Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Grandma Cooks Best

Is it true that grandmas always cook better than your mum? Is it due to fact that they had longer experience, more trial and errors with perfected dishes, as well as the whim and confidence of a seasoned cook? Or is it just because for my generation, our grandmas are the one who had been through real hardships in life, where in the end they persevered and channel their strength and love through food to their children, and their children’s children?

Both my grandmas, Ah Ma and Pho Pho, which I have so fondly talked about all the time, have gone through hardships in their own way. I had told a really extensive story before of Ah Ma, of how she a princess when she was young, thrown to hardship during the war times and then got into marriage and ended up raising 11 kids. For my Pho Pho is a whole new hardship of life, a whole new tale to spin. Ah well, that would be another post of another day, where I would be featuring a dish especially by her. A look at how she always put up a feast for every Chinese New Year shows what an experienced great cook she is. She just needs the morning, waking up at wee hours of 4am and then has the entire 10 course meal ready by lunch time for all. On the other hand, my Ah Ma cooks with her due time, cleaning every inch of the food, slicing everything to perfection and cooking each to the right time. Therefore Ah Ma need at least a day to laboriously churn out good food for the night. Both are entirely different, with entirely different taste of food, where my Ah Ma’s is usually simple and light Cantonese dishes while Pho Pho’s is thick, in depth and full of complex flavours Hakka dishes. For me Ah Ma’s food should always be for the no-nonsense everyday fare while Pho Pho’s food is for the elaborate all-out special occasions fare.

Anyway, far away from home, and lack of good grandma’s home-cooked food, I had to make do with outside food. Though it has been quite sometime since J and I went out in venture for food, due to work as well as more laidback life and cutback on our calories resolution, we found ourselves driving out one day in search of food without a direction. J had just got rewarded with Baskin Robbins (which is one of my icy treats indulgence) voucher for being a good employee, such a nice company right, and so we decided to head to Uptown where I know there is an independent BR outlet there. So we decided to have our dinner around that area and cruise around for the right shop to eat. Suddenly J spotted a restaurant, boasting of home cook food and dim sum choices. On the first trip we had really good dishes that even J, the renown food critic (only to me ha-ha) praises it. So promptly on that weekend itself, I met up with dad and uncle at the same restaurant for dinner, of course base on recommendation from J and me. The second trip was a bit of hit and miss, but overall it is still good enough for me to return for more tryouts.

First we had to have our fix of siu long bao, which came in 5 dumplings for one basket. For this I would say the skin was a little too thick for my liking, especially in compare to the Hong Kong ones I tried (look at the nearly translucent skin), yes I know it is unfair to compare, but the upside was the soup are all sealed in well here and was really well flavoured. For J, THE food critic, said this was even better than Dragon I’s as the one we had there last time leaked out all the wonderful soup, where from then he swore never to have it again at Dragon I, yes a really adamant critic. This one to his delight, when he bit into it, the juices shot out and got to me, luckily just my hands, yes, it was THAT soupy, so J gave it the thumbs up. Too bad they ran out of the big version where KY had, else we would really enjoy the ‘soup’ in the pao. Oh well, maybe next time.

Next up was the main dishes. J was already really hungry thus the bias review, but to me it was good as well, really with the home-cooked feel of grandma’s cooking. One I immediately have to call for was the Jiu Hu Char (stir fried yam bean with cuttlefish), which I say my Pho Pho makes a mean one, but this one was more of the lighter version, which my Ah Ma does cook minus the jiu hu (dried shredded cuttlefish) which we called chau mang kuang (stir fried yam bean), so this was like a cross version of my Ah Ma’s and Pho Pho’s, all the better. I am really missing them now. I found a recipe of this dish here, if any of you are brave enough to try.

Then J had to have his fix of egg, which was one of his favourite must-haves, he ordered the foo yong tan (fried egg with onion slices), which came like just out of a Chinese home kitchen. We love the simplicity!

Of course we then need meat in our fare, so J took the liberty and ordered butter curry leaves chicken. It was special, not really an everyday fare of grandma’s kitchen, but it was good. The chicken was first deep fried then poured on with butter and curry leaves thick sauce. Just describing it makes me want to eat again.

On the separate occasion with dad, we ordered chicken rendang, which came in Chinese-fied version, which tasted quite good as well. It reminds me of my Pho Pho’s curry chicken which was not too spicy yet very flavourful, but this one the drier version, hence rendang, which is cooked till dried.

Since twice our visit, the waitress recommended us to try the assam fish, therefore we give in on this time. Turn out, it was not so good. The fish was not so fresh, definitely a no-no in both my grandma’s kitchens, as well as it is not ‘assam’ (sour) enough and the soup was just bit too thick. Even my version of it was way better.

Last dish which we had different from our first trip was the lou tau foo (braised tofu in soy sauce) and eggs. This is a typical home cooked food, where it is a simple dish of braising the tofu and egg together with soy sauce, sugar and herbs.

Though we had a miss with the assam fish, we would definitely return again to have the thick-skin but soupy siu long bao, the cross version of both my grandmother’s jiu hu char and other dishes that I had noted down to try. I kept the receipt so that I have the address but somehow it got lost somewhere during my writing and finally my publishing of this post. Luckily, I found that KY did a review as well, so I just copied the address from his, thanks KY! As for the prices, it was really affordable, somewhere just smaller portion with same price as the usual Chinese cookout restaurants, but with a home cook taste.

Restoran Grandma Kitchen Cafe
6, Jalan SS21/39, D.U.,
PJ, 47400 Selangor
03-7722 1886

P/S: This review appeared in The Star (Malaysia leading English newspaper) Sundaymetro! I'm so happy, so if you're readers from there, welcome! The link is here (though I don't know how long before it will be archived).


Vee said...

Oh yes, Grandma's are great cooks. Reading about your grandmas reminded me so much of my own. Both of mine have the almost same story. And man, can they cook!! Both are very stringent about how a certain dish should be cooked. Just so or it is just not right. Ah, grandmas!

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KampungboyCitygal said...

whoa i wish that my company could gime some food vouchers too!

rokh said...

yea vee, Grandmas are special people :)

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