Seafood by the rustic riverside
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 01 Jun 2012
Weekends are great for road trips. LIN ZHENYUAN ventures 60km from home and ends up by the river for great food amid pleasant surroundings.
Almost everybody staying in Selangor knows where Kuala Selangor is. If you are an exception, then you could either be a newcomer or an individual who needs to go out a little.
Weekends at Kuala Selangor can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare because outsiders, that means KL and PJ folks, flock to this place for fresh seafood or perhaps take a peek at the depleting population of fireflies residing in some mangrove areas.
Then there is this small fishing village not far from Kuala Selangor town called Pasir Penambang. This place is actually the site for the seafood restaurants that abound in Kuala Selangor.
Some outsiders are under the impression that seafood eateries are in the town itself. Not true. Pasir Penambang is where you want to be if you are looking for seafood.
It is also not totally true that the seafood is very cheap here. That may be true about 20 or 30 years ago but inflation and savvy businessmen have found out that weekend visitors are willing to part with some of their hard-earned cash if they can have a good meal.
Of course, the local residents simply eat at home because it is the normal thing to do. Besides, mothers and aunties can probably cook up a storm in their own kitchens.
There is a place however that may have escaped the attention of some foodies who occasionally make forays here. The restaurant is partially hidden from sight by some decrepit wooden structures and some tall bushes and shrubbery.
Kedai Makanan Laut Kuala Selangor Sungai or simply “Restaurant Kuala Sungai” to its regular customers resides quietly beside the wide river that acts as a conduit for fishing vessels that unload their precious cargo of “brown gold” or prawns and fresh fish at several nearby fishing depots.
The Kuala Sungai restaurant has been around for years. Its main customers are local residents or those who do not stay that far away. The two reasons why this place is popular are the scenic view by the river and the excellent seafood dishes.
I have yet to identify the cooks at the Kuala Sungai restaurant but they must be worth their weight in gold. Take for example, a dish that we accidentally ordered.
It was supposed to be sweet and sour deep fried fish which was actually quite common in ordinary restaurants.
What eventually appeared on our table was an insipid-looking dish that was swimming in a milky coloured soup covered by onions, lemongrass, tomato and parsley.
We all thought it was a mistake on the part of the restaurant worker who misunderstood our intention. Anyway, it was too late to make a fuss over a fish.
So we scooped a spoonful of the soup and got the biggest culinary surprise of our lives. It turned out to be some kind of tomyam goong.
It was easily the best I have ever tasted in the last five years. Even as I pen these lines my mouth is salivating just on memory recall.
It was indeed a lucky “accident” that brought great blessings on our table. We just couldn’t believe our luck. Our dearly departed loved ones happily residing high up there must really love all of us.
The dish, as the French would call it, is the “piece de resistance” (most outstanding item). The other four or five dishes that we ordered were also splendid but this particular item topped them all.
The mantis prawns were an old favourite of mine because the dish was deep fried with dried chilli and had a bite that left a very pleasant feeling in my tummy.
The la-la shells that came in a bowl of soup flavoured by Chinese wolfberries or kee chee has a fleeting taste of an unidentified Chinese wine that reminded us that we were not far from gastronomical heaven.
Chinese wolfberry, as the experts will tell you, are grown in southern China, north-central region and in the Xinjiang-Uyghur region of western China. Kee Chee is noted for its nutrient value and antioxidant properties. That is why it is immensely popular among Chinese chefs.
The prawns marinated in special oyster sauce and mixed with slices of cucumber, chopped chilli and pieces of onions were also quite appetising.
Of course, we will not quibble about which item has an advantage over the other. We came for the panoramic view from the many corners of the long restaurant verandah.
There is a certain rustic atmosphere that almost defies description at this vantage point in Pasir Penambang where the Kuala Sungai restaurant is located.
It is so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city that an hour’s respite in this charming seafood restaurant is guaranteed to add years to your life.
Next to the restaurant is a family-owned business where dried shrimps and tiny fish are processed and then packaged and sold at the various shops.
But first they have to be dried under the hot sun. I was calculating how much per kilo these dried seafood items cost in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Near the main entrance of the restaurant were several tanks with running water that contain crabs, mantis prawns, la-la and cockles. One tank had a solitary horseshoe crab.
Horseshoe crabs are found in the muddy banks of rivers leading to the sea and these crustaceans are considered living fossils. Any Chinese worth his oyster sauce will tell you that the horseshoe crab can turn out to be quite yummy in the hands of an experienced chef.
The Kuala Sungai restaurant is one of the most reasonable eateries as far as prices are concerned. After all the items we feted on that afternoon, the bill amounted to only about RM100. The tomyam fish alone was RM42 and it was worth every sen!
If you have a GPS in your car, you may want to write down these co-ordinates: N03_20.937 E101_15.065
Take the entire family along. The more people there are, the more you can order. Don’t look for me, if you are not satisfied!