KL Food Trip: Stingray Curry Mee

I don’t know how Noid searches out these places, but she manages to find new ones every time we visit. Tucked away in a nondescript coffee shop called Hai Keng Restaurant is a humble hawker stall that serves up a mean bowl of curry mee. Singaporeans will more likely call it laksa, but it’s slightly different from the usual laksa lemak made famous by 328 Katong Laksa.

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The gravy is a thin curry that isn’t too lemak, i.e. with only a smidge of coconut milk for richness. It’s a bit of a hybrid as they add lime juice just before serving, so this is sour, spicy and slightly rich all at once. You can choose from laifun, which is thick rice noodles typically used in assam laksa, or yellow wheat noodles normally used in traditional KL curry mee. I liked how schizophrenic it tasted to me, as the mint leaves, lime juice and laifun lulled  my mind into thinking that it’s more like assam laksa. Then the hint of coconut milk and squishy taupok (tofu puffs) reminded me that it’s quite like Singaporean laksa too. But what set it aside was the stingray accompaniment. It came as a thick, succulent slab that added juicy seafood flavour to the whole concoction. The clams were decent too, but just couldn’t compete with the stingray.

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DC had yellow noodles with roast pork topping in addition to the stingray. Even though the roast pork skin was a bit soft, the flavour of the pork was very decent and goes much better with the curry mee and stingray. Order this combination if you’re in doubt. My one criticism of this place is that while they’d arranged my clams artfully in the bowl, they forgot to add long beans to mine. I only realised belatedly that I had been somewhat shortchanged. No matter, the beansprouts in mine were fresh and crunchy.

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While you’re at Hai Keng Restaurant, be sure to order the kopi. The strong local brew is thick and heady with a rich aroma, probably because the coffee beans are roasted with butter. Either that or they add a dab of butter with the condensed milk. The standard hot version and the iced versions are equally good.

Fu Shou Lou Nonya Seafood Curry Mee
Hai Keng Restaurant – near to Digital Mall
Jalan 14/20 (Seksyen 14), Petaling Jaya,
Selangor 46100, Malaysia

[GPS Coordinates: 03 06 629 N, 101 38 117 E]

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KL Food Trip: Fatty Crab

It being my birthday weekend, Noid tried to fatten me up as much as possible. She took us to Restoran Fatty Crab, a bit of an institution for the crustacean. We were told to turn up earlier or face a long wait as the place doesn’t take reservations. We were lucky enough to turn up just in time to grab the last good table there – good being far away from the sinks and the satay grilling area. All tables were covered by the same kind of maroon table cloth so threadbare there were plenty of holes in each. After each table was done, they wrapped up all the discarded shells in the cloth and whisked it off, laying a fresh holey one for the next set of customers.

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No matter, we were here for the food and started off with a small serving of four chicken wings. They were nicely marinated and generously portioned – see how we got a bonus drumlet? It was just enough to whet the appetite.

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We had mixed views of the other appetiser of century egg. While DC really liked the soft texture of the centres, I didn’t fancy the slight whiff of ammonia. DC was quite pleased to take the last piece that Noid found a bit too rich.

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Next came the fried rice, which was masterfully made. Each grain was firm and separate from the other. There was a nice crunch from lightly cooked long bean and carrot bits. But the best part was the crab roe fried into the rice. I liked how it lightly seasoned so that you could enjoy it with the other dishes. It complemented rather than clamour for attention against the piece de resistance.

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Ah yes, the crab! We ordered smaller crabs for sweeter meat. My first piece was a bit off, but the second piece was beautifully fresh and sweet. Even the meat within the spindly legs were worth my while. The sauce itself is quite different from the regular chilli sauce. Here, it’s more sweet and sour with pronounced chilli spiciness. It’s the slow burn type that doesn’t hit till you’ve dug in to at least half your crab piece and your nose starts watering from the heat. The sauce is especially good with the fried rice. DC walloped loads of it, but Noid found it a bit too spicy to eat that way.

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We were shocked to be told that the place doesn’t do any kind of vegetables. My jaw fairly dropped with surprise. This is the first place I’ve ever been in that simply doesn’t do vegetables. We went for the prawns instead. These were marinated and then fried in just their shells. They were fat, juicy and fresh – very good.

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This place is great for hardcore crab fans who are happy just eating from the limited range this place has. I like how it’s straightforward and no-nonsense. Not only do they provide de rigueur nutcrackers, they also put out mallets for the tougher shells to crack. A great touch for those who would leave no crab crevice untouched.

Restoran Fatty Crab
No 2, Jln SS 24/13 , Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya,
47301 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60-3-7804-5758

KL Food Trip: Fierce Curry House

DC wanted to indulge me on my birthday and took me to KL not just to see Noid and Cheese, but also to eat. We got rituals like going on pilgrimage to Klang out of the way quickly, and on the day of my birthday, we found ourselves at Fierce Curry House. I’d first heard of Fierce Curry House on Facebook when it ran its tight T-shirt promotion: the first few men who showed up in tight V-neck shirts and carrying a man bag would get free biryani. What a great stunt that even I heard of it down south in Singapore. When a friend posted a picture of the lobster biryani, we were sold. That’s how we found ourselves off the main Bangsar drag in front of a slightly shabby stretch of shophouses. It looks like a typical non-airconned place from the outside, with a large steamer stack full of biryanis and a large thosai/roti canai griddle in the front. Venture inside, however, and there’s a fairly spacious airconditioned area, complete with a crazy number of exhaust fans on the walls.

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We weren’t here to ogle the walls, but the large steamer full of lobster biryani that we’d pre-ordered. They’ve a poster that quite helpfully tells you to order a day in advance.

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The biryani was set over solid fuel camp stoves to keep it warm…

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… and sealed the biryani pot with dough to keep the moisture and flavour in. We were so excited we couldn’t wait for the latecomers and asked them to go ahead with the unveiling. It was such a spectacle that other tables started taking pictures of our biryani too!

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At first, we wondered where the lobster, was…

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… and pretty much sighed with relief when each half emerged after a spot of digging with the tongs.

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One of the sweet servers gamely held up the whole thing for a nice photo op before whisking it to the kitchen. We almost yelled after her, “where are you going with my lobster?!” before realising that they needed to chop it up for us first.

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In the mean time, we contented ourselves with taking pictures of the fragrant rice and accompanying gravies and raitas.

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Then the lobster made its comeback and we happily dug in.

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The verdict? The lobster itself was a tad overrated. While of a decent size, there isn’t a great deal of meat in one lobster to go with the easily six servings of rice in the pot. The meat itself was rather mushy, showing that it’s most likely frozen lobster. But the rice itself was a revelation. It was proper basmati rice that was beautifully fluffy and infused with the scent of cardamom and most strongly of lobster. Cooking it dum style sealed in all the goodness and allowed the lobster flavour to permeate. It was just as well that the lobster meat wasn’t that great. Still, for RM240, it’s expensive even by Singapore standards.

Other dishes included the highly rated deep-fried bitter gourd. It was very nicely crisp and intensely bitter – they made it with the proper kind of bitter gourd, the deep green and prettily frilled baby ones.

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We heard good things about the lamb dishes and ordered a lamb masala to complement the lobster. It was wonderfully tender and with nicely melded spices – excellent with the biryani rice or a thosai on the side.

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Fierce Curry House is a nice place to check out for the spectacle of a proper biryani. They use decent quality ingredients (especially if you consider frozen lobster decent quality), but is of course pricier because you’re paying for the brand, the Bangsar location and the aircon room. I’d go again because exchange rate is much in my favour!

Fierce Curry House
16 Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur, MY.
Tel: +6019-383-0945 / +603-2202-3456

An Indian Dinner: Khansama Tandoori Restaurant and Komala Vilas

A bunch of us decided that we should have a big Indian dinner and we picked out one in Little India. Khansama Tandoori Restaurant is highly rated on Tripadvisor and it was not surprising to see lots of tourists here.

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They had lots of interesting carvings as part of the decor, which adds a lot to the Little India atmosphere, touristy as it may be.

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We started with some drinks – I liked the jaljeera here. It’s a salty, minty lemonade spiked with cumin that’s a bit of an acquired taste. Most drink it expecting a sweet drink and the swamp-like colour doesn’t really add to the appeal. I like its refreshing flavour and change from the usual over-sugared carbonated drinks.

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It’s topped off with crunchy fried dough bits, so you need to eat that quickly before it gets soggy.

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For starters we had a chicken kebab platter with different kinds of marinade. My favourite was a dark green one with spinach in it. The spinach smoothed the spices nicely, paving the way for the main course.

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We also had some side dishes, like the palak paneer, a must-have for me when having anything tandoori. I love the smooth spicy spinach paste that goes so well with the curd cheese.

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We also had a mushroom curry which was OK (I don’t even remember what it is!), at least we got some fibre in the meal.

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The naan was pretty good, but the roti less so. I liked the light texture and fragrance.

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And then came the star of the show – the Sikandar Ran, a whole roasted leg of lamb. It’s hard to see exactly how big it is because they gave us a massive knife to cut the massive leg.

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It was quite an interesting experience to tuck into such a big portion of meat, but I found it a bit tough and poorly seasoned for my taste. The marinade on the outside was mainly just chilli hot and nothing else. A pity given our high hopes.

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Still, some people enjoyed it, like DC. Here he’s happily gnawing on one of the bones, so you can see how big it is.

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Khansama Tandoori Restaurant
166 Serangoon Road
Tel: +65 6299 0300

 

We next headed off for dessert and popped into Komala Villas. Since there wasn’t any space in the restaurant, we took it away and enjoyed it over some TV at Eeyore’s place.

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They were generally sweet and floury and nutty, and we forgot the names once leaving the place. The only truly memorable one was the sour jalebi: see the orange swirled pastry in the picture. I liked how it was like a sweet fried pretzel soaked in sour syrup. Very moreish after a heavy dinner.

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Komala Vilas: Sweets and Savouries
82 Serangoon Road
Tel: +65 6294 3294

Mezzanote Gelato

DC and I were wandering around  Springleaf Estate when we chanced on a charming little gelato place called Mezzanote. It offers a wide range of gelati, not ice cream: gelati are made from milk while ice cream is made from custard, i.e. cream and eggs. Only with gelati can you get milk flavour as ice cream is by default custard flavoured. I immediately chose the fior di latte (meaning “flower of milk” or some such) and was pleased with the gentle and rounded milkiness of the icy treat. Next time, I’ll skip the cone and go for the cup: it’s not worth the extra charge.

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DC wisely had the hazelnut flavour in a cup. It had a lovely aroma and wasn’t too oily or heavy, as some hazelnut ice creams or gelati tend to be. One of the better places around!

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Mezzanote
906M Upper Thomson Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6456 7382

 

 

 

Back to Bali: The River Bridge and Murni’s Warung

The rest of the day in Ubud was spent relaxing and walking around aimlessly. We went to the bridge area of Ubud, just to poke around and admire a steel bridge going across the Campuhan River.

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DC fiddled about with his camera settings while I played his hapless subject.

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But we both agreed that the river really was quite scenic – and we decided to have dinner at one of the places overlooking the river.

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Here’s us going across the bridge to Murni’s Warung.

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It’s a beautiful place built into the cliff carved out by the river, with four or five floors cleverly making use of the space and scenery to create a warm, convivial atmosphere. We explored a bit of the shop on the ground and upper floor, and then proceeded past the ground floor dining area…

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… down to just above the river level to have a lovely dinner enjoying the sounds of the river while sipping our drinks. I had a young coconut with lime juice, and DC had a yummy strawberry tamarind drink.

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Our dinner was sumptuous and very delicious.

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DC had the bebek betutu, a traditional Balinese dish of smoked duck. It came with urap, a firm favourite, and yellow rice. The duck was flavourful and nicely spicy though not chilli hot at all.

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I much preferred my grilled snapper. I don’t know how they grilled it so perfectly, but unlike most grilled fish, this was insanely tender, I don’t even know how they managed to achieve it. I especially liked how it was charred outside so the fish had a yummy smoky flavour. The bacon and onion potatoes and side salad? Gilding the lily.

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After being stuffed to the gills yet again, we headed to another intermediate floor…

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… where we lounged with our post-dinner drinks. Life is good.

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Bali has a special place in my heart – it’s got good food, laidback resorts and lots to do and not do. It’s one of the places that somehow pulls me back even though there’s so much of the rest of the world to explore.

Back to Bali: Babi Guling at Ibu Oka

Pretty much THE reason for going to Ubud was to eat at Ibu Oka’s, made famous by an Anthony Bourdain feature. I’d tried babi guling in a previous trip to Bali but only had a rather slapdash version. This time, I was determined to make it work. Online accounts told me that babi guling must be had early. There was a rather sketchy description online about a market in Gianyar that had the most awesome babi guling evah! The catch was that it was available only from 6.30am to 9am. Inquiries on this famed market babi guling at the front desk of our resort drew a blank, so that went out of the window. Ibu Oka it was!

I was so obsessive about the babi guling that I dreamt that I’d missed it and they were out of pig by the time I got there. I woke with a start at 6am and was pleased to realise that I was awake bright and early for my dose of pig – even for the market version if I only knew where it was. Sadly, DC didn’t share my enthusiasm to chase down a mythical market babi guling for breakfast and then have lunch at Ibu Oka. We settled for just going to Ibu Oka early to try our luck.

Here it is in Ubud Central, taking up one of the corners where the tourist information centre, Ubud market and Ubud palace meet. The sign is unmistakable.

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Sadly, at 9am it had yet to open.

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DC and I took a detour to do our other business in town – poking around at the various woodcraft workshops in the area slightly out of Ubud central. To our surprise, there was another branch of Ibu Oka out here. Likewise, it wasn’t open yet. I contented myself with a picture, wondering which branch (later I found out there are three branches sprinkled in the area) was the best.

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We made it back to Ubud central at the late timing of 10.30am. By then I was getting antsy, convinced that there’d be a mob of babi guling lovers forming such a formidable line ahead that I’d have to turn back in defeat. But no, it was open and there wasn’t a queue! We perused the menu in leisurely fashion and ordered the babi guling pisah, i.e. suckling pig with different parts. Sadly, our request for more skin was turned down. I was shocked that they’d run out of skin even before official opening hours!

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While waiting, we admired the portrait of Ibu Oka, taking pride of place in the shop.

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Then the moment of reckoning came. There was only one shard of skin, which DC and I divided up clinically, eyeing the pieces to ensure that we had judicious portions. There were thick slices of lean meat, fattier slice of rib meat, deep fried intestine, soup and urap, a salad made from toasted coconut, long beans and cabbage. I tried a piece of skin, and while it was crispy from the roasting on its subcutaneous fat, it wasn’t crispy enough. Chinese-style roast suckling pig achieves the shattering crispness much better. I was starting to feel let down already. Then I tried a meat slice and became a believer. You see, the thing about babi guling is that the skin is but a sideshow. The star of the show is really the juicy meat and the marinade and the urap and how all the textures and flavours marry together in a harmonious symphony. I loved how the mellow chilli and various spices like ginger, onion and possibly turmeric and galangal melded beautifully into the rich meaty flavour of the pork. The crunchy vegetables and toasted coconut in the urap added more flavour and bite.

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DC was very enamoured of the blood sausage. Since we were thwarted in our skin bid, we went for more blood sausage and more fried intestines. The blood sausage had a slightly mealy texture from the congealed blood, but the flavouring was robust and I liked the bursty texture of the sausage casing (presumably made from pig intestine lining).

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The deep fried intestine was crispy and yummy, a bit like a bar snack. The soup was surprisingly good. In Singapore, most local places pay scant attention to the soup, often merely thinning out any stock and adding msg to make up for the lack of flavour. Here, the soup was done like soto ayam, just a richer porky version. It was so excellent I’d come here just for its soto babi.

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And what tied the whole meal together was the preserved chilli sauce. It looks innocuous enough with the green chillis, but beware – those are green chilli padi and there are also red chilli padi bits in the mix. It’s not quite a sauce as in the liquid was mainly oil (presumably coconut oil). It was more salted chillis and shallot shards in oil. But what a wonderfully spicy, deeply aromatic hit of chilli that was. We dosed it quite liberally on our babi guling and I was soon gasping for breath, but it was so good I kept going until there wasn’t anymore babi guling left.

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As we left the joint, we realised that a crowd had formed and a fresh pig had been delivered. Now we know that the pig comes from a central kitchen, so not to worry which branch is good. It was quite a spectacle to see the pig being carved up. First, the head was cut off neatly, then the chef slid her knife under the skin…

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… lifted up a corner and pulled off all the skin in a sheet, steam rising voluminously from the meat.

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Then it was time to process the meat into the various parts for the hungry hordes. If we knew that this was the system, we’d have stayed and ordered another serving of pig skin just to see if it was any better. It was just as well that we didn’t – it’s always best to eat your fill and move on. Having more than we could comfortably eat would have compromised our enjoyment.

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There’s always our next visit to Ubud!