Madam Gan spent two decades as a seamstress, making everything from 'baju kurung' dresses to maternity clothes - she even sewed together her daughter's wedding gown. But her passion for fashion caved in to her love for food in 2005, when she & her husband launched a restaurant to champion their family's vegetarian ideals. This year, that restaurant - Fan Cai Xiang - marks its tenth anniversary with a new milestone, moving to a sprawling location, still within Taman Desa, that's spread over three levels, outfitted with furnishing & artwork that Madam Gan sourced from her travels through mainland China & Taiwan.
These days, Madam Gan is less involved in Fan Cai Xiang - her heart is in charity initiatives, & the restaurant requires scarcely any regular attention, resting in the capable hands of its head chef, popularly nicknamed 'Ah Liang,' who visits China at least once each year to seek fresh inspiration for the outlet's encyclopaedic, 160-item menu; there really is something for everyone - rich, comforting stews to robust, creamy curries to rousingly crunchy fried fare, painstakingly prepared to no-MSG principles.
Fan Cai Xiang's kitchen marries inventiveness with proficiency to create triumphs of texture & taste - crisp-skinned, tender-bodied eggplant, shaped like a fish, swimming over a savoury sauce of Marmite & mushroom stock; dense pumpkin fritters, served warm in dim sum baskets; silken bean curd with natural, nuanced flavours, made from scratch at Fan Cai Xiang; & mock 'scrambled eggs,' captivatingly aromatic with Asian basil, mostly at crowd-pleasing prices of RM14-RM34 per portion.
'Char siu' is one of Fan Cai Xiang's most popular orders, with a serving on nearly every table in this bustling restaurant, though the 'siu yuk' is less successful. We love the curry mee, soaked in a broth that's sweet but not cloying, while the kuey teow with bitter gourd is a firm favourite of Madam Gan's daughter. Food that'll please fans of Chinese cooking - even non-vegetarians.
Simple pleasures: Fan Cai Xiang offers a soup of the day; if it's ABC soup when you visit, order it - a nourishing, soul-restoring broth with mock chicken meat, potatoes & corn. Wash your meal down with carrot & apple juice, then stop to contemplate the maxims on the restaurant's walls & perhaps purchase some take-home food products - proceeds from those go to the Tzu Chi Foundation. Many thanks to Fan Cai Xiang for hosting our meal here.
Fan Cai Xiang (New Location)
36, Jalan 1/109F, Taman Danau Desa, Kuala Lumpur. Daily, lunch & dinner. Tel: 03-7981-9812
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