Thursday, September 22, 2005
Let's start a chat about Malaysian food here. We all know that Malaysians love to eat and they love to talk about food even more. Try starting a conversation and mention that you've had some good char kway teow and before you can say sambal belachan someone else will jump in to challenge your choice. "No lah. That one not the best. I tell you ah last time I had this char kway teow in ....(insert any number of Malaysian towns and street names here)...." When I was little the rule was that certain Malaysian towns are famous for certain types of food. Penang for its assam laksa and nasi kandar. Ipoh for its sar hor fun and ngar choy. Kuala Lumpur for its bak kut teh and Hokkein Mee (the thick black noodly stuff). Seremban for its beef noodles. Malacca for chin cha lok (actually I don't really know what Malacca is famous for foodwise cos I've never eaten out there) Anyway, you get the picture. But these days it tastes to me that all the best food in Malaysia is right here in Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya. I am an Ipoh boy and I balik kampong quite often. And I can tell you that the food in Ipoh these days is much too highly overated and the hawkers there survive on their reputation more than their culinary results. You want good sar hor fun or ngar choy just stay in KL/PJ. No need to go north. You want great assam laksa? Don't go to Penang. Any number of stalls and shops in KL and PJ will sate your craving with 1st class assam laksa better than that which you get in Ayer Itam.
Of course all this could also be due to age. My age that is. I've noticed that as I get older the hawker food I eat never seem to live up to what I remember. Maybe that's it. It's just me. Dimming memory trying to recapture images and tastes of years gone by.
Anyway, the other night Min and I went down memory lane (for me anyway). I drove her to this beef noodle stall which I remembered from the early days of my migration to KL. Days when I earned RM180 a month and eating out there was an awaited event on pay day. The stall sells beef tripe noodles and was called Ngau Kee. It is located in the Jalan Alor area just around the corner from one-way street, Jalan Alor. I can't remember the name of the street. Imagine her surprise when we turned the corner and were confronted by this huge neon sign with the legend NGAU KEE in bright colors of the rainbow. And 24 hour service to boot. For those of you who are not familiar with the place it is nothing more than a stall on the 5-foot way over a longkang. I admit that I was taken aback too. It was just a dingy stall when I last went there. We ordered. We ate. The food tasted very,very so-so lah. Nothing like what I remembered. Min said that I over-sold her on it. And she was right. Baarger. Another memory down the longkang. I'm beginning to see why McD's and BK are so popular. No need to deal with any baggage. Met anyone recently who claims that McD's in one place is better than the other?