You may wonder, what's the fuss about this traditional Hakka dish until diners are willing to drive far and wide for THE experience here when they are able to sample it without the travel? It lies with the authentic flavor that most Malaysians believe co-exists with the village; if you've not tasted Yong Tau Foo until you've eaten it in New Village. The dish is supposedly to have originated here from way back when.
We even spotted Kedah-registered and Singapore-registered vehicles leaving the restaurant grounds after the travelers satiated their cravings.
I've had the opportunity to sample the one in my little district and compare the experience with the one garnered here. The former lacked the explosive flavors that the cuisine is known for; it tasted like it was not made-to-order and instead commercially produced in bulk, but enough of my ramblings.
Let's move on to the topic.
Before I continue, I'll have to warn you, my readers, that the restaurant may not be impressive like the newer ones in the city with air-conditioners and television to entertain the bored diners. The owners would rather have their dishes known for its beauty and flavor than the place itself and judging from the immense crowd from our previous visits, the patrons don't seem to mind that it lacked decorations.
If you're uncomfortable with the heat and don't wish to be subjected to a long period of waiting (for seats and the food), I'd suggest to head to Foong Foong after the lunch hour crowds - at around 2pm. Don't forget to ask someone who's fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese to come along with you - to prevent any language barriers.
I'm sure most of you are aware that whenever I speak Mandarin, it has the Caucasian drawl to it. When Mama Carrie nudged me to place the order for the fried wanton, I eventually surrendered and spoke to the young chap in English (even though it's obvious he's more comfortable in the aforementioned languages).
Unlike other restaurants where someone will hover to your table and receive your food and drink orders, Foong Foong works on a different method. The only person who will come to your table is to take your drinks - or in the odd moments, the guy selling lottery tickets (give it a go; who knows if you're lucky to strike something?) You'd have to place your order at the cashier with your table number and the desired portion instead. If you're unsure, feel free to ask the young chap manning the place for his recommendations and suggestions according to the number of diners.
If you hear the occasional conversations from the microphones in the background, fret not, for it is the shop's way of communicating the orders between the cashier and the kitchen.
Mixed Yong Tau Foo - 15 pieces (RM 1 each) consists of stuffed bitter gourd, fish ball, soft tofu, fried tofu skin, stuffed ladies finger (or okra), stuffed chili, stuffed brinjal [Southeast Asian English, eggplant in American English and aubergine in British English]
The moment when the plate arrived at the table, I kept looking at it, especially the bitter gourd, instead of sharing the portion with Mama Carrie. I have no idea why, but I always found the bitter gourd overcooked and under-seasoned, almost knocking me off with the distinctive bitterness. The brinjal, however, was sitting comfortably at the other end of the spectrum. It was done to perfection and for someone who once hated this vegetable, the aromatic flavors convinced me to sample this vegetable cooked in other styles.
The fish balls were soft and chewy; it tasted fresh from the kitchen.
Fried Wanton - 4 pieces (RM 1 each)
A mixture of pork and fish paste is stuffed into the wantons as the fillings before being dipped and fried in oil. You can hear the crunch as you sink your face into it, allowing the oil to seep into your pores. The paste does contain a piquancy that fortunately does not overwhelm the taste buds with the sodium chloride (if you're the regular foodie that Papa Carrie once was) or leave your tongue numb, but we found ourselves constantly reaching out to the hot glass of Chinese tea after every couple of bites to drench the thirst.
Hmmm, did someone slip in a tad bit more salt without the person's knowledge?
With that being said, there is no aftertaste of oil on the palate - unlike certain deep-fried dishes where you feel like you've ingested a gallon of oil.
We'll definitely return for a final round of Ampang Yong Tau Foo before my flight departure. I doubt I'll be able to find something as authentic as this over there or in my little district. If/when we do, you have my word that I'll pen a longer review of Foong Foong.
Yes, I'm aware that my verbal directions may be much clearer than the drawn one. I was drawing the map off-memory as we almost lost our way there as well.
- If you are coming from Jalan Ampang, keep driving straight all the way and up the flyover.
- Ampang Point will be on your left as you continue on.
- Keep straight and don't make any turns until you see the police quarters in the far distance.
- The shortcut leading to Foong Foong is a sharp turn after the police quarters; keep an eye out for cars signaling their intentions to turn into a small alley - if you are lucky, you will see them.
- Drive through that little alley and take the second left lane and immediately turn right. The restaurant will be on your left.
Or, you could easily ask any shop with Chinese employees for directions.
You can find available parking spots anywhere around the restaurant, but DO NOT PARK on Foong Foong grounds. The parking attendants will demand that you pay the stipulated parking fee, even though it is not required and the bays away from Foong Foong are free.
Foong Foong Restaurant,
621A, Jalan Besar Ampang
Kampung Baru Ampang,
68000 Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
Phone: +6012 209 5529
Business Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 9pm to 4pm