A food legacy rescued
AFTER 30 YEARS in the business, the current owner of the famous Hainan Char Siew and Chicken Rice shop, Fang Yuen, faced the possibility of not just closing down her legacy, but the legacy of her late father and husband as well. Not having consistent amount of workers after the passing of her husband took its toll as it was getting harder and harder to serve a regular full house. Enough was enough and in November 2014, Fang Yuen officially shut shop.
Those five months Fang Yuen closed shop consisted of soul searching and talks of selling off the business and the recipe for their menu. Fortunately, those talks broke down as a deal could not be struck, and the constant appeal by its loyal customers was starting to make the owner reconsider reopening Fang Yuen’s doors. As the same problem of the lack of workers remained, Fang Yuen’s owner decided to start business off slowly by only taking orders for take-away instead of depending on workers to wait on tables. This started to pick up speed as not only did customers take well to the new system, but did not mind sitting at their tables to eat with take-away boxes and plastic spoons.
Though customers had to line up instead of wait for their orders to be taken, the draw of good food and a friendly “thank you” was enough for them to keep coming back. The people behind Fang Yuen could not speak enough about how grateful they were for patrons who understood their current situation, and they couldn’t be happier being able to continue putting smiles on their customers faces. It’s no surprise that although there may be extra work on the customers’ hands, the food still manages to keep them coming back. Despite the fact that the food looks more like a beautiful mess, compared to most Instagram-worthy food posts packed up in a Styrofoam box, one cannot deny that Fang Yuen’s food is as delicious as ever.
Fang Yuen has managed to maintain the quality of the food, as evidenced from the fragrant rice that has a mild garlic aroma. The flavoursome rice that produces hints of chicken comes from the stock that it is cooked in. This stock also coats the rice in a thin layer of oil that prevents it from clumping together, thus creating a good pairing in terms of texture and flavour for the accompanying meats.
An option for meat here is chicken which is as soft and juicy as the picture above suggests. Its flavour is mild with flavours of the stock that it is boiled in. The chicken is a conventional yet satisfying option.
The char siew is what most people come for and after taking bite, one can see why. Rarely do most cooks embrace fat in their char siew as they do here at Fang Yuen. The fat is caramelised well to create a light crispy sweet char, while the meat within is sweet, juicy and the garlicky flavour makes it all the more delicious. With how well Fang Yuen is doing despite the change in system and being closed for a while, their continued existence is a credit to their customers who support them and enjoy good food. Kuching is all the better for relationships like these. Fang Yuen opens from 9am – 2pm or until it’s sold out from Tuesdays to Sundays. They can be located behind Hock Lee Centre at the address Lorong Datuk Abang Abdul Rahim 5, 93450 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Hilary Ho is a teacher, aspiring writer and food traveller who writes about food and lifestyle for his blog urban-palate.blogspot.com. When he is not teaching or writing for others, he enjoys wandering the streets in search of food and the stories of the people behind them. He currently resides in Kuching.