Szechuan dishes that please the palate 

Eu Hooi-Khaw

Tangy and fragrant 'saliva chicken', or 'hau sooi kei'. – The Malaysian Insight pic, November 18, 2023.

THE first dish we ordered at Chu Cha Dan Fan Restaurant was the “saliva chicken”, or “hau sooi kei” in Cantonese, which translates chicken that gets you drooling.

And salivate you will. Chilled chicken slices were bathed in a sauce of dark vinegar, chilli and sesame oils with peanuts, minced raw garlic and chopped spring onions and finished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. It was hot, tangy, fragrant, and delicious as an appetiser or with rice.

The chicken was one of several Szechuan dishes in this modest restaurant, which has stood for about 10 years, in Section 14, Petaling Jaya.

“Boiled fish” was a dish that deserved a better name. It had slices of fish, beansprouts and noodles in a big bowl of red-hot soup laced with chilli and Szechuan spices. Thankfully, the Szechuan peppercorns were just enough to give a tingly effect without numbing the entire palate. We asked what fish it was and I believe I heard haruan, a freshwater fish. Together with the noodles and the beansprouts, it was a balanced one-dish meal on its own.

'Boiled fish' is a hot and flavourful fish stew with noodles. – The Malaysian Insight pic, November 18, 2023.

“Cabbage on a sizzling platter” was the vegetable stir-fried with garlic and pork and served hot and smoking. This cooking style seemed to deliver a sweeter, crunchier cabbage.

“Fried pork slices with balsam pear” were simply bitter gourd fried with marinated pork and garlic, ginger and green chilli slices .  I’m partial to bitter gourd and I liked the way it was cooked here.

Hot, smoky 'lao gan ma' fried rice. – The Malaysian Insight pic, November 18, 2023.

The “lao gan ma” fried rice featured fermented black beans, carrot and corn and chilli oil. It had the smoky aroma of wok heat.

We finished with the crispy pumpkin pie. It consisted of small flat rounds of sticky rice dough filled with pumpkin mash, dipped in breadcrumbs and deep fried. I liked the crispy covering, the sticky texture inside and the lightly sweet pumpkin mash. They were good eaten hot.

Fried pork slices with balsam pear, which is another name for bitter gourd. – The Malaysian Insight pic, November 18, 2023.

The food was reasonably priced. The “hau sooi kei” cost RM20, boiled fish (RM38), sizzling cabbage (RM22), fried rice (RM12), crispy pumpkin pie (RM12) and fried pork with balsam pear (RM26).

Chu Cha Dan Fan Restaurant is above Baker’s Cottage at 6A, Jalan 14/20, Petaling Jaya. Call 03-7931 1126, for enquiries. – November 18, 2023.

* Eu Hooi-Khaw has been writing about food for the longest time, covering all aspects, from restaurant reviews to cooking and recipes, as well as the healthy side of it. She has written for major newspapers and magazines, published the cookbook Fresh Ingredients, and also writes for her website

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