Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Taiping Lang

I will try my level best to be as objective as possible in this blog posting. For the subject belongs to the family of a very dear friend. Joyce and Alan live with their wonderful family in Geelong, Australia. Joyce has her roots in Taiping. Her sister Sun and husband Seng run a restaurant in Puchong appropriately named Taiping Lang. Lang in Hokkein means "people". 

"Taiping People" is located on Jalan Kenari 18B in Bandar Puchong Jaya. It is in a corner shop opposite a car park. The place has a charming rustic aura. On display are many old and almost antiquated artifacts and utensils that brought back much memories of my small-town childhood. I felt so very at home there.

They have an out-door dining area which is quiet and away from the crowd.

And a play area where the kids can do their social thing while the adults do theirs.

The restaurant serves home style Hokkein dishes, very heavily inclined to the nyonya way. The culinary brain behind this restaurant is Joyce's mum - known as Ah Mah to everybody. She single-handedly came up with the menu for the restaurant and until today is still actively involved in the kitchen. She apparently is like the executive chef, supervising and ensuring that the cooking is done just right and that the best ingredients are used. This is Joyce and her mum.

They take inspiration from Ah Mah's mother (Joyce's granny) who taught Ah Mah everything she knew.

Alan, Joyce and family were back for the CNY. We met up for a dinner. What better place than the Taiping Lang? Joining us was Eddy (also back from Melbourne), Gan and wife Daphne. 

The restaurant has a comprehensive menu, with a variety of set meals on different days of the week. The menu is in their website. The dishes are named in Hokkein - rightly so. I really cannot remember all the names of the dishes we had. We were too occupied chit-chatting and catching on old times, and I forgot to take note.

Dinner started with a clear herbal soup. It was served individually in mid-size bowls. The soup was good. It was adequately boiled. In Cantonese, we say it is 火.

Then it was acar for starter. Acar is the very popular Malaysian spicy pickled vege dish. The acar here was good though not exceptional. There was a pickled cucumber, long bean, cabbage, carrot, etc in a spicy sauce and a generous sprinkling of sesame.

The other starter was the salivating sambal served with raw cucumber, cabbage and okra (ladies finger). It's been a long long time since I ate sambal in this manner. My only complaint about this dish was the type of lime they provided. They used the small lime variety. I prefer the big green ones.

The Kali Kay (chicken curry) was rich in its curry flavor. It obviously was cooked with a good curry mix and adequate santan (coconut milk). I liked it.

The Bangkuang Cha (shredded jicama with cuttle-fish) looked small in portion. But it was very adequate. It was served and eaten wrapped in green salad (butterheads). Surprisingly missing was the sambal with which it is normally taken.

I think it was the Nyonya Che Kay (nyonya fried chicken). It was like the inchi kabin chicken. It was aromatic and well marinated. Very appetizing.

The next dish was probably the Buah Butai Hae. It was petai (smelly beans) cooked with prawns in assam curry. I liked this dish. Petai is one of my favorite nyonya food. The curry was strong and delicious. However the prawns were over-cooked. They are a bit hard.

I also liked the otak otak or Hu Pau. It was a fish paste in santan (coconut milk), flavored with basel leaves. The flavor was rich and tasty. Ah Mah makes really good otak otak.

I am not sure what this dish is called. Maybe it was the Bee Ba Special. It was braised pork in a rich soy sauce. The meat was tender, perhaps a bit too soft for my liking. I prefer pork with a bit more texture. But the flavor was wonderful. 

Again, I have to guess the name of the next dish. I think it was the Ba Kian. It was a deep fried meat spring roll. Yummy and very appetizing.

The Eu Chai  was a blanched butterhead lettuce. It was soaked with a nice soy sauce with plenty of deep fried garlic. 

This last dish has me stumped. I have no idea what it was. I did asked during the meal and was told it was chicken. But I cannot relate it to any the chicken dishes in the website menu. It was a semi-spicy fried something. Tasting it, I could not tell that it was chicken. But it was delicious. Whatever it was, it was an ingenious recipe. 

At the end of the meal, a plate of dip rojak was brought out. What a pleasant surprise. It normally would had been a starter. But it was a great ending for our meal. It also reminded me of the simple things I miss from our small towns days. There was jicama, cucumber and pineapple. The sauce was great. Small things, big joy.

For dessert, I opted for a hot bowl of bubur cha cha. It was superb. The bubur was richly santan. The flavor was most satisfying. I truly enjoyed it. 

Someone brought out a tub of kueh kapit. It certainly added to the CNY mood. 

What a dinner it was. Great and nostalgic food. And great and nostalgic company. The chit chat went into closing time. We were the last table to leave. And even though I am not a Taiping lang, I miss this small town feeling.

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