Are you a fan of balitong?
Balitong – or “siput sedut” in Malay is an edible sea snail usually cooked in a spicy sauce or with coconut milk in “masak lemak” style. You either love it or hate it. Those who love it know the “art” of sucking out the chewy snail from the right end without getting choked by the protective ”flap”. Not many restaurants serve this delicacy, least of all, a Chinese restaurant.
However, if you are in Port Klang, just mention “balitong” and most likely people there will point you to Tian Lee Seafood Restaurant. Tian Lee is one of the very few in Port Klang (probably the only one?) which serves this delicacy. In fact, it is their signature dish.
As early as 5pm, people throng this simple restaurant just to savour those sea snails. Before 6pm, the restaurant which is nothing more than a zinc-roofed structure with tables and stools filling up the space from wall to wall and spilling out onto the front patio. Service can be painfully slow especially during peak hours but that doesn’t seem to deter the crowds.
We order a plate of their signature dish – the Spicy Balitong (RM15). It’s the only style they serve the snails so don’t bother asking for any other options. The combination of chilli padi, garlic, shallots and lemongrass leaves a trail of fire on the tongue. The paste clings to the snails and the level of spiciness seems to escalate as I sucked on more of the snails! But somehow the spiciness seems to work well with the sweet chewy spiral snail meat because it gets pretty addictive and before we know it, the plate is empty!
Besides the balitong, what we see on every table is their Mee Mamak (RM10). Yes, it’s another one of their signature dish – spicy Indian-style noodles fried with a Chinese twist. There are chicken slices, fish cake, tofu and potatoes in the noodles, all tossed together with some cabbage, chilli paste and curry leaves to give it that added aroma. It’s not like the typical mee mamak you get in a mamak shop – this version has a Chinese feel to it. It doesn’t have that special spicy sauce that authentic mee mamak has. Still, it’s delicious and will be something I’d order again.
Another highly recommended dish is their Thai Fried Rice (RM10). The dark-colored fried rice has the usual eggs and long beans in it which on its own would taste rather ordinary. However, for this version, there are pieces of fried pork served on top of the fried rice. For added crunch, cubes of cucumber are included as well. The slices of pork have hints of Thai spices in the marinade so when eaten with the fried rice and crunchy refreshing cucumber cubes, there’s an interesting mouth-feel there. Compared to the noodles, I think the noodles are a better choice.
Crabs are available here at Tian Lee but the style of cooking these crustaceans is pretty limited. “Kam heong” style is highly recommended by our order taker. The crabs are on the smallish side but they are fresh and sweet. Again, the fire level of the chillies can be intimidating for some as I found it to be quite lethal after a while. Remind them to go easy on the chillies if you don’t want your lips laced with a burning sensation after a while.
Their signature Tofu (RM14) is ordered by almost every table there. Minced pork is stuffed inside the tofu pieces which are first steamed, then deep fried and served with some Thai chilli sauce and crushed peanuts. It’s a good snack to munch on but it has to be eaten while still hot as once the tofu gets cold, it tends to get chewy.
Their Mantis Prawns with Salted Eggyolk are rather average and I’ve tasted much better ones elsewhere. There’s also a stall in front of Tian Lee which serves grilled fish. We were taken in by the tantalizing aromas wafting our way and proceeded to order a portion of Grilled Stingray which turned out to be a big mistake. Yes, the photo here looks very appetizing but taste-wise, it did nothing for us and we were appalled by the RM35 price tag it came with.
Majority of the customers come here for the balitong and mee mamak. So the next time you are craving for balitong, check out Tian Lee.
Tian Lee Seafood Restaurant
Lot 235 Jalan Kastam
42000 Port Klang
Open 5.00pm – 11.00pm
Closed on Wednesday