Monday, July 02, 2012

Ampang Yong Tau Fu

In the Klang Valley, Ampang and yong tau fu (釀豆腐are synonymous. Mention one, the other immediately comes in mind. I have this arduous frequent requirements to drive to Ampang over the past few weeks. And while there, I took the opportunity to re-visit the YTF eateries that the place is so famed.

There are 3 well-known YTF makan places in Ampang. The shops are located side-by-side in the same somewhat chaotic neighborhood along Jalan Merdeka in the Ampang township. To get there, you drive along Jalan Ampang, pass all the embassies, up the flyover at Ampang Point. About 2 km from Ampang Point, you come to a big police station on your right. At the first traffic lights after the police station, make a right turn. Pass another traffic light and you have a Giant hyper-mart, also on your right. At the end of this road, make another right turn and voila, the 3 YTF shops are there on the left.

The first shop we re-visited was Restoran Foong Foong (鴻鴻). I believe this is the original YTF place in Ampang. I remembered coming to this place 20 to 30 years ago, and nothing seemed to have changed. There were the same parking  lots and the same stalls selling fruits, cookies and biscuits outside the shop. I distinctly remembered the shop owners using the same noisy microphones to convey customers' orders to the kitchen. But I didn't remember the other 2 shops beside it. 

The place was jam packed on a Saturday noon. We were lucky to get a table. People were eating YTF by the dozens, like they had never tasted YTF before. We had to place our orders at the counter. This was in turn conveyed by loudspeakers to the kitchen. You just need to imagine the noise and mayhem.

The kitchen, at the side of the shop, was a hive of activities. There was like a thousand workers - all doing their thing. Some were making the raw material. Some were doing the cooking. Others were dishing out the servings. I really do not know how they keep track of the orders. It was an organized chaos.

The shop serves nothing but YTF and rice and blanched vege. No noodles and no other dishes. Our orders came in 2 servings. The wet dish comprised of white soft tofu, fish balls, brinjal, okra (ladies' fingers), bitter gourd and chilis. The dry dish were fried fu chuk (腐竹) and fried sui kow (). 

The food was good but not exceptional. The fish stuffings were generous and had the nice springy texture. I enjoyed that. But I didn't think it was anything to go gaga over. I had YTF in other places that were just as good. I don't understand what was so special about the Ampang label.

On another Saturday, we visited the second shop. Orchard View (甜園) is in the middle of the 3 shops.

It is no less chaotic than the first. Again, we struggled to get a table. We sat there for awhile looking for someone to take our orders. A passing waitress sternly told us to wait. Later an elderly lady threw 2 menus on our table.

This shop is more diverse in their food selection. Besides YTF, they serve a variety of Chinese dishes. They also offer noodles beside rice. But on this particular day, the lady told us they were too busy to prepare the noodles and asked us to go for the rice instead.

We had some obligatory YTF - just some fried fu chuk (腐竹) and brinjal, stuffed yew char kueh (油炸鬼) and bitter gourd. Of the lot, I liked the yew char kueh most. Again the YTF here were not exceptional. I found the quality in this shop a little lacking. Somehow, I enjoyed the YTF more in Foong Foong - the first shop.

Beside the YTF, we had a dish of - a vegetarian dish. This was superb. It was absolutely one of the best  we had. It looked messy and mushy. But it was meant to be like that. The taste was just nice - not too salty - great flavor.

The waitress lady recommended this curry tilapia. The fish was cooked in a thick curry with brinjal, okra and other good vegetables. The dish was nice. But the curry was a little too rich and oily. It was somewhat surfeiting and you can't take too much of that. The fish was very fresh though.

Finally, the 3rd and last shop is Ampang Homeland. This shop has branches in PJ SS2 and Subang Jaya Tai-pan. I had tried both the branches and see no need to visit it again. My impressions in both the branches were just so-so.

Ampang yong tau fu.... Seriously, I think the whole thing is over-rated. I like YTF. I have lots of it in food stalls and coffee shops. Ampang's is not any better than the rest.

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