Kuala Lumpur - The Home of Ampang Yong Tau Fu
Mention where the best Hakka yong tau fu (morsels of poached tofu and vegetables, all stuffed with smooth fishpaste) in Malaysia & Singapore come from, and chances are people would say it's from Ampang. Ampang yong tau fu is usually mentioned in the same breath as, say, Penang fried koay teow or Ipoh hor fun - dishes named after the places which best produced them.
Ampang's that little old Chinese village which, as Kuala Lumpur expanded, was swallowed up to become a satellite township of sorts. There is a stretch in Ampang today where a row of restaurants, all offering the ubiquitous yong tau fu proliferate. And the grande old dame of them all is Foong Foong Restaurant. Time Out KL mentioned that Foong Foong has been operating from this premises since 1974. Well, a KL uncle of mine insisted that he'd eaten Foong Foong's yong tau fu, perhaps selling from another spot in Ampang, since the mid-60s (before Malaysia's infamous race riots in 1969) - when a piece of yong tau fu costed only 6 Malaysian cents (it's 90 Malaysian cents each today).
So my lunch-time visit to Foong Foong last weekend was a pilgrimage of sorts - Foong Foong was the restaurant which put Ampang yong tau fu on the culinary map, where Malaysia and Singapore are concerned. But Foong Foong's yong tau fu was, oh wow, ABSOLUTELY delicious!! It knocked any pretenders (those numerous "Ampang yong tau fu" shops you'd find in Singapore from Siglap to Katong and more) for dead!! For a start, you can hardly detect the "fishy" smell you usually find in inferior quality fishpaste. At Foong Foong, the freshest fishmeat were hand-scraped from raw local fish each morning, the resultant paste-like fishmeat mixed with flavorings before being stuffed into silky smooth tofu, puffy tau pok, okra, aubergines, longish red chillis, bittergourd, etc., then gently poached in a tasty stock made from boiled fish bones, soybeans & vegetables.
A standard 15-piece mixed platter of yong tau fu can serve 2-3 pax. You can also order the very addictive deep-fried wantons, filled with fishpaste, crunchy waterchesnuts & sweet grated carrot - great with hoisin and chilli sauce dips.
The only other side-dishes were stir-fried vegetables (either choy sum, sang choy or yau mak) in oyster sauce, topped with crisp, golden-fried chopped garlic.
Foong Foong Restaurant
621-A, Jalan Besar Ampang
Operating hours: 10am-7pm daily, except Tue (closed)
Looks good. I used to eat YTF at various places but most frequently at the coffee shop at the corner of Imbi Rd & Jln Barat, in the early morning, on many a day, a long time ago.
HEH. I just took a look at Googlemaps, there is a photo available at that corner which looks like it shows the same coffee shop there, pretty much as I remember it, if I am not mistaken! :-)
I make my own YTF from time to time, with a selection of the usual stuffable veggies/tofu types + some unorthodox ones and using the Cha Ca brand of fish paste (frozen) that I get from my local Chinese or Vietnamese grocers.
I was wondering why you have to make your own yong tau fu, then realised you're based in Indianapolis. Well, like the saying goes: necessity is the mother of invention.
I, on the other hand, is a recent transplant from S'pore to KL (moved here a month back), and am having quite an experience discovering KL eating places, most of which have been here for decades but are totally new to me! That's why I'm sharing all these new discoveries on CH.
If you ever come back to KL, do give me a yell (my contact under my profile) & we can do a Chowmeet :-)
KLYeoh, loved your posts on Soo Kee and my favourite yong tofu place too. Just thought I might mention the Hokkien mee at Lot 10. You probably know about it already. Francis Yeoh went around and gathered all of his favourite stalls there. I love their Hokkien Mee. An elderly uncle (not blood uncle but father of a friend) of mine has been eating their mee since the 1960's and followed them through three moves and lost then sometime in the 1990's. He was really happy to find it again and it's our regular stop when I'm back in KL.
The o-ah jian (oyster omelet) stall is pretty good too. Not as good as Taipei night market o-ah jian, the oysters are a little watery, but alright if not in Taiwan.
Your posts really makes me want to go back home and eat!
Glad you like my posts - it's just that everything in KL's dining scene is so new, and seemed so interesting to this transplanted S'pore CH ;-)
As for Kim Lian Kee's fried Hokkien mee at Hutong in Lot 10 - OH YES, I'd been there! In fact, I'd had their Hokkien mee 4 times already in the month I'd been here. Photo from my last visit 2 weekends back attached below.
Give me a shout if you're back in your hometown, perhaps we can organize a Chowmeet :-)
I can't really see from the pic, but I hope that plate of Hokkien mee had lots of 'chow chee fei' in it? (not sure if I'm remembering correctly the local term for those cubes of deep fried pork fat remaining from the rendering of cut-up fat to get the pork lard for frying the mee...)
Following on from this later thread - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847764 - I was curious about what was still being offered at that kopitiam at the corner of Imbi Rd and Jln Barat. Heh. It seems the pork noodle and pork ball noodle stalls are still there, the char koay teow stall is there (or at least its successor) and dry yong tau foo is available at noontime. (the stuff I used to have was mostly "wet" but could be had dry as well and came from a stall parked on the sidewalk outside the kopitiam proper in the early morning) Ah, KL Hokkien Mee at night too...I had forgotten about that one...
Remember that TLC food program "Food Wars", where each week's program features great rivalries between 2 restaurants which serves one signature dish? There was that "Buffalo Wings' episode in Buffalo, New York, which pitted Anchor Bar vs Duff's. There was the Chicago "Deep Dish Pizza" episode which saw Pizzeria Uno squaring off against Lou Malnati's.
In Malaysia, there's that famous Penang char koay teow rivalry between "The Woman in Red Beret" in Lorong Selamat vs "Ah Leng" of Jalan Dato' Keramat, for instance. Usually, each will have their loyal followers who'd swear that their choice is the best.
Well, in the case of Ampang Yong Tau Fu, Foong Foong has to contend with their great rival next door - Ampang Homeland Yong Tau Fu, a mere 2 doors down the street (it's like Geno's vs Pat's where Philly cheesesteaks are concerned).
Their yong tau fu is quite similar to Foong Foong's, although I felt the latter's version tasted more subtle, without the fishy smell, and has a finer texture. Buit I quite liked the fact that Ampang Homeland also offers other dishes besides yong tau fu, so you can order dishes like:
- pandan fried chicken
- Hakka-style stewed mui choy with pork belly
- Spicy assam fish
Definitely giving Foong Foong a serious run for the money!
Ampang Homeland Yong Tau Foo
622-C, Jalan Merdeka
Kampung Baru Ampang
68000 Kuala Lumpur
Now that's a thought, though I don't think I'll risk it - those Hakkas wield some lethal-looking cleavers :-D
Once, at the height of Singapore's "Laksa Wars" back in the late-80s, I went to ALL the 3 rival stalls in Katong in one evening (they are all within 100 meters of each other) and bought a couple of packets from each - I was planning a laksa dinner cum food-tasting with a couple of other die-hard laksa-loving foodie friends. By the time I reached the 3rd shop, I noticed the owner staring daggers at my takeaway packs from her rivals. For the record, the original "Janggut Laksa" which started the Katong laksa is now located in Roxy Square - go there for the true taste of Katong laksa, I can recognize the owners (nephews of the old Janggut, i.e. Bearded One) as I'd been their patron for > 30 years.
Their original location at No. 49 East Coast Rd (Hock Tong Hin coffeeshop) was taken over by a woman when the 2 brothers had a protracted vacation in China back in the 1980s, and clients thought she was related to them (she's not). Anyway, she had lots of celebrity diners, whose photos she pasted liberally all over her stall (the 2 "Janggut" brothers never did such thing). Anyway, the Hock Tong Hin coffeeshop owner had a jealous spat with her, and she moved across the road to 328 Tanjong Katong Rd, where she now runs perhaps the most successful laksa stall in Katong, known as the "328 Katong Laksa". The Hock Tong Hin location's laksa stall is now run by the coffeeshop owner's wife, now known as "49 Katong Laksa".
To see the neighborhood & the rivals' locations:
Phew, now how did I digress so far from yong tau fu into Katong laksa territory? :-)
No no, don't apologize or stop doing this. It's all good and fascinating, and relevant to the "flow" of the conversation on a thread about YTF and the relationship to competing vendors for a particular foodstuff. :-)
I never knew about the Laksa Wars, thanks for the story! I'm salivating just thinking about uh, PERsonally trying out their offerings - all in the service of research, of course. =)
Ah, the famous Laksa Wars, who can forget that? For a few months, the whole of Singapore (yours truly included) went laksa mad, converged onto that little corner in Katong like hungry lemmings, and I remembered my husband and I queued for hours just to have a taste of the laksa at our favourite stall.
KLyeoh, you got a typo error, you meant 328 East Coast Road (not Tanjung Katong Road, right?)
We also liked Janggut the best, they were located at the shop near the overpass pedestrian bridge linking Roxy Square to the Red House Bakery at the time. But a tasting trio sent by Sunday Times, headed by Singapore's own Doyenne of Dosmesticity Violet Oon, declared 328 Katong Laksa as having the best-tasting concoction.
Ah, I think I'm just going to do down to Katong NOW! :D
UPDATE: Back to Foong Foong for Sunday brunch today - 11am and the whole place was packed to the rafters!
KL's heat and humidity were pretty oppressive these days, and Foong Foong's non-airconditioned dining area resulted in more than a few sweat-covered folks busily stuffing their faces with the restaurant's famous, and justifiably so, "yong tau fu" morsels.
There were 6 of us, and we had our usual platter of par-boiled, flash-fried mix of fishpaste-stuffed red peppers, okra, aubergines, tofu and bittergourd. The crisp-fried wantons were marvellous as always. Foong Foong's sweet hoi-sin and spicy chilli paste dips were indispensable.