Sunday, March 11, 2012

Malaysia Food Blog - Fish Head Curry @ Kam Loong Restaurant (阿福街金龙阿仔咖哩鱼头)

Location: Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru (near City Square and JB Sentral)

Only realized now that I had not penned any article on Malaysian food, so I guess this has the honor of being my first article to promote Malaysian food. Fish head curry is particularly famous in Malaysia, but different regions of Malaysia, even different ethnics of the same region, have their own secret recipe. This makes consuming the curry a new experience wherever you go.

The Shop and the Queue

Kam Loong Restaurant is located snugly in a row of shop houses a stone's throw away from City Square, the mall mostly famous for its link to JB Sentral, which houses one of the custom checkpoint for travelers between Malaysia and Singapore. A few other branches of the restaurant exist, scattered around Johor Bahru, with business spurred on through word of mouth.

The employees of the shop wear the distinctive yellow T-shirt as their uniform (Bersih supporters...?) so one could use this as a sign that he has ventured to the right place.

The queue for a seat is always never-ending, and they do not serve strictly according to a first-come-first-serve basis. The small restaurant can only house that many tables and seats, for that many customers, so the owners have to try to optimize the queue by allowing the smaller groups to try to fit into the available seats, sometimes sharing tables as well. Larger groups may have to wait longer for a table with enough seats to be made available by leaving customers, but rest assured that the owners will do everything they can to get a seat for everyone.

The queue is terribly long even though we arrived at the shop before 12p.m. The queue gets worse past noon, so one does not only bring with him his hunger but also his patience if he is to savor the signature dish of Kam Loong Restaurant.

The shop is very cramped, with barely enough space between people to walk around. Definitely not for one who is agoraphobia.

The Fish Head Curry

The restaurant is famous for its fish head curry, and they serve fish head curry only - no other food is served there, so if you are not a fan of the dish, you may want to skip this place entirely. People visited Kam Loong Restaurant not only to dine in, but also to take away the fish head curry as an extra dish over lunch.

The claypot is filled with tofu skin (腐皮) and other vegetables, as well as a submerged fish head. The tofu skin soaks up the curry and will make a nice addition to your rice bowl, spilling curry all over your rice.

For Malaysians who are used to the spicy taste of curry, Kam Loong Restaurant's curry is not spicy at all. This would be a good opportunity though for those uninitiated in the ways of curry to have their first taste to accommodate future excursion into the land of spiciness.

The head of the fish is of course the main ingredient here, but the vegetables and tofu skin (yes, that's 腐皮 for the Chinese) augmented the pot and provide a balanced diet. The meat on the fish's head feels a little raw but with the curry soaked up in the meat, it is quite hard to put one's notice on the meat.

Unfortunately the fish's head is way too horrible to be presented in a photo lest it frightened a reader's appetite. Trust me, it is better to eat there than see it on a photo. It is the curry that I am highlighting here anyway.

The curry may not be spicy but its taste does cover most of the ingredients within the pot, especially the tofu skin that is soaked up with curry. Still it is the curry that I am recommending, and its salty taste makes consuming the fish's meat enjoyable. Not everyone loved picking through the fish's head in search for its most delicious portion, but for those who does, the reward is nothing less than a sweet piece of meat.

A newspaper clipping showing the shop's advertisement which was pasted to the wall near our seats.

Drinks, Prices and Directions

The price of a meal is not cheap but neither is it too expensive, especially if a gang is to dine within with a larger claypot. One thing of note though: there are not much choices in drinks, not even coffee is offered. It will be a safe bet to just ask for soft drinks or the cheaper Chinese tea.
  • 1 person's meal: RM16
  • small (enough for 1-2 persons): RM19
  • medium (enough for 3-4 persons): RM29
  • large (enough for 5-6 persons): RM36
Since it is usual for a large crowd of more than 6 to visit the shop, each person bringing with him a different level of appetite, the order could be a mix of different sized portion. There was a total of 6 in my gang, but we ordered a small pot and a large pot to sate our appetite, which in the end seemed too much. And of course, 2 pots of medium sized portion should beat 1 pot of large sized portion (at least I think so...).

A shot of the price listed on their billboard will shed light on what is the expected budget one should be prepared for.

The direction to the shop is not well marked but neither it is too difficult to look for either. Asking the locals of its location will be helpful should one be disoriented by the streets.

Suitable for:            a usual lunch with friends and family, or takeaway for additional meal during lunch.
Cost:                             Occasional; not exactly a cheap choice but the size of the pot is quite worthwhile.

Website:                    Facebook location tag

Contact:                     +6016 - 752 8382/+6016 - 796 2288
Address:                     Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Operating hours:   Mon - Sun (8a.m. - 4p.m.)

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