Like a freakingly early Christmas present it was, the email that landed in my inbox a few weeks ago. An Eating Asia reader had gotten in touch to share the coordinates of a few of his favorite Kuala Lumpur nosh spots - recommendations, two entire pages' worth.
So here we are, ravenous on a Saturday afternoon, idling at our table in anticipation of a claypot full of Restoran Yap Hup Kee's Chinese herbal loh see fun. The photo up top reveals why loh see fun - rice noodles about as long as an adult forefinger, thick in the middle and tapered to a point at the ends - are translated as 'rat tail noodles'.
When the hot pot arrives we dip in to find three kinds of mushrooms (Chinese black dried stuffed with fish paste, enoki, and firm white button), pieces of deep-fried tofu and tofu skin, squares of firm-but-creamy fresh tofu, heavenly shuijiao (dumplings) generously stuffed with pork and the very freshest of prawns, and a good-sized pile of those noodles. Everything floats in an assertively herbal broth. The flavors - sweet, savory, a little bitter, lively and mellow at the same time - are too complex to allow a guess at the ingredients, though the photo above shows one to be dang shen, the root of the Chilean bellflower (Codonopsis pilosula), believed to be energy-giving. This soup simply tastes like it's good for us, which is just fine because we finish every last drop.
Yap Hup Kee is also known for its Hakka yong tow foo. The self-serve selection (dish up your own plateful, then hand it to the staff and they'll cook it up) is jaw-droppingly extensive, featuring a few unusual vegetable items that we felt compelled to try.
Yong tow foo pieces arrive on a plate, in a pool of thin broth. It's all good, but being veggie heads we especially like the broccoli stem wrapped in fish paste and wing bean stuffed with same. Also tasty, with a pleasingly chewy texture, are the sheets of deep-fried tofu skin spread with cloud ear fungus-studded fish paste.
We notice - too late, because our bellies are full to popping - that nearly every table sports a plate or several of chee cheong fun topped with dried prawns. Our tablemate relishes his, and urges us to place an order. We want to, we so want to ... but sometimes you just gotta know when to draw the line. Next visit.
Thanks reader - you know who you are!
Restoran Yap Hup Kee, 45 Jalan Brunei Barat (off Pudu), Kuala Lumpur. Tel. 03-2148-9220. 9am-5pm and 6pm-12am. Closed every second Tuesday. Claypot loh see fun requires a minimum of two people.
Branch at 31 J SS21/56B, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya. Tel. 03-7710-8131. 10am-9pm, 7 days a week.