Mokhtar Le Baker

It is unfortunate that this more than half-a-century old bakery is known as a factory (or kilang). In reality, it is a one-man baker outfit and an artisan one at that. Every loaf, bun and pastry is lovingly hand-crafted by Mokhtar himself. No workers, interns or apprentices behind the scenes.

Put him in Klang Valley and call it a boulangerie patisserie instead of kilang and fad-hungry hipsters will swoon all over him , even without him proclaiming sourdough.

We must be thankful that Mokhtar don’t give two hoots about such things. Not even about glutens. The easy-going character don’t care about a lot of things. He opens at 10:30am or thereabouts and closes at 11:30am or thereabouts, earlier when the breads are sold out.

Fortunately for his customers, the man is OCD about signage. On those days when he decides not to open, Mokhtar places signs on the roads outside announcing “Kilang Roti Tutup” (Bread Factory Closed). They are like those middle-of-the-road placards you see when roads are closed for National Day parade rehearsals. After all, the man and the bakery is Slim River’s most famous landmark or attraction.

It took me three trips on three different days before I could catch him in person. Greeted by a shut door previously, I ended up staring at the piles of broken furniture lying around the yard. That kind of gave me a clue on the eccentric character that he is. Don’t tell me he uses all these broken furniture as firewood to fire up the oven, I wondered.

As it turns out, we get along quite well. For I am as eccentric and OCD like him. I keep telling him the door is not perfectly level.

More on the bakery coming up.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f8, 1/100 sec.

Yellow Noodles On A Red Brick Road

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.