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Motormouth From Ipoh

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Freshwater Fish,Fishballs & Frogs (?!) @ Restoran Baru Lau Kai, Sauk

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.

It so happened the night market was in full swing that rainy evening.

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.

Claypot Frogs with Ginger @ RM25 (1/2 kg)

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 famous fishballs. AGAIN. RM5 for 10 pcs.

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.

A touch of royalty? Steamed Sultan Fish @ RM7 per 100g

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

Oh, so there. Gee, thanks for de-scaling the fish in a flash, lady!

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.

Absolutely delightful salted egg squids (Ham Dan Sotong) @ RM10

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.

NOT the one from Betong, but the clock tower in Kuala Kangsar town (covered in cobwebs?)

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 !!! :)


Zheng Yang 琤洋 said...

i went here to eat once...but i used to go to another restaurant there name " Chan Kei" quite nice too

Sean said...

amazingly i spent several days in sauk nearly 10 years ago! on assignment covering some hostage crisis nonsense. i don't think we ever had a chance to sample the food, which is a shame cos that squid looks great. recall it being a really remote place where our cell phones didn't work and the entire town seemed to be just one long street...

Reanaclaire said...

Sauk was the place where two policemen were killed during the Al Jemaah time... u know..the group that held the policemen hostage and torturing them to death before that group surrendered.. when u mentioned sauk, i remember this tragedy, both of them were nons...

on the positive side, aiyoh... these food are so tempting.. i wonder when i have the chance to go there... siapa nak bawa i? i havent been there before, never tasted the lenggong fish balls too... thanks for sharing the information..will make a trip there soonest..

Selba said...

Hahaha.. sounds so funny when you got upset with the lady... good to know it turned up in a good way ;)

ai wei said...

why are you so free always. can travelling here and there. how nice!

thenomadGourmand said...

hmm..that fishballs might be just what I need to try, for I hv not have very good ones..since my granny's..

Big Boys Oven said...

wow I will defintely order the same dishes you had as all look so awesome! Just Fantastic!

Wilson Ng said...

fish balls 5 for rm 10... ouch...

Little Inbox said...

Quite an expensive meal. The batter sotong looks good, but high in cholesterol...

Anonymous said...

salted egg sotong makes me drool....normally here i eat salted egg crab, haven't tried the sotong version b4, interesting!!!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

7rm/per 100gm is very decent..

sometimes on offer in KL, the cheapest u can get is rm8, the usual price hovers around rm11-13..

soo sean said...

I had been there too, for freshwater fish, but not this restaurant :)

Bangsar-bAbE said...

Heard of this place from rif's mum. She talked about the fish, but never mentioned the salted egg squid. I'll probably go for the squid, not the fish.

Pureglutton said...

Have not heard abt Sauk, hehe! But the fishballs look good - i want! The sotong - can see oil bubbling on it!

J2Kfm said...

Zheng Yang : Chan Kei, also on the same road? ok, will take note.

Sean : aiyo, dun worry. not that bad now. got coverage liao, and the place seems lively that evening, with pasar malam n all.

reanaclaire : oh, really? now that you mention it, no wonder the name of the place sounds familiar abit.

Selba : yeah, no worries. she was helpful enough to scrap those scales off for us.

ai wei : hehe, on a weekend ma! not working day lah ...

TNG : your granny made her own fishballs ah? cool. mine digs Foh San's. haha ...

BBO : erm, OK. :) we simply pointed here n there, and asked for recommendations.

Wilson Ng : its RM5 for 10. you got it wrong.

Little Inbox : expensive cz of the fish only. the rest ok, we felt.

Simple Girl : theres's even salted egg chicken, prawns, pork and whatnots. very creative ppl.

Joe : yeah, i do agree with that. even in Ipoh it's hard to get that price.

soo sean : which one u went? Sauk Restaurant is it?

bangsar babe : the fish nice lah ... you can opt for other species.

Pureglutton : hehe, oily? no lah ... they were sinful stuff. we liked them!

Lingzie said...

oh my god!!!!!!! the ham tan squid!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WANTTTTT!!!!

~ok calm down girl~ :P

and that is one huge fish! how come they don't de-scale it baru steam one?

ahlock said...

Sauk, yeah, went to this place before, for a friend's wedding dinner. But haven't been to the restaurants. I thought that Kg Baru Sauk is a Chinese dominated kampung, so I'm surprised the night market is dominated by Malay stalls.

~Christine~Leng said...

wow.. i must say that u r really food-adventurous. food hunt is such a fun thing to do! i've abandoned this activity for almost a year! time to catch up ;P

J2Kfm said...

Lingzie : if descale already, the fish will become not so sweet, moist already. probably to retain the moist texture?

ahlock : yeah, i was surprised myself. but there's a mosque on the main road. hence the malay community also may be numbering aplenty.

christine : almost a year? yeah, FINE time to catch up. got your posting yet?

cariso said...

The first few photos look so kochabi. :)