PETALING JAYA, May 20 — When I heard that Ai Jiak Penang Food had reopened, I immediately placed my order.
I've been craving for that taste of Penang in the form of ju hu char, lorbak, belacan chicken wings and petai prawns. Even the fact that I had vinegared pork trotters a day before didn't deter me and I ordered Ai Jiak's version too.
After two meals (lunch and dinner), my tummy is satisfied.
Ai Jiak Penang Food is not known to many since they just started in February this year.
For those in the know, it is run by Choo Choon Keong and Kuek Chian Kiong who started their famed restaurant about six years ago inside the Chung Ling Alumni Club in PJ.
For this outlet at PJ's Sea Park area, they had partnered with Eddie Long.
Kuek is a talent in the kitchen. Even though he isn't a true blue Penang lang as he is from Johor, he has tasted the food there for over 10 years and can easily recreate the same taste.
He works in tandem with Choo, a Penang boy. Previously in advertising, Choo provides the bridge to those dishes as he sources for the right ingredients needed to make them.
Choo's maternal family, who are Hainanese, used to be in the restaurant business in Penang.
Similar to nasi lemak, everyone has an opinion about what they consider the best Penang and Nyonya food. As every family has their own version of dishes, there will be, of course, differences to taste or appearance of the dishes.
Nevertheless, the restaurant in Chung Ling Alumni Club has proven to be popular with members and many non-member diners as they appreciate that old school taste.
Originally, Ai Jiak served a different menu from the restaurant in Chung Ling Alumni Club. With the lockdown restrictions, the club has temporarily closed the restaurant.
Hence, Choo decided to reopen Ai Jiak to offer their popular items. Currently they're serving a temporary menu which is a small selection of their bestsellers.
You can order perut ikan, ju hu char, assam fish, vinegar pork trotters, lorbak, belacan chicken wings, chicken curry, babi pongteh and petai prawns. As the menu may change depending on availability of ingredients, it is best to just call to confirm.
When it comes to ju hu char, it's extremely hard to get a good version in restaurants here. Most times, it's more like a stir fried yam bean dish, as eateries omit the essential ingredients to cut costs.
This version has a lovely sweetness, thanks to the use of shiitake mushroom, carrots, and that all-important thin, crispy dried squid. They also use fragrant Sarawak white pepper that enhances the taste of the dish.
Vinegared pork trotters are a must order here. You will find it — balance is the key again — not overly sour nor toothachingly sweet. The bonus are the large, tender slices of old ginger that have soaked up the addictive gravy.
One of my favourite items from the Chung Ling club is the belacan fried chicken wings. As they use premium grade fermented shrimp paste sourced from Penang, it lends an appetising aroma to the tender meat. One can't stop at just one piece. That's how good it is.
The lorbak is just as good. However it does lose a little of its crispiness during the delivery but it's made up by the fragrant, tender meat that uses the milder tasting five spice powder brought in from Penang.
I also ordered their petai prawns (my first time trying it) and that dish didn't disappoint with its flavour packed sambal, stink beans and shelled prawns. It's not overly spicy and fragrant. Perfect with a plate of hot rice; you will be asking for seconds.
My meal was RM82 for the ju hu char, lorbak, belacan chicken wings, vinegared pork trotters and petai prawns. The portions were good for two meals and fed two of us sufficiently.
Ai Jiak Penang Food, 9, Jalan 21/12 (Opposite Public Bank Berhad), Sea Park, Petaling Jaya. Open: 11.30am to 7pm. Closed on Monday. Tel: 011-27788428. You can call to order the dishes for delivery at your own cost or self pick-up. Currently, there is no dine-in. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aijiakpenangfood/
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