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Desa Pandan used to be our regular spot for dinner, until restaurants began sprouting around our area. Anyway, the place is still very simple, with three sides open to the night. The steamboat enthusiasts were gathered on the sidewalk tables, we went inside. The restaurant's owner recognized us straight off, and handed us our menus with the sort of efficiency expected from Chinese restaurants. Alister noticed a new addition to the menu, Venison Stir Fried With Beancurd Sheets And Gluten Puffs, so we took that. Mom ordered, additionally, Claypot Tofu With Mixed Vegetables, Kam Heong (Golden Scented) Chicken and Braised Spinach In Superior Broth.

The venison arrived first: very sweet slices of deer cooked in a pleasant thick brown sauce, with a layer of sliced deep-fried mock duck (beancurd sheets) and fluffy gluten puffs soaked in the gravy underneath. The sauce worked well with our steamed rice, the deer was tender as it was sweet, and the restaurant was generous with the mock duck and gluten puffs, so I didn't have to fend off anyone from my favorite vegetarian bits.

The claypot was good, although pretty standard fare. Mom requested local block tofu, so we had firm, soft squares of fried tofu in the rich stewy gravy. Also in the claypot were baby corn, carrot rounds, slices of squid, chicken and snow peas (in pods).

The spinach was next, and this is a real family favorite that Desa Pandan does well. Tender, perfectly braised stalks of spinach were served in a light yet flavorful chicken broth. The spinach came festooned with little red berries (qi zi) and large portions of century egg (eggs preserved in lime). The spinach was served as individual portions in bowls, and I saved the century egg for last, so I could munch it down with the gravy.

Last was the chicken. Desa Pandan's Kam Heong is slightly wetter than the norm. Mom asked for a reduction of chilies, but somehow the chicken was still too spicy for the boys. Kam Heong Chicken is chunks of chicken stir fried in curry powder, onions, curry leaves and slices of chili until it developes that 'golden scent'. Unfortunately, while Desa Pandan's chicken was okay, it wasn't much to shout about.

The bill came to around RM60 (USD 15), we all went home bloated like puffer fishes. A note to ponder on here. I spent the entire night after eating at Desa Pandan thirsty, and apparently, so did Mom. One of the reasons we haven't been visiting Desa Pandan was the MSG they put in the dishes. You can't really run away from MSG in Chinese restaurants, but some put in more than most. So, if you ever happen to eat at Desa Pandan, be careful.

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