Petaling Jaya, Friday evening. Time is 5.45pm. Petaling Jaya or Pee Jay more commonly known as “P.J.”. A satellite town that was thought up in the 1950s, to be the homes of all those people working in Kay El (no, we are not talking about a Superman movie). Kay El or popularly known as K.L. or Kuala Lumpur, was the capital of Malaysia.
So, living away from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur was to have it’s advantages. The main advantage is coming home to the peace and quiet of your home, which was not too far away from your workplace. Great idea for the 1950s.
As I sit at my workstation, and my memories and thoughts sort of flow through my fingertips, to the Logitech MX Keys keyboard; I take frequent short breaks to go to the kitchen and snack on the last remnants of the walnuts we brought back from the U.S. When the packet was first opened, it had about 3lbs (1) of walnuts. Now, the balance of walnuts from that packet is in grams only. They say (Here we go again with “They say”. I keep wondering who are the “they”, the “experienced experts” who share their knowledge) that eating walnuts is good for health. This can be backed by several health and nutrition sites on the net.
Back to the “Friday evening. Time is 5.45pm.” Jeannie’s work ends at 5.00pm. We were on our way back from PJ to Subang Jaya after I picked (or “fetched”?, as it is more commonly heard in these parts) her up from her office. Subang Jaya, is a city that is 10 minutes away from Petaling Jaya. 10 minutes provided the traffic on the roads to and from it is very light. Peak hours are usually to and from office. Not really…Almost every hour is peak hour.
300 meters into our trip and we hit it. There was no way to avoid it, not in Petaling Jaya, that’s for sure. There was no unchartered route one could use to get out of it. There was no secret passage or tunnel. You cannot go under it. You cannot go over it. It was the infamous PJ traffic jam.
This would be the time radio stations will play the weirdest of music and have the most boring of talk shows aired. You can’t escape it other than to turn it off. Some people might try to brush up on their karaoke skills by singing along to songs that are bluetooth-ed from their smartphones. How much or how long can you sing? It takes at least an hour to get home. This traffic jam is everyday. Many people may have frayed nerves by time they reach home.
Traffic jams such as this has helped Jeannie and I come to a decision to have our dinner early. So, on this Friday evening; we decided to swing by this coffee shop.. I mean “restaurant”, which was a few meters off our route.
This coffee shop has been in that same place for decades. In the early 1980s, there was a stall operating out of this restaurant that used to sell rojak and the best tahu bakar (8) around. Uncle Al, dad’s younger brother living in Perth Australia; can attest to this. He will always bring up the time when, on one of his visits to Malaysia in the early 1980s; he and I came to this particular stall to buy rojak and tahu bakar. We were supposed to tapau (2) it back home to Aunty Maureen’s (dad’s sister) house for supper. It seems that most of the tahu bakar was eaten by me. I of course, deny such a thing ever happened. He will always relate this story whenever the subject of tahu bakar is brought up. (burp!)😉
The attraction of this restaurant today is its fried hokkien mee. We ordered mee / meehoon mixed, fried hokkien style. “What’s so special about this style of frying hokkien mee?”, you may ask. If you did not ask, then ask. I will tell you:
This is unique when the flames thrown up from the stove are huge and orangy in colour, blazing at times nearly 7 or 8 ft above the stove. When you see this, you can tell it is Hokkien style preparation. The huge flames that blare from under the wok, as though the chef…cook, I mean, is sword-fighting it. Clang, clang, hiss, sis, tong…The guy holds the wok with one hand and a long-handled ladle with the other. Holding the wok, he pulls, push, tosses the whole preparation in the air, which seems to land on the tossed food’s other side. Ladle in the other hand like a sword, he fights with the food preparation. he picks the garlic, lard, onions, a bit of oil and other condiments and stirs it into the food. Here, the agak-agak (7) style which means the amount goes by the feel or mood of the cook for that day. Somehow, it nearly always seems perfectly prepared.
I will let you in on a secret: If there is not enough of clanging of the ladle against the wok, the food won’t be good. There is not enough effort and style put into that dish. So, next time you go for fried hokkien mee; these are some of the things to look out for.
On one of our visits to this restaurant, we learnt that there was a stall selling popiah. This is not just some ordinary popiah . This, I can with full confidence say is one of the best popiah I have ever eaten, certainly the best in these parts. The skin, the ingredients are always fresh and full-bodied. The sauce, the chili paste simply amazing. A bit of a warning though: this popiah is quite spicy. It is delicious all the same.
The food usually comes quite fast after we order. Tasty. Enjoyable. Get away from the maddening PJ crawl. Though we don’t really need an excuse to come and savor good, simple food.
By the time we get back on the road, the jams have quite gone. Traffic is still heavy but moving and tolerable. We reach home at around 8.00pm. Just in time for some coffee, drunk from my Hydro flask mug. With the lid on, it manages to keep the temperature of the drink for several hours.
- Kuala Lumpur is a city in Malaysia
- Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya are cities in the state of Selangor, Malaysia
- Hokkien mee, literally “Fujian noodles”, is a series of related Southeast Asian dishes that have their origins in the cuisine of China’s Fujian (Hokkien) province. Fried Hokkien prawn noodles, known locally as Hokkien mee, is a dish comprising thick yellow noodles fried in a rich prawn and pork stock and served with chilli and lime on the side. It is a popular local dish that has various accounts of its origins. wikipedia
- High in protein, iron and fibre, this flavoursome stir-fry made with Vegie Delights Savory Mince is so nutritious and great for a quick, healthy meal. sanitarium.com
- “Ho chiak” means very delicious in Hokkien
- Popiah (薄餅) is a traditional snack believed to be of Chinese Hokkien origin. Popiah, which means “thin snack” or “pancake” in Teochew, refers to a spring roll made from thin flour skin wrapped around finely chopped vegetables and meat. Today, most popiah main ingredients include: Popiah skin, bean sauce, filling of finely grated and steamed or stir-fried turnip, jicama, bean sprouts, French beans, lettuce leaves, grated carrots, Chinese sausage slices, thinly sliced fried tofu, chopped peanuts or peanut powder, fried shallots, and shredded omelette. Variations. wikipedia
- “Agag-agak” is Malay for estimate, vagueness, uncertainty. wiktionary
- Chinese rojak made with a combination of fresh fruits, vegetables, you tiao tossed in sweet, savory, spicy, umami, nutty rojak sauce. Rojak is a popular street food. Grilled Crisp Tofu Pockets (Tahu Bakar) – Tahu bakar, or grilled crisp tofu pockets, is an Indonesian/Malaysian snack. rasamalaysia.com