In search of Jalan Batai Restoran Seng Lee's char kway teow

The corner restaurant is right behind CIMB Bank. — Picture by Choo Choy May
The corner restaurant is right behind CIMB Bank. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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SHAH ALAM, Jan 16 — In response to last week’s article titled, “A changing KL neighbourhood: Jalan Batai shops keep up with the times”, one of our readers, Ng Mei Chin sent us an email requesting the whereabouts of the char kway teow stall that used to be located at Restoran Seng Lee. 

After the place closed, the stall had relocated to Restoran Shangri-La at the end of the row of shophouses.

When Restoran Shangri-La reopened last week after renovations, people were surprised that the char kway teow stall was no longer there. 

We managed to track down the stall’s owners, Eng Lee Ling and her husband, Khoo Meng Hian, all the way to Setia Alam.

Nowadays, the couple manage the operations of Henan Hawker Food – a modern-style coffeeshop with various food stalls that includes their signature char kway teow. 

The restaurant opened last June. In the early days, Lee Ling’s father, Eng Kim Soong, who used to be the char kway teow master at Restoran Seng Lee, helped out at the char kway teow stall, while Lee Ling still continued at Damansara Heights.

When Restoran Shangri-La closed for renovations in late September, Lee Ling decided to stay here full-time and help manage the restaurant with her husband. 

Since her husband is also busy, she is not too confident about tackling the long journey by herself from her home in Shah Alam to Damansara Heights. 

Moreover the long working hours didn’t suit her father who will soon be turning 70, hence she took over the frying of the noodles.

Their char kway teow sports distinctly thinner rice flour strands, prawns, fluffy egg, bean sprouts, chives and cockles – all fried with skill built up from many years of experience. 

Unlike other places, they prefer not to use any pork lard or oil to fry their noodles, making their noodles suitable for Malay customers.

Occasionally, the Batai regulars will be happy to know, you may catch Lee Ling’s father coming out of his retirement and helping out at the restaurant. Depending on your luck, he still picks up the spatula and fries up a plate or two of his signature noodles. 

Recently, one of his long-term customers was lucky to get to taste his char kway teow, during a visit from England. Some of Lee Ling’s faithful customers have also trekked all the way to Setia Alam to eat her char kway teow.

According to Lee Ling, the family originally from Penang has two generations that are linked to char kway teow. Her father learned how to fry the noodles from his older brother and he started out in a stall at Overseas Union Garden before relocating to Restoran Shangri-La in the 1970s. 

Later he switched over to Restoran Seng Lee. In 1998, Lee Ling and her father swapped places; she took over his space in Damansara Heights and he continued at Shah Alam where she had a stall. 

Her younger brother also runs a char kway teow stall in Jinjang. Lee Ling’s cousin also continues their family’s legacy at Restoran Sun Sea, Overseas Union Garden, the coffee shop that sells the famous pork noodles.

Currently at Henan Hawker Food, Lee Ling is also assisted by her uncle, Ng Kim Meng who manages the kitchen.

Aside from baking the egg tarts and siew pao here, he is also skilled in char kway teow, helping Lee Ling on occasion. After Chinese New Year, he will also be introducing a range of dim sum items, like his own pao.

The restaurant offers various stalls selling all kinds of items like Teluk Intan chee cheong fun, Indian rojak, roti canai, pork noodles and wantan mee.

A good choice for a comforting meal here is the mee hoon kueh or handmade pinched noodles served with a sweet tasting soup made from anchovies, which is topped with pork slices, prawns, anchovies and vegetables. 

For those who prefer a spicier version, try the dry spicy pan mee with egg as the handmade noodles have a nice bite.

Lee Ling is constantly tweaking the stall offerings, searching for new stall owners to join the restaurant. After Chinese New Year, they will be switching assam laksa stall operators. Recently, she introduced her own recipe for BBQ fish, which is served from 6pm onwards.

Some of Lee Ling’s previous patrons have also been trying to persuade her to return to an area nearer to Damansara Heights.

Even though she would like to relocate nearer to them, at the moment, her hands are full as it’s taking her time to get the business running smoothly at Henan Hawker Food. 

I guess if you’re hankering for a taste of the Batai char kway teow, it’s time for a road trip to Setia Alam to get your fix.

Henan Hawker Food, No. 2-1-1, Jalan Setia Prima Q U13/Q (Behind CIMB Bank), Setia Alam, Seksyen U13, Shah Alam. Open daily: 8.30am to 10.30pm (last order by 10pm).

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