Menu Malaysia: Second Course – Kuala Lumpur

The food we sampled in KL was nice, very nice, but not outstanding. I have no doubt that there is stupendous fare to be had there, and lots of it – we just didn’t stumble on it. For a glimpse at the sort of treats KL can turn on, check out this blog from an initiated local, and marvel at the pics:

The hawker centre at Jl Alors in the Golden Triangle is one of the most popular with tourists and the prices reflect this, although it’s still good value compared with Aussie prices. We shared some tasty spicy whole fish at one stall, with fried rice and kang klang (stir-fried greens) and some fresh iced lime juice. Another night, fried squid, chilli prawns, steamed rice and kai lan (another variety of Asian greens).
Price both times: 45Rm for two ($15.60AUD)

I picked up some interesting info on Malaysian eating habits from one of the Malay lobby staff at the Federal Hotel. Locals do not necessarily stick to a daily breakfast/lunch/dinner routine, preferring to eat any time the urge calls. Further, breakfast is not confined to lighter food items like fruit, cereal and toast, as is customary in Australia. Nasi lemak, fried chicken and roti bakar are typical openers. Mee (noodle) dishes, too, are eaten at any time of day, including breakfast. During this conversation, I “discovered” rojak, and set out to sample it at a recommended Indian hawker venue accessed from the back of the Federal. This was one of two highlights of our food exploration of KL.

Rojak, called pasembur in some parts of Malaysia, is a close cousin of the well-known Indonesian gado gado. It’s essentially a mixed salad of cucumber, bean sprouts, potatoes, sliced hard-boiled egg and fried tofu, topped with a thick, spicy peanut sauce with a hint of sweetness about it, and often served with roti. Healthy and delicious, ridiculously cheap. Don’t miss this treat if you ever find yourself in Malaysia. There is also a fruit version of rojak, a popular breakfast choice, which we didn’t try.
Price: 2.5RM per serve with roti (95c AUD).

The “Greenhouse Corner” in Jl Raja Abdullah, Kampung Baru.
This second eating highlight of our KL stay came as a surprise. While wandering about Kampung Baru (a fascinating area that is basically a traditional Malay village, improbably preserved in the midst of the modern metropolis that surrounds it), we were caught in a fierce tropical downpour and sought shelter in a Malay restaurant labelled “Greenhouse Corner”. This was clearly a local haunt rarely patronised by foreigners, and our sudden emergence, dripping wet, set off a bit of a flurry among the staff. A teenage guy must have picked the short straw and came over to attend to us. He strove to find enough English words to explain to us the dishes on offer, while the Muslim girls in the kitchen area peeped out, radiating shy smiles. Our combined order of Daging Masak Kari (beef curry), Ayam Masak Meoh (chicken curry), fresh apple juice, lychee juice (with 5 large lychees in the glass) and Malay coffees was quite a lunch. The main dishes came a little cool, and my beef was tough, but the sauces were full of spicy tingle and depth. The genial owner joined us over coffee in a gesture of hospitality that was warming. When the rain stopped hammering down, we departed full of yummy local food and good cheer, with the charming staff waving us on our way.
Price of this delightful interlude: 13 RM ($2.30 AUD each).

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