We don't know why it's taken us so long to get back to Soo Kee.
We first ate here on a house-hunting trip back in June of 2005, when we spent a long, frustrating week tromping with an exceedingly tolerant property agent through ill-maintained piles and appallingly ostentatious 'palaces' (10 bedrooms and fake gold banisters, anyone?). At night we were too exhausted and frustrated to venture beyond our hotel for dinner, a shameful waste when you're in a culinary paradise like Kuala Lumpur.
On Friday we found a well-kept, human-scale dream home (little did we know that it, and its owners, would soon become our worst nightmare, but that's another story), and a celebration seemed in order. 'My wife owns a little open-air restaurant downtown,' the agent told us. 'Why don't you stop by?'
Little did we know the restaurant in question is one of Kuala Lumpur's most beloved, for its sang har meen, an extravagant dish of stir-fried prawns served over a bed of crispy noodles. The shop's been around for years; it's run by the original owner's daughter. That night we put away a fabulous meal and too much beer (it was a celebration, remember). But by the time we moved to KL two months later we'd forgotten all about it. Until yesterday.
Sang har meen probably wasn't invented in Kuala Lumpur, but it's a dish that's often identified with the city. Soo Kee offers a choice of medium or giant prawns. An order of the latter is expensive, especially relative to other noodle dishes - 25 ringgit (about U$8) for a plate of noodles with one prawn cut in half, length-wise - but the flavor that the juices in that big head add to the sauce justifies the cost.
Soo Kee's front-and-center kitchen turns out a sang har meen featuring half-lighly crunchy, half wok-seared fried mee noodles that hold their own against an un-gloppy sauce floating coins of ginger and a few snow pea pods and dotted with islands of egg white and yolk. Those opting for the giant sea critter, as we did, should be prepared to abandon all decorum, and chopsticks, and dive in with fingers. The shellfish (just cooked through, retaining a bit of 'crispiness'), wrestled from its armor, is an excellent vehicle with which to capture any sauce that hasn't been mopped up with noodles.
Another Soo Kee specialty: deep-fried paper-wrapped chicken. We have fond memories of this sticky sweet-savory dish from our first visit and will make it a point to order it on our next. Now that we've taken this trip down memory lane, we won't be such strangers.
Soo Koo Restaurant, 14 Medan Imbi, downtown Kuala Lumpur. Tel. 03-2148-1324. 12-3p and 5:30p-1:30am. Closed Monday. (Stir-fried ginger beef with noodles is another specialty of the house.)