Kuala Lumpur - Hakka Lunch at Ho Boh Restaurant (河婆擂茶馆)
The popularity of Hakka cuisine (客家菜) in Kuala Lumpur far surpasses the actual Hakka people as a ratio of the Chinese populace in the city. Witness the old faithful – the Hakka Restaurant (now located in Jalan Raja Chulan) – which had been purveying delicious Hakka cuisine since 1956.
The Hakka people (客家)were known as the “gypsies” of China – the Chinese characters representing their ethnic group denote that they are “guest people”, as the Hakka arrived in modern-day Chinese provinces like Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan & Hunan from the Central Plains of China (modern-day Shanxi & Henan), the mass migration caused by dynastic wars ever since Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC) and later Mongol invasions by Kublai Khan’s armies. The Hakka brought along their unique cuisine wherever their diaspora spread to. In Malaysia, the Hakka actually formed the 2nd-largest Chinese ethnic group, after the Hokkien and ahead of the Cantonese, Teochew, Foochow and other ethnic groups.
Anyway, I was introduced to this new place for lunch today – Ho Boh Restaurant in the new township of Puchong on the outskirts of KL. “Ho Boh” is a variant of the Hakka language.
What we tried today:
- Pounded tea rice or “lei cha” (擂茶) - brown rice garnished with finely-chopped celery, wing beans, groundnuts, mint leaves, sesame seeds, pickled radish, fried tofu, dried shrimps and other assorted herbs, over which a bitterish “soup” consisting of finely-ground green tea powder were added. “Ho Bo”’s “lei cha” was not as bitter as the versions I had in Singapore, and had more vegetables. Very nice.
- Abacus beads or “suan pan chai” (算盘子) – soft gnocchi-like tapioca-yam pasta, which are poached, then stir-fried with minced pork, dried shrimps, finely-julienned black fungus, shitake mushrooms and vegetables, seasoned with soy & Chinese wine, and garnished with Chinese parsley. This dish was delicious.
- Braised pork with pickled mustard greens or “kiu nyuk” (扣肉) -There are two versions of Kiu Nyuk, the most common consists of sliced pork with preserved mustard greens) – chopped pork belly, braised with pickled mustard greens, dark soysauce and caramelised sugar. I thought “Ho Boh”’s version was a bit too mushy for my taste.
Very friendly proprietors, and the wide range of Hakka specialties on their menu certainly warrant a return visit.
Restoran Ho Boh (河婆擂茶馆)
9G, Jalan Puteri 2/3
Tel: +603-8063 5080
Hmm, when I think of kow yook (扣肉) or kau3 yuk6 [Yale] I think immediately of the sliced pork belly version, the one with intact large-ish but not too thick slices of sam-chang-yook ("3-layer-pork") with a crinkly and soft "pork skin" - together with the pickled greens in caramelized soy sauce. I suppose this would be the "more common" version you referred to. I had to blink a few times to bring up the memory of the dish/version you had!
Oh yes, that's precisely the sort of "kow yoke" (or "kiu nyuk" in Hakka lingo) I was referring to, and also the other common Hakka "kiu nyuk" where the pork belly slices were interspersed with yam slices then steamed - quite often found in US Chinese restaurants, too, I should think.
The finely-chopped "kiu nyuk" at Ho Boh was a first for me - it was mushier and oilier than I would have liked.