Ng Kok Liang has been cruising the streets of Kuala Lumpur's Pudu area for twenty-two years, dispensing smiles and good health - in the form of Chinese sweet soups - from a motorcycle-drawn cart.
Ng peddles tong shui (lit. 'sweet water' - syrup), a type of food known in Cantonese as yun.** Yun are soothing foods meant to restore the body's balance in the event of illness, or after overindulgence in yang (warming, often fatty and/or spicy) or yin (cooling) foods. Most yun are soups; congee or jook is probably the most well-known yun outside of the Chinese diaspora. Many yun are as sweet, or sweeter than, any Western dessert.
It's 2pm and already Ng's deep pots of snow fungus soup ("good for people who are always sick") and hong dou sha, or sweet red bean soup ("very warming") are empty. We have a choice of sweet potato and coconut soup ("This tastes good but it's not good for you. But customers like the coconut.") or huasheng hu, peanut soup. Mr. Ng. advises that the latter is good for the lungs, a must for smokers.
We're not in need of lung therapy but opt for peanuts over unhealthy coconut oil. Ng dishes up a small bowl and we sample it standing next to his cart.
The soup is thick and smooth, as sweet as it is peanuty, and rich - impossibly rich. It's like drinking liquid peanut butter. The words "sinfully delicious" come to mind, and I find it hard to imagine that this bowl of oily ground legumes, rice flour, and sugar could be anything but detrimental to my health. Wonderful as it is, this bowlful's too much after lunch. But I don't want to hurt the feelings of Ng, who is smilingly awaiting my verdict, so I finish the bowl.
In addition to tong shui, Ng offers various cakes and biscuits (banana, lotus seed paste) and leaf-wrapped zongzi (glutinous rice flour dumplings). He can be found on the streets behind Berjaya Times Square shopping center. Monday through Friday he sets up shop, at lunchtime, on Changkat Thambi Dollah. He also takes special orders and makes deliveries. Tel. 016-381-6212.
**For more on Chinese yun and healing foods see Grace Young's The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen - delicious recipes and a great read.