Filipino flavours in the heart of KL


YOU do not have to go all the way to the Philippines to eat balut (duck embryo). Just head over to Kota Raya Complex in Kuala Lumpur.

There are 20 eateries in this complex offering Filipino fare, and one of them is David Axel Cafe which is located on the third floor.

Co-owned by Arnie Janolino, who came here from Davao, Phillipines, two years ago, the cafe charges patrons RM5 per egg.

Janolino said he gets his balut from a local duck egg supplier in Johor.

To enjoy balut, dunk an egg or two in hot water and leave for 30 minutes.

Then crack the shell top, peel away the soft membrane to make a hole, tip the opening into your mouth and drink the broth.

After that, peel away the rest of the egg shell, season with a pinch of salt and spoon the contents into your mouth.

Opinions are divided when it comes to eating duck embryo.

British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, in one of his TV shows, once descibed the popular Filipino street snack as “quite nice”.

Other dishes from this cafe are favourites such as adobo manok, which is similar to a Chinese stir-fry of chicken in oyster sauce, shallots, garlic and dried chilies.

The only difference is the addition of vinegar, which gives the Filipino version a slight tartness.

Another dish is the red-hued bina go onngang baboy, which is pork stir-fried with chillies, onions and cencaluk (preserved shrimp). The latter ingredient not only acts as a colouring element, but also gives the pork a salty, piquant flavour.

For something milder, try the bicol express.

It is still pork butt, but stir-fried with garlic and chillies, and finished with coconut cream.

Its spiciness and creamy texture makes it similar to curry but this dish does not have the complex notes of herbs and spices. That said, it is characteristically fiery, so have some water on standby.

Those who like the squishy sensation of beef skin will find the kare kare a delectable dish.

Boiled to a jelly-soft consistency, the meat is cooked together with vegetables such as banana hearts, mustard greens, egg plant and long beans.

Cencaluk is served as a condiment to lend the dish a touch of piquancy.

All of the above dishes go well with rice.

The stall also has the Fillipino version of prawn noodles. Called palabok, it is noodles soaked with prawn shell gravy thickened with corn flour. Atsuete powder, which is derived from achiote (Bixa orellana) seeds, gives it a yellowish hue.

Pork skin crackers, shredded fried fish and spring onions are the usual toppings.

You can also find halo halo, a popular Filipino dessert, here. This shaved ice delight is similar to ais kacang.

Recommended is the premium version which comes with ice cream sitting atop a bed of shaved ice. Buried underneath this snowy hill is some banana, pureed yam, sweet potato cubes and egg custard enriched with sugar water and evaporated milk.

They also have deep-fried banana and jackfruit wrapped in popiah skin. The piping hot rolls, just out of the frying pan, are sprinkled with sugar. The heat melts the sugar, turning it into a thick syrupy, caramelly coating.

The prices are rather affordable too – RM12 will buy you a grand meal here.

The non-halal stall is open from 10am to 10pm, daily. For details, call 016-774 8132.

(THE STAR)

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