Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be. A sweet love story that is much older than I am. Where do I start?
Perhaps, I can start at the part where a young Chinese chef from Malaysia, who traveled to a far eastern republic island to search for new culinary knowledge in the late 1970s. It couldn’t be a more exciting time to be there. It was a time of rapid industrialisation and economic growth for this island nation. A period that is now referred to as the Taiwan Miracle. Taiwan was then known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers” alongside Japan, South Korea and Singapore. And in such economic environment, everything else grew along with it – so did the food industry. It’s no wonder Chef Lee made this his destination. More than he’d ever know, that this trip was going to change his life forever.
He attended a local cooking course during his stay. The class was conducted by a petite, young maiden with the softest skin you’d ever laid eyes on. I’m not the only one who thinks that she is beautiful. Apparently Chef Lee thought so too. In the end, not only did he graduated with the knowledge of Taiwanese cooking in his hands, but he also came home with the teacher as his wife.
Then in the year 1980, the year I was born, they decided to open up a restaurant serving authentic Taiwanese dishes here in SS2. Since then, the neighbourhood has seen newer and swankier eateries come and go but the one still standing today, is the one they’ve named “new beautiful Island“. Being able to survive over 3-decades actually says a lot about New Formosa‘s strength, dedication and passion. They must really love doing what they do. It is no wonder why the food here plays out like a medley of the greatest love songs, dish after dish.
Every Chinese meal leading up to the end of the Chinese New Year will start with the auspicious communal tossing of the good ol’ yee sang. Good vibes were tossed around and the Formosan Colourful Salmon Yee Sang Feng Sheng Shui Qi (RM39) didn’t disappoint one bit.
No good Chinese meal is complete without a soup. But most of the time I’m very skeptical about them. Mostly due to the fact that restaurant-cooked soups usually contain the most amount of MSG and/or starch for that matter. So, I was more than surprise with the Fu Lu Shou Soup, a Taiwanese take on the traditional Monk Jump Over The Wall soup, which was neither starchy nor MSG-infested. The soup was carefully put together like a well-composed love song – it makes you warm and fuzzy on the inside. Superior ingredients like shark’s fin, dried baby scallop, sea cucumber, fish maw, yam, white cabbage, spare ribs, diced chicken… *taking a deep breath*…. wolfberry, bamboo membrane, and Shao Xin wine simmered together for over 4-hours. They then added the dried longan at the end of the cooking process to enhance the sweetness of this dish. This soup is most affordable at RM36 for a personal portion.
Just when we were about to sing praises of their soup, our host brought out a massive Feng Sha Jie (RM55). Think of this roasted chicken dish as their Lunar New Year’s equivalent of a Christmas turkey. The chicken was “carved” with a pair of scissors right down the middle to reveal a wonderful aromatic stuffing made out of 3 types of unpolished rice – brown, red and black glutinous rice, together with chunky chestnuts, lotus seeds, black mushroom, scallion, dried shrimps, and chopped nuts (I think it was macadamia). I can find no fault with this oriental “turkey”. Its skin is this as crispy like it was “marinated with air” before deep-frying and the meat inside was just succulent and moist.
They also specialises in other forms of poultry, like their Signature Sesame Chicken and the Yam Tart which was essentially made of minced duck meat. While the former is very much like KFC’s hot and spicy variation, the latter is also just as finger absolutely licking good.
And rounding up our appetiser dishes is the Taiwanese Buttered Eel & Dried Oysters platter (RM48). I adore the eel dish. The soft centered eel was coated a batter and crumbly bits made of butter, egg, flour, curry leaves and some sliced cili padi (birds eye chili) was simply irresistible.
The Gingko Ham (RM45) is a traditional Hunan ham dish, which requires meticulous amount preparation and laborious hours in the kitchen, is first steamed to get rid of excess salt, then sliced, then steamed again and again. Served on a bed of honeyed gingko nuts and lotus seeds and is best eaten with some deep fried mantao (silver threads bread).
‘Nian nian you yu’ is a prosperous wish which literally means ‘every year has fish‘. How’s that prosperous you asked? Well, the word “fish” in Chinese sounds very much like “good fortune”. Because of this, a fish is a must on the dinner table during this festive season. Formosa’s Steamed Giant Garoupa (RM58) with black fermented soy beans, minced ginger and garlic was uncomplicated and nice.
As the saying goes, “hee har dai siu“, one must also consume a prawn dish to be guaranteed laughter all through the year. Here, you are served not one, but Two Varieties of Prawns (RM43). Lets see if we’re going to laugh until our pants drop. On one side of the platter was the BBQ prawns with garlic paste is not unlike the taste of a piece of garlic bread on a stick of springy prawn. The other was the signature Butter Prawn which tasted like the earlier eel dish. Nevertheless a good dish.
And what is a meal without any greens. Two types of vegetables are stir-fried together and topped with pamelo sacs and almond flake. Interesting combination, but it worked well. The pamelo gave the dish a new zingy twist while the almond provided a hint of nutty flavour and crunchy texture to the otherwise one dimensional dish.
The highlight of the dinner for me was the dessert. I’m a sucker for sweets and especially if it comes with a show. We got to see the making of the heavenly Honey Yam. Thick triangular chunks of yam coated in hot honey and maltose sauce and loads of sesame seeds, is then dipped into ice cold water to caramalise the sauce and served immediately. The now hard, crunchy and sweet coating conceals a still-warm and fluffy piece of yam, is very much like a toffee apple. Another dessert that’s a must order is the creamy Or Nee that’s made with a combination of mashes yam and sweet pumpkin and topped with gingko nuts. This traditional dessert is not an easy find, especially one that’s not made with lard.
The restaurant also offers an assorted number of puddings to end your meal with.
Love is the restaurant, love is the cooking;
Love is in the dishes, love is in the company;
Love is doing it for 30 years and still loving it.
Come 1st February 2010, Chef Lee and his wife celebrates their 32nd wedding anniversary. Congratulations to the both of them and here’s wishing them many more happy days ahead.
Special thanks to our gracious host Mrs. Jeanie Lee for the sumptuous dinner and I hope to see you soon when I come back for another visit with my family. Also many thanks to Marian Eu for extending the lovely invitation as usual and her wonderful tips of their love story.
Note: All the above mentioned dishes are also available as a set dinner for 8-10pax at RM 699 nett. The restaurant will be opened throughout the Chinese New Year including New Years Eve.
New Formosa Restaurant
46, Jalan SS2/24,
47300 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 603-7875 1894 / 603-79757478
Business hours: Daily 12:00noon – 3:00pm and 6:00pm – 10:30pm.