Eat like a local: Famous fish head curry in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Day 23, South East Asia, March – May 2013
Day 3, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I have heard and read many positive things about Malaysia either through the media or the people I came into contact with during my “day job/career hay days”. I saw how beautiful the Petronas twin towers were in tourism literatures and what a foodie heaven Kuala Lumpur would be and Malaysia in general. We only have less than a handful of Malaysian restaurants in the South Bay/San Francisco bay area and it’s seems to be own by Chinese Malaysian. Although the food are always good to excellence for each Malaysian restaurant that I dined at but  deep down, I always wonder how authentic or how Malaysian it was because as skeptic as I was, the entrepreneur chef might have put their Chinese heritage in the cooking scene. Therefore, I was really looking forward to the authenticity of Malaysian food in Malaysia but also what the possibility of the street food trail Malaysia would bring to my travel experience.

Due to Malaysia’s heritage, religions and trading day history, the country’s modern day population is made up of with a mixture of ethnicity such as Muslim, Bahia Malaysian, Indian, European and Chinese. This is a Muslim country so there are plenty of Halal food choices (ie Muslim friendly food) as well as modern day Malaysian food with Chinese, Indian or perhaps a surprise’s flair, depending on the vendor’s ethnic background.

Kuala Lumpur walking tour guideDuring my stay in Kuala Lumpur, I followed a book called Insight Guides: Kuala Lumpur Step By Step (Insight Step by Step) aka the city best walks and tours. You can find the book on Amazon: here. I found the book helpful for first time visitor of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia like myself and appreciated the high-light “eat” in each of the 18 walks. I loved to explore a new city on foot (whenever possible) so I was so happy that the “local expert(s)” in the book also included recommendation on local gastronomic fares and where to stop for it.

Curry and particularly fish curry is found on the menu in many restaurants in Malaysia. It just so happen that the “local expert(s)” in the book also recommend one should really try the “fish/head curry” while in Kuala Lumpur at Yusoof Dan Zakhir restaurant because that’s where all the local went to have their curry at.

DSCN6642

I happen to stay across the “Central Market” (the blue building) which is next to the Kasturi Walk and passed by the always crowded restaurant Yusoof Dan Zakhir at the entrace of the Kasturi Walk. I was always curious and wanting to check it out every time I passed by regardless if it were during the day or late at night yet never did. Perhaps because the restaurant looks so homey and it’s exterior and interior appearance looks nothing to run home about? As curious as I was, I never had the chance before this occasion because I always managed to feed myself well, and happily elsewhere before I pass by this restaurant. Therefore, I never had any appetite nor room to fit myself for a visit at this restaurant. Admittedly, I am not a fan of Indian curry dishes or curry in general and preferred Thai style curry over any other.

Surprisingly, the pricing is as down to earth as the homey restaurant. Local price for local people. Of course, price shown in Malaysian Ringgit

Local price for local people
Yusoof Dan Zakhir restaurant menu

If the local experts said it’s “the place to have curry”, aha….that explained the always busy restaurant regardless to the time of the day. So….I made it a mission today to try the fish curry at Yusoof Dan Zakhir restaurant even I am NOT a fan of curry and rice in this murderous heat of Malaysia. I might have skipped it altogether if it required a little more effort to visit the restaurant but fortunately or unfortunately, it’s steps away from my hostel and part of the Kasturi Walk so delay tactic is not excusable as I must walk pass this part of town daily.

Of course, when in Malaysia order fish curry as Malasian do!

Fish curry

Thanks God, the curry is served on a plate with silverware on the side, lol. Perhaps because I don’t look local enough? Otherwise Malaysian/Muslim do eat by hand so it’s natural that dishes are served silverware/utensil free (ie eating by hand). I’ve lived in many countries abroad in my childhood where people eat by hand so it’s not something new or surprise to me. I, however, have never been a fan of eating by hand, especially dishes that are gravy/sauce based (except finger food) because I dislike the food odor that get stuck under my finger nails. I also wear medical grade/type of gloves when I prepare food at home for the same reason but I’m no mean a neat freak. Just don’t like cooking ingredients like Indian curry or garlic linger on ages on my hand.

Malaysian fish curryI was bracing myself for the strong Indian curry aroma because they looks very similar to the average Indian curry. Surprisingly, it tasted very mild (even for my taste) and it came with a big chunk of fish steak and garnish with a  piece of okra (one of the vegetable I dislike). The side dish seems to be a type of saute sauerkraut. I am not certain if the rice was Basmati rice but it is not glutinous or sticky like Thai Jasmine homali but rather they have very broken texture. I deduced that they’re either serving a low grade of Jasmine steam rice or old crop rice so that’s a point off from the dish in general as curry dishes are known for their gravy/sauce more than the protein/vegetable in them (unless it’s vegetarian).

DSCN6647I could be fairly bias with my review on the curry because the murderous heat of Kuala Lumpur is no joke. The restaurant do not have AC so even though you’re sitting inside the restaurant, it is a little unbearable. I couldn’t wait to get out of the restaurant quick enough due to the heat yet still feeling very hungry. This is because the curry wasn’t a home run for me so I only had a spoon or two for taste test but found their fried chicken more appealing. I flag the waiter down for an order of the wing to munch on while I plan my activities for the day.

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The bill came out to $9.50 Malaysian Ringgit for both the fish curry and fried chicken wing entree. It is indeed an excellent value meal at about $3.08 USD based on currency exchange rate at the time.

Pluses:  

  • A diverse, Malaysian/Indian inspired menu to choose from.
  • Quick, efficient service due to short wait time.
  • Excellent value.
  • Convenience location: Central Market & Katsuri walk

Minus: 

  • The steam rice pair with the curry quality/taste could be better
  • No AC so it’s very hot

Total spent: $9.50 Ringgit or equivalent $3.08 USD based on currency exchange rate at the time (1 fish curry, 1 fried chicken portion).

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of curry to begin with so I may as well have been very bias on my review of this famous fish curry in Kuala Lumpur. In general, it was an alright dish and I wouldn’t go out of my way to have it if I were in Kuala Lumpur again. But you never known until you try it and that’s the beauty of traveling far and away.

Address:
Yusoof Dan Zakhir restaurant (Specialist in Nasi Kandar High Class Muslim Food in KL City)
No 44, 46 Jalan Hang Katsuri
50050 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 03-20268685

 

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