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.

IMG_6544

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.

IMG_6545

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.

IMG_6548

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.

IMG_6550

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.

IMG_6553

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.

IMG_6561

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

Advertisements

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.

IMG_6563

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.

photo

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

IMG_6564

… 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!

IMG_6567

At first, we wondered where the lobster, was…

IMG_6568

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

IMG_6570

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.

IMG_6571

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

IMG_6572

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

IMG_6574

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.

IMG_6575

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.

IMG_6577

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

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.

P5261732

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

P5261727

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.

P5261708

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

P5261699

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…

P5261686

… 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.

P5261760

Our dinner was sumptuous and very delicious.

P5261777

 

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.

P5261778

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.

P5261780

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

P5261783

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

P5261792

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.

IMG_6155

Sadly, at 9am it had yet to open.

IMG_6157

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.

IMG_6162

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!

IMG_6163

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

IMG_6164

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.

P5261668

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).

IMG_6167

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.

IMG_6168

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.

IMG_6170

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…

P5261672

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

IMG_6178

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.

IMG_6181

There’s always our next visit to Ubud!

Back to Bali: Ubud

Ubud – the famed cultural centre of Bali.

P5261674

And instead of exploring the museum, art galleries and temples in the area, we did a cursory walk pace the palace…

P5261658

… and ducked into the market, where the action truly is. I was especially sad that we’d already had breakfast at the villa, because there was so much to try in the area. Turn up early so you get a good opening price. The shopkeepers here are very superstitious and tend to give good prices for their first customers. Choose from local herbs and spices (vanilla pods are very cheap, but are far inferior to the Madagascan versions), or little handicraft and spa souvenirs, or basketry. Then haggle, keep smiling and agree on a price. Watch bemusedly as the shopkeeper flicks the your newly handed over bank notes over the rest of the wares for luck. Go past the souvenir shops into the maze and find your way to the basement. That’s where the colour is, where you can wander around marvelling at the vast variety of local fruit and vegetables on offer. Pull up a stool at a food stand if you arrive early enough, otherwise risk trying the colourful iced drinks and coconut-based kueh (local desserts) that have been sitting around for a while.

P5261666

After a day wandering around in town, what better is there to do than go for a hearty dinner?

IMG_6154

We’d heard good things about Naughty Nuri’s. A friend who’d just been ate there twice in the trip, the second time because dinner elsewhere was disappointing and they needed something to make up for the poor show. We didn’t try the cocktails, apparently the place does really mean martinis. What we did have was the coldest Bintang beer in Bali. It went so well with the ribs.

IMG_6151

The famous ribs are grilled by the roadside on a surprisingly small grill for a place so jam packed with hungry diners. The ribs were very good – the meat was the right intermediate between tender and chewy, and marinade a straightforward kicap manis (dark sweet soy sauce) base. I liked it, but not enough to like the satay (essentially pork cubes dunked in the same sauce) too. This place seemed a bit one-dimensional to me, but I’d go back for the impossibly cold beers.

P5251624

Naughty Nuri’s Warung Ubud
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud
Bali, Indonesia
Tel: +62 0361 977 547

Back to Bali: Nefatari and the Bad Bugs

After Wakatobi, we stopped over in Bali for a few days to check out the delights of Ubud. A friend recommended us Nefatari Exclusive Villas, a short drive from Ubud proper. As with most Bali resorts, there was a complimentary pick up from the airport and we got there in slightly over an hour. They gave us Villa Pacak, which we got to after being led down a winding corridor that felt like we were in a maze. Check out the rustic finishes and the pretty garden.

IMG_6142

Villa Pacak is actually a two-room villa, but they closed up the second room. That was an unexpected because the pool was huge for a pool villa!

P5261680

The room itself was lovely, spacious with a canopy bed right smack in the middle of the room with a long makeup table with mirror to the back of the bed (which you can’t see in the picture)…

IMG_6138

… the locked adjoining door to the right (not in picture), and a huge bathroom to the left of the room. It was really quite massive and I clean forgot to take photos of it. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was very clean, despite my misgivings from seeing the slightly mouldy exterior walls adding to the atmosphere of the villa. There was a corner bathtub, that was strangely not in a corner, a semi-outdoor shower that let in splashes of rain and a WC area separated by the sink and mirror.

P5251619

A lovely touch was this little alcove where we could sit and read or simply chill out and look out into the pool.

IMG_6139

The view was a bit like this.

P5251623

In the evenings we admired the silhouette of the coconut palms while enjoying cold drinks from the fridge. It was modestly stocked with mineral water and soft drinks. That was a great touch, especially since there aren’t really shops in the surrounding area, just paddy fields.

IMG_6143

And in the morning, we had the choice of having breakfast at the villa at the little outdoor dining table or at the main dining area. They had a special romantic table set between two ponds. We chose the upstairs dining area instead and contented ourselves with just a pretty picture.

P5261678

Their bubur ayam is pretty good for breakfast. It’s a huge bowl of rice porridge with chicken bits, vegetables and boiled egg. A yummy start to the day with fresh juice and cut fruit!

P5261648

Nefatari was a lovely place with lots of great touches. The dropoff and pickup service was wonderful: you tell reception what time you want to leave if you can, otherwise you rock up to the reception and tell them where in Ubud you want to go to, then they’ll find someone to drive you out in their van. When you want to be picked up, you don’t even need to use your own mobile phone to call, they advise to get the restaurant or shop to call, or if in Ubud Central, just go to Tourist Information and ask them to help call. It can occasionally be a bit of a wait, but no more than 30 minutes. What really impressed us was when we asked for a driver with car for a day, fully expecting them to charge us for exclusive use of the vehicle. Instead, they checked what exactly we wanted to do and where to go, and worked out some pickups for us that got us where we wanted at the times we wanted at no extra cost even though it was further out of Ubud proper.

They also had a decent, but not fantastic massage. It’s very atmospheric as the massage rooms are beside a stream, but I found the room too cold (Ubud can get slightly chilly when it rains) and the massage mediocre. Plus I had a mystery bite on my chest that became very itchy. But with such low prices, lower than the flyers in Ubud town, there wasn’t anything really to complain about.

I woke up after our second night a bit sad to leave this great resort, until I started scratching. Thinking that it was just mosquitoes in the bathroom and that the mosquito coils they burn at night had lost effect, I unthinkingly started to scratch, and then found that I had more and more bites appearing all over my body, but particularly on my limbs and around my waist. It was intensely itchy and certainly not mosquito bites. On check out, I showed them a few on my wrist and forearm and was sympathetically clucked over. The reception desk said that they’d check the room and sanitise it for bed bugs.

And so we made our way homeward. On the plane, DC started scratching too. Little red bites started to appear on his body too! Both of us scratched for about one incredibly uncomfortable week. We were scared stiff that we’d brought back bed bugs. Whether they were bed bugs, fleas or something else (definitely not mosquitoes as I get mosquito bites far too often to recognise them easily), we can’t tell. There was no blood or evidence of bugs on the bed (I checked), and no groups of bites either in a breakfast, lunch, dinner line or clear clusters, but there were a lot, and all over the body, indicating that it definitely happened while in bed rather than out walking.

I emailed Nefatari thus:

Thank you for the nice stay at the villa. We enjoyed it all until the morning of check out when we find that we had multiple bites all over the body. Both my husband and I gradually had more and more bites, which only occurred on the morning of check out and thereafter. I alerted your front desk and the person in charge mentioned something about bed bugs. We do not know whether the bites are due to bed bugs or fleas, but would like to let you know so that you thoroughly sanitise the villa and all its furnishings.

And got the reply:

 Dear Madam,

Thank you for your patronage and we glad that your enjoyed your stay at Nefatari Villas.
And we are very sorry about the bites you mentioned, thank you for the information.
Around lobby area there are a lot of vegetation, may be you got bites from gnats or mosquitos

There are no bad bugs or fleas in the villa.
We just do general fogging, sanitise all over the property, villas, inside, out side once a week.

Our staff mentioned about bad bugs ( this is not bed bugs ).
They mean about the bugs ( bad = not good )

We are very sorry that happen on your last day.

Should you have any further input, please feel free to inform us again.

With warmest regards,
made

Bottomline? I don’t know if I could recommend this place. It was really lovely until the morning we checked out. I’d love for friends to experience the great stay, but not the horrible, intense itching for the week after. It was a terribly unpleasant souvenir. What we’re thankful for is that no bugs spread to our home, so all is well.

Nefatari Exclusive Villas
Banjar Katiklantang-Desa singekerta
Ubud – Bali 80571
E-mail: stay@nefatari-bali.com

Wakatobi: Farewell

Too soon the Wakatobi trip came to an end. We were getting used to the pampering experience, with hot and cold selections in the buffet ready for a quick breakfast before the dive, having our gear set up and our own plastic cups (which were later given to us as souvenirs) topped up with fresh water when we got on the boat, having long leisurely dives (70 minutes!!), and coming up to hot drinks and snacks of fresh fruit and biscuits. Two dives in the morning and then return for lunch, which again featured hot or cold selections depending on how fast you want your food. I always looked forward to the pasta cooked to order. The afternoons were fairly unhurried, with only one afternoon boat dive. The beauty of the system was that we could use the rest of the afternoon either to fit in another dive on the house reef (as many unguided dives as you like) or laze on the beach or grab an afternoon nap. Then wander around the resort or fiddle with gear till sunset and get drinks at the bar (avoid the bad cocktails though!) and head for the super yummy dinners. Either that or the hardcore (for lazy lardbutts like us) night dive which leaves at dusk (no cocktails!) and returns for a late dinner.

After dinner, there would generally be a slide show of photos and a mini lecture on reef life. The best evening slide slow was the one on the penultimate night – for guests to share their best shots of the trip. Wakatobi has an in-house naturalist-videographer couple who spend hours and hours taking videos on the reef and they combined their own fantastic shots and previews of their videos with guest photos to make an incredibly awesome video montage (complete with carefully selected music). It was a pity we couldn’t take a copy home due to copyright issues, both with the videographer couple themselves and with other guests’ photos. A pity.

As mentioned before, the staff were lovely, even the expat staff! We’ve been to enough resorts featuring cocksure and arrogant expat staff (of all sorts of nationalities) who think they add another star to the resort simply with their presence. Thankfully, Wakatobi isn’t one of these. I had a slight ear infection halfway through. Miguel took a look at it and said I should sit out a day’s diving just to be safe. And all the other staff somehow knew about my bad ear the next day and asked how I was while I moped around the resort. And they somehow remembered throughout the next few days of the trip. It’s something that no amount of writing down would sort out, these people genuinely care!

So it was a sad day when it was time to leave. All the staff, and I mean all the staff, came out and helped load us up onto the boat. Miguel’s in the mid-left background looking straight at the camera. The rest were all saying their goodbyes and helping sort bags and people out.

P5251590

And when it was time to leave, they all walked to the end of the jetty and waved us off…

P5251591

… and kept waving until they were specks. It was such a sweet touch.

P5251594

I know I say it for too many places, but Wakatobi has a special place in my diving heart. It’s definitely a must-return.