27th June 2009

Restoran Tien Pin

19, Jalan SS2/30
47300 Petaling Jaya
Tel: (03) 7875 2120

Business hours:
Monday-Saturday: 8am-9pm
Sunday: 8am-7pm

Restoran Tien Pin is a well-known secret among the residents of Petaling Jaya. Located on a quiet leafy street in SS2, the eatery is busy throughout the day, and it’s not difficult to see why.

The prices are cheap, and the food does the trick of being both filling and wholesome.

Owner Michael Tang has devised a culinary formula that works like a dream. Piping hot fish balls, noodles and porridge served to you in a dash; desserts that hit the sweet spot; the list goes on. Best of all, none of this will burn a hole in your wallet.

Wholesome dish: Fish Paste Porridge.

Tang, a former national squash coach, is big on technique. He developed his version of the classic fish ball recipe by learning from the experts in Johor Baru and China.

“The recipe took me two weeks to perfect. Our fish balls are made fresh from yellow tail fish. It’s the only type of fish we use. The recipe is based on a 1960s method that uses salt, sugar and flour,” he explains.

Regular diners have often remarked that there’s so much to choose from that it’s often difficult to decide on what to eat.

Well, why not start with the Mee Pok (RM5)? The dish, served with a soupy bowl of fish balls, is all about noodles with bite, flavour and texture. Minced pork and garnishing add a savoury touch. Portions are substantial, and you don’t have to wait long.

The addictive Soup Noodles (RM5) is preservative-free. Just the way it should be prepared.

At Tang’s other outlets in Subang Jaya and Damansara Utama, he sells everything at half price by the end of the day. “We don’t keep our stock overnight,” he points out. Besides noodles and fish balls, there’s also hearty, wholesome porridge.

Prepared with fresh fish daily and making full use of the bones and fish heads, the porridge is big on flavour and has a slightly sweetish taste. That’s a good thing because it means quality ingredients are used. Oh, and you can go easy on the soya sauce. In fact, there’s no need to add any.

Quick lunch: The Mee Pok comes with a bowl of fish ball soup.

I’m not a huge fan of porridge but the subtle aromas of the Fish Paste Porridge (RM5) make it comfort food like no other. A plus at the end of the meal: you won’t be reaching for a glass of water. This is MSG-free territory.

Fried items on the menu include the restaurant’s popular Fried Fish Noodle and Chee Cheong Fun (RM5.50). It’s both spicy and very original. Tasting a bit like fried koay teow, the fish noodles are wok-fried with chives, garlic, chillies and Tang’s secret ingredients. Your chopsticks will most likely take a life of their own. We polished off the fish noodles quite easily, and took a rain cheque on dinner that evening.

Still on the fried theme — dumplings (RM6). A medley of chicken wrapped in crispy pastry, the dish is best enjoyed with vinegar and sliced ginger. A special machine prepares these dumplings at a whopping speed of 3,000 pieces in 25 minutes! A similar efficiency is displayed in the daily preparation of desserts.

Take your pick amongst Red Bean Sago (RM2), Tau Fu Fah (RM3) or Ginger Soya Milk with Glutinous Rice Ball (RM3), all of which are created with recipes that are time-tested. As Tang says, “At Tien Pin, we don’t want to be the largest in size. We would rather give the best quality.”

Those who fancy a classy atmosphere and air conditioning, however, may not take to the place. The restaurant is hardly the place to linger, chat or work on your computer as demonstrated by the endless shuttle of diners. Even at 11am, the restaurant is busy.

Unlike the other coffee shops in the area with stalls operating only during breakfast and lunch, Tien Pin’s all-day-dining concept is one that works efficiently. In the morning, office people make a trek to the eatery in between meetings, grabbing Toast Bread with Kaya spread (RM1.50) for sustenance. Things get more frenetic during lunch. You might have to share a table with other diners.

In the afternoons, retired folk who live in the area are known to pop in for the desserts and to catch up with each other, while families with children make up the bulk of the clientele in the evening.

Service is always quick and efficient. I asked for an extra-strong ice coffee with milk and no sugar, and got exactly that — and a smile. This isn’t always the case at other pricier establishments.

The restaurant is perfect when you’re rushed for time and fancy a quick bite that doesn’t let nutrition and flavour slide.

(Article by Mark Lean, syndicated by from the The Star)