By See Foon Chan-Koppen
Perhaps I have been having a surfeit of rich food. Lately I find myself hankering for lighter food, something wholesome as in steamed food. None of the potentially carcinogenic trans fats generated by heating vegetable oils prior to stir frying or deep frying. None of the ship sinking heaviness or gastric reflux producing bloating that can occur for some of us after an oil laden meal. Steamed food is so healthy and satisfying. Full Stop. No ifs and buts about it.
Steam House in Bercham is just the ticket when one craves for dishes with none of the sacrifices to taste that one conjures up when the subject of steaming comes to mind. Here I can still indulge in the mouth feel and flavour that my taste buds are partial to.
Proprietor Lester Foo is usually on hand to explain and recommend the various live fish which he keeps in his tanks. Here you will find swimming Tualang prawns in small, medium and large sizes priced at RM6, 7 and 8 per 100g. The night I was there, we had 8 of the large prawns which came to just under 1kg – RM90. They arrived on a bed of egg white topped with scallions and slivers of ginger, each one succulent and fragrantly fresh.
Live fish include Soon Hock or marbled goby, highly prized locally as ‘the’ fish to order and is priced at RM120 per kg. Most of the fish that I saw swimming in their tanks were mostly about 1.2kg. Wild caught Catfish go for RM70 per kg although most of the fish are smaller than that size. Lester recommends that the catfish be simply steamed with ginger. The best value fish is obviously the Tilapia at RM15 each for a fish of about 700-800g. The night we ordered this it came with a chilli black-bean sauce which was absolutely delectable – spicy, pungent with a hint of garlic. They also have a wonderfully melt-in-mouth fish belly already sliced that they call the Miri Wang Pu Liao (Mandarin meaning unforgettable). Perhaps this is a poor cousin of the astronomically prized Empurau which can cost up to RM500 per kg but this eminently tasty dish only cost RM20.
Soups of the Day
Steam House offers twelve styles of steamed presentation. One can choose from Bean Paste, to chopped chilli, garlic, ginger, Nonya, Asam, Hakka, Preserved Vegetable, Essence of Chicken, Fu Yu (preserved soya cheese) and others. There are two soups on the menu which vary daily. The day I was there, we had both the soups. The first a herbal soup made with Snake Head (Sang Yu or Ikan Haruan) which the Chinese believe is excellent for recuperation after surgery. This was excellent with not a hint of fishiness, and in fact, it tasted so clear I mistook it for chicken soup.
The second was peppery melange of carrots, potato, chicken feet, red dates, goji berries and pork ribs. All soups RM10 (large) and RM6 (small).
Next came the steamed egg with something which they called Fong Wong Miu or Phoenix King young shoot. It was unusual to find vegetables in steamed egg but this appears to be one of their specialties, the other being spinach steamed egg. Steamed egg which appears so deceptively simple in its presentation is actually quite difficult to cook to perfection. Ours arrived in just the right state – still wobbly but silky smooth on the tongue with the vegetables adding textural nuances to the experience – RM8.
With one memorable dinner under my belt, I was not content and had to return for another meal to sample some of the other taste treats I spied on the menu. This time I had the following dishes which were all equally memorable. Beginning with the Wine Salted Kampong Chicken, fragrant, with Dong Quai RM23 (half) and RM46 whole, we moved on with the Ham Har Fah Lam or Shrimp Paste with Pork Belly which was so delectable that I couldn’t stop picking at it and almost cleaned the plate – RM12 (small) and RM25 (large). The Brinjals with Fu Yu (preserved bean cheese) was scrumptious with hints of ginger and chillies – RM10 (small) and RM15 (large). Next on the table was the Mui Tsoi Kao Yoke, preserved vegetables with belly pork, sweet, salty, fragrance of the preserved vegetables infusing into the slow braised pork – RM12 (small) and RM25 (large).
Steam House, all in all worth getting steamed up about.
Steam House Restaurant
No. 40 Persiaran Bercham Selatan 1,
Taman Desa Kenchana, Bercham.
Lester Foo: 016-917 6034
Directions: At the first traffic light after Tesco Extra, make a right turn with Glamour Square on the corner. Then turn immediately left into Persiaran Bercham Selatan 1. Steam House is two blocks down on a corner on the left.