By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
I am one of those Foodies who hates doing two things for food: queuing (unlike my compatriots in Singapore who since the awarding of a Michelin star to two food stalls, will happily queue an hour or more to sample the food); or driving more than half an hour to eat.
Hence when anyone suggests Tanjung Tualang for to me, I always groan inwardly and most of the time politely refuse. My argument to myself has always been, “But I can get the Udang Galah (fresh water prawns-actually a crayfish) in quite a few restaurants in Ipoh so why drive to Tualang?”
I was soon to learn the error of my thinking when I was invited to the newly opened Prawn Village or Zui Xian Lou Restaurant in Tualang. Not only were the Udang Galah, the freshest and the most succulent that I’ve ever had, reminiscent of the times when I first arrived in Ipoh 22 years ago, but they were also some of the most humongous ones I have ever seen.
One of them which the chef brought out for us to see was the size of a plate!
Not wanting to taste the biggest (for fear that it may be tough), we settled for two sizes, the first, medium sized cooked in Chinese wine and the second, the big medium, steamed on an egg base.
The ones steamed in Chinese wine were delectable with the wine sauce making a soup worth slurping up, umami and fragrant; but it was the big prawns that stole the show that day. Measuring around 7 inches or more per piece, the heads were chock full of that creamy tomalley (mistakenly called prawn roe), sweet and velvety on the tongue and the most cherished part of these crustaceans for those in the know.
Our big prawns arrived steamed to the perfect degree of doneness. The heads which were the first part of the prawn that I wrestled with, were just oozing with tomalley, leaving me in prawn heaven. And the tails which can be tough considering the size, were juice and tender. There was no doubt that these prawns had just been fished out from their tanks, live, a few minutes before being sent to their steamy demise. Poor prawns, lucky diner. RM100/110/130 for medium/big medium and large per kilo. There will be about 12 large prawns to a kilo.
At Zui Xian Lou, everything is all about freshness as in their steamed Soon Hock fish which arrived on the table, again seasoned and steamed to perfection. This too was swimming minutes earlier, the flesh firm, luscious and umami. Market price around RM140 per kilo.
Their free range Kampung chicken like the rest of the foregoing dishes tasted fresh from the farm, a delicate chicken taste that is so missing from most other places and was served in a most delectable sauce. RM30 for half and RM60 for whole.
Next, two vegetable dishes worth mentioning were their Paku salad (RM18) fresh from a nearby farm, topped with dried prawns and fried shallots, a tad on the sweet side and their stir fried Tian Qi (panax notoginseng) leaves, smooth and velvety, which are supposed to be very healthy, RM12 (S); RM18 (L).
Pig’s tendons (RM58) which were beautifully braised in Nam Yu were yummilicious and their meaty pièce de résistance was the pig’s knuckle, a whole knuckle, deep fried, then wrapped with lotus leaf and steamed with dried shitake black mushrooms and dried oysters and red jujubes. This was completely fall-off-the-bone tender and seasoned perfectly, the different elements melding together to produce a dish that was superlative. RM38 half and RM70 whole.
We finished our meal with the Put Zai Fan or literally translated, rice in a bowl, a steamed amalgamation of meats, prawns and seasonings served in its steam bowl. This was excellent, the perfect ending to a perfect meal. RM30 (small) and RM60 (large).
Prawn Village is located past the old Tualang village just off the main road. You can’t miss it with its choo-choo train and an old classic car out front. The restaurant is huge as is the car park behind. There is also a small recreational area in the back for customers to sit and enjoy a beer or two in the evening. All in all, making Prawn Village and Zui Xian Lou worth the drive to Tualang.Prawn Village Zui Xian LouLot 21966, Jalan Kampar, 31800 Tg. Tualang, Perak.Tel: 05 360 8126 Ah Wai: +6011 33046684Business hours: 11am-10pmGPS: 4.3218833, 101.056722