Zhap fan is the working person’s saviour, especially when you’re looking for an affordable and quick meal. Cheap, easily available and with lots of choices, zhap fan makes workday lunches nutritious, affordable and delicious all at the same time.
Surrounded by commercial and residential properties, Restoran 833 caters to office workers and residents in the Desa Pandan neighbourhood, who flock to this little shophouse coffee shop come lunch time.
The husband-and-wife team behind the mixed rice stall at Restoran 833 offers an array of about 50 dishes, covering all the staples – fish, chicken, pork, tofu, egg, vegetables – cooked in different styles. Think steamed, fried, braised, curried and more. There are many vegetarian options available too.
Mixed rice meals here are very affordable – two vegetables and a portion of meat here is likely to cost about RM4.50 upwards. There’s also free soup to accompany your meal. And if you’re planning to take away lunch before heading to work, you’ll be glad to know they start serving zhap fan dishes from 7am onwards.
This corner lot kopitiam is full of great hawker food, and the mixed rice stall draws many customers. It isn’t hard to see why – the sheer variety and freshness of their dishes attract a wide range of customers, from retired couples to young office workers, all looking for an affordable and delicious meal.
The zhap fan cooks are most definitely skilled; you can tell by the quality and taste of the dishes. For example, the choy keok (‘mustard leaves left over’ stew) has just the right degree of tartness and spiciness, while the long beans fried with black bean sauce isn’t excessively salty, even with the strong aroma of black beans.
There are more than 50 dishes on display each day, and the kitchen continuously brings out fresh servings from 9.30am until about 3.30pm – so even if you’re having a very early or very late lunch, you know where to go.
A humble meal takes on a whole new meaning when you have rows of options set before you. Here at this airy outlet in Ampang, you can find over a hundred Chinese-style dishes.
Expect everything from chicken and pork to fish and tofu, not to mention the assorted types of vegetables cooked in almost every style you can think of. Go for the fish dishes – some of the freshest we’ve come across in a mixed rice stall – and choose anything from the steamed ikan bawal to the deep-fried African fish with sauce. There’s also a variety of meats cooked in Hakka style – think char yuk (braised pork) with wood fungus and nam yue pork (pork cooked in fermented soy bean paste).
Hong Sang has a reputation for its value-for-money meals. Here, two vegetables plus a portion of meat will cost about RM6, depending on the type of meat. Bonus: There’s also free Chinese tea and soup to go with your meal.
No stranger to the office crowds around Jalan Ampang is the huge canteen behind the Dharma Realm Guan Yin Monastery. This bustling eatery also houses one of the area’s most well-known vegetarian zhap fan spreads.
Operated by volunteers, the canteen offers a comprehensive spread of vegetarian dishes cooked in a variety of styles – stir fried, deep fried, steamed, braised, curried and more. Choose anything from tofu and fu chuk to vegetables and mock meat dishes like ‘chicken’ and ‘duck’. There are also addictive deep-fried spring rolls that you can add to your plate.
Chinese tea and soup are on the house, while barley, herbal tea and fresh fruits are available to purchase. It can get quite crowded during lunch time, so be prepared to queue for your food.
The prices at this zhap fan stall have earned the owners – a group of sisters – the moniker ‘guai por’, or ‘expensive woman’ by their regulars. Despite that (and the countless other zhap fan stalls in the area), this stall inside a quaint little kopitiam in a pre-war shophouse still boasts a sizeable crowd come lunch time, which should be a testament to the quality of the dishes here. And unlike other typical mixed rice stalls where you can help yourself to the dishes, here, the sisters will serve you fastidiously, even going so far as to ration each portion carefully.
Two types of vegetables and a serving of meat will set you back about RM7.50. The variety may not be as impressive as other stalls, but the 20 or so well-executed dishes are more than enough to keep customers coming back.
Almost every first visit to Sin Tai Kar Lok yields the same incredulous expression: ‘Wah, so much food; so much variety.’ But to regulars, patronising the stall in the stuffy Sungei Wang food court is like therapy: The buffet-like spread, the tattooed staff scooping rice behind the counter, and the blurry TV blaring out old Stephen Chow comedies have all become part of their daily routine. The food is homey and packed with flavour – tasting almost like the time your mum was a tad too generous with the oyster sauce, ketchup and kicap in her cooking.
Sin Tai Kar Lok churns out at least 60 dishes every day, just to accommodate the demanding palates of KLites who are constantly clamouring for variety. And this explains the charm of zhap fan stalls – culinary treasures like roast pork, duck and fish are sold at a bargain price but they still taste of dai chow quality. But then again, Sin Tai Kar Lok isn’t like any zhap fan stall. With its retro decor, as if borrowing design cues from a Hong Kong gangster flick, the scene looks like a young, unruly Chow Yun Fatt would walk through the door anytime. It’s badass, just like how a shop in Sungei Wang should be.