Years of Tradition present more to this transit town than gas stations.
In part 3 of our Sedap Food Trail series, we wander into a sleepy village in Batang Kali, a town in Selangor often used as a transit point to Genting Highlands. It is quiet, to say the least. We were eager to pick up packets of Oh Swee Len’s famed sesame candy, a traditional staple at weddings that have been in business since 1923. After directions from kind neighbours, we finally end up in the kitchen of Leonard Oh’s home.
To say that the candy is a labour of love is an understatement. The kitchen is no ordinary kitchen, having been where Oh’s grandfather first started making the candy. The seven-day method of preparation, which produces around 100 kg of sweets, hasn’t changed too. After soaking, pressing, steaming and drying, large sheets of glutinous flour mixture are transformed magically into bite-sized rectangles, which are then fried in low heat. The finishing touches include soaking them in maltose sugar and rolling the candy with sesame or rice puffs.
Oh, who took over the family business after a career in financial consulting, says it is the nostalgic memory of his grandfather that inspired him to trade his fancy suits for sweaty t-shirts. “It is very important that we do not lose traditional skills like this. Automating can help us with things like cutting, but you still need to feel, to actually cook, to maintain a certain standard and connection.”
Sentiments like these are what keep eateries like Restaurant Ken Kee alive. I starred intently at the claypot of yam and ribs noodles with dark sauce as lady boss Avelyn Fong, explained how her parents would cook this dish for her when she was a studying for her exams. “It tastes of home,” she says. Indeed. Generous chunks of soft yam are simmered in a broth of pork ribs and dark sauce together with homemade noodles for 20 minutes before served in a steaming hot inviting mess. “We cook it portion by portion,” she adds with pride.
Other dishes worth tasting are the vegetable broth noodles, salted egg fried chicken, butter egg tofu and Nyonya hotplate fish, which features a mess of assam sambal vegetables (13 ingredients, according to Fong) on top of a deep fried Tilapia fish.
Swee Len Food Industries
36, Jalan Kelah 2, Taman Perniagaan Kelah, 44300 Batang Kali, Selangor
Tel + 6017 366 2698
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm, daily; Closed Mon.
Restaurant Ken Kee
1 Jalan Jati Utama 3, Bandar Batang Kali,
44300 Batang Kali, Selangor (Near Batang Kali KTMB Station)
Tel +6016 311 2762
Opening hours: 9am to 4pm (Mon to Sat); 9.30am to 4pm (Sun)