Friday, February 11, 2011

Lunch at Sek Yuen

The aluminium plates were each a piece of art, characteristically malled by the years they'd served. So impressive as well were the steaming hot rolls of colourful towels offered to the customers at the end of the meal. The cheerful and attentive hosts, especially the uncle in a Hawaiian shirt with loud hibiscus print, looked like they enjoyed their roles very much. A rarity these days, don't you think? In the background, Christmas songs sung in Mandarin where played. All these, and the food, made my first Sek Yuen experience on Christmas day a most satisfying one.

Dad recounted his few banquet attendances here some 30 years ago and praised their signature creations, including the chilled bowl of meat and jelly. Some of these dishes are long lost, he said. According to dad, the sweet and sour pork here is an all-time favourite. I must agree. Everyone can make sweet and sour pork, of course. But to take it beyond a high school science project of combining plain bottled ketchup and deep-fried pork requires some techniques. Or what we Cantonese call kung fu. At first glance, the blistering nuggets appeared to be the result of deep-frying in overheated oil, which usually causes the meat to be undercooked. Not at all, thankfully. In fact, each piece was cooked tender, pink to the core. Kung fu! Coat the crunchy golden fried batter with a balanced sauce of syrup, tomatoes and starch, and it's a colourful and appetizing dish.

I reported my menu to dad after that lunch and he seemed pleased that I had the pei pa duck, which was air-dried then deep-fried and yet, came just minimally greasy. This is a dish that has been with the restaurant for the longest time and it's really not difficult to understand its longevity. Addiction was that crack of the crispy skin followed by the taste of well-salted, succulent meat. If I'd proceeded with my plan for a bottle of affordable bubbly, nothing too fancy and difficult to pronounce, for this occasion, it would have paired this duck nicely, I'm sure.

My folks have been telling me that Sek Yuen is exemplary of classic Cantonese fare. But what is classic? I'm not sure if my limited knowledge and young tastebuds, furthermore marred by all these new fusion/confusion cuisines, grant me the ability to recognize such complexities - a skill that comes only with age and a long love for food. But I do know that good taste is always here to stay. And that's how I'll remember Sek Yuen.

16 comments:

Xiu Long Bao said...

Gimme my gu lou yuk

minchow said...

Pei Pa Ngap! Old skool to the max! I remember the rounds of duck that dad used to put us through when we were shacked up in this semi-rural town as kids, and there were just one or two Sek Yuen-like eating joints to choose from. Good times, those!

HairyBerry said...

xlb, hmmmm...can, can give you. But you hafta come back to KL like that de wor. Hoohoohoo.

min chow, good times indeed! I don't think i was, as a kid, tired of dai chow at these old skool restaurant. dishes were simple, yet delicious. There are not many such restaurant around, so let's keep sek yuen going!

Camemberu said...

Me likey Sek Yuen! I heard the sweet and sour pork is good! Gotta try that and the pei pa duck next time! :)

qwazymonkey said...

I have to agree with you bro, the Gu Lou Yoke here is one of the best around, along with many other "lost" dishes which they serve up here. I've enjoyed every meal I've ever had in this place. Yet, I'm a crappy blogger. I've yet to blog about it. I MUST get around to honour this grand dame of KL Chinese restaurants

choi yen said...

A place that "ku lou yok" fans can't miss hor...

UnkaLeong said...

Let me know the next time you plan to makan here bro. I have not "makaned" here yet ;)

Missyglutton said...

I had an extremely good experience there. :) the sweet and sour pork is indeed a great dish to order. Pity i wasn't able to order the pei pa duck.

HairyBerry said...

camemberu, yeah, must come to kl more often! :) the 8 treasures duck is good too, i heard. But must pre-order, i think. Argh, must find time to go again.

qwazymonkey, aiya, not crappy la, bro. It's only when u truly enjoy a meal that u'll forget the camera and just makan. I've been enjoying that a lot, recently. :) btw, u've been there a few times??? *envious*

choi yen, definitely! And there are many other dishes to try also. I wonder if their fried noodles are good or not.

unkaleong, YES! You've just given me another excuse to go again. Haha. Definitely will letcha know if there's a plan to go. We'll order the butt bow ngap!

missyglutton, good to know that you've been to sek yuen! And u had the sweet and sour pork too! :) i'm sure you had some other fantastic dishes as well. Missing the pei pa duck just proves that u shd revisit sek yuen! :)

dining table said...

The dishes are all so beautiful and they all look so delicious. Definitely, this is something that I would love to try.

J2Kfm said...

Gorgeous. True, any cook can make sweet and sour pork, but to be able to cook REALLY outstanding ones, you have to hand it to the sifu's ... with kung fu?!

HairyBerry said...

dining table, thanks for dropping by. :) do check out this place if you're in town. :)

j2kfm, agree X 100! i just hope that these sifus will pass down their kung fu to the next generation cos i think that sweet and sour pork is indeed part of our heritage. :)

Life for Beginners said...

My 0.5 Cantonese self hails this place! And as you said, hope the authentic cooking skills are passed down to the new generations. Thing is, will the younger generations wanna learn? :(

HairyBerry said...

kenny, unfortunately, i don't think so. kids these days want a more comfortable life. and i think their parents will surely want that for their kids too. time to practise more in our kitchens then. sigh.

Simon Seow said...

Yes. Real good gu lou yuk is hard to find in KL. Hope Sek Yuan will still be around for another 50 more years.

HairyBerry said...

simon, agree! i know it may be rather impossible but let's hope that it'll survive another 100 years! :)