In search of the best ‘ikan bakar’
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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — While I’m a big fan of steamed seafood, the appeal of hot-off-the-grill fish is undeniable.
The local version of grilled fish (ikan bakar) usually involves marinating them and placing the pieces on hot plates lined with banana leaves; but sometimes it’s also just thrown straight on to the grill.
Naturally, I prefer the former because of the wonderful fragrant the banana leaves give off. They also keep the fish skin intact. The marinade that goes into grilled fish may vary from vendor to vendor. The same goes for the dips (that accompany the grilled fish); a secret ingredient or two could lift an ordinary grilled fish to a whole new level.
Gerai Pak Lang Ikan Bakar stands out from other outlets for two reasons — its impressive array of fish and its long operating hours, which is from morning until midnight. Among the “fancy” items on the menu are ikan terubuk and bawal while the tilapia, pari, keli and cencaru are mostly under RM10 for a small piece.
Both the chilli and tamarind dips work beautifully to kick up the flavours. Not easily available, ikan terubok is favoured for its fine, delicate flesh although it’s riddled with tiny pin bones.
Mat Teh Ikan Bakar offers fewer choices, but it is by far one of the cheapest in town. For RM20, the hefty and thick slab of stingray, lightly dusted with turmeric powder, wrapped in banana leaf and grilled with planta (margarine) over hot plates, was a steal. Not only was the flesh wonderfully flaky and sweet, it was also unbelievably moist. I would recommend a generous amount of the accompanying dip for additional zing and spiciness to the fish.
Besides stingray, one can also opt for tilapia, siakap (sea bass) and kembung (mackerel).
Mat Teh is also famous for his thick mango juice, a must-have with his ikan bakar.
On Jalan Ampang, the ikan bakar behind Menara Atlan is a popular lunch spot. Besides grilled fish, there are about 50 other dishes to go with rice.
Also on Jalan Ampang, hidden inside Wisma Central, Warung Kayu Manis offers a spectacular array of dishes with rice. What’s great is that this outlet’s ikan bakar is grilled on the spot. Equally popular is its gulai kawah.
Over at Fend, the fish are grilled over banana leaves, using the restaurant’s unique assam gravy as the grilling sauce. The freshness of the seafood — ranging from keli, pari, kembung and siakap — is incomparable although the sauce is a tad sweet and could use a bit more spice to give it a real kick. And when the restaurant gets a supply of cockles, there’d usually be a beeline for the elusive kerang bakar.
Fend may have only been around for two years but it’s already becoming a fast favourite among Petaling Jaya folk.
1. Restoran Ikan Bakar Fend
H-G-05, Jalan SS6/16A Dataran Glomac, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
LRT/MRT: Taman Bahagia
Operating hours: noon to midnight
2. Gerai Pak Lang Ikan Bakar
7, Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
LRT/MRT: Kampung Baru
Distance from the station: 200 metres
Operating hours: 24 hours, daily
3. Mat Teh Ikan Bakar
Dato’ Keramat Wet Market, Kuala Lumpur
LRT/MRT: Dato’ Keramat
From the station: There is only one exit here – Pasar Keramat/Jalan Dato’ Keramat. Exit the fare gates and come down to the street level. Cross the road and turn left, followed by a right turn at the curve. Most of the food stalls are clustered here.
Distance from the station: 200 metres
Operating hours: 11am-4pm. Closed on Sundays.
4. Ikan Bakar Menara Atlan
Behind Menara Atlan, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
LRT/MRT: Ampang Park
Distance from the station: 600 metres
Operating hours: 10am-4pm
5. Warung Kayu Manis
Wisma Central, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumur
LRT/MRT: Ampang Park
Distance from the station: 300 metres
Operating hours: 7am-4pm; closed on weekends
LRT Taman Bahagia
● Constructed over a period of three years from 1995, the station opened on Sept 1, 1998 as part of the line’s first segment of 10 elevated stations running between Kelana Jaya and Pasar Seni (excluding the KL Sentral station which opened later).
● The station serves the SS2, SS3, SS4 and SS23 neighbourhoods; buses from the station cover SS4, SS5 and SS6 in Kelana Jaya, Damansara Jaya (SS22) as well as Damansara Utama (SS21).
● Popular neighbourhood mall Paradigm, whose tenants include H&M, Padini, Uniqlo, M&S, Sephora and numerous restaurants, is a mere 2km from the station.
LRT Kampung Baru
● The station, which opened in 1999, is located beside the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway and Klang River and serves primariy the Kampung Baru area.
● One of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, the 117-year-old Kampung Baru was home to many illustrious Malaysians including the AmBank Group chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Naza Group founder the late Tan Sri SM Nasimuddin SM Amin and legendary asli singer the late Tan Sri SM Salim
● Pasar Chow Kit, one of the biggest wet markets in the city, is located not too far from the station. It is said to be popular with hotel chefs and restaurateurs who do their marketing for fresh produce during the wee hours.
LRT Dato’ Keramat
● The elevated station is served by the Kelana Jaya Line; from there, commuters can take Rapid KL buses to Desa Pandan, Ampang Point, Leboh Ampang, Jalan Jelatek, Jalan Padang Tembak, Kompleks Pertama, among others.
● There is a myNEWS.com general store which opens from 6.30am to 11pm as well as dessert and beverage kiosk Coolblog at the station.
● This is an old neighbourhood that has retained much of its rustic charm; there are a number of wooden houses here and many residents still get around by bicycle.
LRT Ampang Park
● This has to be one of the busiest stations as it is located in the heart of the city, within walking distance of prominent buildings including Menara Citibank, Bangunan Tabung Haji, Wisma MCA, InterContinental Hotel, GTower Hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton, Platinum Park as well as the embassies of Singapore, France and the United States.
● It is also one of the most commuter-friendly stations, with its mini rest area surrounded by shady trees and concrete benches as well a small park above the Jalan Binjai exit.
● The 44-year-old Ampang Park shopping centre, which is directly opposite the station, is still pulling in the crowd — especially during Ramadan and Hari Raya — despite the fact there are fancier and more upmarket malls like Suria KLCC and Avenue K in the vicinity.