A decade ago, I chanced upon Rasa Hakka Restaurant when visiting our neighbour across the causeway, and since then, whenever possible it will be one of the pit stops for my meals. Years back, when someone asked what would be my last meal on earth, I was never certain. As I age and settle into myself, the answer found its way to me. It would be Ham Cha. Most of you probably know it as Lei Cha aka Thunder Rice Tea, terms that I got acquainted with much later in life. It's a dish filled with memories of me helping my mum with the pounding and grinding of the tea leaves, peanuts, in a round wooden vessel with a wooden pestle before we proceeded to a more conventional stone bowl and grinder, then to the current blender. Trust me, the taste is not the same. Anyway, I don't remember a moment that I have never like it, even as a kid and it just satisfies me so much to have a real good one.
Rice Wine Chicken 3.5/5
I brought my parents there this time round to have a taste of their other dishes. My dad chose the Rice Wine Chicken (RM$18 small) straight away. The soul lies with the rice wine of course, and for those who have not ever tasted homemade rice wine before, I must say you are truly lucky. It is a lost trade, at least, till I learn it from my mum. Soon I hope. My dad's instant response towards this dish was "your grandma's one is more fragrant". It was decent enough to satisfy our cravings but the flaw I guess comes from the fact that the dish was not prepared a la minute, and so the flavours of the chicken and the wine didn't fully bind together.
Yong Tau Foo 3/5
I grew up in a family where Yong Tau Foo is made from scratch. Mum will painstakingly scrap the fish meat off from the skin and bones and fill in the ingredients one by one. Those ready-made with white fish paste that shriveled under heat, my mum basically scorns them. At Rasa Hakka, you can pick and choose the Yong Tau Foo at RM$1.80 per piece , coupled with rice or noodles. I would suggest choosing noodles over rice when having Yong Tau Foo in Malaysia for a change. The handmade noodles with the minced meat is really quite delicious. I find the soup here one of the better ones. For the past few times I came, it was consistently sweet with a depth of savouriness. I thought it was even tastier this time round but the Yong Tau Foo itself sadly was less enjoyable. Although they were made of real meat, the meat was too compact and lacked juiciness from elements like water chestnut bits. The saving grace was the add-on noodles.
Thunder Rice Tea 4/5
And of course, my favourite Lei Cha. There are 3 options - White Rice, Brown Rice and Full Vegetables, small or large. I always go for the Full vegetables (RM$12 large) which comes with a bigger bowl of tea too. I don't think the taste of it has changed much over the 10 years, just that they no longer served black-eye peas. Perhaps you could share with me which stalls still serve that. The vegetables here are neither too salty or bland, nor oily. The cai pok has a balanced of sweet and saltiness, hence even though it may seem quite a big scoop, it flavours the entire bowl just right. My favourite part is the generous portion of mani cai, which to me is one of the leading characters to an authentic bowl of Lei Cha, next to peanuts and cai pok. Because it is such a laborious task to prep this vegetables, you will only see this mani cai in independent food stalls in Singapore. I love their tea too, nicely seasoned and rich enough with tea leaves and herbs.
Other everyday Hakka dishes include Deep Fried Pork Belly, Steamed Pork with Preserved Mustard. Within walking distance from KSL shopping mall, Rasa Hakka Restaurant serves well as a fuss-free dining option and a good alternative if you want to take a break from your usual pit stops.
Words and photos by Si An. A girl who is allured by travelling, loves the feel of freedom, smell of the rain and the aroma of fine coffee and food. Note: This is an invited tasting.
Rasa Hakka Restaurant
No 93, Jalan Keris 1
Taman Sri Tebrau
80050 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 127071449