Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Peter Kang's Hokkein prawn mee

I don't often go to the O&S coffee shop in PJ Paramount Garden - not because the food there is lousy (on the contrary, there are some very good food stalls there), but because it is always so crowded and I often have to stand around waiting for a table. This popular coffee shop is located on Jalan 20/14 in PJ. It is a corner shop directly opposite a Caltex station. Parking can be a problem and people often resort to ridiculously parking on the middle of the road with no regard to traffic obstruction and inconvenience to others.

O&S is really a very good makan place. It is big and busy and has a good variety of food stalls. My favorites there include the fish ball noodle, chee cheong fun (猪肠粉), yong tau fu (釀豆腐), curry mee and the kueh nyonya.

I was there recently. It was to revisit a Hokkein prawn mee stall in this coffee shop which I think is very good. In light of my experience and what I had written about the Super Hokkein Mee in Penang, I wanted to see how they compare.

The stall is owned by a nice friendly fellow - Peter Kang. I have known him for quite sometime. He is from Penang and has had his prawn mee stall for many many years now. Each time he sees me in O&S, he would greet me regardless whether or not I patronize his stall. On this particular day when I proceeded to take his picture after ordering my noodles, he gave me an extra big smile.

His stall was rather messy - not dirty, just disorganized. He had things all over the stall, soup overflowing and dripping everywhere. Besides the normal Hokkein mee, he offered extras like pork intestines, pork trotter and pork tail.

I asked for a bowl of meehoon & mee, with pork tail. He picked up a tail from his tray and asked me if I wanted the big or small end of it. I opted for the later. My noodle arrived after several minutes. It wasn't cheap - RM7.50 with the tail. It was served with a small plate of chili sauce. I had a sip of the soup and did not deem it necessary to add in the chili sauce.

The bowl of Hokkein prawn mee looked and tasted very good. It had slices of boiled pork and whole prawns in it. There was also half an egg and a generous sprinkling of deep fried shallot. And there was kangkong. This bowl of prawn noodle was more complete than Super Hokkein Mee in Penang. The soup tasted very good. It was sweet, aromatic with the full flavor of prawn. It was sufficiently spicy - the reason I did away with the chili sauce. The pork tail was also very good. It was succulent and not over-cooked. The skin and the thin layer of fat below was springy and juicy. Overall, it was very delicious Hokkein prawn mee.

But I could not honestly tell which was better - Super or Peter Kang. I think it was a tough fight. They were on par. My wife had a taste of the soup and she too could not make a decision on the winner. But on other scores, I have to pick Peter Kang. His prawn mee was more complete - with egg and kangkong which Super did not include. He had options for extra (intestines, trotters and tails) which Super did not offer. And finally, he was a whole lot more friendly - without the terse "45 minutes" greeting and wait that we encountered with Super.

Ole to Peter!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Un-ordinary Richwell

This Chinese restaurant is obviously intended to be in direct competition with Green View in Section 19 PJ, for they are only a few doors away and they display a big lighted signboard that proclaims "Sang Har Noodle" (生蝦麺) which is the specialty of its competitor. 

San Har Noodle is not the name of the restaurant. Its actual name is Richwell. It is located several shops away from Green View along Jalan 19/3 in PJ, at the end of the roll of shop houses. It is unmissable  when you make the left turn along Jalan Harapan from Section 19 into SS2.

Somewhat like its intended competitor, this restaurant offers various level of dining ambiance - from outdoor...

... to comfortable but not posh...

... and a full blown fine dining environment...

... complete with a comprehensive selection of wines.

The menu offering at this restaurant was quite refreshing. They were not the traditional dishes found in most Chinese restaurant and we ended having a meal that was somewhat out of the ordinary.

Our first non-ordinary dish was the Chinese pak choy (小白菜) with yam in a claypot. It was un-traditionally nice. The smooth yam paste somehow blended very well with the pak choy making it a very pleasant dish.

The fish maw (魚鰾) was plainly stir fried with mushrooms, pork, spring onions and parsley. I enjoyed the fish maw very much. It was so simple and refreshing. I actually wanted more.

The Szechuan crispy duck was delightful. It was deep fried. The skin was crispy and the meat succulent and aromatic. It was obviously marinated with some spices. Another dish that I craved for more.

The Thai style fried choy tam (Brussel sprout leaves) was delightful. I expected the normal stir fried vegetable but was pleasantly surprised to find a very nice Thai flavor, which was a bit spicy and sourish, in the greens. It was again out of the ordinary. We all enjoyed the difference.

Finally we had the baked rack of lamb. It was so-so. The meat was tender and succulent. It was well marinated and tasty. However I found the meat sticking to the bones and was a bit difficult to eat. Also, I felt it was not gamy enough. I prefer a stronger taste of lamb.

We shared bowls of peanut paste (花生糊) for dessert. It was creamy and smooth and had obviously been made from original peanuts - not from peanut butter like how some restaurants prepare it. I like the rich creamy texture. Very delicious.

We also shared some o-ni (芋泥) - the Teochew yam paste dessert that was served with some gingko and pumpkin paste. But I preferred the peanut paste.

I found the food in Richwell original and quite innovative. They depart from the normal fares found in most Chinese restaurants. Unfortunately we did not taste the san har noodles (生蝦麺) that they promulgate to compete with Green View. I will return to see how they compare. Richwell may not be as well as established as Green View. They have only been around since 2009. However, given what I have experienced so far, I feel they have the potential to give the competitor a good run of the money.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa

My wife had been talking quite a bit about Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa, but I had not heard of it and had no idea about its fame. She saw a signboard in Subang Jaya and waited for its opening, but it never did. One Sunday morning we decided to explore Kota Damansara for brunch, and our Garmin listed Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa as being in the vicinity.

Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa apparently originated humbly in Kampung Baru, KL. It has been around since 1973 and the parent shop caters for the night crowd, doing business from 6pm to 5 am. It has since grown and there are apparently some 12 outlets throughout the Klang Valley. Unlike the parent, the off-springs are normal day-time business establishments.

The Kota Damansara branch is a corner shop on Jalan PJU 5/10 on Dataran Sunway. It was very quiet when we got there. We were perhaps the 3rd occupied table that day. The place was tastefully furnished in green. The seats were comfortable. They had nice big pictures on the wall, including one of a queuing crowd at the parent shop.

The menu was totally local Malay fare. It looked very tempting with various combination of nasi lemak, extra toppings, snacks and local desserts.

We had nasi lemak with ayam masak merah,

... ayam goreng berempah,

... and rendang daging.

The rice was not aromatic - it lacked the flavor of santan. The sambal was sourish and did not taste right. The ikan bilis was soft and not crunchy. The accompanying meats were ordinary - not fantastic. I have tasted a lot more nasi lemak, even at road side stalls, that were more flavorful and authentic than this.

We had a side order of bergedel (a fried potato cutlet). It turned out to be a pathetically small piece of fried something that was totally tasteless.

We also ordered a serving of cucur udang (a kind of deep fried prawn pancake). That was good. They were fried in small pieces, came out piping hot and served with a chili sauce. They were delicious with nice pieces of prawn in them.

I was a little fascinated with the bottles of drinks that were placed on the tables. I did not know such drinks still exist. They brought back some memories. I remember when I was a young boy in my home town, we had locally bottled gassy drinks. Most times, we couldn't afford the more expensive F&N and had to resort to these cheaper drinks. They were not good. Still they were gassed and in those days, carbonated beverages were much sought after. I didn't know, in this day and age, people still produce and drink such stuffs.

I left Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa not at all impressed. Perhaps the parent shop serves better nasi lemak. But I am not prepared to drive all the way to Kampung Baru in the middle of the night just to see if does. I think the neighborhood road-side stalls would be better choices.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tropicana Mee Jawa

My kin SP has been looking for the "holy grail" of mee jawa, and hasn't been able to find it yet. Mindful of his craving, a big 'Mee Jawa' sign board attracted my attention while driving in the Tropicana area. One day, I went to investigate with my wife.

Mee Jawa is in the Casa Tropicana condominium along Persiaran Tropicana, PJ. It is in the vicinity of the Tropicana Golf Club. The condominium frontage has several restaurants and Mee Jawa is one of them.

It is a typical Malay makan place, apparently owned by a Chinese lady. It has a rustic kampong theme, with rattan stools and various kinds of rattan artifacts for decor. Interestingly, they use rattan chicken covers (those they use in the kampungs and small towns to cage small chicks) as lamp shades.

The mee jawa was our raison d'etre for being there. So we had to order it. It came in a big white plate. The noodles was served with an egg, fried tofu, potatoes, taugeh and some salad greens. Like most noodles, the essence of the mee jawa would be in the sauce or gravy. The gravy in this plate was light. It was complemented with a generous portion of sambal, a cut of lime and a sprinkling of deep fried shallots. The plate looked very good but tasted just ok. The gravy could had been better. It lacked the richness and oomph of good mee jawa gravy. The accompaniments could also be better. I would had love some sotong (squids) and/or prawn cakes with it. The plate of mee jawa was not definitely not holy grail stuff.

My wife's plate of fried meehoon tasted better. It was fried with taugeh, prawn, sliced fish balls and egg; and served with a generous sprinkling of deep fried shallot and a slice of lime. The meehoon looked and tasted very good.

We ordered a portion of deep fried wanton (雲吞). It was over-fried, so much so that the filling was hard. The skin was crunchy alright, but the slight bitter taste of being over done prevailed. I guess we erred. A kampong place is no place to ask for wanton.

We also tried a serving of their cucur udang (a deep fried prawn cake). It was served in a tiny bowl with some chili sauce. The cucur was soft (instead of crispy) and there was totally no trace of prawn in it. A waste of time.

The bowl of ABC (air batu campur) or ais kacang was a mountain of shaved ice, sweetened with gula melaka (Malacca brown sugar) and an avalanche of canned jagung (maize). I am no fan of this Malaysian popularity, but I did had a taste of it. It was sweet and not extraordinary. But my wife loved it and almost finished the bowl.

Our quest for the ultimate mee jawa failed. SP would have to look further for his holy grail. I remember in the old days... That must had been 30 years back. In Section 14 PJ where the Jaya Supermarket used to be, there was a hawker centre known as Medan Selera. Outside this Medan Selera was a mee rebus (another name for mee Jawa) stall on a tricycle. It was operated by a Malay gentleman. He sold an awesome mee jawa. I used to tar pau (打包) back and I enjoyed it very much. But that was 30 years ago. My perception and taste could have changed. I just wonder if he was still around today, would he gratify us enough to lift the holy grail.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sao Nam

Walking into this restaurant made me feel a little like being in Vietnam still in the height of the last war. We were greeted with some communist paintings - depicting workers holding banners of hammer and sickles and even one of a soldier with an AK47. There was also a nice golden bust of Uncle Ho Chi Minh, placed in a location of reverence.

Sao Nam in a Vietnamese restaurant on the ground floor of the Empire Shopping Galley in Subang Jaya. The name apparently means "southern star" and indeed the yellow Vietnamese star is prominent between its name. It is one of two restaurants in the Klang Valley - the other being in Tengkat Tong Shin in the Bukit Bintang area. This restaurant in the Empire had apparently been moved from the Sri Hartamas Shopping Centre.

Aside from the communist undertone, the restaurant was very nicely decorated, with pleasant colours, contemporary furnishing and bright agreeable lighting. A glassed off area formed the kitchen that looked very clean and organized inside.

We were there one evening for something different and we got it. The menu looked very attractive. Everything in it looked so good.

We started with a Hue pancake. It was like a small pizza. The crust was made from rice flour and egg, topped with chicken, seafood and some raw bean sprouts. The bean sprouts on the pancake may not look very appetizing, but it was actually very good. In fact, I felt the bean sprouts complemented the pancake very nicely. The pancake was served with an array of veges and fruits.

The Hue beef noodle soup (pho bo) was somewhat lacking. I guess after the beef noodles in Melbourne, all other pho bo outside Vietnam would be lacking. The bowl of noodles was rather over-spiced, the portion of beef was ungenerous and the soup did not have the oomph.

Next was the grilled egg-plant (brinjal). It was served with the skin removed, with some chillied fish sauce and topped some ground peanuts and spices. The brinjal was soft and smooth and tasted very delicious. A very pleasant dish indeed.

Finally we had the imperial lotus leaf rice. It was seared rice wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf. It was presented rather unimaginatively with four inedible pink flowers. But the taste was good. The rice was done just right - soft and springy. In it were pieces of shrimp, egg and lotus seeds. The concept of steaming partially fried rice in a lotus leaf was new to me and I liked it very much.

The meal was different. We sampled a bit of everything - rice, vege, noodles and even a pancake. I enjoyed the variety. But it did not come cheap. The 4 dishes plus drinks came up to more than a hundred bucks. For some reasons, Vietnamese food like its Japanese counterpart, is becoming very expensive nowadays.