At the height of the pandemic this year, Au Tai Hon – the owner of Kenny Hills Bakers – opened a new eatery called My Humble Bowl in Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur having closed his Vietnamese eatery Nam in Bukit Damansara, KL.
“We renovated the space where Kenny Hills Bistro (another one of Au’s earlier eateries) originally was and moved the staff from Nam there.
“While Nam’s menu was designed for casual dining, when we came back to this neighbourhood, we decided the menu had to be (one that was) back-to-basics.
“This is because people are now spending more time with their families. And when they get together for a meal, four out of five meals are comfort food. So the restaurant’s food ethos is about making good, simple food that takes people back to their childhoods,” says Au.
The restaurant’s name is inspired by an article in Food & Wine magazine, about how a single bowl of food feeds many people – from the farmer that harvests the raw ingredient that goes into the meal, to the dishwasher who cleans it up.
Like most restaurateurs, Au says times have been tough and there were challenges aplenty even before opening the restaurant.
“The renovation works kept stopping and starting, depending on the lockdown stages. And when we opened in May, dine-ins weren’t allowed, so we ended up opening anyway but only doing takeaway and deliveries, just so we could keep our staff employed.
“We had to find solutions to all sorts of problems, but the thing is, once you a find a solution for a problem, another one is just around the corner,” he says, laughing.
The menu is true to its soothing comfort food roots, with quality ingredients like free-range chicken and old-fashioned, time-treasured cooking techniques at its heart, whether that’s a soup simmered for hours to elicit maximum umami or noodles cooked with wok hei (essence of the wok) at its heart.
The best place to start your meal here might be with the crowd favourite signature roast duck rice (RM28). This is one of the meals that Au and his team have perfected to a fine art. The duck is fabulously good – a flavour-packed fowl that earns brownie points on every front, from beautifully burnished skin to malleable meat with juices seeping out of every mouthful.
Even the avian-averse are likely to be converted with this meal!
Another sure-fire winner is the beef noodles soup (RM38), which has a bone broth base that requires 48 hours of simmering on low heat. While the noodles add a hearty element to the meal, it is the broth that is set to steal hearts.
Although clear and seemingly tranquil, it is true what they say – still waters run deep. In this instance, the broth, which also boasts thin, incredibly tender slices of grass-fed Angus beef and plump beef balls, offers a rich bovine undertone that gives the overall meal the sort of depth and complexity that results in a truly satisfactory food experience.
The Thai crab laksa (RM38) is neck-and-neck with the beef noodles soup in terms of delivering euphoric mouthfuls. According to Au, the laksa “involves a complicated process of making the crab stock with fragrant herbs”.
The work that has gone into making the laksa base has resulted in a rich, creamy gravy that is lightly sweet, has a riotously spicy undercurrent and is redolent of the flavours of the sea. The overall dish is also packed with plump crab meat, which goes a long way towards extending the aquatic quality of the meal.
The Penang char kuey teow (RM24) is filled with cockles and large prawns, topped off with a tuft of crab meat. The ingredients in the noodles are generous – each spoonful is bound to turn up a cockle or two. But that wok hei element so ubiquitous and necessary in really good char kuey teow is a little lacking in this installation. It’s there, but not quite in the rich, pervasive way you might be hoping for.
If you’re a fan of fried chicken (and quite frankly, who isn’t?) you’ll really enjoy the fried crispy chicken (RM28), which is studded with fried garlic, dried chillies and Szechuan peppercorns.
The chicken has been fried to perfection and the peppercorns laced atop take it up a notch, with a potent tongue-numbing capacity that will prove both seductive and addictive, particularly if you’re a spice fiend.
Au says that moving forward, he will continue to forge ahead with plans to expand the menu at My Humble Bowl as well as create other projects in the F&B industry, despite the obstacles in his path and the tough year he has endured.
“You just have to move on and grow. If you don’t grow, you die. So you might as well keep on pushing,” he says.
Order online from My Humble Bowl on Instagram (@myhumblebowl).
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