Friday, June 13, 2008

Asam House, IOI Mall, Puchong

A mouth-watering affair


Photos by SAMUEL ONG

ANYTHING associated with tanginess is bound to make mouths water.

This is the case with Asam House, a local café in the IOI Mall in Puchong. The photos of its many mouth-watering local dishes plastered on the wall just goad diners further after the word asam has done the trick.

Food for a worthy cause: Loh holding up a plate of Cucur Sayur and Cucur Udang. He is also the director of Community At Heart, a programme that aids the poor in Puchong.

When you decide to eat at Asam House, you are also contributing to a good cause. Café owner Timothy Loh is the director of Community At Heart, a programme that aids the underprivileged.

“We meet the grocery needs of three orphanages under Rumah Shalom in Puchong on a weekly basis. A list arrives from the homes every Monday and we work with suppliers to match the needs,” said Loh, who is keen on working with more suppliers who share his vision to help the needy.

A hearty meal at Asam House can be had for under RM10 and there are 40 dishes to tickle your fancy. When Loh took over from the previous owner three years ago, he simply added 10 more dishes to beef up the menu.

It goes without saying that the must-tries are the asam-laced dishes like Asam Fish, Asam Prawn and Asam Sotong. Regulars are also known to return for the generous helpings.

“It is common to attach the chilli factor to the tangy taste. But, our asam dishes are tempered with a touch of sweetness that even children have been known to relish,” shared Loh.

Meal-in-one: The Thai Fried Rice with chicken.

A delicate, tamarind juice-inspired sauce coated the prawns in the Asam Prawn dish we were offered. Shelled prawns are normally favoured but in this case, enjoying the medium-sized prawns whole did justice to the lovingly prepared asam sauce.

For a slight tweak to the recipe, diners often go with the Ikan Pari with Asam Sauce, enjoying the fish’s brittle exterior with the sweet-and-tangy sauce. The Butter Chicken dish, blanketed in a creamy sauce with hints of turmeric, comes in a fish version, too.

Asam House's single meal rice dishes include the Sambal Fried Rice and Thai Fried Rice. Snacks that swiftly disappear with the teatime crowd are the Cucur Udang, Cucur Sayur and Lobak, individually served with a chilli dip.

If you sneak a peek into one of the bubbling pots near the counter, you will also discover several types of sweet porridge like Bubur Cha Cha and Bubur Kacang Hijau. These offerings disappear quickly on weekends because Asam House is a popular pit-stop for those wanting to catch a flick at the cinema near the café.

ASAM HOUSE (halal) Lot 19-21, 3rd Floor, IOI Mall, Puchong, Selangor (Tel: 012-373 4488). Business Hours: Sun to Thurs (11am to 10pm); Fri and Sat (11am to 11pm).

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pancakes in Ipoh

Liew Choo Keng’s pancakes are so good that people keep coming back for more.

LIEW Chooi Keng is not your average pancake maker. At her customer’s request, she will happily mix the pancake filling with peanut butter, chocolate chips, bananas, cheese and even chicken sausages.

Crunchy delight: Liew Chooi Keng

dishing out her famous pancakes at

Restaurant Tim Shun Leong in Ipoh.

And the skin of the sweet and savoury apom balik that wraps around the fillings is made so thin that each crunchy bite is a delight.

Thirty-something Liew’s pancakes are so good that people keep coming back for more. Some come from as far as Singapore for her dai gau meen, as the locals call them.

“Once, a Singaporean ordered 100 pieces on the spot,” recalls Liew. “He wanted to treat his friends and family back home”.

Liew adds that some customers had even “scolded” her for not telling them that she had moved her stall to a new spot.

Liew opened her first stall in Ipoh Garden 18 years ago, but moved to a restaurant in Kampar Garden early this year.

“Like many pancake makers, I started out making the pancakes with crushed-peanut filling,” says Liew, who learned the trade from her father-in-law.

“Three years after I started my business, I began trying different recipes for my pancakes because there is a lot of competition.

“I wanted something different, so I added kaya and peanut butter to my growing list of different fillings.”

She was even inspired by her three pizza-loving children, who asked her to use cheese and sausages.

Inspired: Liew Chooi Keng’s pancakes

are made with many different fillings.

“It tasted good and I made it a permanent order on my menu.”

Liew once tried to infuse fruits like strawberries and mangoes with the pancakes but it was not cost efficient.

“They are quite costly and must served immediately.” she says Liew’s best seller is chicken-floss dai gau meen, which remains crunchy even after two days.

“But nothing beats eating the pancakes fresh from the pan,” she quips.

Liew’s stall is located in Restaurant Tim Shun Leong at 22, Jalan Peh Kee Koh, Kampar Garden, Ipoh. For details, call Liew (016-541 1365).