Our Street Food Experience in Kuala Lumpur!
We have been to Malaysia several times before so had high expectations about the food that was going to be on offer during our long term stay. Our first stop in Asia was a 5 night stopover in Kuala Lumpur to rediscover the city, catch our breath and get over the jet lag before apartment hunting in Penang.
On the first day wandering around KL we remembered why this was the part of the world we chose to spend our winter. It felt like we had died and gone to food heaven! We mostly ate at hawker stalls - inexpensive street food is king here. You do have to be open minded as often when ordering or even when actually eating your food it can be difficult to know exactly what is on your plate. We tend to find something that looks good and point at it - picture menus are used almost everywhere. It's kind of a lucky dip, but if you are willing to roll the dice you can find yourself experiencing all kinds of deliciousness.
There is just too much to say about food here but I will try with some examples of the dishes we experienced in Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
Breakfast at Imbi Market
A 20 minute walk from our apartment in Bukit Bintang found us at Imbi market (aka Pasar Bukit Bintang). It is held on mornings only, every day except Monday. Most of the space is taken up with a wet market selling vegetables, fish and meat, but one side is dedicated to hawker food and it is a locals favorite breakfast stop. In our traditional, perpetually confused manner we explored all the stalls, saw delicious things but didn't really know what any of it was. We ended up taking the recommendations of a lovely stall owner for some amazing BBQ pork dumplings and an equally delicious noodle dish made with turnips and something else (we never worked it out!!). The market is famous for Hainan tea, which is actually a blend of tea and coffee. Sounds weird but is actually super tasty. The total cost for our feast was RM10 (US$2.25).
Indian Food at the Batu Caves
Indian food is my absolute favorite, but unfortunately we never got around to visiting Brickfields, KL's Little India. We will definitely get plenty of opportunity for Indian food in Penang so no worries. The only experience we had in KL was during our trip to visit the Hindu shrine at Batu Caves. This food was just ok, but by KL standards that's not bad. All the food at this sacred site is vegetarian. I had a delicious fresh coconut water and we each had a thali plate; a selection of small vegetable dishes, rice, poppadoms (which curiously they called puppets). They serve it with various sauces of differing spice levels. It was a lot of food. I finally decided it was time to start eating with my hands rather than a fork, just like the locals do. It was not as difficult as I expected, a bit messy but I think I can get used to it. Price was RM8 each for the thali, and RM4 for the coconut water. Total RM20 (US$4.50).
Chinese Food near Petaling Street
Petaling street is very touristy and honestly not really our kind of place to visit. We weren't in the market for a fake designer watch or purse/handbag, although the ones on display are pretty impressive. But we went anyway and decided to grab some street food. As you'd expect the food here is Chinese. Right next to the market were busy stalls, but we decided to head a few blocks away from the craziness of that area. Our strategy when faced with a choice of restaurants is usually to pick the busiest one that locals or at least Asian tourists seem to enjoy. Claypot cooking is popular here and I had some tasty tofu and mushroom cooked in that style. Iain's dish was more delicious, black pepper chicken with wonderful crisp vegetables... super tasty. We found this part of town to be a little more expensive. Hey but it's all relative, For the two dishes, a spring roll appetizer and a large beer (24oz/660 ml to share) we paid RM69 (US$15.60).
Hawker Food at Jalan Alor
This street food area was very close to our apartment in Bukit Bintang, and given the heavy rainstorm we decided to stay close to home. It's fairly touristy here, not so many locals, but there are lots of tasty treats on offer from various cuisines. Thai, Vietnamese as well as the ubiquitous Malay and Chinese food. Our choices were ok, not spectacular. Iain ordered a pork wonton dish and I chose chicken noodles. We ordered a side of greens which was actually the best of all. Price for these plus a beer and an iced tea was RM46.50 (US$10.50).
Lot 10 Food Court.
OK this is not technically street food, as it is inside a mall. But the basement of Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang is a different kind of mall food court. It is designed to look like a ramshackle food market and some of KL's famous hawker stalls have set up second locations here. Iain and I stopped at separate stalls. This time mine was a better choice, wide noodles with shrimp,paste, Iain's beef noodle dish was just ok. The two chicken buns we ordered were excellent.
Overall we ate excellently in KL, even though we were not always sure exactly what it was we ate, but it was all good and oh so inexpensive. Portion sizes are reasonable and with all the walking hopefully it will not be too costly for our waistlines. This brief stop in KL has been a great preparation for the food we'll be trying at our next stop, Penang.