"Chef marinates duck 7 times to maintain quality!"
As soon as my plate of duck rice came, I spooned up a piece of roasted duck with a bit of chilli-garlic infused rice and took a bite. The duck was moist and tender with a layer of succulent skin - a mixture of savoury, salty and sweet tastes. They use quite lean ducks here that there's almost no fat under the skin. To spice things up, I mixed in some of Roast Kitchen's signature sambal chilli sauce. Made from a combo of dried shrimp, cili padi and dried chillies, the sambal gives plenty of heat to the dish. Be warned, the sambal is SPICY so if your tolerance to heat is low, use it sparingly. The sambal is so popular that they now sell it in jars for you to take home.
A lot of effort goes into the marination process. If he's not satisfied with the colour of the duck, the chef would actually adjust the ingredients ( adding more vinegar, less soy sauce..etc ) until he is happy with the result. Sometimes he even has to marinate the duck 7 times! That is how they maintain the quality of their dishes at Roast Kitchen, Even the cutting technique is very precise so the pieces of duck stays intact and doesn't fall apart when they're placed on your plate.
At Roast Kitchen, Muslim patrons get a chance to enjoy a selection of Chinese-styled dishes without any qualms because everything they serve here is halal. Incredibly, the chef has modified the recipe so well that you can hardly tell the difference, his halal version tastes as good as the real thing.
Next were the crispy duck noodles. They use Ipoh duck egg wantan noodles. Duck egg is less runny compared to chicken eggs so these noodles have more bite and a stickier texture. This allows the gravy to cling better to the noodles. The gravy is a mixture of oyster sauce, soy sauce, rock sugar, shallots and garlic oil. The chef dunks the noodles in hot water for a few seconds then he immerses it in cold water to stop the cooking process. This gives the noodles a wonderful 'al-dente' quality.
"the Master of roadside burgers..."
To make his famous Master Burger, owner/creator of the stall, Brother John starts off with two Ramly patties, either beef or chicken. On the greasy, hot griddle, he sears the meat, butterflies, and seasons them. To season the patty, he uses a spray bottle containing a brown coloured liquid, we suspect that it's Lea & Perrins but of course Brother John won't confirm. It is after all one of the secrets of his trade.
Using the spray not only speeds up the process but it also allows even distribution of the secret seasoning on the patties. Brother John also adds a pinch of paprika to give the burgers a lil' bit of heat.
Next, he breaks an egg, expertly spreads it around, and places the meat back inside with a slice of cheese. He then deftly folds the egg around the patties. At a glance it does seem like any other Ramly burger special. But then he adds his secret sauce, a sticky, dark, BBQ sauce-like liquid he makes himself ( it's like a love child of bbq sauce and chilli sauce- sweet and smoky ), next, he puts in a short squirt of mustard and a dollop of mayonnaise.
You like eating neat and clean? Forget it here. A hefty beast, this burger is super-sloppy in the best way possible. I cut it in half for an autopsy shot. It was beautiful. The meat, still moist and juicy, sandwiched the cheese slice, making it melt into every nook and crevice on the crust of the patties.
The egg enveloping the patties was thin and delicate, almost crepe like in texture. Below, a bed of crisp cabbage, smothered in some chili sauce and mayo, valiantly tried to protect the bun from the onslaught of juices and sauce above. One bite and you’ll become slave to the Master Burger; the sauce never overpowered the meat, and through it all you could still taste the cheese, the mayo, mustard and egg, and feel the crunch of the vegetables and the piquant chili sauce.
The great thing about this burger is the element of surprise. Each bite is a new discovery. In some, everything comes together to create an explosion of flavours. But once you've bitten off the mustard and cheesy parts, the taste transforms into a normal Ramly burger. Still good but less impressive. This burger teases your taste buds, giving you a blast of amazingness then it pulls back, making you crave for it even more. It was messy, chaotic and definitely worthy of its name. You can't help but surrender to the Master Burger.
"So popular that you actually have to take a number!"
Nasi Lemak is a much-loved breakfast meal for Malaysians and because of their popularity, you can usually find a stall set up in most neighbourhoods in KL. My favourite stall is luckily located near my house. This particular nasi lemak stall started out as one of those stalls that mushroom up overnight, before quickly establishing itself as an institution through word of mouth advertising. It's operated by a friendly duo of Encik Asmi and his wife Kak Sanah (for whom the stall is named after); from the back of a lorry. Kak Sanah serves up 500-600 packets of nasi lemak a day, every morning to its crowd of loyal customers. It's quite popular with people from all walks of life, from the aunty housewife to the office worker.
The range of lauk they serve is amazing. This ranges from the typical sambal kerang, sotong, daging, ayam and kuih assortments. There is even paru goreng sambal here.
I usually go for the ayam goreng because I'm not really a fan of spicy foods. Deep-fried, just right to that point where the chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender but not mushy. The skin is crispy in that magical goldilocks zone where it's not drenched in grease nor too dry - always just right. There's a peppery but fragrant note hidden in the spices that coats the skin which gives it a nice spicy kick. More »
"A smoking plate of CKT..."
Damansara Uptown Hawker Centre has been the go-to place for PJ-ians looking to grab some grub in the middle of the night for years. There's a few famous CKT stalls in the hawker centre so there are plenty of choices if you're hankering for a plate of CKT. One of the more popular CKT stall is tucked behind a well-known Chinese Muslim joint and in front of another well-known ‘power’ fish and rice stall, this discreetly located hawker is Gerai Makanan Swee Foong. Although it is hidden, the stall still manages to garner many fans who frequent it regularly to get their CKT fix.
They have a fish counter in front, and a simple menu of fried stuffs and the usual ikan bakar. But I was here for the char kway teow, so I placed an order for a plate (RM4.50/plate of char kway teow). I noticed the stall wasn’t that crowded, perhaps due to it being relatively ‘hidden’. With the roar of the burner, the cook at Swee Foong started away with the frying. His movements were quick and measured, and you see him deftly chucking in cockles, prawns, chives and taugeh into the smoking hot wok, followed by the flat noodles and seasonings.
Minutes later, I was served a simple looking plate of char kway teow, with a dish of chili potong on the side. But like so many good dishes, simplicity belied all the good things.
It was all about an excellent play of textures in this plate. Yummy. The noodles were perfectly cooked, soft but still firm with a bite to it. It picked up the seasonings well, although I suspect the cook was being cautious with the amounts of soy sauce and salt. But not a deal breaker, as the chili potong and kicap boosted the flavors up. The cockles and prawns used were small, but made their flavours prominent. The chives and taugeh gave the char kway teow a satisfying crispiness. And as befitting a wok and a high-pressure burner, the ‘wok hei’ was great. It was a smoky and satisfying plate, a textbook example of a char kway teow done right. More »
"Gorgeous satay glistening with fat..."
A friend of mine once proudly said that he “ate 70 sticks of satay” in one sitting. Pointless accomplishment? Perhaps, and I didn’t really believe him. But what is serves to illustrate is that we love our satay. It really doesn’t matter where you are in Malaysia, as a stall serving delicious skewers of well marinated meat is probably just around the corner. So it was one dusky Sunday I found myself in the town synonymous with sate. Kajang, of course. The mission was to find out hands on about a rather amusingly named satay stall: Willy Satay.
Located at Ramal Junction Food Court and easily accesible by highway from mostly anywhere in the Klang Valley, Willy Satay has been in business for around five years. The founder, Mr. Farizki bin Rosman, started off Willy Satay as a small stall just a bit down the street where they currently are now. Good food always brings in the crowds, and suffice to say, that was exactly what happened to Willy Satay.
Their stall is located at the corner of the entrance to the food court. You can’t miss it, with their big signs… and the smoke and smells from the rows of charcoal grills behind their service counter. I actually spent a few minutes just taking photos and ended up a ‘smoked’ version of myself. The next thing you notice is the line: on Sunday they open at 6pm, and I had arrived around 730pm thinking it was early. No dice; already there were 10-12 people ahead of me. And the thing is, you have to book a table first before you order at the counter. It was pretty tough on a weekend as the food court was pretty full. More »
"Perfect packets of nasi kukus..."
Nasi Kukus Ilham only sells nasi kukus and I don't blame them. If their star dish pulls in the crowd, why complicate matters with too many variations? By keeping it simple, they've managed to maintain the quality of their winning dish and keep their customers coming for more.
At Ilham, a packet of nasi kukus comprises of steamed white rice, fried chicken, a mixture of gulai, fiery sambal belacan, crispy ikan bilis and a scoop of pineapple. That's the standard package, you can customise it according to your liking, more gravy, less sambal, extra pineapple etc, just ask the server and she'll gladly do it for you.
Everything is self-service here so once you've queued up for a pack of rice, you go to the drinks station to get your beverage and then pay when you're done with your meal.
So, what makes the nasi kukus here so popular? Let's start with the rice. Steamed in individual moulds, the rice is nice and fluffy, perfect for soaking up the mixture of gulai resulting in satisfying mouthfuls of gulai-infused rice.
When asked on why he steams the rice individually, the owner, Khairul pointed out that this is how they did in Kelantan. The reason why they do it this way is because when the moulds are arranged in the steamer, there's extra space in between the moulds to allow steam to flow through. This not only speeds up the cooking process but also ensures that the rice is evenly cooked.
Each layer of the steamer has 24 moulds making it easier for Khairul to keep track of how many portions he serves in a day. On average, he sells about 600 packets of nasi kukus daily. On their busiest day, which is Friday, it reaches up to 700 packs. Post-Friday prayers is their peak time because the restaurant is packed with people coming from the nearby surau for lunch.
"Steak is what this place is about..."
First of all, in case you’re wondering – yes, there is a Ril! It’s named after the executive chef and owner Tunku Khairil Tunku Ibrahim, whose family owns the Santai group which Ril’s is under. Other spots under Santai include the Black & White Kopitiam off Jalan P Ramlee, and Alang’s Rawa, a private island resort in Johor. The steak house will be reaching its first anniversary on the 28th of September 2012. Only a year has gone by, and the response has been pretty good, according to general manager Kevin Tan. So, why steak? Because Khairil loves steaks and saw a need in KL for a good steak house that wouldn’t break your bank and be delicious at the same time. Right now they only offer fresh beef, but there is a possibility in the next few years that they will have aged beef as well, along with different grades of Wagyu beef.
Before you even go upstairs to Ril’s, you have to make your way through the art gallery first. They have a changing display of art on sale, sometimes quirky but always interesting. Once you’ve had your fill of culture for the evening, then totter up the rather steep stairs to the dining room. It’s large yet intimate, with the great service and white tablecloths of 'atas' restaurants but the vibe of a cool neighbourhood bar.
Their bread rolls arrive first, and we’ll have to warn you right now: you’ll be tempted to fill up on these. They are excellent, savoury and herby concoctions. Break them apart, slather some of their butter on it (we adore their tomato butter) and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top. If there were ever a time to sneak home dinner rolls from a restaurant, it would be now.
A knot of pandan leaf in the water bottles makes their water even more refreshing than most. But if you’d like to frou-frou up your dinner, we highly recommend their strawberry basil fizz. Generous chunks of strawberries are muddled with basil leaves, making your drink sweet and slightly spicy. Ridonkulously good.
If you only had space for one appetizer, make it their prawn cocktail. Yes, it’s old-fashioned and kitschy, but their version completely knocked our socks off. Huge prawns hang out the side of a martini glass filled with peppery leaves like arugula. The best bit is their “revamped” marie-rose sauce: a sweet and savoury combo jacked up with what we suspect is horseradish. We had their lobster bisque on an earlier visit; velvety smooth soup loaded with seafood flavour. Dip some of the aforementioned bread into this for a meal on its own.