lily’s Authentic Nyonya Food, Melaka

donald lily nyonya food

Donald & Lily’s Authentic Nyonya Food is an unassuming establishment located inside a residential lot. I wanted to try the ayam ponteh (which is apparently quite good) and called the night we drove into Melaka to see if they have it. They did (at that time) but we only went the next day. Donald & Lily’s only cooks ayam ponteh during public holidays and on weekends so be sure to get there at the right time if you want to sample that.

donald lily melaka

The place is decorated pretty much like a living room – you feel like you’re eating at someone’s house…and that’s exactly what Donald & Lily’s offers – home cooked food. They’re famous for their Nyonya style cendol and laksa. They also have a sign that says “Beware of Dog” – it’s not there for show, Fido really does reside here…

donald lily jonker

…he’s in the kitchen, near the washrooms.

nyonya cendol

Nyonya Cendol
Ahh…now this is one of the best cendol I’ve ever had in Melaka. Yup, it’s better than the one in Jonker Street. They literally douse the entire shaved ice concoction with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and it’s extremely sweet and cold – perfect for the oppressive hot weather in Melaka. I had two bowls of this. Bliss!

mee siam

Mee Siam
This is fried rice vermicelli mixed with some sort of sweet sauce. I didn’t like it, and neither did Mel. Go for the laksa instead.

nyonya rojak

Nyonya Rojak
This is recommended by the proprietor, who I assume is Lily of the restaurant’s namesake. It consists mostly of fish slices and tofu with a heavy sprinkling of chili sauce and sesame seeds on top. It’s an interesting dish and quite different from the rojak we usually have.

nyonya laksa

Nyonya Laksa
This is Donald & Lily’s signature dish. The bowl of piping hot laksa is heavy on the palate, but in a good way. The gravy is so thick that you can float a soup spoon full of rice vermicelli on top and it won’t sink. The secret of a good laksa dish is always in the gravy. I’m not a fan of creamy gravies in laksa – I’m more of an asam laksa person. However, I have to say Donald & Lily’s Nyonya Laksa is really delicious!

laksa

Donald & Lily’s serves up a hearty bowl of authentic Nyonya laksa. This old lady came in with her son to order a bowl but she was told they’ve sold out. The disappointment on her face was palpable – she mentioned that she has walked a very long way just to try their acclaimed laksa…and the kitchen relented and cooked up a batch just for her. That’s how good their laksa is. It comes highly recommended from me too. :)

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