That was an unfortunate Saturday at The Gardens, Mid Valley City. Despite the pleasant surprise of bumping into LifeforBeginners, the Devil and the Diva, I had to keep a distance from the happy, healthy trio. In my hand was a bag of flu medicines (soluble tablets, pills, etc). The signs of a virus attack were clear as I returned home from a run in the drizzle that morning. I needed heat! A hot bowl of tau fu fah, some sweet horse legs and crispy yau char kway from the noteworthy I LOVE YOO! would turn things around, I thought. It didn’t take long before I started sneezing incessantly in front of the snacks and had to dash to the nearest pharmacy.
You don’t disappoint your family by cutting short a weekend outing. I survived MVC by wanton-wrapping by the dozen and napping at the public benches placed along the way as they shopped. Then, came lunchtime and the sick one was asked to decide. Remembering mum’s mention of an Ulu Yam loh mee restaurant in Kepong Baru, I suggested that we give it a try. Why loh mee? Because it’s soupy, hot and served with black vinegar - an appetizing, cleansing potion that I believe can prevent (and hopefully, cure) any ailment. I’ve read a report on a family in China that consumes black vinegar everyday and that portrait of them literally defines living in the pink of health. Inspiring!
My suggestion was not well-received. Apparently, there’s a better option in Taman Selayang Utama. Qianli Xiang or fragrance traveling a thousand miles in Mandarin (how paradoxical, considering my now reddened, stuffed nose!) has been around for a few years and is quite a favourite among the locals. I was told that the noodles are homemade.
There’s always this scene in family-run, small Chinese restaurants during the busy lunch hours - sweaty parents heaving and shouting in the kitchen, the young children reluctantly fill up your empty teapots while the grandmother calmly cuts the vegetables at a corner of the restaurant. But in the late afternoon, activities are minimized to a gathering of generations at a table as the kids take a short nap, in preparation for the maddening dinner crowd. The calmness in the restaurant at that hour was soothing for a patient like me.
When it comes to loh mee (be it Penang, KL or Singapore style), I prefer the sauce to be minimally starched (I'm disturbed by the sight of a gooey, translucent dark sauce). A good reduction with some whisked eggs will just do for me. What I liked about Qianli Xiang’s loh mee was the noodle. The inconsistency in size may not be visually pleasing and perhaps, even border on being amateurish but that’s what makes homemade food unique, I guess. Slightly chewy, smooth and with just a hint of floury taste, it was nothing like the typically bland, tough and thick yellow noodles that usually come with a lye aftertaste. Ingredients like greens and pork were aplenty too, here.
My deteriorating condition was no excuse to not try the homemade noodles, fried…Hokkien mee style, of course! Given my rather insensitive tastebuds that day, I still found their take pretty darn good. Noticeably different was the drier coating of soy sauce-based stock, perhaps due to the absorbing nature of the homemade noodles, unlike the usual oil-sealed thick yellow type. And that’s how I like my Hokkien mee, as compared to the watery version. What’s missing was that extra dash of fried lard bits, which would have added some crunch and aroma to the dish.
Besides black vinegar, minced garlic is another proven therapeutic condiment served at most Chinese restaurants. I must have had a few tablespoons of it that day. The nose didn’t dry up as I hoped but man, there sure was a serious windy issue going on later that day. It was only a week later that I’d fully recovered from that bad flu. Lesson learnt – do not run when it’s drizzling on a sunny day because the immune system, perhaps confused with the high/low temperature, is greatly weakened. So, run only on a clear day or...when it really pours!
Restoran Qianli Xiang
27, Jalan SJ 1
Taman Selayang Jaya
Selangor , Malaysia