Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kuala Lumpur Impression (Part 1): Yut Kee

One major downside about business travel is that, you went in and out of a city so quick, with so many things to do, that you hardly felt like you have experienced the place you travelled to. That's how I felt during my recent trip to Malaysia - specifically Kuala Lumpur.

Well I got asked a lot by my work colleagues - "is that your first time to Malaysia?" I always hesitated - because the last and only time I was in Malaysia was a short trip from Singapore to Johor Bahru for golf. No offence for JB people, but I guess that hardly counted as really been to Malaysia. So after some time, I decided to stick with my standard answer of "yes, first time".

And it's not 100% true to say I didn't experience KL at all. On the day of departure, I did push back my flight a little bit later to to allow myself a whirlwind morning tour of the city, and most importantly, to try out more food.

My first stop was Yut Kee (鎰記). It's a bit out of the way on the other side of the Klang River, but as it came highly recommended by my friend and fellow blogger Janice, I was compelled to make a detour.

Yut Kee is a kopitiam (coffee shop - similar to cha chaan teng in Hong Kong) open since forever (1928, to be exact). That showed from its decor, the old-school green and white floor tiles and the tables and chair - I felt like that has never been changed since day one. It's within walking distance from monorail or light rail, in a block full of old shops and small buildings.

I arrived at around 10am, after breakfast. Many guidebooks said it tends to become very busy on weekends but the day I went (a Thursday), it's packed but at least I don't need to queue for a table. Many of the customers were tourists but there were still a good number of locals.

I started with a kaya toast. Kaya toast doesn't look like something that's hard to make, but I must say I haven't had a better toast for a long time. It's slow charcoal grilled, which left the bread with a slightly crispy outside and soft inside, something impossible to do on a toaster or even a panini pan. Kaya was homemade and I like the balance of sweetness and coconut flavor, and worked well with the salted butter for this savory sweet combo. A simple, cheap food made heavenly.

My original plan was just to have a quick toast and keh-c (tea with condensed milk and sugar) and then moved on - after all this is a meal between my breakfast and lunch and I wanted to do some side sightseeing too - but I couldn't help but order the chicken chop, another of their signature item.

Chicken chop was said to be cooked in Hainanese style. Well I don't know where the idea came from - maybe from the Brits who colonized the place since the 18th Century? Anyway, the boneless chicken fillet was deep-fried and served with brown gravy, sauteed onions, fried potatoes and frozen mixed vegetables. If you must ask me, strictly speaking and in terms of taste, I was hardly impressed - well, I love anything deep-fried, but the gravy was a bit blend and watery. But I guess it's good to have it for old times' sake - that was our impression of western food growing up and a bite of it made me realized we have gone a long way in developing our palate and taste.

Oh by the way, many have commented that the Rolled Pork Roast was really good but it's only available on Fridays and Sundays - that explained why there's always a queue on weekend. Also the roti babi (麵包肉 - sandwiches with shredded pork fillings) was supposed to be good too. Too bad I couldn't take that many food.

I guess you didn't come here purely for the food - it's more for the nostalgia, for the memory, or figuratively speaking, for a taste of history. Be it Hong Kong cha chaan tengs, or Singapore and Malaysia's kopitiams... they all became rarer species as old buildings gave way to new urban development. The opportunity to visit these traditional eateries, for the food we grew up with, suddenly became something to be treasured. So despite half-decent food in today's standard, Yut Kee is still worth a visit, even just for the feeling of going back in time.

Where? Yut Kee, 35, Jalan Dang Wangi, Dang Wangi, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Menu Highlights? Kaya Toast, Rolled Pork Roast, Roti Babi

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