Pinggan Puteh @ Shah Alam

April 26, 2018

By Aiman Azri

Bridging the past and the present, Pinggan Puteh pours white-hot local flair into every plate, combining classic kampung sensibilities with contemporary high spirits. This is food that strives to honour Malaysia's culinary heritage while capturing the hearts of a new generation - it's no wonder the restaurant remained buzzing with enthusiastic customers even after 3pm on a working Tuesday.

The chef to thank for these is Tariq, who honed his craft at Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur's steakhouse, Italian establishment and other eateries before settling into a successful catering operation. His forte is cooking that rings with lively flavours, served in a visually exuberant fashion in this pastel-loving setting where the tone is set by a charming soundtrack of old-school Malaysian pop songs. Vibrant vibes.

Pinggan Puteh currently offers two menus, one for lunch and another for dinner. In the evening, the spotlight falls on a wider variety of recipes that take a longer time to prepare, some meant to be shared among larger groups. These include dishes that were traditionally found at balik-kampung communal feasts whenever you returned to your hometown - updated here and there with Pinggan Puteh's own sparkling flourishes, channeling inspirations from multiple corners of Malaysia.

Some patrons drive all the way to Pinggan Puteh simply for the lontong - after tasting it, we understood why. You can savour a meat-free rendition with a runny fried egg (RM9) or another with beef rendang (RM14); we're happy to recommend having both.

The rice cakes come soaked in the kitchen's own-created lemak labu sauce, light and delicately sweet with santan and pumpkin, simple but surprisingly sublime. Special mention also goes to the slow-cooked beef rendang, which showcases compellingly tender meat made nuanced with cherished spices that evoke the most fulfilling elements of home cooking.

We eagerly polished off both plates - this genuinely is lovely lontong, with each component so expertly executed, from the fresh, well-textured rice cakes to everything else that harmoniously complements one another.

If you think that lemak labu sauce would pair perfectly with white rice too, you'd be right. For single-plate satisfaction, order the Pinggan Bujang, featuring rice with a small selection of sides that might include both lip-smacking, sambal-slathered Ayam Balado plus that unmistakable Lemak Labu (RM7).

You'll also find a few noodle temptations, the Ginger Chicken conveys Cantonese inspirations, with hearty hand-pulled noodles accompanied by distinctively aromatic chicken, meaty wontons and mushrooms. At only RM11, this portion might prove too much for even one person, illustrating Pinggan Puteh's thoughtfully reasonable prices.

For the patron who wants it all, opt for the Nasi Kenduri (RM14), which reflects the choices from its namesake ceremonial spread, comprising both the beef rendang and ayam balado that we relished in the earlier offerings, rounded out further with fish crackers, salted egg, acar-style pickles and soup.

Families and friends that head here at sunset can chow down on the Pinggan Besar section, sharing plates meant for three to five people. The Ayam Panggang Abe is a lemongrass-spiked roast chicken recipe brought to the Klang Valley by Kelantan-born kitchen crew member Abe. It boasts percik sauce that's true to the east coast, lighter than what many of us might be accustomed to, but still sumptuous in its subtleties, blended with coconut milk and a bit of beras for a flavour profile that's very pleasing and a texture that's comforting without being cloying. You get a whole succulent chicken with rice cakes for RM38.

Western snacks come with some unique Malaysian twists here - fries are blanketed with a chilli dressing laced with Kelantan's budu (fermented fish sauce) and daging tumbok with a nice chew for an addictive combination that won't be found elsewhere (RM15), while nachos are a less elaborate affair, but still made pretty intriguing with a side of belacan aioli (RM6).

Don't dare skip dessert: The Kuih Abuk Abuk is a modern interpretation of a Johorean dessert, glutinous goodness that's enriched with the flavours and fragrance of gula Melaka and banana leaves, a rewarding warm-and-cold medley with vanilla ice cream (RM 8). The Biskut Milo is also a triumph, layering cookies made of Malaysia's favourite chocolate malt beverage with luscious coconut ice cream (RM 5.80).

Pinggan Puteh's drinks dive into nostalgia and surface with a modern savvy. From kopitiam-style teh tarik, served with a cracker in an enamel cup (RM 4.50) to Rambutan Juice (RM 6), a tangy mix of Kasturi and Asam Boi (RM 5) and fun smoothies like the Milky Soursop (RM 8), there's a thirst-quencher for every preference here.

Many thanks to the Pinggan Puteh team for having us here.

Pinggan Puteh
30G, Jalan Kristal K7/K, Seksyen 7, 40100 Shah Alam, Selangor. Daily, 12pm-11pm. Tel: 012-782-7703

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