I consider Kuching is my hometown, but Sibu is the where I was born, and spent the initial formative years of my life. It is also where my parents ‘shipped’ us every school holidays to my maternal grandparents. I have fantastic memories of being spoilt by my very indulgent ‘Ngie Ma’ (Foochow for maternal grandma) and ‘Ngieung’ (grandpa). Our visits revolved around food, and lots of it, – Ngie Ma was convinced we were too skinny and tried her very best to fatten us up every chance she got. When she picked us up from the airport, the first place we had to stop was at a kopitiam (coffee shop), where we had to eat a bowl of noodles and drink a hot cup of teh chieng (tea with condensed milk/milk and sugar).
Sibu has changed a great deal since those days; many of the old kopitiams have made way for modern, airy food courts or cafes. Farley Food Court in Salim is a popular modern food court. We came here for choi sia (a Foochow term which loosely translates to random eats/snacks).
They have the only ‘proper’ dim sum stall in town, serving a good range of delicately made and tasty dishes. These are RM$3 each (~NZD$1.30).
There is a large food court above the massive Sibu central market, where we came for more choi sia. The stall here has been operated by the same owner, Ah Hua, for over 40 years, – Eng e e swears the man has not aged since she was 10! To our luck, the jiu hu eng cai (cuttlefish kangkong) stall was open. The owner told us that the cost of cuttlefish has doubled, and he is not always open as the business has dropped. This was really good, the sauce was sweet, spicy and a little sour.
Uncle Robert’s friend Ah Wei operates a modern kopitiam in Sibu called One O One Café, which also doubles as the headquarters for the Sibu Hash House Harriers.
The kampua (tossed noodle) here is highly reputable, and Uncle Robert said the group of friends tasted various recipes for nearly a year before they approved one. They are also famous for their laksa and pork liver soup, which is cooked with lots of ginger, red wine and a beaten egg. Yum!
For dinner, the star dish was their stewed/boiled pork belly with pan ngee jeon (small crabs in red lees sauce). This sauce can only be found in Sibu, and has the most amazingly savoury flavor. This was accompanied by hotplate cabbage, sweet and sour soup, cangkuk manis with egg and belacan kangkong.
Thanks Eng e e and Robert eu for a truly delicious culinary experience!