Soong Foong Inn (Vegetarian) @ Taman SEA, PJ

Friday, December 15, 2006

Soong Foong Inn owner William Lim learned the secrets of vegetarian cooking from his parents.

THE restaurant is not visible from the main road traffic in Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya and regular customers of the halal Soong Foong Inn vegetarian restaurant would probably like to keep it that way.

As it is, on the first and 15th day of the Chinese lunar calendar as well as religious occasions, the place is packed. Many of the customers have been patronising the restaurant from its more humble days when owner William Lim's father operated for 10 years from a stall under a shack in SS2. When the stalls there were demolished in 1996, Lim opened Soong Foong Inn in its present premises.

The entrance to the restaurant is somewhat discreet - set at the far end and perpendicular to road. Inside, rosewood chairs with inlaid mother-of-pearl and marble topped tables give a calming effect.

Don't ask for a menu - there is none. The only writing on the wall is a framed calligraphy work. The staff and Lim's wife Tina will make recommendations.

"Some customers don't even bother to find out what we have," says an amused Tina. "They just tell us to cook four or five dishes."

In the kitchen upstairs, Lim is in full control. In a matter of minutes, five dishes appear in quick succession down the dumb waiter.

"I do most of the cooking, which is easy as there is only one Soong Foong Inn. We have no branches though we hear there's another restaurant of the same name in KL," says Lim. "We make all the stuff from scratch, like our popular 'fish'."

The vegetarian "fish" is made of fresh beancurd skin and seaweed. You can have it deepfried, with black bean sauce, ginger sauce or plain soya sauce.

"Some customers come in for this a few times a week," says Lim. "One of them has a daughter who must have the 'fish' every mealtime, so he will ta pau 10 pieces each time."

Ours is cooked with black bean sauce with ginger and red chillies that give the dish a nice zing. The seaweed gives the beancurd a slight "fishy" flavour.

Fermented black beans also provide flavour to a dish of Double-Cooked Meat, the meaty texture in this case referring to slices made from flour. This is lightly stir-fried with sliced capsicums that offer a refreshing crunchiness.

A more traditional-looking dish is Stewed Mushrooms and Gluten. A mushroom sauce enhances the exquisite aroma of black shitake mushrooms and lends much-needed flavour to the pieces of gluten.

For a totally different experience, Butter Mushrooms is well recommended. Lim uses the mild-flavoured abalone mushrooms which complements, rather than contrast the buttery fragrance. Deepfried curry leaves and chopped chili padi spices up the dish. On its own, this would make a lovely vegetarian snack. To go with the dishes, there is a choice of white or brown rice.

For those who like soup, Lim recommends Vegetable Soup With Beancurd Sheets. You can leave it to him to choose the vegetable or specify your favourite. Much of the flavour of the soup comes from this and the deepfried beancurd sheets.

Apart from dishes to go with rice, Soong Foong Inn, also offers individual items like fried rice and noodles. It is open everyday (except Mondays) for lunch and dinner.

22 SS23/11, Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: 7806-2235

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