Since we are on the RED trail, I just had some lovely RED Wine Meesuah last week. Cooking with red wine – the very red home-made wine prepared from red rice and glutinuous rice, not the typical western red wine from grapes, is typical of Foochow or Fuzhou cuisine.
The Fuzhou aka Hockchew people originate from the Fujian province of China. In Malaysia, they are located predominantly in Sibu (Sarawak), Yong Peng (Johor) and Sitiawan (Perak). There are many special foods associated with the Fuzhou people but undoubtedly their very famous dishes would be those that are cooked with their red wine. Traditionally, the wine is made from fermenting a mixture of blended red rice bran and cooked glutinuous rice. This rice mixture must be kept in a very clean ceramin urn, with some filtered water and left to ferment for about 40 days! The resultant wine is then filtered and it can keep for a very long time. The wine residue, known as “wine lees” is not discarded – in fact, this concoction is used in cooking many of the typical Fuzhou dishes. You can actually packets of dried wine lees from Sitiawan and Fuzhou shops.
Take, for example, the Red Wine Chicken Meesuah. Besides using the wine, some of the rice residue is also added for more colour and flavour. The distinctly sweet and sourish, slightly fruity aroma of the red wine had infused into the thin rice vermicelli and every slurp of the smooth slithery noodles was like a toast on the palate. I love the still-crunchy black fungus and the succulent pieces of chicken, while well-cooked, did not disintegrate in the pot.
The wine lees (residue) was used in a number of Old Fuzhou’s signature dishes. While meesuah is a well-known and popular item, the Fried Rice was something I have not tried before. Fried plainly with just some eggs and spring onions, the dish did not detract from its main attraction, ie the red rice residue which imparted a lovely earthy, slightly sourish, flavour to the rice.
The lovely owner of Old Fuzhou strongly recommended that we try their Pork Slices with Hamchoy (pickled mustard leaves). It was certainly a a great choice. Slices of lean pork were stir-fried with bits of hamchoy with wine lees. Very simple, very basic. This would go wonderfully with white rice.
Fuzhou Fishballs – soft bouncy fishballs with fillings of minced pork in the centre, cooked in a sweet light soup. How comforting. I love fishballs (good ones, of course) and with the added bonus of minced pork in the centre, I’m happy with my soup!
The Fuzhou-style of Oyster Omelette (“orh chien”) is quite different from the Hokkien-style, which is softer, more gooey due to the use of tapioca flour. In Old Fuzhou, you get the fluffy crispy version. Just look at how light & fluffy the omelette is – achieveable, with some skills, when you fry the eggy concoction in some very hot oil!
Eat your Orh Chien with chilli sauce… not any chilli sauce…
… it must be this particular one: Kampong Koh Garlic Chilli Sauce!
I always buy at least 10 bottles of these whenever I go to Sitiawan… or “tumpang” my colleagues who go there!
The only non-Fuzhou dish we had that evening was this Vinegar Pig Trotters…because it is a favourite dish of our Fairy Godmother of Makan. Vinegar Pig Trotters is really such a popular dish, cooked and eaten by every Chinese community here that I’m not sure where it really originated from. It’s popular among new mothers during the post-natal period… but it has evolved into an everyday kinda dish – you don’t need an occasion to eat this, really. Since when do the Chinese need an occasion to eat? And to eat Pork, at that!
Old Fuzhou’s version is pretty commendable… the trotters were cooked soft enough (but not falling-off-the bone kinda soft) and would go sublimely with a bowl of white rice. It could do with a bit more ginger though, preferably Bentong ginger and perhaps a dash of gula melaka too. Yes, that’s how I cook and love my pig trotters, heh!
Old Fuzhou is tucked in a quiet corner in Damansara Kim (opposite the Super Tanker Restaurant), with ample parking. Do check this place out when you have an urge for good old comfort food, of the Fuzhou kind… expecially now when the weather has turned kinda rainy – red wine warms the body and soothes the soul.
My appreciation to Marian Eu for this heart-warming Fuzhou experience :-))
Old Fuzhou Restaurant
81 Jalan SS20/11
47400 Petaling Jaya