When I was growing up in Penang, I remember there was a period of time where we’d head go grandm’s over the weekends and more often than not, having Hokkien Char for breakfast at the old shack right outside Weld Quay. That was how I developed a taste for this particular dish.
Ai Jiak Penang Food, PJ Seapark
Hokkien Char (福建炒) simply meant Hokkien style fried noodle in Penang. While sharing almost similar name as Hokkien Mee in KL, the two dishes are quite different from each other.
While KL’s favorite comes with thick, fat noodle drench in very dark sauce, Penang’s style is quite a lot lighter and usually done with yellow noodle and meehun. Additionally, the Hokkien Char sambal is often a lot hotter and less mushy.
Back to Ai Jiak Penang Food restaurant.
I’ve actually heard about this place when it was situated in the old location at the Chung Ling Alumni Association in Jalan Utara, KL (fun fact, I am from the same school), the restaurant has since moved to Seapark, directly opposite Public Bank.
The restaurant offers a few Penang classic dishes to go with rice, such as asam fish head, curry chicken, pineapple curry prawns, pork trotter vinegar, sambal petai prawns, and so forth.
Additionally, they also offer single serving dishes such as asam laksa, chee cheong fun, herbal chicken meesuah, and what I came here for – Hokkien char!
Penang style “Hokkien Char”
So is their Hokkien Char any good?
The answer is a resounding yes! To be perfectly honest, if you didn’t grow up having Hokkien Char, it may not be a dish that speaks to you, but if you love spicy sambal and a dish of fried noodle that’s not overly strong or starchy, you may want to give this a try.
Address: Ai Jiak Penang Food 9, Jalan 21/12, Sea Park, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor GPS: Tel: +6 011 2778 8428
Chee Cheong Fun is a dish that’s found in many places in Klang Valley. However, most versions here are of central region, where the sweet sauce is watery, or that they are served with curry, and most of the time, together with yong tau foo, which admittedly I’m also a fan of.
chee cheong fun stall at Restoran O&S
However, being from Penang, my favorite version of chee cheong fun is still the version served up north on the Pearl of the Orient – a version that’s ultra simple – just the rice noodle roll with sweet, thick, dark sauce that’s not entirely unlike rojak sauce, and then topped with sesame and fried shallots with a side of sambal. (edit: of course it’s also with prawn paste, this was something I failed to mention)
I also like mine still rolled instead of unwrapped (the usual way of serving)
While you get them readily on Penang island, my go to in Klang Valley is the little stall at Restoran O&S at Taman Paramount in Petaling Jaya.
For RM 2.60, I get my serving of proper chee cheong fun that hits all the spots. The sauce is thick & flavorful with a hint of peanut butter (perhaps?) and not overly sweet at the same time. The chee cheong fun itself too is soft and smooth as it should.
The restaurant gets busy over weekends, be prepared to share tables.
Those who’s been following this space for a while should know that I’m a huge fan of curry mee, but usually for me though, curry mee is the Penang version that comes with pork blood, prawns, santan broth, and those sambal with a charred note.
Curry Mee stall at Sun Fatt Kee, Seapark
However, being a food enthusiast with an open mind, I am always up to trying anything that is good, even tho certain dish may share the same name and hence, somehow has an unfair prejudice attached to it, from a cultural-location superiority complex basis.
Anyway, what I am trying to say is, there’s also awesome non-Penang curry mee. Especially this version at Sun Fatt Kee kopitiam, PJ Seapark.
The curry mee stall at this kopitiam has been serving up (according to many) the best curry mee this side of KL.
A bowl of this curry mee comes with your choice of noodle, perfectly prepared shredded chicken, tofu pok, long beans, bean sprouts, sambal, lime, and possibly the best cockles in any curry mee you’d find, from anywhere, and I don’t use the word “best” lightly.
curry mee with perfect cockles
Yes, a bowl cost RM 7, and yes, the portion isn’t big at all, but I’ll be damned if I don’t go over and order me another one pretty soon.
And this time I’ll make sure I get them with extra cockles!
I usually favors Penang style curry mee, but can’t say no to this one
I love myself a good afternoon snack, and when it comes to that, sometimes the options can be quite limited. There’s always the rojak, hipster cafe, and mamak, but if you want good old fashion Chinese snacks, well, they aren’t just as common. So it was quite refreshing to see that a such a place sprung up at Seapark recently by the name of Restoran Yuen Ting.
Restoran Yuen Ting, PJ Seapark
Yuen Ting is a bit of a throw back when it comes to a new restaurant, they offer old fashion deep fried Chinese pastry such as yutiao, ham chim peng, and a couple different soya bean products like soya bean drink and tofufar.
a selection of deep fried goodness & soya bean products
While the selection isn’t particularly extensive, the quality of product and value offered was more than decent. I liked that the soya bean drink has a bit of a gingery tint in the syrup supplied, which gives it a bit of extra complexity.
The taufoofar here is has a really smooth texture, a hallmark of any good taufoofar. Like the soya bean drinks, you can choose to have it with dark or normal sugar syrup, I almost always go for the dark version and did not make it an exception this time.
ham chim peng, soya drink, tofufar
Overall, I’d not hesitant to return for a good & comfortable afternoon snack. While there’s no air conditioning, fancy decoration, or even IKEA sofa, this place hold its own among the newer establishments in PJ, and it is one that I believe will stand up to the test of time better than others.
Address: Yuen Ting Restaurant
46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor GPS：3.109909, 101.621816
A couple weeks ago we were invited to a food review session that promises a good dosage of “Dong Po” (東坡肉) pork belly, and since that is one of my favorite dishes of all time, it was an easy decision to not miss this one.
Update: Secret Garden Chinese Restaurant is permanently closed.
Secret Garden Chinese Restaurant, PJ
The restaurant is Secret Garden at Taman Megah nearby Wolf Modern Dining and almost a walking distance from our previous home in PJ, but alas, this time around it was a bit of a drive, which was fine for some a porking promise.
The restaurant is stunning, with vertical garden, beautiful wooden long table, and tastefully use of empty space. I’m going to go on a limb here to say that it is most likely attributed to the fact that the founders include an interior designer, a fine art illustrator, and a mural artist.
When the surrounding is awesome, appetite also increases, kan?
crispy fried prawn cracker
Anyway, let’s get on the food.
For the review session, we got to sample quite a few dishes from the menu, starting with the appetizer – crispy fried prawn crackers. This is not your typical prawn cracker, but rather thin layer of pastry stuffed with plenty of prawn meat in between, best enjoyed with a dip of Thai chili sauce. I had white wine to go with this, but beer would make for excellent liquid to wash this down.
home style Taiwanese chicken soup w pickled pineapple & bitter melon
Any Chinese restaurant worth it’s salt should serve up a decent bowl of hot soup.
At Secret Garden, the choice was a simple and comforting home style Taiwanese chicken soup with pickled pineapple and bitter melon. I love myself a good bowl of soup, and this version checked the box as well as any with simple everyday ingredients done right.
steamed free range duckweed fed chicken w homemade sauce
Up next was steamed free range duckweed fed chicken with homemade sauce. You can taste the difference in duckweed fed chicken meat compared to the normal wet market/hypermarket variety, the meat is firmer and the skin springier. With the condiments it makes for a good meal by itself with a bowl of rice.
If you love pork, you gotta try this dish named after the famous Chinese poet Su DongPo (蘇東坡) . The interpretation of this dish at Secret Garden is very, very good, and only made better when you have it with their super soft steamed bun. Can I get this combination for breakfast, please?
grouper fish head in yellow curry with fresh milk
Perhaps to demonstrate the range of dishes this kitchen is able to come up with, we had grouper fish head in yellow curry with fresh milk next.
If really spicy and rich Indian or even Nyonya style curry is your cup of tea, this may disappoint, but if you enjoy milder curry with all the necessary ingredients with a much gentler assault on your taste buds, then this yellow curry may fit the bill. I’m a Penang boy who loves me some really spicy curry fish head, so it was just a tad underwhelming for me.
pan fried fresh king prawn with soya sauce
Pan fried fresh king prawn with soya sauce was my favorite seafood dish of the day. Instead of the usual tiger prawns or “meng har”, this version uses fresh water king prawns, which has big and juicy prawn head to suckle on (human cholestorel isn’t from what you eat, right?). I liked it, and wished I had some rice to go with this.
(btw I’ve published a recipe to my version here, if you care to cook your own)
homemade organic black soya bean tofu in pumpkin gravy, & the hungry bunch
The last dish I got to try before we had to leave due to another appointment was the homemade organic black soya bean tofu in pumpkin gravy. I was told the tofu is made in-house, and it certainly tastes fresh as can be with the texture that’s almost like tofufar, it was nice, and pumpkin gravy certainly served as a good contrast to the salty and savory bits on top of the tofu.
our menu, and some live seafood for your picking too
Overall it was a more than satisfying dinner, and certainly an experience that is made unforgettable thanks to the beautiful dining area and excellent companions we had.
Secret Garden is current modelling the upper level and will be offering Private Dining. You give them a budget and number of pax, and the chef will come up with a menu from carefully chosen ingredients available. There’s currently no set price for Private Dining, I suppose the more you are willing to pay, the more exotic the dishes get.
Thank you Jessica for the invitation and for hosting us!
Address: Secret Garden Chinese Restaurant 家園私房菜 7 & 9, Jalan SS 23/15, Taman Sea, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor GPS: 3.116306, 101.612408 Tel: 03-7887 6999 Site: secretgarden.my