[Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia] Heng Hwa lunch at Hong Ngek (風月酒家)

We had a Heng Hwa lunch from the 70+ years-old traditional Chinese eatery, Hong Ngek, on Jalan Tun HS Lee in KL’s old downtown. Founded by the late patriarch, Phung Kim Hooi, right after World War II, Hong Ngek is now run by his daughter-in-law and is one of the last old-school eateries left in the city.

I lived in KL from 2011 to early 2017, but haven’t had a chance to try this place, as most of my KL-lite office colleagues and friends prefer newer, more swanky places than an old, retro spot. But I’d always been fascinated by old eateries which lasted for half a century or more - they must be doing something right. So, this trip to KL, I made a concerted effort to come here.

We ordered some of Hong Ngek’s signature dishes here:

  1. Braised pig’s trotters - the long steamed/braised dish resulted in gelatinous pig’s skin on a rich, moist meaty interior. The brown gravy was relatively bland for my taste. I’d have preferred a more robust take on the dish in terms of spicing or flavouring.

  2. Steam-baked herbal chicken - not a bad rendition, but paled significantly against the one at Penang’s own retro dining spot, Hing Kee. Note to self: need to write up on Hing Kee here.

  3. Stuffed lotus root - one of those dishes which seemed interesting on paper, but its execution left much to be desired: like the other dishes here, it seemed to lack any distinct flavours.

  4. White pomfret cooked two ways - this dish is, IMO, the piece de resistance of the whole meal: a well-executed dish with a large, meaty pomfret cooked in two ways - half of the fish was steamed, and the other half wok-fried with peppers and beansauce-dark soysauce.

  5. Stir-fried “siew pak choy” (small Chinese cabbage) with garlic - the obligatory dish of greens on a Chinese meal spread here is also done with a very light hand in the seasoning.

Hong Ngek is terribly crowded on weekdays during lunch, as the nearby office crowd forms its main client base. I must confess that its cooking style does not quite suit my palate - it lacked the “wok hei” which Cantonese cooking offers, and I found the flavours of its dishes too bland for my taste. That said, Hong Ngek, as a place which has been operating for more than seven decades, has to have its legion of fans who kept it going.

Address
Hong Ngek Restaurant (風月酒家)
50, Jalan Tun H S Lee, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-2078 7852
Opening hours: 10.30am-7.30pm, Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold