RAWANG, Nov 24 – Rawang is situated north of Sungai Buloh and is often considered to be the northernmost periphery of the Klang Valley.

It is best known for its historical significance in tin mining and is also notably home to Malaysia's first and oldest cement factory, Rawang Works.

Rubber was another important industry, and large stretches of rubber estates were established in the surrounding areas.

As a result, Rawang became home to a significant Chinese and Indian population, which is reflected in the demographic breakdown of businesses in the downtown area.

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A walk down Jalan Welman, which is only a block and a half away from the historic Sze Ye Kong Temple, reveals a mixture of Chinese and Indian restaurants, textile shops and other small businesses, as well as Sri Veerakathi Vinayagar Temple, another historic landmark.

It is here that one will find Restoran Peng Nam.

The entrance is flanked by two columns, beaten and battered by time, on which the restaurant’s name – in traditional Chinese, 評男酒樓 – is inscribed in red.

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The front of Peng Nam.
The front of Peng Nam.

The rustic interior.
The rustic interior.

Peng Nam boasts a heritage spanning three generations, having been established by the current owner’s paternal grandfather.

Every night (save for Mondays), it closes at seven, which is early even for the dedicated crowd of regulars it caters to.

The menu is small, focused on a few dishes which the restaurant has become famous for over the years.

On the Thursday evening that I was there, they had run out of sweet and sour pork, so we opted for the rest of the signature items.

Among them, my favourite was a plate featuring slices of tofu and fish.

They were deep-fried till crispy, with a surface as craggy as the moon, then braised in a dark sauce flavoured predominantly by fermented yellow soybeans.

It tasted every bit as good as it did the first time I had it some nine years ago, and has been a fixture of every visit over the years.

True to the low-frills, homey setting of Peng Nam, there are no set portions; when your order is taken, factors like the size of your party and the rest of your order are taken into account – portion and price are determined accordingly.

You’re in experienced, good hands here, so go along with it.

There’s magic in these hands yet, especially in two more braised dishes.

Their version of Braised Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce here is among the best.
Their version of Braised Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce here is among the best.

Spare ribs, braised in a black bean sauce, are slip-off-the-bone tender while possessing a profoundly deep and complex flavour.

They’re savoury, sweet and just a little bit spicy from bits of dried chillies thrown in.

Braised Chicken and Bitter Gourd here has an incredibly addictive sauce (left). A simple Fu Yong Egg (right).
Braised Chicken and Bitter Gourd here has an incredibly addictive sauce (left). A simple Fu Yong Egg (right).

Chicken and bitter gourd sounds – and looks – rather plain, the third in a series of "stuff in brown sauce”, but make no mistake, this is a masterful version of a classic.

Fermented black beans feature again, but this sauce is much sweeter to balance out the bitter gourd.

On top of that, it’s thick and velvety with a silky sheen – something any good saucier would be proud of.

In fact, the sauce on its own earned the dish a place in the clean plate club; licked clean by yours truly, and I’m not even a fan of bitter gourd!

Here, rice is steamed in a large metal bowl.
Here, rice is steamed in a large metal bowl.

All this saucy business needs to be handled by some rice, which at Peng Nam, is steamed (not boiled) in a metal (could it be tin?) bowl that’s way bigger than your usual bowl.

Rounding up the rest of the meal were good (bringing the total to RM162), if not outstanding, dishes including fu yong egg, fried wantan, stir-fried sweet potato leaves with fermented bean curd and old cucumber soup to wash it all down.

Fried 'wantans'.
Fried 'wantans'.

Sweet potato leaves stir-fried with fermented bean curd.
Sweet potato leaves stir-fried with fermented bean curd.

Old Cucumber Soup is a satisfying way to wrap up the meal.
Old Cucumber Soup is a satisfying way to wrap up the meal.

These were above average, but not as memorable as the earlier dishes, all of which I would gladly return and polish off with joy. .

As we left, I asked how long Peng Nam had been in business. Chuckling softly, she said that it’s been so long, she doesn’t even remember.

Peng Nam Restaurant

43, Jln Welman, Rawang, Selangor

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 12-3pm, 5-7pm

Tel: 012-237 0631

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