Enter Chocha Foodstore and you’re transported back in time.
This century-old building which Chocha Foodstore now calls home was the former Mah Lian Hotel, which fronted as a hotel, but really served as a brothel. A kinky history indeed makes any visit to Chocha all the more intriguing.
As your walk through the restaurant space, there are so many nooks and crannies to explore. Indeed if the walls could talk, can you imagine the stories it could tell?
And whilst some might wonder why the building wasn’t modernised to a changing time, the owners have deliberately chosen to maintain much of the integrity of the building. Respecting the architectural heritage, the owners have gone to many lengths to preserve its history.
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An Evocative Heritage History
For so many years, the building in which Chocha finds its home was abandoned and left to rot. When the owners first found the building, the roof and wooden beams which helped to maintain the structure of the building were on the verge of collapsing due to the many years of exposure to rain.
So time was spent on fixing and strengthening the structure of the building, yet maintain the integrity of this historical building. Why completely change the design of a building, when the old structure is still perfectly useable?
The concrete walls have been deliberately untouched, revealing hidden messages from an evocative past that once saw a brothel operated within the building. Vintage tiles, antique light fittings, and black iron grills fill the space all adding to the intrigue that is now known as Chocha Foodstore. Oh and did I mention it’s one of the most instagrammable cafes in Kuala Lumpur.
The space is colourful, it’s quirky, and it is pleasant to sit amongst such history of an area that brought so much wealth to early settlers. Because you see, the history of Chinatown is so much more than brothels. It’s filled with a rich history that dates back to the 1800’s where many early settlers came in pursuit of wealth due to Kuala Lumpur’s boom in tin mining.
Fast forward to many years later, and Kuala Lumpur is now a thriving metropolis filled with a colourful and rich history. And Chinatown is such an important part of this rich history, that no visit to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without exploring Chinatown.
And Then There’s Food!
Just when you think it stops at the heritage of the building, Chocha Foodstore is so much more than this. It’s through the love of food that brings people together to Chocha to satisfy food cravings, and appreciate the integrity and deep colourful history of Chinatown.
We’ve all heard the concept of sharing is caring – and it’s this philosophy that Chocha has created their menu around. All dishes have been created to share, which means you’ll get the chance to try a variety of items from the menu.
The food is contemporary Asian, with fusion touches, and the focus is on using local produce wherever possible. In fact, no beef or lamb dishes made the cut because well, unfortunately locally sourced beef and lamb is not great. And so many restaurants have to turn to using imported lamb and beef from countries like Australia and the US. Just imagine the sheer carbon footprint in having to bring that into Malaysia.
And so the concept of using only local produce is maintained strongly by the owners, and the result is a delicious variety of dishes. This farm-to-table concept holds strong, and the menu items all reflect this concept.
Dishes to Tickle Your Fancy at Chocha
Umai is a traditional dish found in Sarawak and similar to what many would know as ceviche. The Umai Laksa takes thinly diced raw fish and combines it with onion, chilli, salt, and lime juice.
And so Chocha have taken inspiration from this traditional dish and turned it on its head by using Laksa sauce to dress local red snapper. The result is a flavorful and refreshing dish that is a perfect way to start dinner. It’s served in a banana flower, and combines mango, shallots, chilli and onion. It has a touch of chili spice without being burn in your mouth spicy.
Can I just say…it’s simply delicious.
Jackfruit Ulam Salad
This one intrigued us all. You’d almost think there was grated cheese inside of it, but you’d be wrong.
Sweet jackfruit is combined with fresh local herbs and greens such as ulam raja, and topped with toasted coconut flakes. It’s the perfect companion to go with your meat for main, or to even be enjoyed on its own.
Sticky Bebek Goreng
Duck is slow cooked duck and then deep fried and tossed with ginger and soy glaze. The sweetness of the glaze is paired beautifully with a green chili sauce making this a dish you’ll be craving for days. It’s generous portion perfect for sharing with friends.
Bang Bang Chicken Ribs
This one’s fiery.
The chicken ribs are first marinated in rice wine and fermented chilli oil. It’s then slow braised and then decorated with szechuan pepper and sesame seeds. It’s smoky, it’s fiery, and it’s delightful.
Duck Rendang Hummus
A crowd favorite, and for good reason.
I mean seriously, who would have thought to combine duck rendang with hummus? And yet surprisingly this dish is well-balanced and hearty. If winter was ever to come to Kuala Lumpur, Chocha’s duck rendang would be the perfect companion.
The duck is first slow cooked as a rendang to bring out the fullest of flavors of the spices gone into making the rendang. It is then shredded and placed on a bed of house-made chickpea and eggplant hummus. Add a side of papadam and voila, a hearty dish to fill that tummy of yours.
Ahhh it’s not every day that you see petai being used in a dish. This stinky bean is…well stinky. But its unique flavor makes it a favorite produce used by many locals.
Petai is combined with a medley of beans such as four angle beans and long beans which are all grilled and placed on a bed of house-made lentil pesto. Another dish that pairs well with any of Chocha’s meat mains.
Not your typical chocolate mousse. This one instead is made using avocado for the creaminess and 72% single origin chocolate from Pahang, Malaysia. Then combined into the chocolate mousse is bits of crunchy tempe. Yup you heard it right, tempe because hey, Chocha likes to do things a little differently. Then paired with the mousse is a banana compote and cocoa husk cookies.
Not too sweet and nicely balanced, this definitely is a healthier version of dessert so there’s no need to feel guilty.
Ulam Raja Crème Brulee
You had me at ulam raja dear crème brulee.
Ulam raja is a local herb that translates to the King’s herb. It’s most commonly used in salad or as a herb that’s eaten on the side with your food. But at Chocha Foodstore, they have found more than one use for ulam raja – they’ve added it to their dessert!
The crème brulee uses dehydrated ulam raja and thai basil, giving it a rich bold green color. It’s beautifully cream, with a honeycombe topping to add a nice crunch with every bite. The combination of herbs with the creaminess of the crème brulee was interesting. It was not overly sweet with a hint of nuttiness coming from the herbs.
A lovely sweet note way to round up a delicious dinner.
Drinks to Pair
And with every well-planned and prepared food menu, there’s a great beverage menu to pair.
Taking inspiration from the wine menu of sister restaurant Joloko, many new and exciting wines have been introduced into the menu…including natural and organic wines. In fact, the group of owners bonded over their love for natural wine, which resulted in two restaurant concepts built together.
The team at Chocha firmly believe in supporting natural and organic farmers wherever possible, and so selecting their wines was no different. With many intriguing natural wines to choose from, the most difficult decision you’ll have to make is picking the right one. But fret not because Chocha have their own in-house wine sommelier who is able to help pick the right one to pair with your meal.
And if wine is not your jam, head upstairs to Botak Liquor Bar and enjoy a cocktail or two, which also can also be enjoyed downstairs at Chocha.
I absolutely love the farm-to-table concept that Chocha has put forward because they are actually being authentic about it. Little to almost no foreign imported ingredients are being used in their cooking, which stays true to their concept.
Plus the design and aura of the space alone is yet another reason to visit Chocha. It’s so photogenic, it’s peaceful, it’s intriguing – there’s just so many reasons why you need to come to Chocha.
Chocha Foodstore is open every day till late except for Mondays. Especially on Fridays and the weekend is gets pretty busy, so reservations are essential.