Musings on Food
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
I have declared war on Monosodium Glutamate or MSG for short, that ubiquitous flavour enhancer that goes by tis different brand names and hidden in soup stock powders, stock cubes, prepared sauces and even soya sauce. According to naturalnews.com, “...consumption of MSG causes numerous side effects, including headaches, migraines, muscle spasms, nausea, rashes, anaphylaxis, seizures, depression and heart irregularities. MSG is known to cause damage to the nervous system….When neurons are exposed to these substances, they become very excited and rapidly fire impulses until they reach a state of extreme exhaustion. Several hours later these neurons suddenly die, as if they were excited to death. As a result, neuroscientists have dubbed this class of chemicals ‘excitotoxins’.”
In my case, I know I’ve consumed MSG when I feel dead tired, have an unquenchable thirst and worse symptom of all, my legs and ankles swell up like elephants’ trunks the following day. Hence my declaration of war. But despite my pleas with chefs and restaurant proprietors, there is no ceasefire in sight so I have gone solo and am now seeking out restaurants who will join my cause.
One such newly-opened restaurant in Ipoh Garden South definitely gets my support not only because its chef/proprietor Wyman Lee does not use MSG, but he’s also a staunch vegetarian and it’ll be the first vegetarian restaurant I’ve had the pleasure of patronising and not regret the meal later. Past experience has taught me to avoid vegetarian restaurants like the plague because the mock fish, chicken, meat and all dishes are heavily laced with MSG to give the umami flavour.
My Home Recipe has an eclectic choice of items on its menu. Here you’ll find Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and of course Malaysian dishes, all vegetarian and all prepared without a speck of MSG. And very tasty they are too.
Drinks are fresh squeezed as in the cucumber juice flavoured with a sour plum, beetroot juice, and honeydew melon juice which are all wonderfully refreshing in the current heat and their green jasmine tea is specially imported from Taiwan. Wonderfully fragrant. Juices – RM3; Jasmine tea – RM1.50.
What I particularly enjoy about the food here is that the sauces served with various dishes are not sickeningly sweet as is the tendency of some restaurants where they feel that in place of MSG, they have to replace lost taste with added sugar. Here, one can actually taste the goodness of the ingredients without their natural tastes being smothered.
The snack items are perfect for sharing and being there on two occasions, I managed to sample five out of 19 on the menu. The Vietnamese Spring Roll was freshly made, the rice paper skin soft and pliable and the vegetable julienne inside crunchy and fresh. The accompanying sauce was slightly tangy with the right ratio of sweetness to tartness. All raw healthy goodness in one bundle – RM7.20. The Thai Papaya Salad was mildly spiced, topped with freshly roasted crushed peanuts – RM7.20; and the fried Salt and Pepper Bean Curd could have done with more salt and pepper but the sauce that came with it provided essential emollients to the mouthfeel – RM4.80. What was spectacular on the snack menu were the two cheesy items I sampled. The first was the Cheesy Pumpkin, wedges of soft baked pumpkin topped with melted cheese, mildly sweet and oozing with cheese – RM8 and on another occasion, the Cheesy Portabella, fresh mushrooms lightly battered and baked with cheese. At RM15.80 this makes it one of the most expensive item on the whole menu but worth every ringgit and every bite.
What caught my eye on my first visit was the listing of eight items of Stinky Bean Curd, a very unusual dish which I learnt to appreciate in Hong Kong where I used to follow my nose to locate a stall. Unfortunately, they were all sold out and I made sure that they were on the menu when I returned for my second visit. This dish requires a cultivated palate as most people find the taste and smell objectionable (just as a foreigner would react to our durian) but here at My Home Recipe, Wyman who makes the bean curd himself, controls the degree of fermentation to ensure that the smell when he cooks it is not so potent that he’ll drive his customers away. The dish when it arrived on the table was actually quite mild, with only a trace of the acrid smell that I fondly remember from my Hong Kong days. Deep fried and served with a mildly spicy sauce, this is the only restaurant aside from the occasional stall to be found at some pasar malams, for one to enjoy this dish.There are 8 styles of preparation to choose from. I ordered mine deep fried. Well worth sampling at RM9.80.
My Home Recipe has an extensive menu, with snacks, dumplings, noodles and rice dishes to choose from. Specials of the day can include Nasi Lemak, ‘Chicken’ Rice and Asam Laksa. These change on a daily basis. All the dishes which I sampled on both occasions merit praise, from the Tom Yum noodles to the Sushi rolls, to the dumplings and the soups. Their noodles are homemade and the Panini bread is on special order for which Wyman provides his own butter to the baker to avoid the use of margarine. Coupled with all this wholesomeness is the added bonus that they do not use MSG and My Home Recipe has now found a loyal fan in me who will be returning often to lunch here.
My Home Recipe44 Lorong Taman Ipoh 1, Taman Ipoh Selatan.GPS: N 4° 36.405’ E 101° 7.145’Tel: Wyman Lee 012 578 0508/012 501 6339Closed 4 days a month.Business hoursMon-Fri: 9am-5.30pm.Private booking available after 5.30pm for 25 to 70 pax.Sat, Sun, 1st & 15th of Chinese calendar and Chinese feast days: 10am-8.30pm.