All praise the Noodle God, who gifted us with the ability to turn flour, salt, and water (and, sometimes, eggs), into one of the world's most heavenly foods.
And all praise this couple of vendors, who have been quietly serving up a most heavenly version of beef noodles - a favorite Malaysian noodle specialty - at Restoran Argyle for over thirty years.
Lai Foong, an ages-old shop just outside the Chinatown (Petaling Street) gate, is Kuala Lumpur's generally-agreed upon standard-bearer for beef noodles. These are a different noodle altogether - a heartier, more fragrant, gutsier version of the standard. We prefer it. There's more going on here in a single bowl of broth than in twenty bowls of Lai Foong's.
But let's start with the noodle. We ordered ours 'dry' (with soup on the side, rather than sharing space in a bowl with the noodles), which usually comprises rice noodles or wheat noodles boiled and then tossed with dark soy and, perhaps, a vendor's special additional ingredients.
Here at Restoran Argyle, the vendor starts an order of dry noodles by ladeling a bit of beef gravy/soup into a small pan, and then adding the noodles.
Noodles and gravy/soup are slowly heated together, giving the noodles a chance to both cook (but not fry) in and absorb all that beefy goodness. While the noodles are cooking he starts the soup, transfering from big stew pot to smaller pan a serving of broth complete with thick chunks of beef and pieces of beef parts.
As the soup is bubbling away he adds more beef - slices from a pre-cooked hunk and extra-thin slices of raw meat - and finishes it with a flurry of Chinese celery leaves.
The result is a bowl of deep, dark, hearty deliciousness: anise-scented beef essence and beef meat and parts cooked three ways. In each bowl of soup bobs a springy beef ball that truly tastes of cow (so many beef balls taste of nothing at all). Noodles arrive flavored but not overly saucy, topped with chopped scallion greens and garnished with a mound of chopped beef (more meat! that makes beef four ways) that's been stir-fried with soy sauce and, perhaps, garlic - slowly and carefully reduced to a texture more reminiscent of a thick salsa than anything remotely meaty.
This is a beef noodle a rarely-eats-beef noodlehead (me) can love, and one that a diehard beef lover will swoon over. This is a beef noodle that announces its presence before it even arrives on your table, via the puffs of beefy steam that rise from the bowls on the server's tray. This is a beef noodle soup to hang your head over, a meal so substantial that it is a challenge, after you've put away the pasta and the meat and the ball (I'll order extra next time) and the parts, to finish every last drop. But you will.
This is a beef noodle that should be better known in KL.
Beef noodle at Restoran Argyle, Jalan Ipoh near the MAS building and the Kuantan/Tun Razak roundabout (look for the green sign). Early morning till 3p, but often sold out by 1:30p or so.