continuation from Motormouth in Betong ....
If you've absolutely NO idea where Lenggong or Gerik is, then I highly doubt you're familiar with the town named Sauk in the district of Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
On the way back from Betong, we stopped over in Gerik for a fruit feast, walloping durians, rambutans, pulasan, and longans. All thanks to mboy's landlord, who was being more than generous and enthusiastic in sharing his treasure stash of tropical fruits in his house, mostly given by friends/relatives and those who own farms around Hulu Perak.
Talk about some guys have all the luck. Here in Ipoh, to be given a 'Mau San Wong' (a rather highly-prized species of the durian) for FOC sounds like a typical scratch-n-win contest. You know there's a catch somewhere.
China Press came before, and the list of almost every species of freshwater fish there is, and the respective price per 100g. Make DOUBLY sure you know the price, and the estimated weight of your fish before placing your order, to avoid a heart attack.
On the way back from Gerik to Ipoh, you'll pass by a lot of villages, with funny, funny names. More notable towns include Lenggong (About 40km+ from Gerik), and Sauk (nearer to Kuala Kangsar).
Sauk is a rather obscure town, not easily accessible by those not familiar with the coastal road (Gerik highway), but certainly not without its charm. Do not write this town off yet, if you've never paid this town a visit. There are several gems around the Kampung Baru Sauk area, mainly Chinese seafood/'dai chow' restaurants that pride on their fresh supplies of freshwater fish/river fish/ikan sungai.
The night market (dominated by Malay stalls, obviously catering to the Malay community in and around Sauk and Kuala Kangsar, I presume) was in full swing that evening, hence parking was a bit troublesome. But of course, in small towns, the ultimate/universally-embraced rule of parking comes into play ; "Thou Shalt Park One's Car Haphazardly, while No Parking Tickets shalt be Issued"
We picked a restaurant named (you ready for this?): Restoran Baru Lau Kai Ikan Sungai (a mouthful, no less, so let's call it Lau Kai), situated next to the mosque in Sauk town. Rather easy to locate, as this is on the main road itself.
The board on the wall clearly proved that their recipe for success (ahem) lies in their astounding array of freshwater fishes, from the common ones to the more exotic-sounding species (read : PRICEY). Basically, ranging from RM2.50/100g, to RM10/100g. And don't be shy to ask how much your fish weigh, for a rough idea of how much damage you can absorb.
Clearly you wouldn't wanna be cleaning plates at the end of your meal. At Sauk, no less.
We started off with that famous fishballs again, and it seems that Sauk's fishballs are equally as popular as Lenggong's. Just that in Lenggong, the many restaurants garnered sufficient publicity to render their fishballs a notch more attention than Sauk's. Comparing the homemade fishballs at Lau Kai's, and Lenggong's Khen Pang's, our votes unanimously went to Lau Kai's. Hands down. First and foremost, they're not deep-fried, not oily like Khen Pang's, and most importantly, the texture was equally as bouncy/QQ. Very original, very homemade. The shapes and colours may seem unappealing, but I'd rather take the less processed ones, any day.
Since the weather was a grim, cloudy one that evening, the piping hot claypot filled with delicate frogs' meat cooked with mashed ginger was a most warming and inviting dish. Snowy white meat, smooth and tender (to the point of almost jelly-like), it's been some time since I've tasted good quality frogs, commonly cooked in porridge or 'Kung Pou' (with dried chillies) style, hence overwhelming the delicate texture and flavour of the meat.What in the world was the lady doing to our FISH?!!! Arghh!!!
For our fish, we chose the Ikan Sultan (Sultan fish), priced at RM7 per 100g. Since the fish is of a rather large breed, the four of us were served with one half of the fish. Weighing at 1.1kg, no less. Steamed in a variety of ways, we wanted ours to be steamed plain, with soy sauce to fully savour the freshness and natural flavours of the fish.
The fish was steamed with scales in tact, to preserve the freshness, and sweet flavours from seeping away during the process of steaming. But the lady boss was accomodating enough, (PR skills at work here, top notch) walked over to our table and scrapped the outer layer of the fish with scales, and cheerfully explained the whys and the nots of cooking the fishes.
I can't cook for the life of me. So I feigned interest. =P
Even half of the fish proved to be too much for our little tummies, as towards the end of our meal, we struggled to polish off the whole fish. To a respectable degree of success, I might add. The flesh was firm, moist and sweet, as expected. No seasonings or condiments required.
But to our surprise, although the other dishes were good enough to warrant repeated visits, it was the Salted Egg Squids that grabbed our attention. And it was because of this dish alone, that we were there in the first place. mboy heard whispers in the wind before, of this famous dish at Lau Kai's in Sauk, and glad to say, the squids did not disappoint one bit.
The springy squids was coated with a crispy outer layer of batter with heavy nuances of salted egg yolk, yet remained crisp (not soggy), and not overly-salty, unlike some Ham Dan dishes elsewhere. The curry leaves added zing to the savoury pieces of squids, and we polished these off with no laments.
The meal came to RM123 for the 4 of us, including drinks and rice. The Sultan Fish alone costed RM77, but reasonable if one compares the price per 100g head to head with other restaurants in bigger towns/cities.
Location : Restoran Baru Lau Kai Ikan Sungai @ No S-22, Kampung Baru Sauk, 33500 Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
Handset Number : 012-793 9670 or 012-527 1319.
Opens daily from 10.30am until 10.00 pm. Off days not fixed, but 2 days per month. Call before arriving to confirm.
For your information, this restaurant is located next to the huge arch written "Kampung Baru Sauk" (refer to the first picture). A few shops away, there is another famous restaurant, named Kedai Makanan Dan Minuman Sauk, with a reputable following, judging from the number of patrons that evening.
And that ended our day trip, from Ipoh to Betong, and back within 12 hours. Not bad eh? A bit rushed, if you're hoping for lots of sight-seeing, massage and food hunts, but sufficient for us as we were rather aimless, and commenced the journey for the sake of .... well, fully utilizing the weekends !!! :)