During the few days I spent at Kuala Kubu Bharu, I asked the town folk as to which is the most famous institution. Famous, as in well-known to stopover visitors, tourists and outsiders.
The answer, invariably, is always Teng Wun the Hainanese cake shop. Cakes are not the main magnet of the shop, though. It is their kaya (coconut egg jam) puffs; allegedly the world’s most awesome. The world here, means the handful of countries that sell this unique pastry.
Since I’m leaving town, I went there to buy some kaya puffs as edible souvenirs. Before stepping in, I was already enthralled by the facade. The shop front looks like the painted backdrop hanging on a Chinese opera stage. Except for that damn bicycle, of course.
The classic design is similar to that of many shops from days of old. Brutal but quick tooth-extraction shops, photo studios, gents tailors and traditional hemorrhoids (piles or buasir) busters; to name a few. I have seen the remains of similar shop-front designs at many other small towns.
Some were modernised beyond recognition while many others were left abandoned to become decaying relics from a bygone era. This one not only looks pristine but smells nice too.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 800, f9, 1/60 sec.
I’m still in Kuala Kubu Bharu town and at a shop famous for Ulu Yam ‘Lor Mee’. It is a Hokkien dish of yellow noodles cooked with a thick gravy of corn starch, spices, meat and eggs. It also tastes sour as vinegar is added for the distinctive flavour. What is special about authentic Ulu Yam Lor Mee?
The yellow noodles are hand made or hand-pulled. According to chef and owner Lim Kwee Hock there is no artificial colouring, flavouring, preservatives nor is brine added. Brine creates the familiar love or hate pungent smell.
Now that you know, you may want to check out Restoran Xin Yuen Kee (non-halal) when you are in Kuala Kubu Bharu town. Lim’s grandfather opened the first restaurant in Ulu Yam Lama. A 2nd generation successor opened another shop in Batang Kali. Their grandson is operating this outlet in KKB.
It is not that common to see a third generation descendent interested in a family business enough to inherit the recipes and to cook. Young Lim and his wife Elaine operates this simple eatery by themselves. The Lor Mee and other dishes taste very good and prices are reasonable.
Photography Tip: Sometimes, the best food shots aren’t just on the table. Ask for permission and go for some unconventional or less seen angles in the kitchen. Traditional Chinese kopitiam kitchens are usually dark, moody and full of character.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 320, f4, 1/60 sec.
Chinese folks from elsewhere go to the Ulu Yam area for one main reason. To try the famous Hokkien ‘lor mee’ there. It is a dish of yellow noodles cooked in a sourish vinegar broth. Although the dish originated in Ulu Yam Lama, several other restaurants at Ulu Yam Bharu serve it.
Apart from the now third-generation original shop in Ulu Yam Lama, the other popular ones are Aik Koon and Hock Lay in Ulu Yam Bharu. The former was closed when I was in town looking for food, so I settled for the latter. Fermented acetic acid isn’t exactly my cup of tea; so I asked for another recommendation besides lor mee. The head waitress suggested their signature dish of Shrimps In A Coconut, which she claimed is their creation.
The prawns are cooked in coconut juice (coconut water) and not santan (coconut milk). As a result, the mild curry prawns have a very distinctive fragrance and unique sweet taste. It comes with a tom yum-like dip that is spicy and sour. Excellent fare and reasonable pricing from Hock Lay Restaurant.
Waitress is also talkative, informative and cooperative. She helped me move my food and gear to a darker and cooler corner after I finished photography at a brighter side. Although this dish has no pork in it, the restaurant is not halal. Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f4, 1/250 sec. The nearest decent hotel is The Leverage Business Hotel in Rawang. Available from MyCen Hotels at http://www.mycen.my/
I asked a friendly local for food recommendations. He suggested the Chinese Tom Yum stall down the road and I went there right away. Since the shop was quite busy, service was understandably slow. So I cleaned my lenses and a lady finally came to take my order.
She said there is no Tom Yam at her shop. Wrong place, wrong corner. Haha. She drew me a map and gave me directions as that other stall has no signboard or name. I ordered a drink, feeling bad that I used her table and received help. She said I shouldn’t feel bad and that I should hurry as the other stall might close soon. What wonderful people.
Finally found the real Tom Yum stall and they were friendly too, even though they are famous among locals. I ordered seafood Tom Yum with Kuey Teow (Chinese Fettuccine). It came with three fairly big (and fresh) prawns, mussels, loads of cuttlefishes and squids. Amazing.
Even more amazed to find out it is only RM 5.50 for the sumptuous bowl!
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f9, 1/1250 sec.
Tasty Mee Siam Special with Sambal Sotong (spicy cuttlefish) in Selayang; at the start of my northbound adventure. The stir-fried vermicelli dish is a fusion of Chinese, Malay and Thai flavours. A very basic version used to be school canteen food.
Kluang Rail Coffee is purportedly the only authentic outlet outside Kluang officially connected with the original Kluang Railway Station Coffee in Kluang, Johor.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1600, f7.1, 1/60 sec.