Monday, November 30, 2009

Xan Ling Cafe

Porridge with 生骨 (pork ribs)

Tenderness versus taste. This was the dichotomy that got me pondering throughout lunch when my relatives enlightened me with the definition of 生骨 that literally means "live bone" in Cantonese. The execution of 生骨 involves cooking the raw pork ribs and well-simmered stock simultaneously in a claypot, with the intention to preserve the freshness and taste of the pork. This is quite different from the typical dishes like bak kut teh and soups that we are accustomed to, where the pork becomes part of the ingredients in flavouring the stock. This usual way of cooking allows the meat to soften and fall off the bone, given the sufficient amount of heat and duration in cooking. However, the taste of the pork, in my option, will be abbreviated as the juice, together with the bone marrow, has infused into the stock or soup instead. In the case of 生骨, theoretically speaking, should give a more "porky" taste with the juice still intact, given the shorter cooking duration. The next question to ask is, if the tenderness of the meat has been compromised. Now, imagine if the complexity level is raised by applying 生骨 to dishes involving porridge or noodles. There are definitely lots of skills and brainpower involved in the preparation of 生骨 dishes and here at Xan Ling was perhaps my first taste of it.

It was a major pork lunch with ribs both floating and hidden in the enormous claypots of porridge and noodles. There were also plates of soy sauce braised dishes of pork and chicken feet that came quite sweet and packed with the easily identifiable 5-spice flavour. In the case of the claypot dishes that we had, refinement doesn't apply to the presentation nor texture. Not that we care of course because more importantly, they were flavourful; from the savoury stock (while some thought it was salty - not to me though) to the subtly sweet ribs to the assembly of all other ingredients. Their homemade noodle was to me, an improved version of pan mee with a smoother and firmer texture, yet retaining the nice, fragrant scent of flour. Our request to purchase some raw homemade noodles was turned down. That was disappointing as I had already imagined the different ways of using them - dry-tossed with dark soy sauce, drowned in peanut-chilli soup and perhaps, eaten with tonkotsu stock! By the way, they are famous for their 生骨 bak kut teh as well.

Pork dishes are good with rice. Here, we had 2 amazing and distinctive types of rice - with preserved vegetable and ginger. I've never heard of rice cooked with soy sauce and preserved vegetable before. The cook must have gotten the idea when having a simple meal comprising of the 3 ingredients. Slightly moister than usual, the rice matched the crunchy preserved vegetable and soy sauce really well. I could have ordered another bowl if not for the equally good ginger rice. It looked ordinary but the first bite will guarantee you a second...bowl! It certainly didn't smell of ginger but the taste was perfect, with the perfect amount of heat and pungency. If we were to visit again, we'll order a few extra bowls in advance because it sells out fast.

I was told that the site where the restaurant (they called it 'cafe', i wonder why) is located used to serve as a showroom for some wooden furniture business. Not surprising as the chairs and tables are mostly made of solid, heavy wood. The al fresco concept gives a refreshing and comfortable feeling but once I took a look at the 'chaotic' floor, comfort was the last thing on my mind. Like any typical dai chow, the floor was not constantly 'maintained'. I don't blame them because this is afterall, not a place for a meal with a view or a book. Reservation is advised as walk-in customers usually have to wait for quite a while. Well, at least they have some good wooden furniture to sit on while waiting.

Who would have thought that somewhere along a highway and within the vicinity of a cluster of factories lies such an interesting restaurant. Good food is certainly everywhere, my friends.

Rice cooked with preserved vegetable

Soy sauce braised pork

Homemade noodles with 生骨 (pork ribs)

Braised chicken feet

Xan Ling Cafe
11A. Lorong Arfah 3
Jalan Segambut
51200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+6012) 379 1549 or (+6016) 210 0826
(for the 生骨, please call in advance to order)

Interesting business hours:
Monday - Saturday: 0930 - 1500
Sunday & Public Holiday: 0800 - 1500
Tuesday: Off

Check out LIVE.LOVE.LAUGH's take on Xan Ling here.


red fir said...

The rice alone looks damn good. Why don't we have anything remotely like this in Singapore?...

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

i remember having something sang kut too in segambut..but its definitely no cafe..

ck lam said...

Now I know where to have some nice food in Segambut area. Will try to search for it...

Selba said...

The food looks so interesting to try on! Except for the chicken feet that looks a bit scary for me, hehehe...

Most food cooked in a claypot tasted wonderful,ya? ;)

choi yen said...

the preserved veggie used is "mui choy"?

qwazymonkey said...

Wow! Good find bro. Never heard of them, but damn I'm tempted!

Show me the way to some sang kuat when you're back!

J said...

Oh yum. Everything looks so tempting! Now just need to find a volunteer to drive me there (or risk getting completely lost - I'm hopeless when driving out of my comfort zone.... Haha..)

sc said...

food looks excellent. especially the porridge..yums! hopefully i can find the place :D

J2Kfm said...

Why would they turn down your offer to buy those noodles? Beats me.
Or maybe you look more like a competitor?

UnkaLeong said...

We used to pour a kettle of hot water over the ribs before plonking them into the soup back home. Get's rid of the "scum" as mom puts it. These scalded ribs would be added to the soup at the very end to preserve the flavour of the meat. So much so, them ribs still taste good the day after (not overcooked mar). Heh. I can imagine how the soup taste like di ;)

Unknown said...

like like like! nice nice nice! (i also did not know about the types of rice.. but I don't really care:P)

Rebecca Saw said...

oh my!
At 1st I thought it was in Sg!
cos I nvr heard of this plc!
Then again..Segambut..*images of kampung came to mind*

backStreetGluttons said...

Thks for the sciencetiffic intro of the boiled &/or soaked meat bone soup de perfect , which may explain plus some why Chinese genes are prolific regenerators and that 1.388 b of them are walking around today

ling239 said...

usually the sang pou we had without rice de leh...
this one is more like pork rib porridge d :p

Alexander said...

Woo... This looks really delicious.

Alex's World! -

Rarebeet said...

Beautiful photos as always HB. Lovely whimsical quality. Food sounds lovely and homey. Yummm!

~Christine~Leng said...

*shy* I've not been to Segambut ;P
how to get there yea? haha

HairyBerry said...

ice, yeah, the rice was kinda something. imagine that with some kway chap! delish!

ck lam, cool. actually, segambut has got some hidden gems too. taman sri sinar included. gosh, i suddenly miss home..haha.

selba, oooh, i love chicken feet! especially when fried. but i agree, a lot of ppl are put off by the sight of it. yupe, agree on the claypot dishes. could it be due to the heat that keeps the food warm? ;D

mimi, yupe, it was mui choy. salty and slightly sweet - appetising!!! ;D

qwazymonkey, haha, all credits go to my foodie cousin. he has brought me to some really delicious places to eat! can, let's do monkeys-do-pork one weekend. errrmmm, btw, aren't monkeys vegetarians..hehe

sc, no worries. i have the map and the name card. let me know if you need it, ya! ;D

j2kfm, i think they are afraid that i'll do some microscopic analysis on the noodles and figure out their recipe kua..hahaha. actually, now that you mentioned it, our cameras do give the "competitor" impression to the restaurants hor? sigh.

unkaleong, oh yeah, i am now reminded of that pouring of hot water ritual! mum does that too, to get rid of the residuals. and scooping the stuff floating at the top of the soup! ahh, mums' the best! ;D

HairyBerry said...

agentcikay, haha, u not carbo fan mah...but i think the ribs will attract you la. succulent and tasty. me likes. ;D

thenomadgourmand, actually, you are right. segambut is rather "kampung" when one travels from jalan kuching to hartamas. but this one is nearer to the highway. in fact, i dunno why they call it segambut when it's never to jalan kuching. niways, good food!

backstreetgluttons, and they have good tastebuds to boost as well! haha. i wonder if they have similar dishes in mainland too. probably with more peppercorns and chilli oil. our local version is good, and we are proudz of itz! ;D

ling239, ya lor, that's why i thought it was kinda interesting - to have the pork ribs in porridge. oh, and noodles summore! haha.

alexander, indeed! especially when the pork's fresh and succulent! ;D

paprika, ooh, homey, now that's a very good description of the dishes! hey, did you run in singapore or not? tell me about it soon! ;D and thanks so much for the compliment! ;D

christine, aiyah, no need shy-shy la. i have the map. let me know when you wanna go. i'll email you. ;D segambut got some interesting places to eat! easily acessible too, via hartamas. ;D