Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kampung Attap Fish Head Curry ( Restoran ZK)

Ikan merah a.k.a. Red Snapper fish head curry.

Type of food: Indian
Signature dish: Fish Head Curry
Location: No. 76, Jalan Kampung Attap, 50460 Kuala Lumpur.
Opening hours: All days except Sunday, 11.30 a.m. - 2.30 p.m. ( or until they run out of fish!)
Contact: 03-22739786
Other: Halal. Medium spicy.

Restoran ZK, or more well known simply by the name Kampung Attap Fish Head Curry is a nice cozy shack with an old style zinc roof, under a giant tree. It's been a favourite haunt of local big wigs, politicians, , families, and policemen whose station is only a few minutes walk away. It attracts people from all walks of life, and it's because there is something for everyone.

Zinc-roofed shack under a tree, dining a la Malaysia.

Before we move on to the food, you will notice that right next to the shack there is another Restoran ZK, in a proper shoplot, selling the exact same dishes and belonging to the exact same owner. I would ask you to not eat there. Somehow, it seems like the shack's food, tastes fresher and better. Maybe it's purely psychological, or perhaps it's something to do with the higher turnover at the shack, but in any case, eating under a giant tree and dodging leaves when the wind blows is part of the fun!

Clockwise from far bottom left: salada, tauge, fish head, pappadum, ayam madu, sotong.

Anyway, so my family and I ordered quite the feast. There was some pappadum*, a plate of salada, sotong, ayam madu, tauge, and of course, who can forget the fish head curry itself.

The fish head is ikan merah, and is cooked very well, giving a nice, firm bite. The meat is smooth, and gelatinous at the cheeks, giving a good balance between meat and supple ( and healthy!) fish oil. The gravyis a good blend of herbs and spices, the star anise, turmeric and curry powder is particular prominent, giving the curry a thick, fragrant flavour.

Ayam madu.
The ayam madu is a personal favourite of my younger brother's. The chicken is fried to the right degree with just a light coating of curry powder, and is tender and crispy at all the right places. When you dip the chicken into the madu, that blend of gooey sweetness and savoury crunchiness is a fantastic combination.


The tauge are fresh and juicy, but really nothing to shout about. Far more worthy is the surprisingly simple yet refreshing salada. It's an original concoction of thick soy sauce, light soy sauce freshly chopped onions and green chilies. I was rather skeptical when I first saw this, but after trying it, it's definitely a tasty and worthy compliment to the fish head curry. Think of it as a freshener, after all the thick, heavy, spice-laden curry you have this cleansing, potent salad. I'm a believer.

The sotong here is also done very well. Unlike many other restaurants, ZK manages to cook fresh sotong to the right degree- bouncy yet tender, with a bite yet not chewy. The gravy is a light, sweet and savoury addition that contrasts very well with the heavy tones of the fish head curry. You could also try his kambing dishes if you're into more meaty dishes.

The fish head itself cost RM 80, quite a hefty sum, but considering the head was really quite big, and it is from the rather expensive ikan merah ( about RM 25-RM30 a kg at markets), I would say that it is an alright price to pay. The other dishes are within the RM 4- RM 10 range, fairly reasonable. Overall, definitely a must go if you're into fish head curry.

Restoran ZK
Taste: 8/10- Great fish head, and really well done side dishes.
Value: 7/10- Fish head is on the pricey side, but other dishes are reasonably priced.
Health: 7/10- Well, there are a lot of calories involved, but this is largely seafood and spices, so it's alright.
Overall: 4/5 durians!

Pappadum- Indian crackers, have a slight salty taste.
Salada- Malaysian for salad.
Sotong- Squid
Ayam madu- honey chicken
Tauge- Beansprouts
Ikan merah- Red Snapper, a deep sea fish prized for its meat.
Kambing- Mutton