Kuala Lumpur - A taste of Gaozhou cuisine at Gao Ren Guan (高人馆)
Interesting restaurant, so-named because it specialized in the cuisine from Gaozhou (高州), a city in south-western Guangdong province in China. Not sure what I was expecting – maybe I was being over-optimistic in finding some *new* never-tasted-before Cantonese dishes, but the main items on their menu all seemed a bit similar to Hakka cuisine (客家菜) to me: stuffed tofu; braised pork belly with yam; “mui choy kau yoke” (braised pork with salted mustard leaves), etc.
Our lunch options today:
- Pork with yam – I wished it had a stronger “nam yue” (fermented soybeans) flavor. The version here was a tad one-dimensional.
- Egg omelette with chopped preserved radish (“chye poh”) – this was tasty and had the perfect balance of flavors: sweet-salty preserved radish undercutting the richness of the eggs. I suspect that much of the fragrance of this simple omelette came from cooking it using pork lard.
- Tofu with minced pork & scallions – I loved tofu in any form, so I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. But I can imagine many diners complaining about how bland this dish was – that’s one of the features of cooking here at Gao Ren Guan, and I’m not well-acquainted enough with Gaozhou-style cuisine to know if it’s typical, or it’s just the chefs’ style here.
- Long beans, char-siu and crisp anchovies fried rice was delicious and the best dish we had for this meal.
Overall, interesting place – clean & bright ambience, with faultless service. Just wished the food had stronger flavors though.
Gao Ren Guan (高人馆)
07-01 & 09-01, Jalan Kenari 18B
Bandar Puchong Jaya
47100 Puchong, Selangor
Tel: +603-8076 8766
Back to Gao Ren Guan today. Interesting dishes - all very competently turned out and packed with strong, assertive flavours:
- Braised cabbage, straw mushrooms, carrots and bean-thread mung bean noodles, flavoured with "nam yue" (fermented beancurd), served steaming hot in a claypot. Explosively hot habanero chillies were hidden within the thick, delicious stew.
- Deep-fried then braised beancurd balls, stuffed with chopped mustard leaves & minced pork. The soft, brown tofu orbs had a subtle flavour, bordering on blandness, but with a texture that's to-die for.
- Pork-rib and potato curry: very piquant, cooked with an aromatic blend of Indian curry spices. One of the best Chinese-Malaysian curries I'd had in KL.
The service remained flawlessly efficient and polite.
ahh cool, i like seeing regional cantonese cuisine (shun de etc) since its my fav type of chinese food
maybe malaysia has changed your taste profile since the food is so robustly flavored in malaysia? i think that happens if i stay in the US a long time or go to asia for a while, my taste in food changes a bit
Shunde/Shun Tak is also one of my fave Cantonese sub-regional cuisines (especially their flower-perfumed jellies). I had a marvellous dinner at Lok Sau Sun on Tak Shing St (near Jordan MTR), Tsimshatsui, many years back. I was brought there by a HK colleague whose parents were from Shun Tak. I made a passing mention of it on this old thread:
KL's local Chinese cuisine certainly has a robustness which its counterpart in Singapore do not have, because of its use of pork lard (officially discouraged in Singapore), higher levels of sugar, salt and other condiments, and oftentimes use of traditional cooking methods like wood-fired or charcoal-fired stoves which imparted a smoky/"wok hei" aroma to the cooking.
But KL is merely 1 hour's flight from Singapore, so my monthly visits home basically meant that my tastes still stayed pretty "grounded" - for some dishes, I much prefer Singapore tastes to greasier KL renditions.
Most hawker foods in Singapore vis-avis Malaysia are somewhat similar or else share the same roots, but evolved separately in the past 5 decades. Personally, I felt Singapore does better than Malaysia for these dishes:
- Fried carrot cake: lighter, crispier on the outside, less grease, and with addition of fresh shrimps.
- Hainanese chicken rice: more aromatic & flavoursome rice.
- Roti prata: less greasy & lighter
- Fish-head curry: better quality fish, more intense spice flavours
- Chilli crab: much better quality crabs, especially use of large, meaty Sri Lankan crabs which are almost impossible to come by in Malaysia
- Dim sum: the renditions in Singapore tend to be more refined and with better ingredients used.
Malaysian hawker foods differ from state-to-state, actually - for e.g. Hokkien noodles in KL is fried with a dark sauce, flavoured with pork, shrimps & dried flounder; whereas Hokkien noodles in Penang is in soup form, with pork-prawn broth spiked with chilli paste. The Hokkien noodles in Singapore is stir-fried/braised with pork & prawns. The similarities between the 3 renditions are that thick, fresh yellow Hokkien noodles are used, and the soup/gravy stock is a mix of pork and shrimps - among the Southern Chinese, only the Fujianese/Hokkien would mix pork with shrimps to obtain the soup stock.
Malaysia outdoes Singapore when it comes to:
- Fried koay teow: the Penang version is the *best*, lighter and more complex in composition and flavours compared to Singapore's.
- Indian rojak (known as 'pasembor' in Penang): the Malaysians still used mashed sweet potatoes for its colour and consistency in making the all-important sauce, whilst Singaporean hawkers resort to tapioca starch.
- Mee rebus/Mee goreng: just as for 'rojak', the Indian-Muslims in Malaysia still adhere to traditional, time-consuming cooking techniques and use of fresh spices, whilst their Singapore counterparts go for short-cuts and easier-to-obtain ingredients from the bottles & jars, where possible.
- 'Sar hor fun': Ipoh produces the best version, whilst the ones in Singapore are rustic and bland. Interestingly, although the Chinese have been cultivating rice on the banks of the Yangtze for 7,000 years, 'sar hor fun' (flat, thin rice noodles) was only invented 150 years ago!
It's actually quite difficult to compare food in Singapore vs Malaysia overall. Singapore is a compact city-state, with very standardised, uniform renditions of all its hawker foods, whilst Malaysia is a confederation of disparate states, and has regional variations from state-to-state. Take for example the "laksa" - Singapore has its famous "Katong laksa", which is a variation of Malacca's "nyonya laksa". But in Malaysia, the different kinds of laksa might as well be completely different dishes altogether: Penang's assam laksa with its sourish, fish-flavoured soup, garnished with chopped pineapples, cucumber & herbs; Johore laksa which uses spaghetti on a lightly-curried gravy; Sarawak laksa with its Chiuchow-influenced spice-heavy dark gravy and garnished with shredded chicken, shrimps and julienned egg omelette; Kelantan laksa with its unique milky-rich, coconut-infused gravy replete with minced mackerel fishmeat, garnished with torch ginger, Vietnamese holy basil, shredded cucumber and other fresh herbs, etc.
It's a never-ending voyage of discovery for any Chowhound - curiousity may kill the cat, but never the Hound ;-)
yah these are all fair points
im a big fan of those sri lankan crabs for chili crab (luckily a dish i do not see going downhill at all) and i actually like singaporean hokkien mee way way better than KL style black one which im not the biggest fan of; i also love the singapore style katong laksa (not the biggest fan of assam laksa)
The first time I tried Penang assam laksa, I was 6 years old - family holiday in Penang. It was in Balik Pulau, a mainly Hakka township on Penang, on the other side of the island from Georgetown. I thought my Dad was trying to poison me ;-)
I, too, liked Katong laksa, but I like Sarawak laksa and Kelantan laksa waaaay more! The early Malaccans also brought laksa and belachan to Macau (both were Portuguese colonies) which became Macanese lacassa and balicao.
I've no special liking for either Singapore, KL or Penang Hokkien noodles, preferring Cantonese noodles dishes like hor fun or yee fu mein.
well ive never tried sarawak or kelantan style, but I would love to! (maybe id like them more they sound awesome!)
i actually really like hokkien mee in singapore at the good places, i actually can't put my finger down on why i like it so much. its actually weird bc when i lived there i kinda liked bak kut teh and hokkien mee, but now that im older i really really like them
Lau - have you seen that beautiful CCTV production, "A Bite of China", which created quite a stir in China last year? One of the best documentaries on Chinese food that I'd ever seen.
This episode (Secrets of the Kitchen) included a segment on one of the 300 private banquet chefs in the city of Shun Tak (population: 1 million), and how he prepared for a celebratory banquet using a makeshift kitchen:
The same episode also looked at Yangzhou baozi - which looked like a larger version of xiao long bao.
I have the DVD collection of the whole series, but I think you can also view them on Youtube.
ohhhh i have not, but i will watch it! sounds awesome
btw i know u go to taiwan sometimes, you ever see this show 台灣好味道 hosted by that actess 蔣怡...its got some interesting stuff in it, its in cantonese so i can only get part of it although i can understand the parts where she talks to the taiwanese in mandarin obviously. i think there are a ton of episodes i havent watched all of them though, if you search youtube you'll find huge amount
I've seen some of the episodes. I'd only been to Taipei and Kaohsiung, and also *not* has not had as much first-hand experience with Taiwan's eating scene as with, say, Shanghai or Beijing even. But I liked Taiwan much more than China - well-ordered and afforded a more "familiar" environment to Singaporeans.
I didn't realise the "Bite of China" DVD is so expensive on Amazon.com(http://www.amazon.com/Bite-China-most...), I thought mine for USD3 from the local DVD shop here in KL - Cantonese version though.
ah cool i want to watch it
台灣好味道 is cool it goes to the big places, but it also goes to like alot small places in the mountains, places on the east coasts, fishing villages...cool stuff like small Hakka villages where you see traditional hakka food, things like that. ive never seen alot of the food before