Saturday, 23 December 2017

Ke Ren Lai Hakka Cuisine in Johor Bahru 客人来.家传菜

Ke-Ren-Lai-Hakka-Food-Johor-Bahru-客人来.家传菜

We lunched today at Ke Ren Lai 客人来 at 6, Jalan Pingai in Taman Pelangi. Ke Ren Lai is dedicated to popularising Hakka cuisine in Johor Bahru. The Pelangi outlet is the parent shop with branches in Sutera Mall and Bandar Baru Permas Jaya.

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Founded in 2004, Ke Ren Lai is a compact restaurant but the tables and seats are well spaced out, so it has a comfortable yet intimate feel. The decor has a down-to-earth, homely, rural ambiance with bright red lanterns overhead lighting up the brown and grey tones.

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Bryan Ho, one of Ke Ren Lai's founders started us off with the most basic of Hakka cuisine - Hakka noodles 客家肉挫面. It's house made noodles topped with lightly stir fried minced pork and served with aromatic oil and a sprinkle of chopped scallion. (No lard in Ke Ren Lai's Hakka noodles.)

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Hakka mee is eaten by tossing, folding and mixing the noodles and fried minced pork together. The thick house made noodles were cooked to a very slight spring, leaning on the soft side. The fried minced pork and aromatic oil were mildly savoury.

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Hakka Yong Tofu 客家釀豆腐 is the perfect side dish for Hakka noodles.

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The pieces of fresh brinjal, bitter gourd, chili pepper, tau kwa, tau pok were packed with a blend of minced pork and ti poh (dried sole fish). It is served in a simple stock made by boiling soya beans and dried anchovies.

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Just give me Hakka noodles with a bowl full of Hakka yong tau foo anytime and I am in food heaven already 😄 (But, the not type stuffed with generic fish surimi and starch fillers lah 😂 )

Ke-Ren-Lai-Hakka-Food-Johor-Bahru-客人来.家传菜

Hakka Yam Abacus 客家大埔算盤子 is another dish synonymous with Hakka cuisine.

Ke-Ren-Lai-Hakka-Food-Johor-Bahru-客人来.家传菜

Hakka Yam Abacus is a staple in Hakka homes. It is made with tapioca flour and yam rolled into buttons that look like the "seeds" on a traditional Chinese abacus calculator, hence the name Yam Abacus.

The "abacus seeds" are stir fried with minced pork, strips of fungus, dried tofu, cuttlefish etc. Ke Ren Lai's version of Yam Abacus (and most of its dishes) are light handed on savoury-salty flavours, just like the way loving mothers would render them. Healthy eating is one of Ke Ren Lai's approach to promoting Hakka food. 

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Of course, no Hakka restaurant menu is complete without Hakka Lei Cha Rice 客家擂茶飯 (or hum cha).

(Commonly referred to "Thunder Tea" in English, the word 擂 in Hakka actually means "to grind" so 擂茶 is more accurately "Ground Tea".)

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The bowl of boiled white rice was covered with a colourful blanket of stir fried long beans, tau kwa, cabbage, toasted peanuts, greens, and chai poh. A bowl of "tea" made by grinding and boiling vegetable and herbs was tipped into the bowl of rice and a spoonful of dried shrimps was mixed in.

In the mouth, it's a mix of crunchy, soft and nutty textures. Blended flavours from vegetable, nuts and dried shrimps make an interesting tasting dish.

Lei Cha Rice is probably the best example of healthy eating in Hakka cuisine.

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Not very pretty looking but Hakka Vinegar Pork Trotter 客家豬腳醋 (price RM24.90+) is a traditional health tonic dish with lots of robust flavours. It's a traditional confinement dish that found its way into the staples of Hakka cuisine.

Pork trotter is stewed in a blend of dark soy sauce and black vinegar till the skin, fat and meat are soft and infused with robust savoury sourish flavours.

Ke-Ren-Lai-Hakka-Food-Johor-Bahru-客人来.家传菜

Hakka Drunken Chicken Set 客家黃酒雞套餐.

Ke Ren Lai offers many set meals which consists of one main, three small sides and rice. The sides change everyday - today, we had tofu, pumpkin and corn soup.

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The chunks of tender chicken were cooked in a soup heavily laced with rice wine which tasted sweet with a very slight zesty sourness.

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Ke Ren Lai has soup sets for those days when you only want something soupy and light - all of us have such days 😄 The Pork Stomach Pepper Soup Set 胡椒豬肚套餐 is comforting and tasty.

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On each table is this little tub of sambal chili. Make sure to try it as it is very nice - sweet with a briefly lingering spicy kick which makes everything tastes better.

Customers like this sambal chili so much that Ke Ren Lai makes bottles of it for sale. It is a hot seller at RM8.90+.

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Wrapping up the meal with a traditional dessert. Ke Ren Lai's Barley Beancurd Skin Soup with Ginko 白果薏米腐竹 is exactly like how mums make that wholesome "sweet beverage 糖水" at home.

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👉 Ke Ren Lai 客人来 is a nice comfortable place in JB to get to know many traditional Hakka dishes. If you miss Hakka food, this is a good place to get it. Ke Ren Lai uses fresh ingredients and is sparing in its use of seasoning, so the taste is like mum's cooking at home with good balance of mild flavours and healthfulness.

Disclosure: Please note that this was an invited tasting.

Ke-Ren-Lai-Hakka-Food-Johor-Bahru-客人来.家传菜

Restaurant name: Ke Ren Lai 客人来
Address6, Jalan Pingai, Taman Sri Pelangi, Johor Bahru
GPS1°28'55.6"N 103°46'21.1"E | 1.482115, 103.772527
Tel07-331 2430
Hours: 11:00am to 9:30pm

Non Halal

Date visited: 22 Dec 2017

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I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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