Wuan and I had dinner yesterday at a restaurant called the Otak-Otak Place that just opened at the Lower Ground Floor in the New Wing of 1 Utama. This restaurant took up one of the lots where Giant Supermarket used to be. The menu has an extensive offerings of the delicious otak-otak prepared and served in many different ways.
Roti Jala with Curry Chicken.
There were the usual steamed otak-otak and grilled otak-otak. Otak-otak steamed in banana leaf is from Penang. Otak-otak wrapped in coconut leaf and grilled comes from Muar in Johor. Apart from the that, the menu proferred a mind-boggling list of otak-otak served as dumplings, fish cakes and even used as patty for burgers.
We were indeed spoilt for choice and had a difficult time deciding what we wanted to eat. After browsing the menu for a while and salivating in the process, we decided to tread on the well-beaten path and try out food that we were more familiar with.
Nasi Lemak Special.
Wuan was not very hungry and had Roti Jala with Curry Chicken (RM5.90). I stole a piece of the roti jala. The curry was fragrant. The aroma and taste was just what I like in chicken curry. There are not many places in the Klang Valley that offer this dish in the menu. This is one place that I will go back again whenever I have cravings for roti jala.
The fried chicken for the Nasi Lemak Special (RM9.90) that I ordered looked delicious in the menu. It was served in a two-tier stainless steel tiffin carrier that is common in many kitchens. One was filled with rice, two slices of cucumber and half a hard-boiled egg. The other had one piece of fried rempah chicken, one piece of grilled otak-otak and one portion of sambal ikan bilis. The chicken was well marinated and did not disappoint but the nasi lemak was a little bland for my liking.
For the month of December, patrons who have the 1 Utama One Card will be presented with a complimentary piece of steamed otak-otak (RM3.00) with their orders. While we liked the otak-otak, we both agreed that it would have tasted better with daun kaduk. There was not a hint of this pungent leaf or its aroma. Somehow, steamed otak-otak without daun kaduk is just incomplete for the Northern Peranakan cuisine lovers in us.
The bill plus two glasses of iced honey lemon inclusive of 5% service charge totaled RM24.99. We will definitely return to try out more from the menu. Wuan wants to have a taste of the Nasi Briyani Dam. As for me, there are several other otak-otak dishes that I would love to sink my teeth into.
Tags: 1 Utama, curry chicken, daun kaduk, grilled otak-otak, honey lemon, Muar otak-otak, Nasi Briyani Dam, nasi lemak, Nasi Lemak Special, otak-otak, Otak-Otak Place, Penang Nyonya food, Peranakan cuisine, rempah chicken, roti jala, sambal ikan bilis, steamed otak-otak
The daun kaduk is endemic to the tropical regions. It grows, uncultivated, usually by the fence beside drains and small plots of open land in urban areas. In the suburbs and rural area it grows everywhere. It thrives well under a little shade and plenty of moisture. Its scientific name is piper sarmentosum, and is of the pepper family which includes pepper used for cooking and the Indian betel leaf. Among others, it is known as betel leaf in English and sua lau hiok (wild betel leaf) in Chinese.
Daun kaduk soup
This versatile vine grows plentiful, is neglected and overlooked most of the time. However, those who know treasure it as a vital ingredient in their kitchen recipes. The daun kaduk has a unique pungent flavour which makes it irreplaceable. Mum used to pluck the younger leaves to make soup. She would stir fry dried prawns with garlic, then add water, daun kaduk and beat an egg into the soup. It was a simple recipe but one which I would long for every now and then. Other more elaborate recipes where the daun kaduk is an important component are the perut ikan, nasi ulam and otak otak. These are all Nyonya recipes.
The perut ikan is a curry of shredded leaves of kaduk, cekur, kafir lime, tumeric and kesum being its main ingredients and cooked with salted fish stomach. Literally translated, perut ikan means fish stomach, hence its name. I used to like this spicy and sourish fare. It is appetising and I could eat two servings of rice in one meal with just the perut ikan. Lately, my stomach does not agree too much with sour food and I have to cut down eating on them. At the same time, since Mum passed away and this recipe entails a lot of work in shopping for the ingredients, some of which are difficult to obtain, and the shredding of the leaves, I have not had a decent taste of good perut ikan for a long time.
When Wuan came last week, she brought two bagfuls of daun kaduk that she plucked from her garden. We decided to make nasi ulam with it. We asked our neighbour Mr. Tan who is adept at Nyonya cooking to be the chef for the day. Nasi ulam is a rice salad. The same type of leaves used for perut ikan are shredded and stirred in and mixed with the cooked rice and eaten raw. Salted fish, dried prawns, sambal, tumeric and kerisik are added to complete the recipe. It was simply delicious.
I am lucky that I have Wuan and neighbours who enjoy the same type of food as I. Whenever I miss Mum’s food, I would just tell them and voila! Although it will never taste quite as scrumptious as when Mum’s cooked it, it does appease my craving somewhat.