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More food around Kuala Lumpur

One day, we mustered up fairly early to try an herbal soup of Chinese origin that's quite popular in Malaysia and Singapore, called bak kut teh [spelling corrected here and throughout]. It's usually for breakfast, I believe, made from various cuts of pork, with an assortment of medicinal herbs. This is the setup prior to the actual soup. Those are cut pieces of yau cha kwai (Chinese cruellers, or oil stick) and fried bean curd pockets in a simple broth.


Bak kut teh can be ordered mixed in one bowl, or as in this case, veggies separate (in the same pork based broth). The vegetables are napa cabbage, enoki mushrooms and rehydrated shiitake mushrooms. I think there's some pickled cabbage or something in here as well.

Here's the bowl of bak kut teh with meat.


This is my individual serving. Abby made sure I got a nice piece of intestine (that round piece), as well as some good pieces of tripe, and some meaty belly. Hmmmmmmmm...intestine... Behind it, is my little sauce dish - each person mixes up some soy (thin or thick) with some raw garlic and chili if you want it to dip the meat for some extra flavor. Interesting contrast of long cooked meat against raw, thick soy sauce, raw garlic, and raw chili.

As with all things like this, the most important thing is to wash the intestine properly and wash it t h o r o u g h l y, which this had been. The soup itself tastes a bit like a warm, savory herbal tea - with some cinnamon-ish flavors, as well as some ginseng-like flavors, a touch of bitterness, and of course, pork. I wouldn't necessarily choose it over a bowl of cereal, but I'm not a good Asian in that respect, anyway.


Later that day, we stopped for a snack around tea time. Apparently one of the trendy dishes in Hong Kong style coffee shops is a dish called oven baked rice. It's steamed rice (Japanese style), with a sweetish, thin tomato sauce, a thin slice of pork, covered with cheese and browned on top. Yeah, cheese. Mozzarella cheese. Kinda like rissotto alla pizzaiollo (rice made by the pizzaman), if there was such a thing. It's hard to wrap your head around it, but it's not offensive to eat. Actually, in Hawai`i there are those who eat rice with every meal, including spaghetti, so it shouldn't seem so outlandish to me. And now that I'm thinking of it, it seems more like a Japanese interpretation of Italian food. BTW, this restaurant is called Kim Gary's, and it was packed, at 4pm. It's packed all day.


For dinner, I was taken to a local favorite called Ka Soh's for special fish noodle soup, among many other tasty dishes. This is the starter of acar. In Bahasa (the Malay language) c has a "ch" sound, so it's pronounced ah-char, I assume it's related to the Indian pickles called achar. These aren't quite as heavily spiced as some Indian pickles, they have a sweetness from rice vinegar and some sugar, and they have some peanut and sesame to round out the flavors a bit.

According to my hosts, they take a good quantity of fish bones and heads, make a stock, strain out the bones, then reduce the stock to intensify the flavor and then enrich it with some evaporated milk, hence the white color. Ginger figures prominently in the flavorings, and the somewhat thicker laksa noodles are preferred for this dish. Usually, in European cooking you would not reduce a fish stock because it's not thought to intensify the flavor the way it would with a meat stock - and so is only cooked for a short time. I would have to say that it wasn't a very intense fish flavor, but it could be the milk that muted it somewhat. Even though I'm not a soup person, this was quite delicious and different. They also offer it with deep fried fish instead of poached as seen here, but I preferred this version because the softer texture seemed more appropriate. The crust of the fish distracted from all the love they put into making such a nice broth.


Some frog (not just legs!) and crispy ginger slices. Yummy!


After some time to settle, at a separate place, we stopped for a late dessert. I'm not sure if my buddy is pulling my leg here, but the story is that they use turtle shell as the source of the setting agent (gelatin?) in this dessert. According to him, this one didn't have the traditional taste, which is just as well. Harmless enough, but this one tasted like grass jelly drink, sort of like vegetable soup and black tea with sweetener but no milk. Not my favorite.


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