"Duck me, it's a winner"
Mark Wiens temporarily caused the world to drool on his video visiting Itik Salai Masthar in Kajang. The sight of his eyes almost popping out of his skull when sipping the rich chilli laden gravy housing the smokey duck sent shivers down my spine. I had to visit. A couple of days later I was sat in that very restaurant eating what can only be described as phenomenal food.
Fast Forward to present day, after a three year lull where covid banished the world into hibernation. I retreated to forests in Norway, and only recently returned to test my palate. However, this time I was not heading to Itik Salai Masthar. A friend of mine from KL told me he had found a spot "Better than Itik Salai", and closer too.
I ordered a Grab and waited more than 25 minutes watching him make bad decisions on the map. Finally he arrived, flustered from "traffic" but also annoyed that he had made me wait so long. I sat in the back calmly watching the roads open and buildings begin to radiate more calm.
We arrived at the restaurant, I hopped out and walked in to unanimous curiosity. Every single table stopped and looked at me as though I had walked into parliament in my birthday suit.
The owner even took out his phone and filmed me as i ordered. I followed my friends advice and got a plate of smoked duck curry and one of salmon roe. Ice-coffee, rice. Done!
The tray of food was delivered and I sat in silence and ate. Memories of the first time I ate at Itik Salai came rumbling back, the slap of the coconut lemongrass curry, the deep smoke of the duck, the creaminess of the gravy. It was wild. The salmon roe was fiery as hell. Punching daggers of spice into your mouth. I could handle it, but the texture of the roe was a bit to get used to. However, after a half hour of slogging I gave up and paid my bill and left. Mouth shining with sweet, smokey, spicy bliss.
Time has laid a barrier between the memory of Itik Salai and Jang Salai, but if I was to go back to one, i'd chose this spot. Rumour has it that locals who visited Itik Salai lately have had mixed experiences, so if you want a safe bet for an exceptional meal, you know where to come!
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"