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Oct 11, 2012 07:36 AM

Kuala Lumpur - Divine Chinese BBQ Pork & Seafood at Siu Siu Restaurant (小小饭店)

A KL foodie friend, who knew about my fascination for traditional, rustic eating places, decided to take a detour from the jam-packed Jalan Istana amidst the heavy evening downpour in KL this evening to show me one of his favorite eating spots near that area.

Making a sharp turn into Bellamy Road, past Alice Smith Primary School and thru the huge old Hokkien cemetery, I was a bit worried that he might have taken a wrong turn when we came upon Siu Siu Restaurant (小小饭店), a large open zinc-roofed Chinese seafood eatery perched on the green slopes of the hills bordering Taman Seputeh.

Very old-fashioned KL spot - no menus, and you basically ask one of the matronly-looking Cantonese-speaking wait-staff for his/her recommendation for the evening. What we had:

- Char-siu (Chinese BBQ pork) which turned out to be of the highest order.The meat was roasted to perfection: caramelly, moist, smoky-fragrant, with a perfect balance of fat in the meat to impart a sweet, juicy burst of flavor with every bite.
- Claypot rice topped with fresh crabs. This was another dish cooked to perfection: the rice was flavored with dark & light soy sauce mix, generous dashes of sesame oil, and the juices from a giant meaty Sri Lankan crab, freshly-killed, with each pincer the size of my palm. The rice crust at the bottom of the pot was to-die for. Finely chopped green shallots provided a fresh astringent bite to the otherwise heavily-flavored rice dish.
- the piece de resistance of the evening: a steamed tilapia fish with a tasty "Nyonya" sauce which was simply amazing: it had a sourish tinge from pineapples, delicately spiced with a touch of chilis, onions, ginger, and with the most delicate whiff of lemongrass, almost as if the ghost of a lemongrass stalk had floated thru the sauce, leaving behind the faintest hint of its presence. Long beans and brinjals provided some textural contrast to the fatty, oily meat of the fish, so highly-prized amongst food connoisseurs in Malaysia & Singapore. Our fish dish this evening costed a mere RM36 or US$12!
- The vegetable dish was stir-fried "yau mak" or romaine lettuce with garlic. Crunchy delicious.

Now, *this* is what KL dining is all about - very fresh products, super-delicious food, fantastically reasonable prices - the most expensive item for the evening was RM59 or US$19 for the claypot crab rice dish, enough for 4 persons with healthy appetites.

Address details
Siu Siu Restaurant ( 小小饭店)
15-11 Lorong Syed Putra Kiri
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2274 3544

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  1. How wonderful! Very delicious looking.

    You were obviously "riding" with your friend for him to "make the detour"; did he pick you up after work or do you car-pool or something else? Just curious.

    Tilapia does not have a good reputation in the US. Most of what is available here is farmed, and the taste and texture is disliked by many; and there is also the aversion by some to what is perceived as filthy farming practices for this fish. Many non-Caucasian folks eat it widely and readily, however (typically purchased as whole fish), and it *is* the most available live fish in those big tanks in some Chinese/"Asian" groceries and certain large "International" supermarkets. I'm sure its relative cheapness is a factor. Hmm, "fatty, oily, meat" - are these tilapia fishes in M'sia also farmed, or wild? If farmed, I wonder if it is a different variety or whether the farming practices are greatly different from what is used for the variety widely available in the US, whether farmed here or imported (a lot is; as obviously "dead & frozen" fish vs "live" fish). When I've had tilapia here, even in Chinese restaurants, I wouldn't say the flesh is fatty and oily - I find it somewhat lean and liable to be on the "dry" side. The wiki article also alludes to farmed tilapia as being a "lean" fish... Hmm.

    On another note - it seems that Yau Mak Choy (Romaine, in this case) is the almost-universal vegetable dish around? Surely folks must eat other vegetables cooked/stir-fried as stand-alone dishes? Choy Sum, Gai Lan, Yin Choy/Seng Choy, Por Choy etc? (i.e. "Chinese"-type renderings, rather than Malaysian-Chinese/Peranakan renderings such as Kangkong Belacan)

    2 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      We were originally supposed to go for after-work drinks at Changkat Bukit Bintang with some other friends then dinner at Jalan Alor. But it poured heavily (always does in KL, I'm told, when it approaches the Chinese 9th lunar month - next Mon is 1st day of Nine Emperor Gods Festival). Anyway, our drink session was cancelled as the traffic built up all over the city. And dinner in open-air Jalan Alor would be out of the question.

      Siu Siu seemed to offer a wide variety of vegetables but my friend did the ordering since everyone seemed to speak Cantonese there, and the elderly waitress did look a bit uncomfortable when I spoke Mandarin to her.

      1. re: huiray

        huiray, I'm told the tilapia in Malaysia are mainly caught wild off the rivers of Selangor & Pahang. Not sure about the veracity of this claim, as fish farms are pretty pervasive.

      2. wow that looks great

        its funny how cha siu looks in malaysia / singapore, it looks totally different than the cha siu in hong kong / the US...i mean it def tastes a little different too, but i wonder how it evolved over there to be different b/c it just doesn't seem like something people would change that much

        7 Replies
        1. re: Lau

          Well, I remember great char-siu looking like that in KL 50 years ago, so that hasn't changed much over there. I can find something like that on rare occasions at a particular place in Chicago's C-town; needless to say I need to be there at the right moment and they need to have the strip with the right "poon-fei-sau" mix going into the roasting pit in the first place. :-)

          1. re: huiray

            well chinese people have been in malaysia forever, so by evolve this could've happened a long time ago

            my favorite cha siu is still the HK style one at a great place like fu sing, but i do enjoy the malaysia / singapore version alot. they seem to char it more, its on the sweeter side, they use less food dye on the outside and for some reason the meat looks really white usually i dont know if its the cut or what

            1. re: Lau

              The "good ones" in KL were (are) caramelized more and are sort-of sweetish & gooey on the outside, yes. I didn't care for the overly-caramelized ones, though, even on the "prized" ends ("char-siu tou") unless they had been yanked before they got carbonized - and bitter.

              But I think klyeoh can attest to the range of char-siu found in KL, including those "boiled and red-stained" ones with super-lean meat.

              1. re: huiray

                Oh, the boiled/red-tinted faux "char-siu" is traditional all over Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia! it's early Chinese emigrants to SE-East Asia trying to make do with limited resources in their new homeland.

                Malaysia probably has the largest Cantonese population in the world outside China & HK.

                The overall Chinese population in Malaysia, at nearly 7 million, is more than twice those in Singapore, and is the 3rd-largest Overseas Chinese populace in the world after the Thai-Chinese (who're overwhelmingly Teochew/Chiuchow/Chaozhou/Taechew) and Indonesian-Chinese (mainly Fujianese/Hokkien/Hoklo).

                Chinese-Malaysians, like Chinese-Singaporeans, consisted of almost equal numbers of Fujianese, Hakka, Teochew and Cantonese people, but with smaller dialect groups present in large numbers. Chinese in cities like KL, Ipoh & Kuantan which I'd been spoke Cantonese. In Singapore, we spoke Hokkien, but with lots of Teochew influences. In Penang & Kota Bahru in northern Malaysia, the Chinese are mainly Hokkien speakers.

                But yes, you're right, Lau - the Chinese had been in Malaysia for so long (dating back almost 700 years), their cuisine have evolved but still retained its Chineseness. Of course, with each new wave of immigration from China - 19th-century tin miners, war refugees in the 1930s (Sino-Japanese War) and 1950s (Chinese civil war), Chinese cuisine here is rejuvenated by fresh emigrants from the motherland.

                These days, with large-scale business & leisure travel by Chinese all over the region, Chinese food is going to evolve again in Malaysia/Singapore. One example is the wide availability of "la mian" & "xiao long bao" in Malaysia & Singapore these days. 20 years ago, they are virtually impossible to find!

              2. re: Lau

                The cut of the meat in this case made it look paler. Slight variances here & there but, by & large, it does have that typical char-siu taste. Malaysian chefs do bring their styles of cooking overseas, Lau, e.g. Tong Chee Hwee of Hakkasan London, and Ho Chee Boon of Hakkasan New York - both 1-Michelin starred.

                1. re: klyeoh

                  yah been meaning to go to hakkasan in NY, despite the backlash against it ive heard the food is actually pretty tasty

                  1. re: Lau

                    I tried Hakkasan London a decade ago when it first opened - great dim sum, amazing variety of fresh produce used. I also had the Hakka-style "kau yoke" stewed pork with "mui choy", done very well since the founder and then-owner, Alan Yau, is of Hakka descent.

                    The present Hakkasan chain is Middle-Eastern-owned - Tasameen from Abu Dhabi.

            1. re: huiray

              Thanks, huiray. I was trying to imagine how the place looked like in broad daylight.