Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plum Village Restaurant, Jalan Leban

Plum Village Restaurant (16 Jalan Leban, tel : +65 6458 9005) is an institution for traditional Hakka food. They have been around for at least a couple of decades and it was only a few years back that I was first introduced to their salt baked chicken which I remembered was delicious. When one mentions traditional, old school and no frills, this would be one of those establishments.

One of the specialties of the restaurant are known as 'abacus seeds'. They look essentially like gnocchi and are made from flour and yam. These dumplings of flour and yam are cooked before hitting the stir fry with minced pork, dried shrimp, mushrooms and dried cuttlefish which makes up the dominant flavors of the dish.

There was something that the menu described as sweet and sour pig stomach. The actual dish turned out to be more of a savoury and sour pig stomach  dish that was stir fried with exactly the same ingredient one finds in sweet and sour pork; sans the red sauce. So we were getting diced cucumbers, pineapples, capsicums and onions in a familar tasting stir fry without the sweet element and it tasted pretty good as well. I liked this.

The signature dish that pretty much everyone orders is their salt baked chicken. The dominant flavors of the ripped up chicken came from salt, pepper and sesame oil and it was really quite tasty with white rice. It was a little unfortunate that the white rice cooked here was beady, dry and boring.

What I liked about their cabbage and meatball soup were the meatballs which were made with bits of powdered dried sole that added a depth of aroma into those balls.

Braised pork belly with mustard greens was one of those items that pretty much everyone orders as well. I hadn't realised until recently that this was of Hakka origins. The ones here were quite delicious with soft fats from the pork belly melting into the stewed mustard greens, imparting the aroma of lard into the vegetables.

The stuffed tofu was actually tau kwa, not tau hu. I actually prefer the former to the latter most of the time so this dish scores more for me. The minced meat stuffings that they used for the bean curd were exactly the same ones that were used to make the meatballs for the soup.

Mind blowing is not something that one generally looks for here. But if you're looking for some straight forward and traditional Chinese food that hasn't changed for years, this place would be it.

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