Its crispiness, the bits of salt fish and sweetness of the Chinese sausage slices embedded in the deep brown rice are simply delicious.
[On the Food Trail with Tiberius Kerk]
In my journeys to various parts of the Peninsula for food and cheap thrills, I sometimes come across restaurants and roadside stalls that sell extraordinarily good food.
But it is always the people I meet at the stalls or behind the counters who leave an impression on me. Recently, on the spur of the moment I revisited Jinjang Utara, or Jinjang North.
It is a place not frequented much by people living outside its boundaries. However, I made a friend there more than a year ago. He runs a claypot chicken rice stall in Jalan Club.
Ah Choy’s stall is sandwiched between a dozen others selling roast duck, roast meat and other food items favoured by the predominantly Chinese community.
The easiest way to locate Ah Choy’s Claypot Chicken Rice stall is to look for Tuaa Mark Pan Mee Restaurant. Ah Choy’s place is opposite Tua Mark’s pan mee.
For years, I have shunned claypot chicken rice. Perhaps it was because for a very long time, I had had too much of it. You could say I had an overdose of claypot chicken rice.
After a while, the dish tastes the same almost everywhere there is such a stall. That is until I stumbled onto Ah Choy’s claypot chicken rice.
Last night, I decided to bring my family along to let them judge for themselves the quality of Ah Choy’s claypot chicken rice.
His wife who helps out at the stall has the same disposition. She also speaks excellent English. It was about 7pm and Ah Choy’s three daughters were hanging around. The eldest looks about 16 years old.
She looked as if she was doing her homework on a laptop. Altogether, Mr and Mrs Choy have five children, three daughters and two sons.
They are very ordinary, hardworking people earning a decent living in Jinjang Utara.
The claypot chicken rice which arrived at our table was adequate for two people but the amount as Ah Choy prepared it actually fed four of us.
As usual, the claypot rice was excellent. There is no way to accurately describe its crispiness, the bite of the bits of salt fish and the sweetness of the Chinese sausage slices embedded in the deep brown rice.
Members of my family were taken by surprise by its delicious taste. Normally, they wouldn’t even want to go near a plate of claypot chicken rice. They share the same reason as me for not being crazy about this dish.
Obviously, Ah Choy had changed their minds. Like before, we ordered a plate of grilled Thai-styled tau fu which came with sweet and sour sauce.
The tau fu was still hot when I put a piece in my mouth. It is simply the best of its kind I have ever tasted.
Since we were no longer considered as customers but friends, Mrs Choy gave us a refill of the soup which was simply superb. I don’t often have the privilege of tasting great soup but at Ah Choy’s stall, the soup comes closest to reminding me of my late mother.
In the not-so-quiet Saturday evening in Jalan Club, the people living in the vicinity came out in full force to walk around and shop. Cars slowed traffic to a crawl in several narrow roads.
Ah Choy and his wife were quite happy that we were having a jolly good time at his stall. He knew we appreciated his dishes but we left only empty plates behind.
I am often reminded by people like the Choys that some of us are so lucky we don’t have to wake up at pre-dawn hours to go to the wet market to replenish stocks to run a hawker stall.
And after a hard day’s work, going to sleep late at night and then waking up early to go through the same routine again.
The diligence and single-mindedness of these hardworking people who seldom utter a single word of complaint puts most of us to shame.
Sometimes we complain that life is not fair because we don’t get the chance to travel first class on an A380 aircraft like some people. Then, we meet people like Ah Choy, his wife and children.
We are instantly reminded that we are the lucky ones. Many of us living in the more developed parts of the Klang Valley don’t struggle to earn decent wages which inadvertently leads to creating a strong character.
Ah Choy’s limited menu includes porridge, an assortment of vegetables, Thai tau fu and fruit juice tau fu.
He opens for business daily from 11.30am to 9.30pm. Ah Choy has been operating at this place for about 15 years. He looks like he is in his late 30s. His wife looks even younger, even though she is a mother of five.
They are good people with simple needs. Of course, they would want a better life if given an opportunity. But they seem quite optimistic in their outlook despite their circumstances.
The Choys are the kind of people who form the strong backbone of our society. As ordinary citizens, we can really learn a lot from people like them.