Street/hawker food connoisseurs in KL seemed to have a strange rule of thumb: the grittier the place, the better the food will taste. Which probably explained why every self-respecting hawker food enthusiast in Malaysia will not touch a pristine foodcourt with a ten-foot-pole, but wouldn’t mind sitting on a wonky plastic stool at a rickety foldable table in a wet, grimy back-lane, if there is the promise of good food to be had.
Which was what we did last Sunday, as we sallied forth from downtown KL to the colourful, bustling morning market at OUG in search of sustenance. OUG stands for Overseas Union Garden, one of the earliest middle-class suburbs built on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur back in the early-70s. It’s a wholly Chinese housing estate, and the local markets and food places there are highly-skewed towards KL-style Chinese-Malaysian cuisine of all sorts. Which makes this housing estate a veritable treasure trove of good eats.
The famous OUG Back-lane Curry Mee stall (“mee” is the local term for noodles, used by Chinese-, Malay- and Indian-Malaysians alike) has been operating since the inception of OUG, and is now more than 3 decades-old, as Mr Choy, the current stallowner will attest:
The back-lane separates two well-known “kopitiams” (traditional Chinese coffeeshops): TMC Kopitiam and OUG Lucky Restaurant, both situated along Jalan Hujan Emas 4, a very busy thoroughfare which cuts through the teeming OUG morning market.
Grab a seat, then place your order at the stall from either Mr or Mrs Choy.
The steeming vat of curry was kept simmering throughout the morning - its aromatic, curry-spiced scent wafting through the air like an invisible cloud of deliciousness, was enough to put hairs on one’s chest.
OUG Backlane Curry Mee first gained my attention back in the 90s when one of my closest friends and a serious fellow Singaporean foodie, came back from a short visit to KL, extolling the curious pull of this place “located in a grimy backlane which served a delicious, fiery curried noodle dish”. We had nothing of the sort back in Singapore, not since the Singapore government banned all forms of street-side hawker stalls in the early-80s, and moved all the hawkers into government-run, purpose-built food centres.
It was to take nearly two decades before I finally came to try this spot in KL. And what a revelation. Its style of curry mee was a small departure from gold standard KL-style curry mee set by the Madras Lane trio of stalls (recently listed as No. 2 on Lonely Planet’s 500 food experiences around the world Lonely Planet’s No. 2 Top Eats - Curry Laksa in KL.
My bowl of curry mee had slivers of poached chicken meat, roasted pork, Teochew fish-balls, tofu-puffs, and an additional order curried chicken feet (yummy!). A sprinkling of chopped scallions were the only greens on the bowl. No long beans nor aubergines here - items which I’d long associated with KL-style curry mee. But I guess OUG Back-lane curry mee has been around for so long, and has garnered such a reputation, no one deigned to even question them on why their rendition did away with the said vegetable components.
Incredulously, just when you thought the curried noodles were a bit too spicy, little saucers of additional chilli paste, with little lime halves, were provided on the side - for chilli heads to help themselves if they should want to have an additional chilli-kick to their noodles.
The curry mee here tasted altogether different from Singapore’s curry mee: Heng Kee Curry Mee at Hong Lim, Singapore, despite its outward similarity in appearance.
OUG Backlane Curry Mee
located at the backlane between TMC Kopitiam and OUG Lucky Restaurant
Jalan Hujan Emas
Overseas Union Garden (Taman OUG)
58200 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 7.15am-11.45am daily.