Smoked duck curry at Itik Salai Masthar Restaurant is an all-time curry game-changer.
Its one of the most delicious bowls of curry I have ever had in my entire life, worth a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malysia just to have this food.
In this article I want to share with you the details, and the photos, of this amazing local Malaysian food restaurant.
Smoked Duck Curry
Have you ever thought to beat lunch-time competition by arriving a safe half-hour before the restaurant even opens? What happens when you find that the seating, and even the parking lot, are both already almost full?
This scene happens daily at a restaurant called Itik Salai Masthar, and this is the exciting welcome you’ll probably receive when you visit this restaurant in Kajang, just outside the city of Kuala Lumpur.
‘Masak lemak cili padi,’ (smoked meat curry) is the dish you have to try here, and it is this spicy and creamy curry made with smoked duck for which Itik Salai Masthar restaurant is famous.
The presentation of every step here is truly amazing as well, and there are few better ways to get an appetite up to its maximum capacity than seeing rows of a dozen ducks hung high, all lining up for their turn in a smoker.
That layer upon layer smokiness of flavor is there right from the start too, as this restaurant’s meat smoking process uses something I have rarely seen before.
Hard coconut shells, not the hairy outer husk or even the stalks, are what makes the smoke to prepare all of these ducks for their curry.
And wow is there ever a line of people waiting for all these ducks to be smoked.
Drapes of Smoking Ducks
Arriving in perfect time to see the grill nearly overflowing with meat, it was an entire awning of grilling and smoking meat delight.
Not only the ducks, but also all the beef you see here, are all smoking only to be used as ingredients in the creamy golden cili padi curry recipe.
They also have chicken, and even several dozen smoking rows of catfish. These come as additional items to have in your selection of meats to go with your fresh vegetables and a plate of white rice, but I have to say though, that the ducks are the absolute highlight.
Hanging there above the smoker, with so much smoke directed on them, these ducks almost appear to be blowing in a slight breeze.
It was like the grillmaster was organizing curtains of all-duck meat, it was blowing my mind as well to be standing right there in front, a first row view of such incredible-looking crisp and smoking fowl.
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When you can’t stand it any longer, quickly move to a place in the curry line.
How To Order
The first thing you need to do to order is to walk around the long line that inevitably forms along the front of the restaurant.
Either from not wanting to wait (understandable), or from the curry being so delicious that its simply worth the drive even when you can’t stay (also understandable), there’s almost a constant line from when they begin selling duck curry, right up until they sell out.
The line is so long that it might block your view of the actual restaurant seating itself.
I don’t blame them at all, and it was amazing to see the amount of people coming straight here to wait for take-out. However, if you have time, you really should experience eating at the restaurant.
To do this, you find the second line of hungry customers, forming in front of the fresh vegetable table, and wait your turn to sample those giant pots of golden duck curry (and this is also the same place you can go to pay for your meal).
Local Tip: Right when you sit down is also the time when someone will find you for your drink order, and here your drinks will come from another shop next door actually (quite common in Malaysia). It is also standard Malay-style dining procedure to start every meal with this drink order, and the most common beverage is either a lemon sweet ice tea (teh-o ais limao), or one of the many milky powder type drink mixes (which also usually come with ice, and are also usually very sweet).
Eating Malaysia Style
Eating like a local here means a few simple steps, and the meal divides itself between a few different plates.
There will be one plate of fresh vegetables (solo, or shared), with a small side serving of sambal, and at least one bowl or dish of some type of thick soupy curry (also solo, or shared). All of these go with your own personal plate full of white rice (not shared).
To do this best, Malaysians enjoy excellent levels of self-service, yes even at restaurants, and after this trip I clearly see and enjoy all the benefits of doing so.
You are usually going to start by taking a tray. There should be a stack of plates within arms reach of the trays, probably a few different sizes available (obviously take the large one). If you want rice/vegetables/curry then you may need two plates, but if you want to also pick up a chicken or fish as well, then you’ll definitely need to take two plates onto your tray. You also need a few spoons, in Malaysia its always the most delicious, and the most enjoyable, to eat with fingers, but the spoons are the easiest way to get curry broth onto your plate of rice. If you’re not eating alone, then take one spoon per dish to be polite.
Find the large vessels containing rice, and scoop out the amount that you want.
Look for large, colorful, thermos-like containers, like water jugs, and they usually have the tops closed in order to keep the rice warm. There will usually be a serving spoon already down in the rice, probably covered in plastic.
Remember that before you put it back, its easiest here to just use that same spoon to immediately spread your rice around a bit on your plate. Your rice needs to be ready to hold as much curry sauce as is physically possible, and if its all in a single mound it won’t be able to help you as much.
Step 3 – Follow the line to the self-service fresh vegetables (and sambal). There should be tongs or a spoon in each vegetable tray, and there might even be a small knife and cutting board to chop up the larger eggplants into bite size sections. Be sure to grab a small side dish here as well, and sample any of the spicy red chili sambal dipping sauces (the containers of sambal are usually near the veggie area as well).
On to the last step.
Step 4 – The curries are set out in bowls for you already, and you can choose either the smoked duck in curry broth, or the same curry but with smoked beef instead. Both versions use the creamy golden curry broth, and both are stunningly good (we had two of each). If you’re only choosing one though, you have to go for the duck.
Practice your balancing skills, and try not to get too hungry while you find your way back to your table.
Step 5 – If convenient, show your entire tray to a staff member on the way, and depending on the situation they will either let you pay then (if you want to set your tray down), or at the end of your meal (totally up to you, Malaysia is wonderfully laid back, especially when it comes to meal times).
Step 6 – Enough steps! But don’t worry, its time to eat. Dump several spoons of coconut-creamy curry over your rice, and use your fingers to help coat each and every grain of rice in as much curry sauce as possible.
Sample everything that you have, and then sample it again in any combination you think would be good. Dip a veggie into the curry sauce, and then follow it with a bite of pure duck meat. Tear up a few fresh leaves, swipe it in your sambal sauce, and use it as a topping for your next finger-ful of rice.
Finally, I am happy to assure you, it is quite acceptable to lick your fingers. I asked specifically, and got nothing but a positive response, so don’t worry about this at all. Happy Eating!
Masak Lemak Cili Padi
I have had curry made with duck a few different times in my life, but none compare to the flavors created here in these gorgeous yellow bowls at Itik Salai Masthar.
The unbelievably rich experience with this smoke is more than a flavor even, its almost a sensation that goes beyond simply what you feel on your tongue alone.
One of the secrets of flavor creation here, is that the meat first smokes, and then simmers, cooking while floating in the curry broth. From the time it leaves the chefs’ cutting board, to the moment its in your fingers, the meat never touches a hard hot surface.
This means that every single morsel cooks evenly, and there are no burnt edges or tough corners anywhere – its nothing but pure smokiness and coconut creamy goodness in every meaty bite.
Smokiness, and Ultimate Creaminess
When I finally sat down to taste the duck, I think my mind actually went blank for a few moments while my tastebuds were dancing with joy.
The way the fatty duck skin contributes an oily texture, adding to the creaminess of the curry is incredible. Following that is the richness of the duck meat itself, and then finally the herb and spice-heavy aromas at the end, making this one of the better bites of which a mouth could ever dream.
The flavor really is almost beyond belief, and after you sample the beef as well, (swooning over possibly the most distilled jerky-intense peppery meaty chewy mouth sensation I think could be possible) you can immediately see how it is also so different from the duck, even though they are using the same exact curry broth.
The beef version is not nearly as oily, maybe the beef meat is soaking up the coconut oils as opposed to the ducks’ skin adding to them and even more oil, and yet both experience the extreme creaminess after simmering in all that gloriously creamy curry broth.
Overall, the entire meal of smoking ducks and jerky-like beef is just a pure treat, a total foodie’s dreamland. The amount of flavor in each slurp, in each handful of these curries, it is easily worth the trip here to Malaysia just to eat this food.
The Welcome Story
Arriving quite a bit early, we were assuming the restaurant would be a bit busy due to how many positive reviews it has online. Great to see their meatsmoking process up close, but for the ‘arriving early’ it was also funny as well – even though we were an hour early, we were only alone at the restaurant for about 10 minutes!
People showing up by the full carload before the restaurant was even cooking, and the seating area of about 35 tables was nearly full before the restaurant’s online opening time. Absolutely amazing, and totally deserves its popularity as well – this meal of duck and beef cili padi at Itik Salai Masthar was one of the most delicious of the entire Malaysia trip.
Thanks for all the Smiles
The first few hours (or few meals) in a new country often bring a slight feeling of needing to get one’s bearings. Not just confidence in what to order at a restaurant, but also thoughts of how to get video footage, what is appropriate to photograph, etc.
This was the first meal on our first morning in Malaysia, and the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming or friendly for it.
Nervousness or shyness was not necessary at all, not for a single place in our entire trip, and so many of the photos actually have staff joining in even. What a perfect country for a food trip, whether its your first time, or the sixth time, Malaysia is just such a great place to visit.
I highly recommend visiting Itik Salai Masthar, a great restaurant serving local and authentic Malaysian food. We hope you enjoy the article, the photos, and we wish you all a great day.
Name: Itik Salai Masthar
Location: (Google Maps)
Hours: 11AM to 845PM (closed Thursday)
Prices: Our entire meal came to 59RM (US$14.34)