SEMENYIH, Nov 28 — Problems can lead to pleasure, if one views obstacles as a form of opportunity.
Or, what happens when one of you wants steamed fish and the other prefers it deep-fried instead?
Why not have it both ways?
This, at least, is possible at 2 Gor Restaurant in the sleepy town of Semenyih. Their signature Two Styles Fish with Steamed Egg (huá dàn shuǐ zhēng zhà yú) features a large tilapia prepared using both techniques so no one is left out.
The morsels of fish fillet are steamed, then simply drenched in hot soy sauce. Flesh attached to the fish bones and fish head is deep-fried for those that enjoy the crunch and slow picking of every crevice.
A thin layer of steamed egg custard provides a smooth finish (huá dàn literally means "smooth egg” so there is truth in advertising).
Certainly it doesn’t hurt that the presentation of this aptly named Two Styles Fish with Steamed Egg is magnificent, the fins arching dramatically from deep-frying in hot oil and the steamed fillets arranged in a circle like the rays of a sun.
No surprise when we learn that the owner had previously worked as a chef at a number of hotels.
That hard-earned flair is showcased in nearly every category on the menu as the lady boss (acting as the maître d’, to use fine dining parlance) will always have an alternative suggestion to cater to all palates.
For instance, those looking for something more decadent can try their Deep-fried Buttermilk Fish or nǎi shā zhà yú, another favourite of Semenyih residents — who tend to have an early dinnertime, judging by how 2 Gor Restaurant is packed at 6pm.
With fewer than a dozen tables, it helps to call ahead and reserve your table. The shop itself, a corner lot, looks quite modest but by not overcrowding the space with tables, you can still have a comfortable conversation without straining your ears.
I have to be honest; when we visited, I already had a list of recommendations from a friend who patronises the restaurant regularly with his family.
But it always helps to keep one item available for whatever you feel like having that day, a wild card so to speak. (More on this later.)
Otherwise our dinner is a parade of the restaurant’s bestsellers. Besides the fish, we also ordered their Chilled Sweet and Sour Pork or bīngzhèn gū lǎo ròu. Icy, sweet and savoury, this crowd-pleaser apparently originated from a 1995 Hong Kong film, The Chinese Feast.
Fortunately, the dish isn’t just for entertainment purposes. By chilling the classic gu lou yoke with shaved ice, the texture of each nugget of sweet and sour pork is preserved.
Using a strainer as a divider between the ice and the plate means the meat doesn’t get soaked as the ice melts, which is pretty ingenious.
Then there is their Charcoal Tofu (mùtàn dòufu); its ebony hue derived from the use of Japanese bamboo charcoal. The gravy is thick and unctuous, perfumed with Shaoxing rice wine.
If your dinner party happens to be indecisive about the greens too, you might be delighted to learn that it is not only the fish that comes in two styles. The same applies to their vegetables, or at least their Two Styles Kailan.
Known as yinyong kailan in Cantonese and èr sōng jiè lán in Mandarin, the leaves are shredded and then deep-fried whilst the stalks are stir-fried. You get a crispy "green floss” with the former and a lovely crunch with the latter.
For extra umami and texture, a last-minute garnish of dried baby anchovies adds further flourish. Talk about mouthfeel!
Indeed, as we say in Chinese, Hǎoshì chéng shuāng or "Good things come in pairs”.
Other specialties at 2 Gor Restaurant include BBQ Iberico Ribs, Golden Sand Salted Egg Prawns, Pei Pa Roast Duck served with sweet sauce and plum sauce, and Vietnamese Seafood (Yuènán shuāng xiān) featuring fresh prawns and squid.
Speaking of squid, you can’t go wrong with a platter of addictive Salted Egg Squid or xián dàn yóuyú. (This is our aforementioned wild card, albeit a very safe bet.)
For many of us, there’s no better way to enjoy squid — which everyone just calls ham dan sotong, in a very local blending of Cantonese and Malay — particularly if you love the aromatic curry leaves and tiny sliced cili padi (bird’s eye chillies).
By the time we finish, night has fallen and many of the other tables have turned over, with new families dropping by for their dinner. We are certain that they, just like we have, will have quite a feast to remember.
2 Gor Restaurant
No. 18, Taman Permai, Semenyih, Selangor
Open daily (except Wed closed) 12-2:30pm and 6-11pm
Phone: 012-644 9890
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