Foo Chow Fish Ball Soup
Talk about Chinese cuisine and naturally your mind sways to Cantonese style of cooking, or maybe a dash of Hokkien in there (the dark soy sauce braised items, or the incomparable fried Hokkien mee, anyone?), at times a Hainanese chicken rice comes into the picture.
Very seldom do we hear of fantastic Foo Chow cuisine being promoted on the mainstream media, as compared to regional cuisines from China.
But here in Sitiawan, a relatively small (but many said rich) town in Perak, you can easily find restaurants dishing out a healthy range of authentic Foo Chow delights. Selection such as sweet and sour fish maw soup, sweet and sour pork, red wine mee suah (mee suah is a type of local rice vermicelli noodles almost indigenous to places with a predominant Foo Chow culture), Foo Chow fish balls soup, oyster omelette (yup, the beloved "Or Chien" from the north is also a Foo Chow's specialty!) and even Gong Pian; a type of savoury biscuits baked to a crispy finish; loaded with bits of onions fried in a rich ladle of lard oil.
Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs with Yam & Pickled Mustard
Foo Chow cuisine to me, is still a largely unexplored world. I started adopting the variety of signature Foo Chow dishes at Bei King Restaurant in Sitiawan; hands down THE most popular eatery in town for traditional array of local delights.
Since then, whenever duty called or traveling on our own (more often than not an extravagant food run!) to Sitiawan, we would always stopped by Bei King for a meal. Lunch or dinner, we almost always settled for the same stuff; a serving of red wine mee suah, a dish of sweet and sour meat (pork usually, but sometimes fish maws too) and a plate of tofu or oyster omelette.
Red Wine Mee Suah
But before you go .. oh, I don't take liquor hence I'd rather not sip on the funky-sounding red wine noodles! Stop. The red wine is a local delicacy too, made from fermentation of red yeast rice, without the alcohol intoxication that you had anticipated for.
Usually served with chicken and a side bowl of the rice vermicelli noodles (you can also visit some of the mee suah factories around town), the broth can either taste sweet or slightly sour. It is highly dependent on the skills of the maker, or like the locals say; whether she has a 'sweet hand' or a 'sour hand'.
Sweet & Sour Fish Maw Soup
Aside from the dishes mentioned above, Sitiawan also houses a small village area named Kampung Koh that is regionally famous for its garlic chili sauce. If you drop by town, it's highly advisable that you buy home a few bottles as souvenirs, or simply douse your noodles or fried chicken with the piquant sauce. We know we did.
The same Kampung Koh chili sauce is also extensively used in the cooking; especially the sweet and sour dishes. The Fish Maw Soup has a nice balance of sweet, sour, savoury and spicy in it; of course punctuated by the soft, almost squishy pieces of fish maws; another delicacy that's prized by the Foo Chow clan.
Then complete the feast with a crispy egg omelette studded with bits of small oysters, a fibre-rich plate of stir-fried mixed vegetables and the humble tofu soup cooked with fish balls and 'choy sum' (mustard greens).
Bei King has since moved from its original location along the main road of Jalan Raja Omar to its present location (a much larger premise that can seat up to hundreds of people, plus a hotel upstairs!) on Jalan Kampung Selamat. Prices can be a little steep when compared to the casual restaurants in town, but definitely worth the price paid if you're newly introduced to the taste of Foo Chow cuisine.
BEI KING HOTEL & RESTAURANT
Lot 35535, Taman Desa Selamat,
Jalan Kg Selamat,
32000 Sitiawan, Perak
Tel No :+605-691 0253
GPS : 4.213606,100.704866 (estimated)
*From main road of Jalan Raja Omar (same road as old Bei King), turn left in between Alliance Bank and Nissan Showroom. You will be on Jalan Menon. After about 1km, you will see Bei King on your left after the Simpang Ampat church.