Bidor used to be a regular pitstop for my family whenever we head back to Sitiawan; my father would stop for petrol and also duck noodles. What I didn’t know about was Xin Tian Tian Lai in Bidor, just 2 minutes from the PLUS highway exit.
We stopped by for an early lunch with our friends late December on our way to Penang. By early, I meant we were literally outside the restaurant at 11.20am – Xin Tian Tian Lai opens from 11.45am till 8pm, for the uninitiated.
Fortunately, the owner let us in but we were only allowed to place our orders at 11.45am. The restaurant is air-conditioned so it’s fairly comfortable. My only issue is the presence of house flies, which I found irritating. Also, we found a dead fly inside the spinach and century egg dish which I’ll write about in the next few paragraphs.
For 6 adults and 3 toddlers, we got to order more items – braised pork knuckle, fish head curry, yam basket with sweet sour pork, house special tofu, spinach and century egg soup, stir-fried lettuce and steamed river prawns.
The braised pork knuckle was delicious. Fork-tender and flavourful, even the skin was tasty. I don’t eat pork skin in general unless it’s deep-fried or crispy, so this says a lot about the braised pork knuckle at Xin Tian Tian Lai.
I also liked the fish curry which is more robust than your usual Chinese-style fish curry. Gravy was moderately thick and spicy, and the fish head and mixed vegetables were cooked just right. House special tofu came topped with plenty of choy poh (preserved radish). Decent, though I did find it a tad salty.
The yam ring with sweet sour pork is nothing to shout about – while the yam was nicely fried, I thought the sweet and sour pork tasted pretty average. I didn’t like that the batter was soggy. A good sweet and sour pork would still be crispy after the sauce coating.
We found a dead house fly inside the spinach and century egg soup so the chef quickly made us a new one. Granted it was tasty, I still couldn’t get past the fly so it wasn’t very enjoyable. Steamed river prawns were fresh, sweet and succulent; we all enjoyed this.
Our bill came up to RM190 for all the above, including a pot of Chinese tea. By the time we left, almost all tables at Xin Tian Tian Lai were occupied. Best to call ahead to reserve a table if you’re planning to dine after 12pm.
Between this and Choy Kee in Sungkai, both Jien and I prefer Xin Tian Tian Lai. Choy Kee may have more unique cooking methods but we feel Xin Tian Tian Lai offers good “tai chow” dishes overall.
Food: 7/10 (non-halal)
Verdict: Order the braised pork knuckle, fish curry and steamed prawns.
Xin Tian Tian Lai
5, Jalan Satu,
Taman Batang Padang,
35500 Bidor, Perak.
Tel: 012-522 3592
Business hours: 11.45am till 8pm