Gourmet Garden

Hunting For The Flavors & Texture Of Yesteryears'


Poon Choi(盆菜) Home-Cook vs Commercial

Posted by Jason Wong On February - 7 - 20112 COMMENTS

On the second(2nd) day of this Chinese Lunar New Year my sister decided to have “Poon Choi” (盆菜) from Dragon-i for dinner to celebrate the beginning of Spring or lì chūn (立春)。The Dragon-i’s ‘Prosperity Abalone Treasure Pot’ set is priced at RM 388 and RM338 for CIMB Bank customers, and boast to have 16ingredients with an approximate weight of 8.5 pounds or 3.85kg. The ingredients listed in the broacher are Australian premium abalone (10head), Australian sea cucumber, Japanese dried scallop, Japanese dried oyster, premium mushrooms, Pantai Remis fresh sea prawn, fish maw, roast chicken, roast pork belly, Golden Money Bag, yam, black moss, Chinese Cabbage, Tianjin Cabbage, deep-friend bean curd skin and radish.  But bear in mind that they are allowed to substitute or change the ingredients as stated in their marketing literature.

As there were an over whelming demand for treasure pot set, they ran out of pots thus we had to bring our own Japanese claypot which was significantly bigger. For take-away, the stock was packed separately and all the ingredients placed in individual sections and layers.

Once we got back home after driving through the jammed Jalan Batu Ferringghi, we added the stock and reheated the treasure pot. But half way through reheating, a very light burnt smell was coming from the pot. The cabbage leaves that were place at the bottom started to burn from the heat because the leaves have more fibres and less moisture compared to radish and burns easily. Therefore, extra care should be taken when reheating it at home.

The following photos show the layers of ingredients that came in the treasure pot. If I am not mistaken, those stated in their brochures were all present except for the fish maw (花胶筒) and black moss (发菜). Presentation wise it looked like any soupy claypot dish and its taste did not excite our palates nor leave a very lasting impression. The mushrooms and roast pork belly were a size overly big, the sea cucumber had a fishy taste and the abalones were bland, and all ingredients tasted with same flavor, but the soup stock was averagely light and sweet.

Back in 2008 before the market went bonkers with Poon Choi promotions and packages, we had begun researching for the origins and recipes that we could easily adopt or adapt for local ingredients and taste preference. We started with  a recipe that had Hakka influence that required every ingredient that goes in to the pot to be individually prepared and cooked so as  to present layers of flavours and texture when you start consuming the Poon Choi. The preparing process includes a few cooking method, such as steamed, deep fried, pan grilled, poached, braised an so on.

Each layer has their unique flavours. As you eat through the layers and go down to the bottom, you will find layers of pork skin, bean curd skin and radish used to layer the bottom to minimize burning and most importantly to soak up the flavours that have trickled down.

Then in 2010, my in-laws did another version of poon choi that require less tedious work for their Chinese New Year reunion dinner. It had radish, bean curd skin, stewed chicken (feet), roast duck, salted fried prawns, stewed mushrooms, vegetables and canned abalone. It also delivered layers of flavours and texture minus some hard work.

Which version above could really draw your appetite?


Savory Tang Yuan for Winter Solstice (Dong Zhì)

Posted by gill gill On December - 21 - 20101 COMMENT

Have you heard or try Savory Tang Yuan before?

It is truly a “Forgotten Recipe” from Hakka & Cantonese Dialect. We have received many readers request about this savory tang yuan recipe since we’ve posted the winter solstice from 2008.
Other than we talk about the sweet version which has tones of fans, we rather share those who are forgotten and unique from the rest.
We have prepare the steps with photo and recipe below, and do enjoy the cooking and happy winter solstice to you & your family 🙂

Step 1 & 2. Begin of the Yellow Bean & Anchovies Soup Base

Step 4. Chicken Gizzard to Give the extra texture
Slice Pork & Spring Onions
Tang Yuan In Bean and Anchovies Soup

Savory Tang Yuan Soup

Tang Yuan:

I don’t really know what and how to make the tang yuan dough, but all I know is using glutinous four to makes it up…heee

The only tips that I can share is, cook the tang yuan in boiling water and wait until its float on top of the water, and its cooked. And throw them immediately into Ice Water. This step is to make the ball springier and doesn’t go lumpy /mushy.

We don’t really measure what we cook for this Soup, and is all according to the taste

Soup base (basic soup base for wonton noodle soup):

  • Handfuls of Dried Soya Bean
  • Handfuls of Dried Anchovies
  • Chicken or Pig born
  • Water for soup


  • Cabbage (coarsely shredded)
  • Chicken gizzard (thick slices)
  • Pork belly 600gm or more (in whole pcs)
  • Spring onion (4cm in length)
  • Home fried shallots

Step by Step:

  1. Put Soya Bean & Anchovies into soup bag/sachet. Don’t insert the bag too full, when it cooks, the beans will be bloated. The ideal portion is 1/3 of the bag. Or put those 2 ingredients in 2 different bags.
  2. After filled in the Soya Bean & Anchovies in the bag, put them all into boiling water and cover the lid, with medium to low heat, and cook about 30min or until you can smell the aroma.
  3. Take out the soup bag. Leave the soup aside.
  4. Boil water in another pot, to poach the whole pcs of pork belly and chicken gizzard until it’s done or tender. Take out and drain. Cut them into thin slices when it’s cooled. Set both aside.
  5. Warm up the Anchovies soup and throw the cabbage in and cooked till tender. Add Salt to taste. Drain the Vege and set aside.
  6. Basically the cooking step is all done.

Eating Step:

Just heat up the soup, scope all the precooked ingredient, tong yuan, cabbage, gizzard, pork belly, spring onion, and pour the steaming hot soup into the bowl and top with some homemade fried shallot. Enjoy!

Those precooked ingredient and soup can keep into the refrigerator and you may heat up for the next day. Except tang yuan, its good when eat its fresh.


Traditional Foods: Hakka Abacus Beads

Posted by Jason Wong On December - 19 - 20095 COMMENTS

Hakka cuisine concentrates on the texture of food, simplicity and the umami (旨味) or savoury flavour of the dish. As like other dishes or cuisines, Hakka cuisine is influence by the attributes of the environment were they settled down or has it roots from, which is one of the reasons behind the variety of dishes and flavours that are synonymous to Hakka cuisine. The Hakka’s has provided to the public at large some their more famous dishes that are dished our in restaurants across Malaysia, China and whole wide world, some of these dishes are your common ‘Yong Taufu’(釀豆腐)or stuffed bean curd, ‘Yim Guk Gai’ (鹽焗雞) or Salt Baked Chicken, Poon Choy (盆菜), ‘Suin Poon Tzi’ (算盘子) or Abacus beads and lots more.
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A few weeks ago on the 10th of December we had an opportunity to document the making of ‘Hakka Abacus Beads’ by a new entrepreneur, Ms. Lai Sze Ying, in Kuala Lumpur. It is one of the ways that we try to do our part to keep the diverse heritage and culture of food that we have a live for our future generation.  By doing so, we also hope to help budding food providers that are making delicacies the way it should to grow and spread the wonders of old school food.

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This post I will introduce the making of ‘Suin Poon Tzi’ (算盘子) or Abacus Beads. Abacus Beads are made from freshly mashed Yam which is then combined with tapioca flour to form the dough that is cut and rolled into the shape of an abacus bead. The difference between the traditional and current abacus bead is the content of Yam and the final abacus bead shape. The算盘子/ abacus when cooked has a soft on the outside and chewy on the inside texture, which could be served stir fry or in soup. The common popular version would be stir frying with either of the following ingredients; minced pork or chicken, dried shrimps, mushrooms, ‘choy poh’, black wood ear, etc.

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Before the dough is form to make the ‘Suin Poon Tzi’ (算盘子), Yam is cooked to a consistency that allows it to be mash up like when one make mash potato.

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After the Yam is cooked to the required consistency, it is roughly mashed and then combined with tapioca flour to form the dough base which will be knead, cut and rolled to shape.

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Before the Yam cools down, the Yam and Tapioca flour mixture is traditionally hand kneaded until it forms the firm dough.

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After the Yam dough is finally formed, it is then divided into smaller section to work with. The smaller section are rolled into a strand which then cut to size and form into the shape of a abacus bead, which round in shape.

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Next, a small puncture or stamp is made with chopstick in the middle of each formed abacus bead. This the part which differentiates the product produced by this new comer to the F&B industry from the common abacus beads suppliers in the market. And it is because of the near authenticity that we were greatly interested to document and introduce this budding entrepreneur that met through our acquaintance in KL.

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After the abacus beads were ready formed and mark with the distinctive nod in the centre, it is then moved to the cooking pot or wok in this case to be thoroughly cooked with just simple clean boiling water, and then blenched in cold or running water to give it that springy and chewy texture.

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The end product is the drained and is ready to be stir fry with you choice ingredients.

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This is our second visits. You will never notice this place if you do not familiar with this area. Lucikly my Sister n Brother in-law who lived in KL bring us to many good food. What we remember their food was tasty. And that was for supper meal.

But ends up it dissapoint us because of their Peak Dinner Hour.

Here comes the Bitter gourd stir fried with glass noodle.

Stir evenly…

A very big different from what we had last trip. Last time we had the same bitter gourd glass noodle was pretty delicious and the glass noodle texture was so nice. And this time, noodle color abit lighter and looks dried, lack of moist. The taste doesnt up to expectation, everage only.
Lastime Rating: 3.5 / 5
Current Rating: 2.5 / 5

Dai Lok Mee

Did you see the crispy pork lard on top of the noodle?…haha, without the lard aroma, the noodle would go salty if you just take the noodle only.
Rating: 2.5 / 5

Hakka stir frying kuih, dunno how to call in english….haha, can anybody tell me? 客家算盘子in chinese. It was splendid for 1st visit, but not this time. Totally different taste, and even the Kuih texture and yam filling is not right. we were like eating bunch of flour and yam together in the mouth. Feel full very fast, and the mood turns down.

Previous visits has the deep fried crunchy dried shrimp fried with thick aromatic sauce and chewy Kuih, its was delicious and flavourfull.

Probably the golden hour affectted the quality. Well, what i can recommend is, go for supper time, around 10pm onward, should be better i think.

We asked the lady worker why the quality so different from lastime, and she said probably is the peak hour. and she mentioned that the Kuih is done by the owner’s son (kuih used to made by owner), new learner…no wonder the kuih qulity were so bad.

Last time rating: 4 / 5
Current Rating: 2 / 5
Environment: 1.5 / 5 (unpleasent and not clean)

Business Hour: Evening till Late Night
Close on Monday
Contact: 03-79811972 / 016-3355996

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