It takes a post to remember the last time I had a proper dinner in a restaurant with relatives. Yes, this post. Those were the days of (almost) regimental family dinners and the (very) young ones would detest at the idea, citing the other rascals’ ugly faces as the main reason for the reluctance to dine in the same restaurant or table. I wonder if the kids of today still feel the same.
Growing up in the 90s (ok, late 80s), Chinese dishes like honey lemon chicken and marmite spare ribs were novelties and kids loved them. These days, they are as common as sweet and sour pork with white rice. International flavours have stamped their presence in the local dai chow (tze char) scene and is ever expanding. Kids can now choose from cod fish with teriyaki sauce to champagne/red wine ribs to butter prawns/crab/pork to fried pork with wasabied mayonnaise, the list just goes on and on. And how about the endless provincial Chinese dishes making their way to our mouths faster than their glorious gold medals sweep at the Olympics, which ended two few weeks back?
Heck, even new breeds of local fishes (and chicken) are swimming (flying) towards the tables of our local, friendly dai chow stalls at an impressive Phelpish speed.
Yes, the creative, wonderful world of MSG-laden dai chow! Sky’s the limit.
All these thoughts were sparked by the dinner I had at Kok Heng, a Chinese dai chow restaurant in Kepong (with a branch in Bentong) which specializes in freshwater fish from the Pahang rivers.
Just basic flavourings and aromatics like garlic, dried shrimps and bird eye chilies plus a massive amount of heat for the wok hei will make a good stir-fry dish. Chaotic deliciousness. Of course when you have crunchy fallopian tubes from sows for texture, it called an elevation. Think of it as intestines, if it makes you feel better.
The Japanese have their chawan mushis, Westerners perfected their soufflés while the Chinese came up the simplest yet most flavoursome of them all, steamed egg. Preserved century eggs, mushroom cubes and garlic oil were added for that little luxury in taste yet maintaining a relatively cheaper price than its counterparts.
I grew up to believe that snakeheads (haruan) are best to be stir-fried with ginger and scallion (unless it is boiled for the medicinal purposes) for the freshness in taste and to get rid of the earthy smell of the fish. Definitely a more affordable choice than its fellow saltwater swimmers.
What in the world is a GuangXi (广西) chicken? I assume that everything 广(expansive) should be good. Take the Cantonese cuisine from Guangdong (广东) for example. Deliciousness at its finest. So the GuangXi chicken was good. An immense rush of taste of ginger, soya sauce, cilantro and certain unidentifiable ingredients triggered the tastebuds. Rather tough chicken aside, it was flavourful. When came the dipping sauce, it was like adding an exclamation mark to a sentence of BLOCK letters. Consisted of what was presumed as a mix of fermented bean paste, scallion, cilantro and ginger, it definitely added a sense of freshness to the chicken.
But of course we should be proud of our very own steamed assam (tamarind) tilapia as well. With a tinge of heat, the sourish sauce was as ballistic as it could get, regardless of the freshness of the fish, which in this case, was rather fresh. The measure of a good assam sauce, I feel, is one where it makes you jerk, mentally, while the physical composure remains. It’s all in the subtlety of taste, like many other things.
For the richness of the evaporated milk and sourness of the tomatoes, fish head noodles remain as one of the local dishes (Malaysia and Singapore) that I truly enjoy. Preserved vegetable is optional but the zing of ginger slices should prevail, minimal at least. And disappointment was far and away, with a good soup base and al dente bee hoon (rice vermicelli). The absence of liquor was a pity though.
When we talk about the compulsory vegetable for fibre, we are not kidding. The starchy ones like sweet potato leaves are even better for they provide lubrication as well. Fresh, slightly charred plus aroma from the garlic, the greens are usually the underdogs to the red heroes. The rascals did not understand this, until the day they forced it into their children’s mouths.
The inevitable thirstiness was felt to an extent but sometimes, it might not be solely due to the monosodium glutamate but the aggressive, continuous conversations (cursings included) as well.
A typically good Chinese dinner with the relatives.
In a commendable restaurant with speedy service.
Something to look forward to, now that the Olympics is over.
Kedai Makan Kok Heng
No. 10, Jalan Burung Pucung
Taman Bukit Maluri
52100 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: (+6012) 4022959, (+6012) 928 9231, (+6012) 289 2959