Qian Wei La

Special thanks to Qian Wei La for extending this food review invitation.

Qian Wei La Steamboat & BBQ Barbecue (左麻右辣) is a steamboat-cum-barbecue eatery in Pusat Perniagaan Gemilang, a commercial square within short distance from the North-South Expressway (Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan).
There are around 10 dining tables in this air-conditioned restaurant. Electric-powered infrared stove is built into each table, allowing customers to cook their own food using a steamboat.
Most tables are also equipped with an infrared barbecue grill. A ventilator helps to remove excess smoke during cooking.
On the menu, the two main categories of food are steamboat (火锅) and barbecue (烧烤). There are several sets to choose from, each with a number predetermined ingredients. Should customers prefer, they can also order individual items separately.
There are 3 soups choices for steamboat. Sichuan Spicy Soup (麻辣汤底) is the most popular. For something non-spicy, Pork Soup (白汤底) is a sound choice too. Herbal Soup (药材汤) is also available but I have yet to try this type. Steamboat soup costs RM10.00 for a single choice, and RM15.00 for two choices (鸳鸯).
Qian Wei La's Steamboat Set (火锅套餐) comes in 3 sizes, starting from RM18.00 for 1-2 persons, up to RM60.00 for 4-6 persons. Besides increased portion, each progressive size also includes more variety of ingredients.

The most basic package includes prawns (海虾), meat balls (肉丸), fish balls (鱼丸), salmon balls (三文鱼丸), crab sticks (蟹棒) and seafood tofu (海鲜豆腐). Non-meat ingredients are tofu (豆腐), fu zok (腐竹), enoki (金针菇), pumpkin (金瓜), baby corn (玉米笋) and water spinach (空心菜). A bundle of yee mee (伊面) is also included.
The steamboat set includes a plate of pork slices (五花肉片). The slices are served chilled, therefore they remain curled until they thaw.
Minced pork (自制猪肉碎, RM5.50) can be ordered separately. These balls are made from pure pork, certainly not mixed with flour! Even though this item is not available in the standard steamboat set, I highly recommend that you order some because they are truly fresh.
The steamboat soup is the proprietor's own creation, as opposed to being a derivative of an existing recipe. The soup bases are prepared by stewing pork bones for several hours, to a point where they are rich in savoriness and can be consumed directly. Even the Sichuan Spicy Soup is not excessively spicy to a degree which numbs the tongue.
Meanwhile, barbecue ingredients come in portions for 1-2 persons. There are several versions to choose from. Today's choice is BBQ Chicken (秘制鸡肉烧烤, RM18.00). Other options are BBQ Pork Belly (秘制三层肉烧烤, RM21.00) and BBQ Squid (秘制苏东烧烤, RM18.00).
The chicken thigh has been deboned and marinated beforehand. Other accompanying ingredients include mushrooms (香菇), enoki (金针菇) and baby corn (玉米笋). Onions and bell peppers serve to complement heatiness of meat. As the chicken is sufficiently tender, it can be easily cut to smaller pieces when the chicken is halfway cooked.
Raw cabbage is provided as wraps. This is similar to the practice in Korean barbecue (고기구이). By adding some mushrooms, onions and bell peppers, each bite of cabbage-wrapped barbecued chicken is succulent indeed.
As for condiments, there are malajiang (麻辣酱), fried shallot oil (葱头油), peanut sauce (花生酱) and bird's eye chili (小辣椒). Qian Wei La makes its own sauces from scratch, therefore the flavors that cannot be found elsewhere. Malajiang (麻辣酱) contains alcohol and is not as spicy as it sounds. I also like the peanut sauce in particular, especially as a dipping sauce for meats. Unlike those used for spreading on bread, it carries a distinctive sense of saltiness and herbal aroma from constituent spices.
Qian Wei La will be introducing noodle dishes during lunch hours in the near future. Taking advantage of its conducive ambience, the restaurant is also able to host private events for up to 50 people at a time.

Name: Qian Wei La Steamboat & BBQ Barbecue (左麻右辣)
Address: 113, Jalan Perniagaan Gemilang 1, Pusat Perniagaan Gemilang, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-548-9209
Business hours: 12:00pm-11:30pm, closed on Tuesdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/qianweila
Coordinates: 5.35180 N, 100.44118 E
Directions: From the North-South Expressway, take the Bukit Mertajam exit and head east. Drive forward till the end, then turn right and then turn left immediately. Qian Wei La is located at the row of shops on the left. Parking is available in front of the restaurant.

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