By See Foon Chan-Koppen
I have often heard the name of Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld) mentioned but the occasion has never arisen for me to venture there. So when the invitation came from Chris and Christine DiGiovanna for a Sunday lunch by the sea, I jumped on the bandwagon.
A group of us set off at noon arranging to rendezvous at the toll exit for Changkat Jering heading north on the north/south highway. After the toll, we turned left and followed directions to Taiping. On reaching a T-junction with a big sign saying Taiping Bandar Warisan we turned left and followed signs for Kuala Sepetang. It was a pretty straightforward way from here on and the only tricky bit was on arriving at Kuala Sepetang where a little manoeuvring led us to the restaurant, Kedai Makanan Tepi Sungai, set back a little from the road.
I thought we had arrived at a market, judging from the basket loads of seafood and fish being unloaded and despatched. Feeling a bit squeamish at the chaos and market conditions, we negotiated a steep flight of stairs leading us to the first floor where a panoramic view of the river greeted us. I breathed a sigh of relief, having been delivered from the prospect of eating in the squalid conditions downstairs.
Upstairs, the breeze was delightful as we were given a corner table right on the edge of the water where the river winds its way to the sea and we could see the fishing boats coming in, delivering their fresh catch of the day.
Fresh Caught and Superlative Cooking
I can’t remember when I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single dish we had that day. Every single item was fresh caught and the cooking for some of the dishes was superlative.
We began with crisp fried baby shrimp, battered and fried in their shells, as we sipped our wine and waited for the other dishes. They soon arrived in quick succession but because the restaurant was full to overflowing, we had to wait a while before our orders came.
Live Crabs and Clams
The live flower crabs sautéed with dried shrimp and cucumber slices was an unusual recipe for the crabs but one that I found delightful and not as cloying as other crab recipes.
This was followed by big round clams steamed with Chinese wine and topped with fried chopped garlic, each clam as fresh as can be, and not a single bad one amongst all that we had at our table.
The squid was next, with salt, pepper and chilli, battered and delectably crunchy. In fact, the dish was snapped up so quickly that I requested for a second portion. Next came the Assam fish, this time a flounder or Ikan Pari. I often don’t order this fish because inevitably I find that it’s not fresh. Not here though. The fish was the freshest Ikan Pari I’ve ever tasted and cooked in the tangy Assam sauce which had the right balance of sweetness and tartness to make the dish memorable.
Then came the steamed prawns, sweet, succulent large prawns steamed on a bed of egg custard, redolent with scallions and chopped fried garlic.
Baby Crabs – A Rare Find
As people around my table were satiated and ready to just sit back and enjoy the refreshing breeze coming from the sea, I spied a plate of baby crabs being delivered to the next table and promptly ordered one. Now, I have had soft shell crab and all manner of other types of crab, but never have I ever had baby flower crabs, which these were. My curiosity was soon satisfied when they arrived, each tiny crab crunchy to the last bite as I justified my greed by telling my friends that the chitin of the shells was a popular slimming aid.
We were a party of 10 and our total bill for the dishes mentioned came to RM288. Apparently they also have the highly prized white pomfret at RM8 per100g and large Mantis prawn at RM32 each. What is also very popular, but which I have promised myself to return to savour, are their cockles which are farmed there.
Kedai Makanan Tepi Sungai (RT Weld Restaurant) – Pork Free
No. 150 Tepi Sungai, Kuala Sepetang, 34650 Taiping.
Tel: 05 8581169 012 5598798 (Kee)
Business Hour: 12 noon – 8.30 p.m. GPS Coordinates : N04 50.150 E100 37.620.
Closed on Wednesdays