Come in, sit down!“, the lady greeted me in English. “You read about us in NST?”, she asked affably.”Errr, no”, I said apologetically.

Never mind, I give you good dishes to eat“, she offered. “We famous for salted fish dishes, you know.

“Errr, yes, I figured that out from your name”, I said.

The friendly lady, whom I later found out was the wife of the proprietor cum chef, George Lai, proceeded to describe the house specialities and later produced a copy of the NST for me to read while I waited for my food.

steamed kurau with salted fish

I had a delightful conversation with the the proprietor, George Lai. According to George, the restaurant specialises in chinese new village food, which is essentially food that came about during the 1950s during the Malayan Emergency. As a result of the setting up of these new villages during the Emergency and their segregation to prevent insurgents from gaining influence in the community, the people had to make do with whatever ingredients that were available at that time. Dried salted fish was a popular ingredient. Even after the Emergency ended, the art of preparing these dishes continued. George remembers being asked by his mother to go out and purchase salted fish from the nearby sundry shop when he was young. He has since carried on the tradition of cooking new village food, and I had the pleasure of sampling some of his specialities.

The ikan kurau (threadfin) steamed with salted fish is one such dish. In dishes such as this, the freshness of the fish is crucial, and George didn’t fail us. The salted fish provided a hint of flavour, but didn’t overpower the dish, leaving the ikan kurau to bask in its watery glory.

steamed minced pork with cuttlefish

Another popular new village dish is the steamed minced pork with cuttlefish. Best eaten hot while the minced pork is still soft, the cuttlefish added a lovely salty, fishy taste to the dish. George cooks mainly Hakka and Cantonese style dishes and is an expert on steamed dishes.

lettuce and cabbage with dried scallops

The stir-fried lettuce and cabbage is a simple dish that tasted wonderful with the generous serving of sliced dried scallops. Of course, in the days of the Emergency, the dish was normally cooked with chopped pieces of salted fish, but the dish has since been improvised to suit the growing needs of the affluent customer.

bittergourd fried with salted egg yolk and prawns

I wanted to break out into song when I tasted the stir-fried bittergourd in a salted egg yolk base. The creamy texture of the sauce went extremely well with the bitter taste of the vegetable creating a myriad variety of flavours in my mouth. The dish was fried with prawns. This was probably the only dish that wasn’t a traditional new village recipe.

George Lai has been in the restaurant business for about 13 years, starting in Pandan Jaya, then moving to Taman Maluri and now in Imbi. The restaurant has been in Imbi for approximately 2 years. Don’t be misled by the very plain signboard and bare appearance. A gem (albeit a little smelly!) awaits to be discovered inside.

Mui Hiong Salt fish Delicacy
4, Jalan Medan Imbi, Off Jalan Imbi
55100 KL

Opening hours: 12.00 noon – 3.00pm, 6.00pm – 10.00pm (closed Monday and Tuesday of the last week of the month)