Birthday Dinner @ Payung Cafe Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu

Don’t you want to go to some other place?” I asked my better half. She’s been eating at the exact same two places last time she was here – Aloha Cafe for lunch and Payung Cafe for dinner, so I suggested Baba & Siam but she really liked the durian ice cream we had last time at Payung Cafe so we ended up here for dinner, three days after we had another huge dinner with my sister and her family (who also loves Payung). smirk

This is my birthday dinner – my dear had flown down from KL to celebrate slightly less than 24 hours with me and we had:

Guava Salad (RM 8)

Guava Salad

This is our starter. Payung Cafe has a range of salads and most of them are great. I especially recommend the Herbs Salad (RM 8) but since it was a hot day, we went for the Guava Salad. It’s a lovely dish of guava with calamansi lime, crushed nuts and other herbs. It’s extremely refreshing!

Mushroom Roll (RM 8)

Mushroom Roll

This is a dish that has gone through many, many recipe tweaks since it was first introduced 8 years ago. I was among the first people in Sibu who first came when Payung Cafe opened in 2008 and spread the word that it was a great al fresco dining place offering the best of South East Asian (and a couple of Western) dishes.

Starfruit Prawns (RM 16)

Starfruit Prawns

I love this stuff – it’s starfruit (carambola) cooked with large prawns. There are three inside and the rest is cut up starfruits and other vegetables. It makes for a good combination. My dad ordered this one.

Thai Green Curry Chicken (RM 19)

Thai Green Curry

My better half’s order – she didn’t even have to think twice. Thai green curry is usually very spicy (at least if you eat the original from Thailand) but this is a much more muted interpretation meant for sensitive local palates.

Otak-Otak Fish (RM 12)

Otak Otak Ikan

This is a Payung Cafe staple that we all ordered to share. It’s homemade and all of their dishes comes with rice (RM 2) and we also wanted to have otak otak so the owners were kind enough to deduct RM 1 from our fourth dish – we ordered four in total for a party of 3 so we didn’t need the extra. It’s usually RM 13.

Sour Chicken (RM 18)

Sour Chicken

This is one of their daily specials. I’ve had the duck version and I like how they use Cambodian spices and herbs to make this dish – it’s quite nice. Payung Cafe also uses chicken legs only in their dishes so you’ll get cuts of drums and thighs.

Mulu Ice Cream (RM 10)

Mulu Ice Cream

We ordered one dessert for each person – this is mine, the ever-changing Mulu Ice Cream. This too has gone through several revisions, it used to be round, then a square slice, then a rectangular slice. It’s not cake – this is a sandwich of two chocolate ice cream layers with muesli in between, which is then topped with vanilla ice cream. I really like this coz of the textural aspects, there’s muesli sprinkled on top too.

Durian Ice Cream (RM 8)

Durian Ice Cream

This is a delicious concoction of homemade vanilla ice cream with durian paste. It’s delicious when they’ve just made it and it tastes like real durians instead of dodol (a local confection made with durians). It’s the reason my better half loves this place.

Jelly Pisang (RM 8)

Jelly Pisang

This is a classic Sibu dessert – it used to be served with shaved ice and bananas and Jello. Nowadays, it’s almost extinct. To the best of my knowledge, there’s only two places who still serves this – Peppers Cafe @ Tanahmas Hotel and here. This is the higher end version with homemade ice cream. It’s pictured next to Roselle Juice (RM 6) – a refreshing drink made from the roselle plant. It’s misspelled as Roxelle Juice in the menu.

Payung Cafe Birthday

It’s a wonderful dinner, made even better with the awesome company – my dad and my better half. My dad insisted of picking up the bill and treating us to the meal since it’s my birthday. The total for the three of us came up to RM 132 which is very reasonable for the amount we ordered and true to this word, the owner took RM 1 off the bill. :)

My birthday conspiracy (which makes for reasonably good reading)

It’s times like these that I think there’s a higher power somewhere looking out for me. smirk It just so happened that I was back in my home town during my birthday (which coincides with Ching Ming) so I didn’t have much to do on Saturday night. I thought I’ll give a friend of mine a call and get some ketamine and treat myself to a nice k-hole for my birthday.

He didn’t pick up when I called him.

(I learned later this was a blessing in disguise)

Right after that, I went down and my dad asked me to pick someone up from the airport. That’s highly unusual, especially since he didn’t say who (my sister and her family had already gone back).

I pressed him for details and it turns out that my better half (whom I love to death) is coming to Sibu to celebrate my birthday with me. My dad had known since Tuesday (!!!) when she contacted him to arrange this conspiracy surprise.

The phone rang right after he told me – it was my friend, calling back. He said he missed my call since he took his daughter out and asked me what was up. I said nothing much and hung up.

*PHEW*

If you have skipped the beginning of this tale, this is the same friend whom I was about to arrange to get some ketamine for a personal birthday treat to myself.

What would have happened if my dear had arrived smack dab while I was in a dissociative state where I was thinking more about 4th and 10th dimensional beings and pondering the reality of our existence?

(or maybe that she was some kind of ketamine induced visual and auditory hallucination)

HAHAHA

Like I said, there is a God.

I’m kidding. That’s a heavily Photoshopped picture of salt (sodium hydrochloride) crystals packed in baggies to look like the real thing. It was pink Himalayan salt to boot, which had me adjusting all the contrast and levels and RGB details to make it look white and similar to ketamine crystals.

(either that, or I really digged out the real thing from my photo archives from years and years back action)

This is a highly elaborate running inside joke that I have with my dear, I seriously have quit all recreational substances, pharmaceuticals and anything that might even remotely alter my state of mind. No wink wink, nudge nudge stuff, this is for realz yo. I don’t even drink much anymore.

There’s no ketamine.

I love my dear to bits and she’s everything to me – I have always been true to her and haven’t touched anything mind-altering for almost three (3) years, ever since I have been with her.

Sarawak Laksa

Me and my dad picked her up from her airport and we went to Aloha Cafe to eat her favorite Sarawak Laksa.

Payung Cafe

The three of us also had a very nice dinner at Payung Cafe at night.

Braun Buffel Birthday Gift

She came bearing gifts too – a Braun Buffel wallet and a UNIQLO shirt.

Braun Buffel Grey Wallet

My wallet has been a sad specimen for a long time and I think she noticed that and got me a really expensive and nice grey one from the German premium leather designer.

Frankfurt Passport Stamp

I love that she has a passport stamp of last year, when we flew to Germany and France – it’s dated 5th of April 2014, my birthday.

Sibu Passport Stamp

This year, she has a stamp on 5th of April 2015 but this time in Sibu. It’s small things like this that means a lot to her and a lot to me too coz it shows how much she cares that she spends every birthday with me (despite telling me she will not this year coz she’s busy with GST to make the surprise better).

I love you dear. I’m glad you flew down all the way to surprise me and planned it with my dad. Thanks for all the gifts and most of all for gracing my birthday with your presence, even if it was just one day.

Birthday 2015

It’s the best birthday ever! You make my life better and you make me a better man by just being in it. <3

RM 19.50 bowl of big prawn Sarawak Laksa

Big Prawn Sarawak Laksa

I have been lusting after this delectable dish since I saw it during Chinese New Year – the last time I was back. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to eat it then. I just came back for my mom’s first Ching Ming and was determined to taste the RM 19.50 bowl of big prawn Sarawak Laksa for myself.

Laksa Udang Besar

The friendly tau keh nio (lady proprietor) had shown me how big the prawns were and I was quite impressed. There are different sized prawns for their RM 6/9.50/19.50 bowls of laksa. They also have fish laksa and fish/prawn combinations. It’s not the price of the bowl of laksa that’s unusual – we have RM 33 bowls of big head prawn noodles too, but that being said, this is the most expensive bowl of Sarawak Laksa I’ve seen.

Lady Showing Big Prawns

This is the size of the prawns for the almost RM 20 bowl of Sarawak Laksa. These are big white prawns (Litopenaeus vannamei/大白虾) not big head prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii/大头虾) but it’s still unusual to have such large and (relatively) expensive prawns in a commercial bowl of Sarawak Laksa. Golden Arch in Kuching used to have huge tiger prawns too, but it’s a different species (Penaeus monodon) of prawn, which tastes different.

Blanch Big White Prawn

The prawns are frozen and it took a while to prepare this dish as they had to blanch the peeled shrimp in hot water before serving them.

RM20 Big Prawn Sarawak Laksa

I was given four (4) big white prawns instead of the usual 3 and the proprietor actually remembered me from CNY – she asked where I was from since it has been a while during the gap when I expressed interest and actually came back. The previous time was when I came to eat kampua mee and happened to stumble across the signage on this stall when I was walking back to my table.

Chopsticks Sibu

I thought it tasted quite good. It’s not as good as our favorite place in Aloha – the composition of the laksa broth is less prawn-y and intense here but it does the job for a Sarawak Laksa craving and I’ve been curious about this dish for a long time. You can find this stall at Chopsticks in Pedada, Sibu.

My late mom’s first Ching Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day)

Arranging Flowers

I was holding the nice arrangement of flowers awkwardly as we loaded the car, before deciding to put it on someone’s lap instead of inside the boot. We were headed for my mom’s burial ground (technically it’s a tomb since it’s aboveground) to pay our respects during the Chinese festival of Ching Ming (similar to All Saints Day).

Mom Ching Ming

It was then that my aunt told us we’ll be better off getting a new mop since having it makes it easier to clean those really hard-to-reach nooks and crannies so we all packed into the car (my sister came back with her husband in tow) and I drove to a nearby grocery store to pick out an appropriate one. I was quite surprised to find them retailing for RM 17.50 each!

Buying Mop

I guess it’s a temporary price increase, just like flowers, to rake (mop?) in the profits during Ching Ming.

Methodist Cemetery Sibu

The actual date is next week on the 5th of April, which happens to be my birthday, but our family has always done it one week in advance, as most people do nowadays since the day itself is really packed with people and it can take hours just to *reach* the burial grounds. It was also close to the exact date when my mom was called home last year.

Cleaning Tomb

My mom was laid to rest almost exactly 1 year ago after her battle with lung cancer at a Methodist cemetery.

Wiping Moms Face

I helped clean the tombstone (said I was wiping mom’s face, to a few quiet twitters) and everyone pitched in as well. The mop turned out to be an AWESOME idea as it allowed us to clean the top and sides easily.

Singing Hymns

These new tombs are meant to be easy-to-clean – unlike my late grandfather’s where you have to pluck grass growing in the cracks. The hardest thing I had to do was to borrow a bucket of water from a nearby construction crew, which they were happy to give, knowing what we were there for.

Flowers Mom

My sister had printed out Amazing Grace and another hymn from the United Methodist Hymnal (my mom loved to sing during church on Sundays) and the entire family sang both before my dad lead us in prayer. He gave a very touching dedication and I could see how so many decades of marriage has cemented these two lives together, making the parting hard even after one year and my heart went out to my dad.

Late Family Portrait

Goodbye mom. You are still missed.

A delicious home-cooked dinner for 8

Pork Belly Tongue

I wasn’t very hungry at that time since I had a very late lunch but the plate of beautiful pork belly slices and pork tongue was staring back at me, begging me to *ravage* it. It would be like saying No to the Borg, resistance is futile and all that. I packed a man tou (fluffy Chinese steamed buns) full of the fatty pieces of meat and tongue and dug in.

Stewed Pork Belly + Pig Tongue

Pork Belly Tongue Burger

This is a combination of fatty pork belly and the leaner tongue served with a side of raw onions, cucumbers and other vegetables which you can eat with rice, or with a Chinese bread called man tou. I opted for the latter and speared two huge pieces of the pork belly, added a generous slice of pig tongue and slapped on a few onion rings before topping it with gravy. Divine!

Stir Fried Cuttle Fish

Stir Fried Cuttlefish

I had eaten a similar dish by Jona during Chinese New Year – it was grilled on skewers then and it was the most amazing execution of cuttle fish I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. It was mind-blowing, how tasty that dish was. I think the recipe for that was scrapped due to the huge amount of food and thus this version was stir fried. It’s still awesome but the CNY one was epically delicious, like a culinary version of Homer’s Iliad.

Peas in a Pod with Garlic Sauce

Peas in a Pod

This is the plate of greens with lots of vitamins and fibre to complement the meat-based dishes. I quite liked it and was munching on these even after I’ve finished my dinner. It’s perfect with rice – the beans are tender, juicy and sweet – it’s like kissing the sweet lips of your lover when you’re both relaxed and lounging in bed just before you turn in for the night. :)

Baked Chicken Thigh

Baked Chicken

I’m calling it this but I don’t actually know what it was since I didn’t ask about this one. The marinade was fantastic though and it gives the entire chicken thigh a saffron like undertone. There were a lot of aromatic herbs thrown in too, and although I was quite full from the large pork belly and pig tongue burger I helped myself too, I managed to take apart one all by myself, picking at the flesh with my fork with nary a care for the faux pas I was committing with the tines of the fork coming into contact with the glass plates with a loud CLINK.

Grilled Garoupa

Grilled Grouper

This huge grouper is a 10 kg beast that was done really well. It’s quite hard to fry fresh and good quality fish well since it’s very easy to overcook it. I’ve eaten a great piece of breaded and fried cod in Sheraton which changed my mind about fried fish and this gives equal lip smacking satisfaction. This fish was freshly caught and bought from the source, and it’s treated with respect, just a short time on the grill caramelizing the sides and producing a white, flaky and moist interior.

There was also a very flavorful soup which I forgot to take a photo of and we had a bottle of wine which someone brought and single malt Scotch from Eddy’s bar to go with the long dinner. I was craving for a cigarette before I had taken my last bite, that was how much I stuffed myself.

Eddy Dinner

I had this wonderful dinner last night at my bro Eddy’s house. He’s a really solid guy, always there for his friends. He picked me up at the airport when I came back for Ching Ming and I saw the huge 10 kg grouper he bought for this meal. I was one of 8 invited over for a feast cooked by his wife Jona and it was one of the best home-cooked meals I’ve ever had, on par with the delicious lamb he came up with during Chinese New Year.

Last Supper @ Golden Happiness Restaurant

Golden Happiness Tofu Soup

Tofu Soup

This is not your usual tofu soup. I love the addition of tomatoes for umami. There are also lots of aromatics and for body, the house-made fishballs and meatballs go well with the black fungus. The plating is very nice too, they don’t slop everything into a deep bowl but rather dish it out on a wide plate so all the ingredients are visible, submersing with the broth.

Local fiddlehead fern (midin) with Foochow red wine

Midin Foochow Wine

This is our beloved midin (fiddlehead fern) cooked in Foochow red wine. It’s cooked just right so the ferns are still slightly crispy, and not soggy. The pairing with local red wine and crunchy bits of anchovies to top off this dish makes it simply perfect!

Foochow fried noodles

Foochow Noodles

These noodles are actually called “chao chu mien” e.g. they’ve been fried before being poached in liquid. It’s a distinctively Foochow way of cooking and the noodles tastes heavily of lard. It’s lovely! Golden Happiness Restaurant will actually serve the dishes in order of intensity of taste e.g. from least nuanced to the most flavorful but this was an exception as we were hungry and wanted it out.

Stuffed Fish Maw

Stuffed Fish Maw

This is fish maw stuffed with fu chuk (beancurd skin) and some other items. It’s quite lovely and the texture is different. I like how the gravy goes very well with rice.

Abundance of Seafood (in a Pot)

Seafood Soup

That’s actually the translated Chinese name for this flagship dish. Haha! It’s quite flowery but essentially it’s prawns, fish slices, sea cucumber, squid, cuttlefish, fish maw and other interesting and delicious bits of seafood thrown into a pot.

Seafood Claypot

This is one of my favorite dishes here. They’ll heat up the pot and when you’re done…

Pig Tail and Duck Claypot

Pig Tail Duck

…replace this claypot on the heat source. This is a unique combination of pig tail, pork belly and duck! I’ve only seen it served here at Golden Happiness – it’s one of their signature dishes. I was a bit hesitant when I heard of the combination at first, but duck goes very well with pork and the pig tail adds a wonderful chewiness (and a ton of collagen and gelatine) into the mix.

Golden Happiness Restaurant

Golden Happiness Restaurant is one of the higher end Chinese banquet places in town. I like how the front of house floor manager wears a suit and all her waitresses don traditional matching Chinese uniforms. It conveys a sense of professionalism that is lacking in a lot of Sibu restaurants. I had one of my last suppers here with my bro Eddy, Jona and a bunch of other close friends.

The food here is top-notch, and they have several house specialities that sets them apart. Thanks for the awesome dinner, homeboys!

Our (potentially) free anniversary, trips and presents!

Pandora Essence Bracelet

It’s our anniversary last week and I bought a new charm for my better half to add to her new Pandora Essence bracelet. This bracelet is a new one that I bought for her last month, the previous Pandora bracelet is full to capacity!

Pandora Essence Charms 2014

I chose the Intuition charm coz I like the backstory and text – it says “The wisdom of the soul/Follow its guide” and it’s priced at RM 633. It’s a little more expensive than regular Pandora Essence charms coz it’s made with 14k gold.

Pandora Intuition

I went very early in the morning and bought it with my credit card, hoping to get RM 300 off (more about that later) but unfortunately I was too late. Not to worry though, I use my Maybank credit card quite often so it’s just a matter of time!

Pandora Essence Intuition

I actually learned of the Maybank I <3 100% Cashback Every Day promotion when I bought a LEGO Movie set for my dear. I was surprised to see the promotional banner for it just inside the store. The kids are really into Lego nowadays and we just bought another LEGO CITY box originally priced at RM 179.90 for the kids when we went back to Sibu during the weekend.

Lego Cashback

The kids love exercising their creativity with LEGO and we have happily indulged them in this mind building investment – it’s better for them to build something than to be stuck to the iPad playing games the whole day and we are collecting the LEGO CITY series for them to create their very own city!

LEGO Maybank

I bought them three sets of LEGO since they’re so into it now. Yup, we got them all in Sibu as a present for them and we plan to give them one when I come back and leave the other two for Christmas.

KitKat Oreo

It’s always fun to spend with my Maybank credit card since there’s a chance I would get the item for FREE with the 100% cashback promotion. I also bought our flight tickets back to Sibu during the weekend and the return trip to KL using my credit card.

Krave Cereal

We went to Hat Yai last weekend and I used it to purchase some candy for ourselves and the kids at the grocery stores over there. It’s cheaper in Thailand and there’s no minimum spend! I travel so much that my credit card is authorized to go around the world anyway.

Panettone Cookies

Christmas and the festive season is coming very soon and it’s always good to get presents for friends and loved ones. We bought two boxes of panettone (an Italian sweet bread loaf eaten during Christmas and New Year) and a pack of holiday cookies made in Germany as gifts for my dad and our friend Arthur before we flew back to Sibu for the weekend.

Hokey Pokey Squiggles

You might want to begin using your Maybank credit card for the festive season for everything from presents to trips to dining, depending on your inclination coz there’s a chance you’ll get a 100% cashback – making your purchase free! There’s no minimum spend required and the campaign lasts until 31st January 2015.

Sarawak Sambal Laksa Paste

I even used it to buy Sarawak sambal laksa paste from Sibu to bring back to KL. :)

Flight Sibu

Don’t have a Maybank credit card? No worries, just apply for one and you just might get a free trip with the I <3 25,000 Bonus Air Miles campaign! Get more details about how to apply for the premium credit cards and the promotion at the I LOVE 25,000 Bonus Air Miles site.

DQ Blizzard Thailand

You can also win yourself a Polo Sedan with the I <3 5 Polo Sedan by just applying and spending with your new Maybank credit or charge cards! You will also get complimentary gifts from spending certain amounts and this campaign period is from now till 28th February 2015.

LEGO City

There’s just plenty of love to go around this festive season, whether you’re an existing or new premium or regular Maybank credit card owner. I’ve been with them exclusively since 2008 and I’ll be using my Maybank credit card for *everything* daily from petrol to dining to take advantage of the I LOVE 100% Cashback Every Day campaign!

Ruby Restaurant revisited

big prawn rice

I haven’t been to Ruby Restaurant in quite a long time. My dad and I wanted to go on Wednesday but that was their off day so we had to go somewhere else instead. However, I was quite determined to head over since I’ve enjoyed their food a lot and so I went with my dad again and found them open.

ruby restaurant christmas

The place is much as I remembered, with a warm inviting interior and their small neon sign outside (the large signboard seems to have been taken down). The Christmas decorations are up though! :)

ambarella juice

We both ordered kedondong juice. Kedondong is a tropical fruit also known as ambarella (Spondias dulcis) and it’s makes for a tart and acidic drink.

butter prawns

I wanted to have their creamy butter prawns and the owner told me they have the large prawns that I like so I jumped at the chance to have that. This seems to be big white prawns instead of big head prawns but delicious regardless – the prawns are so crunchy you can eat them, shells and all but still soft and moist inside. I love their butter sauce – it’s so rich and appetizing.

puo chai chinese wine

My dad also ordered a vegetable dish – puo chai cooked in Chinese white wine. I was quite surprised at how good it tasted. Ruby Restaurant used to be a favorite of mine before I switched to Ming Mei Shi – which serves a more KL-style dai chow. I like the localized Ruby Restaurant better now. This is delicious, not overcooked, with a hint of raw Chinese white wine.

sour mayonnaise lamb

The other dish we had was recommended by the owner when I asked for something new. She suggested sour mayonnaise lamb. I asked her what the acidic component is and she *pretended* not to hear me twice before smiling and said it’s a trade secret. That definitely sounded promising and even my dad loved this – the addition of citrus or vinegar brightens up this otherwise cloying dish and the lamb isn’t overtly gamey too.

ruby restaurant sibu

The bill was quite reasonable – the prawn dish *alone* came up to RM 40 due to the two large prawns but the lamb and vegetables are surprisingly affordable. The two of us polished off everything in sight!

ruby dad me

My dad mentioned that everything they served tasted delicious and I have to agree. We had just come from a terrible dinner the night before and it’s nice to revisit an old favorite like Ruby Restaurant again.

sour mayo lamb

It’s even better when you find that the standards have increased and not dropped – Ruby Restaurant is truly a gem! smirk

Umai and other local delights @ Fisherman Restaurant

claypot tom yam prawns

I’ve been craving for umai lately and had the chance to eat it again for dinner with Arthur last night. Fisherman Restaurant is a popular local restaurant to bring visitors coz it has a lot of Melanau native delights like lokan, umai and ikan terubok. These are all Sarawakian dishes – they even have dabai (a local type of olive) when it’s in season.

umai

Umai is a local version of ceviche. Fisherman Restaurant does it in a style that’s similar to umai jeb in Mukah. I’ve had it when I went to Mukah in 2008 – it’s very fresh fish (in this case white pomfret or ikan bawal putih) that’s been cured with lime and mixed with chopped onions and chillies.

sarawak prawn crackers

It’s delicious when you eat it with the prawn crackers they serve as an appetizer.

prawn crackers umai

(although it’s traditionally eaten with sago pearls)

individual prawn claypot

We also ordered an individual serving of large prawn in a mini claypot. These prawns are huge and used in big head prawn noodles. The prawn is cooked in an assam tom yam broth soup and it costs RM 20 per prawn. It’s worth it though coz they do it very well – the broth is flavorful and spicy and the prawn meat is firm and juicy and sweet.

paku santan

The fibre quota was fulfilled by paku santan. It’s a local fern cooked Melanau style in santan (coconut milk) and shrimp. I really liked this dish too, everything the cook sent out really hit the mark.

fisherman restaurant

That’s why Fisherman Restaurant is so popular despite being relatively decrepit – peeling paint on the walls, dated single-unit wall air conditioners, and a musty interior. There were a lot of people who came after us coz we went really early – the place was quite full. I do wish that they put some money into renovation though – it looks the same (except a bit more worn) as when I went in 2008!

fisherman restaurant sibu

This isn’t even the original restaurant – they were located at a different part of town at first and shifted to this place.

fisherman restaurant us

I have to say that the best dish of the night is the roast lamb with mint sauce. This is a newer dish that came to pass with the current generation (the son came back from New Zealand where he had his own restaurant and brought some recipes home) and it’s cooked really well. I have to say that it’s even slightly better than my late mom’s famous lamb (sorry ma). smirk

roast lamb mint

The roast lamb here is sliced generously thick and the meat is juicy. You’ll love this if you’re fond of the slightly gamey taste of lamb, and they don’t overcook it unlike other places. They have two sauces – the mint sauce and a garlic inspired Asian dip, the former is the one you want since the latter is uninspiring. It costs RM 50 for the dish with two large slabs of lamb, definitely a must-order if you visit.

thick lamb slabs

The bill for the two of us came up to RM 126.40 but the roasted lamb (RM 25 per slice) and the tom yam prawns (RM 20 per prawn) accounts for RM 90 so the dishes aren’t really that expensive if you don’t order the premium stuff. Thanks for dinner Arthur! It’s always good to catch up when I’m back home. :)

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.

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