I never had a clear definition of what Hainanese food is categorized as until having spent a few years in South East Asia.
The typical Hainanese food offered here are totally different from what are available in the physical Hainan island in the south of China, I guess it comes down to how Hainanese people wanted to remember and appreciate flavours from their hometown after migrating to another new land, and added fusion touch to their dishes generations after generations.
Yuk Kee is a very local Hainanese restaurant on Jalan Kamunting in Kuala Lumpur, right next to the newly opened STRIPES Hotel by Marriott Autograph Collection – you won’t miss it with the long queue lined out its foyer.
We were walking towards the restaurant at 3pm in the afternoon, you’ll be amazed with the crowd of friends and families as if it’s a lunch peak hour. Everyone would be chilling outside the yard waiting patiently for their names to be called, even if it’s just to get a shared table.
The signature Hainanese Chicken Chop came along with tomato and onion infused chicken gravy on top of the tender soft fried chicken. While cutting through the bite-size pieces, strong herbal aroma evaporates towards the center of the chicken, (wait!) don’t forget to pour a few drops of Lea & Perrins Sauce in the gravy, dip in the chicken and put in your mouth – layers of flavours start exploding in your mouth immediately, with juicy, crunchy, and chewy textures satisfying each bite – so addictive that I literally finished the whole plate in 5 mins!
Despite the main dishes that are known among the locals, DO grab a piece of Kaya Swissroll to balance out the meal. Comparing to the Swiss Rolls in commercial bakeries, Yuk Kee’s homemade version is less buttery and sweet, yet without sacrificing the taste of original ingredients.
If you are in Malaysia for the first time and not up for touristy spots, Yuk Kee would be one of the best places to enjoy varies authentic NanYang dishes, while exploring the true heritage of NanYang culture of how it has evolved – they are all “exhibited” in the vintage decor, in the retro tiles, or in the faded paint of red brick walls.
Till the next “makan” time.
– J x