Look at the crispy skin on this pork loin roast, and tell me your heart isn’t stopping
Every two weeks since March, the hubby and I have hosted groups of family and friends here in Kuala Lumpur. Naturally, these visits frequently lead us back to some of our favorite haunts, since we don’t want each new crop of visitors to miss out on something we feel is quintessentially KL. Not that we mind, of course. We feel lucky that we’ve had so many people willing to make the long, 24+ hour trek from the U.S. (and, in one case, from Tanzania via London and Dubai). It’s definitely made our time here fly, and we really feel like we have a second home away from home here.
Still, sometimes, part of me wishes that I would’ve had a little bit more time over the past few months to explore parts of Kuala Lumpur that are still relatively new to me. I’ve read about some amazing–sounding places in Petaling Jaya, but the only place we’ve managed to try so far in that area is a delicious claypot chicken rice. Someone at a dinner party told me about an Indian restaurant operated by the same family for generations that knocks the socks off of most Indian food in the city, and every time we plan on going, something delicious (and closer) pops up.
Therefore, I was pretty excited to discover two new things recently at Yut Kee, a coffee house that has become one of my regular stops.
Slicing us up a piece of crispy, porky goodness
The first thing is a rolled pork roast, which Yut Kee serves on weekends. I’d read about these roasts months ago, but usually by the time I amble in, the only thing left of them is a lingering aroma in the air that something delicious may or may not have just left the building in the stomachs of happy diners before me. The roasts, stuffed with pistachios and sage, aren’t typical of Malaysian cuisine, but the extreme porkiness of this roast — a rolled, marbled pork loin wrapped in crispy, crackling skin — screams Chinese to me. Leave it to the Chinese up the pork ante on any dish they can get their hands on. This is why I love the fact that I was raised in the Deep South, in a culture that totally understands why a pork garnish on top of pork is perfectly acceptable.
A simple Malaysian breakfast might be some grilled toast, butter and a dollop of kaya, a coconut jam
The other thing I love about Yut Kee is its kaya, a jam made from young coconut. Malaysians love to slather kaya on toast for breakfast with a strong cup of coffee and maybe a boiled egg. To me, kaya tastes a little bit like the topping on a German chocolate cake, which is to say that it’s awesome. Yut Kee sells their kaya with toast or on a butter cake roll for you to eat in-house. You can also buy a little cup to take home, which I only do sparingly because what usually ends up happening with that little cup is that I end up sitting up late at night, eating kaya by the spoonful and sobbing while watching some movie about an Australian losing his homestead (our late-night television choices here in KL are seriously limited after about 7:00 pm every evening). If you’re a woman reading this, I hope you can relate to the idea that sometimes a good cry coupled with extremely concentrated amounts of sugar actually feels kind of cathartic. If you’re a man, it’s like drinking a beer while watching back-to-back episodes of The Pacific on HBO.
Anyway, as we finished up our meal at Yut Kee the other day, I ran into Jack, the owner, who by now knows me as “the girl who brings new crops of Americans into my little shop every few weeks and generally makes a lot of excited giggling noises about my fried pork sandwich.” I introduced him to my latest round of visitors, and asked him how he makes kaya. This is the relationship that Jack and I have developed — I say hello and ask him some probing question that lands me into his kitchen, and Jack generally obliges, knowing that I’m spreading the gospel of Yut Kee far and wide.
By chance, Jack and his crew happened to be making kaya, so he led us back to the kitchen to show us how it’s done. Yut Kee’s kaya kettle is massive and looks like it was made out of an oil drum (cleaned out, of course). Over a hot propane flame, a mixture of young coconut, pandan (screwpine leaves), eggs, and sugar was bubbling furiously. Jack explained that a batch of his kaya, which looked to be about 40 gallons or so, lasts just 3 days, since they serve it in the restaurant and sell it in their wildly popular kaya cake rolls (and, of course, in those little to-go cups). The recipe is an old family recipe, calls for 300 eggs and 70 coconuts, and cooks for almost 18 hours.
Of course, I had no idea that kaya would be cooking in the kitchen that day, so I felt pretty lucky that I’d managed to ask the exact right question that would land us an audience with Jack. On the way out, I resisted buying my little cup of kaya. I’ll be back this week with a new batch of visitors anyway, and I’ll probably need some to get me through the American Idol finale.
Yut Kee | 35 Jalan Dang Wangi | Kuala Lumpur | Open Tuesday-Sunday, 8:00-5:00 pm