Warning: the contents of this post are extremely drool-inducing. Viewers are advised to keep a handkerchief nearby and cautioned against leaning over their keyboards.
“Golden Coin” from Hung Kiew Kee Restaurant, Sarikei
So where did we go out to eat in Sarikei?
Whetting Our Appetites
After our day-long road trip journey to Sarikei, we were famished. Our Sarikei friends left us at the lodge to freshen up, then came back to take us to dinner at New Fortune Restaurant (Lorong Layang-Layang near the Shell station). When we entered, the place was already near capacity.
This being Gawai season, many of the eating establishments were closed because the workers had all returned home to their villages. The ones still open had to shoulder the larger load of people who had come into town (like us). Our host whispered to me that this restaurant was actually last on his list of choices for dinner – the other two restaurants were full.
However, last choice doesn’t mean worst food. In fact, we quite enjoyed all the dishes at this meal. We had a sublime Sarikei chicken with lemongrass, fantastic fried mee sua, and a lovely braised tofu dish with local taro that was absolutely yammy-yummy. The bill was surprisingly affordable, given the quality and amount of food that was served.
New Fortune Restaurant, Sarikei
The next morning, our host took us to have breakfast at Aik Seng Cafe (far end of Jalan Wharf near Jalan Sentral). This place is famous for its charcoal-toasted buns called roti kahwin. Literally “married bread” in Malay, this features a generous pat of butter, a thick schmear of peanut butter, and a dollop of homemade pandan kaya.
It’s a really good combination, but I think that the bun that they use is too airy and doesn’t have enough “toothiness” to it to stand up to the heavy butter and thick peanut butter. On top of that, we felt that the buns could have been toasted longer. I suppose the quick toasting was due to the huge number of orders coming in – as with the previous night’s restaurant, the place was packed solid.
One good thing to note is that the noodle sellers out at the front of the shop also turn out decent halal kampua and loh mee. One bad thing – the coffee that day was insipid.
Aik Seng Cafe, Sarikei
Full, but not quite satisfied, our hosts took us to another coffee shop nearby, Hock Kiew Hin Cafe (Jalan Nyelong, facing the pork sellers market). In the back of the cafe, a woman who happens to be one of our host’s aunts runs a small kitchen serving Foochow favorites like pork liver soup. Our host ordered a couple of bowls for us.
I’m not a big liver fan, but since coming to Sarawak I have grown to like this dish. 10-year old Daniel loves it so much, he can completely devour a whole dish on his own, if he’s hungry enough. This version, though cloudier than we’re used to, is one of the best we’ve tasted.
We did go back on another morning to eat more of her dishes, but I’ll save that for another post.
Hock Kiew Hin Cafe, Sarikei
Sarikei Chicken Again and Again
Another night, and another dinner at a Chinese restaurant. This one, Golden Happiness Restaurant (Jalan Haji Karim, ground floor of the Furama Hotel) is run by another aunt of our hosts. Same as before, it was a packed house. You definitely needed reservations for this place.
Our hosts pre-ordered:
- A delicious fish-head curry with fuchok (bean curd skin) and okra which I loved. A typical Malaysian-style curry, not too heavy on the spicy-heat.
- Pek Ting herbal chicken soup with Sarikei chicken. If there ever is a perfect chicken soup, this would be it. So satisfying from the first sip to the last. The chicken was fall-apart tender but the meat itself was so tasty. I’m licking my lips just thinking about it.
- The House Special: pork intestines stir-fried with soy sauce, chillies and onions. I know what you’re thinking: pork intestines!? Trust me, I had the same thoughts as well. But then I took a bite, and found out that it wasn’t so bad after all. The intestines were chewy but not tough, and the savoryness of the soy sauce, the spiciness of the chillies and the sweetness of the onions combined to make an alluringly addictive dish.
- Next came another Sarikei chicken dish, this one steamed and topped with peanuts. It was beautiful. The sauce was unctuous (I just love that word) and the chicken so fragrant. The steamed peanuts were soft and sweet.
Golden Happiness Restaurant, Sarikei
The best part about it was that dinner was not that much more expensive than the previous one’s. Scrumptious food in large quantities at affordable prices. That seems to be the hallmark of Sarikei cuisine, and a very good reason to visit.
Kampua and Coffee
I have a coworker who hails from Sarikei. When I asked her where to go for good coffee, she directed me to her father’s shop, New Eastern Cafe (Jalan Wharf at Jalan Repok, opposite the Shell service station). I made it down there the next morning and ordered up a “kopi-c, kurang manis” (coffee with evaporated milk, less sugar) and a kampua mee, black.
The kampua mee was decent, passable. But that coffee, man. Yes, it was definitely better than the one I had at Aik Seng the previous day. I could have had another but I’m not that much of a coffee-holic.
How many cups of coffee a day can you drink?
New Eastern Cafe, Sarikei
I made my way back to the hotel, where our friends met us to take us out for breakfast. They originally intended on bringing us to another shop, but we were running behind schedule. So we decided to just eat at the Lai Lai Food Court downstairs from where we were staying at Lodge 808.
There were hardly any seats available, and the lady running the kampua mee stall at the front was swamped:
She’s camera-shy because she says too many people take pictures of her and put it up on Facebook but she doesn’t think she looks nice. Still, she cooks up a mean kampua mee.
We had originally planned on going to Hung Kiew Kee Restaurant (Jalan Berjaya) for lunch but plans change (as they often do). My main goal was to get some of that famous “gold coin” char siu pork that we missed the last time we ate there. We decided to just drop in and see if we could get some gold coins to take away.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was busy preparing for a lunch banquet, and they didn’t know if there was going to be enough leftover for us after putting together all the platters. Lucky for us, the lady kindly picked out a few precious slices and gave them to us on a plate, on the house.
Oh. My. Word. These gold coins were so good! Lean pork, pork fat, and a slice of pork liver sandwiched in between. Marinated in char siu flavors then roasted until the thin parts start getting crispy and caramelized. I wanted to keep eating but we had to share the few pieces amongst each other.
Hung Kiew Kee Restaurant, Sarikei
These are the places we ate at that were recommended by our friends. Ask 10 other locals, and you’d get 10 different answers for their own favorites. I’m sure we missed out on some other really good food out there in Sarikei.
That just means we’ll have to go back someday. Wanna come along?
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