Chinese food in Malaysia is never the same as Chinese food in China, as it assimilates local Malay, Indian, and other influences. Inevitable, as the Chinese have settled in this part of the world for over 500 years. Chinese-Malaysian food will inevitably incorporate chilis, local herbs and vegetables like stink-beans (Malay: petai), condiments like fermented shrimp paste (Malay: belacan) and Indian spices. But at the heart of its cooking, the various Chinese regional cuisines - Hokkien/Fujianese, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese, Teochew/Chaozhou - stay rooted to their Chinese origins, never straying too far.
But in the case of Restaurant Kitchen Damansara Kim, it sometimes went beyond the boundaries of what constitute “Chinese” cooking. Case in point was the first dish:
Penang-style fruit rojak topped with crisp, battered squid rings. Penang rojak has its roots in Thai-Siamese raw salads (Thai: yum), localised with the addition of “hae koe”, a lethal-smelling and assertive thick, dark fermented shrimp sauce which could send most non-Penangites into death throes. The rest of the dressing are mainly sweet dark soy sauce, palm sugar, tamarind juice, chili paste, crushed peanuts. “belacan” (fermented shrimp paste) and toasted sesame seeds. Here at Restaurant Kitchen, “hae koe” has been dispensed with - it is Kuala Lumpur, after all, and that liquid gelignite won’t sit well with KL-lites. Adding battered golden-fried squid was a touch of genius, as its savoury flavour contrasted beautifully with the fruit rojak of crisp cucumber, jicama and pineapple.
Braised pork meatballs with fish-maw - slow-cooked in a claypot, the dish reflected the chef’s Hakka origins, and the Hakka people’s love for pork. Only 60 of these large, juicy pork meatballs were produced each day, so they do run out fast. Paired with the spongey fish-maw which soaked up the sweet meat juices, soft tofu and shitake mushrooms, the stew was hearty and rich, and packed with flavour.
Stewed spicy pig’s trotter with garlic, chilis and coriander root - this was one of the chef’s signature dishes, with the sharp-tasting sauce cutting into the fatty richness of the soft, fall-off-the-bone tender meat of the pig’s trotter.
Spicy aubergines with “taucheo” (fermented, salted soybean paste), chilis and scallions - a classic dish here in Malaysia, which one finds almost everywhere. It’s done very, very well here, with just the right balance of flavours.
Restaurant Kitchen is related to Super Tanker, a local dining icon headed by Hakka-Cantonese chef, Chin Jin Fah, known to his many fans as “Ah Wah Kor” or Big Brother Wah, who’s been ruling the roost here in Damansara Kim/Damansara Glo here since 2004.
Restaurant Kitchen Damansara Kim (文华轩小厨)
48, SS20/10, Damansara Kim
47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: +603-7732 1329
Operating hours: 10.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm daily