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.

One of the specialties of the restaurant are known as 'abacus seeds'. They look 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 flavour of the dish.

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

The signature dish that almost every other table ordered is their salt baked chicken. The main flavours of the ripped up chicken came from salt, pepper and sesame oil. Tasty with steamed 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 .

Braised pork belly with mustard greens was one of those items that almost every other table had. I hadn't realised until recently that this was of Hakka origins. The ones here were delicious with soft fat from the pork belly melting into the stewed mustard greens, imparting the aroma of lard into the vegetables.

The stuffed tofu was tau kwa, not tau hu. I actually prefer the former to the latter most of the time so this dish scored 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.

Food's not mind blowing. One doesn't look for that 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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