By See Foon Chan-Koppen
While most of our energetic Ipohites head for the Kledang Hills for their early morning workout, I prefer the more ‘couch potato’ route for a visit to its foothills in the evening. The later the better.
Either the acoustics of this Mun Ji restaurant is particularly bad or the early diners who flock there between 6.30-9.00 p.m. talk especially loudly, but the decibel level is almost unbearable as I discovered on the first occasion when I went there and couldn’t stay long enough to do justice to the food. However, with my taste buds tickled, I was determined to return to savour more of this restaurant’s signature dishes and understand the reason for its extreme popularity.
So on another evening a group of us ventured out but this time we booked in advance and deliberately made an effort not to arrive before 9.00 p.m. Ahh the blissfulness of being able to hear ourselves talk!
Mun Ji was certainly worth the return visit. The directions are pretty straight forward. Take the Lumut highway and 300 yards before the Menglembu traffic lights, turn right. A brightly lit sign for the Hotel Kledang Menglembu is clearly visible amongst all the brightly lit stalls and coffee shops on the left. Continue past all these busy stalls heading straight. At the second junction, turn left and left again. Mun Ji is a corner lot facing an empty space and opposite some private housing.
All Dishes At Once
Phoon is the owner cum chef who picked up his cooking skills in Singapore as well as many other locations. His signature dishes are many and once you’ve placed an order, expect the dishes to come all at once. They do not stagger the order, so expect some waiting time and immediate gratification here. As I ate there twice, I will list the dishes in no particular order, focusing only on the ones that made an impression on my palate. The live steamed Tilapia was nicely steamed with a black bean and chilli topping. Good quality but not outstanding – RM22.
The Tong Poh Yoke (braised pork belly in soya sauce) is one of their signature dishes. The pork belly was wobbly and almost jelly-like in consistency, floating in a thick sauce that had hints of red preserved bean curd (Nam Yu) – RM12. Another signature dish is their Claypot Fish Head Curry, a dish so popular that every table in the house will inevitably order it. The fish head which was Garupa, was cut into pieces and cooked in a very mild, very ‘lemak’ (rich in coconut milk) gravy with ladies fingers and brinjals. The gravy was so ‘umami’ I was spooning it up like soup – RM20.
Other signature dishes include the steamed Wu Sou Kai (a special breed called in Chinese, Whiskered Chicken) – RM16; the ginger Kampung Chicken, tender morsels smothered in an aromatic ginger paste – RM16; and their Nestum Prawns. These were medium-size prawns coated with a batter made from Nestum flakes and deep fried. Crunchy, and crisp enough to eat some of the shell – RM25.
Other dishes I would recommend include the Pai Kwat Wong (deep fried pork ribs) coated with a treacly dark sauce that was not too sweet and was succulently tender – RM15; the Tofu topped with Choi Po or preserved radish and minced pork, the crunchiness of the Choi Po offsetting the soft smoothness of the tofu – RM10; the Petai Sambal Belacan Prawns were particularly piquant, the prawns fresh and the sambal belacan sauce extra spicy. I took some leftovers home and the next day, the petai dish was still deliciously flavourful – RM12.
Mun Ji Restoran Makanan Laut
No.1 Laluan Rasi Jaya 48, Taman Rasi Jaya
N 04° 34.331’ E 101° 02.103’
Closed 2 days a month on weekdays.
Call to check: Phoon 016-5437707