Curry is an interesting and ubiquitous food and its varieties or should I say permutations are just breath-taking..
Broadly speaking, in Malaysia we have Indian Curry, Malay Curry, Chinese Curry and Peranakan Curry (or Nyonya Curry).
It goes without saying that the taste and preparation of curries are different between the group but not only that as even within the group the preparation of curry are different depending on whether they originates from the Northern or Southern part of Malaysia.
Since curry are so ubiquitous and with so many varieties I will only talk about one of my favorite – the Curry Noodles or Curry Mee.
Curry mee is a versatile dish as you can eat it with curry chicken, steam slice chicken, prawns, cockles, egg-plant, lady finger, long beans, fried dried tofu, char-siew (honey roast pork) roast pork and even deep fried breaded chicken and many more.
According to wiki it seemed that Curry Mee is sort of unique to Malaysia and Singapore. How true that is is anyone guess 🙂
But I do grew up eating curry mee. My parents sold it. And during primary school I frequented the malay uncle stall selling curry mee in the school canteen. Though I don’t know it at that time, the uncle is selling a wash down kind of curry so that kids like us can enjoy it without fear of having a burnt tongue (from the spiciness!) or an upset stomach!
The ingredients (spices and such) for the curry base are quite simple, however, different household or hawkers will prepare it differently with a plus or minus of certain spices according to their experiences or preferences.
The basic ingredients would include garlic, small onions, lemon grass, cloves, star anise, belachan (shrimp paste), cinnamon, chilies, curry leaves.The same ingredients can be use to cook curry chicken or curry wild boar – it is just a matter of using the right amount and for curry wild boar you may need to add other spices as well.
To start, give the ingredients a good toss in the work until the aroma start filling the room before adding the curry paste. Do make sure there is sufficient oil and it is not overly hot otherwise you will burn the curry paste and the curry will be spoil.
The curry paste can be bought from the wet market, the supermarket or home make. And it can be in powder (dry) form or can be wet curry paste.
Cooking with dry curry powder will give you a different flavor from cooking with the wet curry paste. So you would need to experiment to know which is better for you.
And oh yes, not forgetting the coconut milk which must be divided into the first press and the second press. Some hawkers are using Carnation Milk instead of coconut milk or both together.
So, there you go, preparing curry mee soup is that simple! 🙂
However, to make a good curry mee soup it is not only about the ingredients / spices that you use. The trick is also in the sequence of the cooking, the control of the heat, the oil and the timing of frying the ingredients into the correct consistency.
The color of the curry soup is dependent on the amount of oil used and the consistency of the soup will depend on the amount of coconut milk used.
Quite often I came across curry mee that is water like and bland which means there is not enough curry paste, spices nor coconut milk in the mix.
Curry mee come in 2 type – either soup or dry with a varieties of toppings.
In Ipoh, Dry Curry Mee is prepared with black sauce, soy sauce, some oil (either garlic oil, pork oil or sesame oil) bean sprouts, slice steam chicken, siew yoke (roast pork) and sometime char siew (honey roast pork) or fried pork skin top up with mint leaves and accompanied with a small lime.
However if you try ordering the same in KL, most often than not you will receive a blank stare. 🙂
We normally have our noodle with sambal chilly sauce or birds-eye chilly. But for curry mee we will be given a small bowl of cooked chilly paste. I normally don’t want it as it is either too dry, too salty or too oily. Personally I like soy sauce to go with curry mee. A dip of soy sauce will enhance the flavor of the curry mee. If you have not tried it – do so!
In other parts of Malaysia, such as Muar and Kulim they serve a different type of dry curry mee. They have less toppings than the Ipoh dry curry mee but nevertheless as tasty.
Most of the time I prefer not to order the curry chicken with my mee as the curry chicken is most often overcooked and dried. My preference for curry mee is to add steam slice chicken and bean sprouts as it is a good combination to the flavorful curry taste.
However, the curry chicken in the picture which I had in Lunas and Muar respectively is surprisingly good, juicy and tender – a class above most of the chicken curry I had in KL.
Penang curry mee has always been out shined by its cousin the Assam Laksa and Hokkien Mee. However, Penang curry mee has its unique taste compared to the rest. Their soup is not overly thick with coconut milk and the aroma from the curry paste is strong. And what I like most about Penang curry mee is that they also serve with plenty of mint leaves (which I love! 🙂 ) always with fried pork skin, coagulated blood and small lime. (cockles is an option for me. Not really a big fan though some would swear that with cockles the curry flavor will be enhanced… well……)
And from the color of the curry soup I am sure you already know it is the famous Penang “white” curry noodle 🙂
OK. Before I wrap up and go for my curry mee – here’s a few more varieties of curry mee for your enjoyment!
I grew up helping my parents sell hawker food and we started selling chicken rice soon after my dad learned the preparation of the chicken rice from one of the more famous “hainanese” chicken rice stall in Ipoh. (In their heydays they can actually sell almost 100+ birds per day!)
So it goes without saying that I am very fond of eating chicken rice (and who doesn’t in Malaysia and Singapore 🙂 ) and on top of that I am also fond of commenting on the chicken rice that i tasted.
There are different type of cooking for the chicken. The traditional “hainanese” style offered in Ipoh is mostly boiled chicken (in Cantonese we call it “pa-kai”) and then there is the more popular roast chicken and deep fried chicken which most people would not be bothered to differentiate and lastly the less well known stew chicken in herbs or soy sauce (with other ingredients) which is brownish in color.
The size and type of cooking is different in different town in Malaysia. So far the biggest chicken in terms of size can be found in KL while the rest of the smaller town have smaller chicken though it is supposedly of the same breed. As such the meat of the chicken found in KL is tougher and the cut by the chicken rice seller is also bigger. (and of course they charge more too! 🙂 )
The chicken served in Kulim and Muar have softer meat and possibly because of the way it is cooked the meat tend to fall off the bones and lack the chewy-ness found in Ipoh and KL chicken.
In KL we can easily find the different type of cooking as I mentioned above and in Kulim most of the chicken are roasted over coal (not Deep Fried!) while Muar people seemed to prefer boiled chicken.
Each time I have chicken rice with my friends they will be like – what’s the big deal Brian? It’s just a plate of chicken rice!
And therein lies the problem!
A plate of chicken rice is not just a plate of chicken rice – it is and has always been a combination of the fragrance cooked rice, the tender, juicy and silky smooth chicken, the right concoction of soy sauce with stock to create the chicken sauce and lastly the garlic and chilly combination sauce.
Not to mention the other condiments like pounded ginger sauce, dark sauce, cucumber and spring onions!
Many chicken rice stall I tried focuses mainly on the chicken itself and neglected on the rice, the chilly sauce and the sauce for the chicken. Without the combination or should I say the complementary items being prepared to perfection it cannot be a wholesome chicken rice eating experience.
One can only say they have eaten a plate of chicken or a plate of plain rice at best.
In my humble opinion, a plate of chicken rice can only be considered “whole” and good if it is served with light yellow “fragrance” rice, soft, tender yet chewy chicken top with light soy sauce prepared using chicken broth and lastly the right mix of garlic and chilly as the chicken rice chilly sauce.
I àlways believe a good plate of chicken rice lies not only with the tenderness of the chicken but importantly the fragrance of the rice.
Unfortunately a lot of chicken rice seller tend to overlook this. Sigh*
MY first week in Kulim. Never been here – haven’t heard of any good exciting food either. So I did a search on the web and lo! there were a few postings about the local food. Unfortunately I was so busy I just don’t have time to go check out – maybe later especially that famous duck rice at Lunas.
Anyway, here are some of “ok so-so” food I managed to find during spare time. First is breakfast, right, talking about breakfast there is a dearth of choice near the area of my work! If I wanted more choices will have to drive 20 minutes into Kulim town ….!
OK. My first Kulim curry noodle. It came with a piece of chicken and lots of long beans. Taste? Ok-lor. Price – cheapo. Only RM3.50.
But the curry soup is not as heavy as those found in KL.It seemed they are easy on the coconut juice over here. And from the look you know they don’t use much oil either unlike some in Ipoh and KL where the curry looks so fiery “red” hot.
It’s not superb tasty neither is it bad but the curry (hot-ness) itself is hmmm.. more like the curry noodle you’ll find in our school canteen – it looks like curry it just doesn’t taste like the real one 🙂
But to be fair, the curry paste that accompanied the noodles are not too bad. It has the right flavor of a curry paste minus the saltish taste.
My hunger not so sated I decided to rush out during lunch break determined to beat the traffic to reach Kulim town so that i can have time to recce for something more satisfying. A kind soul told me Kulim town is on the way to Tesco so I whip out my Galaxy Note and key in Tesco to Google Map. 15 minutes later I reach an area with colonial buildings and a few banks and instinctively I know I am there. Make a few turn and confirmed this is the place. There are quite a few kopi tiam around as well as those dilapidated street side stall with badly maintained zinc roof.
Saw a stall with quite a few people eating so decided to check it out.
They are selling ‘wat-tan-hor”. Looks ok, so I ordered one.It is a strange “wat-tan-hor” – I mean compared to what I always have. You can hardly see any “wat-tan” (eggs) and there is no prawns. Only veges and chicken pieces. And they add bee-hoon inside so it is more like KL “yin-yong” (deep fried bee-hoon with kway teow) But the thing is the bee-hoon is not deep fried here.
The preparation is also different. The sauces are pre-prepared in a big soup pot. The uncle will fry the noodles when you order and then someone else will scoop the sauce onto the hor-fun.
It looks strange but the taste is not bad. It just lack “kick”. If the “hor-fun” are fried on high fire and then splash it with a dash of pork oil then the taste will come out like “olala” and this is the “kick” that is missing here.
Anyway, for RM3.80 I don’t think I can complain much.:-)
Day 2 – now that I know my way around – I am determined to find something that can leave an impression on my taste buds.
And driving around I think I finally found it. Not far from the “wat-tan-hor” place I saw this “wonton noodle” shop.
My initial reaction was – aiyah.. wonton noodle… but being short of time i decided to give it a go. Die, die la. Not that I have not being dissapointed for the last 2 days.
This shop also served other stuffs like chicken legs, “sui-kow” etc but I ordered a normal wonton noodle.
The noodle looks plain enough but surprisingly springy, chewy and tasty. The tasty part must have come from the well mixed dark soy sauce top up with some pork oil and deep fried pork fats. Biting into the noodle give you a kind of satisfying “chewy” feeling and mix with the dark soy sauce with pork oil – it is just heavenly!
On top of that, there is not a hint of alkaline water in the noodle and based on the texture of the noodle I instinctively guess it must be an “egg only” noodle. To confirm my theory I purposely struck up a conversation with the young man running the stall.
Apparently his dad has been selling the same wonton noodle for the past 50 years on a push cart! And they have been making the noodle by hand until today!! And Yes – it is confirmed these are “egg only” noodles and therefore the body of the noodle are chewy soft but not soggy soft and definitely not as “elastic” hard to chew as the normal full alkaline based wonton noodle.
However, the disappointing thing is the wonton is so so so small. It seemed like a trend in most smaller town. They can’t make wonton noodle any bigger than 20 cents coin. Strange.
Anyhow, with my hunger fully placated- I shall take a break here and will most probably continue to share my food forages in the days to come.
Compared to KL and Ipoh, Muar is a quiet town with only 1 major shopping mall and surprisingly no cineplex despite being the 2nd largest state in Johor. However, it make up the lack of entertainment center with many local good food.
One of my favorite is the special big wonton in the town area (Jalan Sisi) which only open at night.
Their signature dish is the big size (thrice the size of wonton in Ipoh and double the size of KL wonton) and meaty dry wonton served with their special chilly sauce spicy and sweet.
The marinated minced meat in the wonton are heavily spiced and combined with the chilly sauce it makes you feel bloated quickly as such you won’t be able to eat too many at one go.
It is advisable to order some refreshing drinks to go with the wonton.
The dry wonton noodle I ordered came standard with char siew and 2 big wontons. You have a choice of having a chilly mixed noodle, plain noodle or dark sauce noodle. The char siew that accompanied the noodle is tender and sweet which I like.
Noodles in Muar are very different from noodles in KL and Ipoh. The color is less yellow and it has a springy feeling to it – possibly because noodles here have less alkaline water added. It is almost difficult for one to find the type of alkaline taste yellow noodle that is common in KL and Ipoh over here.
For breakfast you can have a choice of curry noodle with “hum” (cockles), fishball noodle, curry chicken noodle or rice, mince pork noodle (mee-pok), mixed pork soup with rice and my favorite, kway chap. (spiced mix pork serve with big flat rice noodle).
These are just some of the food varieties I tasted and there are of course more. Will try to find time to post more when time permits.
Melaka – my last visit to this historical city was I think more than 10 years ago. We spent most of our time in A’Formosa so I dont have much recollection of what’s in the town. Heck, I didn’t even get to try their famous chicken rice ball at that time!
I was told Jonker Walk is only open on weekend and public holiday so we have to be there by Friday evening.
By the time we arrive Jonker Walk is already filled with tourist. The setup is very much like the pasar malam (night market) found in KL but the stalls are selling mostly Melaka souvenirs like the traditional chinese wooden clogs etc.
There’s also a wide variety of nyonya cakes, durian cake (not the real cake but the sticky chewy traditional one).
The more well known dessert in this area is their nyonya chendol which in my humble opinion is nothing to shout about after I gave it a try. The difference between this version of chendol and those that I tried in Ipoh, Penang and KL is the coconut milk flavor in this nyonya chendol are strong but there is sadly very little chendol !
Also, the chendol in Ipoh, Penang and KL come with big crunchy red beans which blend well in with the green chendol but the red bean in this nyonya chendol is neither big nor crunchy.
One other famous food here is of course the Melaka chicken rice ball ! There are 3 in the vicinity but the more well known one is closed for the day so my friend asked us to wait till tomorrow to try it out.
In KL and Ipoh we call this “lok-lok” where the seller came in a van and you can choose a variety of meat, seafood, fish-ball etc skewered with a wooden stick. Then you dip it into boiling water to cook before dipping it into your favorite sauce like chilly, curry, sweet sauce etc. and eat it on the spot standing by the road site.
For Melaka Satay Celup they also offer a wide variety of skewered meat and seafood – the only difference is they only have boiling satay sauce. The satay sauce is continuously boiled and the staff will add in grounded peanuts and a little chilly oil now and then. And because it is being boiled you will have to stir it now and then to ensure that the grounded peanuts is not stuck and burnt at the bottom.
While it is something different I still prefers the “lok-lok” in KL and Ipoh as we have a wider variety of sauces to choose from. Having said that, I have to admit I have never been a fan of such food – for my “skewered” sense of hygiene 🙂
I will blog about the famous Melaka Chicken Rice Ball in another blog… another time.
Had a meeting in Mid Valley this morning.
Feeling hungry after d meeting I had in mind to buy a sirloin steak from Cold Storage to cook at home.
On d way towards Cold Storage I passed Ninja Joe Burger. Actually this is not the first time I passed by Ninja Joe and each time I will tell myself that I will come back and try their burgers – another time.
Somehow that ‘another time’ thing has been repeating itself for awhile 🙂
I dont know why but maybe becos subconsciously I was conditioned to believe that other than BK n BM the rest of the fast food concept burgers joint are expensive (think Carl’s Jr)
Besides, I had tried pork Burger, (well not exactly a Burger but more of a bun) in MacDonald Macau the last time I had a job stint there.
My memory of that Burger was that it is dry – too dry – not something I would say I will go back for. Maybe this was what turn me off subconsciously, besides the Price that is.
Anyway, this time round I forced myself to head into Ninja Joe.
As with the numerous time that I passed by the shop is practically empty. And so the cashier is ready to serve me, supposedly.
He was busy answering his colleague questions even though I am right in his nose.
Could this he the reason for the empty tables while the other food stalls are all getting filled?
Anyhow, he finally notices me and I quickly make my order. Unlike Bk n BM there is no upsell here. I ordered a normal Ninja Burger and there’s no prodding to ask whether I want to have a set which comes with fries etc..is cheaper etc…well u knw d drill.
10 minutes later a bell went off and I can see in front of me a big led number system flashing 154 like the little green men in d pedestrian crossing.
Then another ‘ding’ by my side and when I look over I notice the order taker / cashier signalling me to get my Burger.
The Burger doesn’t look much but then again, what do you expect for MYR4.90 eh?
The first thing I noticed was that the Burger seemed a bit squarish.
it looks kind of clean unlike BM which sometimes give u a rather oily look.
Ok enuf looking. Took a bite. Mmmmm..
It was surprisingly succulent if I may describe it so. Unlike what I tried in Macau this one is juicy and the grilled taste is just Wow!!
It was splendidly grilled and with the crispy and chewy bun the combination is just heavenly! (No Ninja Joe didn’t pay me for this)
I will be back to try the other flavors – next time – for sure.