Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Apiwon was my top fav place for Sabah's most famous noodles, ngew chap. Ngew chap is similar to the Vietnamese pho, but not quite. Instead of thin slices of raw beef, bean sprouts and Thai basil, Sabah ngew chap is less fancy and consists of two types: the darker beef soup noodles where the meat has been stewed for hours with soy sauce and some spices and the other, a soup noodle where there's no color because no soy sauce is used. The non-soy sauce one is more authentic to Sabah and common, the darker ngew chap being a version of the Hong Kong ngoe nam meen.

I wonder how many of you remember the 'mobile' ngew chap stall at Victoria Cinema in what is now Wisma Tun Fuad? An old man used to sell ngew chap under the large raintrees (which are still standing). He'd carry his ngew chap in two wooden boxes on a pole across his shoulders, something vendors did a long long time ago. His ngew chap soup was clear, lightly flavored but very delicious. It was very 'ching' or light and refreshing without too much spices. In fact, I only remember the tung choi flavor and the sweet springy meatballs. After the old man passed on, his recipe was gone. Or maybe not, as word has it that Apiwon bought the old man's recipe from his children, including the recipe for making the meatballs.

When I first tasted Apiwon's ngew chap, I went mad with joy. It tasted just like the old man's ngew chap! I became a regular at Apiwon, so much so that my kids and Hub wouldn't let me make the final decision on where to eat our Sunday lunches. It wasn't just the taste of the ngew chap that drew me there like it was my second home. The place is everything I wanted in a coffeeshop: it is the cleanest coffee shop in KK, with clean floors devoid of used tissues. Chopsticks and spoons were held in wooden boxes that have lids. The tissues provided were serviettes, not toilet tissue (toilet tissue as napkins is truly truly atrocious, just think about it). They served their noodles in ceramic bowls. Their meatballs were the biggest in town, so that you can bite it into half before chewing it whereas all other meatballs have shrunk to pea-size and you don't even get to bite; you chew straightaway. Their beef meatballs also tasted of beef while all other shops' meatballs taste neutral, bland. Their fish balls too very tasty and springy and smooth. Apiwon also had a tasty, thick chili sauce that I could tell was grounded by a stone mill, not processed by a machine. Other pluses are the shop is located at a corner lot, so that even though it isn't air-conditioned, it is cool. Parking is easy and shaded because of the big trees around and the area isn't jammed with cars. And one of the biggest thing they got right was the bosses were involved in the every day running of the shop. The lady, her hub and their son were nearly always there and their standards were the same day in and out, year in and out except for the unfortunate switch from ceramic bowls to melamine ones sometime last year.

When at least two different people told me a few months ago that they weren't impressed with my recommendation of Apiwon, it was like an insult to me, since I love Apiwon's food. Then my daughter came back for a visit last year and Apiwon was one of the first places she headed to. She came back very disappointed. I went one morning after that, and it was very good. Another visit around CNY turned out very disappointing. The last time I ate there was in February, and it was so disappointing too that I've not been back until today. I was hoping that whatever led to the drop in quality had been corrected.

Unfortunately, after today's visit, I have to regretfully and reluctantly take Apiwon off my list of places to eat.

When I complained, the employee who now seems to run the place (the bosses are never around now) gave me a dour look and said, "Tell the boss!" Well, boss is never around now, that is the problem I think.

Ngew chap, RM6.50

The star attraction, the beef meatballs, have shrunk in size and number (only 3!) and the stewed beef slices were stingy and thin while the price has gone from RM5 to RM6 to RM6.50 for a regular portion (RM8.00 for large) which by any standard is small. The chili sauce is so watered down that when I dipped my meatball in it, the sauce runs off and doesn't cling to the meatballs.

Seafood soup with tossed noodles on the side, RM7.50

The seafood noodles too suffered similar drop in quality and quantity, with only 2 tiny fishballs, 2 small prawns, 1 slice of fish and 2 slices of fish cake floating in a soup that taste distinctly different because it didn't have the zhou cai /preserved veg anymore. And instead of Emperor's veg, they are now using chinese cabbage. At RM7.50 for a regular portion (RM8.50 for large), I'd be crazy to eat their seafood noodles again. And the ngew chap too.


Jo said...

I am too dissapointed since I was looking to visit it when I go back this Summer. Ngew Chap is my favorite soup!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

talk abt KL seafood noodles..we r selling for rm17-18 a bowl! of course with more than 1 prawn..

Precious Pea said...

Wow..dat's KL price!

The seafood noodle Joe mentioned is a different league la..that one filled with mussels, clams, prawns, fish fillet and squids. Hehe....very famous from Segambut.

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri, I totally agree. I used to like this place but now it's a rip off compared to other places. And the soup can vary on each visit. But the place is cleaner than other places though. Still, I don't think the food is worth the prices. There's so little meat and the noodles float around like half eaten already.


lilblackdots said...

couldn't agree more,the last time i went there the beef balls were so tasteless it was like eating flour balls..

Shuk Yee said...

Of course I remember that thin old man selling the noodles under big rain tree... it was my favourite. My grandpa and I are big fans. This brings back fond memories... I was only 7 or 8 years old then I think. Our favourite whether or not we were watching a movie. :-)

worldwindows said...

When the cat is away the mouse starts to play. This is the problem every employer faces - trusted staff or the lack of it. But the visuals looks good.

Shuk Yee said...

I remember that the shape of beef balls sold by the old man was flattish and not rounded ... do you remember ? :-)

hongyi said...

i really, really miss you :(
wanted to let you know that my phone is out of battery coz i haven't gone home from uni since yesterday n so i didnt get to recharge it. please email me if you need to reach me. i will be checking it very often.

love you miss you :(

Anonymous said...

If you want good big and sturdy beefballs go to Peppermint in he corner next to Klinik Malaysia opposite OCBC bank.

terri@adailyobsession said...

jo: don't worry, there are lots of ngew chap places :)

joe: ah, look what pp said.

pp: tt sounds like a deluxe bowl of seafood. here, a good bowl would be RM12-18 but we don't get mussels n clams. we get all kinds of fish insides, n smtimes i am turned off bc i can taste refrigerated flavor.

kim: yes yes

lilblackdots: oh, i thot the meat balls were good...

shuk yee: yes :D i remember. it was very 'ching' wasn't it the taste? wow, u still rmber so far back! we used to go to the cinema very often, n our big half-alsation n mongrel dog would come with us! did u ever see us??

worldwindows: precisely

hongyi: pls take care n avoid going home so late. i'd rather u stay in the studio than go home at 3 am. hang in there honey.

anon: yes, peppermint, but the parking's bad n it's so full everytime. n so as clean. actually apiwon's meatballs are good. of cos, lately they aren't

ganache-ganache said...

Pardon me for intruding re Peppermint : the soup is no longer flavouful juz a bowl of ajinomoto water & the middle age Chinese lady has attitude problem !!
back to Apiwon, I totally agree wz u, it used to be our favourite, their standard has dropped so much I happened to be there 7/4 becos I'm short of time & need to get to the airport quickly. I hate the Chinese cabbage in the soup !!! Agreed too that the ingredients portion is so little now, I once bought a pkt of seafood noodle soup home, u won't believe it, there's only lots of vege & a slice of fishcake in it !!!!!!! I didn't have transport with me that time, if not I would have gone back with that miserable pkt of lunch, terrible......

bryan said...

I too never understood your appreciation of Apiwon, I went there for the first time about two years ago, it was bad and I never made a repeat visit.

What would you say is the best one now? There's a popular one at Hilltop, I don't remember the name exactly, but I think they take a BUCKET of msg and dump it into the pot.

Shuk Yee said...

For some reasons I have very vivid memories of my childhood. The old man used to wear the same outfit everyday - a white colour hard-shell colonial style hat with wide round rim, made-in-China semi-translucent white round-neck T-shirt and a pair of wide-legged knee-length pants ("ma yin toong"), sneakers I think and probably canvas type. I remember me also looking at the thick roots radiating out from that gigantic tree, I remember the parking lot was rather sparse (not so many cars in those days). But no, I don't remember seeing you and your dog .... Oh I am attending a wedding in KK this July and would really appreciate if you could tell me where to get a good Ngau Chap - the traditional version please ?

JACQ said...

I never liked Apiwon. I went there at least 4 times, and all those 4 times, there were all too salty, and too msg-full. Never bothered to blog about it.. just deleted the pics off my camera everytime lol..

Anonymous said...

Dear Terri,

Do you have any ngiew chap recipes like apiwon version, I mean clear broth with a hint of 'tong choi' flavour? I'm craving for it down in australia.


terri@adailyobsession said...

pam: no, sorry, i haven't made ngew chap myself. it's one of those too easily available food around here so i don't bother. i suppose you can do a pho soup and add lots of tung choi?

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri, thank you anyway. I tried using the combination of pho recipe and tong choi last time and both of them just can't marry together.the flavour of each ingredient is isolated and lack of the beefy flavour. I think I didn't use enough beef bone and meat. cheers


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