'Robyn!' Amy puts her hands on her hips and fake-frowns at me. 'Why'd you come so late!?'
Amy works for Pak Din, who mans the grill at his stall in the Lake Gardens. When it comes to ikan bakar (barbecued fish) Pak Din has few peers. Arrive after lunch and you'll find slim fish pickings; his stall's daily array of delicious curries, sambals, and vegetables is also likely to be depleted. Which explains Amy's consternation when we stroll in at 2:45p.
But this day we've come not for ikan bakar, but for another, less widely known Pak Din specialty: corn fritters. They're available weekday afternoons only, for just one hour. I've had the pleasure, but Dave - a bit of a corn obsessive - has not.
'Ah, fritters!' Amy brightens, then disappears out back of the stall and returns with three plates, which she lays on our table. 'Which do you like for pictures?' she asks. She knows us well by now.
After an unusually long wait (someone had called ahead to place an order for one hundred fritters) Amy emerges bearing a a mound of what appear to be jade and gold-flecked clouds. One bite confirms that these fritters are possibly the most artfully crafted deep-fried item on earth: barely a hint of grease, impossibly light, chewy and crispy at the same time. Studded with corn kernels (that's Asian corn, which is older, starchier, and less sweet than - but every bit as flavorful as - the varieties of corn eaten off the cob in the States), and bits of Chinese celery and red onion, and encased in a lacy armor of browned shallot shreds, they're impossible to resist. Even for a deep-fry-phobe like me.
The fritters are served with a sweet-hot dipping sauce, which Dave and I go hot and cold on. It's likeably spicy, but the main event is so scrumptious in and of itself that a dab of sauce seems gilding the lily. In the end we eat most naked (the fritters, not us).
We're not the only ones enjoying a mid-afternoon snack - several folks at tables around us are tackling plates heaped as high as ours, all by themselves. Pak Din's fritters are worth a drive across town. They merit putting cholesterol and calorie concerns out of mind for at least half an hour. And they definately justify playing hooky.
Ikan Bakar Pak Din, Tanglin Food Court, Jalan Cenderasari, Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Fritters are sold 230-330p, Mon-Fri (closed public holidays). Four fritters for one ringgit.