Surprises at Sunday Market
May 26, 2019
Sunday. Noon. I am at Restoran Istimewa Lai Je because My Best Friend is having severe cravings for Chef Woo Ming Chung’s specialty, Sweet & Sour Wat Tan Hor.
But when we arrive, MBF forgets about the craving, temporarily. Instead, we are stopped in our tracks by the sight of tables laden with sauces, vegetables, shelves stacked with bananas and packets of tofu pok and homemade mantou suspended from a standing coat hanger. With customers milling around choosing their purchases, the ambience has the lively air of a fair.
|Fresh eggs from horse-grass fed chicken|
|Red Pisang Raja Udang and Pisang Raja|
|Baby French beans and Chinese Violet|
|Tin Chat vegetable or Madeira Vine|
|Passionfruit straight from the farm|
This Sunday Market is the brainwave of restaurateur Wenlly Lai Je, in response to popular demand.
“It started when I brought in combs of banana from our own farms in Bukit Tinggi,” she said.
“Customers would buy these after they finish their meals and some requested for our farm vegetables too. So I thought we could do this on a bigger scale on Sunday afternoons.”
The vegetables and fruit are trucked in from the farm on Sunday morning itself. There are packets of green tin chat leaves, baby French bean, Bentong ginger, Chinese violet (Telosma cordata), passionfruit, pisang raja, pisang mas and pisang raja udang which sports a beautiful red hue. Peel it and pisang raja udang is creamy yellow inside.
|Ginger from Bentong is said to be the most aromatic|
Bentong is also famous for tofu pok (deepfried tofu cubes) and these come plain or stuffed with minced pork (frozen).
Yes, frozen food is popular. I buy zong (Chinese glutinous rice dumpling), jiaozi (meat dumpling) and bao in cute shapes – bunnies stuffed with red bean paste and piggies with lotus seed paste. The mantou comes in 4 varieties – plain, wholemeal, pumpkin and chocolate.
|Cute bao and cakes on sale|
|Variety of bao and mantou|
If you prefer to have something to eat right away, there’s a variety of bao kept hot in a bamboo steamer, right next to the rojak stall.
|Old fashioned snacks for kids|
|Colour sand art|
But there’s more to the Sunday Market than just fresh farm produce and food. It’s a lot of fun and MBF and I spend a whole hour browsing the various stalls.
For one thing, I love the retro stuff on sale. Old fashioned gasing (tops), haw flakes, lemon “tablets”, Snake & Ladders, sticks of Choki-Choki, colour sand art and more.
Meanwhile, adults can also shop for organic lipstick/lipbalm, homemade chilli paste, Woo’s nyonya sauce, eggs from free-range horse-grass fed chicken, pickled kedondong (ambarella), pickled ginger and even a Kangen water filter.
Then there are stingless bee honey, stingless bee honey soap and stingless bee medicated oil. Stingless bee honey, which has slightly sour taste, has plenty of nutrients and a higher nutritional value than regular honey and is said to act as a restorative after an illness, soothe pain, act as antiseptic, hasten healing and relieve cough among other things.
|Chef Woo's nyonya sauce and pickled Bentong ginger|
|My favourite pickled kedondong|
|Stingless Bee Honey, soap and medicated oil|
|Home-made organic lipstick and lipbalk|
|Macha latte, organic coconut oil and Night Diet Tea|
How about coffee mix, macha latte, organic coconut oil, organic coconut vinegar or a Night Diet Tea from Japan?
Having filled our basket with purchases, we go inside to grab a table… and see shelves of potato/yam chips, cookies, rice crackers, Chinese pastries and even muruku, right next to the cashier counter.
|Chef Woo's signature Sweet & Sour Pork Kway Teow|
|Fried Glass Noodles with seafood and yin-yang vegetable|
But we need to pacify growling tummies first. The Sweet & Sour Pork Kway Teow is as yummy as we remember. We also get Dry Fried Glass Noodles and yin-yang vegetable. I haven’t heard of this vegetable and it’s probably a hybrid because Wenlly describes it as a vegetable with an interesting combination of textures – the stems taste like Chinese mustard while the leaves are reminiscent of kalian.
|Rojak with deepfried crispy Bentong tofu pok|
For dessert, we decide to buy a plate of fruit rojak from the stall outside. A packet of pre-cut fruit (cucumber, mango, pineapple, guava etc) is RM10 and comes with rojak sauce, crushed peanuts and, instead of prawn fritter, there’s crunchy deepfried Bentong tofu pok.
Restoran Istimewa Lai-Je (non-halal)
15 Jalan Temenggung 5/9
Bandar Mahkota Cheras
Restaurant: Noon to 10pm. Closed Thursday
Sunday Market: Sunday, noon to 5pm
Farm vegetables and fruit, Bentong ginger, home-made sauces, pastries, dim sum, rojak, organic handmade lip balm, stingless bee honey and soap, retro toys, rojak, bao, chung (dumplings)