If I am ever given the option to only have three specific dishes for the rest of my life, I would choose chicken rice, fried chicken and char kuey teow. Wait, maybe it’d be chicken rice, fried chicken and wantan mee. Or perhaps it’d be... you know what, let’s just establish the fact that chicken rice would always make the cut.
So, when one gets invited by the CRG Chicken Rice Guys to try its version of one of my most favourite dishes, I couldn’t say no. Off I went on a Saturday morning, navigating traffic to get to the restaurant in Shah Alam – easily found thanks to Waze.
“We started off as just a stall operating within this restaurant. That was in 2014. A few months later, we took over the entire restaurant, added new items to the menu, and here we are today,” says co-owner Firman Paizi.
The reason behind CRG Chicken Rice Guys is simple – to offer Chinese cuisine that is authentic, yet halal. Born to a Malay father and Chinese mother, Firman, together with cousin Imran Audi, figured that many people are missing out on good and tasty Chinese cuisine because of the halal factor.
“We know Chinese food, and we know how to prepare it the halal way. Now, others can enjoy it too,” says Firman.
Imran, a culinary arts graduate, is the appointed chef while Firman takes care of the front end. Recently, Firman’s brother Juhan Faiz joined the team.
As the name suggests, the first family recipe to make its way into the public eye, and taste buds, was chicken rice. “It has been validated by the Chinese side of the family,” says Firman with a laugh, adding that they work hard to retain the authentic taste.
I get a plate of Yin & Yang (RM9), that comes with a serving of roasted and steamed chicken, rice and soup. You can add a small plate of blanched beansprouts (RM2.50), bathed in fragrant sesame oil and soy sauce, and that adds a little crunch to the dish.
The roasted chicken misses an evenly browned, silken skin, while the steamed chicken lacks the beautiful oily sheen one associates with the dish.
Though not visually tantalising, the taste of the moist and tender chicken sure do make up for what the dish lacks in the looks department.
If you’re a spice fiend, you’ll love the chilli that they prepare from scratch. “We tweaked it to be spicier for our Malay clientele,” says Firman. In fact, the homemade chilli is so popular that the customers keep asking for extra, hence the reason they now leave jars on each table and let the clients help themselves.
Another family favourite that the guys added to the menu is roasted duck. “We love roasted duck, but then we realised that not many people outside of Kelantan, Johor or Negri Sembilan enjoy the gamey meat. So we decided to introduce it to our customers, and now it is one of the more popular dishes here,” shares Firman.
The roasted duck (RM7) is drenched in gravy made from the marinade, and served with plum sauce. The slightly tougher meat will need a little getting used to by those who have never tried duck before, but the best bet for newbies is definitely the itik rempah.
Marinated overnight and fried upon order, the duck is fragrant and flavourful thanks to the lemongrass, onion, ginger, turmeric and a variety of spices.
You can have it on its own or for the best experience, enjoy it with the nasi lemak bungkus.
“The nasi lemak was requested by our Malay customers. As much as we want to share what we love to eat with the customers, we also listen to them and cater to their needs,” says Firman.
Well, it’s a good thing that they listened to the people, because the nasi lemak bungkus is a definite must-try at CRG Chicken Rice Guys. The rice is fragrant, the sambal is spicy and slightly sweet – just how I like it, and the anchovies are actually crispy! The portion is generous for the RM1.50 price tag, and don’t be surprised if you have more than one pack of nasi lemak in a sitting.
If you’re there on a weekend, do try the nasi tumpang (RM5.50) that is specially delivered to them and available only for breakfast. The nasi himpit is layered with gulai udang, an omelette cube, fish serunding and wrapped tightly into a cone shape with a steamed banana leaf.
Firman introduces another crowd pleaser – char kuey teow (RM5.50), fried with prawns, chives, cockles and beansprouts. The plate that I am served unfortunately lacks the must-have “wok hei” that is synonymous with fried Chinese dishes. The dish isn’t clumpy, and I truly appreciate kuey teow strips that do not stick together, so good job right there.
“We also experimented with White Curry Noodle recipes before finding one that suited our liking,” explains Firman. Customers can choose from beehoon, egg noodles, kuey teow or yellow mee to enjoy with the white curry that comes with cockles, taufu pok, chicken slices, fishcakes, fuchuk skin and garnished with mint leaves.
“The broth is slow-cooked and we add santan only at the end. Customers usually order a plate of steamed chicken on the side to enjoy with this dish,” says Firman.
The flavourful and fragrant curry comes with a spoonful of sambal on the side, though customers can ask for more if they want to make it spicier.
Firman reveals that they are working on new dishes to add to the menu. “We are looking at classic Chinese dishes and desserts. This is our way to preserve the traditional dishes because they are so hard to find nowadays. A few that we could name now are ‘apam telur’ and ‘chee ma woo’ (black sesame dessert),” he says.
The CRG Chicken Rice Guys are surely trying their best to recreate some of the widely-loved Chinese dishes the halal way, and they must be doing something right because the restaurant was completely packed even before lunch hour rolled in.
CRG CHICKEN RICE GUYS
40 Jalan Zirkon 7f/F, Seksyen 7,
40000 Shah Alam, Selangor.
Tel: 013-333 1950
Opens daily 8am-7pm