Monday, August 03, 2009
Gone porkers - Yut Kee, Kuala Lumpur
This wasn't our first stop in KL, but it was certainly the most memorable. This kopitiam (coffee house) is as old as the hills and deservedly famous.
While I was trawling the blog of the good folks at Eating Asia, I stumbled upon their post on Yut Kee's rolled pork roast, a relatively recent addition to their repertoire (read the full story from EA here), and only available on Fridays and Sundays. When I checked my itinerary, I jumped with joy when I found we'd be in town on a Friday.
So, Friday came and I made sure everyone was ready to go by 11.45am, because apparently the roast comes out around this time and is sold out by 1pm (actually earlier, as I would later learn). According to trusty Google Maps (you must know that I'm being sarcastic there...) Yut Kee was just a couple of streets away from our hotel (Hotel Renaissance, which by the way, is okay, if you stay in the West Wing), but I had to make sure it was walkable, and the concierge at the hotel confirmed this, "10 minutes walk, this way," he said, pointing in the direction we should head, and lo and behold, two treacherous crossings and a bit of sweat later, we arrived at Yut Kee*.
We faced an almost-empty restaurant - there were maybe two other tables of two or three diners, having some combination of kaya toast, kopi and boiled egg. I think I might have been just a wee bit disappointed at that point as I was expecting it to be heaving with throngs of hungry KL-ites, since it seemed Yut Kee had some sort of a cult status. But then I saw them. The rolled roasts, placed under the open air, as if to seduce fickle gastronomic souls like mine, on a foldaway table by the cashier, on the shop's terrace. There were four of them, caramel-coloured cylinders of porcine goodness, with a fifth one under the hands and knife of an expert carver auntie. I watched as auntie's swift motions released each slice from the main body, then making it lean at a helpless, limp angle and finally, allowing it to lay flat on the carving board, a diminuitive coin of stuffing exposed. I could almost see the slice blush at the efficient drama of its birth.
"Two slices per serve, you many serves you want?" Auntie asked, after I stood there looking like a five-year-old, drooling.
"Six," I declared without consulting the five others (yes there were five others, I wasn't ordering six for myself, greedy as I appear to be...)
The pork arrived, 2 slices a serve as promised, on plastic plates with house-made white wine apple sauce on the side. Seeing such a 'western' thing on crockery so typical of a kopitiam/cha chan teng was an interesting contrast. The flesh was pink, flavoursome and juicy, and the crackling had a brittle, caramel-like quality to it, in that it wasn't fragile, but extremely crisp - it would break into shards rather than crumbs. The skin had been evenly pierced and scored pre-roasting, so that enough air bubbles formed on its surface to gain that incredible crispness. We cut the slices up into smaller squares, like Canto-style roast pork and ate it with chopsticks (in keeping with the plastic plate tenor!). I've been back in HK for more than 2 weeks now and I'm still dreaming about it - probably one of the most satisfying dishes I've had in a while.
Another awesome dish here was the belachan fried rice - but I'll put that in a later post and keep your thoughts lingering on that pork. If you go to KL, make sure you're there on a Friday or Sunday, and don't you dare miss this (or at least don't tell me if you do).
*There was clear Chinese signage too, which to us, native speakers of Hong Kong Cantonese, read "Yick Gei". (The slight phonetic changes between the Malay and Hong Kong varieties of Cantonese never fail to intrigue - I have yet to investigate...)
35 Jalan Dang Wangi (from Dang Wangi monorail/Jalan Ampang, heading away from KLCC, turn right into Dang Wangi, cross the bridge and 1 more street, you'll soon see it on your right - about 5-10 mins walk from Dang Wangi monorail)
+60 3 2698 8108
8am-5pm, closed Mondays and last Sunday of the month, pork roast available Fridays and Sundays from about 11.30am, I'd get there before 12.30pm.
View Yut Kee in a larger map