Friday, June 22, 2012

Chuan Heang

About 10km north of Sungai Petani in the small town of Bedong in Kedah, is a small makan place that serves a decent meal. I got to know the place from my in-laws. I have been there for lunches a number of times and enjoyed the meals each time. 

The name of the place is Chuan Heang (全香 - Entirely Fragrant). I really do not know how to direct you there. I believe it is on Jalan Bakar Arang - the road between Sungei Petani and Bedong. Anyway the co-ordinates are N05 43.990, E100 30.683. 

In terms of ambiance and establishment, it is not much of a restaurant. It is just a humble place to have a good meal. But it is immensely popular. Each time I was there, the front was filled with cars spilling to an adjacent empty land. Needless to say, the place was always packed.

Perhaps the most popular dish in the makan place, also one which we never fail to order, is this fried pork "sandwich". It is pieces of greasy deep fried pork inside these white steamed buns. The pork was delicious and crispy and the bun fresh and soft. It was a pleasure biting on to it. A real good appetizer. 

We were wondering whether these deep fried birds were quails or chicks. They were too big to be one and too small to be the other. The birds were superbly marinated and completely deep fried beyond recognition. They were delicious. The taste and aroma was great and the meat tender.

These were frogs - deep fried and then cook kung pao (宫保) style. It had been a long time since I last had frogs. I had always been put off by the manner the people slaughter them (they just chop off their heads alive) and we do not order frogs for this reason. On this occasion, my brother-in-law did the ordering, and since it was on the table, I did not hesitate to dig into it. Call me a hypocrite, but I am also a foodie. The dish was good. The meat was tender. The sauce wasn't exceptional. I just enjoyed the freshness of the meat. Incidentally, I did not see any heads....

This was a plate of tofu, deep fried and cooked in soy and chili sauce. It was most ordinary.

And a most boring dish of vegetable. 

This green dish was a little bit more interesting - asparagus stir fried with prawns in a samba sauce. The asparagus was fresh, tender and crunchy. Very nice.

This pot of vinegar pork knuckles (猪脚醋) was very absolutely sinful and delicious. It is a popular Cantonese dish. The pork knuckles were fantastic. Just look at the fat. Collagen, my foot  - no, the pig's foot. After a pot like this, we ought to have our cholesterol re-checked and go on the treadmill and stress our hearts one more time.

Then the seafood dishes arrived. It started with this steamed grouper. It was marvelously fresh. The steaming was simple but delightful - soy sauce, ginger, garlic, a sprinkling of chu yaw char (猪油渣) and some chili padi to spice it up. 

The final dish was this steamed prawn. By then, I was full to the throat. Still, I had a couple of these. They were done just nice, not at all overcooked - in egg white with lots of ginger and a generous portion of deep fried garlic. 

What a lunch it was. Immediately after the meal, we began our 4 hours journey home. Guess who had to drive. I envied the passengers. It was perfect timing for a siesta. Poor me had to concentrate on the road.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lan Je - One Person One Fish

This restaurant has a rather unique and weird concept. They expect you to eat their only one specialty - fish. Not a great selection of fish - just the humble tilapia. Not cooked in a wide variety of ways - just one preparation - steamed. And not steamed to your preferred manner - only in their special sauce with ginger and garlic. And they expect each of their customer to eat a whole fish. Seems absolutely bizarre and boring. 

But this restaurant does a roaring business offering such a mundane menu. Lan Je (蘭姐清蒸非洲魚) Restaurant openly suggests 一人一魚 (one person one fish). And apparently the idea captures the fancy of its patrons. People flock there in spite of the limited menu selection. In fact the business is so successful that they now have several outlets. As far as I know, they have branches in Rawang, Kota Damansara and USJ 1 in Subang Jaya.

We ate at their USJ 1 branch at the suggestion of my brother-in-law PK. I was initially a little skeptical at the suggestion. But I was very willing to try. I had seen banners and signboards around Subang Jaya and I was curious about this "one person one fish" thingy. Their Subang Jaya branch is located at Jalan USJ 1/1B in the Regalia Business Centre - just about 2 km from the Mydin hypermarket. 

Like I mentioned, they only serve one type of fish - the tilapia. And it was steamed in a clear sauce with plenty of minced ginger and garlic. They don't prepare the fish in any other way. The dish was really very pleasant. Each fish was about the same big size. They were absolutely fresh. The soy sauce was simple and nice. The ginger and garlic complemented the fish excellently. As I dug into the fish, I could see why they have such a large following. The fish was delicious and was good to the last morsel, even the head because of its super freshness.

They did offer some "side dishes" to accompany the fish. But the selection was not plenty and the quality of these "side dishes" was not great. This like tofu dish which was mediocre.

And this omelet which was most unremarkable.

Even the green selection was limited and uninteresting.

Almost everybody came here for the fish. We followed the crowd and ordered a fish each. Our table that night looked like this...

Still it was a good meal. I enjoyed the satisfaction of having the whole fish to myself. My wife enjoyed her fish too. It was a simple and gratifying. By itself, the fish at RM17 was not that expensive. But when each diner eats a fish, it can amount to a sizable bill. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Lup Lup

This is an old family recipe that I picked up from my late mother. It is a humble dish that I enjoy very much. I do not know if there is a name for this dish. My mother just called it lup lup in Cantonese (- which means grains or small pieces). I also do not know if other Chinese families cook this at home. Besides from my late mother and now in my own home, I have not been able to find this dish anywhere else.

The ingredients are many. And as my late mother described them, they are all in small pieces. We start with some kacang - ground nuts. Plain fry the kacang in a wok. Do not use any oil. Just throw the nuts in a hot wok and fry them until they are dark brown - even a bit blackish. Then leave the nuts to cool.

Next , remove the skins. This is the hard part. I found it very difficult to separate the skins from the nuts. It is a very messy task. I have hunted around the shops (including those Japanese places that sell clever domestic devices) and I have yet to come across an apparatus that can be used to de-skin fried ground nuts. If you know of any, please leave a message in my blog. In any case, I learnt from SP's maid that if throw some salt in while frying the nuts, the skins would separate easily. I tried it and it did help somewhat. After de-skinning, keep the kacang in an airtight container.

Other ingredients - a small piece of roast pork, cut into small pieces like so.

Some choy po (菜甫- Chinese salted radish), likewise into small pieces.

Some dried shrimps.

A carrot - also diced in small pieces.

2 red chilis.

About 10 strands of long beans. Try to get the hard thin type as shown in my pic - not the soft fatter variety.

Finally a piece of white tofu. Get the harder tofu, so that it can be easily cut and fried.

Now, it's time to cook. Heat some oil in a hot wok. Throw in the diced tofu. Fry the tofu until brown and crispy.

Dish out the fried tofu and keep aside.

If necessary, add a bit more oil in the wok and in goes the roast pork.

Followed by the dried shrimp.

And the choy po (菜甫).

Fry the 3 ingredients until aromatic and then add in the carrot.

And the long beans.

Stir the mixture and let it cook for a short while. Then add in some thick soya sauce for flavor and color. Do not add water as this is meant to be a dry dish.

Put in about half tablespoon of sugar.

Stir fry the good stuffs until cooked. Just before dishing out, throw in the tofu and chili.

Your efforts look something like this.

Just before serving, sprinkle the kacang on top of the dish. The ground nuts complement the other ingredients beautifully. I normally top up the nuts as we progress down the dish.

It is yummy munch munch munch - suitable with both rice and porridge. Enjoy.