A Malaysian Blog about Food, Family and Friends – by Lyrical Lemongrass
“You mean it’s a surprise? Your surprises normally backfire, don’t they?” she sniggered.
Pretty Pui was right. It is not human nature to keep secrets. As Sam and I toiled on the floral arrangements for the party that afternoon (a pre-wedding party of sorts and a bon voyage party to a certain extent), someone out there, in all naivety, was spilling the beans to Pretty Pui. SIGH.
My Elephant, a Thai restaurant in the middle of a residential area in Section 17, was the chosen location. It was perhaps an unlikely place, but I was drawn to the relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere at this simple and cozy restaurant. The term “less is more” is personified here. Sharp lines and stark walls in the wrong hands can easily spell disaster, but in this case, personal touches like candles and multicoloured cushions, a handful of quirky looking elephants, and personable employees tipped the scale, effectively turning it into a place akin to a home. Also, having tried the food here before, I could vouch for the tasty fare. The staff of the restaurant had done a great job in translating my requirements. We provided the floral arrangements and the candles, and they did the rest. From the circular pieces of fragrant banana leaves on the plates to the leaf-wrapped glasses with stems of chrysanthemum attached to each glass, the final result was a contrast of cemented walls and exposed bricks against the muted colours of the flowers and the mellow light from the pillar candles.
The Nam Prik Kapi came out first to quell the hunger pangs while waiting for the last guests to arrive. I’m not sure if it succeeded in suppressing anything as the first thing I did was to reach for my refreshing pandan (screwpine leaf)cooler. The prawn paste chili dip for the long strips of vegetables was very good and also VERY HOT. And that’s the thing about me. I love spicy food, but I cry buckets of tears because of my low tolerance for chili. A case of my roots gone wrong? (Mum, Dad, why why??)
The deep fried popiah was stuffed with braised glass noodles, dried shrimp and an assortment of vegetables. This, I like, because of the thin and very crisp skin which meant that it was freshly made. Trust me, I can write volumes about tough soggy fried popiahs that would make War and Peace look like child’s play. Ok, maybe not.
What’s Thai food without a soup? The Tom Som seafood soup infused with galangal, lemongrass and lime was a lesson in deception. Who would have thought a clear soup such as that could pack a punch in a tiny bowl. My pandan cooler came to the rescue again. But masochist that I am, no one could stop me from taking a second, and third, refill of the delicious soup.
One of the house specialties is the Snow fish which is essentially a salt-baked fish served with a green chili sauce. Remove the hardened baked skin and see the very moist flesh revealed beneath. Just be careful not to let any of the salt fall into the fish or you’ll have to reach for the pandan cooler (again). Also, instead of turning the fish over to reach the flesh beneath, gently pry away the centre bone to get to the part below. This is to prevent the salt from getting into the fish. There’s only so much pandan cooler that one can consume.
We also got to try Plah Nung Manow, steamed fish in lime, garlic and chili padi dressing. I liked the sauce with shredded mango bits which added much needed texture. Very nice. Only a sense of decorum prevented me from sucking on the bones.
The Gai Tod was a bit puzzling as I couldn’t quite figure out the meat inside. But then again, it was coated in flour so it could have just as easily been fried squid or fried prawns or fried chicken. Anyway, it was chicken. Chicken nuggets, to be specific. Fried with kaffir lime leaf, garlic and crushed peppercorn.
I enjoyed eating the Yum Woon Sen (glass noodles with seafood). The noodles were springy and went wonderfully with the seafood in the slightly tangy sauce. The dish was rich with the flavours from the prawns, lime juice, fish sauce and chopped coriander. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite salads and it feels so healthy…almost like diet food! (Unfortunately, I can’t vouch for the nutritional value of this dish, although it certainly passes the taste test.)
What I thought was effectively the best dish that night was the Duck Curry. Roast duck is used in this dish which is cooked in a red curry together with slices of avocado and whole rambutans. This was, not surprisingly, a good combination. The tender duck meat provided a contrast to the smooth and creamy texture of the avocado while the rambutans added a natural sweetness to the curry. If you’d like to try this dish, do call in advance to order it (preferably a day’s notice) as preparing this dish is a time-consuming affair.
Was the party a success? I’d like to think that it was. Looking at the happy faces and how they talked about it (food and fun) for days on end, I suppose we achieved our objective. The smiles say it all.
There is a Part 2. Look out for it.
Block C-G4 Happy Mansion
Jalan 17/13, Section 17
46400 Petaling Jaya
Business Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (except Sunday lunch)
Lunch: 12.00 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.
Dinner: 6.00 p.m. – 10.00 p.m.
Tel: Patrick 012 328 5028
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.