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2008.11.10

Comments

Annie

Robyn, what a fantastic article! Great writing and mouth-watering photography by Dave, as usual.

I find it amusing that you have to promise not to reveal any trade secrets. Is this something you do for every vendor you feature?

Mel

It's wonderful that you are able to tie the food in with the personal accounts without compromising either elements. The story behind the food is as important as the food itself and I enjoy reading your appreciation for the people and history behind the food. Keep up the good work.

Robyn

Thanks Annie. This is seriously good stuff! Just posting this article got my mouth watering.
I just mention the trade secrets thing now as a matter of course when asking a producer - a hawker in particular - if I can watch them cook/work. Folks like these brothers couldn't care less, but a lot of hawkers are very proprietary! We've often been asked when photographing and taking notes if we're planning on returning to the US to open a wonton mee/chicken rice/char kway teow/you name it business. Which is laughable to me but, I suppose, seems like a viable possibility to some.

Thanks Mel. We love the food, of course, but it's always the story(ies) behind the food that interest us most.

Tamstar

i've been reading your site on and off for quite a while now, and i must say, i really enjoy it! both of your photos and stories are great.

i was wondering, though, i've never seen mention in your culinary adventures whether or not one (or both) of you can speak the languages in the countries you've been in. by the looks, i think you must, but then, i'm not sure. i have been living in china nearly three years, and am fluent in putonghua, and i think it's essential for really exploring the food. so, i am just curious...

passionfordecor

My heart felt warm and fuzzy after reading your article. There is sincerity in your writing and I can also see it on the brothers' faces. Love your article.

Robyn

Hi Tamstar - I speak Mandarin (we used to live in China) though I use it only occasionally here in Malaysia. Most people speak English. A year in Thailand left me with a decent amount of kitchen-and-market Thai (thought I would really like to speak more) and my bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia is ever fledgling, though it's done OK by us in Indonesia.
I agree that language is important but while a few years ago I might have said 'essential' experience has led me to weight the importance of local contacts more - and a local contact who speaks English is not any less 'local' for it. While I'll always have an easier time of it in China than someone who doesn't speak any Chinese, a good food journalist will know how to do just as well without it.
I guess what I'm saying is that if there's a will - and real reporting/research skills - there's a way. Food, after all, is a language in and of itself.
Thanks for reading.

passionfordecor - thanks. These guys are the real deal. They truly love what they do.

Peng

Thanks so much for the article, I enjoyed the pictures, the story but most of all I appreciate the passion that these brothers have in their work, it shows in their food.
It brings back good memories of my childhood days in Imbi Road enjoying these vegetarian goodies. Such passion in their food is what makes Malaysian food great! It is so encouraging that the younger generation has inherited the passion and excellence of their parents.

Roger

It's a bit of a late comment, but I just found out about this article from Cheong San a week ago on a visit to KL at the Imbi markets. My grandmother who lived 5 minutes away use to buy chai choi from Cheong San's father 30 years ago (she passed away in 1986). I remember as a kid running outside when I heard the bell ringing as he came by the house on his bike. I've lived in Sydney since the early 80's, but I still dream of their food. And whenever I visit it's the first thing I do. It's an absolute highlight. Even in Malaysia, their food is exceptional.

Robyn

Roger -- what a wonderful memory! Thanks for taking the time to share that. These brothers are a national treasure, IMO.

Brian Ho

Thanks Robyn for this well written story.

Cheong Hen (not cheong hon as written above) is my dad and his uses good ingredients in minkan and other products without any additives and preservatives.

Thanks roger for your kind comment, sadly my grandfather passed away in 2008, he is proud man who taught us kids invaluable stuff.

cheerio

CS Ng

Yes, great tasty food since I am a kid the father came around on bicycle after which the elder brother took over and now the younger brother. I still patronize it whenever I am at the Imbi market. It took me awhile before I found out that it is still available. The dim sum goes very well with the mustard.

Roger

Does anyone know if Hon Kee Vegetarian Food or Cheong Hen are still operating their business?

I was in KL a month ago and couldn't find the new location of the Imbi markets. I thought it was at Pudu markets, but I've now worked out it is at ICC Pudu.

I tried to ring Hon Kee and Cheong Hen without success. And then went to Hon Kee's address: 3 Jalan Pandan, Pandan Raya - which is now a grocery store. I asked a local at the noodle stalls across the road who found it amusing that a 'kwai-lo' was asking about the shop. They didn't know.

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