'That Blogger Guy'... A day with the Kharbandas of KL

I went to sleep last night in a pink room with dolls and beads. Completely at home in the house of people I had just met. As Navneet and Neera of KL and their two sons opening their house and hearts to me. The pink room is their daughter’s who is studying in the US now.

That’s been the story of KL and me. Last January I stayed with Arindam and Sasha. People I had never really met before. That weekend with them was enough to make me come back and visit them in just about six months.

Neera and I met through Twitter. Finely Chopped connected us. She took me to Malacca when I came to KL this time after we finally met in the real world. Her husband, Navneet, who was born in KL wanted to feed me a million ‘yummyyy’ dishes before I left so I decided to stay with them for a day.

Sunny side down

Neera picked me up at Arindam and Sasha’s yesterday and drove me through some pretty terrible traffic to a Chinese Steam Rice restaurant. I realised that I wanted to hurl just as we reached our destination. The previous night was long, late and high spirited. Spent discussing, ironically, the movie Hangover among other things.

Congee remedy

Neera gamely drove me to her ‘favourite morning’ after drink, 100 Plus, at a gas station. We then went to the Mid Valley mall where I had pretty much parked myself at KL. Neera took me to a Cantonese restaurant which her daughter loves and had introduced her to.

A plain Congee (rice porridge which tasted like the sweet corn soup back home), Chinese crispies and a Pepsi and I began to find my sea legs. I began to return to the land of the living. I garnered enough courage to try a dimsum from the spinach and prawn dimsums that Neera had ordered. It was so delicately flavoured that I was really glad I hadn’t missed out on it.

Food in the City: Bukit Bintang

The 100 Plus and Congee worked its magic. We drove off to the Sungei Wang Mall at Bukit Bintang after spending an eternity trying to locate Neera’s car in the cavernous car park. Sungei Wang is one of KL’s oldest malls and is apparently a good place to get deals. I picked up some girly stuff which I hope meets my lobster’s approval when I reach home. For me the high was the local food store where I picked Curry Mee, Laksa and Sambal mixes, White Coffee sachets and discovered that I don’t like dried cuttle fish. Incidentally most of the shops here don’t accept credit cards so keep your Ringgits handy.

On Chicken Wings and a dream

Navneet kept mentioning a Chicken Wings place where he wanted to take me to eat. Neera took me there post shopping. By then I was completely fine after her ministrations. This was quite an achievement given that I thought I would never want to eat anything all my life in the morning.

We went to a lane called Jalan Alor at Bukit Bintang. We reached a series of streetside restaurants run by an ever smiling lady called Wendy. Wendy had been running these shops right since Navneet used to go there at the age of eighteen, thirty odd years back. Wendy welcomed Neera like a long lost friend as we sat down to eat by the road.

The chicken wings were as memorable as Navneet had promised they would be. The juiciest wings that I have ever had. Where the taste of the chicken ruled over that of the marinade and not the other way round as it normally happens.

Neera ordered a grilled stingray which was juicy enough to give the wings a run for its money. Which is not easy. A plate of Chinese sweet pork fried rice was just what was needed to complete the mellow evening. As I sat on the road lined by trees which had been loyal long to the street for ages, caressed by the cool breeze, stretched lazily sipping the signature lemon drink, I felt that there was no other place where I would feel as at home as I did at Neera and Navneet’s favourite restaurant by the street.

Home to an Obleix moment as I had a taste of wild boar, cooked in Indian style, which Navneet had got for me. It tasted just like pork and was leaner and healthier apparently. I licked my lips by Toutatis.

Dinner with Tony

Then off we went with the boys and Navneet’s brother and sister in law to a Chinese restaurant at Petaling Jaya.

This restaurant is where Bourdain had apparently once eaten. I set off with my copy of Bourdain’s Medium Raw…’mala chadhhane’ (to offer my prayers) as Neera ribbed me. It did work as I came back to read this lovely and kind mention by Pree on her lovely post on food bloggers.

I was in seventh heaven as I ate the prawn Hokkein Mee which Bourdain had apparently eaten. Cooked by the cook who had cooked for him. Even though the cheerful young waitress had no recollection of this.

Other star performers included a tempera like tau fu. A very soft mashed fish filling fried in bean curd skin. A slightly sweetish thin noodles. Navneet’s attempts to try to teach me how to use chopsticks. And Navneet’s favourite John Dory in curry leaves. Prepared as specified by Navneet in the kitchen. Not meeting his exact standards. But fiery enough to leave a lingering memory in my mind. And then the night continued back home.

After Sunrise

Snooze buttons forgotten, we woke up early as Neera wanted to take me to a typical Chinese breakfast before she left for work. Neera, her younger son, who has many secret grill recipes, and I went off to a local Chinese restaurant. Neera explained the concept of Hawker Court to me. The hawker court here is similar to the ones at Lucky Garden, Bangsar, and Kafe 78 at Penang.

The owner of the court sells drinks and cigarettes, the high margin items. The owner lets out restaurant space to others who set up their carts and sell food here. Carts could vary from Chinese to Malay ones.

We first had fried tau fu, seafood filling encased in bean curd skin and fried. Just the sort of pakora breakfast which would warm the cockles of an Indian heart. I also tried a pork noodles where the taste of the noodles reminded me of Semiya which is used in Kheer in India. The hot clear broth with dumplings which came with the noodles warmed one’s heart and made the world seem like a really safe and happy place.

With that Neera dropped us home and went off to work. I napped. Woke up and headed to the laptop which Navneet had thoughtfully left for me to work on.

As I set off for another friend’s house for my last day here, I remembered a local belief which Neera told me about when we went to Malacca. The locals apparently say that the journey to any place takes a lot of time as while going as you are getting acquainted with everything around you, the trees, the roads, the flowers, the animals and the pebbles. Going back is much faster as you are well acquainted with your surroundings by then and feel at home.

Yes, I came to the Kharbandhas as a stranger. Left knowing I will be welcomed back again.

That Blogger Guy

PS: Last evening Neera called her sister in law while driving back. Neera told her about me as made plans for dinner. Pat came the reply over speaker phone, “Oh, that Blogger Guy?” (!)


Aarti said…
Beautiful... read this thru the post on FB... I know Neera thru twitter, seen her on friend's lists on fb and other places, but we started interacting on twitter and now am really looking fwd to meeting her!! :)

Cool blog u got here!
btw, what is ur twitter handle?
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@aarti, I am more of a Facebook person but I did meet Neera first through Twitter. Hope you get to meet her soon :)

My Twitter handle is Finelychopped
k said…
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@K, well now I know whom to take along next time I shop for you
Miri said…
My head is spinning just reading about all the places and people and the Food!!! :) glad you had a great trip!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Miri, I was living a dream