Years ago, an ex-colleague of mine brought a few of us to eat a dish he dubbed “the best fried fish he has ever had”.
“You can even eat all the bones,” he beamed.
The restaurant was along Ophir Road and such was its popularity that there was a line of cars parked on along the road, some on double yellow lines. I figured that the food must be so good that the cars were prepared to take the risk.
As we ate at one of the tables set up along the footpath, the lighting wasn’t so good. The famed fried sambal fish doesn’t look attractive under the dim light but one bite and oooohhhh, I couldn’t stop. OK, I had to because we were sharing one large pomfret.
It’s fried so perfectly that the skin is crispy, the meat tender and the bones totally edible, just like my friend said. The sambal adds the kick that takes a chilli lover like me to heaven.
I can’t remember much about the other dishes but the fried sambal fish truly deserves to be called “The best”, in my opinion at least.
I went back there once more with my wife but soon after, the restaurant had to make way for development.
Over the years, the memory of that fish has flashed across my mind occasionally but I didn’t know where the restaurant moved to. Worst yet, I don’t even know the name of the establishment.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife read on Facebook about a restaurant that serves fried sambal fish. She suggested that we go there for a meal.
I was piqued and when I read about the restaurant and its roots along Ophir Road, I knew it was what I’ve been pining for all these years.
It’s called Old Lai Huat Seafood and has two outlets — one in Rangoon Road and the other in Horne Road.
We made a booking at the Rangoon Road outlet that weekend. Located at the end of the road, it’s not a place that passers by will come by and pop in. But, after we settled ourselves at a table, a steady stream of customers came in. They looked like regulars because most had bookings and came as a family.
While I came just for the fish, we needed more than that for dinner so we picked a set dinner which the staff recommended. What’s best is that he allowed us to change some of the dishes.
The fried sambal fish was just as it looked and tasted the first time I had it. It was simply heavenly and my family loved it too. The rest of the dishes were nice too but my focus was on that signature dish. We finished every bit of it.
Thank God for Facebook! Thank God for my wife! Thank God for this heavenly dish that was lost but has been found!