Pictures by Gisele Soo
SeeFoon discovers Halal Chinese hawker fare in Meru Raya
A few of my Muslim friends have often asked me where to go for Halal Chinese hawker food.
Yes we are seeing a proliferation of Halal Dim Sum all over, thanks to our dynamic Ipohite duo, Ceylyn Teh and her husband YC Nang who have a huge manufacturing facility in Ipoh and opened up Halal Dim Sum places all over Malaysia.
But to find authentic Halal Chinese hawker food under one roof? “Well, not all dishes but a good representation of the usual favourites would be welcome,” said a good friend who was born and raised in a Chinese family but converted when she married her Muslim husband.
As luck would have it, I found one in Meru Raya.
Christine Liew is the savvy and amiable proprietor of EatUp Dining, a bright, cheerful and sparklingly clean eatery sitting in an easy parking location on Jalan Meru Bestari A9, just behind Mydin and next to McDonalds.
Already open for two years, the restaurant has BeSS stickers readily visible at the entrance and counter which stands for “Bersih, Selamat dan Sihat” or “Clean, Safe and Healthy”, a recognition awarded by the Health Department and is the only one given in the entire Jelapang area. Muslim team members run the kitchen as well as service, and not only is the restaurant Halal certified, but they also cater to vegetarians.
Speaking to Christine, I can sense her passion, which is palpable, for introducing her childhood food to the Muslim community and making them accessible whether as dine-ins or takeaways.
Christine’s specialty is her homemade Lamen, more commonly known as Ramen but she has chosen to use the Chinese phonetic-isation rather than the Japanese. These are made fresh daily and are a “must-have” from here. Springy and al dente, these noodles have the requisite mouthfeel that would win approval from even the most critical Chinese gourmet, and when combined with the variety of sauces, soups and toppings—all of which are homemade—have garnered for the restaurant quite a local following.
During the lunch hour I was there, I could see a continuous stream of GrabFood and Foodpanda delivery people doing pickups, as well as private ones. A brisk business indeed and I hope it will continue during this CMCO period. SOPs are well adhered to here as all service staff were masked and the tables were marked for social distancing.
The staff appeared cheerful and happy, giving credence to the company name of Ria Serata – meaning “happy under the same roof”. This is all thanks to Christine’s efforts, as a boss who cares for her staff’s welfare, personally conducting service training and teaching staff in the kitchen as well.
As for the food, plating and service was impeccable and the taste notable.
We first had the EatUp Signature Crunchy Spiced Squid which was a good starter to nibble on while waiting for the rest of the food. The spicing was more than the usual salt and pepper squid and had a piquancy that was intriguing. RM13.90.
This was followed by their Signature Pie Tee, crispy flour cups with their own unusual filling of chicken slivers cooked with sengkuang or sweet turnip. Plated with tufts of lettuce peeping from each cup and dressed in a special sauce, these cups were a delightful crunchy appetizer for the goodies to come. RM9.90 for 6 pieces.
The EatUp Signature Chicken Rice Combo served with two cups of Pie Tee and saucy chicken (as in soya sauce) was a well rounded meal in itself, complete with salad garnitures and crispy fried shallots and crispy fried garlic. The rice was very tasty on its own (as chicken rice should be) and the homemade chilli sauce, together with the cup of chicken soup, completed the combo. RM17.90.
Never had Chinese Chee Cheong Fun (CCF) for fear it may contain lard? Now you can eat the Halal version with impunity and understand why this has been a favourite breakfast dish for centuries in China. The key is in the smoothness and velvety mouthfeel of the rolled rice sheet. Just rice flour steamed and rolled up, topped with sauces. Here, the CCF is embellished with Christine’s special secret recipe Dried Shrimp Sauce, tangy, quite spicy and redolent with dried shrimps. Drizzled with sweet black soya sauce and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots and sesame seeds, this is a must have at RM5.90.
Next to arrive was the Wok Fried Radish Cake with Superior Spicy Sauce. This was a homemade radish cake, soft and tender and pan-fried with beansprouts, spring onion, chilli sauce and topped with crisp fried shallots. Yummilicious at RM8.00.
The Teochew Porridge with Condiments was a surprise on the menu. Plain rice congee boiled to the right consistency, velvety and smooth; served with ikan bilis, salted egg and salted fish. A clean, wholesome farmer’s meal. They also serve a chicken version. RM7.90.
Then we came to the Lamen, the EatUp’s homemade specialty. Used for all dishes calling for noodles, these noodles with its al dente springiness is paired in different ways.
Nyonya Chicken Curry Lamen Soup had whole chunks of chicken, potato, onions, cucumber slivers, lettuce, egg and taufu pok in a spicy, well nuanced curry sauce that was totally satisfying. RM14.90.
The Chicken Chilli Lamen was a dry variety, with a soft boiled egg, ikan bilis, chicken cubes, and given oomph with the home-made chilli sauce. RM10.90.
The Dry Wonton Noodle with Crispy Shrimp Wonton at RM12.90 was the icing on the cake – the noodles springy and the shrimp wonton crackling in the mouth.
There are drinks galore on the menu here with notable ones unanimously voted tops by my cronies at the table being the Lychee Lime Mojito (RM9.90) and the Mojito Tiga Rasa, an interesting concoction of an ice cream popsicle melting into soda producing three flavours.
My favourite was the Pearl Teh, a homemade blend of tea mixed with condensed and evaporated milk that was not overly sweet combined with yummilicious chewy pearls. RM6.90.
EatUp Dining will be opening another branch at PTTC (Perak Techno Trade Center). From my taste of the lovely menu, the new venture will doubtless be successful.
Christine has succeeded in interpreting Chinese hawker food to the Halal audience with a blend of fidelity and freedom that is rare. Her homemade chilli sauce is worth taking home in bottles for adding to one’s own dishes. I wish her much success in the upcoming new restaurant.
60-G & 60-1, Jalan Meru Bestari A9, Medan Meru Bestari, 30020 Ipoh, Perak
9am-10pm; closed on Tuesdays
Deliveries available via Foodpanda and GrabFood