Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last Meal: EatingAsia

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is Robyn, author of EatingAsia, a blog about "Asian food and the people who produce and cook it."  Go check it out!

1. Who would you dine with?  Nice of you to start with an easy question. Without a doubt I'd share my last meal with Dave Hagerman, my husband, collaborator, and partner in life and all things food. We generally share likes and dislikes (though, come to think of it, there's not much we don't like) so he'll be easy to feed -- he's having whatever I'm having.

2. Where would you dine?  The answer to this question changes daily, depending where I've traveled recently, what I'm writing about, what I cooked the night before, what I ate yesterday for lunch or this morning for breakfast ....

I just finished a piece on old Chinese restos in KL and so I've got old-fashioned Chinese classics on the brain at the moment. The best place for those sorts of dishes is Sek Yuen, a 60+-year-old restaurant in Kuala Lumpur with a kitchen that is still fired entirely by wood. There's no written menu but we first visited Sek Yuen 3.5 years ago and have been nearly weekly customers ever since, so we've worked our way through a good number of dishes. While we're waiting to get our order Dave's usually in the kitchen with his camera. The staff is not overtly welcoming at first, but they've become used to us and now greet us really warmly. It's a nice feeling. The food's great, but we also always leave with a good feeling that has nothing to do with what we ate.

3. What would you eat?  That's difficult -- everything there is really, truly delicious! But if I must choose -- I'd call ahead and order the babao ('8 treasure') duck, which is boned, stuffed with chopped meat, gingko nuts, lotus seeds, black mushrooms, cilantro etc., steamed for a bunch of hours and served with a fantastic gravy. It literally falls apart with a nudge, and it's so good that Dave and I almost finished a whole duck between us on one occasion (with other dishes!)

I'd also order the sweet and sour fish -- which is a whole fish with a hardly-there batter, very piquant (and no pineapple!) ,nothing at all like the dreadful versions you might find in the States. Definately something porky, bec. Sek Yuen excels at preparing the other white meat -- maybe chunks of pork seasoned with five-spice and deep-fried, or thick slices of pork belly layered with yam and steamed. A stir-fried green vegetable, bec. the kitchen does it perfectly: slightly singed in spots, crisp-tender, with lots of finely minced garlic and loads of wok hei. And yam puffs ... which are round dumplings made from mashed taro, stuffed with cubes of char siew (more pork! Chinese barbecued this time) and -- I love this -- mixed carrots, peas, and corn, the type that comes frozen. The balls are dipped in some sort of batter and arrive at the table too hot too pick up and encased in this incredibly light, lacy 'net' that dissolves on the tongue.

I would accompany all of this with a really nice bottle of red wine, a Gigondas or a Cote de Rhone heavy on the tobacco and leather.

Sek Yuen doesn't do dessert so I'd bring my own -- a pint of Haagan Daz dulce de leche to eat with steamed chocolate cake, which is pretty popular here in Malaysia. It's very moist, frosting-free, and has a not-overpowering cacao-ness that would go fantastically with the ice cream!

Thanks for participating, Robyn!

To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

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