The ambience in Old China Cafe is cosy and takes you away from the bustle of the city but the place is filled with so many authenically old things that I wonder if the gramophone comes on by itself when no one is around!
Old China Cafe in Kuala Lumpur is probably frequented more by tourists than the locals but I highly recommend it for those who want a feel of the Peranakan baba-nyonyain the early 1900sand a taste of delicious Peranakan cuisine. Peranankan baba nyonya were Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore who married local Malay ladies and integrated their customs, culture and cuisine. The Peranankans had the freedom of combining non-halal (non-'kosher' food for Muslims) ingredients with the local Malay spices into exciting dishes that exude the best of both cuisines, with flavors that are more Malay and cooking style more Chinese, in my opinion. Peranakan cuisine is dying, probably because Peranakan marriages are dwindling due to the present religious ban against a non-Muslim marrying a Muslim. That makes me realize that 'multiracial' and 'interacial' are very different things. Peranakan is interacial, and in the old days interracial marriages were welcome because no politics were involved.
Royal Selangor's meals for us were centered on Malaysian cuisine and no other cuisine in Malaysia embodies the harmonious times between two of the largest races in the country than Peranakan cuisine.
For starters, we had a version of the Cantonese bao sang, a mixture of sauteed veggies wrapped in lettuce and seasoned with a delicious chili-prawn paste sauce.
Pie tees, the size of a golf ball, are yummy 'tarts' made with lots of skill and care.The shells were super crispy-crunchy and the filling just right so that each mouthful was a delight.
The duck soup with salted veg was light but not outstanding.
A yummy pork dish. Authentic Peranankan cuisine includes pork.
Chicken dish (I didn't order or take notes!)--delicious.
Another yummy chicken dish.
I appreciated with wonder the amount of work and passion that went into cooking these dishes because Peranakan food is something I never cooked or will ever cook, I think, because there are lots of spices to roast and pound, and elaborate preparation and long stewing are key steps in Peranakan cooking.
This plate of fried calamari rings must've been ordered by my son Wey. He orders fried calamari rings and pasta carbonara too, whenever those dishes are on the menu. He judges a restaurant by how good they make his favorite food. I'm not sure how he rated these calamari rings; he's away doing National Service.
I love salted krill omelette but wished this was stronger in flavor. I think that for this dish, a mixture of aged and freshly made salted krill would give both taste and texture.
A veggie dish.
Blue rice is made from the bunga telang, a flower of the pea family. The natural blue dye doesn't add flavor to the rice but makes it pretty and unusual.
The sago gula melaka was disappointing because the flavor of the coconut milk was rather bland.
I had a taste of each dessert and felt that they could've been better if the santan (coconut milk) flavor was fresher and stronger. Old China needs to pay more attention to its desserts. I think that Asian sweet soup desserts are super yummy and so totally under-rated.
Old China Cafe
No.11, Jalan Balai Polis
Tel: 603-2072 5915
Opens 11 am to 11 pm daily