Monday, January 27, 2014

Sek Yuen

This is one of the oldest Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Sek Yuen is located along Jalan Pudu - about 5 minutes drive from the demolished Pudu Prison. The restaurant has 2 premises. The original restaurant is housed in its own single storey building. It was established in 1948. At 65 years old, this is truly the grand old man of KL.

This single storey building is a relic by itself although it is now decked with bright colourful neon lights. There are not many such buildings in KL anymore. Walking into it was like walking into a time capsule. I do not know how much had changed in its 65 years of existence. It seemed like nothing had. The ambiance was old and run-down. The tables and chairs could had been the originals from day one. There was no air conditioning. Cooling was from ceiling fans.

The place was noisy and totally not conducive. It was a place to go to eat, not to dine. I remembered being there a long long time ago. Must had been 20 to 25 years ago - perhaps more. And I was so eager to come back again.

On this occasion, we did not eat in the old Sek Yuen. Next door, separated by a lane, is the newer Sek Yuen. This one is a double storey shop lot. The new Sek Yuen occupies both the floors.

According to the restaurant staffs, this newer Sek Yuen is 40-something years old. It was slightly more comfortable with air cond and comparatively newer furnishings. Still, the place looked old and had seen its better days. Like the old Sek Yuen, the owners would probably let the place run for another 40 years without refurbishment.

We got a table in the upper floor. The place was not as noisy as the old Sek Yuen. Service was basic - the typical red table cloths and plastic eating utensils.

Both Sek Yuens are owned by the same management. There are kitchens in both premises. The kitchens apparently cook for both restaurants and dishes are brought across the lane to the other side. The kitchen in the old premise is apparently so old and unchanged, they still use firewood for their stoves.

The ambiance of the restaurant is not the only thing that remained unchanged. I believe the menu too. I remembered some of these dishes from my last visit 20 - 25 years ago. Like this starter plate. It comprised of chicken in a cold jelly, baby octopus, pseudo-abalone slices, clams, jelly fish and boiled prawns. We don't get starter plates with so much varieties any more. I enjoyed all of them.

This was the whole pork trotter. The bones had been removed and stuffed with a combination of lotus seeds, mushrooms, chestnuts and other what-nots. The trotter was then braised and served with a thick sauce. The stuffings complemented the meat beautifully especially the fatty parts. It was a most delicious dish.

The duck also had its bones removed and stuffed. The stuffing was glutinous rice with mushrooms, dried shrimps and others. The glutinous rice stuffing was perfectly cooked. The whole duck was then deep fried. The outcome was another delicious meaty treat.

This was a traditional vegetarian dish (素菜). It looked very colourful and appetising. Lots of various ingredients. Ad tasted very good too.

The prawns were wrapped with a yam paste and then deep fried. The prawns were fresh and succulent. Prawn actually goes very well with yam. This was no exception.

This plate looked like char siew (叉烧). It was actually a very well marinated fried pork. The taste was so-so. I detected a strong flavour of Chinese five spices powder. It dominated the flavour.

Dessert was home made. It was a cheese sponge cake made by my cousin Fong. She makes an awesome cheese sponge which I have always liked. The texture was fluffy, with a layer of baked cheese on top and in the middle.

Sek Yuen somehow reminded me of the Coliseum. They are like two grand old men in Kuala Lumpur that refused to die, They had managed to maintain their original auras, their traditions and their menus. And yet attract their customers through the generations. These two old die-hards did not even fade away.

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