Hot Topics: Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Chiam, king of pisang goreng


DELICIOUS SNACK:The Chiam’s family business of selling banana fritters is touted to be one of the most popular in the Klang Valley

THE pisang goreng (banana fritters) turned a golden brown in a deep-frying basket as Chiam Yong Souk, 31, controlled the heat on his gas stove, cooking the batter-coated bananas until he was satisfied that they were done just right.

The  heat of the afternoon sun seemed to have compounded the heat radiating from the scorching fire and the boiling oil in the huge wok he was using.

Oblivious to the heat, he deftly wrapped  piping-hot pisang goreng and nian gao or kuih bakul for customers while keeping an eye on the contents of the wok.

Waiting for their turn to purchase what they swear are some of the tastiest fried tea-time snacks were a group of very patient customers.

What else can you expect when the  treats (which included curry puffs and  sesame balls) are from  "Mr Chiam's  pisang goreng stall", which is touted to be one of the top three  pisang goreng stalls in the Klang Valley.

It's easy to get addicted to the mouth-watering pisang goreng. As you bite into a piece, you taste the slightly salty crunch from the crispy coating  first, followed by the sweet, juicy and pulpy fried banana.

Every day, Chiam can be seen slaving over the wok, along with his father, Beng Hoe.

Many  think that the stall in front of the Yit Sieang Restaurant in Jalan Tun Sambanthan 4, Brickfields, and opposite the YMCA centre, is run by a father-and-son team.

But operating behind the scenes is Chiam's mum, Lim Sew Chu, who  is often  seen  lowering a basket from a second-storey building near the stall. In it are kuih ready to hit the wok.

Yong Souk and his parents have been in the pisang goreng business since the early 1980s.  

Chiam senior had tried being a taxi driver, working at construction sites and other jobs before setting up the pisang goreng stall.  

"Times were bad for us then. My father learnt the art of making pisang goreng, kuih bakul and other  snacks from a sifu (master) in Penang . My father's sister, who was selling food in this area, invited us to move to Kuala Lumpur to sell kuih here," said Yong Souk. He was barely one-year-old when he came to KL in 1982 with his parents.

"Life was initially tough, but my family worked hard to make a name for ourselves. Our pisang goreng, for instance, is different from the usual because we only use pisang raja," he said.

From 80 sen a few years back, his pisang goreng now sells  for RM1.20 per piece. Kuih bakul is RM1, sesame balls, RM1 and curry puffs, RM1.20  per piece.

The bananas are bought from a Pahang supplier who exports the bulk of his bananas to Singapore.

"There is therefore a shortage of pisang raja in the country," said Yong Souk.

"There are very few other pisang raja suppliers in Malaysia. My supplier only gives us the B-grade pisang raja as the A-grade ones are reserved for Singaporeans. Sometimes, we don't get enough bananas and we run out fast.

"About 500kg of bananas are used up every week and we sell about 8,000 bananas every month," he said. On  average,  300 customers visit his stall each day, but on rainy days only 50 to 100 brave the rain to buy the snacks.

"My customers come from all walks of life. They include  VIPs, entrepreneurs and the man on the street. It is a truly 1Malaysia stall.

"Some  come all the way from other states such as Pahang just to eat my pisang goreng and nian gao," he said.

"Many  hawkers don't sell nian gao because it takes a long time to make. We boil  imported Thai sticky rice, then add sugar  and steam it for a whole day. Tanjung Sepat sweet potatoes, Thai yams and the sticky rice are deep-fried together for about 10 minutes," he said.

"Our operating hours are from 12.30pm to 6pm, but I wake up at 7am every morning to help my parents prepare the food such as peeling potatoes and yam.

"My parents and myself earn about RM2,500 each per month and when business is good, the three of us combined can earn RM10,000," he said.

Call Yong Souk at 012-617 2511 to place an order to cut waiting time.

Chiam Beng Hoe hard at work preparing banana fritters at his family’s ‘pisang goreng’ stall in Brickfields. The stall also sells sesame balls (right) and other ‘kuih-muih’. Pix by Khairul Azry Bidin

Chiam Yong Souk says the ‘pisang raja’ he uses are in short supply in the country as most of these bananas are exported to Singapore

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