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

Saravana offers more than the food it serves

Saravana offers more than the food it serves

With Deepavali round the corner, we decided to review a few Indian restaurants, starting with Saravana Bhavan in Bangsar.

Especially popular with the last-minute shoppers, Saravana Bhavan, located on the same row as DeGem’s Bangsar flagship boutique along Jalan Maarof, is indeed the other hidden gem in the world of gastronomy that has yet to be discovered, especially by the non-Indian community.

For the Indian community, the cuisines here need no introduction, but for the uninitiated Chinese and Malay families, this is indeed a Muhibbah experience especially with the children.

The impression has always been that Indian restaurants in Bangsar are all fine dining and expensive, or you can get the same things in an ordinary Mamak restaurant.

But the reality is Saravana is an established brand and a global franchise from Chennai, Southern India which serves good vegetarian dishes that are not terribly expensive. And, it is in a conducive airconditioned environment that does not suggest that it is a posh restaurant.

For example, its quick lunch is priced at RM12.70. I like to call it the four-season rice, because it features four different ways in which rice can be cooked and served South Indian style; therefore, it is a good way for diners like me to savour a bit of four kinds of rice in one dish.

That is something to start with, but the list is endless as we begin to discover after chatting with the Managing Director and CEO of Saravana, P.R. Shiva Kumaar, whose visit to this franchise outlet is a bonus to us. We were told that the first Saravana Bhavan restaurant was set up in Chennai in 1968, so by 2018, the
Saravana restaurant chain would be celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

Shiva is the son of the founder, 69-year- old P. Rajagopal, who has been identified by New York Times as the legend who “brought prestige to the vegetarian business.”

Currently, the family has over a hundred franchisees in India and another 72 franchise outlets in 20 different countries around the world. The first franchise outside of India was set up in Dubai in 2000. In Malaysia, its first outlet was open in Jalan Maarof in 2003; since then, another five Saravana outlets have been set up.

Shiva’s task is to visit these franchisees at least twice a year in his international circuit. He personally looks into the nitty-gritty of the operations.

“We believe in serving the food fresh,” he says. “For us, a meal here at Saravana is more than the food itself, it is an experience for the entire family.”

A dosa, for example, is a same dosa everywhere, but the moment the Ghee Roast Dosa (RM10.10) was served, there was the “wow! So Big!”

The crispy pancake-like crepe is not the usual moist dosa that is served ‘flat’ on the plate; it is crispy enough that it can be folded into something that looks like a tunnel, and this is what turns one of the invited guests, Cherise Boey.

Then, when the Channa Bhatura (RM10.60), which is usually served as a delicious Indian breakfast, it also raised a lot of excitement with all the ‘Oh, la la…’

Even young Alyson Ng, 6, suddenly finds her eyes brightening up to the ‘Channa’ or the fried bread. For the uninitiated, the `Bhatura’ is the yummy curried chick peas, which I thought was what made the ‘Bhatura’ taste delicious when eaten with.

For those who want to try out their vegan meat, they have their vegan chicken fry (RM11.70) and vegan garlic mutton (RM12.20). The Saravana SPL (short for Special) meals are priced at RM15.90, which is really about the price of a plate of Aglio Oglio in most Western restaurants.

It is quite an experience for the children to try out the different things in the Saravana SPL – sweet, poori, a side dish, rice, sambar, rasam, vegetables, curries, raitha, curd and appalam and pickle.

This is one good reason why the children can learn something about the Indian culture through its food. The beauty is that Saravana has a wide repertoire of choice, that sometimes, we find it hard to decide what to try out first, but children pick up fast, and they know what to order after a couple of times.

Restaurant manager, Rangasamy Dorairaj says families can ask for a set of quiz questions for their children to attempt to learn something about the Indian vegetarian dishes served.

“When they are able to answer all the questions correctly, with some help, of course, they will get a little surprise gift,” he said.

Moreover, for those of us who have not tasted what a good Indian vegetarian restaurant can offer, Saravana offers more than just the food. It is the experience. The entire family need not travel as far as to Chennai to try out some of the best cuisines that Saravana serves here.

Saravana Bhavan is located at these locations:

Bangsar Baru, KL
2, Jalan Maarof, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 8:30AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-2287 1228

Ampang, KL
26, Leboh Ampang, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 8AM – 11PM)

Petaling Jaya
9, Jalan 52/2, Bandar Baru Petaling Jaya, 46200 Petaling Jaya
(Hours: 8:30AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-7954 1755

Dang Wangi, KL
Dang Wangi 1007, Selangor Mansion, Jalan Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 8AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-2698 3293

Brickfields, KL
Brickfields 196, Jalan Tun Sambathan, Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 7:30AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-2260 3755

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.