Keong Kee Herbal Soup, Pudu : Coconut Chicken / Wild Boar Curry

When it comes to the best food, I firmly believe that the most amazing dishes are found not in high-class restaurants, but on the street. The roadside stalls selling fried keropok lekor and currypuffs, the open-air kitchens stir-frying char kuey teow over a massive fire, the five-foot-way makeshift shops where people take their pick of fresh durian and enjoy them on the spot: this is where the food magic happens. 

One of these places is Keong Kee Herbal Soup in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. Famous for their Coconut Chicken soup and Wild Boar Curry, the eatery dishes out simple but hearty fare that is sure to keep the crowd coming back for more.

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Located next to an open air carpark, the ‘restaurant’ is literally a shack, albeit with cement flooring and zinc roofing. A couple of rotating fans keep the place cool. Chairs and tables are simple plastic ones placed haphazardly close together. Decor is a couple of red lanterns and a Malaysian flag.

The place was already packed when we arrived around 6.30pm.

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Food was served in a jiffy. They don’t have a kitchen as the limited number of dishes on the menu have already been prepared beforehand. Large steamers sit at the entrance to the shack, hissing and whistling at passersby.

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The star of the night was the Coconut Herbal Chicken Soup (RM10.50 each). Portions were generous (good for two small eaters but you might want to hog one all to yourself!) and the coconut was chock full of soft and fall-off-the-bone tender chicken meat, boiled with herbs such as wolfberry and dongguai. The broth was clear and sweet, thanks to the coconut meat, but also had a strong herby flavour from the dongguai.

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Stir-fried veggies was as good as it gets.

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We also ordered a Hakka-influenced dish, the ‘Zha Yok’. Cuts of fat and lean pork are first deep fried, then lovingly cooked with wood-ear fungus (they are crunchy and taste like cartilage) and fermented bean paste. The result is a tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat dish that goes very well with rice. This was slightly on the salty side though.

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The wild boar curry was oily but oh-so-yummy. You can really smell the fragrant blend of curry paste and spices in it, and the wild boar meat (which has a tougher texture than regular pork) was not gamey.  The whole meal with four bowls of rice came up to RM60, which is a steal considering we ordered so many dishes. Definitely come here for the herbal soup and Wild Boar curry. They also serve exotic meats here. I overheard the next table ordering Monitor Lizard (!!!!) but that sounds a bit too adventurous for me so I’ll pass.

KEONG KEE HERBAL SOUP 
Changkat Thambi Dollah, Off Jalan Pudu, 55100, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. (opposite Shaw Parade)

Business hours: 4pm – 10.30pm

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Since we were in the vicinity, fam and I stopped by at Berjaya Times Square to look at their Christmas decorations. It was pretty! They had a giant tree a few storeys-high, and the main foyer had been decorated with red and green drapes + snowflakes.

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Walking around this mall brings back memories. I used to come here often with my ex because he was a toy enthusiast and there was a specialty toy shop here that he always bought his model figurines from. I think since we broke up, I never set foot here again. That was three years ago.

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Some stuff has changed. They now have a Taipei Avenue selling Taiwanese snacks, and more high-end cafes and restos. The rest of it is still the same – still many outlets selling cheap knock off shoes, bags, free-size clothing and cheap Asian fashion.

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Ended the night’s gastronomic adventure with Thai Milk Tea from Cha Tra Mue (RM5.20 – regular). I am absolutely addicted to this but it’s hard to find in Malaysia. Still can’t beat the ones in Phuket which sold for only 20B (about Rm2++).

My First Short Story Contest – Southeast Asian Urban Writing

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I finally did it.

I finally submitted two short stories for a book contest(?) organised by Fixi Novo, an independent Malaysian publisher of urban contemporary Malaysian pulp fiction. They’ve been doing really well here (surprising, seeing that Malaysians have one of the weakest reading habits in the region – which is changing, hopefully), with Buku Fixi (the main, Malay-language publisher) and Fixi Novo books flying off the shelves at local bookstores. It’s a very good platform for local writers to showcase their talents, and judging by the quality of the entries from previously published books, we have a whole goddamn lot of good writers out there. It makes me really proud! 🙂

This time around, Fixi Novo is spreading its wings to include our Asean neighbours, with three anthologies entitled Heat, Trash and Flesh. Writers are free to use their own interpretations, but the setting must be in South East Asia. The books will be launched at a London book fest next April.

After my last (failed) attempt at submitting a story for the previous theme (Hungry in Ipoh), I forced myself to submit at least one this time around. It’s my first time submitting any sort of writing to a publisher.  It was hard pushing myself to do it, because I was stuck in this apathetic circle of helplessness ie thinking that my work wasn’t going to be good enough and there was no point in submitting anything anyway. I was worried what happened the last time would happen again – that I’d simply start writing, and then leave the drafts lost forever in the recesses of my Google Docs.

So when I managed to write not one, but two (!) stories, I felt proud and accomplished. *pats self on back*. I started the project as a personal goal, and I fulfilled it. 🙂

What are the stories about? 

For Heat:

The Middle Home – The past has a way of catching up with us, no matter how hard we try to outrun it. After being abandoned at a home for old folks, Chan realises that his demons are knocking on the door, waiting to take him to his own version of hell.

*I started writing this story at the end of June/early July, which were really hot months in Malaysia. I was also reading the news about the heatwave which killed many people in the Middle East earlier this year. And since I love horror novels, I thought I’d write what I’d like best – a horror story.

For Trash:

Dumpster Divers – Tun is an illegal worker from Myanmar, working at a wet market in Kuala Lumpur. When his friend ropes him into the business of ‘dumpster diving’ – picking out produce from the trash to be sold – Tun jumps on the bandwagon to earn more money for his family back home.

*I got the inspiration for this story when I was still working at the newspaper, and they reported on foreign nationals picking through garbage at wet markets to be sold or eaten. With that in mind, I thought of doing a ‘social commentary’. Malaysians (at least those I see commenting on the internet and some people I know) are quite xenophobic when it comes to foreigners – because they see them as the root of crime, social ills and joblessness. I wanted to tackle this in my story – of how many people view them as literal ‘trash’.

I wrote this within a week. Even though friends told me they preferred my first story, this is a story I’m personally proud of, because I wrote it for myself and not so much for anyone else.

 

Well, fingers crossed that the judges and editors will like my stories. But even if they don’t, I’m just glad I pushed myself out of the comfort zone and did something I put my mind to. I’m hoping to join more of these contests in the future. 🙂