It's a stifling hot/dry-season Sunday, and we're lunching at Restoran Yong Len, a veritable hotbed of prawny activity.
Malaysians love their prawns; they like them cooked this way, that way, and the other way - more ways than I can count on two hands. Today, for us, it's prawns a new way. Friends have led us to TTDI, a Kuala Lumpur 'burb, to sample what they reckon is one of the best versions of prawn mee around.
Simply put, prawn mee is prawns and noodles (mee xin, yellow egg mee - right and left respectively, opening photo - or kway teow) in soup. Sounds a bit dull, and I'm more than a bit skeptical. But one slurp of soup - what a soup! - converts me. We're told that this burnished golden broth is what happens when heaps of prawn heads and pork ribs are boiled together with water. The heads give up an unmistakeable briny, shellfishy essence, while pork ribs add not so much an identifiable flavor as loads of body and depth.
Mingling amongst the mee are thin strips of pork tipped with a bit of flavorful fat, small prawns neatly halved lengthwise, bean sprouts, chopped scallion, and a glorious cap of sweet, crunchy fried shallots.Sambal served on the side is piquant, not fiery, and light on the belacan (ie. it's not super stinky). While it may not be the most comfortable thing to hang one's head over on a breezeless, oven-like day, this steaming bowlful's sheer strength of flavor makes for an utterly satifsying lunch.
One of the wonderful things about lunchng with Malaysians is that you'll never be made to feel ashamed for ordering seconds (on the other hand, you might feel a freak for keeping strictly to firsts). So, apres prawn mee, it's kari laksa (rice laksa noodles in a coconut-based curries soup) and pork noodles all around.
Although this isn't the very best curry noodle I've encountered in KL (that honor just may go to a memorable version recently snarfed but not yet blogged), it's quite tasty nonetheless. Notable here are the green bean sticks and chunks of eggplant floating - along with bean sprouts and strips of chicken breast - in the rich, only slightly spicy curry. Squarish pieces of spongy deep-fried tofu (3 o'clock, below) do a fine job of soaking up the goodness.
We're advised to have our pork noodles dry (soup on the side). I'm immediately taken by the unusual array of items bobbing about in our bowl of aggresively pig-licious broth: toothsome pork ball, chunks of meat both lean and fatty, a few pieces of cracklin', and plenty of emerald green lettuce leaves. Here, unusually, accompanying soup is as much of an attraction as noodles.
We've chosen kway teow (flat rice noodles); they arrive doused in sweetish dark soy and topped with blanched bean sprouts, slivered scallions, and a mound of chopped meat. A splash of broth and a quick mix with the chopsticks results in chewy, slippery strands that beg to be consumed in mouth-filling clumps. This is not a dish for delicate eaters.
Restoran Yong Len. Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), KL. Full address to follow.