Can’t remember how many times I have driven past this single storey building with its stark neon sign and vowed to come here… my wish came true as i finally headed for this place together with colleagues during the CNY period and also to celebrate my birthday. We made our way after work and it was still relatively early so we could have our pick of any of the tables. I opted to sit on the non-airconditioned side simply because I wanted to have a more authentic dining experience.
Steeped in decades of history, I reckon Sek Yuen is the chinese equivalent of Coliseum Cafe. The “waiters” are family, and the 3rd generation of the Phang family is currently at helm of this place. Having survived the test of time, the nolstagic interior of kopitiam chairs, faded tables and polished tiles bear witness to that. Even the chefs in the kitchen have been cooking using firewood for as long as they have been operating.
We decided to have a small portion of yee sang as I have heard praises on this dish here. The ingredients are prepared themselves, which is quite laborious as it involves shredding and the julienne cutting of various items incl. pickled ginger, green papaya, carrot, jicama etc. Heaped with spring onions, deep friend wonton skin crackers, cilantro etc and served with side servings of lime wedges, green& red packets of pepper and five-spice powder. The fish slices are generously doused in sesame oil and topped with some ginger slivers.
The freshness of the ingredients of this dish made it a delight to eat and we had fun tossing it, knowing that it’ll be a year later before we attempt to have more.
I loved the “kar heong zhai” (家乡齋), which is essentially a mixed vegetable dish stir-fried with nam yee, or red fermented beancurd. Strands of glass noodles interwoven between slices of chinese cabbage, beancurd, cloud ear fungus, and lily bulb knots etc, I had several helpings as it was so good with the rice. Which brings me to the rice… I have read a few blog reviews on how they had steamed rice served in metal bowls but we didn’t get that. Instead, we had a big bowl of rice to share amongst the table.
Wanting something different, we asked for stir fried intestines which the waiter recommended to be prepared with dried shrimps. For more flavour, spring onions and chili padi were also stir-fried together. But this dish is not for everyone as some reckon there was an aftertaste. But I thought it was quite refreshing and I liked the texture.
The steamed grass carp fish head (蒸松鱼头) with ginger paste was very fresh and perfectly steamed.
As we didn’t pre-book the 8 Treasure duck, we opted for the Stuffed Pork Trotter. I also learnt that this dish is not always available so we were quite lucky to get it at short notice. I enjoyed this sublime dish with the tender, soft meat. The stuffing used were a mixture of its own chopped meat, chestnuts, chinese mushrooms, chopped dried oysters etc. The entire trotter was also topped with my favourite fatt choy moss. Even the gravy was yummy though must mention that the meat was rather fatty, or gelatinous if you prefer. Still, highly recommended esp. if you love rice dumplings as it felt like eating the rice dumplings.
Lastly, we had their famous Pei pa duck (琵琶鸭). I heard that the ducks are reared by the restaurant themselves and are dried in the hot sun for that crisp skin. True enough, I enjoyed the crispy skin most of all. The accompanying tangy dip is also quite memorable. The oil drippings on the plate seems to indicate that the duck was given a hot oil bath before it was served.
in Sek Yuen, another old school restaurant tradition that is practised is the handing out of hot handkerchiefs after a meal. Ah, comfort is feeling the warmth against one’s skin.
The overall dinner costs RM220 for 8pax which is reasonable enough for a taste of old-style Cantonese cooking. And what I truly enjoyed about this place, apart from the atmosphere is the homecooked flavour of the dishes. I don’t even mind the slightly curt and impatient gestures of the waiters as they’re actually quite lovable once they soften up. And I can’t wait to discover other hidden gems of dishes served there… afterall there’s no handwritten menu.
Restoran Sek Yuen 适苑酒家
313-315 Jalan Pudu
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : 03 9222 9457