KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — This is possibly the only stall in KL that sells the HK-style of beef brisket noodles or what we call ngau lam mee. Taste the robust beefy broth with well-prepared tender beef cuts and tendon, and we reckon you will slurp it all up.
Opened about two years ago, the stall is operated by Sandakan-born Albert Lai, 43, who picked up his cooking skills in Hong Kong. As his grandparents are from Hong Kong, Lai returned to his roots about 18 years ago.
He started work at a place that served ngau lam mee. He honed his craft as an apprentice under the hands of his master who hailed from Guangzhou. For about three and a half years, as he was the laziest apprentice, he would be asked to just prepare the broth.
When he returned to Malaysia, initially Albert just did odd jobs like driving a lorry to get by. About two years ago, he decided to venture back into F&B business as he wanted to bring back the HK style of beef brisket noodles to KL.
“I believe beef has a lot of possibilities. If you love beef it’s better than pork and chicken which is one dimensional. It’s got its own character and the taste is out of the world,” explained Albert.
Most importantly, he wanted to teach people how a good ngau lam mee should taste as he believes that the ones currently available are just not up to standard.
With this, he hopes to elevate the standard of the beef noodles and create a trend for these type of noodles.
He also strongly believes that quality matters. If you pay RM7 or RM8 for a bowl of local beef, it could be inedible, hence you might as well pay more for something delicious and edible like RM25 for Wagyu beef brisket.
Most stalls tend to emphasise beef balls in their bowl of noodles. Even though he does serve beef balls with his normal bowl of beef noodles, he believes that the beef brisket is the star of the show. For him, beef balls are better served in porridge or served steamed for dim sum.
The heart of a good bowl of beef noodles is its soup. Here, the broth is boiled for many hours with herbs and a few kilograms of beef, under the watchful eye of Albert.
As Albert explains, the soup is incredibly important as most people look for soup to get comfort. He prefers to focus on the soup rather than the variety of noodles available, as he firmly believes that the star is the broth and not the noodles.
A popular pairing is with lai fun or the smooth rice noodles. Albert usually makes a small portion of lai fun that he mixes with the commercial variety.
From Monday to Thursday, Albert serves normal beef noodles. A typical bowl will have slow cooked beef pieces with a tender texture, beef balls and slices of cow’s stomach. This is served with your preferred choice of noodles and beef broth.
Don’t miss his stewed beef tendons as they are to die for with their jelly-like texture that melts in the mouth. This can be ordered as an addition to your bowl of beef noodles.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he rolls out his special items, making it a must-visit during this time. The fun begins from 10.30am when Albert brings out his magnificent beef brisket (pang sar lam).
He explains that the goal of boiling the brisket in the broth to achieve a tong sum texture or what is termed as soft creamy mass. This is something that can’t be learnt but needs years of experience to achieve.
Relish each part of the beef brisket as it has a robust flavour and a delicious mouth feel when you bite through the thick layer of fat that melts in your mouth and the tender meat. The other part that Albert also prepares is the short loin (hong lam).
If you spot the US striploin or what Albert calls fei ngau make sure you grab a bowl of this for RM25. The thinly sliced meat is incredibly tender and has a sweet flavour.
According to Albert, the best way to enjoy this premium part is just slice it fresh from a slaughtered cow, dip it in hot water and eat it with noodles.
In comparison, the Australian Wagyu slices made from the beef brisket cut pales in terms of flavour even though it still melts in the mouth. “It’s just not Japanese restaurant that you can eat Wagyu,” said Albert.
The weekends mean you also get to try their dry beef noodles. It’s tossed in a sauce that is made from boiling down the beef broth from the day before into a thick consistency. Also look for the tripe with its distinct honeycomb texture that is far superior than cow’s stomach with a sweeter taste and creamier texture.
Another specialty that Albert has up his sleeves is his curry ngau lam mee. Usually he prepares it at least once a month, depending on the weather. If it’s too hot, he prefers to not make the curry that has no coconut milk. Limited to just 15 bowls on a Sunday, this is a must!
In his pursuit of elevating the quality of beef noodles, Albert is forthcoming about the secrets behind his beef noodles. Unlike other chefs who jealously guard their recipes, he says he is willing to teach those who are willing to learn.
For instance, even blanching the noodles is explained as he uses two types of beef broth. First, the noodles are blanched quickly in a thin beef broth, then it’s dipped into the second broth which has a richer taste as it has more bones and oil. He blanches the noodles twice to enhance the taste of the strands before he tops it with meat and pours in the soup.
In the future, he hopes to one day trade city life for a quieter retirement on Lantau Island, Hong Kong or his wife’s village in Chiang Rai.
Yung Kee Beef Noodles,
Restaurant Kwai Hup,
24, Jalan Kancil,
Off Jalan Landak, Pudu, KL.
Open: 8am to 3.30pm. (On Saturdays and Sundays, they usually finish by 2pm).