Fabulous Thai Lunch @ Bangkok Thai Seafood Restaurant, Kuching

Date of Visit: July 11 2013

Ramadan started on July 8, 3 days ago. Although I am not a Muslim I had planned to join in their religious cleansing and purification hoping to shift some weight (by skipping lunch:-)) But with this-and-that and visitors popping into town, it is a monumental task. My blog does not feature recipes, this is because I eat very simple foods at home – blanched broccoli, stir-fried cabbages (with store-bought Lee Kum Kee chilli paste) and cabbage soup (by dumping all the vegs from the markets into a pot) – which are hardly anything interesting.

As I spoke with an overseas counterpart recently, keeping fit was a fast topic. Yes I was quite an athlete before my arrival in Malaysia early this year (without sounding cocky my partner and I came 3rd in the Lantau Race in Hong Kong a few years back. And that was our first time running a trail race!). With the change of environment, especially the weather and culture (there is NO Fitness First here *shockers*), I am missing my 6:30am training sessions with my trainer, daily spin classes and running back home in Sydney. I have also changed my diet, in order to fit into my new context – I was following a predominantly raw food diet – but ahd to abandon it because getting the food I want (organic) is very hard. Moreover, vegetarian in Malaysia means oily greasy pedestrian stuffs like noodles, rice, tofu, etc. Moreover, it is very rude to be not eating if you are entertaining. Therefore, I eat clean when I am at home.

Anyway, Dr Liu’s name came up in our conversation. He is the Chinese doctor who practise Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Bondi Junction, who gain fame for putting his patients on a 2-week fast subsisting only on herbal concoctions. I am very eager to try and hope to make an appointment to see him when I am back in Sydney next.

In the meantime, I had a whirl-wind trip to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak today. The flight took 40minutes, being the Ramadan month, only drinks and some nuts were offered on-board. This left me wondering whether Emirates has the same policies.

Lunch was at a Thai restaurant at a non-descript corner lot of a shophouse typical of any Borneo townscape. The restaurant was very well-patronised as it also provide buffet lunch. I had almost forgot to check name of restaurant being distracted by the striking Thai memorabilia and statues, the servers are all dressed in traditional Thai costumes to impart authenticity. I later did a google search and found out that this restaurant is the 1st Thai restaurant in Kuching.

We started off with a DIY appetizer of Betel Leaf Salad also known as ‘miang kam’. This is a typical Thai street-side snack whereby you wrap an assortment of – whatever that takes your fancy – pomelo, chili padi (bird’s eye chili, which is very fiery), fragrant fried coconut flakes, roasted baby peanuts, dried shrimps, spanish onions, fresh young gingers – to wrap in a betel leaf with tamarind paste. This was my very first time trying the snack and I was absolutely taken by it. Being a peanut-addict, I could not stop myself from picking at the freshly roasted baby peanuts.

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Miang Kam with Keropok (local shrimp crackers)

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Miang Kam

Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus is a must-order in any Thai meal. Chicken pieces were marinated in ginger and herb paste and then chargrilled in pandanus leaves. While unwrapping the package, a sweet fragrance wafted through the air. The chicken pieces were done just right, juicy with a lot of ginger-herb-nut paste, thus did not require a dip in the sweet chilli sauce provided.

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Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus

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Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus

It’s been a long time since I had Shark Fin Soup. This used to be a very traditional Chinese soup until the environmentalists kicked up a fuss. It’s a thick soup with silky smooth egg white in starchy base.

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Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus

Sweet Sour Midin stir-fried with minced pork and shrimps is a twist from the usual midins stir-fried with garlic found in the other restaurants. Midins is a type of fern that is only available in Sarawak. This was also the first time I sampled a different style of cooking midins, so I had a few extra helpings. Now, why can’t the Chinese restaurants be more adventurous in their cooking?

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Sweet Sour Midin

Grilled Squids, springy and creamy, I prefer the squids to be in its natural taste so did not bother with the sweet chilli garlic sauce provided.

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Grilled Squids

Pineapple Rice is another must-order in any Thai restaurant. I especially like how the restaurant prepared it by frying the rice with turmeric, raisins, baby shrimps and pineapple chunks. The final presentation came in a hollowed-out pineapple and topped with generous pork floss.

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Pineapple Rice

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Pineapple Rice

Deep fried Garoupa. Another sweet sour dish. The fish was deep-fried in a light batter, then served with mango slices and aromatic herbs on top. A perfect dish with flaky fish flesh off the bone.

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Deep fried Garoupa

Although a plate of fresh cut fruits were pre-ordered for our table, we still insisted on having some Thai desserts. There were a lot to choose from the picture menu. Since it was a hot afternoon, I chose Chestnut in Coconut Milk which I had enjoyed in my previous Thai meal (review here). Unfortunately dessert today was a letdown. My request for extra ice went unheeded, so I was left with the overly thick sweet santan. There goes my sugar quota for the week.

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Chestnut in Coconut Milk

Overall, I have to say, this is the best Thai food I had sampled so far. Although the dishes seemed to taste the same – all sweet and sour – they were extremely tasty and very satisfying. I had a sugar high and had a difficult time keeping awake for the afternoon.

Sibu Famous Curry Fish Head @ Sheraton Restaurant, Sibu

Date of Visit: July 10 2013

I don’t dine out much in The Boo. I gather I am not missing anything since every single joint I’ve patronised here serve the same thing – kway teow and fried rice – be it a Western, Japanese or whatever-joint they call themselves (a review of a so-called Italian joint in The Boo serving fried-rice here). In any regards, I’d rather eat at home to save myself from intestinal gut inflammation. From a nutritionist’s point of view, it takes 2 years to rid the body of inflammation, however, from the raw foodist’s perspective, it takes 1 year to rid the body of inflammation from simply ingesting 1 piece of Pringles! (Depressing bit of info since I might have inflammed and aged 10 years now!)

On the occasions that I do dine out or have visitors visiting, we usually rotate between Sheraton and New Capital restaurants, the only 2 restaurants worth heading to in my opinion (until I make new discoveries).

Sheraton isn’t a posh restaurant but it does has a reputation for her very mean signature Curry Fish Head. Nearly every visitor to The Boo has been inducted to its Curry Fish Head Hall of Fame. The proprietress hails from Singapore and have lived here for over 30 years. The ersatz decor from the 70’s of tiled floors, white-washed walls and round tables with pink table clothes are dowdy, yet a local favourite for weddings, birthdays and large groups. Service is slow and unhurried, patrons wait like a naughty school-kids at the door to be noticed for a table.

I have never sighted Sheraton’s menu, only a ramble of verbal recommendations from the proprietress who presumes the dishes you desire to eat. If you ask, she will customise a dish according to your instructions.

Dinner conversational topics can be tricky at times if one has only just been acquainted, it is unwise to talk politics, gossips, rumours or religion, however since I am familiar with my guests, small town gossips and popular culture were infused in our conversation. A current topic at the moment is the verdict of Tony Chan aka Peter Chan, the notorious feng-shui master in Nina Wang’s estate in Hong Kong (here). His original name was Tony Chan, but when the trial began, he was ostracised from the feng-shui community for giving feng-shui masters a bad rap (feng-shui masters in Hong Kong used to be exempt from income tax until the Inland Revenue found out how much they earned), therefore he was forced to retire, get baptised and changed his name to Peter.

In his verdict, the judge Andrew Macrae described Mr Chan as a “shameless” charlatan who had shown “unparalleled greed”. Moreover, in Chinese tradition, it is both despicable and shameless for a man to destroy the reputation of a dead woman who had taken him from being a nobody to be financially super rich (receiving gifts amounting HK$3B), his evil deeds are no different to a certain Datuk Pemanca/ Datuk Perompak in Sibu whose antics of spreading false rumours on a late family member and misrepresentation of himself paints a dishonourably low and unconsciencely cowardly act.

Our pleasant conversations were spurred on by nibbling on the sweetly caramelised Peanuts Cooked in Sweet Soy Sauce.

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Soy Sauce Peanuts

The first dish to arrive is also the star we have been waiting for – the famed Sheraton’s Curry Fish Head. Ceremoniously brought out on an aluminium burner dish, the fish head bathed in a thick spicy gravy with ladies fingers, eggplants, tofu and gluten skins received much compliments from the out-of-towners. It was an addictive combo of fish, gravy and rice, all cautions regarding calories, carbohydrates, etc were dismissed and it was soon polished clean.

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Sheraton’s Curry Fish Head

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Sheraton’s Curry Fish Head

Other more home-styled cooking arrived, the standard Stir-fried Kangkung and Tofu on Minced Pork were all delicious.

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Stir-fried Kangkung

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Tofu on Minced Pork

Side-kick to the Curry Fish Head was the Pig’s Trotters. Steamed, then deep-fried it was a heavy dish, nevertheless, I devoured it with favour since I love the fatty tissue (for its omega) and the gelatinous fibres (collagen). The sweet vinegar sauce with chili padi, shallots and onions lubricated the firm meats.

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Pig’s Trotters

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Pig’s Trotters

Good thing that I ordered a Blended Kalamansi Juice to cleanse my palate and for a dose of Vitamin C.

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Blended Kalamansi Juice

Lastly Yam Pudding– a traditional Foochow dessert and Sheraton’s own recipe – Jazz biscuit sandwiched with lotus paste and deep fried – made their appearance and closed curtains for a fine evening.

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Dessert

This is dining out in style in a small Borneo town of hooligans, something tasty to mark an impression on the out-of-towners and to lure them (and of course the locals) back again and again. I look forward to another round for dinner soon.