In one chapter of Fuschia Dunlop's 'Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper' culinary tome, the writer recalled her dining experience feasting on what is known in Hong Kong as 'si fong choi'. Translated from Cantonese, it means private kitchen dishes which are rustled up by home cooks in some hideaway hole-in-the-wall eateries. Usually known only to a tight circle of ardent foodies, seats are hard to come by unless you know somebody who's clued in to the scene.
In the Klang Valley, word has it that some outlets have sprouted up offering similar 'si fong choi'. One of them is Moon Sing, a modest, no-frills restaurant run by chef-owner Tim Ho right in heart of the Kepong Industrial Park. Thanks BigBoysOven for the heads up!
Ho's family from Bukit Tinggi actually has their own vegetable and fish farm so these locally grown ingredients naturally take centrestage at Moon Sing. A great way for diners to eat local and reduce one's carbon footprints!
For our recent dinner, Chef Ho whipped up a plethora of his 'lah sau choi' (signature dishes) starting with a simple clear soup of 'tin chat' green...I've yet to find out the vege's proper name in English. Anyway the leaves look and taste kinda waxy and slightly crunchy like kelp. Heck, the soup must be good for us since there's 'kei chi' (wolfberries) and sliced black mushrooms in it as well.
One of the best things about dining at Moon Sing is you can be assured the tilapia is super-fresh. The Tilapia in Claypot is definitely a departure from the usual 'cheong cheng' (steamed with spicy bean paste sauce). Amazing how much flavour the chef manages to derive from the classic quartet of soya sauce, fresh coriander, ginger strips and spring onion! A sizzling delight worth returning for in my book.
The subsequent Steamed Assam Tilapia sent our salivary glands into overdrive with its mouth-wateringly piquant flavours . It's simply unthinkable not to douse platefuls of white rice with the tangy, spicy and subtly sweet gravy!
Textures rather than flavour hog the limelight in the pared down dish of Tenggiri with Fish Paste. One learns to develop a finer appreciation for the firm, slightly flaky flesh of the whole fried Spanish mackerel and its stuffing of springy fish paste that is flecked with red chilli.
Homing in on the Braised Ma Yau with Tofu and Salted Vegetable, we found its sweet and sour nuances appetisingly endearing. It's the kind of home-style comfort food that salt-of-the-earth grandmothers and aunts would dish up using plain old elbow grease.
Chef Ho seems to have an endless array of tricks up his sleeve. His signature Tofu with Salted Egg really knocked our socks off! One can't help but marvel at his deft frying skills that left the slices of custardly soft beancurd enveloped in a wafer-thin layer of crisp, briny batter. A thick, lumpy salted egg topping and light soya sauce lent the finishing touches to this humble creation.
Now I'm partial to pork so the Three Flavoured Pork Ribs went down a real treat. The delicate sweet and briny accents have really seeped into the meat so each mouthful was superbly scrumptious.
More nostalgia was evoked by the appearance of the evergreen Hakka 'Kau Yoke' (braised pork slices with yam). Rustic and hearty, the pork slices always come with a strip of rich melt-in-mouth fat and skin on top and alternated with sliced yam. Ho's version was faultless.
After the whole melange of bold, strong flavours we had, the unexpected sweetness of the Lai Yau Sotong (squid in creamy butter sauce) caused a disconcerting jolt amidst the blend of evaporated milk, turmeric powder and curry leaves.
Our last rave for the evening was the Brinjal with Garlic and Dried Prawns. Sure it was nothing to look at but the taste was distinctly memorable. Cut into finger-thick strips, the deep-fried brinjal remains non-greasy and brimming with a faint smokiness. Sliced garlic flakes and gritty bits of dried prawns tinged the dish with their aromatic flavours.
Moon Sing is worth checking out if you're into afforable, down-to-earth home-style specialities cooked with passion.
Moon Sing Restaurant
No 41, Jalan KIP 2
Taman Perindustrian KIP
52200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel No: 03 62751037 / 017 2075271 (Ms Cheng)
Estimated budget (per person): RM15-RM25