A little introduction to Zao Cai Fen Gan (糟菜粉干). Made with greens fermented in red wine, paired with thick rice vermicelli. Sounds delicious? It is.
They come in two variations, dry and soup. Soup’s great for someone who’s hungover.
It’s sour with just the right texture and I found the best dry one in Sibu. Or rather, my Grab driver told me all about it. A hidden gem, right by one of the more popular hotels.
Their dry Zao Cai Fen Gan is to die for. It is perfect for all occasions. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or even supper. I had it twice in the course of five days!
They also do pretty decent stir fried ba gui (白果).
Where: Bosco Cafe (click for the coordinates!)
So what’s Kampua (干盘)? It’s noodles slicked in pork oil, served with fragrant deep fried shallots and a few slices of lean pork. It’s similar to a well-known Sarawakian dish called Kolo Mee (干捞面).
However, there are differences in both taste and texture. Kampua has a stickier consistency, probably due to the lard. It is also much chewier as opposed to Kolo Mee, which is brittle in comparison. You can have black Kampua which is drizzled with soya sauce, whereas Kolo Mee is usually covered in red char siew sauce. And for some reason, Kampua is served with chili sauce whereas Kolo Mee comes with chopped chili in vinegar.
Honestly, the best Kampua I’ve ever had is in Kuching but it’s been breaking my heart with its deteriorating quality. It’s still sitting comfortably at the top of my list though, since it’s nailed that sticky texture and the noodles are rinsed in chicken broth, giving it a subtle comforting taste of home.
Note: To understand that comment, you have to first know this: both foods are Foochow cuisine. The most famous Foochow dish is possibly chicken soup with misua (鸡汤寿面 pronounced gie tong sawh meahn in Foochow, but more commonly known in Chinese as ji tang mian xian 鸡汤面线). Chicken soup is a constant in every Foochow’s life. You have it for birthdays, special occasions, weekends and every other day – in that order. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that to a Foochow like me, it’s comfort food. A childhood staple.
But the most authentic Kampua I’ve had in Sibu is served with piping hot chicken soup on the side, and bless that uncle’s soul: I told him I didn’t like green onions and he didn’t put them in my soup.
It’s attention to little details like this that makes for outstanding service. I don’t need you to drape my napkin over my lap or hold out my chair or wipe my
ass mouth, anyone can do that. But to remember a flippant request such as “I don’t want green onions in my Kampua” and having the foresight to keep greens away from all other dishes? Simply marvelous.
Where: Sing Hin Corner (click for the coordinates!)
Now, what surprised me was the Carbonara pasta at a restaurant owned by that same Grab driver.
Usually paired with bacon, but because they were all out, I had the option of chicken and mushroom instead.
What really brought all the flavors together were the slivers of pan fried garlic. I am haunted, still, by the beauty of that dish.
Where: Solo on 16 Cafe (click for the coordinates!)