Monday, March 10, 2008

TIEN MEIN HU REVISITED @ CHOP HING HOUNG, MARKET ROAD, SIBU


When I was in Sarikei, I wanted to try the town's Tien Mein Hu, wok-scrapped rice flour noodle; but was dissuaded from it by a Johorean in town, saying that the one in Sibu is the best with its home-ground rice flour. That little endorsement from an outsider is enough testament to the legend of fans this fame Sibu's eatery holds.

It's a pilgrimage of sort whenever I'm in town... a visit to this shop is a must. Nothing comes close to this original taste in Kuching; however, there was once a lady at Ban Hock Road café whose Tien Mein Hu was up to the Parthenon, then she "cabut"; Poof! Into the nights.

The time I was here, the place was packed to the brim, so had to settle at the coffee shop across the alley; outside food is allowed here. This gives me a good vintage point to shoot the whole shop's operation : Notice the red basin above the blue plastic bucket (left), this holds the cooked Tien Mein Hu. This is the way it has always been cooked - by the basin-full, not on a cook-to-order basis. The man with back-flipped capped is feeding soaked rice into the motorized stone grinder; that's where the fresh rice paste is extracted.

For those not familiar with Tien Mein Hu, it's Sibu's version of Kueh Chap; albeit with seafood (fish balls, cuttlefish and woodear fungus) instead of pig's offal. Unlike the Kueh Chap, the kueh is made on the spot, with the rice slurry ladled around the wok; and when cooked, it's scrapped onto the pork broth, which is boiling beneath.

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As the name implies, it's all about nothing! Kongkaying is like grasping in the air - more like hot air with occasional fartulence. Hopefully, something aromatic will come out of it! If not...

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