By See Foon Chan-Koppen
The instructions from my friend Ginla were cryptic: head for main street in Menglembu (Jalan Besar, Menglembu) and just at the corner of Public Bank adjacent to it is a small lane. Turn in and head for the open field and there on the right under some big shady trees, is a shack. So with those simple directions I set off and sure enough there was the unprepossessing Kedai Carol.
The kitchen is open for all to see, right there next to the tables and chairs which have certainly seen better times (no red table cloths here!). Ginla was already there, having ordered the food half an hour earlier. Nevertheless, we still had to wait for the first dish to arrive, a further 15 minutes which seemed interminable as we were all hungry. However, a nice cool bottle of wine kept us occupied and despite the excruciating heat of the day, we were kept pleasantly ‘sweat free’ from the fan and the greenery surrounding us. Because there was open field all around us, the oppressiveness of the heat was kept at bay. This is definitely not a location to entertain the visiting Chairman of the board. Nevertheless the food more than makes up for the lacklustre ambiance and the prices even more mollifying.
The first dish to arrive was their signature fish, a fairly large Tilapia, deep fried to a crispy finish and topped with a most appetising sauce chock-full of ginger, chillies, garlic and spring onions. The fins, collar and tail bits were crispy enough to crunch through and the fish meat was not overly dry. The four of us at the table unanimously voted it a ‘must-return-for-more’– RM25.
The next dish was the four-angled bean fried with chillies and dried prawns in a sambal style. There was certainly a good ‘wok hei’ (meaning the wok was hot enough) to the dish, the four-angled beans still crunchy on the bite, the dried prawns lending flavour and texture and the chillies pungent enough to draw oohs and aahs around the table – RM7.
Steamed Kembong (a type of local mackerel) fish followed, topped with a stack of chopped ginger and bathed in soya sauce. This fish was less to my personal liking as the meat of the Kembong is quite firm and oily. In fact I was surprised to find a Chinese restaurant using it for steaming as the fish is preferred in Indian and Malay cuisine and usually served fried. However, the fish was very fresh and we could have asked for it fried – RM8 for two fish.
Our next dish was the Kampung chicken braised with bitter melon in a black bean sauce, which turned out to be robust, tasty and full of flavour, the melon leaving no bitter aftertaste – RM12. Next came the sautéed roast pork, coated in a dark soya sauce with onions and a hint of chillies. Tending on the sweet side, the flavouring appealed to my friends at the table while I kept my nibbles to a minimum given my predilection for non-sweet dishes – RM10.
Then came the pièce de résistance of the meal, their signature Fried Rice with Lap Mei or Chinese preserved sweetmeats, a generous helping of rice fried with large prawns, egg, and morsels of sweetmeats which lent its inimitable fragrance to the dish. Utterly irresistible and great value at RM4 for the portion.
Foodie that I am, I was reluctant to end my meal at the rice and wanted to taste their noodles so a plate of their fried noodles was promptly delivered. This was a combination of thick yellow noodles and flat rice noodles fried with pork, prawns, egg and vegetables. Juicy, scrumptious and again great value at RM4.
Speaking to the mother and daughter team in the kitchen, I was surprised to discover that the whole stall is run and manned by women. I was told that on Sundays, they have many specials depending on market availability of ingredients. These could vary between their ginger duck with black bean sauce, their braised pork knuckle with large pig’s intestine, their vinegar pork knuckle, their steamed Kampung chicken with Chinese wine and many more dishes. So I will definitely be making another trip here on the first available Sunday on my calendar.
Swastia Jalan Ming Min
Tel: Carol: 012-580 2312; Wendy: 012-576 6566
Open: Noon till 5pm (last order but can stay till 9pm drinking)
Sunday’s last order 6pm. Closed Mondays.
GPS: E 101° 2’ 44.2 N 4° 33’ 50.7