As sheer good luck would have it, my trip to KL overlapped with friends of mine, including a KL native which, little did I know at the time, would lead to the most amazing insights into Chino-Malay culture and the best tours of KL anyone could ask for!
Arriving to the city at 8 p.m. I was immediately picked up by my aforementioned amigos and we drove to a night time food market or centre, which a little delirious from all the travel I never noted it’s name/exact location but it was past the Sunway Pyramid mall (very cool to see lit up at night).
We all ordered various dishes for the table to share. By the time the food came we had Vietnamese rolls, sauteed bok choy, noodle broth, omelette, anchovies fried eggplant and okra, chicken and beef satay, sting ray and more!
We finished the night off by admiring the new King’s Palace in all it’s night-time-lights glory and having a drink at Healy Mac’s Irish Bar in Publicka mall – a higher-end mall with private designers and modern, quirky bars and restaurants.
Next day I started with an Indian thali style breakfast in a little restaurant opposite my hotel in Chow Kit.
Then I set off for some exploring and sight-seeing – well at least I did until I got side-tracked in Nu Sentral mall as I switched from the monorail to the Kommuter train. If you, like me, love quirky interiors and stationary then you must visit the store ‘Typo’ in here and if you get thirsty or hungry from all your shopping, pop downstairs to La Juiceria, where they have fresh cold-pressed juices, shots and smoothies and there is a great fruit store opposite too.
Finally back on track after my (multiple) pit-stops, I made for the Batu Caves. Stalls line the footpath outside it selling fresh coconuts, fruit and juices and an array of snacks. There are also a few small restaurants if you’re looking for something more substantial. I like to snack when I’m on the move so I can try bits of everything rather than one meal so I grabbed some fresh jackfruit, pineapple and a coconut water after climbing the steps and admiring the Buddhist temple.
After the caves I hit up Chinatown. If fake designer watches and handbags are your thing, you’ve come to the right place. I, on the other hand, was happy to just wander under the stall canopies taking in all the sights and sounds. I love the contained mayhem of it.
The old lady pictured below had a recording of her voice playing at high volume “Yummy yummy! Wait don’t push!” (in Chinese I may add!) to draw in the crowds to her little wooden mochi stall, adorned with newspaper cuttings of her famous sweets.
Here are a few more shots of some of the stalls on offer around Chinatown. A yummy appam (centre) – a fermented rice flour pancake and a new fruit for me – ciku; very delicious, similar to but sweeter than a pear (right), while the picture on the far left is of chestnuts roasting.
That night I went to Jalan Alor which I would highly recommend. It’s a night time food market in a busy area with lots of bars and restaurants too. I had been wanting to try carrot cake – Malaysian style – which is a set rice cake with carrot or daikon radish which is then chopped up and fried with garlic, chili, spring onions, bean sprouts and egg. It was so good.
If that’s not to your liking there are plenty of places to choose from – from traditional smelly Durian (honestly it’s banned from most hotels – see picture below) to a wide selection of skwered meat and veg you can have fried, grilled, boiled or steamed as well as all the local traditional favourites.
The following day we paid an early visit to a local wet market where I sampled a deep-fried sesame coated rice ball with red bean filling and the national breakfast dish Nasi Lemak which is rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaf and served with sambal (spicy chili paste with anchovies) and half a boiled egg before setting off on a hike.
After our hike I got royally treated to a traditional breakfast of rice noodles with bean curd puffs, black fungi, carrots and bok choy, a fresh grapefruit and orange juice, a bean soup and a red date which I had never seen before, back at my local friend’s house.
Truly fuelled for the day we set about exploring the city by car, train and foot until finally a heavy thunderstorm late afternoon forced us to take shelter – and sure while taking shelter it would be a shame not to eat something! I can’t remember fully what was in the lime drink pictured below but on the plate is a selecton of veggies – eggplants, bitter melon, chilis and peppers stuffed with fish or tofu and a bowl of hot broth to accompany.
That night we went for dinner at Loving Café vegan restaurant and my fabulous host family practically ordered the whole menu so here is just a snap shot of what we had. I also tried green tea and black sesame ice-creams with red beans and they didn’t even last for a photo!
Finally, to finish off an amazing food and culture filled few days, on my final morning we visited Ashley’s Living Food for brunch before setting off for the airport. I would highly recommend this place. A modern and healthy take on traditional foods in a really gorgeous setting. It was the perfect end to a great trip.