Sunday, November 22, 2009

Last Meals in Sibu before Departure Part I

I was awoke already at 5:40 a.m. this morning, and could not sleep any longer. Time is getting shorter. There are still many things to do and I have only another 3 1/2 days in Sibu to arrange everything. Setting my priorities have become more difficult.

I shall be disconnecting my internet/ fixed line telephone in the afternoon of Monday, 23rd November 2009, i.e. I have only another 32 hours' connection to TMnet. Therefore, getting this blog out is a priority.

For the last few days, I have been taking my favorite food for one last time. That meant hanging out at my favourite eateries for meals. I have another two or three places to go, which I shall not be able to blog this time because by the time I visit these places, my internet connection would have been terminated.

17th November 2009 - Tiong Hua Road Market

In Sibu, I have tried these at Sing Kwong food stalls, pasar malam, restaurants, etc. , and nothing beat those from Tiong Hua Road Market. The siew mai came in frozen packs.

The sausage is among the best I have tried. In fact, it was better a few years' back, before the price of pork started to go up. As the price of pork went up, the quality of this sausage somehow dropped, with less meat being used. For the siew mai, freshness is an issue. If you are unlucky, the packet you bring home may not be made with fresh pork. Price: sausage - RM1.50 per piece, siew mai - RM5.00 per packet of nine pieces.

18th November 2009 - Breakfast of Dian Bian Hu at Chop Hing Huong
I have lived in Sibu for the past 14 years. I have been told that it was at a lane somewhere at the old Sibu bus station, read blogs about the fame of its Dian Bian Hu, about how established this place is and how it has been passed from father to son, etc., but I have never been able to find the place. I found it only yesterday after asking and looking for it persistently these few days.

For visitors to Sibu, this is to let you know that this eatery, called Chop Hing Huong, is located at the lane beside Ah Hee Kopi Tian. Yesterday, the price was RM3.50 per bowl and today, with two friends, the price was RM3.00 per bowl!!!. Was I being scammed yesterday?

Dian Bian Hu (spelt differently from person to person) is a traditional Fuzhou (also spelt as 'Foochow') fare, and is found only within the Fuzhou Chinese community. Dian (wok) Bian (side) Hu (paste) is basically cooked rice paste which is produced after the freshly milled rice paste has been poured over the side of the wok to cook. Once solidified, it is scraped into a boiling soup and cooked with other ingredients to produce the Dian Bian Hu.

18th November 2009 - Lunch at Dung Fang Cafe No. 2 (near Farley Supermarket)
This place was a favorite of mine for its cheap, delicious meals of RM3.30, consisting of rice and two servings of meat and two of vegetables. However, with the prices of food going up late last year, the servings have become smaller. Now, it is not worth the money.

19th November 2009 - Lunch at Shabu Shabu
There are many choices of food and I have tried a few of them. However, my favorite are Xi Shi Cao Mien (Xi Shi fried noodle) at RM4.50, seafood dumpling (RM4.90) and prawn dumpling (RM4.90). I am slowly getting tired of them.

21st November 2009 - Tiong Hua Road Market
I bought taro/ yam dumpling, Di Bian (Fuzhou pronunciation) and Cai Kui (Fuzhou, pronunciation, literally, vegetable dumpling) for breakfast. Di Bian (also called oyster cake in Singapore), on the right of the picture, is a traditional Fuzhou dumpling. In Singapore, it is named oyster cake because it has oyster as filling but in the plain Sibu version, it has none. There is another version with meat filling. The cai kueh on the left has no vegetable in it, but it tasted great.

21st November 2009 - Dinner at Cafe Cafe
This is one popular place in town. When we arrived at about 7:10 p.m., there was no vacant table. We were lucky that we waited outside for less than 10 minutes before we were called in.

Ayam Kapitan (RM9.50) has always been my favorite here. However, after paying the bill and when we were at the car already, we realised that we have been billed Nyonya Set (RM14.90) instead of Ayam Kapitan. Was this a genuine mistake or a scam?


22nd November 2009 - Sing Kee (1999) Confectionary Kompian
Kompian is another traditional Fuzhou food. Many Sibu bloggers wrote about it. Even some West Malaysian food bloggers wrote about it, though they mainly wrote about the Sitiawan (another Fuzhou town) version. The Sitiawan version has filling while the Sibu version has no filling. That was why, non-Sibu folks have no feeling for it and never promoted it while the Sitiawan version with filling has people feeling for it and was promoted actively. I have great feeling for the plain kompian with no filling. Price: RM1.00 for 5 pieces.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My First USD

This was the first time I held US dollars in my hands. To be more precise, USD300. Three pieces of paper in exchange for a bundle of money of 20 pieces of RM50 note, three pieces of RM10 note and two pieces of RM1 note. How little I got for so much that I gave. Only three pieces of paper!

Yeah, I needed to change MYR to USD for the reason that there was no demand for MYR in my new country of domicle. I also could not get the currency of my new country of domicile because there was no demand for that currency in Malaysia (or rather, I did not even bother to ask). USD would be a more convenient currency for me to convert to the currency I needed. That was the advice given by my future employer/ boss. The selling rate was $US1 to RM3.44 for today (17th November 2009) at Yewon Licensed Money Changer, Sibu (opposite Pathlab). I may get another USD300 at KLIA on arrival there on 25th November. The exchange rate on XE was USD1 to MYR3.36750. The licensed money changer made an additional RM22 from me by doing just a simple transaction of less than two minutes!! Easy money.

Yesterday, I went to RHB Bank to get the USD. However, the officer there said that it was not selling/ buying foreign currencies. I later checked with a former colleague and he told me that banks in Sibu do not sell/ buy foreign currency. He recommended the money changer at Medan Mall as the selling rate there was more favorable than Yewon's.

So this morning, I went to Medan Mall. There was no money changer there and upon inquiry, was told that it had closed down. So I went looking for Yewon but I could not find it, until a call and an inquiry later, I found it. It was inside. together with a goldsmith shop near the corner of the row of shophouses opposite Pathlab.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Final Days in Sibu

On Wednesday, 11th November 2009, my new employer called to ask me whether I could make the trip on the 18th of November. If I could make it, he would be around when I arrived. Otherwise, the next direct flight would be on 25th November, at which time he said he would not be around as he would leaving on a business trip on the 24th November and would only be back on 8th December. Therefore, he asked whether I could make it and whether that would be too rush for me. How considerate of him. I mentioned that it would indeed be too rush as the notice before departure would only be a week. As such, it was agreed that my departure would be on 25th November. Nevertheless, he mentioned that a staff member from the office would come to pick me up when I arrived.

On Wednesday, 11th November 2009 also, I drove my Kenari EZi for the last time to work in the morning. In the afternoon, the new owner took ownership of it. Full payment for the sales of my Kenari is only expected when the bank releases the money on either Monday (16th Nov.) or Tuesday (17th Nov.). Here was the last shot of my Kenari, taken on 9th November 2009.

So today, 13th November 2009, I came on my old trusted 23-year old motorcycle. Still carrying me around as reliably when I needed her.

And today, 13th November 2009, I clocked in for the last time with my present employer. Thereafter, I shall be on leave. Yesterday evening, my colleagues bade me farewell with a barbeque/ hot pot dinner. Thank you guys and gals for the nice dinner.

Before the meal ended at 9:00 p.m., they told me that they have left a big present on my office desk. They told me that it was too big to bring to the dinner. I was wondering what could that be. How was I going to bring a big box home on my motorcycle tomorrow? How generous of them, and my mine drifted many years back when my primary school students bade me farewell with everyone of them giving me a present.

So, this morning, I was surprised with this "big present". Nevertheless, it was very cutely designed and they really put in much effort and time to do it. I like it and I appreciate their efforts. Many thanks to you all. This is their hand-crafted photo-frame with the cleverly designed picture. It is going to be a souvenir to last forever.

I had another farewell meal during lunch today. It was hosted by my table tennis playing colleagues, except for one. It was a seven-course lunch and I really had my fill of food. Thanks guys and girls for such a wonderful lunch.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Food Trip to Kuching

Since last year, TSC has been talking about the 'best' nasi briyani at Boulevard, Kuching. 'It's the best in Sarawak', he said. So, after much persuasion from him, three out of the five of us were convinced to make the trip, to taste this 'best' nasi briyani. I went because I wanted my Hartz Chicken and All Joy buns.

The trip started at about 12:50 p.m. on 31st October 2009, from Sibu. I had my lunch of packed KFC before leaving, but not TSC and CTT. At Jakar bazaar, Sarikei, they had their late lunch at 1:50 p.m. at Sing Chen Cafe.

CTT had chicken rice ....

... and TSC had fried noodle.

The was a drizzle at Jakar. After the late lunch, we were on our way to Kuching. The weather was gloomy but there was no rain as we drove away from Jakar.

At 5:15 p.m., it was rain all the way to Kuching. We only reached Green Mountain Hotel at the Green Hill area in Kuching at about 8:00 p.m.

After a quick check-in, we were on our way to The Spring, where the sister of TSC recommended the nasi briyani there (instead of the one at Boulevard). The stall was there alright, but not the food nor the vendor. There was no nasi briyani so we ordered something else. I had Lemon Chicken Salad rice (RM5.00) while the two of them ordered beef noodle (RM5.50). 7/10 points for the Lemon Chicken Salad rice. According to both of them, the noodle was good, but not the beef broth.

At 9:30 p.m., the two of them decided to go for Starbucks coffee. Well, it was too expensive for me. Furthermore, I wouldn't be able to sleep after drinking coffee. They went in to Starbucks while I went to check out Tai Kiong Supermarket. The supermarket was closing at 10:00 p.m., so I joined them at Starbucks after browsing through the products at Tai Kiong. Starbucks was also closing, so we left just after the shutter was pulled.

We have to search for another round of food before calling it a day. Afterall, that was the purpose of our trip. We needed to fill up our stomach to the brim. As we were cruising around, we saw many people taking supper at the hawker stall at one end of the food market in front of Electra House. It was already 10:50 p.m.

We decided to check it out. TSC and CTT had the kolo mee tossed in char siew oil (turning the noodle orange in colour), while I had the plain original white kolo mee. It was good. I would give the original kolo mee 7/10 points.

TSC ordered take-away special char siew kolo mee for his brother-in-law at Stampin, where he would be staying for the night while CTT and I would be staying at Green Mountain Hotel, a budget hostel.

With a full stomach, sleep did not come easy. It was already 12:30 a.m. After tossing in bed for sometime, I finally fell asleep. I woke up just before 5:00 a.m. and could not get myself to sleep again. As daylight began to break, I got up of bed thinking of taking an early morning walk before TSC arrived. As I was getting ready, CTT woke up. He then joined me walking around the Bukit Mata Kuching area down to Ban Hock Road. There were the new Pullman Hotel and the Hills Shopping Mall, both of which had yet to open.

Pullman Hotel:

Hills shopping mall:

As usual, TSC failed to keep his promise of meeting us at 7:00 a.m. I showed CTT around as I was familiar with the area, having studied in Kuching many years back. TSC arrived at 7:40 a.m. and we went to look for authentic Kuching rice porridge for breakfast at the hawker food market next to the other hawker food market in front of Electra House. It was closed. Last night, it was opened. What luck! We missed the chance to savour authentic Kuching breakfast.

After deliberating for a while on where to eat, we decided to enter the hawker food market in front of Electra House to check out what were available. The courteous Char Kuey Tiau (fried flat rice noodle) tauke quickly came over and asked us to take our seats. So we sat. We were the good obedient customers from Sibu. The ordinary Char Kuey Tiau cost RM2.50 while the one I took with clam was RM3.50. It was good. Another 7/10 points for this fare. The soya milk cost RM1.00.

One round of breakfast was not good enough. We were looking for the second round and I remembered that many, many years back, there was a good laksa stall at India street. We went to look for it but it was no longer there. Anyway, we decided to take a walk around Kuching, so as to allow our food to 'digest' before we went for the second round of breakfast. We passed through the old cock house, so named because of this:

The former court house in proper perspective (now turned into Little Lebanon):

We walked, and walked and walked, passing by St. Thomas Catheral, Merdeka Palace Suite and ending at St. Joseph Catheral before turning back, and passing through the cemetery behind the muzium before visiting Aquarium Bandaraya.

By the time we reached our car, it was 9:40 a.m. already. All Joy Bakery which was situated there was still closed..... so no All Joy on this trip. After dillying-dallying on where to go for our second breakfast, TSC called his brother-in-law and sister on where to find the best Kuching laksa. The brother-in-law said 'there' and the sister said 'here'. It looked like the pair of husband and wife did not share the same taste for food. We eventually ended up 'there'. It was already 10:30 a.m., Sunday, and this laksa stall had only one more bowl of laksa left. Since TSC and CTT offered to take something else, I had the last bowl of laksa. I could only give it 4/10 points. The wife was correct.

CTT had Mi Poh....

.... while TSC had this, whatever it was called.

We left the place at about 11:30 a.m. and went to the airport to pick up TSC sister who was arriving with her two little kids from Sibu. On sending them home, we went straight for nasi briyani at Boulevard. By the time we ordered our nasi briyani, it was 1:15 p.m. already.

This plate of nasi briyani with beef, chicken wing and squid cost a whopping RM13. Without the beef, it was RM8.00. In terms of taste, I would give it 7/10 points. TSC said it was as good as the first time he had it. Shariff Nasi Kandar at Gelugor, Penang, was better (see - look for the photos with the long queue on the sixth row)

By the time we finished our nasi briyani at Boulevard, it was already 1:30 p.m.! We had planned to return to Sibu at 4:00 p.m., and we still haven't had our Hartz Chicken.

Earlier, TSC sister recommended the steamed bun at this place. I did not know what it was called as I do not read Chinese. It was located among the old rows of shophouses at Padungan.

After purchasing bagfuls of the buns, we proceeded to Sarawak Plaza for Hartz Chicken. Before entering Hartz at 3:30 p.m., we emptied our bowel in the W.C., both TSC and I!!!!

This was the reason I came. Though the nasi briyani had not fully digested, I had four pieces of chicken and others + one piece of chicken from TSC to rescue him from being penalised for not finishing his six pieces of chicken. TSC tortured himself just to finish his five pieces of chicken. CTT had six pieces. We were not able to recover our investment of RM17.70 per person.

TSC did not want to try the ice-cream because he said it looked like dog poo, eventhough it was white, not brown. It certainly taste good, unlike dog poo ...

Our meals ended at 4:30 p.m. and it was time to say good-bye to Kuching. We reached home in Sibu at 11:40 p.m.