When someone told me about a restaurant in Shah Alam famous for selling delicious and affordable crab noodle dishes, I couldn't wait to try it. Recently I had a chance to go to Restoran Mee Ketam KL so I ordered the house specialties, Bihun Sup Ketam (RM8), Mee Kari Ketam (RM8) and an extra two crabs (RM4 each).
The Bihun Sup Ketam came in a bowl of steaming ketam-infused broth, loaded with rice vermicelli, crabsticks, tofu, fishcakes and one whole ketam, already quartered for you. The broth was savoury, full-bodied and had a subtle shellfish flavor that wasn't too overpowering and therefore pleasant. A dash of kicap cili padi helps to brighten the entire dish.
The Mee Kari Ketam was equally delicious with the same condiments soaking in a creamy, spicy kuah kari that was also very fragrant. The rempah tumis is a family secret that requires a careful way of sauteing or ‘tumis’ to bring out all the flavours. Unsurprisingly, for the soup and curry gravy, they use the ‘air rebusan ketam’ (stock) from the initial cooking of all those crabs. Imagine the flavour from hundreds of crabs in liquid form! An explosion of seafood tastes in your mouth.
The best part of these dishes was of course the ketam. They were fresh, and you get one whole ketam to a dish. Be prepared to get messy and make sure that a box of tissues is nearby when you REALLY start to dig into the crab. You’ll scramble for every last bit of sweet, briny flesh and find yourself picking the shells clean. Watch out for the juices dripping out of the shells! They’re worth every drop. For me the best part was the crabs’ carapace and the salty, fatty tissue lining it. I was secretly wishing for some mantou bread though. They would have made it even more incredible.
Glancing over at the kitchen I saw a big, big pot of steaming flower crabs, ready to be served up at moments notice. It is worth noting that the ketam comes in sizes and different prices ranging from RM3 – RM5. The crabs are bought daily from pasar borongs, so you’re assured that they’re fresh. The restaurant sells about 100 – 200 crabs daily.
Unfortunately on our visit, ketam nipah (mud crabs) weren't available. I was told the ketam nipah would normally arrive fresh daily from Kuala Selangor and Pulau Ketam (!), but I was unlucky I guess. They go for RM6.50/100 grams. For those unfamiliar with these crabs, they’re larger, heavier and meatier than the normal flower crabs. Despite the name, they’re not muddy at all. I myself prefer mud crabs.
And unsurprisingly, it is this fact that makes the ketam nipah much sought after by customers here and as with most good food people are willing to pay that extra few ringgit to get the best. Aside from in the noodles, you can also order ketam cooked in various ways with rice, and, when available, udang galah which they bring in fresh from Sabah.
The best thing about real food lovers is that they’re not normally stingy types when it comes to sharing what they love. Most of them will visibly brighten at any opportunity to convert (or ‘infect’) others to love a certain food. And there are some lucky few that manage to make their love into a business.
Such was the case with brothers Usamah and Ubaidah Makmum, who, a couple of years ago, decided that they wanted to share their love of crabs with the rest of us after determining that no one was making crab the way they loved ‘em. They didn't come from a cooking background, it was just that they loved mee ketam so much and couldn't find similar ones in KL. Restoran Mee Ketam Kuala Lumpur was born. They had their origins in Kampung Baru, where they did really well before successfully shifting to Keramat and Shah Alam. The recipes they use and have shared with the media are reportedly their mothers’ and grandmothers, though I suspect that’s not the entire story as you wouldn't want to give away all your trade secrets, right?
Their success story is pretty well known by now, having been featured on TV and local publications. This is one of the reasons I decided to check them out. The nondescript shop is no-nonsense in décor. On one wall they hung up their accolades and publication features. Otherwise, it has simple wooden tables and chairs and an open kitchen of sorts. The menu is, as expected, pretty ketam-centric. Being a weekday, it was pretty quiet too, though I can see the place getting crowded on weekends.
Negatives? Few; like I mentioned before, prepare to get messy with crab juices dripping all over your arms and mouth, and that box of tissues is really inadequate. Also, hygiene is uhm,... not really a strong point, though it’s more the whole premises than their particular shop.
Overall, it was a solid, satisfying meal that came up to RM 26 for two. Not bad. This place is for the ketam lover who wouldn't mind getting messy and dirty with these crustaceans. My only regret was I didn't get to sample the ketam nipah, but at least now I have an excuse to return, right?
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