There are seven days in every week, two meals in every day (breakfast and lunch are usually one, for me). I don't eat out every meal, I don't even eat out most meals. I love to eat, but I also love to cook, which dictates a fair amount of lunching and dinner-ing at home. So even in an omnivorously busy week I've got, at the most, six meals to play with.
This is the problem: in KL, when it comes to food, choice overwhelms opportunity. It's very, very frustrating.
Sometimes I just have to double up.
A typical Sunday afternoon: we've just had a good workout and are on the prowl for sustenance. We head over to backpacker land behind Jalan Bukit Bintang. We know that Tengkat Tong Shin has a lot to offer in the scarf department, and the sign above this vendor's stall advertising Ipoh sar hor fun reels us in.
"Hor fun" is Cantonese for rice noodles ("kway teow" in Hokkien/Fujianese). The rice noodles in Ipoh, capital of Malaysia's Perak state, are said to be smoother, softer, and generally tastier than those made elsewhere. Ipoh-ites attribute their kuay teow's special deliciousness to the high alkali content of the local water, which originates in the mountains around the city.
Dave and I aren't certain we'll be able to appreciate the no-doubt subtle differences between Ipoh and KL kuay teow, but sar hor fun is new to us (we crave adventure), so we order a couple of bowls.
Noodles aside, this dish illustrates the old adage that, sometimes, simple is best. It's nothing but shredded chicken breast meat, a couple of halved prawns, a few wilted stalks of gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and rice noodles, all floating with some scallion pieces in a shrimp-chicken broth slicked with the teeniest bit of bright red chili oil. But what broth (so rich!), what prawns (no mush! and they tase of the sea!), what chicken breast (so moist and tender!), what greens (still toothsome!), and -- what noodles! They are indeed the softest-without-being-mushy kuay teow we've ever eaten. Of course, they slide down without effort.
A fine find, we depart Ching Hai satisfied that the day has been well spent. Except that those bowls of noodles were small, and we're still feeling a little bit peckish. We get the bright idea to wander up the street in search of a small final nibble. About halfway, we come across a very busy coffee shop. One vendor is busier than most -- great! -- problem is, he's dishing out fish ball noodles, which in my book qualifies as more of a meal than the finale to a meal.
Especially when one orders one's own bowl (one with thick yellow mee, one with thin rice vermicelli, both dry), instead of sharing.
The noodles arrive at table showered with chopped scallion, perched atop a handful of blanched sprouts. Both are doused with a lightly bitter, not-at-all sweet, salty black sauce that's easily tamed with a splash or two of fish ball broth.
And speaking of fish balls (there's a couple of fish "sausage" slices floating in there as well) -- soft and springy at the same time, if that's possible. There's a bit of resistance to tooth pressure, but once I'm "in" they're very yielding. And plenty fishy.
Well. It was way too much food for one lunch. But when you've only got six opportunities a week.......
Ipoh Sar Hor Fun at Ching Hai coffee shop, Tengkat Tong Shin at the corner of Jalan Tong Shin, opposite Corona Inn). Early morning till 3 or 4-ish pm. Fish ball noodles at coffee shop just up TTS, on the same side of the street as Ching Hai.