Lau Char is keeping the ancient art of Chinese tea alive

Lau Char is keeping the ancient art of Chinese tea alive

Liu Yen Haw may only be 19 years old, but the retail manager of Lau Char Trading in Kepong is already masterful at preparing a good pot of Chinese tea and serving it to his guests.

He has been enjoying Chinese tea since he was 15. On the art of brewing Chinese tea, he says the quality of tea brewed reflects the true character of a person, and how much patience and inner peace one has.

This was also affirmed by his manager, Cody Tan, who I met about six years ago. Tan was also just a young boy when he started involving himself in the tea business.

It proves one thing – the people learning to appreciate the art of Chinese tea are getting younger. In fact, it is interesting to learn that even people from other ethnic communities are also learning to enjoy the art of drinking Chinese tea.

At one buka puasa event at a local masjid that I was invited to last year, some of our Muslim friends told me that they love the silky feel of the Chinese tea, when it is brewed properly.

While talking about Chinese tea and how well it complements his biryani, one of the directors of Hyderabad Recipes, Jasbeer Singh Kaura, told me that he frequently drinks pu’er tea in his office.

Based on my research, pu’er is a variety of fermented tea grown and produced in the Yunnan province of China. Interestingly, most of the tea comes from a town called Pu’er, which was named after the tea.

Liu bao is mainly from Guangxi province and has a longer history compared to pu’er tea.

Personally, I am also a fan of pu’er tea, because of its mellow yet powerful taste. It is a little sweet, compared to the slightly more bitter taste of unfermented or green tea, despite it being good for digestion.

After a heavy meal – like a sumptuous plate of biryani – pu’er is a good relief for the bloating sensation. This is where Xiaguan Tuocha comes in very handy indeed.

The longer the pu’er tea ages, the smoother is the taste of the tea. However, according to Tan, it is the aging of the unfermented tea that fetches a bigger value.

About a decade ago, the price of pu’er was only RM20 for a 357g cake, but the price has now increased tenfold.

The tea cakes that were manufactured around 2003 to 2005 now cost about RM300, while those that date back to the late 1990s can cost up to RM3,000! According to Tan,

“This, of course, depends on the market demand. Tea generally ages faster in Malaysia, because of a higher humidity.”

Lau Char’s tea business started in 2012, but it has since come a long way. They were initially representing Xiaguan Tuocha, but as of last year, they have added another feather to their cap by being appointed as sole distributor of Maosheng Liu Bao in Malaysia.

Because of the long business relationship, Xiaguan presented Tan’s late grandfather with a special souvenir of 35kg of compacted tea leaves for his involvement in organising Chinese calligraphy competitions in schools.

For a recent Penang exhibition, Tan brought along a tea compacting machine to give tea enthusiasts a firsthand experience of how tea leaves are compacted.

One thing that stood out for him on his recent visit to Maosheng was the respect for hygiene at its liu bao tea factory, which is dust-free. This, he said, totally changed his perception about the way Chinese tea is manufactured in modern China.

Most people are more familiar with the Cantonese name, lok po char, the term used by the Chinese settlers in Malaya.

Maosheng and Xiaguan are among the two largest tea manufacturers from China. Xiaguan has been around since 1902, and probably the first to introduce the pu’er series in China.

Besides these, Tan has also started his line of OEM-manufactured Chinese tea by Xiaguan, under the series known as Loong-Ma. Loong (dragon) represents China, and ma (horse) symbolises Malaysia. Loong-Ma, with its own special blend, is only available in Malaysia.

Walk-in guests are also welcome to learn more about Chinese tea from the staff.

Lau Char Trading Sdn Bhd is located at No 4 Jalan Besar, Kepong, 52100 Kuala Lumpur.

Penangites would be pleased to know that Lau Char has an outlet in Penang under the name Fumie Trading Sdn Bhd which is located at 277, Jalan CY Choy, 10300, Pulau Pinang.

Tel: 03-62631058
Websites: Lau Char
Facebook: Search for Tea Room Kl
Waze: Type Lau Char Trading Sdn Bhd

Getting the best of both worlds at Hyderabad Recipes

Getting the best of both worlds at Hyderabad Recipes

There is nothing like biryani from the source. We never flew to Hyderabad to taste biryani the way it was prepared for the Nizams, but we did go to the next best place: Hyderabad Recipes.

Our “flight” to Hyderabad Recipes was with two friends, Barnabas and Adelaine Boon, a couple in their sixties, to savour what has been called the best biryani in Kuala Lumpur. They told me that the biryani here was “an exception,” and I agree.

But I did something else. Because I wanted the couple to sample Mao Sheng Liu Bao tea as well, I brought along a Chinese tea set to Hyderabad Recipes – a practice which I hope will set a new trend here in Malaysia!

One of Hyderabad Recipes’ directors, Jasbeer Singh Kaura, and his very proactive operations manager, Jagannath, invited us to taste their “world famous dum biryani.” But later I found out that Jasbeer and I have something in common.

He told me that he has a Chinese tea set in his office – but it never occurred to him that biryani goes very well indeed with pu’er tea! As Barnabas put it:

“It is a perfect contrast between the spiciness of biryani with the mellow Chinese tea, which speaks of the calmness of the Oriental soul.”

Even Adelaine, who hardly eats mutton, agreed that the special mutton biryani lived up to its name, because of the soft texture, and the lack of the strong odour that puts many people off the meat.  

But the special chicken biryani was my favourite. Like a hidden treasure buried in the basmati rice, the chicken is slightly spicy, but went excellently with the Chinese tea. And it helps with digestion, too.

My suggestion is that if you are going to try out the food here at Hyderabad Recipes, you should bring along your favourite Chinese tea. They can even provide the pots and small cups at no corkage fee; otherwise, their masala tea is just as good to help with digestion.

If you are coming with a bigger group, I suggest you order their full portion BBQ platter, with tandoori chicken, grilled dory, prawns and mutton kebab. We were particularly mesmerised by the fish!

According to Jasbeer, he first discovered the magic of Hyderabadi food to be very good when he was based there.

“That’s why, together with two other partners, we decided to bring in the chefs from Hyderabad so that Malaysians can enjoy a meal of the authentic Hyderabadi food. One of my partners is in fact descended from the Nizams of Hyderabad. Using Hyderabad Recipes as a model, my partner has also expanded the business on his own since 2008 to establish some 126 franchisees around the world.”

Two of their signature dishes – the Hyderabadi fried chicken and Hyderabadi mutton fry – are best eaten with naan. As for naan toppings, you can choose from with garlic, chilli powder, sesame seed and mint leaves.

For desserts, though the gulab jamun reigns supreme for most, my personal preference is the carrot halwa, since I don’t have a sweet tooth.

And most amazingly, for a meal with for four adults and two children, the bill came up to just over RM100!

For the coming month of Ramadhan, their specials will include two flavours of chicken and mutton haleem. They also specialise in bheja fry (goat brains), malai paya (mutton soup), but these two dishes are only available for special orders and for catering purposes.

Hyderabad Recipes is located at No 78-1 Jalan Putra, near the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. There is a nice parking lot just 50 metres away.

Tel: 03-40447786 (booking and catering)
Business hours: Mon-Sun: 10am – 10pm

Websites: Hyderabad
Facebook: Hyderabad Recipes
Waze: Type Hyderabad Recipes

Restoran Binjai brings the budu to BU

Restoran Binjai brings the budu to BU

While most Malaysians would agree that nasi lemak is a national dish, a large number would also agree that it isn’t necessarily as tasty as nasi kerabu golok or nasi dagang, especially if it comes straight from Kelantan and Terengganu.

But they probably haven’t tasted Restoran Binjai’s unique nasi lemak.

In previous articles, I highlighted Pok Nik Nasi Kukus Ayam Kampung in Taman Bukit Permai and Azizah Nasi Kukus Ayam Berempah in Bandar Sri Damansara.

It is this very ayam rempah that sets Binjai’s nasi lemak apart.

When my nine-year-old son tried the nasi lemak, he told me: “Daddy, this is great! Try it yourself,” pointing to the ayam rempah, which is leagues beyond the normal fried chicken you can find anywhere else.

Here, I also found their nasi kerabu à la Kelantan to be very good, if a little on the salty side.

However, restaurant owner, Izzman Hafiz, who hails from Binjai, Kelantan, told me that guests can always request the dishes to be less salty.

“It is just a matter of reducing the budu sauce,” he says. “It’s like chili. Some people like it with a lot of chili, others prefer it without.”

For kids, Binjai serves nasi dagang which can be prepared non-spicy. A plate of rice, with pickled carrot and cucumber, served with a piece of ikan tongkol cooked in high quality santan, costs just RM8.50.

Izzman started the restaurant together with his mother in 2008 when he was only 24 years old. The recipes are from Izzman’s own mother.

“We are well-known for our nasi kerabu since the day we started business here. Our regular patrons know what to expect. Some of them therefore even place their orders using Uber Eats.”

The Nasi Kerabu consists of rice coloured by Asian pigeonwings, desiccated coconut and about seven different types of ulam, bean sprouts and fish crackers, which only costs RM5.

However, you have the option of adding ayam rempah or ikan celup tepung to your dish.

They also serve nasi campur, which is mostly ready for the lunch crowd by 10am. By 12.30pm, they’re ready to start taking à la carte orders.

Restoran Binjai is located at a hidden corner of Oasis Business Centre at Lot G10, Jalan Changkat, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya.

Tel: 012-274 7353
Business hours: 7 days a week (7.30am – 7.30pm)
Facebook: Restoran Binjai (Original)
Instagram: @restoranbinjai
Order: Through Uber Eats
Waze: Type Restoran Binjai

My Tips to Guilt-Free Eating

My Tips to Guilt-Free Eating

Now, I’m sure we are all dying to know the secret to achieve guilt-free eating because seriously, who is not struggling with it? At least, everyone I know does…

I have personally struggled with it my whole life, in fact, more than the average person would, due to my extreme tendencies. It has led me to much emotional distress in the past. But before this becomes a sob story, there’s a silver lining to it!

It took me a long time (all through my schooling years and adulthood) to get to where I am today with food and at a place where I’m comfortable around food; not overthinking my choices or guilt-stricken after I thought I made a “bad” choice.

But before I go rambling on about all the craziness that goes on in my head, let’s drill into the topic of the day:

“How can we all eat whatever we like and not feel guilty about our choices, especially when they are deemed “sinful” or “unhealthy”?

Everyone’s unique and different in their own ways, so there’s no one size that fits all. This is something that has worked well for me so I thought I would share it with you.

Tip #1: The 80:20 Lifestyle

80:20 is something I live by that I believe is not restrictive and definitely sustainable. It basically means eating wholesome food 80% of the time and the other 20% you let loose and have whatever you fancy. Don’t get me wrong, you do not need to be weighing out this ratio to the tee because that’ll just be stressful (and that’s not the point, eating healthy should not be stressful!). Here’s how I typically do it;

I would cook more at home and eat out less. For my schedule, it would normally be lunches and dinners at home on weekdays and dine out on the weekends. I love making nourishing meals (my recipes) with wholesome ingredients. So when I dine out, I’ll just order whatever I fancy; if it’s burger and fries on that day, then burger and fries it is!

Since I’ve started adopting this, I enjoy my food guilt-free. I do not have thoughts of wanting to work out more or eating less the next day just because I’ve overindulged that night. When I noticed myself feeling that way, I knew I had broken free from my unhealthy relationship with food.

Tip #2: Set your mind to 👉 “It’s about what you eat, not what you can’t eat”

With all these elimination diets going around (you know those that preaches no carbs, no fats, no sugar….), I personally think it’s more important to focus on what you are nourishing your body instead of what you want to eliminate from your plate.

I mean, eating well is just all about eating your greens, proteins, fats, and carbs from whole food. Since when has it become so complicated? #eatrealfood guys, that’s all you need to remember about eating well.

My take on balanced eating and having a healthy relationship with food is if I’m nourishing my body well enough on a daily basis, what’s an indulgent chocolate cake going to do with it… Our body is so wonderfully created to do amazing things (such as cleansing and detoxing); it is smarter than we think! So, go ahead and enjoy your cake; at the same time make sure to also nourish your body with lots of good stuff and real food.

Enjoy your food, nourish your body, have a good week ahead guys! And remember to always love, share, encourage, listen and give 😘

Lots of love,

Erina

Soon everyone can enjoy Judy’s Hakka lei cha

Soon everyone can enjoy Judy’s Hakka lei cha

When Judy Yap decided that she wanted the world to taste her Hakka lei cha, her entrepreneurial husband, Barry Tan, decided to do something about it.

But instead of a massive launch, the couple started their little “experiment” together by setting up a simple stall at the Centrepoint Hawker Centre in Bandar Utama.

Yap’s affinity towards lei cha is understandable, as she had been helping out at her sister’s stall selling vegetables in the Taman Tun Dr Ismail wet market. Coupled with a strong desire to share the secrets of healthy living, she was naturally attracted to the idea of promoting the lei cha.

Yap and her husband didn’t do a lot of promotion, except to inform her regular customers at the wet market about it, yet she rarely finds herself in want of customers.

“It is the support of our customers that we have been able to sustain our business. We are also able to maintain the quality of our lei cha through their feedback from time to time.”

One particular customer brought his father to try out the lei cha. Pleased with what he had tasted, the elderly gentleman asked to take a selfie with Judy’s brother, who was at looking after the stall at the time.

“The uncle told us that he would try to do something to promote our lei cha and make sure that we could remain in business for a long time. We were very touched by his kind gesture.”

Another customer of hers had never liked lei cha, but after her friend took her to Yap’s stall in Centrepoint, she had all the zeal of a convert.

“After that, she just fell in love with the lei cha. She and her family would eat lui cha at least once a week.”

Yet another customer told her that despite knowing about the lei cha stall, she had never tried it until some classmates who were organising a get-together suggested that they all met up there.

“This customer came to the TTDI wet market to tell me that even her friends were already talking about our lei cha. It really surprises me that the response has been very good. With that, I am further encouraged to expand the lui cha business.”

Just last week, the couple started their second venture at The Starling in Damansara Utama. Subject for another review in the future, but it is nevertheless interesting to see how the couple’s business has evolved from just a simple lei cha stall since they started in December 2016.

From my last article on lei cha, I realised that patrons are naturally drawn to this healthy herbal concoction, probably due to its lack of availability.

This is perhaps why when I was scanning all the food stalls at the Centrepoint Hawker Centre, I was naturally drawn to the lei cha stall there.

Yap says that she prepares the main part of the dish, the herbal broth, by herself, only letting her workers do the serving. “In that way, we have a better quality control over our lei cha so that we do not disappoint our regular patrons.”

When asked if she and her husband are thinking of eventually franchising the lei cha, she smiles widely. “Yes, if there are people who are interested, we can do it,” she said.

But Tan is more upfront. “Yes, we do have that in the works,” he said. “We plan to start more outlets throughout the country when we get young entrepreneurs willing to venture into it. With the current economic conditions, people need a business model that can work.”

Seeing the responses to my article on the lei cha as part of Voiz’ Healthy Food Trail, I have no doubts whatsoever that it will.

For other restaurants in the Healthy Food Trail, click here and here.

 

Yap’s lei cha hawker stall is located at at the hawker centre in Centrepoint Bandar Utama, No 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Tel: +6016 227 5679
Business hours: 10am – 9pm
Google Map: Search for Centrepoint Bandar Utama
Waze location: Waze for Centrepoint Bandar Utama

Joo Tiang’s Penang curry mee has no right to be this good

Joo Tiang’s Penang curry mee has no right to be this good

Fancy this: a bowl of Penang curry mee for just RM4 – and not in a small town, but in the Klang Valley!

There’s only one catch. Because it’s so good, you have to get to the Lim Sisters coffee shop before 10.30am, or all of Khaw Joo Tiang’s Penang prawn mee and curry mee may be sold out.

Khaw, who goes by the nickname “Leng Ma” (pretty mother), serves the Penang curry mee with a spoonful of chilli sambal mixed into white coconut broth. It also comes with brown squid, blood cubes and cockles.

Portions aren’t the biggest, but it’s enough to give most people a hearty breakfast. Or if you’re craving for more, you could opt to add additional noodles, only for an additional 50 sen.

According to Khaw’s son, Vincent Ng, they have maintained the low prices for a long time.

“The stall has been operating even before I was born. We have tried to maintain the prices for some time now. It is the volume that helps to sustain the business.”

Even better is the fact that unlike some hawkers, Khaw still does the cooking herself, waking up at 4am in the morning to prepare the special broth.

Hailing from Butterworth, Khaw and her husband started selling Penang curry mee in the 1970s. They made the trip to Petaling Jaya in the 1980s, selling only prawn mee, before setting up shop in Subang Jaya.

Now, her stall is located in Lim Sisters, Taman Sri Bintang, right next to SJK (C) Kepong 3. But have your GPS at the ready, because finding the shop would be difficult otherwise.

Ng, who also goes by “Ah Hong,” helps his mother at the stall six days a week. And it looks like the help is appreciated, because the stall appears to be the busiest in Lim Sisters, with waiting times of up to 20 minutes on busier days.

“Despite the prices, my Mom still tries to maintain the quality of the curry mee to satisfy the taste buds of her regular customers.”

Some may be put off by the general ambience of Lim Sisters, which tends to become as crowded as any other famous coffee shop in the Klang Valley. But just one taste of the curry mee will drown out the din of the crowd.

Besides curry mee and prawn mee, Khaw’s stall also serves Penang loh mee.

Lim Sisters coffee shop is located at 1 & 3, Jalan 3/36, Taman Sri Bintang, 52100 Kuala Lumpur.

Tel: +6012-663 1319
Business hours: 7am – 5pm (every day except Mondays)
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/GYTupVhhrro
Waze location: https://www.waze.com/livemap?zoom=17&lat=3.18869&lon=101.64125