Malaysia, Truly, in Hong Kong

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What char kway is supposed to look like

What char kway is supposed to look like

WTH char kway teow from Fatty Crab

WTH char kway teow from Fatty Crab

In the past two months, I’ve had a good deal of Malaysian food, having gorged myself over a four-day weekend in Kuala Lumpur and also trying two “Malaysian” restaurants in Hong Kong. The reason I put Malaysian in quote marks is that while one of them has turned out to be the best in HK, the other fell short by a long way.

It’s always been notoriously difficult to find good Malaysian (all right, or Singaporean) food in Hong Kong. It makes sense if you think about it. In Malaysia, food hawkers can put a couple of generations through university in England just making one kind of noodles. They can take years perfecting just the soup stock.

There, “coffee shops” or eateries survive by renting out stall space to several such chefs; the owner normally sells the drinks and each of the stall owners take care of their own business so the restaurant can offer some variety. Often times, there will be one star of the show while the others are just supporting cast.

Which is why when tourists go to KL, it’s often they don’t get to taste the best because the best prawn noodle may be at one end of town and the best char kway teow at the other.

Having said that, however, the food court Hutong in Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang seems to have worked out a good way to centre some of the best by inviting them to open stalls within the food court – and also exists as the only mall in the whole country allowed to serve pork, which helps preserve authenticity. The fact that the mall sits smack in the middle of the busiest of the city only adds to its appeal.

Over a three-day weekend, you can probably just taste some of the best the city can offer just by eating here. Hence my tip: a lot of people tend to be drawn to hotels near the twin towers. If you’re a foodie, the Bukit Bintang area – in particular, around Grand Millenium and Pavilion mall ,is where you should be. My favourite is a decent little place called Piccolo that offers really decent rates.

OK, back to Hong Kong. On the recommendation of friends, i had discovered Cafe Malacca tucked away inside Trader’s Hotel in Western a few months ago. However, it seems that recently word has spread about this Malaysian/Singaporean hotel coffee shop that seems to be drawing larger crowds each time I go.

Some dishes chef Sunny Tse hasn’t quite mastered. The mee goreng, for instance, was too sweet and the Hainanese chicken rice isn’t spectacular. But what he has got right far surpasses the above. His rojak is a refreshing reminder of Malaysia. I wish he would use the real prawn fritters instead of the dough sticks but I’m willing to forgive him anything for a plate of his char kway teow!

It’s as close as it can get without the cockles and miraculously retains the authentic smoky taste that normally comes with the charcoal stoves. He’s even managed to source plumper bean sprouts than the usual stringy Hong Kong stuff. And the hidden dessert (you have to ask for it), the durian pudding is simply to die for!

Now the other place, Fatty Crab, I went to full of hope. I should have known better the minute i read “Malaysian-inspired” and that it had its roots in NYC even though the founder did spend time in Malaysia.

Nothing was memorable but the noise and the cramped space. Even the much touted curry crab was a disappointment with the curry sauce being too sour.

No prizes for guessing which place i will be going to the next time I crave Malaysian. Incidentally, Cafe Malacca’s curry crab is quite lusciously saucy but you have to order in advance!

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