Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pandan Leaf

From The Star

No compromise on authenticity

Photos by SAM THAM

Good combination: Chicken curry with roti jala (top).

THE key to a good restaurant lies not only in serving excellent food but also in maintaining food quality as the customer base expands.

At Pandan Leaf that serves Penang Nyonya and local cuisine, this has been done well and over the years, regular customers have come to recognise its signature dishes for tasting as good as they remembered it, if not better.

Owner Lydia Goh said the restaurant in 1 Utama Shopping Centre had not only managed to keep the food authentic, but through trial and error, had also improved food quality over the years.

Citing its popular Loh Bak as an example, the sixth-generation Penang Nyonya said the recipe was handed down to her by her mother Queenie Cheah.

Originally, the Loh Bak used pork but to make it halal, they have replaced the pork with chicken meat – without altering the taste.

Adapted from mum's recipe: The Loh Bak served at the outlet is made with chicken but tastes just like the original made with pork.

During a review at the outlet recently, Goh and Cheah served the dish to the Star Metro team, and for the longest time, photographer Sam Tham believed it was pork.

When Tham, who also originates from Penang, was told it was actually chicken, she was surprised at the authenticity of the taste.

“Through trial and error, we improved on the recipe and this is the result. It was a matter of how many kilograms of chicken we purchased to perfect the recipe without losing the authenticity.

“Today, we get orders for the Loh Bak during festive seasons because of its moist and juicy texture.

“A good, sharp knife is crucial to ensuring that the Loh Bak is cut without breaking the golden, crispy skin,” she said, adding that along with Joo Hoo Char, the Loh Bak was a must-feature during the Chinese New Year reunion dinner among the Peranakan.

Another bestseller at the outlet is the Penang Prawn Mee. The dish uses chicken stock instead of the original pork.

Other authentic dishes are the Joo Hoo Char, Pai Tee and Chicken Kapitan.

A symbol of prosperity, Joo Hoo Char is an old Nyonya recipe, which is served with lettuce.

The Chicken Kapitan is another of the handed-down recipes.

“Both my dad and mum's families are of Baba-Nyonya origin so there were many versions of the recipes. When we started, I had to be tactful in picking the best recipe so as not to offend any family member,” confessed Goh.

Mother-and-daughter team: Cheah (left) with Goh at the Pandan Leaf outlet. Cheah helps Goh in monitoring the quality of the food.

Also available at the outlet are Sotong Tumis, Ikan Masak Assam and Sup Tulang.

Due to its growing popularity, the outlet's latest branch at Subang Parade has opened under the brand Nyonya and there are plans to open another branch, in Klang, soon.

PANDAN LEAF, Lot S28, 2nd flr, 1 Utama Shop-ping Centre, Petaling Jaya (tel: 03-7728 6078). Business Hours: Daily, 10am to 10pm.

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