My favourite foodie spots in Kuala Lumpur

When we emigrated from Johor to Kuala Lumpur 16 years ago, it was our choice to work and live here. In my field of work, it was always related to food. So obviously it should not be a puzzle to anyone, why I take such an obvious insight on the subject of food.

Migrants from other states make up half of the population in the city. In recent time, the food-line is facing a stiff competition. The number of food places have sprung everywhere, be it in upmarket restaurants, family-meals restaurants, fast food joints, small eateries, hawker stalls, mobile food vendors and food courts of all sizes. Gastronomically speaking, the good ones can withstood time as they have tasty food, plentiful choices, fair pricing though speedy service may not be an attributing factor. But a fair number of them, whose food are poorly prepared can never get that far. Good food is always spread by word of mouth and bad ones are always etched in the minds of the public too. This is adverse publicity, no matter whatever promotions, cannot undo the problems.

Many times, friends are rather curious why we travel interstates to have write-ups on the food there. Yet we have not covered much on Kuala Lumpur itself. Frankly, I find this quite a challenge. If you throw a stone in town, it will probably hit an eating place. Foodwise, the selection is too big so I have to resigned myself to my favourites. The ratings are chosen on taste, food quality control, pricing but definitely not on ambience.

When I started working in Kuala Lumpur, it was at an office located in Pudu Plaza. I had little choice for breakfast as it was either a simple meal of noodles or one at the nearby mamak stalls. If time was flexible enough, my office mates and I would adjourned to Peel Road for a Bak-Kut-Teh meal at Restoran San Wah (see page 56).

The stall located underneath a huge tree for shade drew many regulars. The boss brewed the soup to a nice, light delight unlike those with too strong a herbal taste. Meat is soft but never a messy sight. Four years ago, this stall was relocated to Jalan Cheras but being very palate pleasing, many customers still patronize the eatery. The lady boss treats every regular as a friend.

But if we are unfortunate enough to be caught in some traffic snarl, Restoran Ng Hong at Taman Lensen, Cheras was our next choice. The senior lady sells a good dry-version of pork meehoon. The blanched noodles are tossed in dark soy sauce, lard and fried minced pork. The business commences from 7a.m. to 11a.m. The swift action of blanching and tossing the noodles has not slowed down for the past 10 years. The outstanding value here is, the taste remained coustant, never changing the slightest.

Another brisk establishment for good noodles is at Hon Kee Noodle Stall at Jalan Maharajarela. The former name of the road is Birch Road and the stall is not far from the Mandarin Court Hotel, on the opposite side of Stadium Merdeka's back portion. The two sisters take turns to run this eatery. Fish balls are springly, made from fresh wolf-herring fish or known as ikan parang.

I remembered for some reasons, I normally visited this place on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. My normal order was a dry-version of yellow mee which is always blanched to the right firm bite, never soggy. Deep-fried lard cubes are sprinkled on top. This is tossed with dark soy sauce and fried minced pork. Together with the bowl of fish balls, this was indeed a simple yet delightful lunch. The sisters are still running this business till today.

Another popular noodle haunt with a never-ending stream of customers is at Restaurant Hai San, opposite the wet market of Overseas Union Garden, off Old Klang Road. There must be six to seven people helping to run the stall. Three noodle masters skillfully blanched the noodles. A wide choice of assortments are available for you to pick on. They have pork slices, minced pork, livers, lalal, squids. The rave factor lies in the sweet stock, it has good flavour.

Restoran Ful Lai sells nice, fluffy Fookchow paus, located at Kuchai Entrepreneurs' Park. It has always been me, sitting underneath the tree sipping tea and eating the nice pau while watching the hurried atmosphere whizzing past. This is a short streak of leisure.

Lunch has always been a lovely time to check out Pudu Plaza's food stalls at the lower level. The Hainanese chicken rice here is not a bad choice. Next to the food court, Restoran Teochew Lao Er (page 62) makes wonderful Teochew porridge with a wide selection of braised assortments. My son who was a former student at SRJK Chong Fah Pit Chee, paid frequent visits to the restaurant for its Char Siew Rice. He earned a nickname of 'Char Siew Fun' by the boss because he buys this rice ever so often.

Out of the plaza, you have Tim Kee (page 53). The boss is very picky on hygience and every dish is prepared on demand, never precooked. His place is well-established.

Another place famous for fish is the Chan Sow Lin Fish-head (page 50). Their equation for success is largely attributed to the delicate Soong Yee Fish-heads cooked by the brothers. The washing off the mud taste with lime juice makes it a worthy effort. Business is so good, all fish-heads are sold off daily.

Around Taman Supreme, Cheras, there is a place worthy to mention. The stall sells authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice and nice stir-fried dishes.

The simple noodles at Tian-Ya-Ker Panmin (page 64) in the Chow Kit area is an ever-popular spot for a one dish meal. The addition of lime juice over the noodles gives it a special tangy perk-up.

I may have left Pudu Plaza but still haunt for good food. Restoran De Maw Chinese Food nests behind PGRM building in the Pudu Ulu area, is quite a new establishment, perhaps only a baby as the place is slightly more than one year. This is a restaurant fitted with nice Chinese decor, air-conditioned and food prepared by a gold medal winner former chef of the old Ming Court Hotel. Chinese cuisine at easy prices is one winning formula. Another restaurant specializes in Hakka food within this area is Restoran Yap Chong. The special prominent Hakka featunes are Yam Braised Kow Yoke and Long Beans Bbq Pork.

Not far from PGRM building is a Petronas petrol station. Next to Petronas is a coffee shop. Sitting in this coffee shop is a stall that has the Hokkien Mee and Mee Hailam, all cooked on charcoal stores. This is a rare gem of a find and the authentic touch makes the noodles just nice. They add the sinful lard crisps and over the years, it maintains a constant standard. Regular patrons always make a comeback somehow or other.

At times, I like to visit the shop near the Kuchai Lama area, which sells very nice Fried Tunghoon and Fried White Rice Sticks. It is not difficult to locate the place, there is a used car dealer shop near an overhead bridge in Jalan Kuchai Lama before the exit to Old Klang Road. Wind through the side lane of the shop and right behind is the simple shop - Lim Kee Noodle Store.

Recently, Mr. Lee of Triang introdced us to Chef Lim Fook Kwee, known as Ah Fook Khoh too. He is the Head Chef of Restoran Rainbow Palace at Campbell Complex, Kuala Lumpur. His signature dish is the Glutinous Rice With Crispy Piglet. The melt-in-the mouth and non oily dish has a large following especially politician, Y.B. Yew Teong Look. Nearby, there is Ong Lai(Goh Kee)Restaurant at a backlane of the Chow Kit Road. Towards nightfall, the seats are all filled up as the biggest attractions are the Steamed Fish, Fish-head Meehoon and Fried White Rice Sticks.

Sometimes I wander around Petaling Street and it never failed to amazed me, looking at the crowds at the Loh Hon Koh Sweet Drinks Stall. This must be the most popular drink stall in the peninsula. Behind the backlane of Sultan Street is Gerai Makan Sai Kee (page 59). The stall has been selling stir-fried dishes from the same spot for the past 30 years. Run by a family, it is now handled by the second generation. This is one of those test-your-patience outlet as a 45 minutes to one hour wait is nothing unusual.

Each good street food have their own distinct character. All have down-to-earth prices, tasty food and every place mentioned here offers value-for-money meals. Do not give them a miss if you are around the areas. I have shared my favourite spots with readers but as food differs considerably with each palate, give me your feedback.

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