Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beef noodles, just as you like it - The Star

Jul 3, 2008

THREE things come to mind when I recall the good old days of Foch Avenue, which has been renamed Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, after the founding father of the Malayan Chinese Association (now the Malaysian Chinese Association).

Still made by hand: Shin Kee is one of the few makan places around the business district that offers hand-made noodles.

First, the “Wild West” era, when phai kia (bad hats) roamed freely along the five-foot-way, terrorising secondary school students by mugging them in broad daylight.

A few of my schoolmates fell victim to such muggers and it was not until the late 80s that crime prevention rounds were intensified by the cops to deter the rising crime rate.

Kids were fearful of getting mugged while they waited for their buses at the bus stand located in front of the old Standard Chartered Bank in this area.

Thugs and misadventures aside, the next thing that came to mind was the second-hand bookstores that dotted this busy main road.
Busy area: The intersection of Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Jalan Tun H.S. Lee.

I used to sell my old Beano, Dandy and 2000AD comics for pocket money to a newsvendor who set up shop next to the Standard Chartered Bank here.

It justified spending 30 sen on the bus ride and a trip to the Rex cinema at Jalan Sultan where, for RM1.60, one could enjoy a movie in the comfort of a first-class seat.

But, it was the third and most memorable thing that got me coming back to Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock – the good food – and this can be found at Lai Foong coffee shop.

If you grew up in the city, this is one makan place that needs no introduction. Lai Foong began its business more than half a century ago.

Today, it is still going strong. What I like about eating in this coffee shop is the no-frills selection of rice and noodle dishes. And one of the most famous stalls in this eatery is the ngau chap meen (beef noodles).

After 51 years, the quality and portion is still as good. When it comes to pricing, I would say that the fare is decent and the portion, generous.

Tasty and unique: Shin Kee's beef noodles.

A bowl of beef noodles costs RM5 for a small helping and RM6 for a bigger helping, for those with a large appetite. Now, if you ask the seasoned folks who eat here, they would recommend a “customised” bowl of beef noodles.

For me, the thrill here is to ask for the ngau peen or bull's penis. This special dish can cost RM12 or more, depending on the choice morsels that you add.

And, since the “extra” special ingredient is not always available, not every beef noodle lover would get an order of bull's penis. I was told that you have to go early or call the stall owner to book your additional serving of the bull's pride.

So, how does it compare with the mamak's sup torpedo? Well, there are differences. The sup torpedo version is rather crunchy while Lai Foong's ngau peen is tender.

No drop in quality: Lai Foong's beef koay teow has retained its quality and taste after all these years.

Whichever way you look at it, it will take plenty of guts to munch down an exotic dish such as this. Bull's penis aside, there are some really good stalls at Lai Foong.

But, before you embark on your journey to this coffee shop, let me remind you that parking lots around this central business district are limited.

Not only that; the makan place is usually packed during lunch hour – so, if you want to enjoy your noodles, the best thing to do is to get there early.

The kai fan (chicken rice) came highly recommended and if you love Chinese confectionery and pastries, there is the Tong Kee stall that sells them.

For your late tea session, my recommendation would be the sesame crackers and butter buns. You cannot go wrong with this combination.

And, while we are on the subject of beef noodles, there is another makan place opposite Lai Foong coffee shop called Shin Kee beef noodle specialist.

It is easy to locate this eatery because it is a corner lot and it is perpetually crowded. I discovered this noodle shop when I made my way to a bank here to pay the instalment on my car loan.

I learnt that the noodles at this shop are hand-made and each bowl costs RM6 (small) and RM8 (large). You can ask for beef balls or ngau chap (beef offal).

Service is prompt and with the good tasting noodles, the makan experience here is pretty pleasant. The shop is open from 10am to 5pm and is closed on Wednesdays.

To get to Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, you can take an LRT ride to the Pasar Seni station and take an eight–minute walk. Major bus companies also ply this route and the nearest stops are at the Central Market and Kota Raya complex.

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