Gourmet Trips

Street foods of Kuala Lumpur

Singapore and Malaysia are like a pair of quarrelling siblings – roti prata or roti chennai, Singapore laksa or Johor curry mee, Teochew char kueh or char gok. They are same same but not the same. No matter what, we loved food in Malaysia.

There are many good cities to go for a culinary tour, Penang, Malacca and of course the capital Kuala Lumpur. And in KL (which we affectionately called it), the place to go to is Jalan Alor.

The Testing Ground

Before we embarked on Jalan Alor, I needed to let my HK friends in the group go through a primer in KL-style street food at the food centre (more like a coffee shop) near our hotel (Sunway Lagoon).

We started with the essentials – Penang-style char kway teoh, KL-style Hokkien noodles, Malay satays, and Teochew oyster omelette. The specimens were so-so except for the satays. The satays were juicy and grilled to perfection. The accompany peanut sauce was added pineapple juice to give it a tangy kick.

KL street food is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian food. And in terms of Chinese, it is predominantly Teochew and Hokkien, so there’s a liberal use of fish sauce, thick soy sauce and rice noodles.

Speaking of food, KL folks are most proud of their KL-style Hokkien noodles. Not to be confused with Penang Hokkien noodles (which is actually prawn noodle soup) and Singapore Hokkien noodles (which is fried prawn noodle). KL Hokkien noodles use thick yellow noodles fried with slices of pork, prawns, Chinese cabbage and caixin, with liberal amount of lard and crackling, flavoured with a sticky, gooey dark soy sauce. Delicious!

There are many good noodles store around town. The oldest, and the one that started all this, is KimLian Kee 金莲记 in Petaling Street. And the best still sticks to the tradition of using charcoal fire to fry their Hokkien noodles. Because the inventors were Fujian immigrants to Malaysia and the style of the noodles was glazed with a thick, dark savoury sauce just like Hokkien cuisine, it was christened as Hokkien noodles. I don’t know how that became the white seafood variety in Singapore.

Jalan Alor

Armed with the primer in KL street food, we went to the pilgrimage place – Jalan Alor. Hosting a lot of hawker stalls and seafood restaurants, Jalan Alor is one of the most famous roads in Kuala Lumpur for food. Located just behind Jalan Bukit Bintang and a short walk away from Changkat Bukit Bintang, it is a favourite after-clubbing dining spot in the Golden Triangle area.

Jalan Alor

Though the seafood at the air-conditioned restaurants is really good and inexpensive, we highly recommend the hawker food. KL being an immigrant city, the variety of food available is amazing and in Jalan Alor the barbecued meats, noodles and desserts are some of the best (and cheapest) in the city. Most of these dishes cannot be found in fashion-conscious restaurants – and even if they are, they are rarely as tasty, so hawker stalls are a favourite on the city’s foodie scene.

Called the cultural hearth of the city’s local cuisine, tourists rarely venture here largely because of its ‘hidden’ location. A sharp contrast to trendy Jalan Bukit Bintang and Changkat Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor has a traditional charm to it with atmospheric air-conditioned Chinese seafood restaurants, bright fluorescent restaurant signage lighting and mini red Chinese lanterns strung up in the trees. But it is also a tad messy because of the seemingly-endless row of hawker stalls set up on the five-foot walkway, with plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the road.

Sure, the food is the main draw but the atmosphere is also truly memorable. The place stays loud and vibrant throughout the night with vendors furiously fanning grills of chicken and beef skewers, the metallic clang of frying woks and the air is thick with charcoal smoke.

At the food stalls food is cooked in a furious fashion (with delicious smells coming from the frying woks and boiling pots) and served on plastic plates in a rainbow of colours. Most hawker stalls have picture menus, making ordering simple.

We suggest you grab a table somewhere in front of Restoran Dragon View at the top of the street and then walk along and order your dishes from the diverse range of hawkers. We recommend the fried oyster egg from Restoran Wong Ah Wah: a thin and crispy omelette with plump and briny oysters that is served with fresh coriander leaves and accompanied by a chilli sauce that gives it a tangy, spicy kick. Or even the smoky-flavoured satay (marinated chicken tenderloin) from Terminal Sate Zul and grilled chicken wings in a simple soy marinade with chicken rice and roasted barbecue pork from Restoran Meng Kee Grill Fish.

The easiest way to get here is via monorail: alight at the Bukit Bintang stop and head north along Jalan Bukit Bintang: from there Jalan Alor is a one-minute walk.

Date Visited : Dec 2014

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