A restaurant in Sungai Petani offers this specialty and many other delicious dishes at competitive prices too, writes Alan Teh Leam Seng
“HOW can porridge be fried? How is the taste different from the normal version?” I curiously ask my friend Jeremy Siah as we veer off the North South Expressway via the Sungai Petani North exit.
Jeremy, a man with infinite patience, suggests that I wait until we reach the restaurant in Taman Intan first to have my questions answered.
It is a little past 5.30pm when our car grinds to a halt in front of Kuantan Xianren Restaurant.
I begin to get worried at the sight of several empty stalls at the periphery. “It looks too quiet. Perhaps it is closed?” I ask Jeremy while gesturing towards the empty parking lots nearby.
Putting his arm on my shoulder, Jeremy assures me the restaurant is open.
“The stalls outside operate only in the morning. Soon you will see a large dinner crowd. In another two hours' time, you will probably find it difficult to get a seat!” Jeremy explains as we head towards a table under a whirring fan.
Jeremy's initial plan is to sample the restaurant's special fried porridge before heading off to another part of town for dinner.
Later, after browsing through the recently revamped menu, Jeremy makes an about-turn and suggests dinner here as well.
“Look at the dishes and their prices. Very competitive indeed,” he whispers as soon as thewaiterwalks out of earshot.
Captivated by the easy-to-read menu and its many colourful accompanying photographs, Jeremy and I soon find ourselves getting carried away.
Most small- to medium-sized offerings are priced competitively between RM6 and RM15.
We must have ordered too much because the petite waitress asks if we are expecting more guests after she has repeated our order.
The service here is fast. The special fried porridge, priced at RM5, arrives at our table in less than 15 minutes.Feeling rather hungry because of an early lunch, Jeremy and I make quick work of the savoury gruel.
Bits of dried cuttlefish, yam slices and dried shrimp can be seen in each spoonful as they emerge from the thick starchy mass.
After a few mouthfuls, I come to the conclusion that I will take this porridge any day over the ordinary version.
Four families, with members ranging from three to about eight each, arrive in quick succession by the time the other dishes reach us. The once-quiet atmosphere is now starting to get lively. It is nice to see family members spanning three generations sitting down to enjoy a nice meal.
The kam heong chicken (RM10) cooked in dark sauce emits a nice aroma. Its taste is equally flavourful. My piece, which is part of the upper thigh, has a crispy skin and tender flesh underneath.
Jeremy and I unabashedly finish a few more pieces before moving on to the venison cooked in a tangy black pepper sauce.
The thinly sliced deer meat (RM12) goes well with the accompanying spring onion stalks.
Impressed, Jeremy and I vow to return in future to try the other venison dishes which comes in the form of sizzling, spring onion-ginger and curry powder. We are confident they will be just as nice.
The best and most value-for-money dish must certainly goes to the braised sea cucumber and fish maw dish.
Priced at RM30, this claypot ensemble is packed to the brim with all sorts of premium seafood ingredients.
I am certain this same dish will cost at least double at other restaurants. The large mushrooms and fresh scallops in the dish also deserve special mention.
We also like the homemade bean curd (RM8) and stir-fried sweet potato leaves (RM6), Unfortunately, the sour and spicy steamed kappa clams (RM8) are a letdown. Our general consensus is that there is too much garlic which overpowers the otherwise subtle taste of the mollusc.
Towards the end of the meal, we realise that the restaurant is already full and there is a long line of people waiting to be served near the entrance. Jeremy and I quickly pay for our meal and allow others to take our table.
In the car, I thank Jeremy for his recommendation and vow to return here at the next available opportunity.
Kuantan Xianren Restaurant
73 Taman Intan
Sungai Petani, Kedah
Tel: 04-424 4969 or 016-453 8399
HOURS 7.30am to midnight daily
FOOD Serves Chinese non-halal restaurant styled dishes at very competitive prices.
PICK Do not miss the special fried porridge, braised sea cucumber and fish maw.
PAY Most dishes range between RM6 and RM15.
MOOD Clean and comfortable.
SERVICE Efficient and friendly.
I SAY… Go give it a try