Chef Choi: Think global, add local
KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — When it comes to eating at Chef Choi, there is no such thing as a simple or small dinner. At least not with our group.
Our big dinner kicked off with a Peruvian-style ceviche! But chef/owner Chan Thye Seng had given it an Asian touch. The slices of garoupa had been “cooked” in a mixture of lime juice, fish sauce and a little honey and then served with some raw onions, fresh coriander and cili padi for some added heat.
The fish was cut quite thick so the marinade could draw out some liquid from it. This just mellows out the marinade, which is also served together with the ceviche.
“Drink the sauce,” Chef Chan told us. And we did, and it was good.
After that came the DIY part of the meal: Vietnamese spring rolls. Yes, we would be wrapping up the rolls ourselves but this being Chef Choi these were no ordinary spring rolls as Matsuzaka beef and Iberico pork had starring roles.
We were told to pick up a slice of beef or pork with our chopsticks, swish it in the bubbling broth and then lay it on the rice paper. We then piled on the shredded radish and carrot that had been “pickled” in a little fish sauce and vinegar, beansprouts, shredded lettuce and fresh basil.
I liked the lumpy, imperfect roll that I made where the juicy, sweet and velvety meat harmonised with the sweet and sour carrots and radish with a fragrant punch from basil. I had four of these rolls before I stopped myself.
The Double-boiled Snakehead Fish Soup with Apple struck a chord with me. Snakehead fish is ikan haruan or sang yue. The fish had been fried first to take away the fishy smell, then double-boiled with red apples and pork. You can imagine all these contributing to the aroma and the round, sweet flavours of the soup. It was excellent.
When it comes to “sang chow loh mei fan” all resistance is futile. This is glutinous rice fried with great skill in a wok with Chinese sausages, dried shrimps and black mushrooms. We had these glistening, delicious sticky grains tucked under the Roast Crispy Suckling Pig. I had two pieces of the crispy skinned pig, and loved it but I liked the glutinous rice even more, and had three helpings of this.
Then there was the perfectly steamed Soon Hock with Light Soya Sauce. The fish weighed a whopping 1.8kg. “It’s very hard to turn out a smooth steamed Soon Hock that is more than 1.5kg,” said Chef Chan. But the fish was superbly smooth and delicate; the sauce was so good I even drank it up.
It’s been a long time since I had a good See Yau Kei or Braised Chicken with Soya Sauce. The Chef Choi one was redolent of spices — star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg — and there was a balanced sweetness in the lovely sauce. Just this and the spinach with shrimps we had earlier would have been wonderful with rice for a simple meal.
But our big dinner continued with Fried Shredded Iberico Pork with Fruit Sauce. The pork was crispy, sticky and sweet, with the aromas of the garlic and spring onions clinging to it.
Dinner ended on a high note with the Tarabagani Ramen. Alaskan king crab claw meat topping the ramen, together with Japanese leek, pickled bamboo shoot and corn kernels made for a very luxe bowl of noodles. The king crab was a treat, as was the complex, flavourful stock.
All these dishes have to be ordered at least a day in advance at Chef Choi. The Braised Chicken with Soya Sauce is RM72, Double-boiled Snakehead Fish with Apple RM22 each serving, Fried Shrimps with Spinach RM38, and the Barbecued Crispy Suckling Pig with Glutinous Rice RM413. Fish is usually at market price, according to its weight.
Chef Choi is located at 159 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Tel: 03-2163 5866.