SeeFoon explores Chaozhou cooking

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By See Foon Chan-Koppen

I have always loved Chaozhou or Chiew Chow cooking. Though similar in taste in many ways to Cantonese, the Chaozhou kitchen is known for their ‘Lo Tsui’ dishes, in particular goose, pork and intestines which are braised in a dark soya sauce and diners have a choice between accompanying their dishes with rice or a choice of either sweet potato or plain white congee. Hence their flavouring tends towards the salty side allowing the congee to mellow the saltiness on the tongue.

Interesting Condiments

They also tend towards certain condiments which are used more frequently in this style of cooking than in others. One ingredient which comes to mind is the black olive paste which lends a wonderful piquancy to vege-tables fried with it. This we had in a dish of French Beans sautéed with minced pork and the olive paste – RM12.00. I asked if they did the cuisine specific fried rice using this olive paste and was told by the lady proprietor that because the olive paste was expensive, they only used it on different vegetables as the quantities used were much smaller.

Lo Tsui Offerings

Sin Hup Heng Chaozhou Restaurant is a smallish coffee shop not far from the now demolished Yau Tet Shin market on Jalan Theatre. Opened only two years, the husband and wife team with Ah Peng manning the front and husband Poi Poh Hwa who comes from three generations of cooks helming the kitchen, the resulting offerings are all tasty and good value for money.

Aside from the aforementioned olive paste specialty, the other very typical Chaozhou offering is a dish of their Lo Tsui pig’s ears, pork belly and pork intestines. The pig’s ears were succulently tender with no rubbery texture, the pork belly melt-in-the-mouth and my favourite, the ‘Tai Cheong’ or large intestine, were delicate and smooth, with not the slightest hint of smell that some intestines, that are not properly treated, can exude – RM8.00.

The dishes came fast and furiously. We had the Pai Kuat Wong or king of the spare ribs, marinated and deep fried and well coated in a thick sweet sauce with a tang of lemon – RM15.00. This was followed by the Sautéed Clams in a ‘Kung Po’ sauce, the clams large and smothered in a sauce comprising dried shrimp and dried chillies, that one could scoop with the clam shell. Each clam I tasted was fresh with nary a bad one – RM18.00. They can do the clams in a variety of styles including one with preserved bean sauce.

Good with Congee

A big pancake of Choi Po Dan arrived, preserved radish chopped fine and fried as a huge omelette. Crunchy, the radish not too salty and lending its characteristic smell and flavour to the egg – RM8.00. For a more pungent smell and taste, the Meat Patties flavoured with salted fish, deep fried and sliced was next to arrive, lending a degree of saltiness that went well with congee. The salted fish, I figured to be the ‘Mui Heong’ (literally translated to mean rotten fragrance) variety and lent a characteristic aroma to the meat which would otherwise have been bland – RM10.50.

Freshest Fish

The soup was an interesting combination. Comprising bitter gourd and omelette with minced meat, it was tasty and mild and I didn’t get the taste of MSG! Following this was the Asam Fish, very fresh Ikan Pari or stingray cooked with ladies fingers in a mild asam sauce that had just the right balance of sweet, sour, and pungency – RM20.00. We also had the steamed Wan Yu or Ikan Haruan (snakehead) that arrived generously smothered in a ginger and spring onion paste. The fish was very fresh and the ginger paste thick and pungent. A must have – RM22.50.

By this time our group of seven were totally replete and when the last dish to land on our table of Chicken and Bitter Gourd fried in black bean sauce arrived, we were groaning. But the flavours were so well blended that we couldn’t resist having a few more bites and left with a bill of RM150 altogether which we thought reasonable for satisfying seven people.

This is one restaurant I will certainly keep returning to again and again for its simple home cooked unpretentious cuisine.

Sin Hup Heng Chaozhou Restaurant
91, Theatre Street (New Town)
Tel: 012-5023116 or 016-5022286
Open from 10.30 a.m.-4.00 p.m. Closed 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.