Zi Zai Restaurant in Paya Terubong is known for its Poon Choi and tai chow (big fry) dishes. While I have yet to try the Poon Choi, I was told it was quite good and reasonably priced. That evening, I was introduced to Hock Chai, the owner of Zi Zai Restaurant and he dished out some of his specialty dishes for us.
Assam Prawn is a popular Nyonya dish and is predominantly sweet and tangy. Cooking style differs between cooks, but Hock Chai’s version sat well with me. The gravy boasted a nice balance of sweet, sour and savoury, and coated the prawns well. The prawns could have been fresher, but I’m just particular as the other diners found it acceptable.
Belacan Chicken Wings were crisply fried and fragrant from the fermented dried shrimp. You either love belacan or you don’t. I remember cooking belacan fried rice in the UK and my flatmate thought something died in the kitchen. Suffice to say, I didn’t give her any belacan when she came down for my wedding.
The chicken wings made a lovely snack, but I would have preferred a bit more belacan presence.
We also had the Fried Sambal La La which packed quite a punch. The small clams were fresh and lightly chewy. I liked the addition of ginger in the gravy as it helped offset the briny flavour of the clams.
The Assam Fish was not as spicy as it looked, and fragrant from the chopped bunga kantan garnish. Again, I would have preferred it to be spicier. More oomph. Will definitely let Hock Chai know when I visit his restaurant next.
Simple or not, the Fried Lettuce with Fermented Beancurd was good stuff. I love beancurd and can eat two cubes of it with plain rice. Most places are stingy with the beancurd, but Zi Zai was pretty generous with the amount.
On a whole, I enjoyed the food at Zi Zai Restaurant. I wouldn’t say it’s the best tai chow I’ve had, but I like how simple and hearty the dishes are. That’s what good Chinese cooking is all about, don’t you think?
The bill came up to slightly over RM100 for the above. Pretty reasonable, I feel. While the portion about would usually feed 4-5 pax, there were 6 of us that evening. I was too full to eat more as I had two bowls of asam laksa an hour before dinner.
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Food: 6.5/10 (non halal)
Verdict: Pretty good tai chow dishes and reasonable prices.
Restoran Zi Zai
1239-G Ground Floor,
Jalan Paya Terubong
11060 Air Itam, Penang.
Business Hours: 5pm to 10.30pm