Sun Fong Bak Kut Teh, Kuala Lumpur
Up until this point, I had never had bak kut teh in Malaysia. It was intentional: I heard that instead of the white pepper-and-garlic-based version that I like so much in Singapore, in Malaysia they load it up with a lot of Chinese herbs, and thus it was something that I didn't think I would like. But I was still kind of curious about it, so I suggested to my colleagues in KL that we go out for a local version tonight, and we came here (35 Medan Imbi, 2141-4064).
It was definitely different. Even in terms of setup, they provided things that I wouldn't have expected, like raw minced garlic and two kinds of chili peppers for you to mix in with the sweet soy sauce. The tea was just basic tea in a large pot rather than the complicated kung fu version (at least, at this shop). And the bak kut teh itself was served in a big communal pot. But the dark herbal mildly sweet broth was a lot better than I thought it would be. For some reason, I envisioned a bunch of ginseng and other herbs dangling out of it, but the taste here was rather mild. Indeed, I even went back for two or three more bowls. I still prefer the Singaporean version, but I could see why people like the Malaysian variety.
Perhaps more interesting was something that my colleagues called petai, or stink beans. They were basically some small flat broad bean-like things, but the name suggested that they carried a rather nasty smell. I really couldn't taste anything too offensive (maybe because the thing was drenched in oil and sauce), but apparently the smell will linger on in your digestive system - and will also give you asparagus pee. We'll find out in a bit if that's true.