Kampar, Malaysia - Chicken-curry-in-a-bun from Yau Kee
Yau Kee Restaurant claims to have "invented" the chicken-curry-in-a-bun dish where curried chicken and potatoes are first paper-wrapped in grease-proof paper, then enclosed in a sweet, bread dough and baked. Apparently, it's a claim much disputed by their bitter town rival, Kam Ling, down the same street of this otherwise sleepy town on Kampar in the Malaysian state of Perak.
Kampar is also known all over Malaysia for the crisp, sesame-studded spiced "chicken biscuits" or "kai chai peng" in Cantonese.
We had lunch today at Yau Kee and it was bursting at the seams with diners from both within Kampar, and also day-trippers from nearby Ipoh, Perak's state capital and its most populous city. Those huge buns were baked in batches at regular intervals - we just missed the previous batch fresh out the oven by 5 minutes, so have to waited for nearly 40 minutes for the next batch to comne through.
Yau Kee's staffed by a troupe of sullen-faced waitresses who relished snapping at customers, but who were otherwise very efficient. Ours came with the pillow-shaped/sized bun which she proceeded to slash criss-cross with a sharp knife to reveal a paper-wrapped package. A lovely curry aroma wafted out as she unwrapped the package. The soft, sweetish bread which enclosed the curried chicken can be used to dip into the gravy. Lovely dish, though the curry was a bit saltier than I'd have liked. In fact, the copycat version we have in Singapore actually tasted *better* than Yau Kee's (not sure about Kam Ling's - we were too full to contemplate a second chicken-in-a-bun at the time).
We also ordered the "Yangzhou fried rice" with shrimps, egg, BBQ pork & scallions. It was good but not exceptional.
A dish of stir-fried jungle ferns with sambal belacan and dried shrimps fared much better - full of flavour, unlike the flat versions I normally encounter in KL.
Yau Kee Restaurant
55 & 57, Jalan Idris
Tel: +605-465 1738
Yet another much-recommended eating spot in Kampar - the 80-something-year-old Foong Mun Kee's "ice kachang", the quintessential Malaysian shaved ice dessert which came with green "chendol" noodles, creamed corn, boiled red beans, sago and slivers of young coconut flesh, all drizzled with rose syrup, sarsi and evaporated milk.
IMO, it's a bit over-rated - I find better ones in KL. But I really liked the traditional, old Chinese coffeeshop atmosphere there though - languid, peaceful and laidback as I expected to find in a small-town cafe.