Restaurant Hong Ngek, Jalan Tun HS Lee: How Could We Have Not Met?

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I may never be a soul singer nor a rapper. I’d imagine that Jay-Z and Alicia Keys will be doing a haunting and inspiring rendition of these words about our capitol city if this was their home. But then agian, perhaps lyrics writing isn’t exactly my forte either. Forgive me for butchering their #1 hit song, “Empire State of Mind“.

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It’s funny how I’ve never eaten here in Hong Ngek on Jalan Tun H.S. Lee (the street formerly known as High Street before 1970’s and thereafter as Jalan Bandar until the 1990’s). This typical Hokkien restaurant has been operating by the same family, at this very same spot, for over seventy years since the 1940’s. I feel embarrassed to have lived in this city all my life and yet not know of its existence until the first weekend of this year.

I’ve driven past this row of old shophouses thousand of times before. How could I have turned a blind eye? How could I have missed its weathered paint and cracked wall tiles when I stopped at the lights just right outside its five-foot-way? Or the hand-written white board menu that’s probably been hanging there for a decade or two? Its sardine-packed hungry lunch crowd who shares the yellowed marble-topped table with strangers over a quick meal would have had me curious. How, I asked myself, could I not see these things before?

It took two Queens to point out this living piece of KL heritage out to me.

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For decades they have been serving KL-lites dishes that originated from the Hokkien province of Heng Hwa in China and recipes which has been handed down to them by founder, Phung Kim Hooi. These days his daughter-in-law, Liew Hing Ling, runs the place with the assistance of a crew of experienced helpers. Without a clue on what to order, we solicited the help of Liew on what to eat and her army of recommended specialties did not falter.

i. Orh Chien (Oyster Omelette)
This is one mean omelette. The thin omelette is light, fluffy, eggy in taste, yet a little chewy in texture thanks to the use of tapioca flour. What I like about it is that it’s not doughy/starchy like the ones from the hawkers. This dish is best eaten with a dollop of the wonderfully aromatic chilli garlic sauce on the side.

ii: Yee Heong Prawns
Shelled fresh prawn cooked in a sambal-like sauce with dried shrimps. Sweet, mildly spicy, slightly tangy but hardly memorable by the end of the meal.

iii. Stuffed Lotus Roots
Here’s an unusual invention to look forward to. Wafer thin lotus root slices sandwich with minced mackarel (kau yue) paste in the middle. They are then fried together with Chinese mushrooms, green pepper, and garlic in a delicate soy-based sauce. Resembles something my family would put on the dinner table.

iv. Fried Tung Fun
The stir-fried tong fun (bean thread noodles more commonly known as ‘glass noodles’) tasted smoky with some charred bits scraped from the bottom of the very same wok which has produced ten of thousands of the same orders before. Cooked with the usual suspects of Chinese white cabbage, pork slices, fresh and dried shrimp, scallions, bean sprouts, egg and soy sauce. The noodles were flavourful and toothsome (al dante if you’re feeling hoity-toity). 

v. Crab Meat Roll
This must be one of their most popular dishes. It seems every table was enjoying a plate of these juicy five spiced orbs of chopped pork meat, minced mackerel, water chestnut, carrot, scallions,and wrapped in the thinnest bean curd skin (fu chok) and deep-fried to golden. Perfectly matched with chili sauce. And yes, you didn’t read wrong. Despite its name, no crustaceans were harmed in the making of these meaty rolls.

vi. Pomfret in Two Styles
Another winning signature item, the fish is steamed on one side while the other half is fillet, fried and cooked in together with a special sauce made of black pepper and black vinegar. Simply appetizing.

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I have to agree with Fratmustard when he said dining with the two Queens (one wants to be the Queen of the Universe and the other’s the anonymous queen of Malaysia’s makan scene) can be a humbling experience. I feel there’s so much more for me to learn and discover. Like this mundane looking yet wonderful charming eatery. An important lesson learned: Not all that glitters is gold, and not all that is gold necessarily glitters.

I vowed to discover more of my homecity after that landmark meal. Perhaps, I should start organizing a heritage-eating-trail across KL. Will visit some places that travel books and glossy magazines will never feature or review. Who needs a road trip to faraway land when there are plenty to look forward to in our own backyard. Put your chopsticks up in the air if you’re with me!

Baby, I’m in Kay-Ell!

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Restaurant Hong Ngek
#50 Jalan Tun HS Lee
50000 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +603-2078 7852
Business hours: 10:30am – 7:00pm from Mondays til Fridays. 10:30am – 5:00 pm on Saturdays. Closed Sundays and public holidays.

15 Responses to Restaurant Hong Ngek, Jalan Tun HS Lee: How Could We Have Not Met?
  1. fatboybakes
    January 22, 2010 | 2:32 am

    who's the 2nd queen? for a moment i was jealous, thinking KL Legend was a man… (errr…that sounded wrong)…but yeah, i am also shocked i havent heard of this place. sounds like my time one.

  2. Lyrical Lemongrass
    January 22, 2010 | 5:10 am

    *waving chopsticks* I can be the taxi driver!

    Btw, love your pics. You have an eye for details, and that's a great quality, my friend. And you're an amazing storyteller. I shall declare you King of the Universe.

  3. J
    January 22, 2010 | 5:34 am

    Looks like a real gem! :)
    (Ooh, and that's a great idea – form a KL (Food) Treasure Hunters group! How to qualify for membership?)

  4. babe_kl
    January 22, 2010 | 7:50 am

    This place is really a gem! There are many yummy dishes here and I din know they hv orh jien!!! We loved the Hokkien fried pak kor (shanghai noodles) and Thai style fish

  5. gfad
    January 22, 2010 | 8:11 am

    It's no wonder whenever I meet people here who have visited KL, they rave so much about the good time and wonderful food they had. I'm almost ashamed to say I very seldom venture out to KL for food nowadays. And you do such beautiful work showcasing the best KL has to offer. I should get you and LL to do some touristy catalogue for me to bring back lah. Those available at the embassy are quite sad.

    That settles it. The next time I come back, I'm going to pretend to be a tourist and do the tourist circuit! :D

  6. Bangsar-bAbE
    January 22, 2010 | 9:03 am

    Now that you know how to go, take me there? *puppy eyes* =)

  7. minchow
    January 22, 2010 | 9:08 am

    Two pairs of chopsticks in the air! This post says I Love KL a hundred times better than some generic t-shirt faux-celeb ridden oh-so-hip campaign!*ducks for cover*

  8. CUMI & CIKI
    January 22, 2010 | 9:29 am

    ahaha.! so excellent this post plus the photos r amazing.

    i like the perspective of the huge building dwarfing LL! .. C'est Magnifique~

  9. qwazymonkey
    January 22, 2010 | 9:35 am

    AhPa:I'm sure u know who the othet Queen is. And there no need to be jealous of an old legend lah!

    LL: Yeah you're one mean taxi driver that'll double park and have a spare can of foie gras on standby all the time! *ignoring the king comments*

    J: Aiya, just say "yes" if I ever announce a trip down there. LOL

    Babe_KL: Can't wait to try out the pak kor and some ribs!!

    GFAD: Lets go makan! The queens will be delighted too

    Bangsar Babe: Come lets go. Only on one condition, that you don't hit me if you end up eating more than a bowl of rice. Hehe

    Minchow: Thanks thanks. Kay-Ell rocks!

  10. Paprika
    January 22, 2010 | 12:30 pm

    What the hey?! I haven't been to this place either! And I always ta pow my wanton mee from a coffee shop on the same road. Aiyo… Lovely pics!

  11. J2Kfm
    January 23, 2010 | 3:23 pm

    Never heard and never noticed bout this place, though I have been to that road for some time now.

    Until I read EatingAsia's top 10 KL food, and I was surprised. Almost like Yut Kee, with a twist. And Sek Yuen, at a more humble level. These places NEED to be revealed to the world.

  12. Life for Beginners
    January 25, 2010 | 5:29 am

    Haha, love the peekaboo queen! :)

    • Eliza
      February 16, 2012 | 7:09 pm

      The honesty of your ptosnig shines through

      • A Lil' Fat Monkey
        February 16, 2012 | 8:00 pm

        Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words

  13. Anonymous
    June 3, 2011 | 6:35 am

    Well .. honestly ..I don't think it's a nice place =)