On a Ducky Trail

When I get totally bushed, as I sometimes do (while working on clients’ projects simultaneously), I crave for some out of routine thing to do.
It could be just getting out and wandering aimlessly. It could be suddenly developing a craving for nasi kandar.
Which reminds me, I met up with two lovely people two weeks back – Ling Suan and her husband, Dr Leong who had driven up to Penang for a short break.
For many of you, does the name Tan Ling Suan ring a bell? She used to write regularly for The Star and she still writes, but she now spends most time writing children’s books. (You can find these phonics books and more in most bookstores, published by Arowana Publishing House.)
I’ve known her for years now – maybe 5 or 6 years – and she used to live in Sungai Petani when her husband was working at the Strand Hospital. One of the best things about Ling Suan is that she’s always cheerful and optimistic, and possesses a young heart despite having children and grandchildren!
Often curious, open-minded and tranquil, Ling Suan is someone I aspire to be like when I get to her age. Dr Leong is very kind – he’s probably the kind of doctor you’d want to visit if you are sick. His friendly demeanour makes you feel better right away.
We agreed to meet up for some supper at Kassim Mustafa, Penang Street. Ling Suan has a good memory – she reminded me that Nic raved about some 2am duck curry in Georgetown many years ago. Could we meet and try the duck curry together?
So we decided to meet up at Kassim Mustafa at 1am, because the duck curry only makes its appearance at 2am (for the late, late night crowd’s supper). I’m not a late night person and staying beyond 1am is not my kind of thing.
But never mind, it’s for Ling Suan and Dr Leong.
When we arrived at 1am, the corner shop was packed. People were lining up for the curries. We asked for the duck curry but the waiter told us apologetically that it was all sold out. So we settled for some chicken curry and naan. And we had a good night, talking and catching up so much so that we left Kassim Mustafa’s around 3am!
We found out from the waiter that the duck curry now appears earlier – from 9pm onwards. But on Saturday nights only.
I kept asking why it makes a once-a-week appearance because it was a highly popular dish (going by the lines of people and the takeaways, or tar pau). Why not make it more often? Again I asked. I was not satisfied that I did not get my duck curry despite staying up late.
“Oh, the curry is very expensive to cook… must do the rempah and all,” the waiter said, complete with shaking head and hand gestures.
And two days ago, I finally managed to get my duck curry. Aaah, my ducky trail has ended. I finally got to taste it. Make no mistake, this dish is well-known among regular patrons. You won’t even find it on their menu! It’s THAT top secret. It sells out very fast too.
We arrived about 10pm and already packets of nasi minyak and duck curry were being tar-paued quickly.
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We ordered the duck curry (a huge slab of duck thigh swimming in the most yummy curry gravy – RM6), some turmeric-infused stirfried cabbage (almost wilted, that’s the only thing I dislike about these nasi kandar places – RM1) and some beef curry (not bad but had a bit of a beefy smell, RM2) to go with our fragrant nasi minyak (RM1 x 2). And of course, don’t forget the scoops of spicy, sourish kerisik which really goes well with the duck and the nasi minyak.
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This place sells a mean Ayam Negreo too or what I call ayam diesel… the chicken pieces sit in sauce so black it could only be diesel! LOL. Joke aside, it’s not too bad but take the duck. Nic has eaten here years ago and he says the duck back then was more tender. The huge pots and pots of curries come out of the kitchen all night. Imagine how many people eat in and take away, if going by the size of the pots.
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Kassim Mustafa’s is a warm nasi kandar joint; either that, or the curries were hot. We both started sweating profusely as we gobbled our rice. Some half an hour later, we were absolutely sated, stuffed with duck and beef, and sat sipping our teas with relish.
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Here’s a bit of history about this duck curry – a must-try if you are in Penang – the first generation owner of Kassim Mustafa’s started selling his duck curry from a small, nondescript shop opposite its current premises. Over the years, he grew wealthier and expanded business into the current shop lots. I suppose for nostalgia’s sake they still sell the duck curry, although now only once a week, on a Saturday night. I’m not sure if they have it in their other branches of Kassim Mustafa (there’s a branch at Bayan Baru).
But good marketing too – make something so good and so scarce that people from far and wide just have to have a taste of this dish!

13 thoughts on “On a Ducky Trail”

  1. i would love to try the duck!!! i am a duck lover, u know what is the best style of duck cooking style that i love? slice it and bbq without any marinate., try it! hte duck curry are so tempting, i m wondering when is my next trip to penang, i went twice in my life, 1st time i was 12, second time i was 24… till now… :p i am a year older than pooi mei…
    muz plan a makan trip to penang… laksa, duck curry, rojak, wait for me… lol

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  2. Hoyoyi! Come to Penang and I’ll take you to makan this duck curry… and since you are a duck-lover, I have another best-kept duck makan place – this one is chinese and sells pei pa duck with a crispy skin and fatty bits and an amazing (if a bit salty) ducky gravy! Location – must keep secret until my next food post…. oh ya, this same place also sells yummy salted vegetables soup/ chai boey (which Nic is crazy about). Hungry yet???? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  3. wow… i am so hungry now… =”( i dun mind salty, i m half hakka, well trainned under salty dishes…hehe…~ who wanna go penang with me? i hope yellowant will come kl very soon… ^ ^

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  4. This is our favourite place too. Have been here more than 10 years liau. We find their Nasi Minyak is the best in town. I am also not a person who can stay up that late nowadays. Hmmmm……….. will get lawrence there for duck curry again.

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  5. Hoyoyi: That’s why Penang is a foodie paradise. Many of my KL friends come up and eat all day….5 meals a day! It’s scary la you KL people come up like sharks and just makan, makan, makan.
    Erina: Yeah, go and try again and see if the duck has changed (like Nic says.. not so tender anymore….). I ate at Ramzan’s (near Khoo Kongsi) which also serves duck curry (my uncle’s recommendation) but found it nothing compared to this one at Kassim Mustafa’s.

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  6. Haven’t checked the blog for a while. I like the new typeface (if err it is new). Anyway I love curry, I love duck and now that there is no football on Saturday nights & I’m in Penang, I’m going to be stuffing my face with spicy quack quack. Good tip!

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  7. The first time I’ve tasted duck curry or “itik sammah” was way 32 years back at a restaurant known as Dawood. Back then this place was the pinnacle of Penang’s Indian Muslim delicacies. Enjoyed it tremendously. Unfortunately the restaurant closed some years after the founder died. Since then I’ve traced this duck curry to 3 more places, one in Ramzan located at the corner of Ah Quee street in Penang, another is at Kassim Mustafa’s also in Penang and the third is at Restoran Kampung Pandan in Kampung Pandan KL (the first cook who taught the dish to the cooks here was one of the main cooks of Dawood after the latter was closed).
    Out of the three, to me, Ramzan’s “Itik Sammah” tasted the best….but of course taste is subjective and do try the dish at these 3 places….

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  8. Hi Raz: Thanks for your information! I have tried Ramzan’s before. But eventually I still go back to Kassim Mustafa’s though not very often. Have you tried Nasi Beratur near the Masjid Kapital Kling? I thought it was Nasi Dalca but apparently it has a banner now and it says Nasi Beratur. People actually do line up for their meals. This stall is a tiny one wedged between the alley that separates the mosque and the row of shops.

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  9. Hi Maya….Nasi Beratur??? Absolutely love it !!!! Never fail to stop by when I got the chance to come down to Penang. The way they change shifts at 10pm every night is one of a kind experience. Brought several friends from KL the last time I went there about 7 months ago. I have been a patron since time immemorial (actually I can’t exactly remember it, but it has been a long time). Highlight of this place for me has always been the “highly sinful” Kambing Goreng (their signature dish I think coz I couldn’t find it anywhere else like it in Penang) and Telur Sotong. How about you? I really miss Penang and its’ food !!!

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    • Hi Raz: Hey thanks for recommending the Kambing Goreng. Didn’t know about it. I’m all for Telur Sotong but it will be terrible for cholesterol levels. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yah, the beauty of Penang is its 24 hour round the clock delicious food! It’s amazing huh their food!

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  10. yeap…and I will be dropping by for my usual fare of Nasi Kandar again when I visit my folks end of this month. Impatiently counting the days…:-)
    Not being imposing or sentimental and all but I do think that in many ways Penang food is still the best whether it be Nasi kandar or Laksa or Char Kuey Teow or others…
    Even though you can find all the food commonly through the rest of Malaysia, the taste doesn’t really match those on the island really…

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