Crispy pork with spicy mustard
My friend Ali came to Malaysia for a long-awaited visit last week. You see, ever since we moved here, I’ve been frothing at the mouth to hang out with her and her family, who are all from here. Based on my previous experience, these guys know how to eat.
Ali’s uncle raved about this one particular smoked duck dish in Bangsar; one relative of hers even went as far as to say it is her favorite dish of all time in KL. That’s high praise in a city where it’s really hard to narrow down even to a favorite dish by genre, much less even attempt to identify the overall winner. Needless to say, I had to finagle an invitation to try this dish for myself.
The Gravy Baby eagerly awaits the appearance of said smoked duck (and yes, he is dressed like Winnie-the-Pooh)
While we were waiting, we ordered a few dim sum dishes: crispy pork, hand-pulled noodles, a bite of a few har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings). Everything was really excellent, which just made me all the more eager to devour some of this coveted duck.
Grand Imperial’s dim sum made up for the lack of smoked duck; clockwise, from top left, carrot cake (actually stir-fried daikon radish cakes); steamed chang fun noodles with shrimp; pork wrapped in crispy tofu skin; braised lamb shank hand-pulled noodles
Then a server appeared, bowing her head in shame. “I’m sorry to report that today’s smoked duck is not up to our high standards,” she said sheepishly. “Chef has decided not to serve any of our product so as not to taint our good reputation.”
Wait…what? At first, I was disappointed, then indignant. Shouldn’t I, the diner, be the one to decide whether said smoked duck is any good? How could they just cruelly withhold this dish from me? Ali’s aunt took my shocked expression as an opportunity to reiterate that this was her favorite dish ever. Yes, yes, Auntie. I heard you the first time. I’m losing my mind here over the idea that I will sleep tonight not knowing how this resplendent dish tastes.
After a few more bites of chewy chang fun noodles settled me down, though, I relented a little. It’s actually admirable that a restaurant would self-edit enough to withhold their arguably most popular dish. It’s like an artist revealing his masterpiece; you wouldn’t want to taint your viewing audience’s expectations by showing them unfinished sketches first, would you?
Until then (and a repeat visit), though, I’ll be dreaming about that duck.