"Let's call it "Eclipse Mee Sua with Tartar's Sauce" I quipped, and Louis nearly choked on his spoon.
No, I was not trying to change the name of the dish, Fried Mee Sua with cangkuk manis, but only the caption of the photo taken by Louis, who used Allen's Canon EOS350 to take a shot of the dish with the flash panning from one side rendering the mee sua with a dark side like an eclipsed moon. (Hey Allen send me the eclipse pic). And the leftover tartar sauce from the fish and chip dish compliment it nicely!
Actually, trying to fry mee sua is a very delicate job, because mee sua is not meant to be fried! Its a soup dish. You soak it in hot water and dunk them in hot piping chicken soup or pig intestine soup or other herbal soup, and they must be consumed within a few minutes or it will turn too soft. Thus over fried mee sua will loose its "sponginess" (somewhat like the sponginess of bee hoon or rice vermicelli).
Caroline (the proprietor of Village Fast Food) had done a great job by not rendering the mee sua too soft. It was still fluffy and pliable, not reduced to a sticky mass of clumped flour. This is called "skill" or "kang hoo"! I love it!
But lets get to the first dish, the Hot and Sour soup. Well, I think the "Hot" here means steaming hot not the fanning-your-sticked-out-tongue and asking for a glass of cold water type of hot. Which was why I had to sprinkle some pepper powder to spice thing up.
I think Caroline was trying to be on the safe side, by not coming on strong with the seasonings, as she used them sparingly to avoid the crowd clutching their throats gasping for cold water, but to a cilipadi muncher like me "Hot" here merely means the temperature of the soup. Well, I guess you can't please everyone all at the same time. I love the soup flavour which was also not too starchy, but can you please pass the pepper again, sorry, and the cut chilli too.
Next, the Nestum Fish Fillet. "It looks like butter prawn, it tastes like butter prawn, but it ain't butter prawn!" Said Allen to Maozi.
"But it says here in the menu it is butter prawn!" insisted Maozi, who promptly dissected it, peered into it and declared: "Oh! Confirm! its not prawn, its fish fillet!"
Indeed, it was Nestum Fish Fillet, as it pre-empted the butter prawn, which was No.2 on the menu, hence the confusion.
I find the Fish Fillet rather plain, maybe because salad fish fillet rice is readily available in most food court in Kuching together with salad chicken rice. A few points taken down here. Hey, don't blame me if I raised our standard a notch or two higher up on occasion like this! However if pitted against the food court fare, it outshines most of what I've tasted.
Nyonya Sweet & Sour Chicken. You know, its funny that whenever the word "nyonya" is prefixed to a dish, I subconsciously raised the bar, and this was no exception. Unfortunately I am not an ardent fan of chicken meat, but I was delighted with the subtle taste of the sauce, especially the crunchy lemongrass and its slightly piquant unmistakable nyonya flavoured sauce spread over cut slivers of steamed chicken meat. Kudos to Caroline. I love this dish and devoured a few morsels before it was "rudely" taken away by the waitress who thought we'd finished. Our mistake was "pretending" to be well-mannered and not to wallop everything in one go. To Naomi and the Boys, learn your lesson. Next time if you like a dish, just grab it! Leave your manner at home!
4 combo vegetable. Ah, at last a dish to keep carnivore Maozi ("I'm a meat-arian") rested for a while. This is a stirred fried smorgasbord of long bean, eggplant, "kui tao" (somebody please give me the correct spelling please?) and ladies finger.
Again, Caroline played the safe card by sprinkling the sambal (or was it sambal?) sparingly. Actually this is a clever ploy. It gives a dish a "mysterious" aftertaste and teases the eaters to guess what's being put into it. An over-spiced with sambal stir-fry vege dish like this is normal fare at most household, but this is a delightful change. I'll try to suggest to my wife to ease up on the sambal next time. Only thing is I have to do it diplomatically or she'll hit me with a spatula and demands "you think you can cook better meh?", and goes on strike.
Fish and chips. Well, what can I say, I never tasted a real Britisher's fish and chips, suffice to say it reminded me of Nestum fish fillet a few dishes ago. But I do admit the deco of the chips is very nicely done up.
I'm sucker for chips really and I have to say I love them no matter what size and shape and length they come in.
Butter prawn! My fave dish! There are two schools of thought here. One, eat the shell too, for that's where the flavour is, and its make the prawn crunchier. Two,eat them without the shell, thus forgo the flavouring. I think the first option makes sense as eating without the shell defeats the whole purpose of eating Butter prawn. However, this dilemma is solved if the butter prawns are done in a "dry" style, that is, done with plenty of flour/nestum/butter crumbs. You take the shell off and eat the "naked" prawn with the fragrant crunchy crumbs that comes generously on the platter. Unfortunately, Caroline's butter prawn was a "wet" version, meaning there was no crumbs to pick up, so to savour the full flavour of the dish, you have to eat the prawn, shell and all.
I personally do not like to munch on prawn shell, but then Francis went around table to table to give a friendly reminder on how to appreciate this dish, i.e. swallow the shell too, I had to follow the crowd too. Frankly, it taste delicious! Pity I had earlier spat out the shell of my first prawn, and picking them up from my plate and putting them into my mouth again would probably make Naomi roll her eyes.
Grilled Beef Steak. Could this be the piece de resistance? as I read the menu. People usually "save the best for last" after all.
Well, I wouldn't not place this dish on the top of the list. But then you can't please everybody like I say. Some like it hot, some like it rare, some swear by spreading mustard on it. For me, I just want it well-done and a generous dollop of extra-spicy black pepper sauce. But I thought the steak was a bit "joon" or rubbery or shall I blame it on my denture? Oh, picky picky! This grumpy old man!
Burp. 'Scuse me! Well, that was really some dinner, and I really enjoy the company I had in my table, even with Fahri kept on blinding us momentarily with his super powerful strobe-light. While the organiser/promoter Francis kept the boisterous crowd in stitches with his antics. And oh, I'd like to add, I really like they way the food here are done without the msg, and the taste is still delicious! Its the first time I came home from a dinner without gulping down my whole container of plain water! I know Caroline must have put in a lot of thought into coming up with this set of menu. Who wouldn't, pandering to a bunch of food bloggers, and so call "food critic" like me, why, she must have gone through scores of recipe books! And I salute her for it! Well done, Caroline, and thank you and to Francis too for the invite. You asked us to call a spade a spade and I just did that.
(For lovers of fine home-style cooking (without the msg!) please head to Caroline's Village Fast Food along Jalan Central, Kuching, right next door after the Shell petrol station. Drive right in, there are plenty of parking spaces! All photos here are courtesy of Francis)
(P/s Some events and descriptions here had been exaggerated to elicit some chuckles, if I offend some, please forgive me for they are not intentional.)