Find well-executed HK 'cha chaan teng' classics and more in PJ The Starling's Kam Kee Cafe
PETALING JAYA, March 12 — The unmistakable scent of butter wafts through the air, which, amidst a bevy of piercing artificial fragrances, reaches out to you like an inviting hand.
When you do stop by the front, the golden glow from the pineapple buns (polo pao in Cantonese) on display illuminates your face, just like John Travolta opening the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Inside, the classical flooring of a Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng works only to draw you in deeper.
Once inside, it’s hard to believe you’re in a mall, but Kam Kee Cafe in The Starling is one of the first overseas locations of the famed brand which started in 1967.
With over 20 locations in Hong Kong alone, they now have two locations in Malaysia, with another in The Tropika, Bukit Jalil.
Expect classics here like the aforementioned pineapple buns (RM6.80), which come with a fridge-cold knob of butter for the perfect contrast of hot, sugary-sweet and cold, milky-fat notes in your mouth in each bite.
Hong Kong milk tea and 'Snow White' are just some of the classic drinks here.
In classic Cantonese style, the century egg and pork porridge is silky smooth, and the lean slices of pork are incredibly tender.
This is a must every time I’m here, and I always get a resounding earful from my mother when they run out, like it’s my fault?
You can also find other cha chaan teng classics like macaroni and soup, borscht and cheese-baked pork chop rice, though they aren’t really my thing.
It’d be a cardinal sin to write about a place like this without mentioning the Hong Kong milk tea (RM6.80), which they also sell cans of at the counter. It’s bursting with tea flavour, and the creaminess is just right.
The Snow White (RM8) is nothing more than a can of Sprite poured down a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and it doesn’t need to be anything more. A fizzy, smooth and sugary delight, it took my father back to his childhood in an instant.
It may not look like much, but the beef brisket curry is satisfying and full of flavour.
A simple classic executed to perfection, the fried 'hor fun' with beef slices make for a great lunchtime option.
For something a bit more substantial, there is the century egg and pork porridge (RM12.80). Velvety, tender slices of lean pork are bathed in classic Cantonese-style porridge, which is silky smooth, as it should be.
Anyone who knows me knows the enemies-to-lovers-esque arc in my relationship with porridge and can wholeheartedly vouch for this version.
Another classic done well here is the beef brisket curry (RM23.80 with rice). Taste-wise it is very much reminiscent of Japanese curry, but not quite as sweet, which probably comes from the similar application of curry powder (which can be traced back to British colonial rule but that’s another story). It’s got a pleasant heat to it and is truly satisfying over white rice.
The Hong Kong fried hor fun with beef slices (RM19.80) may look simple but is executed really well.
There’s enough wok hei in the dish, each bit of hor fun slides effortlessly into your mouth, and the beef is really tender to boot.
My absolute favourite thing to eat here! Fried rice with ox tongue is so hard to find and I always come back to this place for it.
The French toast with peanut butter and honey is certified GCD: golden, crispy and delicious.
But my absolute favourite thing here, without a shadow of a doubt, is the fried rice with diced ox tongue with black pepper (RM18.80).
You’d be hard-pressed to find a place that does fried rice with ox tongue, and it’s even harder to find one done as masterfully as this.
You bite the ox tongue and it bites back, with that really satisfying almost QQ-like texture. The rice is perfectly fried, giving it a light and fluffy mouthfeel, and each and every grain of rice can be identified.
The dish goes perfectly with the chilli oil they have on the table; not too spicy, and it has a warm heat to it to give each bite that extra oomph.
You can't miss it when you walk by: everything from the walls, and the floor to the glow emitted by the pineapple buns are a sight for sore eyes in a mall.
To wrap things up, I couldn’t pass up on the French toast with peanut butter and honey (RM9.80). The egg coating around the bread is incredibly light and evenly applied, and inside lies a layer of salty, creamy peanut butter, which, when eaten with the honey, makes for a salty, sweet and sticky finish to your meal.
It’s a fittingly satisfying way to end the meal, and all that’s left is to remember to tapau some pineapple buns home for snacking later.
Kam Kee Cafe @ The Starling
G-032, Ground Floor, The Starling, 6, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Open daily, 10am-10pm
Tel: 03-7733 3168
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