Marrying Western technique with Eastern flavours
PETALING JAYA, May 26 — I felt reassured that I was eating pork — at Sanbanto — that was hormone- and antibiotic-free after listening to Rebecca and Peter Ng tell me about their father’s accidental journey into the pig farming business in Johor more than 10 years ago.
“He was in the business of waste water treatment and was experimenting with a partner’s pig farm in Jemeluang, Johor. Then the partner wanted to sell out and my father bought the farm,” said Rebecca.
The farm is certified under ISO2200 and HACCP, the food safety management systems, and the premium pork that’s produced is sold at its retail shops in SS2 in Petaling Jaya and Puchong.
The retail shops are also part of the restaurant, Sanbanto. “My father wanted a butchery section with retail, and we wanted F&B,” said Peter. So the two became one, and quite successfully too.
On a Sunday night, Sanbanto in SS2 is full of diners, many of whom are regulars. They bring with them wines to enjoy with their meals.
We start with a Pork Liver Pate which is not like a duck liver or chicken liver pate that is smooth and creamy. It has texture and is bursting with flavour. Slices of French Village bread are served with this, and fresh cucumber, lettuce and tomato, which give a healthy slant to this pate.
We have a Pork Belly Salad after this — slices of the belly seasoned and deepfried, and served on a salad, with a dip of honey and mustard. The thin slices of meat are crispy, and at the bite releases subtle hints of five-spice powder. The pork belly is moist within and goes well with the dip. They taste good even without it.
Rebecca tells me that the diners in PJ like their food with sauce, and they like their Spaghetti Carbonara a little runny. I tell her my preference, and out comes the pasta, deliciously thick and creamy, clinging to every strand of the al dente spaghetti.
It has a wonderful aroma, and is topped with small pieces of crispy bacon. It is scrumptious. It wipes away a bad memory of a so-called carbonara pasta once, in another restaurant, where I had to squeeze the milky, tasteless sauce out of the pasta.
The star of the evening is the Shoulder Loin Steak, usually 300 to 330 grams, which has been declared a bestseller in the Puchong outlet (at the IOI Boulevard, Jalan Kenari 7). The shoulder loin is a much coveted part of the pig, with only six or seven pieces per animal. If you are visiting your butcher, ask for “choong chooi”, which is the shoulder loin.
At Sanbanto it is panfried, leaving it with crispy edges where the fat is, and each bite is creamy and juicy, with a lovely aroma. The meat is naturally sweet, which says much for the animal which is not artificially pumped up with hormones and antibiotics. It is served on a bed of fried onions, and with a side salad. Simple is best when you have an excellent cut of pork.
Then there is this weekend dinner special, which is English Roast Pork with red wine sauce. Again it is the shoulder loin marinated with herbs like rosemary and thyme, and mustard for two days before being roasted in the oven for an hour. The meat is placed over vegetables like aubergines, carrots and celery for the roasting (Jamie Oliver-style) before being roasted.
This results in the pork being juicy and succulent. Even better, the vegetables have a quick stir-fry with dried chillies in the pan, so that they are spicy and aromatic, and enhancing their sweetness.
The roasted shoulder loin has a lovely texture, tender and creamy in part, and just needs a light dip into the wine sauce. You can help yourself to more of the wine sauce, but again the meat takes centre stage — it tastes so good.
Later I got to meet the chef — Sachiko P. Sieben — who’s married to a German. She combines the best of both worlds — Western techniques, with a touch of the East.
The portions of food are large, and really should be shared. It’s reasonably priced — the English Roast Shoulder Loin is RM42, Pork Belly Salad RM13, Pork Liver Pate RM15, Spaghetti Carbonara RM17. You could also have a Bacon and Cheese Burger here (RM17), Braised Pork Knuckle in Demi-Glace with butter rice RM25, Osso Buco (with pork) RM23.90, even a Meatball Pork Broth served with black bean and garlic bread for just RM10.
You can buy fresh pork and pork products like sausages and bacon here.
Sanbanto is located at 32 Jalan SS2/63, Petaling Jaya, Tel: 03-78776 1728. Its Puchong outlet, called The Pork Place is at 32 IOI Boulevard, Jalan Kenari 7, Bandar Puchong Jaya Tel: 03 8076 9608. Sadly, its Lucky Garden, Bangsar outlet is now closed.