Sai Kee has been around for more than 60 years – located in one the alleys of Petaling Street Kuala Lumpur. They serve classic Chinese fare that reminds you of home cooking, but with plenty of wok hei. The setup is no-frills, with plastic tables and stools on uneven road surface.
But bear with that (and the heat), and you’ll be rewarded with hearty, robustly flavoured dishes.
My last visit was close to 10 years ago; back when I was working in corporate and my then colleagues suggested lunch at Sai Kee. Food was delicious but I remember feeling so suffocated and uncomfortable as I was dressed in formal work attire.
I revisited Sai Kee again with two friends a couple of days back – this time, in casual attire. Jien didn’t tag along as he doesn’t fancy “eating in a sauna” and he’s also terrified of rats the size of cats. The place hasn’t changed all these years; ambiance, humidity and wok hei aroma. Sit too close to the cooking station and you’ll smell like you went through a baptism of wok fire yourself.
My friends and I went all out that night. We ordered 5 slices of ma yau fish, cooked three different ways – braised with tofu, steamed and the last one, cooked in black bean sauce. All three cooking styles were delicious but I especially enjoyed the steamed version as they were generous with the garlic oil and fried garlic bits.
The tofu braised fish is a signature at Sai Kee. You get that delicious meatiness from the ma yau (threadfin), and custard-like softness from the braised tofu. Savoury, sweet and nutty from the use of fermented beans.
Sai Kee’s fish with spicy black bean sauce is also delicious. This one has a kick from the chopped cili padi and a deep nutty flavour from the black beans and fermented beans. Of the three cooking styles, this is the most robust in flavour. It can be a tad salty if you’re used to lighter Chinese dishes.
Fried egg in bittergourd is a common Chinese household staple, but the egg at Sai Kee is light and fluffy with crisp edges. Bittergourd slices were cooked just right so they were lightly crunchy.
Chicken cooked with fermented black beans is done nicely here. You get that intense wok hei aroma coupled with the deep nutty flavour from the beans. They usually serve this with bittergourd but since we had it with egg, we ordered without.
Sai Kee is famous for its sweet and sour pork which I find quite tasty. That said, I prefer my pork to be battered and deep fried before the sauce coating goes in. The one at Sai Kee is lightly fried so you don’t get that crispy exterior – I still like the one at Hup Kee better.
Best to go early (we went at 5.30pm) so you don’t have to wait too long for your food. Dishes may look “standard” but flavours are on point and there’s plenty of wok hei in them. Price is fair considering how much we ordered – RM273 for all the above.
Food: 7/10 (non-halal)
Verdict: Old-school Chinese dishes done well. Flavour profile leans towards the stronger side which is up my alley.
Gerai Makanan Sai Kee
72 Jalan Sultan,
50000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 012-290 6751
Business hours: 12.30pm till 9pm
(closed Thurs & Fri)