"But the cheeks are the best part"
People must be getting bored of me complaining about the heat, but today was a day that could have fried satans toenails. Thankfully for short moments of sacrificial slaughter the sun hid behind the clouds, but the second he poked his nose out the flood of torment began again sending locals and tourists alike scrambling for shade.
My choice for lunch was made from the confines of my hotel room with the AC blasting away. I ordered a taxi on Grab and waited until the last minute before exiting the hotel and jumping into a cool car. My driver was a 70 year old retired tour guide who talked the whole way to Tugu about his adventures travelling Malaysia with small groups of tourists, something that the pandemic stole from him. He was a sprightly chap and managed to recommend a couple of OG spots to try Laksa which cheered my heart muchly.
I was dropped off at the gate, surrounded by thick jungle and an absence of other buildings. The cafe was spread over a large area with a buffet style outdoor stall, payment booth and tables in multiple locations. I headed to the fish head stand and was immediately told the cook spoke no English and to wait. Finally a young woman arrived who explained the system, told me to point to the head I wanted, load up with curry sauce, spoon some rice and find a table. They would count the total and present me with a small numbered card to pay with at the end.
My desirously rich looking plate was ready to annihilate. I started methodically taking apart the fish, squeezing the most fleshy parts out as I could, sucking the bones, making sure I kept the cheeks till last, and spooning ladles of that phenomenal curry gravy all over my white naked rice.
This was food for the gods. It was primal. It was dangerous. It was not for the faint of heart. The satisfaction of demolishing the head leaving only the bones and fins was a mighty roar. Swimming in the tangy, spicy love of a well made curry sauce, small pockets of bean curd puffs, okra, fresh garnish and an aroma to send heads swimming.
One of the best things I have eaten since I arrived in Malaysia, and I look forward to more food adventures tonight and tomorrow.
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.
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"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"