Delectable offerings

THE 40km Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) cuts through the entire length of Puchong, connecting various places in the bustling town. Landmarks such as the IOI Mall, Tesco and Setia Walk add to its commercial appeal, while small eateries and cafés wedged between tall buildings keep the bellies of the townspeople satisfied.

Puchong has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a rubber estate and tin mining town in the 1960s, and it is not showing any signs of slowing down.

In the past, its streets were narrow and there was no bustling town centre. Now, standing at the busiest point along the LDP in Puchong, one can see a seemingly endless stream of cars zipping down the eight-lane road. People are out and about, some are eating in food outlets and restaurants at the shophouses, or coming in and out of offices in the town centre.

Food, glorious food

Puchong has many attractive elements, but the one thing that immediately comes to mind is food. There are a lot of establishments that make the list. From the humble yet hearty kopitiam fare and skilfully prepared local classics to more cosmopolitan cuisine, foodies are spoilt for choice.

You don't have to go far; there is much good food to be found in the heart of Puchong. A well-known place is Yuen Garden Dim Sum in Bandar Puchong Jaya. Located a few streets away is Choy Hi Restaurant, which serves Bentong-style Chinese delicacies such as steamed freshwater fish and stir-fried pig intestines with dried chillies, lard, onions and scallions.

Foreign cuisine is also gaining in popularity, with restaurants opening up in newer commercial developments like IOI Boulevard. One can indulge in Western fare at Hoe's in Bandar Puteri Puchong and Pork Place in Bandar Puchong Jaya; Japanese food at Ikuzo Ramen and Umai-Ya in Bandar Puchong Jaya; and Indonesian food at Bumbu Bali in Bandar Puteri Puchong and Anggrek Kuring (Sundanese) at IOI Boulevard.

Those in search of a quick meal can head to Asia Café at 1Puchong in Pusat Bandar Puchong. Run by the owner-operators of its namesake food court in Subang Jaya, it features a decent range of food and drinks, with over 10 stalls serving up dishes such as grilled seafood, chicken rice, traditional soups and Western food. The food court also features Peter's Kitchen — a stall run by a German that sells pork burgers.

More adventurous souls yearning for some of Puchong's most famous delights will find a few hidden gems on the outskirts of town. Over at Batu 14, Bandar Puchong Utama, are two of the most sought-after eateries — Puchong Yong Tau Fu and Yap Chuan Bak Kut Teh.

The yong tau fu shop is just opposite Sekolah Kebangsaan Puchong Batu 14. Housed in a single-storey corner shop amid a row of older terraced homes, the shop's prominent signage is hard to miss. Even without the sign, one only has to look for the vehicles clustered around the premises and the stream of customers walking towards the shop.

We popped in for a quick visit at 3pm on a weekday and were surprised to find it still packed with people, including several white-collar workers. The succulent vegetables are stuffed with fish paste and fried on the spot.

A short drive away is Yap Chuan Bak Kut Teh. One of its signature dishes is the dry bak kut teh — a rich, complex and aromatic concoction of herbs, okra, squid, pig innards, pork ribs, pork belly and fried beancurd skin. Its soupy bak kut teh is highly recommended for its flavourful and herbal qualities.

Another must-have dish at the shop, surprisingly, is its steamed siakap (red snapper) in a piquant sauce under a bed of pickled onions and topped with two lime halves.

The journey to the shops is an adventure in itself — there is a main road just a little off the LDP pockmarked with holes and an uneven tar. On either side of the road are wooden homes alongside spanking new terraced houses — a sign of Puchong's evolving real estate market.

There is also a one-stop centre that will delight foodies and housewives alike.

Puteri Mart in Bandar Puteri Puchong is a private wet market run by IOI Properties that was opened in August 2007. Open from 7am to 11am, Puteri Mart has a mini market, provision shop, food court and a wide range of makeshift hawker stalls all under one roof.

There are 49 wet market stalls, 29 dry produce stalls and 24 shoplots in all. However, it is the Nice To Eat food centre that brings in the visitors. There, one can choose from over 50 food stalls to have breakfast at. Food items range from vegetarian mixed rice stalls to the famous Sekinchan Fishery food stall.

After a good meal, take a few hours for the food to digest and head on over to Michael's Badminton Academy (MBA), which is a walking distance from Puteri Mart.

The MBA was established by Michael Lee in February 2002, after he realised there was a shortage of badminton courts in Selangor. Being an avid badminton player himself, Lee opened the first MBA premise in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, with 16 indoor courts. In September 2004, he opened another branch in Puchong with 32 courts — the largest in Malaysia. MBA is actively expanding its services and is now a one-stop centre for everything badminton.

What residents say

Some say it is the food that makes Puchong what it is. However, the town would never have become what it is today without IOI Properties Bhd, which took a chance on the area in the late 1980s and got the ball rolling, so to speak. According to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council, the population of Puchong stood at 335,419 as at 2010.

According to Ally Su, a 35-year-old business owner who has been living in Puchong for the past eight years, the area was more or less empty back then. "We were one of the first shops to open in Puchong. The banks weren't even here yet. Eight years later, you can obviously see that it has changed a lot. Even the prices for properties have gone up."

Su says she moved to Puchong from Bandar Sunway to open her kopitiam. She now lives in IOI's Puteri 10.

"If it wasn't for me opening this shop here, I wouldn't have moved here," she says. "The rental rate for this shop has also increased 10% over eight years."

She adds that Puchong's appeal is thanks to the many developments by IOI to further "bring up" the area as well as the town's proximity to Petaling Jaya. "We have definitely seen a boom in developments and an increase in population. There are a lot more people here and it has become congested."

Alex Teo, 34, who has been living here for 10 years, says there's been a lot of growth in Puchong. "I used to rent in Puchong, but now I have my own property. I wouldn't know the price change over the past 10 years, but speaking from experience, the property I purchased has doubled in price in just five years."

Teo points out that the commercial area in Puchong is one of its attractions. In Bandar Puteri Puchong and Taman Wawasan, there are a lot of public amenities and banks, making it convenient for residents and those who work in the area, he says, adding that a lot of people come to the town for the food as it's quite easy to find food here compared with Petaling Jaya.

According to Huang Yinlong, who has been living in Puchong for the past seven years, Puchong is practically a self-sustaining township that has everything you would want. "You have every facility that you can find in any township, so you don't have to travel out."

Huang had lived in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, before moving to Puchong. He says the price of his home in IOI's Puteri 8 has risen from RM420,000 to a little over RM900,000.

"At that time, I was looking for a bigger place. In Bandar Utama, a 2½-storey home was selling at around RM600,000. In Puchong, it would've cost RM400,000. I wouldn't mind purchasing a new home in Puchong if I wanted to upgrade," he says.

Jay Ee Khor, a Puchong resident of nearly four years, says when he moved to Puchong from his home in SS26, Petaling Jaya, his friends saw it as a downgrade. "But I beg to differ. Puchong is a trendy place with all the convenience that one can expect from a modern township."

Khor adds that his family had been shopping for a house and nearly bought one in SS3, Petaling Jaya, before they settled on their current house in Puchong. Now, the price of their house at Lake Edge in Bandar Metro Puchong has appreciated by 50%.

He says demand can be mainly seen in the more upmarket parts of the town, namely near Setia Walk and Bandar Puteri Puchong where new shoplots are opening and attracting a healthy crowd.

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of Jul 29-Aug 4, 2013.

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