Last week I found myself in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, attending Joe McNally's photography workshops. Thus, not only was I in photo geek heaven, but this being KL, I was likewise also in Asian food heaven, and with the guidance of EatingAsia and Jarrett, had a string of virtually faultless meals, ranging in scope from vegetarian southern Indian to porky Chinese.
But the meal that stands out, and which was recommended by both of the above, was Sek Yuen. This longstanding restaurant is unabashedly old-school, and was allegedly a popular destination for wedding receptions in the past:
But it isn't all about appearances here. The kai lan with crispy pork belly:
is quite possibly the tastiest Chinese-style flash-fried veggie dish I've yet to encounter: smokey (they still cook everything over wood here), crispy/crunchy, meaty and garlicky; the only thing it could possibly use was a bit of chili.
The restaurant's famous roast duck (virtually every table had an order of this):
although not entirely photogenic and slightly dry, was immensely satisfying, the crispy skin holding the subtle flavour of a complex dried spice rub.
There was steamed pork ribs:
served with an oyster sauce- and sesame oil-heavy sauce, making the dish somehow seem even meatier than its already meaty appearance.
An attempt to order what in Thailand is known as kuy chai phat tao huu (garlic chives fried with tofu) instead got us gourd fried with egg (Thai-accented Teochew Chinese doesn't get me as far as I assumed), but communications problems aside, I found the staff here lovely:
Lovely enough, in fact, for a re-run. Visiting again the very next evening, I had yusheng:
a raw fish 'salad' that has apparently become associated with Chinese New Year in Singapore and Malaysia. The dish is only available for two weeks at Sek Yuen, and with disparate ingredients including (but not limited to) ginger, pomelo, sesame oil, cinnamon and jellyfish, was a fascinating combination of virtually every texture and flavour imaginable.
Anybody visiting Kuala Lumpur is well-advised to check out EatingAsia's Top Ten Eats in KL (I made it to nearly half of them).
Sek Yuen Restoran 313-315 Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur 03 9222 9457 Lunch & dinner, Tues-Sun
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