He Zhou Chinese Muslim Restaurant, Taman Danau Kota
January 5, 2020
Helmed by a founder from the former Hezhou, known as 'the little Mecca of China,' He Zhou serves Chinese Muslim recipes that showcase centuries of culture and heritage, making this an intriguingly distinctive destination for dining in KL that marries Chinese and Islamic inspirations.
He Zhou is the first restaurant by Mr. Ma Musa, who has lived in Malaysia for 12 years. His head chef is also from Linxia City (previously called Hezhou), having worked at high-end restaurants there - Mr. Ma made massive efforts to secure practically his entire culinary team from Linxia as well, to ensure that Malaysians can savour authentic cooking of irreproachable quality.
The foundation of He Zhou's flavours rests in more than 30 spices and unique ingredients imported from Linxia City, producing different permutations of sauces to tantalise the taste buds. Historically, Linxia City relied largely on meat instead of vegetable cultivation, so protein lovers will find plenty of pleasures here in He Zhou Restaurant.
He Zhou is a sprawling restaurant with sumptuous flourishes. As you stroll through the front door, you'll be greeted by an Arabic inscription of Alhamdulillah - Praise be to God - plus artwork that translates the Prophet Muhammad's final khutbah into Mandarin. Upstairs, you'll find the Hundred-Word Eulogy written in praise of Muhammad by the Hongwu Emperor of China in the 1300s. It's a brightly serene, calming space that works well for a meal with loved ones.
He Zhou also has private rooms that can accommodate between eight to 26 patrons.
The hairtail is the deserved bestseller here (a bargain for RM38), a sinuous fish that's deep-fried, then shallow-braised with vegetables, partly submerged in boiling-hot soup that boasts about 20 types of spices mingling with chillies, yielding a multifaceted heat with more dynamics and dimensions than expected. It's not as spicy as mala but it's deliciously tangy, requiring three individuals to painstakingly prepare in He Zhou's kitchen - one to cook the fish, another for the vegetables, and the final person to specialise in the soup. If you love sweetly tender fish with some fire in its flesh, He Zhou's is a hearty one.
Also conveying the complexities of multiple categories of chillies is the spicy fried shrimp (RM48), fresh-tasting crustaceans that prove crisp enough to eat with their shells on - plumply and juicily perfect for prawn enthusiasts seeking to indulge on a cold, rainy evening.
Also looking compelling in crimson but mercifully milder is the sweet and sour chicken (RM28) - this is a fair bit more nectarous than the norm, courtesy of cherries cooked with the chicken for a fun, fruit-forward change from typical sweet-sour offerings.
If you love lamb, you'll lust after the spicy lamb chops (RM46; prepared with New Zealand lamb), fatty with the full-bodied, fragrantly robust flavour of lamb. What makes this extra-memorable is that it's double-fried, for a crunchy bite that gives way to a succulent chew, well-balanced with herbs and spices for buoyant uplift.
Beef is represented by the sour soup beef (RM38), a bovine beauty with a house-made sauerkraut-like base, plus hua jiao green peppercorns that are plucked from the vine and sent to Malaysia within 24 hours to ensure their freshness lingers. The result is a zesty, nuanced soup that's lip-smacking from the first sultry spoonful to the final soothing bite of beef.
Time for tofu: He Zhou's Special Old Tofu is terrific (RM18), a traditional temptation that lives up to the 'special' in its name, thanks to a sauce that features some 30 types of chillies, turned into a thick, layered paste that's rich not only with heat but alluring aromatics.
The fried beans with eggplant (RM22) are also evidence of how He Zhou's menu is so meticulously crafted, with a secret recipe of over 30 ingredients for the sauce (!), resulting in vegetables with a subtly smoky roasted flavour that's quite addictive.
If you need carbs, look no further than the griddle potato slices (RM16), another popular He Zhou staple, since the surroundings of Linxia are famous for potatoes that are three times larger than more common Chinese-cultivated ones. The restaurant relies on regular potatoes, but this is still a tasty tribute to its home city's tubers, packing the firepower of chillies.
While He Zhou is ideal for communal feasts, individuals can also enjoy a meal here, with possibilities like the traditional beef noodles (RM9.80). We had a glimpse behind the scenes to see how all the flour-based noodles are made in-house, thin and super-smooth, almost like slurping up glass noodles. Noodles are a classic breakfast in Linxia, where the temperatures are so cool that inhabitants relish having noodles in the morning to heat their bodies up.
For an appetiser or dessert, one of He Zhou's should-try treats is the babaolaozao soup (RM5 per person, or RM28 for a larger sharing portion), evoking tea but with a mellow sweetness, made with glutinous rice, jujube, wolfberries, raisins, cherries, tremella fungi, eggs and fruit vinegar - wholesome-tasting in a fashion that pays homage to time-honoured Chinese cuisine.
Complement your lunch or dinner with the babao eight-treasure herbal tea (RM6), with healthful ingredients of wolfberries, jujube, crystal sugar, roses, longan, chrysanthemum, tea leaves and raisins - it's an elegantly colourful beverage with some ceremony in its rites of drinking too, customarily served across Linxia and its neighbouring regions. He Zhou offers it in yellow teacups, a colour originally long used solely by lords and ladies of status. Kiwi fruit and dried sour plums can also accompany this thirst-quencher by request.
Fun fact: He Zhou's logo and teacups depict peonies, which are native to Linxia.
All in all, He Zhou is worth travelling to in Taman Danau Kota for its captivating cuisine, a vibrant change from the more familiar Chinese culinary genres in the Klang Valley. Many thanks to He Zhou Chinese Muslim Restaurant for having us here.
He Zhou Chinese Muslim Restaurant
66, Jalan 8/23e, Taman Danau Kota, 53300 Kuala Lumpur. Open Monday-Sunday, 11am-10pm. Tel: 011-2708-8164
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