Taste & Memories: Delivering satisfying Chinese flavours with every bite
Look for this unique spicy sauce as inspired by chai tow kuih where radish cake is replaced with fluffy strands of fish paste noodles. — Pictures by Ham Abu Bakar KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Opened just last December, Taste & Memories has been pulling in the crowds.Here, standard Chinese fare is done differently. For those who loathe MSG, they’ll be happy to find the flavour enhancer is not used in the dishes here.In the hands of Taste & Memories Chief Operating Officer DK Lee, 35, they will find instead that Chinese comfort food is elevated with the use of quality ingredients and a touch of creativity. Taste & Memories Chief Operating Officer DK Lee (middle) works closely with his two chefs to come up with their menu (left to him) Chef Loon and Chef Tett (right to him). Assisting them in the kitchen are staff like Lew Yew Son (first left) and Chia Chin Hua (last right). As a young boy of 12, Lee picked up his kitchen skills while he was lion dance training as his instructor also ran a restaurant. When he turned 16, Lee quit school to join the same restaurant in Rawang.Under his mentor, he learned how to cook like a chef. He also picked up management skills — how to run a restaurant and manage operational costs.When he was 22, he decided it was time to explore the bigger world of Kuala Lumpur. He joined Chatterbox Restaurant at 1 Utama Shopping Centre for two years.Later, he also consulted for a Chinese restaurant that opened in Sydney. As the emphasis was Chinese food with a Malaysian slant, this involved sourcing for local ingredients that worked for the overseas location. Look for Taste & Memories in Taman Desa for Chinese MSG-free eats. Prior to opening this place, he worked with the restaurant chain Canton-i. During his nine-year stint there, he trained the chefs and managed operations.In January last year, he took part in a Malaysia Book of Records feat for the longest ice carving sculpture that showcased yee sang. This was done together with the Malaysian Chinese Chef Association KL. As most of their dishes are eaten family style, the decor at their first shop features round tables. The obligatory kailan is perked up with these crunchy, savoury tasting mui choy (left). This simple, shredded yam bean is cooked with dried prawns and cuttlefish to give it extra flavour (right). When he decided to open his own place, his focus was food that is traditional enough to please the older generation. With this in mind, he selected Taman Desa since it has a large population of Chinese diners who can appreciate this kind of old fashioned taste.In addition, Lee works with his chef to come up with a few new dishes, using unusual ingredients, to stand out from the crowd. The concept is a winning formula as they are packed at lunch and dinner.The business has also expanded and they now occupy three shophouses. You now have more choices like noodles, porridge and dim sum. No matter where you sit, you are allowed to cross order the menu items. The siu mai served here has a nice bite its minced pork filling (left). Poached free range chicken with chicken soup is a signature recipe from DK Lee who took about one and half years to perfect it (right). The compact menu focuses on food you usually see on the family table. The Hometown Chicken Soup sounds simple. It’s not. Despite its moniker, the thick, bright yellow soup isn’t made from chicken. Neither is it made from sharks’ bones even though the soup has a gelatinous mouthfeel.You’ll be surprised but the flavourful broth with its bold notes is boiled from a guinea fowl! Lee tells us this was a recipe he took one plus years to perfect.The deep flavour is slowly eked from the guinea fowl which is slowly boiled with just water for a total of six hours. Accompanying the soup, you’re also served poached free range chicken. You’ll definitely want seconds for the Homemade Pork Rice topped with abalone (left). Try this curry pork ribs with a deep flavour made from their own spice paste (right). Their divine Hometown Chicken Soup has bold flavours, thanks to boiling the guinea fowl for six hours. It’s served with poached free range chicken and a fragrant young ginger dip. Lee explains to us that they only use chickens weighing 1.6 to 1.8 kilograms for this dish. Savour each piece of the juicy chicken with the fragrant young ginger dip, served on the side.Their Homemade Pork Rice delivers nostalgia with every spoonful. Who can resist, piping hot rice in a super hot claypot topped with golden, fluffy lard pieces. We can’t. Stir it all up, including those crusty bits at the bottom.We guarantee you’ll ask for seconds. Lee has also pushed up the luxe factor for this home-styled dish with a topping of mini abalone.Even their kailan, often the obligatory greens to minimise our guilt, is given a new twist. Here, it’s presented with a topping of stir fried mui choy with garlic, as fried up by Chef Loon. The double taste custard bun combines savoury, sweet salted egg yolk custard with pandan lotus paste, all encased in a fluffy bun. That extra touch of the savoury preserved mustard greens elevates the dish. Unlike the usual softer mustard greens used, these top quality preserved vegetables retain their crunchy texture. It’s also not too salty — a right balance of savoury and a sweet edge — making it a moreish dish.Helming their kitchen is Chef Tett, an old hand in home-cooked favourites and of Hakka descent just like Lee. Also in the picture, you have Chef Loon who works closely with Lee to come up with more new fangled dishes.Chef Tett’s specialties include the chee kiok chou or vinegar pork trotters and curry pork ribs. Unlike other spots that serve a zingy version, there’s an appreciative mellowness in this pork trotter dish. Chef Loon works closely with D [...]