Friday, December 17, 2010

Chan Sow Lin Fish Head

I had often heard about the famous Chan Sow Lin steamed fish head. But I had never got to taste it. To start with, I had no idea where was Jalan Chan Sow Lin. I googled "Chan Sow Lin fish head" and there were so many makan shops claiming to serve the original CSL fish head - especially around Jalan Chan Sow Lin and Sungei Besi area - that it was hard to tell where to get the authentic one.

I was with my brother-in-law in Kampong Pandan one day,  and on our way back to PJ he suggested CSL fish head for lunch. He said he knew the place where the CSL fish head originated. I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, but my mobile phone sufficed and took some pretty good pictures.

We drove along Jalan Sungei Besi heading south. Just before the Sungei Besi airfield, he made a left turn into Jalan 3 Chan Sow Lin. About 300 meters from the junction, we were in front of a small run-down makan place. In Kuala Lumpur, this place could not be any more rustic...

The name of the place is 壮源蒸鱼头饭档 - Chong Yen Steam Fish Head Food Stall. It was so humble that the proprietor did not even claim it to be a restaurant.

But I liked the place. It obviously was very old. It was simple, unpretentious and had the most rustic charm. You don't find many such places in KL anymore. The "food stall" was actually quite big. There were several eating areas - each with zinc roofs, cement floors, simple tables and stools and some fans to keep cool.

And it was very well patronized. We were lucky to get a table that had just been vacated.

Like many restaurants that specialize, this place offered a limited selection of dishes. They offered 3 different types of steam fish head, pak cham kai (白切雞), steam tofu (油豆腐) and vegetables. That was the complete menu - nothing else.

We ordered a fish head steamed in dark bean sauce (酱蒸). It was a carp (松鱼) head. The fish was very very fresh - like it was just out of the pond. There wasn't the slightest taste of mud. The sauce used was excellent. Complemented the fish perfectly. I enjoyed the freshness totally.

My brother-in-law asked for fish maw with the fish head. It was fresh fish maw. I had never tasted fresh fish maw before and it was out of this world. It had such great texture - crunchy yet soft. So delicious in the mouth. It looked like fresh sotong (squid) but tasted a lot better. I don't see other makan places serving this delicacy. I wonder why.

We also had a plate of Hongkong choy sum (香港菜心). It was good. I enjoyed it too, but it was definitely overshadowed by the wonderful steamed fish head.

We did not go for the pak cham kai (白切雞) or the tofu. It would had been too much for the 2 of us. And we really did not need them. The steamed fish head was a complete meal that I enjoyed thoroughly. After the meal, I had no doubt that this was the birth place of the original CSL steam fish head.

As we paid the bill, the boss lady told us that the place would soon be gone. They would be moving to a new place in Jalan 6 Chan Sow Lin (very nearby) by end of December 2010. Apparently the place had been acquired for development. I will be sorry to see such a charming and rustic place making way for some new fanciful "development".

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