It’s been over 20 years since I’ve had yong tau foo in Ampang, KL.
All I remember from my dusty childhood memories are of the massive traffic jams, our journey of over 2 hours, the oppressive heat, the difficult parking, the waiting for tables, the really crispy wantans crackling in hot soup and the boiled sugar cane water.
Looking back, I wonder if we were just gluttons for punishment. Did it require so much time, effort and energy to get there that everything tasted damn good after that?
I don’t think so. All you have to do is to compare the Singapore version of Ampang yong tau foo – tired and small portions, drenched in oil – and remember that real good yong tau foo tastes quite different. The stuff you get in food courts is absolutely dreadful. No wonder one has to drown it in sauce.
Fortunately, besides Ampang, you can now fight traffic in the other direction and get to Kepong.
Kepong, in the northwest part of Kuala Lumpur, has become an area famous for not just good, but cheap Chinese food.
I’ve had good Ulu Yam noodles in this area, and now, for the second time, I got the chance to eat the yong tau foo at Chan Chan Restaurant. It’s been five years since my first visit and it is good.
Three items I had stick out in my head
- the tau fu stuffed with fish paste – beautifully smooth, I haven’t had such nice tau fu in ages
- perfectly caramelized brinjal stuffed with fish paste
- bean curd skin rolls
You can see how, in this photo, the tau foo’s texture is as silky and soft as bean curd. It was lovely.
The brinjal was perfectly done. Slightly bitter and sweet on the outside, soft inside and a generous layer of fish paste in the middle.
Sometimes, when brinjal’s cooked till soft, the entire thing looks limp, soft and oily, because it has been cooked in oil that isn’t hot enough.
In this case, cooked at the right temperature, the brinjal has held its form. It hasn’t collapsed. While being soft and tender, it still has bite.
And because it is cooked at the right temperature, it isn’t oily inside. You can see how beyond the surface the brinjal is practically steamed from the heat.
There is only one other yong tau foo place in JB where I really enjoy the brinjal – granted, I’ve not looked very hard for other options – because it is really nicely caramelized. I’ve eaten there twice, and both times, the brinjal was good. But the brinjal is shrivelled up and has lost its bite. It doesn’t look and taste as gorgeous as the one here. (However, the last two times I went back to look for this yong tau foo place in JB, the coffeeshop was closed, and I can’t confirm if the stall still exists.)
In Singapore, the brinjal you find in yong tau foo stalls at food courts have been cursorily fried. Absolutely zero attempt at drawing out the sweet sweet flavours of brinjal.
At Chan Chan, you can order the bean curd skin flat or in rolls. The ones in bolster shaped rolls have fish paste in the middle. Crispy outside, crunchy inside. Lovely.
The soup is an ikan bilis (dried anchovy) broth, no MSG. I drank four bowls and didn’t have to flush water down my throat later.
Finally, how frequently can you order just the fish paste separately? Can the fish paste just hold its own? Yes, if it’s good, made with plenty of fish. It deserves to be an option, on its own, not always stuffed between vegetables and yong tau foo.
Chan Chan Restaurant
No. 69, Jalan 11/62A
Kepong, 52200Kuala Lumpur
GPS co-ordinates: 3.193037 N 101.630519 E
Mon – Sat 11am- 3:30pm; 6-9:30pm Sun 10am – 9:30pm
History of visits:
2010 March – Dinner: Very Good