This second 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.
“These beef balls are fresh and firm yet they elicit the tenderness of springy fish balls.
Whether it’s part of a food safari or otherwise, I will eat at Soong Kee in a heartbeat.”
It’s difficult to fathom it was way back in the year 1945, when the reign of Adolf Hitler and World War II came to an end, that a tiny restaurant called Soong Kee in the heart of Kuala Lumpur began its life journey.
And for the next sixty nine years, this restaurant will have served millions of beef balls to cement its reputation as one of the finest of its kind in Malaysia.
Restoran Soong Kee is the official name for what is affectionately known as ‘Jalan Silang beef ball noodles‘ (cover image above) to a few generation of Malaysian food lovers.
Located at the corner of Jalan Silang (now known as Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin) and Jalan Tun HS Lee, I fondly remember this restaurant to be the ‘go to place’ for a late night feed in the 1980s after painting the town red.
This restaurant has also been recognised by prominent Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Dato’ Francis Yeoh as an important contributor to the food culture of Malaysia and a heritage brand at Lot 10 Hutong.
I have not been back to this original location for at least fifteen years and feel a little nostalgic as I walk into the restaurant.
I am half hoping to see the familiar face of Mr Siew Wei Han, son of the founder who for so long has been dunking noodles and maintained the quality of the business his father started almost seventy years ago.
The willowy figure of the aging Mr Siew in his Bruce Lee style white singlet and kung fu pants is no where in sight. Instead, his reign in the kitchen is now taken over by a younger man who seems to be pretty nimble and quick in following the footsteps of his master.
A large serve of beef ball noodles arrives topped with its signature mince meat and brisket and a few sprigs of green choy sum.
I have been a regular here for so long and despite so many years of absence, the sight and aroma of these noodles tells me Mr Siew has groomed his young disciple to be a worthy successor.
Six hearty beef balls are floating in a bowl of hot consommé that I remember to be such a potent elixir to satisfy hunger pangs or just the tonic to clear an alcohol hangover the morning after.
These beef balls are fresh and firm yet they elicit the tenderness of springy fish balls.
The unsung hero is definitely the chilli sauce. Laced with a bit of vinegar, this bowl of noodles and meat balls will never be the same without it.
The noodles are another story altogether. I remember these golden strands to be flavoursome having soaked up all the gravy from the mince sauce. Needless to say, they took me down memory lane once again with its legendary al dente mouthfeel.
Instead of my usual ais kopi, this kind of food is best washed down with cold barley water (see cover image).
There is good reason why Restoran Soong Kee is heading towards its 70-year history in business. The original space has been expanded and unlike the warm and humid dining condition before, the restaurant is now cool with air-conditioning.
Apart from a more comfortable dining space, it’s quality, consistency and good value that have made this place truly iconic. Simple noodles, beef balls and tripe are all they have been serving for almost seventy years! Whether it’s part of a food safari or otherwise, I will eat at Soong Kee in a heartbeat.
As I slurp up the noodles from my bowl, Mr. Siew Wei Han mysteriously appears from nowhere. His slim physique is draped with a black chest-hugging T-shirt and signature black kung fu pants. He walks past me towards his kitchen and flashes a knowing smile, as if to acknowledge a familiar face from the past.
Locals feel many great restaurants in KL have lost their way because the younger generation is not as passionate as their forebears and have engaged foreign workers to take over the reigns of food mastery.
But for Restoran Soong Kee, quality and consistency are unmistakable because the spirit of Siew Wei Han and his father are well and truly alive.
So dear readers, do you rate Restoran Soong Kee as one of the best beef ball noodles in KL and if not, which is your pick?
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.
Restoran Soong Kee
86 Jalan Tun HS Lee (corner of Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin)
Tel: +60 3 2078 1481
Opening times: 11am to 12am, closed on Sundays and public holidays.