Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant, Petaling Jaya

Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

This sixth blog post is part of Food Safari Kuala Lumpur 2014 – a series of ten mouth-watering blog posts of the best eats during my 9-day trip to the city.

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“I told them not to slaughter the live fish until you get there” my cousin KK says.

“Great, I’ll make sure my camera is ready” I reply. “We don’t get to see this in Australia.”

My food safari in Kuala Lumpur continues and today, I bring you to Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant in Petaling Jaya where a specialty on their menu is a ferocious, predatory fish called snakehead.

Snakehead, Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Snakehead, Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Members of the perciform fish family called Channidae which is native to Africa and Asia, the name of this fish is derived presumably from the appearance of its snake-like head.

The body of this fish is elongated with distinctively long dorsal fin, large mouth and shiny sharp teeth. Snakeheads are thrust-feeders that prey on smaller fish, frogs and in rare cases, small mammals such as rodents, rats and even squirrel.

Whack!! ~ Knocking out snakehead with wooden stick

Whack!! ~ Knocking out snakehead with wooden stick

Because of their strong and aggressive nature, preparing a live snakehead for the cooking pot is a little different from regular live fish.

In the rear area of the restaurant’s kitchen, I observe a live snakehead being retrieved from a tank containing at least half a dozen of them. Then, this robust fish is thrown onto the floor. You know the fish is alive when it’s wriggling ferociously trying to find its way back into water.

In comes the kitchen helper wielding a heavy wooden stick and with a couple of swift, heavy blows to its head, he pummels the snakehead into submission.

Snakehead weighing in at 1.2 kilograms

Snakehead weighing in at 1.2 kilograms

As he places the fish on the weighing scale, shivering movements from the fish momentarily distort the reading on the scale and remind me it’s still alive.

This particular snakehead weighs in at a hefty 1.2 kilograms.

Inserting long wooden stick into snakehead's mouth

Inserting long wooden stick into snakehead's mouth

The cleaning process for this snakehead is more tedious than regular fish.

Because of the slippery and slimy skin on its elongated body, a long wooden stick is inserted into the snakehead’s mouth right through the entire length of the fish. This is to keep the fish’s body straight and firm when scaling.

Scaling snakehead (Note wooden stick inserted through mouth of fish)

Scaling snakehead (Note wooden stick inserted through mouth of fish)

Being a predatory fish, I observe there is a lot of large, firm scales on its body. The determination on the kitchen helper’s face shows that it’s definitely not a walk in the park when scaling this snakehead.

Filleting and removing sinew from snakehead

Filleting and removing sinew from snakehead

Once the fish has been scaled and cleaned, another worker begins to fillet the fish, carefully removing its backbone, small pinbones and sinew.

Dining room, Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Dining room, Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Meanwhile, the dining room is almost full with this weekday lunch crowd, many of whom are also here for snakefish.

The price of this snakefish is approximately RM60 or A$21 per kilogram which includes preparing the fish in three contrasting styles of cooking as recommended by the restaurant.

Snakehead soup with tofu, bittergourd and tomato

Snakehead soup with tofu, bittergourd and tomato

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the contents of this soup – the fish was swimming and got thumped in the head just twenty minutes ago!!

The first dish is a white, soupy broth made from the fish head and bones which appear to have been deep fried to bring out its flavours. Soft white tofu, bittergourd, ginger and tomato are added to the soup which is eaten with rice vermicelli.

The milky, gingery taste is warming and with the rice vermicelli, this first dish could be a meal in its own right.

Steamed snakehead with ginger, black beans and special soy sauce

Steamed snakehead with ginger, black beans and special soy sauce

Our second dish is thinly sliced snakehead fillets steamed with ginger, black beans and special soy sauce, then drizzled with crispy bits of deep fried garlic and oil.

Steamed snakehead with ginger, black beans and special soy sauce

Steamed snakehead with ginger, black beans and special soy sauce

Garnished with coriander and fresh red chillies, this dish is quintessential Chinese style steamed fish with its savoury black beans and special soy sauce.

Crispy bits of deep-fried garlic and coriander are the crowning glories in giving the fish its toasty edge.

Stir-fried snakehead with ginger, garlic and shallots

Stir-fried snakehead with ginger, garlic and shallots

Our third dish is stir-fried snakehead with ginger, garlic and shallots. Personally I like this dish the best because of its good wok hei.

Stir-fried snakehead with ginger, garlic and shallots

Stir-fried snakehead with ginger, garlic and shallots

The holy trinity of Chinese cooking – ginger, garlic and shallots work their glorious fragrance into thin slices of snakehead which has been seared and caramelized.

Fresh beansprouts and carrot add crunch to the aromas of Chinese shao xing wine.

In Chinese folklore, snakehead has medicinal qualities and healing powers and is reputed to be especially good for healing wounds sustained from injuries or after surgical procedures. Whether you believe this folklore is one thing and looking around the dining room today, I think people are eating snakehead because it’s delicious.

Owner Helen, Restoran Kam Kee, Petaling Jaya

Owner Helen, Restoran Kam Kee, Petaling Jaya

The see tow por  or ‘lady boss’ Helen is affable and she comes around to our table to chat and joke with us.

“Why you no come here so long??” she asks my cousin KK, who eats here regularly.

Cleaning fish at Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Cleaning fish at Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Snakehead is one of many varieties of fish and seafood served at this restaurant that includes barramundi, pomfret and soon hock fish. Kitchen helpers have their work all cut out with food orders lining up during busy lunch hour.

Salted egg yolks

Salted egg yolks

Salted egg yolks have become prized, golden nuggets in Chinese style cooking in recent times.

They go into so many dishes such as zongzi, mudcrabs, vegetables and this restaurant is preparing these yolks for their dinner session tonight.

Words of wisdom and free wifi, Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

Words of wisdom and free wifi, Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant

This restaurant also has a few words of wisdom as well as wifi free of charge while you dine. Is this a trend I see happening in the future?

Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant, Petaling Jaya

Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant, Petaling Jaya

So dear readers, would you be game to try this snakehead and what do you think of free wifi in a full service restaurant?

Here’s some of my tips when planning a food safari in KL:

  • Do some basic research on eat streets, hawkers and restaurants which are known for particular Malaysian style dishes to get some idea about whether the food actually suits your tastes.
  • Local weather can be warm and humid, so do wear loose and comfortable clothing.
  • Comfortable footwear is important if you are planning to walk the streets of KL.
  • Carry bottled water and lots of face tissues for those deliciously greasy noodles.
  • Pace yourself and avoid snacking on all sorts of foods as calories do add up quickly.
  • Be very certain about what’s in your food if you have food allergies.
  • Carry medication for diarrhoea and food-poisoning, especially if you are consuming street food for the first time or have even built up resistance.
  • Be vigilant on the streets as some areas of KL are notorious for petty crimes such as snatch thieves and pickpockets. Avoid carrying loose handbags, large amounts of cash, important travel documents, credit cards and elaborate jewellery.

Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant
10, Jalan 5/44 Bukit Gasing (off Jalan Gasing)
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Tel: +60 3-7783 8843

Opening hours:  Lunch 11.30am to 3.30pm Dinner 5.30pm to 22.30pm

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13 Responses to Kam Kee Seafood Restaurant, Petaling Jaya

  1. Wow check out all those salted egg yolks! Bliss!

  2. milkteaxx says:

    wow, so many salted egg yolks!

  3. Now that’s a fresh fish. I’m a wimp and wouldn’t look when the fish got bashed. It all looks so good. I like a place where the lady boss comes around to talk. I trust their food.

    Those egg yolks are amazing.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Maureen,

      It was my first time watching the fish getting pummeled and I was excited but felt a little nervous too. And I could taste the absolute freshness of the fish especially in the steamed and stir-fried dishes.

  4. tigerfish says:

    Wow, how often do we get snakehead fish (soup, stir-fry, wok-fry etc.) THAT fresh! And a meal out of snakehead is absolutely tantalizing and scrumptious just by imagination. I was sold at once, when I saw that soup dish with snakehead, bittergourd, tomato….

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear tigerfish,

      All three dishes were good but the stir-fried dish had some pretty heady wok hei to match the freshness of the fish.

  5. bams Kitchen says:

    Great photos!!! I have watched them beat snake fish here in HK too. I guess that is the best way to get them to stay still for the scaling, etc. Great photos and the fish with the ginger, scallion, garlic and chili looks so delicious. Have a super weekend.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear BAM,

      I’d imagine snakehead would be reared and quite popular in Hong Kong too for its purported medicinal qualities.

  6. KY says:

    nice pictures! I love snakehead steamed with chicken essence, but these versions looked absolutely enticing!

  7. Poh Huai Bin says:

    Great writeup! :)

    I haven’t heard of this place before, despite having lived here for a number of years. I’ve never even eaten Asian snakehead, just heard the stories about it destroying the habitats and eating other fish when it goes into the ecosystem of some US cities.

    It seems to be a pest in the US and efforts are underway (at least according to the documentaries I watch) to try and get people to eat them.

    I’ll go check out this restaurant! Cheers for the review!

  8. Whoa, do the scaling and filleting happen while the fish is still alive? I would have loved to see that and then enjoy a full meal out of that one fish :)

  9. Padaek says:

    I believe that snakehead is really popular and a delicacy in Laos too, where it’s prepared into local specialties. They sound like a pretty awesome fish, and the chefs in the photos look very pro, and evident in the dishes they prepared, esp. the stir-fry with the holy trinity – I love that mix too and that dish in particular looks divine. Love how the fish is cooked three ways to best show its character. What does snakehead taste similar to? :)

  10. Whoah look at those salty egg yolks! I’ve never seen them like that before, looks pretty cool

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