Please wait a few seconds while we redirect you
to the new and improved House of Annie website at
www.houseofannie.com !

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Foodie Excursion to Ijok for Beggar's Delights

We arrived in Malaysia a few days ago from California and are currently staying in PJ (Petaling Jaya, a suburb of KL), Annie's hometown. We have slowly been getting over the jet lag as well as getting used to the humidity. We've also been getting reacquainted with her family and friends.

One of those friends is Annie's mentor Dr G, who had a big hand in helping Annie get to Hawaii for her graduate studies. Dr G is a big foodie. She introduced Annie to French food as well as sushi, and always has recommendations for any type of food you'd want to eat in Malaysia. On our last trip to Malaysia, Dr G took us for a huge seafood meal out in Kuala Selangor. This time, she wanted to take us on an excursion to a restaurant in Ijok which was famous for beggar's delights.

What Are Beggar's Delights Anyway?

beggar's chicken, duck, pork

Basically speaking, beggar's delights are different meats that have been wrapped and sealed in a clay vessel, then baked in an oven. Chinese legend has it that a beggar stole a chicken but before he could eat it, he hid it from some passing guards in some mud. Not having any cooking utensils, he tossed the whole thing in the fire he had built.

When he pulled the chicken out of the fire, he found that the mud had formed a hard clay crust. After breaking open the crust, he discovered that the feathers came off along with the clay, and what he was left with was a deliciously cooked chicken. Thus originated this classic Chinese cooking technique called Beggar's Chicken.

Get Out of Town

Ijok ("EE-joke") is a small town about 35 km northwest of PJ. It was quite refreshing to get out of the concrete jungle and crowded roads. As we drove out of the city, condominiums, malls and shoplots gave way to acres and acres of palm plantations, as far as the eye can see. Just before hitting Ijok town proper, we made a left turn at the sign at the intersection of Jalan Harmoni 2 and the main road.

Sign for Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok, Selangor

Jalan Harmoni 2 is a lonely road, but after hanging a right, we came upon this restaurant compound:

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok, Selangor

Under the corrugated tin roof, the layout is like a typical Malaysian open air restaurant: many round tables surrounded by red plastic chairs, fluorescent shop lights, and ceiling fans turned up high to provide a breeze. Sparse and utilitarian, with not much attention to decor besides red Chinese lanterns and hanging weaver swallow nests. Your focus is on your food and friends at the table.

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, Ijok, Selangor

We had arrived at 12:30, a bit earlier than the normal 1 pm restaurant opening. The restaurant opens so late because the beggar's delights don't finish cooking until then.

Can we eat it all?

Our party was only 7 adults and 2 kids. A normal set meal is for 10 people. The waitress was concerned that we didn't have enough people to eat all the food that was coming. She suggested we just order less dishes ala carte, but that would have come out to roughly the same price. "Give us the set," we said, "and whatever we don't finish we'll ta pau (box up to take home)."

Being a nosy American, I asked if we could see the ovens where the food was cooking. At first, the waitress said there was nothing to see. But we prevailed upon her and so three young boys (presumably the owner's sons) led us past the kitchen and behind the restaurant.

The first things you see are stacks and stacks of rubber tree logs, which they use as fuel for their ovens.

Stacks of Rubber Tree Logs

stacks of rubber tree logs

In between these two great piles of wood are the brick ovens. They are loosely built structures. The logs are burned to coals in the spaces between the low walls. A thick metal plate rests atop the walls. The beggar's delights are laid on top of the metal plate, more bricks are stacked up like a dam, and old ashes and coal are poured over the beggar's delights to bury them. At Restoran New Beggar's Delicious, the delights cook in the hot ashes for six hours, starting from 7 in the morning all the way to 1 pm.

Brick Ovens at Restoran New Beggar's Delicious

brick pits

One of the boys took a long-handled shovel and began pulling down the brick dams.

knocking down the bricks

He then sunk his shovel into the pile of hot ash...

scooping out the ashes

And lifted out one of the clay packages.

bringing out the beggar's chicken

He repeated this two more times until we had three packages laying on the ground. Apparently, each packet is shaped slightly differently so they can tell what meat is in what packet. Can you see any differences?

beggar's chicken, duck, pork

The boy loaded the packages onto a wheelbarrow and brought them back around to the front of the restaurant...

wheeling the beggar's delights off

Where he deftly lifted them onto a wooden table and began the indelicate work of breaking through the clay shell and tearing through the paper wrapping.

cracking open the beggar's delight

Inside each package is a foil pouch containing the braised delight. The delight goes onto a serving tray and then is brought to the table.

lifting out the foil pouch

From the Beggar's Oven

The first packet we opened was a pork shoulder and chunks of chinese taro (yam), whole garlic cloves, and shiitake mushroom halves. The meat fell clean off the bones. This isn't like Southern-style pulled pork barbecue, though. Being sealed inside foil, paper and clay, no smoke flavoring is allowed to penetrate. But it is still good eats!

Beggar's Pork, Yam, Garlic and Mushrooms

beggar's pork, yam, mushrooms and garlic

The beggar's chicken was stuffed with Chinese herbs and swimming in a delicious broth. The chicken was lean and flavorful.

Beggar's Chicken

beggar's chicken

My favorite of the three was the beggar's duck. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a rich taste. Besides the herbs, there were also some abalone mushrooms cooked with it that was silky smooth and complementary to the duck.

Beggar's Duck

beggar's duck

They also dropped off a packet of Loh Mai Fan, glutinous rice that has been cooked with oyster sauce, salted duck egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms, and pork. Dr G warned, "don't fill up on the glutinous rice! You won't have room for all the other dishes."

Loh Mai Fan

loh mai fan

From the Restaurant's Kitchen

We had just finished cleaning our plates of all the braised meats, when they started bringing out the other dishes that were part of the set meal. Here is a beautiful steamed fish, covered in fried garlic, shallot slices that had been marinated in lime juice, slivers of ginger and green onion. This was actually my favorite dish of the meal. The lime-marinated shallots had me craving for more. And the fish was very fresh--delicate and flaky with no hint of fishiness.

Steamed Fish with Sliced Shallots

steamed fish

Next came this dish of fried whole prawns, covered in a sweet, sticky sauce. I'm guessing that the sauce is Marmite-based, but I can't tell for sure. The weird thing about this dish is, I found bits of fried lard among the prawns. I love fried pork bits, but Dr G is allergic to pork, so she was concerned that she couldn't eat this dish.

Fried Marmite (?) Prawns

marmite prawns

Next, they brought out a platter of mud crabs, fried with chillies, curry leaves, and lard bits again. What's up with the lard bits and seafood? I didn't quite care for this dish, as I much prefer eating Dungeness crab.

Fried Chilli Mud Crab

chili mud crab

They also brought out a platter of stir-fried baby choy sum. One plate of veggies to go with all that preceding meat. I wish we had more veggies.

The final dish was this pork intestine soup. Normally, this soup is flavored with white pepper to mask the smell of the innards. But when I tasted the soup, I was struck by how overwhelming the white pepper taste was. I commented to Annie, "watch out. There's a lot of white pepper in this soup."

"This soup is supposed to have lots of white pepper in it."

"I know, but not this much."

She tasted it. "Whoa! You're right! I can't taste anything else."

The soup was undrinkable to me. Sorry to say, this dish was ruined by the heavy pepper taste.

White Pepper and Pork Intestine Soup

white pepper and pork intestine soup

Our final dish was a plate of ice-cold jackfruit. These fruit were ripe, sweet, crunchy, and a fitting end to the feast.

Ice Cold Jackfruit

ice cold jackfruit

When it was all said and done, we had finished off everything except the undrinkable soup, half the loh mai fan and half the beggar's chicken.

If you do go to Restoran New Beggar's Delicious in Ijok, do go with a large group of people, and do call ahead to make a reservation. They only cook a certain number of beggar's delights each day, and once they're allocated, that's it.

Aloha, Nate

Restoran New Beggar's Delicious
Ijok, Selangor
Tel: 03-32791936

Follow all our foodie adventures in Malaysia! Subscribe to receive our new posts to your RSS reader or to your Inbox.

Hungry for more Malaysian food? Click below:

7 Tips for Making Mouth-Watering Char Koay Teow

Honeydew Sago Dessert: A Refreshing Summer Treat!

Beggar's Chicken

Mum's Popiah is the Best!

How do You Top Mum's Popiah? With Kuih Pie Tee

16 Comments:

Big Boys Oven said...

I click on you Nate from CK Lam blog and found out that you are back in PJ wow! We should meet up soon! :)

ella said...

Fascinating...and everything looks delicious. I would have waddled away!

lydiatheperfectpantry said...

The humidity and heat in KL knocked me for a loop the first couple of days I was there, too. Glad you are getting settled and finding great food -- Malaysia is an eater's paradise.

Shawnee said...

How amazing. That all made me hungry. Thanks for sharing. Hope you're getting all settled in.

Donna L. said...

So glad to hear you made it safely to KL. I'm already loving the vicarious foodie adventure you're taking us on. Mahalo and God bless!

noobcook said...

interesting behind the scene look at how they cook beggar's chicken :D Looks like you guys are having a food-ful time in Malaysia already :)

Carolyn Jung said...

Oh my gawd -- more sticky jackfruit!! I still laugh fondly about the time you guys helped cut up a giant one in my kitchen. Looked like surgery being performed in an operating room.

Glad you guys made it there safe and sound. Look forward to seeing all the wonderful things you eat during your new adventures there.

Ninette said...

Glad you've gotten settled enough to go have an interesting meal and share it on your blog!

Sippity Sup said...

I am happy to hear you arrived. What a foodie adventure you had to. Those dishes were gorgeous. I so admire what you have in store for you. Please keep posting. GREG

Holly said...

I look forward to hearing more of your new life in Malayasia.

Elaine said...

Hey Nate and Annie, glad to see you guys settling down in Msia already - and eating beggar chickens and duck! :D
I haven't had those in aeons, your post had be salivating. Man..that duck. That duck.

Mrs. L said...

Glad to hear you guys made it safe to Malaysia. Great post. Had heard of Beggars Chicken and such but had no idea. What a feast!

Rasa Malaysia said...

Looks so good, Nate. I want that beggar's chicken.

billy@atablefortwo said...

oh my god, this looks soo soo soo good!!!! I havent had beggar's chicken for so long! Love those intensive cooking method! I bet it well worth it

Claudia said...

Good to hear you posting again, and what a fantastic one. We just finished The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones, for our Cook the Books group, and there's a good account of the origin of Beggar's Chicken in it. No one was up to duplicating it, however.

Nate-n-Annie said...

@all - thanks for the comments!

@Big Boys Oven - sorry we didn't get a chance to meet up while we were in PJ. Next time we head back over to West Malaysia, we'll try to plan something?

@ella - heh ;-)

@lydia - truly!

@shawnee - you're welcome!

@Donna - thanks!

@wiffy - everyday, so much food!

@Carolyn - this jackfruit wasn't sticky. Was just nice.

@Sippity Sup - thanks, you know we will!

@Elaine - yup, duck was goood.

@Mrs L - you should try it sometime.

@Billy - I was actually more interested in the cooking process than the food hee hee!

@Claudia - who knows? We may attempt it down the road!