Friday, April 24, 2009

New Man Tai, Bundusan

Beaufort and Tenom are towns on the west interior side of Sabah. These are towns where the Chinese Hakka immigrants settled in about 100 years ago. These towns have shrunk with the passing of the original batch of immigrants and their children and the migration of their grandchildren into the cities. Hakka food is simple, non-pretentious cuisine that centers on pork as the preferred meat: stir-fried veg with pork, pork mince stuffed tofu, boiled chicken, pork-egg rolls, stewed pork leg, cha sao omelette and so on.

With the coffee, rubber and fruits orchards owned by small-holders replaced by mega oil palm plantations, many of the interior Hakkas folks have moved to the city and opened up coffeeshop-style restaurants that serve Hakka food. These are bright , florescent-lit, no-frills, no air-con-type of restaurants that serve 'home-style' food, mostly stirred fried to your order. You'd know them by their names: Beaufort or Man Tai. There are at least one in each residential area and they are always full, with families waiting for their tables on the 5-foot way. In Penampang, there are two I know of: Restaurant Beaufort and New Man Tai in Bundusan. R. Beaufort is always overcrowded and littered with used tissue papers on the floor and for that reason I hate to go there. I now totally avoid the place because the last two times after I had dinner there, I came down with stomach aches both times. I don't miss it anyway; the food has gotten really bad, with shrinking portions and food so gluey you can mend your shoes with it.

My fav Hakka 'home food' restaurant is New Man Tai at Bundusan. It is less congested, the place seems cleaner and the food is marginally better than the other similar restaurants. That was my impression. Last Sunday, we were there for a quick dinner and I was surprised to find that it was rather expensive and the food lacked its trademark wok hei (heat of the wok). Overall, the food too was gluey and I realise that this glueyness is the other trademark of these Beaufort-type of restaurants.

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Fried noodles, Tenom-Beaufort style. RM5.50/US$1.50 per small plate . Wey couldn't finish this. He said Restaurant Beaufort's noodles are better.

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Bittergourd with beef and black beans, RM9/US$2.50 for small portion. Done pretty well except for the beef which had so much bicarb of soda as tenderizer it didn't have any beef flavor left. But then, that's always how beef is treated in Chinese restaurants--with a lot of bicarb of soda, because they use cheap tough cuts of beef.

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Tofu with minced pork and mushrooms, RM11/US$3.80 for small portion. Used to be better.

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Fish with ginger and spring onions, RM16/US$4.40 small portion. Expensive! There were only about 10 small slices of flavorless fish.

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Small portion of mustard greens and pork stir-fry, RM9/US$2.50

Including the soup of the day (winter melon soup) and 3 plates of rice, the bill was RM61.40, not cheap for simple home-style food methinks. I came home with my mouth dry and numb from the msg in the food, a common feeling after eating at Beaufort/Man Tai restaurants. Msg is the life saver for Chinese restaurants. The stuff can spike up the savory sweetness of food especially if the ingredients are not fresh or of good quality. One tiny pinch of the stuff can enhance a whole plate of greens but many restaurants use it like they use salt and you can actually get used to it if you eat out often.

New Man Tai is next to Supertanker Restaurant, Jalan Bundusan, Penampang.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Food does look gluey and nearly vegan...enjoy reading your posts everyday by the way!

Ah King and Moon said...

Beaufort, I know this place!! I've been there 10 yrs again when I was a student, it reminded me that extremely slow train crawling up the hill....Nostalgic!! mOOn

Johnathan Oh said...

Hi Terri, indeed the fish dish is a blatant rip-off! Since I didn't have the priviledge to taste the fish, I would assess it visually based on the photo you have provided. It looked awfullly like fresh water fish meat namely snakehead (Sang Yu) or locally known as 'Toman'. This kinda fish was reported in the States a couple of years ago for causing menace to the local eco-system, which I have no doubt is the work of some 'fish-lover'. Anyway, back to the dish, this sorta fish are used nowadays as substitute for plenty of fish related dishes as it is the cheaper option but given the texture of the flesh, it is still very much acceptable, probably just like how the Dory fish (A type of catfish in region of Mekong) has been used as a substitute for fish and chips.

Fish soup beehoon in Singapore used to have pieces of Spanish Mackerel meat (Tenggiri) in it but nowadays 99% substituted with the Toman flesh instead. I personally love to go for Toman but only when I am fishing in fresh water river but to eat it... apart from dishes that used plenty of spices, I would rather not eat the fish due to its muddy taste. It is sick/disgusting that restauranteurs nowdays are so obsessed with cost cutting and profit maximasing via compromising their food. No thanks to capitalism!

Precious Pea said...

Very home cooked feel indeed. I agree with you, i hate those bicarb beef. It's like eating soft rubbery meat, almost like mock meat??

ganache-ganache said...

hey, this is no budget meal kopitiam ! We used to go to the other shop at Dah Yeh but stopped after the prices went up to 'cut throat' stage ! I always tasted a funny smell in their prawns which were so artificially crunchy & beef like u say full of bicarbonate. We were in a hurry last Sun morn so we went again for a quickie breakfast, 3 plates of fried noodles with 2 coffee/tea cost us RM27.50, way too high !!

Anonymous said...

Their signature fried noodle is bland and I don't get why so many people love this dish so much.

p e n n y said...

auntie terri,

you made me miss kk delicacies so much... =( all of a sudden i just wish i could go home for mummie's home cooked food...

bryan said...

Shame, Man Tai used to be a staple dinner for every time my Uncle came back from China.

I like the food at Yu Hing, have you tried the food there? Not cheap either tho.

Anonymous said...

try little man tai at kingfisher,among all the man tai,this one got the Nostalgic taste,cook by the late boss youngest daughter,i like their kon lou mee...

terri@adailyobsession said...

anon: thanx:)

ah king&moon: u from beaufort?

johnathan: oh i hate dory. seems like tt's the only fish they use for fish n chips :( u think tt's snakehead? i'm not sure if i've eaten snake head b4. just the name puts me off!

pp:they sometimes do tt to pork too, n prawns. its' terrible.

ganache: the portion in tt dah yeh shop is so small it's ridiculous. i don't go there anymore

anon: exactly. i eat it smtimes n i think it's out of habit only!

penny: oh...i'm sure kl food is better? but never as good as mom's :)

bryan: is tt at hilltop? tt place is super expensive!

anon: oh, thnx for reminding me. i liked tt rest. but haven't been there in quite a while.

a.l.u.s said...

They have new shop near Lintas-Airport Bypass near the OUM.. at the back.... :)

terri@adailyobsession said...

alus: i went for lunch today & food was good! but the cha sao egg was swimming in oil...

Anonymous said...

people are complaining about food prices? why don't they petition against the government for hiking up the price of key ingredients to cooking a meal? budget 2013 is going to bring up restaurant prices even more. it's not fun and games when you run a restaurant. to maintain the same quality of food, many people are forced to do something about it. the reason why there aren't many good restaurants in kk is because many owners are compensating low prices instead of better meals. we are a bunch of cheapos without even realizing it. just deluding ourselves going "ayyy so murah okay la memang tasty oso! i eat here forever now"

honestly, rm27.50 for a three person meal?
some of you guys go to upper star and pay a larger margin for only an individual, how come can afford that instead? you think the sirloin comes from australia? cakap, memang boleh cakap. but proof mana? but say it really does, are you sure the way they cook that thing is really the way proper steakhouses do it? if you even half agree, then i already know your background on how food should taste. it's a joke really, how people put things into perspective.

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