Indescribable tilapia experience

IN THIS week’s edition of the Food Trail, we examine the hype at Jalan Peel and its small enclave of food stalls on the fringe of Kuala Lumpur’s city centre.

But first, let me wish all of you a belated Happy New Year.

Here’s a shout out to ‘Big’ Alex Lye and family who sent me an email that read: “Dear Sam, if you have a craving for good hawker food in Cheras, do drop by the neighbourhood. There are some really good stuff here.

Thank you very much Al, I look forward to exploring Cheras and parts of Kajang and Semenyih.

Okay, back to the regular programme — if you are well-versed with the happenings at Jalan Peel, there is one particular makan shop that is the rave among steamed tilapia lovers.

But before I get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a little something I know about the genus tilapia mossambica or ikan tilapia.

This freshwater specie was introduced by the British as a source of food at the turn of the century.

The Chinese call it fei chau yee (African fish) and took to it rather late as it was not a favourite compared to the wan yee and soong yee (both variants of the Chinese carp).

However, soon the tilapia was widely accepted and Chinese restaurants here have developed a recipe to alter the ‘earthy’ or ‘muddy’ taste of the tilapia.

Well, I was told some years ago by the fishery department that the blue-green algae was responsible for the strong and pungent taste.

Aquaculture experts began to fiddle around with the tilapia and produced some genetically enhanced variants like the kam foong yee (red tilapia) which is known as ‘Cherry snapper’ for the export market.

Now, technically-speaking, the tilapia is one of few freshwater fish that is not bony with smooth and fine tasting flesh.

Okay, fish talk aside, we zoom in at Hin Kee restaurant off Jalan Peel.

EBB91D0C778143689003C528BDE4009CABC soup: All time favourite.

I was told the chieu phai choy (house dish) here is the steamed tilapia in soya paste and braved the prejudice against this fish to give it a try.

A typical tilapia dish would cost about RM25 and since it came highly recommended, I jumped at the chance to savour this shop’s specialty.

My order came with a bowl of ‘ABC’ soup and the ham yee ching chee yuk (pork slices steamed with salted fish).

To my surprise, the tilapia was meaty and its soya paste sauce tasted really good.

040741559B1F481588006B65348D64B0Popular haunt: Hin Kee restaurant is famous for their steamed tilapia.

I scooped some rice and as the steamed fish melted into it, it was an experience words could not describe.

On the Samoscale, Hin Kee’s steamed tilapia would chalk an easy 7 out of 10.

After I was done eating, my bill came up to RM47, which was really decent.

The shop opens for lunch and dinner daily and to you GPS owners out there, the lat-long coordinates are: N 03 07 738, E 101 43 455.

This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by Star Metro.


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