Limster popped into town for a whirlwind visit. I took him and some pals to HuLu House Vegetarian Restaurant at Kirkham @ 12th for Singapore/Malaysian fare cooked with Buddhist vegetarian ingredients.
Limster noted the authenticity of the herbs in the curry laksa broth, and shared my opinion that the novelty of the vege goose and fish scored points. His delighted observations:
"Like finding a pot of gold."
"I would totally eat this in Singapore."
"This place opens AFTER I leave town."
As chibi noted in her earlier post, the nasi lemak is not very moist. The coconut flavour is tasty but could stand to be more pronounced. My ideal nasi lemak includes several accompaniments: curried beef or chicken, cucumber/carrot slices, hard-boiled egg, deep-fried peanuts and ikan bilis. The latter, literally "small fish", are delicious deep fried anchovies but of course they are absent here. I liked the vege eel/snake/animal that substituted for the curry. HuLu House does an OK job with this dish given their limitations. It's certainly equal to nasi lemak in Singapore/Malaysian restaurants that serve meat round here. Note also that Hulu House makes a passable vegetarian version of sambal belacan, the chilli sauce mixed with 1000x fermented shrimp paste that is the Malay condiment par excellence. It won't make your heart sing like real belacan but that's unrealistic.
For chowhounds who don't know, Hainanese chicken rice is a magical dish that inspires citywide competitions in Malaysia and Singapore. The rice is cooked in broth and fat from whole chickens and has an incomparable flavour. The chicken can be deep-fried but in my favourite version is barely parboiled - the bones should be bloody - and is thus incredibly tender. Chicken rice is served with chilli sauce, ginger and soy for dipping, and usually comes with a bowl of clear soup and some salad fixings. Again HuLu House produces an intriguing vegetarian, nay vegan facsimile of this dish. As chicken rice it scores 2/10. As vege chicken rice it is as good as it gets - a preposterous idea that is pleasing in its execution. The rice is cooked with sesame oil and tasted remarkably similar to the real thing given the lack of chicken. The "chicken" is painstakingly crafted from gluten and soy and comes in three varieties, each with a distinct texture. The "drumstick" was especially popular. As Hainanese chicken rice is terrible when ordered from most Cantonese restaurants (overcooked chicken is universal) and sub-par at Singapore/Malaysian places locally, I give HuLu House a thumbs-up for audacity.
Appetizers of note. The samosas and egg rolls are about average. I would pass over these in favour of the excellent HuLu tofu - sweet soy marinade, very delicate - and vege goose. You'll find the latter in many of the main dishes but it's worth ordering a plate to share.
Curry and rice was OK, though the curry was a little heavy on cabbage. This dish came with achar, pickled vegetables that were unfortunately too insipid, lacking the vinegary snap I look for. Thick noodles and veg contained lots of mushrooms, competent Cantonese cooking that was somewhat bland by comparison with the Southeast Asian fare we had. Add sambal "belacan" to increase satisfaction.
Distracted by picking over the wreckage of our lazy Susan - 6 mains among 5 plus appetizers for a Low End Theory-esque $12 incl. 20% tip - I completely forgot about dessert, again! Not to worry. There will be many other nights like this (even if there will never be another Limster).
Low End Theory