Food Adventures in Malaysia: Day 2, Kuala Lumpur
In the morning of Day Two, I headed off for my first Malaysian breakfast. Malaysia is typical of most Asian cultures, where breakfast foods are mostly the same as lunch and dinner fare. I found a quaint little shop serving Curry Laksa and gave it a go. I always thought that a cross between Indian curry and Thai curry would be awesome. Well the Malaysians beat me to it. This dish had the standard coriander, turmeric, and fenugreek spices of India, AND the coconut and star anise delights of Thailand. Chicken, Shrimp, and Tofu were the proteins, thin rice noodles and a bok choy like vegetable filled the rest. A little squeezed lime and red chili paste finished it off. This sure was a lot better than a sausage McMuffin with egg. There was even a hard boiled egg in the dish. Curried egg is actually quite amazing!
Chow Kit Market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
After hitting some tourist sites, I headed off to Chow Kit Market, a fresh produce and meat wet market. What an experience. There were loads of fresh produce of all sorts of things I’ve never seen before piled up right next to live chicken butchering, meat chopping, and squirming fish. No FDA food inspector here. The ground was soaking wet from spraying everything down with the hose (thus the name wet market), and there were pools of blood and guts everywhere. The whole place reeked like chicken guts and rank fish. I loved every minute of it! How fascinating to see how another culture traditionally shops for food.
Food Hawkers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
As I was perusing the rows of stalls, I came across a little food hawker stall where an elderly woman was deep frying some sort of fritter in a wok. It smelled so good, despite the stink of the market. I had no idea what they were, and they couldn’t tell me in a language I could understand, but I knew I needed one.
They ended up being shrimp based, and were served with cucumbers, jicama, and a sweet and slightly sour chili sauce (very little heat) with some crunchy sprinkles on top; all put in a plastic bag and eaten with a bamboo skewer. I can’t even tell you how good this was. I chased it down with fresh coconut milk which was poured straight out of a Thai coconut into my cup, served with ice and shaved coconut flesh. Ahhh…. I was a happy little Jothan standing on the street humming with every bite.
As I dove deeper into the market, I discovered more hawker stalls serving all sorts of delicious looking treats. I passed a soup stall that had the most wonderful smelling star anise broth cooking in what looked like a horse trough. I wanted some so badly, but it was over 90 degrees out with about 85% humidity and the thought of hot soup in my belly just about put me into heat stroke.
And then I saw it…. a little stand with an overwhelming aroma of curried protein coming from it. Two men were working it, one doing the cooking; the other rolling out dough with his oil covered fingers and hands until it was super thin, then slapping it on the griddle and ladling an egg and spiced meat mixture onto it.
They would then fold it into a neat little bundle and cook it in clarified butter until golden brown on both sides. I was fascinated.
I promptly bought one for the equivalent of only US $1. They were served on a piece of brown butcher paper with a fluorescent pink, onion filled juice that apparently is a hawker stall twist on the traditional pickled onion accompaniment. It was so hot that it burned my hand through the paper, but no time to care. I went with the chicken version.
All I can say about them is “are you shitting me?” All I could do as I ate this thing was swear to myself over and over again at how incredible it was. The people walking by me were laughing at me, either at the cursing, or at the fat bald American eating in their market, or maybe a bit of both, but I didn’t care. So so delicious!
I’ve since learned they are called Murtabak, and come from the Indian influence in Malaysia, though you will not find them in India.
Kuala Lumpur’s Night Street Food
That evening, I found myself gaining an experience you simply must do if you’re ever in Malaysia… dinner at a night street food hawker stall.
So here we were in a questionable part of town, the ladies in the group are having us men hold their purses for them, and we walk up to the corner of a busy intersection to find roughly 8 hawker stalls all in a row cooking some of the best smelling treats you can imagine. We took a seat at an absolutely filthy table literally inches from the street. The aroma of motor oil, acrid gutters, and dirt filled our nose, but it was overshadowed by the scents of our beef and chicken feast grilling over wood charcoal.
We ordered a plate of chicken and beef satay, fried rice, and the most oddly addictive chicken wings I’ve ever had the privilege of sinking my teeth into. The satay was marinated in soy sauce, sugar, and loads of pungent lemongrass, then grilled on a long, narrow grill box to a smoky excellence. I’ve had great satay before, but there’s something special about eating the real thing on a street corner with smoke wafting in your face watering your eyes that makes the experience and tastes unimaginable.
The chicken wings were also fire grilled to a crispy perfection. Their meat was super moist and had an amazing subtle star anise undertone that balanced well with the strong chicken flavor. Perhaps these wings came from the market I was at earlier, freshly butchered and brought here to be mixed with crack and cooked up for all the chicken wing junkies on the block. They were served all over Malaysia, undoubtedly managed by the underground chicken wing mafia. If you ever find yourself there, you simply must order them every chance you get. The consequence of going through weeks of withdrawals when you get back to the states is worth every bite!
The Bald Gourmet’s traveling adventures provide wonderful food tourism experiences for all to enjoy.