A Spicy Sweet Way Home

by - Wednesday, June 08, 2016

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The road trip to Kuala Lipis was a short one; over a weekend which felt like we packed our bags as soon as we unpacked (you know the feeling), yet it did not stop us from squeezing in a few places into our itinerary and that was exactly what we did, on our way back.

That is what a road trip means, after all, and since we are already on the road, we might as well just make the most of it, as long as the time permits without us having to compromise our schedule.

Driving from Kuala Lipis takes us across the little towns located in the state of Pahang; the state known for its beautiful greenery and lush garden in our nation's backyard.

If you have never been to this part of the country, you have no idea what you are missing.

The serenity of the surroundings and the peaceful lifestyle, complemented by the luxuriant foliage in the background is a perfect picture for any wall, and we are talking about the reality here.

Forget about all that dreamy landscapes of other places, or idolizing other landmarks, for right in our own backyard is a plethora of gems left unexplored, or hidden from the eyes of publicity.

In a way, it is good, for the natural beauty and wonders of these places could be well conserved without falling prey to the destructive consequences from the uncontrolled spike in tourism.

The little towns lining the highway are living proof of the unique and well-hidden secrets of Malaysia, though these days; they are also coming under the radar of enthusiastic and adventurous explorers on the hunt for gems like these.

One of the larger towns is Raub; where we stopped by for lunch, at the famous place known for its fish head curry.

First Stop in Raub

Ratha Raub Fish Head Curry (Restoran Ratha Raub, or commonly known as Raub Famous Fish Head Curry)

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They have since expanded to outlets in the KL city, from their original location here in Raub.
Well, the original outlet is always far more convincing, despite the promise about the standard quality of the food across all the outlets, but everyone will still flock to the original place.

Perhaps it is psychologically-driven, or just the impression and that belief that the original is always far better (after all, it is the origin and they are maintained for a reason, right?) and that the outlets are just branches and will never match that main outlet.

Whatever the reason, it needs no explanation behind the crowd at the restaurant when we arrived slightly after noon, despite it being a non air-conditioned place.

We ordered a few dishes to go with the rice, with an extra side of pappadam (there's always pappadam!) and vegetables.

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Dishes ordered:

Squid in a thick, rich and tangy-flavored sauce dressed with the granular bits of grounded nuts which gave it that close match to that of the usual satay sauce, though slightly more zesty in its taste.

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It was quite an appetizing dish to go with the rice, and it can be quite addictive too if you are not careful, though caution for the nut contents; especially to those who are allergic.


The fried chicken here is also the pride of the restaurant, besides the signature fish head curry of course.
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Sautéed spinach was a little disappointing, for it was far overcooked and the spinach was a little aged which resulted in mostly unchewable bits. 

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Of course, the star of the dish is something we came for and will not walk away without sampling its taste.
It is reason we decided to sweat it out despite the thirty plus degree Celsius out there, mind you.

The famous Ratha/Raub Fish Head Curry

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The signature dish which is the reason behind the restaurant's quick rise to fame, is a red fiery treasure trove of grouper (or snapper, depending on their fish of the day) drenched in a mild creamy texture of coconut milk teased with the tastes of tamarind, turmeric, coriander to lend its flavor to the okra, tomatoes, and aubergines soaked in that same concoction.

It is enough to make anyone sweat in seconds, or maybe it's just me, since I do have quite little to no tolerance for hot and spicy foods (yes, even the mildest kind), and did I mention it was more than thirty degrees (Celsius) out there on the day we decided to try this?

Anyway, it was not as spicy as it sounds, I think it was tad a bit milder than most versions I have tried and I would say it is still quite tolerable.
(I will not compare it to other fish head curry I have tried either, for it is best to leave them to their unique places)

For more satisfaction to soak that plate of white rice, there is always that option of extra gravy. You just need to ask for it.

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After our hot (as in temperature) and spicy lunch, we made our way around the block to a famous teahouse; or rather a confectionery which is also a teahouse.


Kim Fah Tea House in Raub

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Operating in an old-fashioned style, this is the kind of place which just brings back the nostalgia of the good old days (though I wasn't born during those times).

There is just something about these old teahouses; the tiled walls, rattling ceiling fans (not in this one), framed old photos hanging on the wall, and the tea cups and saucer used.
(They have upgraded the modern wooden tables and plastic chairs; some coffee shops/teahouses in Ipoh, Melaka and Penang still have those old marble tables and wooden chairs - you know the type)

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This is a popular local haunt during tea time, for they are renowned for their baked pastries and good old coffee, which is something you probably won't be able to get in the city or anywhere else, or so I heard.

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Full from our earlier, we didn't stay around to try the coffee or tea, and instead proceeded to check out their famous pastries which were selling like hot cakes.
Well, literally speaking.


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Most of their pastries were reputed to be quite good; though we only managed to try the Kaya puffs and the egg tarts; of which both came in two versions; original and pandan.
There is the original kaya and the pandan kaya too for the puffs.

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The key here is the pastry; that slightly flaky yet non-sticky and non-greasy taste with every bite sets it apart from the rest of the other pastries out there.
It all depends on one's preference of course, but the pastry is light in its texture; keeping to the right amount of fluff yet mild on the flakes and all that over buttered taste, making it a simple snack for the afternoon.
Just like something one would make at home.

Kaya puff
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Exiting Raub, we continued our ride for another half an hour (or so) to reach another town, for our last stop of the trip.

Benton

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It was time for another sweet treat; and perhaps an icy and homemade one, which is again, one that many would flock the town for and not leave without.

Last stop, Homemade Ice-Cream and Ice Kacang at Kow Po

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They serve cendol too, but the signature here is their homemade ice-cream; which is perhaps Bentong's very own home version of Ben and Jerry's and the likes of renowned ice cream?

The weather was perfect for a bowl of shaved ice; or locally known as Ice Kacang or ABC (an abbreviation for Ais Batu Campur, which is Ice mixed with everything)

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Topped with a scoop of ice cream of your preferred flavor (flavor ranges in varieties of sweet corn, vanilla, chocolate, pandan, coconut, peanut, banana and even durian), this is just the treat which drew many to this old-fashioned and long operating brand in this particular town.

Of course, you can always opt to have your ice-cream on its own, just like a child would (nothing childish about that, especially if you are huge on ice-cream) and even do it in style by ordering a banana split.
In short, you can have it anyway you want.

In Summary That summarizes the whole trip we had, which we explored quickly of the offerings of the state of Pahang, though it definitely enticed me for a little more the next time (another road trip perhaps?)

A road trip which ended with a sweet note, and one that made me feeling even more proud of my beautiful country.

Compare it to the many other places in the world, but there is no place which is truly like home; the place where we are so familiar with.

The hidden gems are aplenty, and there is no point to draw that comparison with world class attractions which are publicized widely for they are all unique in their own ways; the same way it is with these little gems which left even us locals inspired by their distinct identities.

There are many more places like these; the uncovered gems and these are the places which will open your eyes to the world of the diversity of culture we have in Malaysia.

The harmony and unity across the races, cultures and religions which spell the name of Malaysia.
The best part is to walk into any restaurant, coffee shop or anywhere, and you are bound to find people of all races and walks of life there, enjoying a good conversation and laugh over coffee or food.

It is something we locals are just so accustomed to and even feel so much at ease, for this is the warmth we refer to; the beauty of the people of our nation.

Look beyond the places and the photographic nature, and you will find a smile and kind hospitality wherever you go.

These are perhaps the best little things that make up that truly unique Malaysian experience, and get off that beaten path; off the big cities and towns and step into exploring the lesser known places, for they are truly where you will gain a further insight into the country and see for yourself, the best kept secrets on this beautiful land.

I know them, and I am proud to call this land my home :-)


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*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.




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