I hope for more branches of Chai Bar in the Klang Valley.
The current rise of health awareness and balanced dietary habits in Malaysians saw the emergence of salad bars, healthy meal delivery services, slow juices businesses and a spike in gym outlets, all ready to cash in on the current “fad“.
Undeniably there are some who are truly passionate about health and fitness, of which I admire and appreciate their efforts in educating the general public on the issues of nutrition and exercise, but more often than not, I thought most are just riding the wave to make a quick profit.
A health and fitness enthusiast myself I get really dismayed to see some advertising false/misleading information, whether from ignorance or a genuine mistake I don’t know nor can I tell, but advocating processed low fat products, claiming that their meals has NO carbs (which is frankly impossible unless you intend to survive on water and air) and charging a bomb for tiny portions doesn’t look like it is going to help anyone on their health journey.
I’ve tried a few salad bars and “healthy food” outlets in the Klang Valley, and none left much of an impression until I stepped into Chai Bar.
On my first visit I opted to build my own salad.
Being the greedy pig that I am, and since I know the prices of most ingredients in the market I chose the most “expensive” option from each section, stretching my poor ringgit as much as possibly possible.
The DIY salad concept works by allowing the customer to tick all the components they want on Chai Bar’s DIY salad sheet, and once you’re satisfied with your options, hand it over to the staff and they will prepare your salad accordingly.
There is Small Chai (RM13.90), Regular Chai (RM17.90) and Large Chai (RM22.90). Each size differs in the sense of the amount of base, toppings, supplements and protein option you can add.
For a better idea, check out the link to their menu: http://chaibar.my/make-your-own-salads/
I selected a Large Chai (RM22.90) and chose the below:
5 supplements: I chose young papaya, tofu, couscous, beetroot, mixed beans.
2 premiums: I chose avocado & quinoa
2 proteins: I chose prawns & grilled beef (yes, 2 of the most expensive items available 😛)
1 topping : I chose salsa
2 dressings : I chose Avocado & Thai som tam.
I had expected a measly portion of each ingredient, and a fairly decent-sized bowl of a salad served.
To my huge surprise, I got a monstrous bowl of salad, with generous portions of each ingredient, and as I stared at it wide-eyed, I actually doubted my ability to finish it.
But hold on, I had thought, size is looking good, but does it taste as good?
The avocado dressing didn’t hit the mark for me, tasting pretty weird somewhat but the Thai som tam saved the day.
However as I tucked into my salad I realized it didn’t require much dressing. The ingredients are fresh and naturally tasty. The grilled beef was amazingly tender and juicy, the prawns sweet and the salsa with the crunchy young papaya flavouring the rest of the ingredients well enough.
I only had to pour some Thai som tam dressing over the spinach, and enjoy the tofu, couscous, sweet beetroot and the mixed beans as it is.
This was truly delicious and I was suitably impressed.
In fact as someone running a tiny, hobby-based healthy food business myself, I had to admit I’ll charge more than RM22.90 for this!
So when another opportunity presented itself for me to sample more of their offerings I happily volunteered to visit.
This time I got to meet the people behind the business, and both Dennis and Edward turned out to be humble young entrepreneurs with visions of improving the perception of healthy food (in this case salads) and the habit of eating for a balanced lifestyle.
Being Malaysians themselves, they knew education and effort are required to change the mindset of fellow Malaysians who are accustomed to heavy flavours in their food (curries, herbs, spices).
In fact, after being spoiled with multi-cultured food with diverse tastes, salads are almost unthinkable as a “delicious meal“.
Salad options commonly in restaurants’ menus here in Malaysia didn’t help the situation, with most offering the insipid choice of Caesar; qualified by a bunch of romaine tossed in a bowl with some tomatoes, croutons and a measly amount of grated cheese.
Top up RM6- RM15 for a miserly clump of bland chicken or smoked salmon.
It was an uphill battle, but fortunately for the folks at Chai Bar, their efforts had shown promising results so far.
With 75 fresh ingredients and 15 unique house-made dressings to create your salads, boring won’t (hopefully) be a word to describe salads anymore.
Not here in Chai Bar at least.
For first timers, I’ll suggest getting acquainting with what Chai Bar has to offer by ordering one of their Top 10 salads with clever renditions of local Asian flavours.
If you trust my taste, I would suggest the Steakhouse, the Korean inspired Bibimbap and the Chicken Rice.
STEAKHOUSE (RM 19). For males who don’t eat greens.
Baby spinach with baby potatoes, tomato, caramelised onions & grilled beef. Dressed with blue cheese.
Damn this is VERY good.
The blue cheese dressing matched perfectly with the caramelised onions and grilled beef.
CHICKEN RICE (RM 14). Like chicken rice. Just less carbs.
Baby spinach with red rice, onions, cucumber, bean sprouts & poached chicken. Dressed with Sesame Soy.
For RM14, 120g of tender, tasty chicken breast sits on a bed of imported spinach leaves, bean sprouts, cucumber and red rice. The soy sesame dressing that accompanied it truly did mimic the flavours of a chicken rice dish.
Thus The Chicken Rice is one of my top pick here for a good reason.
BIBIMBAP (RM 18). Raw vegetables minus the sizzling pot.
Baby spinach with red rice, cucumber, carrot, mushrooms, bean sprouts, hard boiled egg and grilled beef dressed in sweet Gochujang sauce, housemade of course.
Further flavoured with sprinkles of kimchi and Korean anchovies.
The portions served at Chai Bar are very fair, designed to keep you fairly full (depending on your stomach capacity) with complex carbohydrates and natural protein.
If you have been a victim of paying RM20+ for a salad with some green leaves and a handful of shredded chicken, you would appreciate the portions and pricing at Chai Bar.
If anything you might even begin to wonder if they are making profits at all!
In line with their philosophy of all things natural and healthy, beverages at Chai Bar are juices and smoothies, all made fresh from real fruits, without syrups, commercially packed juices or concentrates.
My favourite is the Avococo (RM8.50), a combination of avocados, coconut milk and unsweeten cocoa.
Another is the Mango Passion (RM8.50), a refreshing, tangy drink of mangoes and passionfruits.
Convinced enough to drop them a visit? 🙂
Here an idea of their menu: http://chaibar.my/the-fab-10-salads/
Like I said, I hope for more branches of Chai Bar in the Klang Valley, for we certainly do need more of such sincere, fairly priced F & B outlets around.
Here’s a toast to Dennis and Edward, for offering honest, good salads at fair prices to all Malaysians and for taking the challenge of improving the poor perceptions of salads (or healthy eating in general), slow but steadily, a bowl at a time.
G31, Oasis Village, Oasis Square, No. 2, Jalan PJU 1A/7A, Oasis Damansara
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Open : Daily 11:00am – 9:00pm (close on Mondays)