Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Fat Goat

This place has a very tantalizing name - Xiao Fei Yang (小肥羊 - Little Fat Goat). And as mutton is my favorite meat, I had wanted to go there for a long long time. I had passed by the place on numerous occasions with my tongue hanging out and finally got to be there one Saturday evening for a family meal. I had googled the name beforehand and found three restaurants in the Klang valley with this name. The one we visited was in PJ Uptown Jalan SS21/62. The other 2 are in Pudu and Bandar Sunway. I believe they are affiliated. 

I had expected the restaurant to specialize in mutton and lamb - serving exotic dishes of my favorite meat. But it was actually a steamboat place and lamb was just one of the ingredients that you can order for your steamboat.

The one thing that struck us as we settled down into our table was the eating utensils. The bowls, plates, spoons and chopsticks were neatly wrapped in plastics. 

We later found out from our bill that we had to pay to use these utensils. They charge one ringgit per pax for use of the "mess kits". Fancy having to pay to use the bowls, plates, spoons and chopsticks in a restaurant! I wondered how they would expect us to eat if we had refused to pay. I also wondered if we would be allowed to bring our own. I later asked the boss lady why we needed to pay. She said they out-sourced the cleaning of their utensils. So? Wasn't washing plates and bowls part and parcel of running a restaurant - out-sourced or otherwise? What a lame reason! She also said the utensils were sterilized. Yeah right!

Aside from this small irritant, the steamboat they offered was really very good. We were given a choice of herbal soup, hot spicy soup, or a combination of both. The spicy soup looked very red and hot in the adjacent table. None of us fancied that and we opted for the herbal. 

The soup was so very very delicious. It was very sweet and aromatic, even without the meat and other steamboat ingredients in it. I could just drink the soup by itself and be very happy with it. It had various types of herbals and spices. I would not even try to identify these herbals and spices - there were plenty. And there was even a large piece of ginseng. That was the quality of the soup. But we had to pay for it. The soup alone was RM20. Perhaps it was another irritant - having to pay for the soup in a steamboat joint. But given the quality of it, I really did not mind.

We then ordered our steamboat ingredients. We marked them in a order list at the table. All the ingredients turned up fresh and appetizing. The meats were most appealing. We had mutton (but of course), beef and pork. Looking back at the pictures now, I really cannot tell which was what. They all looked so good.

We also had meat balls, tofu, mushrooms and vegetables. All very fresh...

... making a rich potpourri.

Oh yes, the noodles. I have to make a particular mention about their noodles. They were hand made and fresh (not dried) and they tasted awesome when boiled in the rich soup. The noodles were very smooth, yet the texture was springy and so very nice in the mouth. To me, this noodle is a must when you are there.

Besides the steamboat, the restaurant offered very limited other dishes. The plates of fried rice we ordered turned out to be very pleasant.

The meal we had in Xiao Fei Yang was no ordinary steamboat. The richness of the soup and the freshness of all the ingredients made it a real quality meal. The restaurant is very worthwhile. Never mind the irritating RM1 you pay for the bowls and the plates. I recommend you go there for the good quality steamboats.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Penang food in Jakarta

Plaza Indonesia is a spanking new shopping centre in the heart of Jakarta. It is also the location of the hotel I stayed in during a working visit to Indonesia recently. I walked out of my hotel lobby, pass a security check point, and I was on the 3rd floor of the shopping complex. On this same floor is a restaurant called Penang Place.

The place offered Penang food. I was immensely curious. I wasn't exactly hungry for Penang makan, being in Indonesia only the first day. But I wanted to find out what this place was all about, and I also wanted something for this blog. So I went in, sat down and before even ordering anything, started on my photography.

The place was quite deserted. Perhaps it was still early for dinner.

The menu was a mixture of Indonesian and Penang fares. The first few pages of it were all Indonesian. I thought - what the heck, was this place Penang only in name? It was the second half of the menu that the Penang flavors started to appear. And it was very comprehensively Penang too. They offer char koay teow, nasi lemak, curry mee, prawn mee, nasi kandar, roti canai and many others.

I was tempted to try everything. I finally settled for the nasi lemak. My option was partly because it was a kind of package offer, with a spring roll and dessert (ABC) thrown in. The drink, iced lemon tea, was not included.

The nasi lemak was really quite good. It was pleasingly presented, on a nice big plate adorned with a banana and 2 pandan leaves. It was served with a piece of rendang chicken, slice of omelet, keropok, some sambal on slices of cucumber, and peanut and ikan bilis. A bowl of curry sauce was served separately. The rice was very aromatic with santan flavor. The chicken was rather dry and the peanuts and ikan bilis were different. The curry sauce was totally alien in the context of Malaysian nasi lemak. Still, I enjoyed it.

The spring roll was so so. It was served piping hot - just out of the wok. The skin was nice and crispy, but the filling was weird. I didn't know what it was inside. It certainly was not the usual filling we have in Malaysia and it did taste strange.

The air batu campur (ABC) was also different. On the surface, it looked like the typical bowl of ABC we have in Malaysia - a hill of shaved ice with red rose syrup and evaporated milk.

Digging in, the ingredients were very different. The only ingredient common to Malaysian ABC was the leong fun (涼粉, cincau). The other stuffs in it were some sago-like gelatin, pieces of lychee and pieces of avocado. Avocado in ABC! It was interesting and good. Except that it was too sweet, the bowl of ABC was very nice.

Penang food in Jakarta, like the island, was a charming experience even though it was somewhat different. I wished I had company that evening so that we could order and sample a bigger variety of what they had to offer. But being alone, I perhaps had to wait for my next trip. The restaurant was still quite empty when I paid my bill. And as I walked out, I couldn't help wondering if people in Jakarta are aware of the fame of Penang food.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Klang BKT Under The Bridge

Klang is perhaps the bak kut teh capital in this county. Talk about BKT and inevitably Klang comes into the picture. They say the best BKT in Klang is found "below the bridge". I had always wondered about this place below the bridge. Heard so much about it and I hadn't the faintest idea where it was.

We finally got there one day. My nephew goggled "bak kut teh under the bridge" and found out that the name of the shop is Seng Huat. He read that the shop does business in 2 sessions - early morning to 12 noon and from 5 pm till 8pm. I could not believe that a BKT eatery would close so early at noon. Anyway, armed with my Garmin and with only about 45 minutes to spare before noon, we drove to Klang. We took a wrong turn and briefly got ourselves lost in Klang in spite of my GPS. We drove up the Jalan Tengku Kelana bridge instead of the side road below it.

When we finally arrived at the place just a few minutes after noon, they were just about sold out. The lady in the shop said she would dish out whatever she had. Later, I saw her turning away customers. Thus I guessed whatever she served us were really from the bottom of her pots.

Seng Huat is located on Jalan Raya Timur and is a short walk from the Klang railway station - co-ordinates N3 02.612 E101 26.895. It is at the corner of a row of shops adjacent to the Jalan Tengku Kelana bridge. The shop is not exactly below the Jalan Tengku Kelana bridge, but near enough.

The shop is very modest. It has a outside dining area which is below the pedestrian walk-up bridge that connects Jalan Raya Timur to Jalan Tengku Kelana. So I guess "under the bridge" is not an entirely wrong description of the shop that so many people refer to.

Along the wall were some newspaper cuttings and old pictures of food personalities and politicians, some of whom I could readily identify.

We sipped our tea....

... and soon after, the food arrived in a deluge. Bowls and bowls of mouth watering BKT inundated our table. Gosh, there were only 7 of us. Were we going to finish the lot?

And finished we did. In fact, at the end of it we wanted more. The BKT was not like any I have tasted. It was heaven. To start with, the soup was different. It was thick and so very delicious. It was in-between a gravy and a soup, not too oily yet so smooth. The herbs in it were aromatic and had a real nice aftertaste. The meat was not overcooked and still was tender and succulent. 

The trotters were simply great. Sinful? Recent reports say that pig trotters are rich in collagen and is a good anti-aging agent. Good reason to indulge more!

This BKT meal was easily one of the best I had - if not the best. This is what BKT is all about. The "place under the bridge" had indeed lived up to its reputation. And I hungered for more.

Before long, I was back there again. This time, I returned with a different set of nephews. And we made it a point to get there early. This second meal was even more satisfying. Simply because we had a better variety. Like this bone meat..

And the intestines and tripe.

The chicken feet was very good too.

I walked over the serving counter to talk to this nice guy (sorry, forgot to get his name). I asked him why he only served meat in the shop, and there was no vege, no mushroom, no fu chuk (腐竹), no tofu (豆腐) and other accompaniments in his BKT. He said they want to maintain the authenticity of their BKT. Adding the accompaniments would alter the flavor. He also said that the ingredients of their soup, which makes their BKT so very good, is a family secret and that nobody in Klang has been able to duplicate their recipe.

I pointed to a Chinese newspaper cutting on his wall that reported that they were the first BKT shop in Klang. He was very modest. He would not stake the claim. He just said that he was the 3rd generation in the business and that the shop was established by his grandfather. He estimated the business to be about 80 years old.

Wikipedia says that BKT was introduced to Malaysia by Chinese workers in the 19th century. Perhaps Klang was the place where they first introduced it. Was Seng Huat one of the earliest BKT shop in Klang or the country? So, did we had the original BKT? Yes or no, it certainly was yum!

So much BKT. This blog is killing me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Home Town yawn

The Sunway Giza Mall is a new shopping place in Kota Damansara, PJ. We were there to check it out one weekend evening. And I actually liked the place. It has quite an unique setting. The main concourse was not air-conditioned, but it wasn't a problem. It was cooled by many gigantic ceiling fans that surprisingly generated quite good cooling air movement.

We went around looking for dinner. There was really not very many places to eat in. Most of them were so-called "boutique restaurants" which I felt look better than they taste. Sadly, they lacked a food court. We ended in a Chinese eating place at the entrance of the main shopping area. The place was named Home Town.

We wouldn't had picked this place if we had a better choice. The restaurant looked more like take-away place. It did not have a proper dining area. All their tables were in the mall concourse. There was a counter-like set up at the front of the "restaurant" and behind it was perhaps the kitchen. 

The place was a typical Chinese eatery. The menu was unimaginative, comprising mouth yawning rather than watering suggestions. But we did not have much of a choice and we were hungry. 

The first dish (or pot) was the rice wine chicken (黄酒鸡). It was very uninteresting. The pieces of chicken were not bad. They were firm and yet succulent. However the soup was lacking. There was not much wine in it.

The Hakka ginger duck (客家姜鸭) was not too bad. It was a bit too salty. The gravy was rich and thick. And the flavor of the ginger and the duck complemented each other well. It was served in a clay pot rendering the duck hot for sometime.

For vege, we opted for the taugeh (bean sprouts) stirred fried with salt fish (菜). It was a good choice. The taugeh was short and stubby, like those we find in Ipoh. It is difficult to get such taugeh in the Klang Valley. There was some sliced wood fungus (耳) in the dish, making it very pleasant to the palate. 

The so-called signature tofu (招牌豆腐) was a waste of time. It was deep fried beyond recognition and served with a light chili sauce. I did not find any enjoyment biting into an oily mess of tofu. The taste was rather bland and I guess the chili sauce was there to help. If you are there, order something else.

All in all, the meal was most boring. It was as exciting as eating in MacDonald. The Sunway Giza might had been interesting in some ways. But food wise, it was a culinary desert.